Category Archives: MPs

Trumpton and Mayhem 2*: Trump – like May – takes care of the rich, not the rust belt

In a recent post on this site, economist Martin Wolf (FT) was quoted, reminding readers of the words of Theresa May, the prime minister, in her speech to the Conservative party conference last year: “Our economy should work for everyone, but if your pay has stagnated for several years in a row and fixed items of spending keep going up, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.” She earnestly promised that this would change.

He continued: “Was Mrs May’s speech hypocritical? Yes”. (See MP Dawn Butler, 2nd paragraph) 

In similar vein, Jenni Russell writes:

“The president’s actions are more important than his words, and they are a betrayal of his voters

“President Trump is brilliant at diversionary tactics, whether tweets, tantrums, or executive orders that may or may not mean anything in practical terms. His speech to Congress was another in his string of conjuror’s illusions.

“Breitbart and the Trump base adored it for its promises to put American workers first, improve their healthcare, incomes and education, cut their taxes, and protect them from danger abroad and immigrants at home. Trump’s liberal critics were momentarily dazzled to find that for at least an hour the president was capable of addressing the nation in a reasonable, conciliatory tone. But we now know that Trump’s public promises and assertions are so full of contradictions that they cannot be taken either literally or seriously.

“Instead we have to scrutinise the practical consequences of the policies his team is implementing. The effect of these won’t be to transform the lives of the people he swore to champion. They will make the rich much richer at the expense of the middle class and the poor”.

She notes that Trump’s tax plan is overwhelmingly skewed towards the wealthy:

  • America’s Tax Policy Centre shows nearly half of the total tax cut will go to the top 1% of taxpayers.
  • Almost a quarter will be spent on the richest 0.1%, households that earn above $3.7 million a year.
  • The middle fifth of households, earning an average of $65,000, will gain just a thousand dollars.
  • Less than 7% of the total cost of tax cuts will be spent on them.
  • Because Trump intends to drop tax exemptions for children, some families earning less than $50,000 a year will actually see their taxes rise.
  • The budgets for education, childcare and medical research will be slashed by at least 15% per cent.
  • Trump proposes to end the state tax, which affects only the top 0.2 per cent of the population.
  • His proposed cuts to corporation tax range from 35 to 20%

This surreptitious transfer cannot be what Trump supporters expected

Jenni continues: “Trump’s promise to create jobs through a vast infrastructure plan are equally tilted towards the rich. Investors will be offered tax breaks costing $137 billion to encourage them to invest a trillion dollars in projects that offer potential returns from fees or tolls. And far from bringing jobs to depressed regions, the projects will be skewed towards wealthier areas, because there will be no incentive to invest in areas where there’s no hope of a financial return, like the crumbling roads of the Appalachians”.

Still justified by demonstrably failed trickle down theory

Republicans defend this kind of unbalanced reward as they always have, arguing that the more money individuals keep, the more they will spend and the more everyone will benefit. These policies – in addition to the cuts Trump is demanding to pay for his boom in defence spending – will add huge sums to the deficit and drastically shrink the money available for public programmes. Jenni ends:

“Trump promised to protect his voters but the gulf between what he pledged and what he’s delivering is evident everywhere. His teams are busy dismantling consumer, financial and environmental regulations that prevented ordinary people being fleeced or having their land and water defiled. His supporters stubbornly believe in him but they are being betrayed. There can only be more fear and disillusion to come”.

Meanwhile Wall Street is soaring in anticipation, with the Dow Jones breaking the 21,000 barrier for the first time within hours of the speech. That extra money will overwhelmingly go into the bank accounts of those with the most shares – and the May government now turns from squeezing the disabled to the bereaved, successfully passing drastic cuts in payments for which national insurance contributions had been made and raising probate fees.

 

*Trumpton and Mayhem: first passing reference made on Our Birmingham website by architect David Heslop, moving towards employee ownership.

 

 

 

 

Media 74: MSM wades in – hours after Corbyn’s reception at NHS rally

nhs-demo

Saturday 4th March

The BBC reported that Jeremy Corbyn called for the government to provide more funding for the health service in next week’s Budget. Speaking to the protesters in Parliament Square, he said: “The NHS is in crisis because of the underfunding in social care and the people not getting the care and support they need. It is not the fault of the staff. It is the fault of a government who have made a political choice.”

The protest organisers say the government’s proposed Sustainability Transformation Plans (STPs) across the NHS in England are a “smokescreen for further cuts” and the “latest instruments of privatisation”. These proposals involve the complete closure of some hospitals and the centralising of some services such as A&E and stroke care on fewer sites.

Deputy chairman of the British Medical Association council Dr David Wrigley said the march was “a cry for help for anyone who uses the NHS” which was “in such a desperate situation. We need to highlight it. As a doctor I see day to day the serious pressures in the NHS due to the funding cuts from the government”.

Saturday 4th March: at 6pm

The Independent featured Ben Bradshaw (former minister) praising Blair and blaming Corbyn’s leadership – ‘the one issue on the doorstep’

Saturday 4th March 11pm (updated 4am on 5th)

Nine prominent Labour MPs are reported in the Daily Mail to have complained ‘that they are heading for oblivion’ ( a little earlier a tweet on OurNHS explained why):

nhs-jmd“Unlike other politicians who spend weekends with corporate lobbyists &wealthy donors, John McDonnell is out on the street 4 the #OurNHS demo”

Sunday 5th March 4am

The Sunday Express: Corbyn in crisis – and no doubt more will come

Saturday 4th March 11pm (updated 4am on 5th)

The Daily Mail usefully quotes Ken Loach explaining why these particular MPs are disgruntled: “It was their Labour Party, not Corbyn’s, that lost Scotland, lost two elections and has seen Labour’s vote shrink inexorably. Yet they retain a sense of entitlement to lead.”

Strangest of all, the Times and FT (online editions) decide not to mention the demonstration.

The Times online did not carry its usual daily onslaught on Corbyn and the Financial Times online which regularly publishes biassed articles about JC – often by Jim Pickard – has no reference, merely a bland, skimpy article by David Laws: “UK reaches socially acceptable limits of austerity . . . the NHS needs a settlement which allows for rising demand and an ageing population”.

Their carefully selected and daily shown photographs and cartoons of the Labour Party leader are not to be seen? What does this mean?

 

 

 

Admirable politicians 8 & 9:  Barry Gardiner and Angela Rayner

Steve Beauchampé sends a welcome lead, enabling Labour MP Barry Gardiner to be added to Political Concern’s ‘Admirable politician’ category – the first since May 2014, when MEP Molly Scott Cato was featured as the 7th.

Steve’s link to a Sunday interview on Sky News was accompanied by the comments that “(Gardiner) handles the interview with ease, batting away her questions. I increasingly find him arguably the most impressive member of the Shadow Cabinet”.

pcu-gardiner

As Shadow Secretary for International Trade, Barry Gardiner spoke to Sophy Ridge on her Sunday politics programme about Labour’s difficult week following the Party’s Copeland by-election loss.

barry-gardinerCalmly and with authority, he discussed the nuclear issues affecting the Copeland vote and Jeremy Corbyn’s misrepresented position on nuclear power.

He spoke compellingly on Labour’s forcefully expressed parliamentary concerns about new proposals for business rates, funding formulas and disability benefits – later moving on to analyse the divisive effect of Brexit.

This positive news brought to mind that a few hours earlier, listening to the Sunday repeat of Question Time, Labour’s shadow minister for education Angela Rayner was outstanding. She becomes the 9th admirable politician.

She had all the relevant facts at her fingertips and was able to present them in a way which confounded Conservative minister Justine Greening – no mean feat.

The Telegraph reports that some of her Conservative opponents have asked whether she has the qualifications to fulfil her responsibilities as shadow education secretary. “I may not have a degree – but I have a Masters in real life,” she replied.

angela-raynerAngela grew up on a Stockport council estate, brought up by a mother who couldn’t read or write.

Her life was, she has said, heading in the wrong direction until: “Labour’s Sure Start centres gave me and my friends, and our children, the support we needed to grow and develop”.

And without the NHS, she proclaims, her son Charlie, who was born prematurely, would not be alive today.

Barry and Angela are some of Jeremy Corbyn’s most able colleagues – towers of strength.

New readers: a search will reveal that in order of date, starting with MEP Molly Scott Cato in 2014, the other admirable politicians featured were John Hemming, Andrew George, Margaret Hodge, Tony Benn, Salma Yacoob and Irish senator David Norris.

 

 

 

Government cuts for disabled people escalate

The recent by-elections gave cover for the latest government announcement of emergency legislation inflicting further cuts on disabled people – ‘a good day to bury bad news’.

Two tribunals had ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which helps disabled people fund their living costs.

  • One ruling found that someone who needed support at home to take medication or monitor a health condition like diabetes would score the same on the benefits criteria as people who needed help with a demanding procedure such as kidney dialysis.
  • A second ruling said people who struggled to travel independently because of conditions such as anxiety scored the same as someone who was, for example, blind.

Ministers then swiftly revised the law to deny the increased benefit payments to more than 150,000 people.

super-rich-bailout

A Lib Dem work and pensions spokeswoman said it was outrageous that the government was using the ruling to make matters worse for disabled people: “What makes things even worse is that they have sneaked this announcement out under the cover of [Thursday’s] by-elections.”

From April, it is reported that new claimants will see a reduction of £29.05 in their entitlement, which will fall to £73.10 a week. This follows on from the cuts that the DWP tried to implement last year, which resulted in Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation.

Liz Sayce from Disability Rights UK said: “We’re not aware of one single disability employment or benefits expert who thinks this particular cut will be an incentive for disabled people to get a job.”

Unfortunately this logic, and a host of scathing comments seen in the Metro won’t pierce the thick skins of affluent legislators and further deprivation will hit the least fortunate in many sectors.

 

 

 

Media 69: 2016- 2017, good years for burying bad news?

 david-hencke-2As journalist David Hencke reminds us:

“One of the oldest tricks in the Whitehall playbook is to use a major event as cover to publish unpalatable or embarrassing news.

“It means the media are diverted by the event and don’t notice the announcement or report”.

In his recent post Hencke noted that the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury use of the US elections to hide two bad news stories.

On the day before Trump‘s victory, the Ministry of Defence slipped in a very embarrassing announcement about war veterans pensions and disability payments (£438,193,000 in the Armed Forces Pensions and Compensation scheme) for which the Treasury had apparently not budgeted, commenting: “As a result they will have to raid the contingency reserve for emergency payments to make sure these veterans have the money”.

niaNia Griffith, the shadow Defence Secretary has warned the government that military veterans must be given an urgent reassurance that they will not lose money.

On ‘results day’, the National Audit Office’s less than glowing report on the new Defence Equipment and Support agency was released to the media. Though the agency was set up to address MoD cost overruns on equipment, bad spending decisions and lack of control, the NAO has qualified its accounts and made profound and widely based criticisms of its performance

On the day of publication, few noticed that Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, reported: “The DE&S has again been unable to provide sufficient evidence to support certain costs, or demonstrate that all costs it has incurred have been included in the financial statements. The C&AG has therefore limited the scope of his audit opinion . . . I believe this situation has arisen because the Agency’s financial management systems, processes and controls for these transactions and balances are not yet sufficiently well developed to meet the Agency’s needs.”

anne-marie-mpHencke also reports that Anne Marie Trevelyan, Conservative MP for Berwick on Tweed and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “At a time when we are seeing a lot of change in the Ministry of Defence, causing a great deal of anxiety for those who are serving, it is very disappointing to see Defence Equipment & Support has not got to grips with financial management”.

 

 

See also Hencke’s news article for Tribune magazine.

Report: Dubai lawyer to sue Blair over war crimes in Iraq – and why not Bush, the leading partner?

Investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot today sent a link to an article in the Gulf News, reporting that a Dubai-Cairo-London based law firm, headed by advocate Nasser Hashem, intends to take legal action against former British prime minister Tony Blair, seeking his prosecution for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Read an earlier statement of intention on their website.

blair-iraqThis decision was made following the publication of Chilcot’s report on the Iraq war in July in which it was found that Saddam Hussain did not pose an urgent threat to British interests and that the intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty.

Also, the report said UK and the US had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council. Hashem explained:

“We are taking this legal procedure against Blair since he took the decision [in his capacity as the British prime minister then] to participate with the United States in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without the permission of the UK’s House of Commons.

statue-liberty-covers-eyes“He produced unreasonable, bogus and wrong information to the House of Commons, according to the Chilcot report, and based on that information, the UK participated in that war.”

Hashem said Blair also falsely told the House of Commons that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons before the war was launched against Iraq. 

He added: “Thousands of Iraqis were killed, injured, displaced and/or shattered. Blair committed war crimes against the people of Iraq and violated human rights. He should be taken to court for the crimes he committed”.

This is a dreadful ordeal for the former British Prime Minister to face, but it pales into insignificance when compared with the sufferings of thousands of Iraqi people. And if it can make political leaders realise that military interventions are always both barbaric and futile Blair’s suffering will have served the world well.

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn: The PM’s most influential adviser on the political economy

On 14th July a Moseley reader emailed to say “Theresa May’s speech yesterday sounded more left wing than your mate JC!”

theresa May

My reply was a one year snapshot of her actions in office which belied this humanitarian stance, published earlier on this site:

  • In 2010 she suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
  • On 4 August 2010 it was reported that May was scrapping the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • This was followed on 6 August 2010 by the closure of the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbiéchild abuse scandal.

“Rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.

This is another of Ms May’s Corbyn-like soundbites made shortly after Corbyn’s description of what he saw as the difference between the  Conservative and Labour offerings, in the form of a question:

bbc kuenssberg 1 

“Do you want to be bargain-basement Britain on the edge of Europe, cutting corporate taxation, having very low wages, having grotesque inequalities of wealth? Or do you want to be a high-wage, high-investment economy that actually does provide decent chances and opportunities for all?”

We read that Theresa May has launched a cabinet committee on the economy and industrial strategy, which she is to chair; it will bring together the heads of more than ten departments and focus on “rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.

Is Corbyn the most powerful, though least acknowledged of Theresa May’s advisers on the political economy?

If only she would heed him on nuclear and foreign policy issues.

 

 

 

Waiting in the wings: servants of the public or the corporate world?

Taking back control – for the wealthy?

“It seems extraordinary that a man with such a past could have been brought back into government, let alone given such a crucial and sensitive role”.

The new international trade secretary, Liam Fox explained his enthusiasm for leaving Europe: “We’ll be able to make our own laws unhindered by anyone else, and our democratic parliament will not be overruled by a European Court.”

Liam Fox: “a corporate sleeper cell implanted in government five years ago”?

liam foxGeorge Monbiot reminds us that in 2011 Fox resigned his post as defence secretary in disgrace, after his extracurricular interests were exposed. He had set up an organisation called Atlantic Bridge which formed a partnership with a corporate lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by tobacco, pharmaceutical and oil companies. It was struck off by the Charity Commission after allying with people and organisations to lobby for privatisation of public services privatised and releasing corporations from regulation.

He allowed a lobbyist to attend his official meetings, without government clearance, making misleading statements about these meetings, which were later disproved.

Fox is said to promote TTIP which would “significantly undercut the last vestiges of sovereign power, spuriously revered by Fox and his allies, by insisting that the government open up the NHS and other public institutions to American companies, who could even sue the UK in international courts if policies affect their profits”.

Owen Smith: Labour’s corporate leadership candidate

owen smith smallAs noted in an earlier post, Owen Smith, who became Labour MP for the safe seat of Pontypridd in 2010, is on record as being pro-choice aka privatisation in the health sector.

Having worked at the heart of America’s corporate world, he is acceptable to right-wing Labour and Conservatives.

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company:

  • He chose to work with Pfizer, which reached a $2.3 billion settlement with the US government in 2009 for fraudulent marketing and kickbacks paid to doctors who prescribed Lyrica and other Pfizer products and $400 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over this case.
  • He endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers.
  • He helped the drugs company to strike an exclusive distribution agreement with UniChem, the wholesaling arm of Alliance-Boots; the OFT’s chief executive warned that such agreements “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Mr Smith then decided to move on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015, a company recovering ground after its anti-anemia blockbusters, Aranesp and Epogen, had been hampered by losses due to concerns about side effects, regulatory issues and insurance trouble

There is a real danger – as Monbiot points out – that people with such histories are only concerned with promoting the millionaires’ agenda, by urging that the social contract which makes this country more or less habitable be ripped apart.

99%-3

 

There is an honest and public-spirited alternative – “Remind you of anyone?”.

 

Owen Smith: the corporate candidate

Owen Smith is on record as being pro-choice aka privatisation in the health sector. Having worked at the heart of America’s corporate world, he is acceptable to right-wing Labour and Conservatives.

owen smith

 

However, public support for the principled Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, continues to rise: more than 55,000 people have paid £25 to vote in the Labour leadership cpntest this week, with most expected to be Mr Corbyn’s backers and tens of thousands more are expected to sign up today before the deadline. 

 JC rally post referendumRally: post referendum support for Corbyn

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company, Owen Smith endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers. He moved on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015 before becoming Labour MP for the safe seat of Pontypridd in 2010.

During his time as a Pfizer lobbyist, Mr Smith helped the drugs company to strike an exclusive distribution agreement with UniChem, the wholesaling arm of Alliance-Boots, examined by the Office of Fair Trading, whose chief executive warned that such agreements “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Owen Smith’s choice was to join Pfizer and Amgen, American firms whose products have been charged with significantly harming health.

Jeremy Corbyn’s choice was to work for union members, for international human rights, for good public services, for his constituents, for nuclear disarmament, for just defence: against the war on Iraq and apartheid in South Africa and Israel-Palestine.

Your choice?

 

 

 

Antisemitism charges: commercial and political vested interests attempt to counter Corbyn-Labour’s growing popularity

Strange bedfellows, the Murdoch press and Labour Friends of Israel, fear they have much to lose if they cannot reduce the growing Corbyn-led Labour Party lead in the YouGov polls (below) and the ever-growing support for the Labour leader, overtaking David Cameron this month.

labour lead 3

Two days after John Wight’s widely appreciated Herald Tribune article was republished, Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC television, (left) mounted a weak and insubstantial attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the Times, asking Jews not to support him.

danny cohenDescribed as a prominent figure in London’s Jewish community, Danny Cohen asserted that there was a growing problem of antisemitism in the Labour party which would make it impossible for Jewish people to support it under the present leadership: “I am deeply troubled that our main opposition party is having such frequent problems with anti-Semitism”.

Cohen’s reference can only be to a few low-profile individuals of the kind each political party will have, whose influence is minimal compared with the Labour Friends of Israel, whom he completely failed to mention.

LFI members are drawn from the former Blair establishment – many of the party’s most senior politicians, officials, and donors – who appear to believe that Israel is ‘a beacon of democracy in a region beset by extremism and barbarism’ – rather than a selective democracy in a repressive colonising regime.

UK and USA governments and most of their institutions and corporate masters see a huge commercial advantage in unconditional support for Israel regardless of its repeated violations of international law.

As Wight puts it at some length: “It is the fact that Israel’s brutal subjugation of an entire people for the crime of daring to exist is allowed to go on year after year, with the support and connivance of the political mainstream in the UK and throughout the West, which leaves us in no doubt that those who have extended themselves in exposing and rooting out antisemitism are complicit in that subjugation”.

He regards charges of anti-semitism as a response to the growing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and its success in highlighting the injustice that describes the day to day reality for the Palestinians and in breaking through the political cordon sanitaire around Israel that had long prevented any serious challenge to its right to exist as an apartheid state.

synagogue plaqueWhen Jeremy Corbyn emerged as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election last year than he was subjected to an unprecedented media assault for speaking at public meetings attended by representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah while still a backbench MP.

Though Corbyn was usually not directly labelled an antisemite, Wight saw that the inference was clear enough.

London’s Jewish community judges for itself – opposite.

Members of a Jewish family, current and former constituents of Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to the Guardian to say:

“The accusations of antisemitism are, of course, political manipulations. Influential sections of the Jewish community, maybe guided by their Israeli contacts, are frightened that a notable critic of Israel’s policies and actions might attain a position of prominence in British politics”.

They drew attention to the deliberate conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and the ‘hysterical pressure to desist’ on anyone who wants to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah, as being “so destructive to the prospects of peace”.

To date, vested interest prevails: sadly, that which destroys peace is vitally important to the prosperity of prospective party donors: the multinational arms industry and its host of ancillary suppliers.