Category Archives: Government

Post-PMQs: surely the views of over 100 distinguished Jewish signatories outweigh those of 60 assorted Labour Lords

In an unsuccessful effort to deflect attention from Mr Corbyn’s questions about climate change during today’s PMQs, Theresa May forcefully – even maliciously – demanded an apology for his ‘failure to deal with anti-semitism within the Labour party’.

The following snapshots were taken as they spoke.

She referred to a full page advertisement in the Guardian paid for by 60 ‘distinguished’ Labour peers, attacking Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism – as reported in the Murdoch Press.

Watch the exchange by clicking on this link (6 mins) and note the difference in demeanour as Jeremy Corbyn – impressively cool under fire – sets the record straight and tenaciously continues to challenge the government on the contrast between its rhetoric and its actions on climate change.

This welcome financial windfall for the Guardian, which occupies several inches of space after every online article asking for donations, recalls its withdrawal – after a communication from the Jewish Board of Deputies – of a previously published letter supporting Labour loyalist MP, Chris Williamson. It had over 100 Jewish signatories – many of whom evidently deserve to be described as distinguished.

The list of these signatories and their affiliations has, however, been saved by people who are beginning to expect this sort of mainstream skulduggery and may be seen here.

As the ‘censored’ Guardian letter said, such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine the Labour party’s leadership, but – we add – they can rebound on the perpetrators.

 

 

 

 

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A Corbyn government will need support from openly selected MPs and a mass members’ movement to bring about beneficial change

An editorial by Ben Chacko opens with a reference to civil servants apparently briefing the press against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – a further sign of the strain a truly radical opposition is putting on our political system.

As many are aware, those in power have been waging a vigorous and largely untruthful campaign against Corbyn ever since he became leader.

Chacko (right) predicts that this will intensify if he enters office:

“Labour’s radical programme will face parliamentary sabotage, which is why open selection of Labour MPs to improve the character of the parliamentary party is essential.

“It will face legal challenges from corporations with bottomless wallets, institutional interference from the judiciary and the EU if we haven’t left the latter, economic warfare, meddling by foreign powers such as the United States, perhaps even the military putsch mooted in 2015”.

John McDonnell has often said that when Labour goes into office we will all go into office – and Chacko stresses:

“We need to build a mass movement of trade unions, campaign groups such as the People’s Assembly and community organisations fighting for change in every workplace, every town hall and every high street to make those words a reality”.

Only by building up united and determined pressure ‘from below’ will the political-corporate grip on power be broken.

Read the Chacko editorial here.

 

 

 

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The International State Crime Initiative and the School of Law event: ‘Combating Police Impunity’

Tuesday, 9th July | 2pm – 4pm, Room 313, Floor 3, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS

Abstract f.kanji@qmul.ac.uk – http://statecrime.org/

After misconduct charges were dismissed against Metropolitan Police officers involved in the arrest of her brother over 10 years ago, Marcia Rigg said the police ‘had a licence to kill.’ More than 30 years after the murder of Daniel Morgan, and despite an apology from the Met eight years ago that police corruption thwarted the criminal investigation, his family are still awaiting the report of an independent panel established in 2013.

Hearings of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, set up in 2015 to investigate Met surveillance on lawful social justice campaigns, are not expected to commence until 2020.

Evidently, police impunity is a pressing issue for Londoners.

This event brings together leading scholars and activists from the US and UK to examine both the structures and conditions of and solutions to police impunity.

Speakers:

Dr Graham Smith- Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester

In the 1980s and 1990s Graham Smith was the secretary of the Hackney Community Defence Association, a self-help group comprising victims of police crimes, and developed a police misconduct database. More recently he has served the Council of Europe and UN as an international expert on police complaints, the prohibition of torture and combatting impunity.

Professor Craig Futterman- Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Craig B. Futterman is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and a Resident Dean in the College. He founded and has served as the Director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic since 2000. Before his appointment to the Law Faculty, Professor Futterman was a Lecturer in Law and Director of Public Interest Programs at Stanford Law School. He previously joined Futterman & Howard, Chtd., a boutique law firm concentrating in complex federal litigation. There, Prof. Futterman specialized in civil rights and constitutional matters, with a special focus on racial discrimination, education, and police brutality. Before that, he served as a trial attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. Mr. Futterman received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and graduated with the highest distinction from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Economics.

Dr Nadine El-Enany, Senior Lecturer, Birkbeck College

Nadine El-Enany is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck School of Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Race and Law (@CentreRaceLaw). Nadine teaches and researches in the fields of migration and refugee law, European Union law, protest and criminal justice. Her current research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, focuses on questions of race and criminal and social justice in death in custody cases. Her book, (B)ordering Britain: law, race and empire is out with MUP later this year.

Val Aston, NETPOL

Val has recently completed her PhD at the Law School of the University of East Anglia, where her research has centred on the impact of state surveillance on political autonomy and the growth of social movements. She also sits on the steering group of Netpol, a UK-based human rights NGO which focuses on the protection of assembly rights and the monitoring of public order and protest policing. Val’s current research interests include pre-emptive policing and the designation of ‘risk’, and in particular, the extent to which a growing emphasis on preventive policing is constraining the growth of civil society.

 

To register for tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/combating-police-impunity-tickets-62262795698

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 22: 2014 tax law – lowest income households lose, bailiffs gain

 

Britain’s lowest-income households were exempt from council tax until 2014, when the law changed, bringing 1.4m households into the council tax net, with some jobseekers and the disabled required to pay bills amounting to 10% of their benefits income, according to the National Audit Office report, Financial sustainability of local authorities 2018, (Money Advice Trust note 67)

The Money Advice Trust charity points out that between 2011/12 and 2017/18, central government funding for local authorities fell by an estimated 49% in real terms – leaving councils increasingly reliant on council tax and business rates to fund local services, according to data obtained through its Freedom of Information requests. Its 2018 report A Decade in Debt gives detailed analysis of many kinds of private debt, with a chapter on council tax arrears.

Council tax collection privatised

With most councils lacking the staff to collect arrears the money themselves, more than 2.3m debts were referred to companies like Dukes bailiffs, a “provider of ethical and efficient enforcement services across the UK”, who sponsored the 2019 Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum’s conference.

According to the Financial Times, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that almost a fifth of single parents who would formerly have paid no council tax are now in debt. No link was given and a search led to the IFS 2004 report which made seven references to the deot problenms of single parents.

Hansard, the official government record, in answering questions on ‘rogue bailiffs’ refers to a September 2018 YouGov poll which found that more than one in three people contacted by bailiffs in the last two years had been subject to harmful behaviour, such as threatening to break into homes.

Money UK gives information on debt collection

An article on the subject in the Mirror reports that the Commons Treasury Com­­mittee says bailiffs work­ing for nat­­ional and local government are “worst in class” for aggressive tactics.

Those with physical or mental health problems are less likely to engage with their local authority, according to research by the Money and Mental Health Institute last May. which found that people with poor mental health were three times more likely than the general public to be behind with their council tax payments. A visit from a bailiff can exacerbate psychological distress and cause stress, the MMHPI said, particularly when enforcement agents did not act with care.

Barrie Minney chair of the Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum (LACEF), explained that bailiffs are sometimes wrongly sent out to people who are financially or mentally vulnerable because of a lack of data sharing between council departments.

Many bailiffs are paid on commission based on the repayments they recover; if they don’t collect, they don’t earn

One of the FT’s case studies is summarised here. When Charley Finlay was recovering from the death of her premature baby she missed her first council tax payment of the year and did not open reminder letters from the council. Because she missed her first payment she became liable for her entire annual tax bill of £300.

Enforcement agents are allowed to charge £75 for sending a letter and £235 for a home visit, further inflating people’s debts.

Her debt increased to over £1,000 once the costs of the bailiff’s letters and visits were added to her debt. She said that the bailiff was at her door constantly, shouting through her letterbox, ringing her all the time and telling her that her children would go into care as she would be imprisoned.

Various efforts are being made to improve practice. These include:

  • LACEF is working with debt charities to build models for early intervention and developing software to help flag up people’s potential vulnerabilities to revenue collection departments. “Otherwise, we can spend a lot of time and money chasing people who cannot afford to pay us,” Mr Minney said. “That is really not ideal.”
  • More than half of the councils are examining new methods of dealing with people on benefits who are in arrears, LACEF’s polling indicates.
  • Local government minister Rishi Sunak vowed in April to engage with charities and debt advice bodies to create a “fairer” collection system.
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government highlighted the need to protect people against “aggressive debt enforcement”, announcing that reforms could include taking individual circumstances into account to give people the necessary time to pay off arrears, improving links between councils and the debt advice sector, and supporting fairer debt intervention
  • CIVEA – the principal trade association representing civil enforcement agencies – is hosting a one-day conference in September to present the industry’s take on the Ministry of Justice report following their recent call for evidence. This will include: the treatment of debtors, the complaints processes and whether further regulation is needed.

Comment from Peter Jennett (Private Eye letter, Jul/Aug 2018):

“Those in power not only tolerate but actively create conditions of increasing poverty, lack of access to education and life chances for large numbers of our population, then blame those affected for their own plight”.

 

 

 

 

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What is the truth about the state of England’s rivers?

 

Despite evidence from at least eight sources, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency says “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor”

The Financial Times recently reported that only 14% of rivers in England met the minimum “good status” standards as defined by the EU Water Framework directive according to an Environment Agency report in 2018. In 2009 almost 25% did so. Water quality has deteriorated since 2010 when the Environment Agency handed responsibility for pollution monitoring to the nine large water and sewage companies in England.

Evidence supporting their report comes from the World Wildlife Fund, Windrush rivers campaign, Fish Legal, Marine Conservancy, European Environment Agency, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Sewage Free Seas. It was quoted in England’s rivers: toxic cocktail of chemicals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and untreated waste.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, replied in a letter to the FT, “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor (“Blighted by pollution”, The Big Read, June 13)”. He continued:

Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution thanks to tougher regulation and years of hard work by the Environment Agency and others.

Rivers that were so polluted that they were severely biologically damaged two decades ago are now thriving with wildlife such as otters, dippers and mayflies returning.

Over the past 20 years EA teams have taken more than 50m samples to monitor water quality around the country. The EU’s water framework directive means that the failure of one test can prevent a river from achieving good ecological status overall but this often does not tell the whole story.

During the last round of testing, 76 per cent of the tests used to measure the health of rivers were rated as good, and last year 98 per cent of bathing waters at 420 locations passed tough quality standards, compared with less than a third in the 1990s.

The EA has also required water companies to install new monitoring systems on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). By March next year more than 11,500 CSOs will be monitored as the first phase of this work is completed

It is not true that the EA simply relies on the water companies to tell us what they are discharging into watercourses. We carry out our own monitoring of rivers to ensure we have independent evidence and we regularly inspect water treatment plants and sewage works. If companies are failing to abide by the law or the terms of their permits we will take action to ensure that they do, up to and including prosecution.

Since 1990, the water industry has invested almost £28bn in environmental improvement work, much of it to improve water quality. I agree that there are still too many serious pollution incidents and we have called for tougher penalties for water companies where they are shown to be at fault.

In the past three years we have brought 31 prosecutions against water companies, resulting in more than £30m in fines, and we will continue, alongside the other water regulators, to act to ensure that people, wildlife and the environment are protected.

The agencies quoted are unconvinced and the FT asked earlier this month: Can England’s water companies clean up its dirty rivers?

It noted that the concerns over river pollution come at a time when the water industry is under fire for paying executives and shareholders lucrative rewards while raising customer bills and failing to stem leakage and ended: “The failures mean that three decades after the regional state-run monopolies were handed to private companies free of debt, and with a £1.5bn grant to invest in environmental improvements, the Labour party is calling for renationalisation of the water companies that are now saddled with debt of £51bn”.


Since this article was written, Southern Water — supplier to Kent, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex — has been required to pay what amounts to a £126m penalty over five years for letting untreated waste leak into rivers between 2010 and 2017, and trying to hide what happened.

 

 

 

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Secret State 25: why has there been no MoD information about RAF airstrikes this year?

Running amok?

Obviously horrifying is the news of the death and destruction caused by airstrikes carried out by countries including America, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Britain and Israel.

Recent news in the American press included a June report by VOA, part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a government funded agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting, that at least 160 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in fighting over recent weeks between Syrian forces and armed Saudi-backed ISIL rebels.

The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, warning the warring parties their actions might amount to war crimes.

Aleppo hospital bombed

Friendly fire kills in two incidents in Afghanistan

In March, a US-Afghan convoy came under fire from friendly forces positioned near an Afghan National Army check point in the Uruzgan province, US and coalition officials read more here. American forces launched two “self-defense” airstrikes near the checkpoint, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers and wounding 10 more, according to the Afghan government and coalition.

CNN also reported that Afghan security forces personnel were also killed by US airstrikes in the middle of May – read more here.

The American and Israeli press publish such news- rarely seen in British papers, unless Russia is involved. Searching for news about Britain’s activities, the writer looked at the government website which has given information about the RAF’s airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2015

28,670 people have now signed the following petition:

The Ministry of Defence has not updated its monthly list with information on RAF airstrikes this year – see snapshot from its site. We are therefore no longer aware of the damage done to human beings, their hospitals homes and schools by the RAF in Iraq and Syria.

Is this the Secret State in action – or incompetence – or indifference?

 

 

 

 

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The first big climate-friendly decision: Wales opts for “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system”

The Financial Times reports that plans to build an M4 bypass to reduce congestion on the M4 which links London with South Wales, were rejected yesterday by Wales’ first minister, Mark Drakeford.

He attached great weight to the “substantial adverse impact” on the environment, in particular the Gwent Levels’ Sites of Special Scientific Interest, their network of ancient waterways, wet grassland, reedbeds, saltmarsh and saline lagoons with endangered and rare species of wildlife, managed by Gwent Wildlife Trust and ‘an army of volunteers’.

Ian Rappel, chief executive of the Gwent Wildlife Trust, commended the decision to reject the UK’s most ecologically damaging motorway scheme.

The business community in Wales and the UK government had backed the project, although some economists had argued that increased road access to South Wales would have sucked investment out of the region to the more prosperous west of England. However, Mr Drakeford said the cost to the Welsh government and the project’s impact on other capital investments were not acceptable.

A point not mentioned in this article is that several studies (1994-2017) – including one accepted by the UK government – have found that the relief offered by such a bypass will be temporary, due to the ‘induced traffic’ phenomenon. When a new road is built it generates extra traffic because of the presence of the new road, many new trips are made and longer distances are travelled.

Wales passed the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, which was hailed by the UN as a model piece of legislation for sustainable development.

The Welsh government, which also declared a “climate emergency” in April, is to set up a commission with a mandate to develop “a high quality, multi-modal, integrated and low carbon transport system” and recommend alternatives to the 23-km dual three-lane motorway bypass.

 

 

 

 

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Murdoch Times warns of a ‘revolution’ – so always keep ahold of nurse for fear of finding something worse

Today in the Sunday Times leader, the un-named author/s summarised the results of the local elections before moving on to what they called “The real story of these elections . . . the journey towards self-destruction of a once-great political party, the Tories” – opening the way for a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Momentum myth

They described the ‘hard-left takeover’ of what until four years ago was a moderate, centre-left party continuing. “Should it succeed in taking Mr Corbyn and John McDonnell into Downing Street, the revolution would be complete”. Pictured, so-called ‘hard-left’ revolutionaries in our second city: stable, thoughtful, courteous, concerned.

The so-called progress that has enriched Britain’s 1% since the 1980s – they forecast – would be destroyed in several ways:

  • plans to renationalise the water industry without anything like full compensation for shareholders,
  • which could easily be the template for other parts of the economy,
  • the return of state control
  • and the re-unionisation of the workforce

It could easily happen:

“The Tories and Labour were tied on 31% each in Thursday’s elections. This would be enough, in our first-past-the-post system, to give the Tories 279 Commons seats and Labour 268. Mr Corbyn, under these circumstances, could form an alliance with the Scottish National Party to govern, a prospect that would not only guarantee a swathe of left-wing policies but would also bring the break-up of the United Kingdom much closer”.

And once the Brexit Party is added to the mix, with its capacity to damage the Tories in a general election as well as the forthcoming European elections, Labour’s chances would improve immeasurably. It might just win with a low share of the vote. The Tories would have brought this about, but the whole country would be the loser:

“Mr Corbyn can still win . . . Italy may be the ‘sick man of Europe’ for now, but under Labour that title would be up for grabs again”.

Ed: The 1% might well feel sick, but the 99% would benefit enormously from having a uniquely caring, corporate-free, incorruptible prime minister.

 

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn has made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory

The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

With a general election possibly on the horizon, the Establishment propaganda assault on Jeremy has already started. Odious right-wing propaganda sheets have been noticeably upping their anti-Corbyn smear-ridden stories over recent days and weeks. The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

Over the months we have repeatedly witnessed Jeremy’s extraordinary will and courage being tested in the most extreme of ways — and we are hard-pressed to think of any present-day politician who would have been able to withstand the ferocious onslaught that the Establishment has unloaded on to him — and continues to, as we write.

Let’s be clear: Jeremy would be the first to admit — I’m sure with characteristic modesty — that he’s not a perfect party leader

But the very idea of a “perfect” leader always was a fiction and every mortal human being will have weaknesses.

This allegedly “weak” leader has inspired a huge, unprecedented surge of new party members (who else could conceivably have brought hundreds of thousands of new members into the party? — Chuka Umunna; Dan Jarvis; David Miliband?); forced embarrassing U-turns from an arrogant, uncaring government; shifted the political centre of gravity in Britain significantly to the progressive left; brought morality, fairness and peace into previously moribund political narratives; performed very well in local elections before the putsch last summer by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) elite; has consistently out-performed Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks; has had the courage to take a nuanced, thoughtful view of Brexit — rather than adopting a tabloid-esque, grandstanding “pro” or “anti” position — and has remained dignified and calm in the face of daily vituperative attacks from the media, the entire Establishment and even his own party.

Rather than using any weaknesses Jeremy might have to criticise him from the left, everyone around him should be doing everything possible to complement the brilliant and unique qualities that he does possess.

He has been bullied, betrayed and ridiculed, and yet he carries on with the same grace and care he always shows to others — however objectionable their behaviour and treatment of him might be. The genuinely warm send-off Jeremy recently gave to resigner and serial Corbyn-critic Tristram Hunt is a case in point.

We also know no other politician in this country who possesses the maturity and dignity to have walked out of the unprecedented PLP meeting of June 27 last year with all its scarcely believable bully-boy nastiness directed viciously at him and to immediately urge his many thousands of supporters in Parliament Square to act respectfully, even to those we disagree with.

In the months and years to come, it is our strong conviction that it will increasingly dawn on more and more people that in Jeremy we’re looking at a deeply powerful and courageous human being.

No other Labour leader would have had the strength to withstand the relentless assault that Jeremy has had to endure from all quarters since he became party leader. Nobody else in the PLP could have rescued the Labour Party from the jaws of neoliberalism as Jeremy has; and his proud place in our class’s history is already assured for having made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory.

This post interlards a letter by Richard House with paragraphs – purple font – from an article by Richard and Skeena Rathor

 

 

 

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FT highlights corporate financial rewards for MPs, April 2018-April 2019

In 2009 this site was set up to report on the distortion of policy-making by those on ‘an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ according to a 2009 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC].

Tactics covered, such as the ‘revolving door, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding, continue to block effective action addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges facing this country.

It became common knowledge, with the growth of social media, that those on the ‘inside track’ are skewing parliamentary decision-making and revelations of this corruption are now accepted as the norm. Therefore, after December 14th 2013, individual examples of this practice were no longer listed.

Today, award-winning journalist Owen Walker has once again highlighted the close relationships between politicians and investment fund managers

Mr Walker is a commissioning editor for the Financial Times, selecting and commissioning writers to write specific articles. He has previously edited specialist FT publications on corporate governance, retail investment and pension scheme management. Barbarians in the Boardroom, his book on activist investors, was published in June.

They bring stardust – really?

Last May, Owen Walker (right) quoted David Pitt-Watson’s explanation. This visiting professor of finance at Cambridge Judge Business School said that much of the appeal of recruiting former politicians is the stardust they bring.

He also pointed out the down-side: “If you take up demanding roles in addition to being an MP, your constituents are going to be asking ‘do you not already have a full-time job?’ “

Insuring against loss of office is nothing new; Mr Walker notes that every UK chancellor since 1983 has taken up a position in investment management after leaving the Treasury, giving names and dates.

In today’s article he records that asset/investment managers paid MPs at least £126,000 in speaker fees, thousands of pounds’ worth of hospitality and more than £110,000 for advice during the year April 2018-April 2019. Readers may read names and amounts by clicking on the link above.

 

 

And now it’s 2019 – time for change!

 

 

 

 

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