Category Archives: MPs

Britain: an oligarchy in which power is concentrated in the hands of an elite, elected or otherwise -1

Angus Walker opens his latest article in Left Foot Forward by listing the democratic decorations and ‘fig-leaves, which disguise this truth:

we have elections every five years in which all adults except prisoners are entitled to vote

these elections are ‘free,’ in the sense that it is illegal to explicitly coerce somebody into voting a certain way

anyone can stand to be an MP

But true democracy runs much deeper. Walker continues:

In Britain, a broken party funding system forces political parties to rely on big donations from corporate sponsors. Corporations hold undue sway over policy. Consequently, decisions are almost exclusively made in the interest of these big businesses. He cites

In 2018, the Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave for breaking electoral law by exceeding spending limits

The High Court upheld the Electoral Commission’s ruling, but the figurehead of Vote Leave is now Prime Minister, and the chief architect of the campaign, Dominic Cummings, is his top adviser. Vote Leave received a £61,000 slap on the wrist, and all was forgotten. The referendum result wasn’t deemed unlawful, let alone undemocratic.

There is no provision for parliamentary scrutiny of any post-Brexit deals. Parliament has no legal right under this bill to debate or vote on a trade deal, or even to know what it contains.

The Trade Bill, which has now reached the committee stage in the House of Commons, also grants the government Henry VIII powers to change the law on trade agreements without full parliamentary approval.

US is likely to insist the deal is enforced by an offshore tribunal, which allows corporations to sue governments if domestic law affects their ‘future anticipated profits’.

Monbiot adds: “This mechanism has been used all over the world to punish nations for laws their parliaments have passed.” In turn, that will warp our legislation in favour of corporate power.

Walker ends: “Yes, in Britain, we can vote. But as we’ve seen yet again with the Robert Jenrick scandal, our ability to hold politicians and big businesses to account is already shaky. The US-UK trade deal risks seeing our fragments of democracy crumble away entirely. As George Monbiot writes in a recent Guardian column: “This is not democracy. This is elective dictatorship.”

Angus Walker is a freelance journalist based in Brighton who writes about politics, art and the environment.

Next: Britain: an oligarchy in which power is concentrated in the hands of an elite, elected or otherwise -2, quotes Theresa May’s one-time adviser

 

Media 110: Journalists examine the ‘killing’ of Jeremy Corbyn by the mob

Peter Oborne and David Hearst state that the former Labour leader was the victim of a carefully planned and brutally executed political assassination Neither of the journalists are Labour Party members, and one of them has worked as a political correspondent and commentator for The SpectatorThe Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail, three stalwarts of Tory opinion-making. But both care greatly about accurate, truthful journalism. Both of them, as British citizens, cherish the tradition of fair play and decency.That is why they believe everyone should be concerned about the picture painted of Corbyn by the British media for the four years he was leader. Their recent article, summarised here, may be read in full here.

The media abandoned any form of the objectivity or fact-checking they apply to almost everyone else. Accusers became judge, jury and executioner. 

Corbyn was never the monstrous figure presented to the British people. He was never a Marxist. He was not hell-bent on the destruction of Western capitalism. He was a socialist. Nor was he an antisemite, and there is no serious evidence which suggests that he was. He told jthe journalsists that antisemitism is an evil which has been tolerated and accepted for far too long in British society.

He was a flawed politician who made mistakes. But he also possessed personal decency and authenticity, which has scarcely been acknowledged amidst the thousands of hatchet jobs conducted against him in the press and wider media. That is why we thought it was important to conduct the first major interview with Corbyn since he stepped down as Labour leader on 3 April this year.

We wanted to give him a chance, which was largely denied him as Labour leader, to tell his side of the story. We also wanted to expose one sombre truth; Corbyn was the victim of a carefully planned and brutally executed political assassination. He was never given a chance by:

Falsehoods and misrepresentations

Lie after lie was told about Corbyn, day after day, month after month. For the last four years very few journalists have bothered to do their job to fact-check the claims and report fairly on him.

In our review of Tom Bower’s book “A Dangerous Hero”, we investigated and exposed a farrago of falsehoods and misrepresentations in what was presented as a major biography of the Labour leader published by Harper Collins, one of Britain’s most significant publishers. Several instances fare given.

By another irony, once he had won the election, Johnson adopted a number of Corbyn’s policies which he had previously denounced as unworkable. He has abandoned planned cuts in corporation tax, announced plans to nationalise Northern Rail and announced £100bn funding for infrastructure projects.

The mob have got their way. Corbyn is back to where he was at the start of this bizarre journey, an MP well respected locally in North Islington and on the back benches. His allies have been purged from the front benches. This kind of mob politics threatens democracy itself because without truthful and honest public discourse, dark forces make their presence felt. 

 

 

 

.

COVID-19 bulletin 24: though death toll rises in Yemen, BAE-assisted airstrikes continue

Flooding struck Aden in April, leaving several areas submerged in sewage and water for weeks and this month over 600 people have died in Yemen’s capital.

In a detailed account, the World Health Organisation says there is no way of assessing how many other deaths there have been in this war ravaged country.

Andrew Smith (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) said that UK-made Typhoon Eurofighter jets (above) have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and despite the humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. He ended:

“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening”.

British arms manufacturer BAE is also responsible for the maintenance and support of the kingdom’s 72 jets and has continued to supply military equipment, including spare parts, to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

New Labour MP Sam Tarry (right) asked the Secretary of State for Defence two questions:

  • why have weekly flights continued from a BAE Systems factory in Warton to a military base in Saudi Arabia from where air strikes on Yemen are launched
  • and why those flights have been assessed as essential during the covid-19 lockdown.

Though a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, the Yemen Data Project reports that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2nd.

But as its AGM had to be cancelled, BAE has been spared angry questions about its trade in weapons – an annual ordeal.

Industry editor Alan Tovey notes that there is one bonus to the lockdown: BAE’s annual meeting, scheduled for May 7, is normally a testing time for the board, with proceedings routinely disrupted by anti-arms activists who gatecrash and forcefully question BAE’s trade in weapons.

He adds that BAE’s “sleepless enemies” see opportunities in the dispersed working.

BAE’s Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn (left) wouldn’t give details to Tovey, but confirms that BAE has seen a spike in attempted cyber intrusions since the pandemic hit.

Sadly, Woodburn describes higher military spending as a way of stimulating the economy once the current crisis passes.  No going back? Or business as usual?

 

 

 

 

.

Abolish political parties – 1: Could 650 free MPs transform the government of Britain?

 

As we see a Clare Balding and a Greta Thunberg making a difference, consider what 650 free ‘good and true’ MPs could do?

Years ago, the late Terry Jones Welsh actor, writer, comedian (Monty Python), screenwriter, film director and historian wrote:

Party candidates have every reason – from ambition to cupidity – to act in their own interests

At present, he points out, we have to vote for the candidates the parties present us with. These candidates have every reason – from ambition to cupidity – to act in their own interests. He asked:

“How on earth would independent MPs ever get to form a government?

“How would 650 independent members ever manage to agree on a coherent set of policies or on anything?” And answers:

“Well, I would borrow a little device from our legal system. It’s called a “jury”. At the start of each parliamentary year, the 650 independent MPs would cast lots for who would be the government for that year. Say you limited the government to around 25 people: these 25 would then have to vote which of them was going to be prime minister, home secretary, foreign secretary, etc.

“Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has served on a jury tells me that it is inspiring to see how ordinary people pull together and apply themselves to make sense of the legal arguments. So why should it be any different with politicians? Especially since these are not just ordinary members of the public, but people who have enough interest in politics to actually stand for election in the first place. They would be pre-screened, as it were”.

The casting of lots for the actual members of the government would defuse the ambition of those entering parliament, since they would be unable to manoeuvre themselves into positions of power. It would be all a question of luck. And with the abolition of political parties, much of the influence of wealthy donors who fund advertising campaigns – and lobbyists to influence decision-making – would be removed.

 

 

 

.

Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media

Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:

‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’ 

Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”. 

A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.

It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.

In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).

He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:

‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’

Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.

 

 

 

0

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.

 

 

 

o

Greenwash and “incoherent” aid policies have no place in the war against climate change

Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times, elaborates on a theme aired last October in Global Witness

He reports that a study by parliament’s international development committee, chaired by MP Stephen Twigg (left), concluded that the government needed more joined-up thinking when it came to climate change policy: “MPs have lambasted an “incoherent” aid policy in which Britain allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad while spending the same amount supporting fossil fuel projects”.

UKEF allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad but gives the same amount to fossil fuel projects.

Evidence had been presented that between 2010 and 2016 UK Export Finance (UKEF), which supports trade abroad, spent £4.8 billion on schemes that contributed to carbon emissions. These included financing for offshore oil and gas extraction in Ghana, Colombia and Brazil. A sum, almost identical to the £4.9 billion, was spent by different agencies from 2011-17 on supporting projects to tackle climate change in developing countries.

The committee said: “The only context in which it is acceptable for UK aid to be spent on fossil fuels is if this spend is ultimately in support of a transition away from fossil fuels and as part of a strategy to pursue net zero global emissions by 2050 . . . Currently, the support provided to the fossil fuel economy in developing countries by UK Export Finance is damaging the coherence of the government’s approach to combating climate change and this needs to be urgently rectified.”

UKEF, the much-criticised and renamed Export Credits Guarantee Department, is the UK’s export credit agency which underwrites loans and insurance for risky export deals as part of efforts to boost international trade.

The committee also found that other wings of the UK overseas development sector, including groups such as the Prosperity Fund, which supports economic growth, were backing carbon-intensive projects.

In October one such proposal was announced: the financing of an expansion of an oil refinery in Bahrain which would allow its total output to increase up to a maximum of 380,000 barrels per day

“Given the urgency and scale of the challenge, spending climate finance has to be more than a box-ticking exercise to meet a commitment,” the committee wrote. “Climate finance must be spent strategically, it needs to be spent with urgency and it has to be transformative.”

Representatives from the Grantham Research Institute (LSE) (a site well worth visiting) gave evidence to the committee. They were critical of the latest economic strategy from DFiD in which, they pointed out, climate change “only receives a brief mention under the sector priorities of ‘agriculture’ and ‘infrastructure, energy and urban development’, while ‘extractive industries’ including oil, gas and mining are highlighted as a priority sector for support with no mention of climate change considerations”.

Mr Twigg said that the UK policy of reaching “net zero emissions” should extend to the government’s work abroad, as well as at home. “It is welcome that in recent weeks climate change has taken its rightful place at the top of the news agenda,” he said. “The scale and seriousness of the challenge to be confronted must be reinforced and reflected upon daily if we are to take meaningful steps to combat it.

Rory Stewart, the international development secretary (left), said that the report “makes for sobering reading . . . Although we have done much already to tackle climate change, I feel strongly we can do more. I am going to make tackling climate change increasingly central to DFID’s work. As international development secretary I want to put climate and the environment at the heart of what this government does to protect our planet for future generations. As climate extremes worsen it is the world’s poorest countries and communities which will be most affected, but this is a global issue.”

Adam McGibbon, Climate Change Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “As the world reels from the news that we have twelve years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, today’s announcement by the government is staggering. The UK claims to be a climate leader, but it continues to spend billions pumping fossil fuels out of the ground abroad.

And in the Western Daily Press, 6 May 2019, Paul Halas from Stroud describes government policy-making as being, “hobbled by its vested interests and metaphorical flat-Earthers”. He ended:

“In times of war, research, development and manufacture increase exponentially. What faces us now is no less than a war against Climate Change, which will take an unprecedented effort and unanimity of purpose to win. It’s not one we can afford to lose”.

 

 

 

 

o

2. ‘Absurd’: Corbyn ‘hetze’ boomerangs on the ill-prepared

.

A Bradford reader thinks that there is definitely a Hetze’  against Jeremy Corbyn, of which the furore about his praise for Hobson’s book is only the most recent example.

He points out that the book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text. Routledge describes its 1902 publication, Imperialism: A Study, by English economist John Hobson (right), as “an epoch-making study of the politics and economics of imperialism that shook imperialist beliefs to their core”.

The review continues: “A committed liberal, Hobson was deeply sceptical about the aims and claims of imperialistic thought at a time when Britain’s empire held sway over a vast portion of the globe”.

Our reader draws attention to Hobson’s reference to the “ignominious passion of Judenhetze” – a total vindication of the man

Martin Ceadel, in Semi-detached idealists: The British peace movement and international relations, 1854-1945 (Oxford University. Press, 2000, p.155), writes: ‘J.A. Hobson, an Oxford-educated economist who had been denied academic preferment on account of his heterodox opinions, reported on South Africa for the Manchester Guardian and published three books on the conflict. The first … was a survey of the local origins of the war. It emphasized the role of “a small confederacy of international financiers working through a kept press”. Although Hobson was embarrassed by the fact that many of these were Jewish, noting the difficulty of stating “the truth about our doings in South Africa without seeming to appeal to the ignominious passion of Judenhetze”,(30) some other opponents of the war, including the budding writers G.K. Chesteron and Hilaire Belloc, welcomed the chance the war offered to indulge in anti-Semitism.’ (31*).

In addition to the response of Bradford peace historian,  Hon. General Coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace  and others, Donald Sassoon, Emeritus professor of comparative European history, Queen Mary University of London, quotes more extreme expressions used at the time by Virginia Woolf and even Theodor Herzl, the “father” of Zionism. He concludes:

“The campaign about antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour party is getting absurd. Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study has been taught for years in universities up and down the country (I taught it myself). No one has ever felt the need to highlight the 10 lines or so, in a book of 400 pages, which are antisemitic, but Corbyn was expected to do so”.

The book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text

In a 1995 pamphlet for the Fabians (page 11), Tony Blair described Hobson as “probably the most famous Liberal convert to what was then literally ‘new Labour’.”

In his 2005 Chatham House speech on liberty and the role of the state, Gordon Brown cited Hobson with approval.

The cover of the 2011 edition published by Spokesman Books (left), to which Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword, carries a Guardian review which said Hobson’s Imperialism belongs to the small group of books in the years from 1900 to the outbreak of war that have definitely changed the contours of social thought.’

In 2015 the Guardian’s former political editor Michael White wrote: “At his Nottingham rally someone thrust into my hand a copy of JA Hobson’s influential classic, Imperialism (1902) whose 2011 edition contains Jeremy’s own perfectly decent introductory essay. Its analysis will impress many”.

Yesterday, Phil Miller, journalist, researcher and film producer quoted Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour: “Daniel Finkelstein, in his scurrilous piece for the Times (April 30th), ingeniously cobbles together quotes from two different books by Hobson . . . (he) does in one passage make a reference to the Jewish element in international finance and to the Rothschilds as did many others at that time. But he also referred to JP Morgan and Cecil Rhodes — neither of them Jewish — as examples of financiers backing imperialism”.

On May 1st and 2nd, Henry Zeffman produced two similar articles for the Times on the subject. In one, he added that Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Hobson was a key figure in intellectual history and that the book was a seminal work on imperialism. “He is a historical figure who was an intellectual who understand the transition from imperialism into a new society. Insofar as that book is an important book, does it contain the antisemitism of its period? Yes it does. Do we expunge a book like that from the historical record and say nobody should read it? No. Of course they should.”

And Jeremy Corbyn’s record vindicates him; MP Chris Williamson has pointed out that the Labour party, and in particular the leader, has done more, recently, to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.

The unconvinced may read forty reasons listed by Anna Boyle illustrating the truth of his statement.

 

*Footnote 30 refers to Hobson’s The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects (1900), 189, 229.

*Footnote 31: C. Hirschfield, ‘The Anglo-Boer War and the Issue of Jewish Culpability’, Journal of Contemporary History, 15 (1980), 19-31.

 

Amended: 6th May 2019

 

 

 

 

0

 

0

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!

 

 

 

 

o

Emma: is interrupting parliament really worse than failing to act on climate change?

‘ 

In December Extinction Rebellion wrote to BBC Director General Tony Hall detailing an eight-point plan of how it could play a pivotal role in the transformation to face the climate and ecological crisis:

“We issued a plea to BBC bosses to live up to their role as public service broadcasters by fully informing the public of the existential threat faced by the human race unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions” commented Sophie May from Extinction Rebellion.

On Monday April 1st, XR launched a campaign to discover whether BBC staff feel their organisation is telling the truth about the dangers from accelerating global climate breakdown. An Extinction Rebellion team visited BBC Broadcasting House in London to conduct a BBC Staff Survey – putting a series of searching questions to BBC staff on their lunch and coffee breaks.

In the evening, during the debate on the second stage of the Brexit alternatives, Extinction Rebellion activists stood semi-naked in the House of Commons public gallery to call attention to the ‘elephant in the room’ – climate and ecological crisis.”

In what may be an incomplete recording – though James politely said that he hoped the BBC would report climate changes issues more prominently the BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer, Emma Barnett (right), firmly focussed only on the protestors’ actions and not the crisis which prompted them.

James Dean from Extinction Rebellion explained that a dramatic gesture was needed because the government had ‘stuffed itself up with Brexit’ and was not dealing with more important issues which need emergency action now.

He briefly and calmly outlined ‘the awful and dangerous’ future awaiting us all unless every possible action to avert climate change is taken – referring to the increasing incidence of floods, wildfires and storms,

2018: wildfires in Australia and the United States

Emma was not distracted: she charged the protestors with a huge breach of security and risk to MPs – saying that it would be more difficult for people to visit parliament in future.

James replied that this sort of action was nothing new and cited the suffragettes, who finally achieved their ends and whose drastic actions are now admired.

Emma failed to respond to the references to climate change and once again said their action was a serious breach of security: “How can you defend that when we are being told to be careful, not to go out alone etc”.

James ended by saying that they had used a minimum disruption to make their point :

“We know that what is to come will be far worse than putting off a few hours of politicians’ discussions.”

 

 

 

 

o