Category Archives: Housing

Did the young Michael Fallon, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa Brasier play SimCity?

Having seen the beneficial effect of this computer game on a six-year old, a teacher advocates placing it on the national curriculum.

In every different edition of SimCity, the player is given the task of founding and developing a city from a patch of green land, defining what buildings are constructed via development zones – residential zones for Sims to live in; commercial zones for Sims to shop and have offices within; industrial zones to provide work through factories, laboratories and farms – as well as ensuring their citizens are kept happy through establishing various services and amenities, all while keeping a stable budget.

People report problems and the mayor addresses them – his objective: to keep as many people happy as possible.

SimCity 3000: (the environment and localisation now come into the equation); by allowing certain structures to be built within the city, the player could receive a substantial amount of funds from them. The four business deal structures are the maximum security prison, casino, toxic waste conversion plant, and the Gigamall (a large shopping center). Business deal structures however have serious negative effects on a city. The toxic waste dump lowers both the land value and residential desirability in the area surrounding it and produces massive pollution. The prison dramatically decreases land value. The casino increases citywide crime and the Gigamall weakens demand for local commerce.

Too late now – but if the young Michael Fallon, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa Brasier had been educated by the SimCity ’game’ (now used in urban planning offices!), Michael might well have grown up less willing to play real-life war-games, Jeremy could be ensuring good care for all the sick and frail and Theresa might be putting into practice her rhetorical concern for the less fortunate in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

Focus on cuts – 5: the poorest targetted

A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.

He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.

Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.

The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.

David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.

The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.

For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?

Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.

 

 

 

 

Is the HS2 project the most blatant example of UK/USA’s revolving door/vested interest ridden politics?

hs2-viaductvisual

“A gravy train for consultants, involving banks, lawyers and government officials” – and industry?

Many are shocked by the hugely damaging environmental and social impacts of demolition of properties in London and homes, farms and businesses and along the proposed HS” route.

Added to this reaction is horror at news of the emerging and all-too familiar reports of conflicts of interest – a polite expression for what is a form of apparently legal corruption.

A skeletal chronological summary of news about the nominated leadership of the HS2 project and some contract awards follows, based on reports in the Financial Times, 2015-2017.

Background 2015

The Institute of Directors suggested that it would be cheaper to knock down Birmingham and build a new city 20 minutes closer to the capital, while the Institute of Economic Affairs cast doubt on HS2’s regeneration benefits, pointing out that HS1 failed to regenerate Kent, with the average employment rate in the south east of Britain 5% lower than before the high speed service was introduced.

Portugal, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have all cancelled planned or existing high-speed rail projects and some argue that Britain should follow suit. Martin Blaiklock, a consultant on infrastructure and energy project finance, said that extra capacity could be built more cheaply by adding to existing railways. “[HS2] is very high-risk,” he says. “It is a gravy train for consultants, involving banks, lawyers and government officials.”

Conflict of interest emerges in 2015-16 in favour of an American multinational 

revolving-door-peopleIt was reported that Roy Hill, managing director of the US-headquartered engineering company CH2M, has been seconded to HS2 acting chief executive on a temporary basis from November, after Simon Kirby, the former chief executive, elected to leave for Rolls-Royce. Mr Hill worked at HS2’s offices in Canary Wharf for CH2M between 2012 and 2014 after the company won the role of development partner carrying out preparatory work, in a contract worth about £70m.

CH2M entrenched?

In Gill Plimmer’s FT article yesterday, readers were reminded that Mark Thurston, an executive at CH2M, has now been appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd, replacing the aforementioned Roy Hill.  He will take over in March.

David Higgins, HS2’s chairman, said he recognised the need to avoid any conflict of interest and that Mr Thurston would consequently cut all links with his previous employer. “They will be treated in the same way as any other supplier – no more or less favourably than that,” Mr Higgins said of CH2M.

CH2M has already been paid around £500m for working on the line as development partner and then the delivery partner on Phase 1 of the high-speed railway project, from London to Birmingham. Phase 2 covers Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

Mace, a large consultancy and construction company, which worked on the London 2012 Olympics and plans for Hinkley Point C, has written to HS2 Ltd, set up by government in 2009, announcing that it intends to challenge the decision to award CH2M, the US engineer, a contract to design the second phase of the London to Manchester line. “As a British-owned company, we were naturally disappointed with HS2’s decision and are looking closely at our options,” Mace said.

 gravy-train

Ms Plimmer states that Mace is threatening to sue the state-owned company behind Britain’s planned £56bn high-speed railway line over alleged conflicts of interest..

She quotes a source close to the legal process who said it was “extremely likely” that Mace would file a claim in the High Court this week. “Mace is concerned over conflicts of interest. It is looking for an injustice to be corrected,” the source said. “CH2M has been awarded half a billion pounds worth of contracts even though nothing has been built yet.” CH2M declined to comment.

Legal action could delay the project, which is expected to get Royal Assent this week, paving the way for construction to start this year. Final amendments to the HS2 bill are being debated on Monday in the House of Commons.

Tony Berkeley, the Labour peer and a former engineer who worked on the Channel tunnel, said the situation “smells”. “There must be other companies in the UK who are capable of doing it. Is HS2 actually competent to do the procurement or are they just relying on CH2M to do the whole thing and procure themselves?”

 

 

 

 

Housing minister: executive homes built in the countryside are profitable but don’t keep villages alive

Alice Thomson reports that more than 1,300 villages have disappeared in the first decade of this century, according to figures recently released by the Office for National Statistics: “Their greens, meadows, churches, war memorials and pubs have been subsumed into towns and cities, their identities eroded”. This land was used predominantly for more concrete jungle of warehouses, car parks, offices and supermarkets.

saltaireShe reminds us that the Victorians campaigned to save their countryside, backed by artists, poets, architects, writers, businessmen like George Cadbury and Titus Salt (Saltaire, left).

By the 1920s twentytwo organisations were lobbying parliament over our landscape and together they formed what is now the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which championed green belts. Alice calls for us to devote as much of our imagination to preserving our villages and countryside as did those Victorian artists, poets, architects, writers and businessmen, commenting: “If organisations such as the CPRE hadn’t been set up and we had followed the relaxed planning laws of the US, London could now look like Los Angeles and would reach Brighton”.

Urban councils receive 40% more funding than those in rural areas, but seaside, market and country towns need to be rejuvenated, with more bus routes, better broadband and more sensitive, innovative building projects.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework, councils must have a “local plan” limiting housing developments to land specifically allocated for it. But 40% of councils haven’t completed their plans, mostly because of legal objections from developers and, despite the increasing population, fewer houses were built in the last decade than in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. Ms Thomson and many others agree that urban housebuilding should predominantly once more be on brownfield sites. High streets and out-of-town shopping centres can be turned back into housing as we increasingly buy goods online.

One commentator added: “Villages need affordable rented housing, once called council housing, to give people a stable home life where children can go to the local school and use local services. Executive homes built in the countryside are very profitable but don’t enhance a stable community. Let’s build in villages and keep them alive. It used to be like that until council houses were sold off”.

Alice continues: After Brexit there is a chance to redefine our relationship with the countryside.

 

 

 

Black Monday: how can government sentence the poor and disabled to increased hardship?

How can MPs earning more than double the national average – plus allowances, directorships and expenses – find it in their heart to vote to sentence the poor and disabled (without influence) to increased hardship?

The relatively prosperous look on aghast as support for those who have least is cut but the prosperous are voted tax breaks and other concessions. How far will this government be allowed to go?

It is no coincidence that around the country groups are gathering to promote showings of the latest Ken Loach film and citing his Question Time video clip:  

ken-loach

A Bournville reader points out that “the tragedy is that (the long-term homeless) are going to be joined by many more who have had a home. See what is going to come into play with effect from Monday 7th November” and sends a link to an article about a cut in housing benefit from Nov 7th.

He asks: “Where are all these extra homeless people and families to go? And at what cost?” 

Tomorrow more than 100,000 households will be materially worse off. Some households will lose as much as £115 a week.

The idea of tightening their belt and reducing household spending assumes that energy and food are expendable luxuries.

tighten-belt-cropThose hit by the cap will soon be in arrears. Either their landlord, social or private, absorbs the cost of the arrears, or – more likely – the tenant is evicted.

In the Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty stresses the costs of the lost income, the long-term psychological harm to tenants, the deteriorating health of households in temporary accommodation and the exorbitant cost of temporary accommodation for those evicted.

Every day in England and Wales, 170 tenants are evicted.

homeless-textEvictions have increased by 53% in the past five years. Around 80% of these are carried out by social landlords, and a further 20% by private landlords.

The new reduced benefit cap: how it works and who it affects – the facts and figures – are given here and in the BBC programme, right.

Those who are being swayed by the PM’s rhetoric should look at her previous actions in office as Minister for Women and Equality, when her edicts downgraded the provision for carers, children in need and vulnerable people. She:

  • suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
  • scrapped the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • closed the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal and
  • removed a clause from the Equality Act which would have required public bodies to consider how they can reduce socio-economic inequalities when making decisions about spending and services.

Welfare payments are designed to act as a safety net to stop people in the fifth-richest economy in the world being hungry or homeless.

Where will the cuts inflicted on the poorest end, and wherever is Ms May’s compassionate conservatism in action?

 

 

 

Is the only response a progressive alliance?

With thanks to the reader working in Uganda who sent this link from which we give extracts:

Peter Hitchens writes:

peter hitchensIt will be good for Britain if Jeremy Corbyn wins his fight to stay as leader of the Labour Party. I agree with the late Queen Mother that the best political arrangement for this country is a good old-fashioned conservative government kept on its toes by a strong Labour Opposition.

There’s no sign of a good old-fashioned conservative government. But Mr Corbyn speaks for a lot of people who feel left out of the recovery we are supposed to be having, and they need a powerful voice in Parliament.

There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security.

I wish the voiceless millions of conservative patriots had a spokesman as clear and resolute as Mr Corbyn is for his side.

globalisation imagesThe truth is that both major parties have been taken over by the same cult, the Clinton-Blair fantasy that globalism, open borders and mass immigration will save the great nations of the West.

It hasn’t worked. In the USA it has failed so badly that the infuriated, scorned, impoverished voters of Middle America are on the point of electing a fake-conservative yahoo businessman as President.

So far we have been gentler with our complacent elite, perhaps too gentle. Our referendum majority for leaving the EU was a deep protest against many things. But it did not actually throw hundreds of useless MPs out on their ears, as needs to be done. They are all still there, drawing their pay and expenses . . .

If Mr Corbyn wins, our existing party system will begin to totter. The Labour Party must split between old-fashioned radicals like him, and complacent smoothies from the Blair age.

And since Labour MPs have far more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn, there is only one direction they can take. They will have to snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party. And so at last the British public will see clearly revealed the truth they have long avoided – that the two main parties are joined in an alliance against them.

And they may grasp that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties. Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland.

greenhouse header

Is such an alliance gathering now? See http://greenhousethinktank.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/3/2/48324387/green_house_progressive_alliance_july_2016.pdf

 

 

 

How many realise that the government’s much-vaunted & welcomed 2013 flood insurance agreement has not yet been implemented?

Britain is still building nearly 10,000 new homes a year on floodplains despite growing warnings over episodes of extreme flooding. The FT reports that one new home in every 14 that was built in 2013-14 — the most recent year for which data is available — was constructed on land that has a significant chance of flooding, either from a river or the sea, according to an FT analysis of official figures.

defra 2 14-15 report coverA report by the Environment Select Committee has warned, on page 27, that “the large number of properties at significant and in some cases increasing risk of flooding means that prioritising spending on flood defences is essential if the UK is to minimise potentially huge costs of future flood events”. It called on the environment department to set out its detailed budget for maintaining flood defences within the next three months.

In 2013, reports following government negotiations with the Association of British Insurers, announced the capping of flood insurance premiums.

Smaller businesses were to be excluded from the programme, which guarantees affordable insurance to domestic properties, except for rentals; landlords are not eligible, so tenants in flooded properties face the prospect of being removed. Yesterday the Financial Times reported the FSB’s estimate that about 75,000 smaller businesses at risk of flooding had found it difficult to find flood insurance and 50,000 had been refused cover nationally.

flooded business in yorkFlooded businesses in York

Accountants – KPMG [Press Reader], PwC [BBC] – have warned that thousands of businesses will face financial ruin because they will have to bear a fifth of the estimated £5bn national cost of flood damage, with inadequate or non-existent insurance cover.

John Allan, the FSB’s National Chairman, said: “Ministers should look again at the availability of affordable and comprehensive flood insurance for small businesses, potentially through a dedicated Flood Re style agreement. The financial cost to small businesses following the 2012 flooding was £200 million.

“We can’t hope to create a buoyant economy . . . if vulnerable small businesses can’t sufficiently protect themselves from increasingly unpredictable and severe weather that in the worst cases can close a business.” 

PMQs: Lutz in the Birmingham Press got it right. Corbyn impressed

A recent article by Richard Lutz in the Birmingham Press opened: “The Prime Minister will have to have change his upper class bully boy tactics once he faces new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

As Lutz recounted: “PMQs is hardly polite. In fact, it is so red in tooth and claw that the Speaker had to recently warn baying Parliamentarians to calm down as some of the more demure MPs said it just wasn’t worth showing up any more . . . but with the chance to perform for TV, it has become more and more nasty, personal, vindictive and, ultimately, void of any real content”. He referred to Cameron: “braying personalised attacks at those sitting across the House from him”.

Watching PMQs today – recorded here.

jc magisterial pmq firstElderly readers of the Times who have been voicing concerns about his appearance will be reassured by the fact that he was wearing a tie – a concern which also seems to loom large in the mainstream press.

Corbyn, with considerable gravitas, opened – to Labour applause and opposition silence – by referring to the public’s perception that conduct in ‘this place’ is too theatrical and out of touch. He remembered welcoming Cameron’s 2005 promise to end the “Punch and Judy” politics of PMQs, sadly unfulfilled.

Over 40,000 people sent in questions for Mr Corbyn’s consideration. Of the 2500 on housing he selected Marie’s focus on the chronic lack of affordable housing and thanked the PM for his polite, “more adult” reply. We learnt that the government’s July order to cut rents in social housing by1% for the next four years has already led to 150 job cuts in a Stevenage housing association and will mean less money will be available to spend on maintenance and housing. Elsewhere we read that it will also reduce housebuilding by housing associations.

Paul’s question, conveyed by the new Labour leader, doubted the wisdom of taking £1000 from each of 3 million working families in April through family tax credit cuts, as these credits were essential to avoid reliance on food banks.  

A relatively minor level of shouting from Labour benches (by PMQ standards a murmur) was reproved by the prime minister as not being in keeping with the new style advocated by Corbyn.

Cameron answered that employment is at an ‘all time high’ and wages are rising, and referred to those who choose to live on welfare payments rather than work. Corbyn answered gravely that many people don’t have the choice. He then cited the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that 8000 families would suffer a 26% loss.

Gail provided the next question, which opened with the dramatic statement that all accept that the mental health service is ‘on its knees’ and David Cameron appeared to agree. He said the parties should ’work together on this’ adding an oblique reference to the media fables about the Corbyn economic agenda: “there can be no strong NHS without a strong economy”.

The question from Angela, a mental health professional, referred to the lack of available beds which meant that patients were left without accommodation or moved far away from family and friends. Mr Cameron agreed: “We need to do more as a country; beds are important”, but then alleged that mental health issues are often not treated when patients go to their GP.

After fifteen minutes, Jeremy Corbyn’s questions ended and there was a change of tack, which could be described as indirect sniping – when questioners no longer had to face a Corbyn reply.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson says his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident” – but had to ask ‘What happened to the new PMQs?’ after Cameron asked him in a jeering manner if ‘the SNP is frit?’

Nigel Dodds (DUP) belligerently referred to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s remark that we should “honour” IRA members who died in the armed struggle – a remark set in full context in a careful report of the proceedings in the Independent.

Conservative bloomer, surely?

Julian Knight stressed the importance of Britain having an independent nuclear deterrent – which actually does not exist, as many point out, Alex Thomson for one: our “independent” Trident missiles in reality come from Lockheed Martin in the US and are maintained by the US Navy. So we are being asked to spend around  £100bn to maintain and replace an “independent” nuclear strike capability – which does not exist. David Morrison adds: “If Britain doesn’t maintain friendly relations with the US, then it won’t have a functional nuclear weapons system, despite having spent billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money on it – because the US would simply cease providing Britain with serviceable Trident missiles”.

Other MPs questions followed, making references – probably planted to provoke – to increased defence spending, NATO membership, traditional values and the national anthem.

Lutz was right on target:

david cameron pmqCameron did ‘play it cool’, not going for ‘the teenage nastiness that has sadly stained the current level of PMQ debate in the last years’.

He did stick to answering questions, and for the time being he appeared to be “growing up”.

My neighbour said drily, ”Only another 25,000 questions to go.”

Gordon Brown: the Labour Party needs a leader who is radical, credible and electable, someone who gives hope – Jeremy Corbyn

Under Corbyn the haves will have a little less and the have nots will have a little hope writes author Steve Beauchampé, in the Birmingham Press article summarised below.

He voices the thoughts of so many: “I did not vote for Labour in the 2015 General Election. I have not voted for the party since before Tony Blair and his New Labour ideologues ascended to power in the mid-1990s. But should Jeremy Corbyn win the current leadership contest and lead the party into the 2020 General Election, it is quite possible that I will give Labour my vote”.

This is not because Corbyn is a conviction politician (rather than a politician who should be convicted, a description applicable to several of his critics)

Again, voicing the reasoning of so many, Steve will ‘quite possibly’ give his vote because he is “in broad agreement with many of his policies and am sympathetic to the kind of society that he aims to create”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s overarching vision involves the creation of a form of social democracy that appears not dissimilar to that championed by the SNP:

“The society Corbyn envisages differs vastly to that produced by the ultra free market economy so loved by George Osborne and many luminaries of the New Labour era, an always and ever open for business society where everything has its price, but nothing is valued, money is power and the vulnerable are scorned”.

But to portray Corbyn as anti-business is incorrect

“Although he is committed to policies designed to narrow Britain’s increasing wealth gap, and to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable are not scapegoated for the results of a banking crisis and subsequent recession for which they were not responsible, he is supportive of those businesses who behave responsibly to their employees, customers and the environment whilst also being cognisant of their impact upon wider society”.

Steve comments that in most western democracies (Ed: especially Scandinavian) most proposals in Corbyn’s programme would be regarded as routine social democracy. Only in the context of a political centre ground that has travelled inexorably to the right for much of the last 35 years, and particularly since 2010, are they viewed as extreme.

He adds several paragraphs about Corbyn proposals, listed here:

  • a high tax economy for the wealthy,
  • a low tax economy for the poor,
  • increased public spending,
  • re-nationalisation of the railways (by not renewing private sector franchises),
  • nationalisation of private utilities in the energy sector,
  • removal of all elements of privatisation from the NHS,
  • bringing free schools and academies under effective local authority control
  • re-introducing rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords,
  • strengthening those democratically accountable local institutions laid waste, first by New Labour, and then by Osborne’s austerity mantra,
  • improved and more sympathetic working conditions and practices,
  • rebalancing the economy away from a reliance on financial services to the manufacturing sector,
  • tightening banking regulations (Osborne intends relaxing them further),
  • re-introducing a 50% rate of income tax,
  • raising corporation tax (currently at a historically low level) by 0.5%, as a means of paying for the abolition of tuition fees
  • and creating an investment bank to stimulate investment and growth.

There’s much more – the scrapping of Trident, Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, a substantial increase in the number of ‘affordable’ homes being built (at the expense of ones property speculators can afford), including those by local authorities, opposition to fracking and the creation of an elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords.

Corbyn’s agenda for devolution includes a loosening of Treasury controls over Local Enterprise Partnerships, a re-balancing of transport policy away from the South East and opposition to the imposition of metro-Mayors without approval via a local referendum.

A raft of measures designed to reverse the Conservative’s unrelenting discrimination against the economic and social rights of under-25s

Corbyn has stated that apprentices would be paid the minimum wage, young people would no longer be denied housing benefit simply because they are young and would no longer need fear the debt laden future after graduation. He continues:

“This broad sweep of policies gives lie to the myth that a Jeremy Corbyn-led administration offers nothing more than a return to the politics of the 1980s, that he would make Labour the party of protest, permanently in opposition. On the contrary, many of his ideas offer forward thinking answers to contemporary issues. For sure he proposes to finally right certain ideologically driven decisions that were taken under Thatcher and Blair, but so he should, these were wrong then and are still wrong today”.

Moving away from the New Labour era, an always and ever open for business society where everything has its price, but nothing is valued, money is power and the vulnerable are scorned: “As former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said, the Labour Party needs a leader who is radical, credible and electable, someone who gives hope. That would be Jeremy Corbyn then”.

Read the whole article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/anyone-but-the-other-three/

Birmingham Press – Corbyn: a man of integrity with decades of experience outwith the political zeitgeist

Author and Birmingham Press contributor, Steve Beauchampé, assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances

Title & headings added:

My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without.

After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Miliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Miliband but without the geeky visage and voice.

That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second).

Corbyn has fended off the criticism and caricatures with ease

Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.

A politician with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’

However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).

A politician with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics

And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters.

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.

The Conservative agenda will be thrown into sharper definition

Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.

So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister?

Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.

If . . .

If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.

Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!    

 

Read the Press article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/the-john-peel-of-politics/

Steve Beauchampé, August 5th 2015, adds:

Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:

Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax

Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)

Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built

Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords

Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector

The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband

The minimum wage to apply to apprentices

Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS

Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership

Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities

Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed

Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)

Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum

An elected second chamber

 

On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.