Category Archives: Politics
Today, Times columnist Clare Foges, a former member of Boris Johnson’s mayoral team and then David Cameron’s speech writer, challenges the narrative that Brexit is down, in large part, to a high-handed and callous establishment’s neglect of the “left behind”, deploring the belief that:
”Those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were left trailing in the gold-flecked dust thrown up by the golden chariots that bore the wealthy, the Londoners, the elite onwards — throwing back their heads to laugh heartily and pour some more Bolly down their gullets while failing to give a monkey’s about those in their wake”.
Truly, those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were and are left trailing – but the elite do not spend time laughing at them – those people are neglected because they are simply of no interest.
She asserts that the deindustrialised towns have suffered because of globalisation or automation, not because those in government sat on their hands.
But the elite constructed, fostered and continue to be enriched by globalisation and automation – the system which impoverishes many is necessary to their lifestyle. Clare admits that “When you know that you are on the lower rungs of a socio-economic ladder that reaches, at its heights, into the realm of millionaires and sports cars and Maldivian holidays, you may well feel resentful. It must be profoundly demoralising to see swathes of your countrymen and women enjoying seemingly easy success while you struggle”.
She also concedes, “Of course there is serious poverty and inequality in our country, but over the past 20 years in particular governments have tried a thousand different policies to reduce them” but fails to mention the ways – under recent Conservative governments – in which people on low incomes and those in poor health have been harassed, ‘sanctioned’ and deprived of their due allowances, in order to make derisory savings. She adds:
“I don’t deny that the Brexit vote may have been driven in part by resentment. Yet here is the crucial point: just because people have felt cruelly neglected by the powers that be, it doesn’t mean that they actually were . . . Let us not mistake a failure to revive left-behind areas with wilful neglect. For the most part the much-traduced “establishment” has been well-meaning and hardworking in pursuit of a fairer country.”
Yes, wilful neglect does imply a degree of awareness – the correct term is indifference; ‘left-behind’ people are simply not on the radar of the affluent, preoccupied by “sports cars and Maldivian holidays”. She ends with more burlesque:
“With a more benign and interventionist establishment at the helm, the taxes of rich people could be spread thickly all over the country with no fear that wealth will flee; billions could be borrowed for major infrastructure projects with no damage to our economy; the streets of Grimsby and Oldham would be paved with gold. By giving this impression, we are inviting people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his fantasy economics”.
But would those in government circles – who benefit from corporate sinecures, stock exchange speculation and commodity trading – be willing to change the globalised system for one in which government invests in strengthening the economy through regional production and supply chains? Or will they oppose such changes with all their might, to maintain their current privileges?
Today, the Times has published evidence that leading Conservative donors, who spent millions on the Brexit campaign, now believe that Britain may never leave the European Union at all.
This evidence supports Owen Jones’ view of a division in society “between a rapacious elite that has plunged Britain into economic and social crisis on one hand, and a majority that suffers the consequences on the other”.
One named donor was hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management and a big financial backer of the campaign to leave the union, who has given more than £870,000 to money to pro-Leave groups, to Conservatives, Ukip and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset constituency in the last general election.
Odey had been betting heavily on a sharp fall in the value of UK government debt in April, according to investor documents seen by the Financial Times.
He revealed yesterday however (in the Times), that he was now betting on the pound to strengthen after Brexit failed, in the expectation that leaving the bloc would hit the UK economy hard.
Jeremy Hosking (below right), a fund manager who donated £1.69 million to the Brexit campaign and has given £375,000 to the Conservatives since 2015, said he was worried that the country would end up with something that was “not a Brexit deal at all”.
Terence Mordaunt, who donated £50,000 to the Brexit campaign and more than £30,000 to the Tories since 2003, said he feared that “we may never get out”.
He said: “I don’t think Theresa May’s deal actually fulfils what was promised in the referendum. It will take a long time and it gives a huge amount of power to Europe in the future. We may never get out.”
Billionaire Peter Hargreaves, who founded the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown, gave £3.2 million to the Leave campaign, the second-biggest donation, said: “I have totally given up. I am totally in despair, I don’t think Brexit will happen at all.”
Government insists that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will give the UK “flexibility”.
Jeremy Corbyn asks: “But flexibility for whom?” He suggests:
- Flexibility for employers to exploit workers.
- Flexibility for big corporations to pollute our environment.
- Flexibility for multinational giants to undercut our neighbours and drive down standards everywhere.
In the Financial Times, lawyer David Allen Green points out some of government‘s actual or planned ‘constitutional trespasses’ over the past three or so years:
- Theresa May’s government prolonged the current parliamentary session over two years, to avoid a Queen’s Speech on which they could lose a vote.
- The government packed the standing committees (which scrutinise legislation) with Conservative majorities by procedural sleight of hand.
- A secretary of state repeatedly misled the House and its committees over the extent and existence of Brexit sector analyses reports.
- The government deliberately broke the Commons’ “pairing” convention when an opposition MP was on maternity leave so that the government could win a vote.
- The government committed itself to billions of pounds of public expenditure in a blatant bribe to the Democratic Unionist party for support.
- The government repeatedly seeks to circumvent or abuse the Sewel convention in its dealings with the devolved administrations.
- The government seeks to legislate for staggeringly wider “Henry VIII powers” so that it can legislate and even repeal Acts without any recourse to parliament.
- The government sought to make the Article 50 notification without any parliamentary approval and forced the litigation to go all the way to the Supreme Court (where it lost).
- The government employed three QCs to oppose the litigation on whether Article 50 could be revoked unilaterally (which it also lost).
- This government became the first administration in parliamentary history to be held in contempt of parliament following its refusal to publish the full Brexit legal advice issued by the Attorney General.
He ends: “Mr Bercow did more in allowing that vote to “bring back control” than any single leave-supporting MP has done since the referendum. The press should be celebrating that an over-mighty executive was halted and that the people’s representatives got to have their say”.
Government has pledged that all UK coal-fired power generation must end by 2025 and it accounted for less than 7% of UK power generation last year. That helped to push down UK carbon emissions to levels last seen in 1890 and to cut greenhouse gases faster than most other developed economies.
It is startling – in view of the government’s pledge – to learn that coal is still being imported from Russia, Colombia and the United States. GEGB engineers in the 70s complained about the imports of inefficient ‘dirty’ coal from Eastern Europe whilst good quality British coal was being stockpiled.
Muir Dean – one of many open cast mines closed in 2016
It is even more startling to read that a local coal mining company, Banks Group, which mothballed its Rusha mine in Scotland early because it couldn’t get a good enough price, has applied to extract coal from land behind the sand dunes of Druridge Bay (below). The social, economic and environmental objections received were deemed ‘insignificant’ by Justice Ouseley in the High Court.
The planning application submitted by Banks Group was approved by Northumberland County Council in July 2016. In September the plans were put on hold subject to a government inquiry. In March 2018, the proposal was rejected by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, citing among other environmental reasons the “very considerable negative impact” the opencasting would have on greenhouse gas emissions and on climate change, as well as on landscape and heritage assets.
The high court over-ruled Sajid Javid’s decision in November and James Brokenshire, the minister for communities and local government, is to re-examine the application.
Gavin Styles, managing director of Banks, had described Mr Javid’s decision as perverse and political: “the government . . . has now demonstrated that it would prefer to source the coal that is essential for a variety of important industries across the UK from Russia or the US, rather than support substantial investment and job creation plans in our region.”
Anne Harris of Coal Action Network, which is fighting Banks’s plans across the north-east, said: “If James Brokenshire approves this scheme at Highthorn, he’s showing the government has no intention of meaningfully following through on the 2025 coal phase-out. It would mean the concerns and opposition of people in the area are being ignored for a coal company that’s trying to grab resources and run.”
All sides have submitted their case to Brokenshire, who will begin his deliberations on Friday.
An FT montage by Charlie Bibby decorates an article titled ‘Ultra-rich shift assets as fear of Labour government mounts’. The above slogan and background are covered with pictures of £50 notes (see next post).
Subtitled ‘Prospect of Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 is seen as a bigger threat than Brexit’ the article alleges concerns among the wealthy that Jeremy Corbyn could become prime minister, intensified as government plans for an orderly Brexit appear shakier. They fear that a general election could take place in which Labour triumphs.
It is said that London’s ultra-wealthy are moving assets out of the UK and some are preparing to leave for Switzerland, Monaco, Portugal and the US, as concerns over a leftwing Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn intensify among the super-rich.
Multimillionaires are said to be setting up offshore investment accounts or shifting the location of UK-registered trusts holding their wealth to outside the country, in anticipation of higher tax rates and potential capital controls should Labour be elected (‘seize power’). The FT journalists quote:
- Michael Maslinski of the wealth management consultancy Maslinski & Co, also a partner at Stonehage Fleming,
- Iain Tait, a director at London & Capital, the wealth management firm,
- Grant Thornton, the accounting firm and
- Saunderson House, the wealth manager survey.
Gloria De Piero, the Labour MP, responds to the scaremongerers: “What’s wrong with you? You have all the money in the world but you don’t want to pay your fair share to help fellow citizens who work hard — probably harder than you — have a decent standard of living?”
The first responds to the phrase: “Labour said in last year’s manifesto that it planned to increase income tax for people earning above £80,000 — about 5 per cent of the UK population”.
He opens: “Had enough with the comments left against this article. Readers, get this straight in your heads:
- 80k is not a ‘low’ threshold. It’s is stonkingly above the national average and you are very lucky to have it. You might have costs, but so does someone on a third of your salary. (And later) How is three times higher than the national average, and earned by less than 5% of the British working population a “low” threshold???? And don’t give me the “yes but mortgage, bills, spouse, kids, car (holidays, fun times, tuition fees, clubs…)” mantra. Those on the national average also have to pay the above, in fact, most pay rent, which is twice to three times the cost of a mortgage.
- Your income does not reflect your value as a person. Get over it. It just means you work in a higher earning sector. You don’t work harder or better than teachers, nurses, midwives, cleaners, drivers or anyone else who would love your working hours. Nor are you brighter, smarter, better looking or more deserving than they are.
- You will not get taxed at 60% if Corbyn gets in. He won’t have a House majority to push it through. If you don’t understand that simple fact of political life, how the blazes do you earn so much? And if you do know he won’t get a majority in the House to go full the Chavez, quit whining. At the very worst you’ll get a nationalised railway, which you probably aren’t averse to and won’t use anyway because you’ve got a chauffeur and/or a Beamer. Or an Audi, which has no indicators, tail gates like it wants the other car’s babies, and has a dodgy speedometer which makes you think going at 95 is within the national speed limit.
- If you don’t understand the sentiment and underlying socio-economic issues and disenfranchisement across your fellow countrymen, women and national family that makes Corbyn popular, and which facilitated Brexit, YOU are part of the problem. Physicians heal thyselves then get back to me.
- You are not, as an individual, qualified or aware enough of all the complexities it takes whole institutions to calculate and thousands of minds, to decide what level of tax is ‘fair’, let alone sensible. 6. You live in a low tax economy with plenty of tax minimisation options, so stop sulking”.
What a hysterical little article – ‘should Labour seize power’, what you mean win a democratic election?
Which party gave us Brexit? Are the electorate so dim?
The ultra-rich protecting themselves from democracy is hardly new. Having extracted huge amounts from the state or the working classes, naturally they want to avoid giving some back.
It always amazes me when FT subscribers have such little financial knowledge that they try to blame Labour for problems which were largely created in the US mortgage market . . .
Another reader comments: Complete nonsense. The policies are lifted from Scandinavian countries.
Are you sure scared to make this comparison in case the people realise that this notion is actually a good thing for them? We only have to look at Scandinavia to see what true fairness in business does.
We need to instil an attitude of fairness across the board; sadly many people, as indicated in these comments, begrudge a better standard of living for the poor and prefer complex schemes.
The Times today had an article headlined: ‘When the young rise up, it will be for Corbyn’
The author warns – rightly or wrongly – that there was no ‘youthquake’ at the last election but says that Tories who rely on the apathy of first-time voters are in for a shock
She cites ‘rumblings’, like this week’s strike of young gig economy staff at firms such as UberEats. And points out that if the election is not until 2022, more young voters will be eligible while others will be radicalised by frustrated ambitions, especially if Brexit raises youth unemployment, adding:
“Millennials have few material goods but are rich in ideals: a distinct set of values separates them from previous generations”.
She says that ‘We’ (an undefined group) call the younger generation ‘snowflakes’ (Wiki: a person perceived by others to have an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or to be over-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions) but then appears to recant:
“Their righteous — and justified — anger will build, organise and eventually blow. They’ve imagined no possessions and have literally nothing to lose”
“I have treated the EU with nothing but respect” claimed Theresa May last week. Steve Beauchampé thinks otherwise.
Added to Political Barbs: https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/political-barbs/just-a-little-respect-2018/
Which is worse: hybrid warfare said to challenge Euro-Atlantic security or drone warfare regularly slaughtering civilians?
Redbrick’s Comment Writer Tom Moran argues that NATO must display more willingness to act against hybrid warfare.
Wikipedia describes hybrid warfare as a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention.
In response to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, NATO decided to develop ‘a set of tools to deter and defend against adversaries waging hybrid warfare’.
NATO Watch’s latest news on this subject is that US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis (below) relaunched the Senate NATO Observer Group, a bipartisan group of lawmakers aiming to strengthen congressional ties with NATO, more than a decade after it was disbanded. Shaheen, a Democrat, said “Now more than ever, it’s imperative that the United States work closely with NATO to respond to the ever-evolving threats to Western democracies, particularly from the Kremlin.
The July Brussels Summit Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council included: “We face a dangerous, unpredictable, and fluid security environment, with enduring challenges and threats from all strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces; and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks . . . including disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber activities . . . Russia is also challenging Euro-Atlantic security and stability through hybrid actions, including attempted interference in the election processes’.
Trump’s relationship with NATO and Putin
Probably touching on the Shaheen-Tillis concerns, Tom Moran commented, “NATO’s Brussels summit was hardly short of controversy with Trump, unsurprisingly, at the centre of this; whether that be in his questionable commitment to the alliance, his questionable understanding of it, or shortly following this, his questionable off-the-records meeting with Putin”.
He continues: ‘Russia never really invaded the Crimea; instead they used special forces, cyber-attacks, their “little green men” (to stop political protests) and fake news. Similarly, in Syria there is the same level of confusion. Against whom have Russia carried out attacks? Does Assad still have chemical weapons? And, have they been used since he supposedly gave them up? The ambiguity makes the fake news indistinguishable from the truth and in turn the confusion is the weapon of war’.
Moran is aware that Russian goals have not changed significantly over the last three hundred years: “Imperial, Soviet and modern Russia have all searched to protect their western borders through some form of buffer between them and the rest of Europe . . . NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War has, rightfully, concerned Russia as they no longer have that buffer”.
Despite this awareness, he ends by expressing the belief that it is crucial for NATO to succeed in pursuing their interests (‘expansion’) and continue to curtail Russia gaining both a buffer and further expansion in Eastern Europe.
The only winners following that course of action will be pork-barrel politicians and the arms & ‘defence’ electronics industry.