Category Archives: Politics
“Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.”
A Moseley reader draws attention to the thoughts of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today. A summary:
Jenkins asserted that Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.
He reminded all that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron clearly stated that they were spending soldiers’ lives toppling regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya at enormous expense in order to “to prevent terrorism in the streets of Britain”.
In the Andrew Neil programme this evening Corbyn added that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – and MI5 had also expressed these views ‘on record’!
Their aim was to suppress militant Islam but Jenkins points out that when their intervention clearly led to an increase in Islamist terrorism, we are entitled to agree with Corbyn that it has “simply failed”.
We committed armed aggression against sovereign peoples who had not attacked us
Regimes were indeed toppled. Tens of thousands died, many of them civilians every bit as innocent as Manchester’s victims. Terrorism has not stopped.
Militant Islamists are indeed seeking to subvert the west’s sense of security and its liberal values. But the west used the language of “shock and awe” in bombing Baghdad in 2003, giving the current era of Islamist terrorism a cause, a reason, an excuse, however perverted.
Jenkins ends: “Islamist terrorism is related to foreign policy. However hateful it may seem to us, it is a means to a political end. Sometimes it is as well to call a spade a spade”.
Anna Griffiths in Redbrick brings promising news: reports suggesting that from the 9th April-6th May under 25s were the second largest demographic signing up to vote (beaten only by 25-34 year olds), youth registration as an issue is finally beginning to be taken seriously.
Charges of gerrymandering were made as changes in law meant millions were no longer on the electoral register in 2015.
Did 800,000 or so people drop off the electoral register?
Registration by household was scrapped and 18-25s, were required to register themselves. In 2016 it was reported that 1.8% of voters were estimated to have dropped off the register across the population and figures compiled by the Labour party found that was highest in areas with a high population of students, such as Canterbury, which has seen a 13% drop, and Cambridge and Dundee West, both with an 11% fall. The University of Sheffield, however, has taken a lead and seen outstanding results by integrating voter registration into the enrolment process.
Policy favours those that vote regularly
Political parties have not expected or received much interest from young people and so issues and policies which will affect their lives drastically have been given a low priority. Policies are focused towards the elderly, or – a new development – the working class. Anna writes:
”Whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to abolish tuition fees shines a light on us as voters, the majority of political parties have other priorities this cycle
“This isn’t surprising, considering promises over immigration and the economy have been seen statistically to resonate with regular voters. The Conservatives have quietly avoided putting any changes to student loans at the front of their policy centre, whilst quietly adding means for our loan repayments to become more difficult. Meanwhile, front and centre stands the slogan ‘strong and stable’, promising economic stability in Brexit. Something that stands up to scrutiny? Some would argue no. Something key demographics will actually turn out to vote for? Yes”. She asks:
“Why did the Liberal Democrats accept the compromise that trebled student fees?
“Why did Labour feel they could triple them after promising never to do so in 2005?”
“We don’t vote. Political parties know this. The Conservatives especially know this, prioritising policy for the elderly and those on higher incomes; those who consistently come out to vote in a General Election. Yes, you may believe that the June 8th result has already been decided. Despite the gains in the polls, many still believe it’s too little too late to stop Theresa May gaining power for another five years. Even if this is undisputable (which nothing ever really is in 2017), a surge student vote would change things. If we could be relied upon to turn out and express opinion, then politics would have to begin to take us seriously. Our cynicism over voting is self-perpetuated; policy favours those that can be trusted to cast a ballot. By failing to vote, we give political parties further reason to ignore us”.
She ends by urging young people to vote: even a blank or defaced ballot on election day still counts in voter participation figures. It will tell the government that your voices are being heard in a way that directly impacts them. And then, maybe, government will think twice before placing the interests of young people at the bottom of their ‘priority pile’.
Despite constant interruptions or simultaneous talking which have become a recent feature of John Humphrys’ technique when interviewing Corbynieres, Andrew Gwynne met all criticisms and challenges perfectly today and this moved the writer to learn more about this politician
In February 2017, Gwynne was promoted to Elections and Campaign Chair whilst retaining some of his Cabinet Office duties and spokesperson role. Two admirable features of his work noted here are the campaign for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal and his introduction of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act.
He became one of the leading voices in the campaign for justice for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal, reaffirming his commitment to the cause on World AIDS Day 2016. He said in 2016 “This scandal saw thousands of people die, and thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public bodies”.
In 2010, Gwynne introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the activities of vulture funds which buy the debts of poor countries, usually at a significant discount, and sue for the full debt – plus costs and interest – in courts around the world. The UK government estimates the Act will save £145 million over six years. Similar legislation has now been passed in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Comments on BBC Radio 4 Today Verified account @BBCr4today added:
- On rail nationalisation, Andrew Gwynne says the way the East Coast line was publicly-run for a time in recent years shows it can be done.
- .@GwynneMP says manifesto “is not about government knows best, it’s about actually empowering people”.
- Labour manifesto leak is “not ideal” but at least people are talking about the party’s vision, says elections chair @GwynneMP
An admirable politician.
An admirable MEP (Molly Scott Cato)
An admirable MP (John Hemming)
In Ireland’s Parliament: Senator David Norris, incandescent on Israeli government action
One superb politician inadvertently omitted – perhaps because universally recognised as such – Caroline Lucas, No 11?
In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:
“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)
- Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
- British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
- In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
- My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
- But they get more expensive all the time.
- those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.
Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”
Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear
Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.
As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.
Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5
‘Aside from a couple taken from other parties, do the Conservatives have any policies?’ asks Steve Beauchampé? (Edited extracts, for full text click here)
Has the Prime Minister turned into a parrot? I only ask because despite leading the country that gave to the world the rich and eloquent language of Shakespeare, Dickens, Betjeman and Ted Hughes, Theresa May’s vocabulary seems to consist of two phrases totalling just seven words (and we all know by now what they are so I won’t repeat them). To be fair though that’s two more than your average parrot, who struggles to get beyond “Who’s A Pretty Boy Then?”
Despite refusing to participate in television debates because she would be busy travelling around the country talking to ordinary voters, May has remained in a hermetically sealed bubble, helicoptered in to stand before placard-brandishing Conservative Party members, robotically mouth those seven words, many times over, add a few other vacuous remarks, before flying back to Westminster, job done, no questions asked…literally!
Credit to Labour for taking this election business seriously and treating the voters like adults (ditto each of the larger of the ‘smaller’ parties). Labour’s policy issues continue to be raised and debated, interviews continue to be given. Their manifesto should be quite a hefty document
Labour could perhaps do with a memorable slogan of their own, though its campaign has been surprisingly good so far . . . and the continual, relentless use of the same slogan and soundbite can quickly undermine its effectiveness, with signs over the weekend that Theresa May’s favourite phrases might just be becoming more mocked than listened to.
Perhaps the party should ask Boris for help, showing that a public school education trumps the state system, at least in terms of a varied and colourful vocabulary . . . As is his wont, Corbyn did not respond (when they go low, you go high JC) and credit to him for that.
Rumour has it that the Conservative manifesto is to be issued as a single tweet.
Still, if you don’t offer any policies then I suppose you can’t subsequently be accused of breaking any policy pledges. And given the enormity and complexity of extracting Britain from the EU, this most scrutiny-averse of Prime Ministers probably won’t have much time to introduce large tracts of legislation, especially if her opponents’ claim that she’ll be revoking swathes of current employment, environmental and consumer law prove correct.
On Brexit, Labour finds itself appealing fully to no-one, caught in a perfect political snooker somewhere between the attempts of the Lib Dems, SNP and Blair/Mandelson to reverse or otherwise negate the referendum result, and the Tory/UKIP rush to enact a complete break from the EU, its structures, laws and institutions.
Given that Labour’s core voters were split between Leave and Remain, its position may in essence be reasonable – respect the EU referendum result but fight to achieve the best outcome for the future, prioritising the economy, environment, employment rights and consumer protection legislation over immigration.
And finally, lest you missed it, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared briefly early last week to warn yet again that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security, with his opposition to spending up to £41bn on renewing Trident at a time of ongoing austerity and swingeing cuts to vital public services.
Fallon added that both he and Theresa May would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike (I don’t think they meant against Jeremy Corbyn but I’m not entirely certain).
Odd sort of a country where those willing to vaporise countless numbers of civilians are defined as moderate, whilst someone who prefers the de-escalation of military tension through dialogue over unleashing weapons of planet-changing destruction is viewed as extreme.
First published in The BirminghamPress.com
In 2016, though the price of oil was low, average bus fares rose three times faster than the consumer prices index. The statistics report presented by government for 2015/6 was precise: “Between March 2011 and March 2016, the average annual percentage change in bus fares was 3.8% higher than the average annual rate of inflation (2.3%)”. Families who can’t afford a car can find travelling by bus costs more than taking a taxi.
Theresa May: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives” (first speech as leader).
But reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people actually have less control:
- Without accessible or affordable transport, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families will be less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
- Some feel compelled to go into debt to buy cars they wouldn’t need if bus services were reliable and affordable..
Due to government funding cuts, town hall chiefs have announced that councils have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the past year.
They are calling on the Government to fully fund the Concessionary Fares scheme, and for the devolution of the £250m Bus Service Operators Grant scheme that refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators of registered local bus services. The grant was kept at 81% until April 2012, when it was reduced by 20%. The current payment rate is the lowest ever percentage since the rebate’s inception in the 1960s.
Theresa May: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody”.
But government actions belied these fine words; her chancellor announced a fuel duty freeze which – he said – will cost taxpayers a predicted £850m in the first year alone and really help the ‘fortunate few’ running the largest cars, not the JAM families.
An audience seriously considering the proposal
With thanks to the reader working in Uganda who sent the Hitchens link and remembering another who yesterday advocated ABC voting, ‘Anything But Conservative’.
Peter Hitchens insisted, some time ago, that a lot of people feel left out of the recovery we are supposed to be having, and they need a powerful voice in Parliament, adding:
“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 . . .
“The 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”.
Hitchens concludes that many Labour MPs have more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn and will ‘snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party’.
He believes that the British public will at last see clearly that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties: “Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland”.
This Green House pamphlet with contributions from Molly Scott Cato MEP, Victor Anderson, Rupert Read, Jonathan Essex and Sara Parkin was written before the EU referendum and the economic and political turmoil which has followed but the authors believe its analysis and conclusions are still valid.
In her introduction, MEP Molly Scott Cato points out that a route to a more positive future offering hope to the majority of citizens is blocked by our archaic and unrepresentative electoral system which enables one party to control so much power with a minority of the votes cast. She continues:
“Our primary target is our electoral system. In the 2015 general election the Green Party received 1 million votes but only one parliamentary seat. By contrast the Scottish National Party received 1.5 million votes and 56 seats.
“This is the logic of first past the post . . . but as voters move into a multi-party future the system entrenches political stasis and blocks progressive change”. Later she cites Germany as the most striking example of a country that has benefited from Greens in power:
“Its industries are successful because Greens in government encouraged them to move into the new era of low carbon energy production before other European countries. Germany has turned its back on the nuclear age and is rapidly phasing out fossil fuels. Germany is the economy in Europe that is benefiting most from the energy transition that dangerous climate change requires of us. It is Greens in government who enabled this process”.
She, and other Green House members invite everyone who wants to see an alternative to continued Conservative government to join in the discussion about what that alternative can be.
“Labour is never going to be back on 44% in the opinion polls. The electorate is too fragmented for that, and above all Labour’s electoral base is too fractured for it ever to happen again”.
(Ed: we note that the British Labour Party is already one of the parties and organisations from over 90 countries which participate in the International Progressive Alliance network of social-democratic and progressive political parties.)
Gilbert continues: “Would you rather it happen now, while the Left retains the leadership of the party, or in five or ten years time, when the Right is back in control? Would you rather have a Progressive Alliance, or an alliance of revanchist Blairites, (May)ites and ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrats? Because if we do not seize the initiative now, then the latter is what we are going to get, soon enough. This is going to happen sooner or later”.
As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.
Their dual achievements:
- comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
- vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.
Direction of travel
Beauchampé: “(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .
The elite stranglehold could be broken
OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol) saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.