Category Archives: Politics

As Boris Johnson rattles his sabre and peddles unsettling fantasies, a Chinese minister refers to Britain’s track record: bringing chaos and humanitarian disaster

On Thursday there was a joint meeting between British and Australian foreign and defence ministers, who discussed closer defence and trade co-operation as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said that Britain was stepping up its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region following its dispatch of Typhoon aircraft to Japan and South Korea last year and plans to sail two new ‘vast, colossal’ aircraft carriers through contested Asian waters at a time of rising tensions between China and the US.

Jamie Smyth in Melbourne (FT) reports that Mr Johnson repeated this claim later in Sydney: “One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area,”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to come into service in 2020 but HMS Prince of Wales is not due until 2023.  They are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.

Belief in selected tenets of the rules-based international system

Mr Johnson said the aim was to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system – freely ignored by UK<USA and allies when bombing civilians in several regions – and the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital to world trade.

Will Boris be foreign secretary long enough to implement this  – or will he be long gone?

Euan Graham, an analyst at the Lowy Institute think-tank, said Mr Johnson’s commitment to Asian waters was unlikely to take effect until the early 2020s when the carriers would be ready to sail to the region.

The (‘blond British wombat’) foreign secretary told The Australian newspaper that legal certainty in the South China Sea was important and that Britain had a role to play in the region that would be welcomed by many: “People want the involvement of a country that sticks up for the rules-based international system, that is prepared to deploy its military in the area”.

On Friday CNN reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region. Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance.”

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 7: prolonged, tragic sagas: infected blood transfusions, OP poisoning and Gulf War Syndrome, denial and delay, pending death

The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians. More here.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used – just as OP sheep dips were.

British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family and friends. Read more in The Journal.

Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

Weasel words

References to “compensation” have been changed to “payments” – to avoid admitting the liability which is already common knowledge? The sums received by victims of the contaminated blood scandal are known as ex gratia payments.

In April, as he left the Commons, the former health secretary Andy Burnham declared there had been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale in the NHS” over contaminated blood and called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, has been campaigning on the issue since she met one of her constituents, a mild haemophiliac who was given factor VIII in 1983 to prevent excessive bleeding when he had a tooth removed in hospital. He discovered he was infected with hepatitis C in 1995, when it showed up on blood tests for an unrelated illness.

As Theresa May had set up the Hillsborough inquiry when she was home secretary, Johnson was hopeful she would do the same for contaminated blood.

May refused. Johnson requested an urgent Commons debate, which was due to be held on Tuesday. She then got the six leaders of the opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry, and this is to be set up.

Adding insult to injury? Payment to many victims of NHS blood contamination is to be cut

In March this year a scheme to pay the victims of NHS blood contamination is to be scaled back under government plans announced on Monday. Ministers believe the reforms are necessary because more people are now considered likely to develop serious health issues – and be entitled to higher payouts – pushing the programme as much as £123m over budget.

The government has proposed measures that would cut predicted costs, including limiting the availability of the higher level of financial support under the scheme

Will an enquiry compensate the victims of this NHS for the cuts?

 

 

 

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Admirable politician – 11: working for the common good, Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Following our tenth entry: MP Andrew Gwynne, who successfully introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act and worked long and hard to get justice for those who received contaminated blood through the NHS, we turn to Botswana, after reading an obituary by Emily Langer in the Independent. Her subject was Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’. 

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor and became a successful farmer.

Botswanan cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari Desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  

He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in  Wikipedia..

 

 

 

 

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Media 81: The great mainstream switch-off?

The general message:

“I avoid the news; I just don’t switch on.“

Anecdotal evidence from many encountered indicates a growing intolerance of TV, the Murdoch press in particular and radio, which constantly focus on the latest man-made or natural disaster and the actions of the corrupt or callous – a tiny minority.

Online headlines presented by the Murdoch Times today:

  • Mike Ashley (above) ‘drank 12 pints and vomited at meeting’
  • No 10 ‘buried terror report to protect Saudi Arabians’
  • Border Force makes record seizure of guns
  • Venus in tears as car crash casts a shadow over first-round
  • May’s pork barrel tactics demean our politics
  • City gripped by sub-prime lending fears
  • Pay row leaves Bank of England facing its first strike in 50 years
  • Rise in high-risk dependency on alcohol among those seeking help.

If you want something better go to Redbrick, and read the thoughtful offerings of students at Birmingham University: http://www.redbrick.me/comment which offer a more balanced view of life around them.

A revulsion from the continual diet of news focussing on the thankfully rare instances of disaster and cruelty is growing. A reaction from hardier souls is to actually read these newspapers and listen to or watch the news because ‘You’ve got to know what’s going on’ – apparently oblivious of the fact that what is presented is often far from being the truth – see our Secret State category for more on that subject – the 18th here.

A report about the first scientific study into the effect of TV news reports confirmed the obvious: that broadcasts of reports of famine, violence, poverty and crime leave viewers considerably depressed  – and happy stories of Lottery winners and “miracle” recoveries (equally rare) do not.

Psychologist, Prof Graham Davey (University of Sussex), who conducted the study with colleague, Dr Wendy Johnston (University of Edinburgh), said: “We found that negatively balanced material does change people’s moods in a negative way, and this could have other knock on effects, such as making people worry more about their own problems.”

The writer’s unscientific findings were that was that the people I met actually felt that they’d had ‘the best of it’ and were worried about the future for their children and more so for their grandchildren.

The Positive News Journal aspires to redress the balance

And it does this occasionally – see the link to this list above: ‘From political upheaval to natural disasters, the first three months of 2017 have seen many challenges. But behind the headlines, there are signs of progress and possibility. Here are 20 of our favourites’. So often, however, the reports come from far afield only two items in the list from Britain – and many will not feel that they are relevant to daily life here.

Amongst the writer’s websites which cover political corruption, growing food insecurity, chemical and nuclear dangers and illegal killing by armed drones is one – Antidote to Gloom – which is more happily received.

This week random visitors from America topped the list (left) who actively sought news relating to the first link:

Recent headlines:

Occasionally thanks are emailed by Antidote readers whose spirits have been lifted by a respite from the current destructive news-diet.

Time for change in our media as well as our politics.

 

 

 

 

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Grenfell Tower: a tragic tale of double standards – two-nation politics

On Nicky Campbell’s Radio 5 phone-in a listener described a city where – at one extreme – her care-worker son earns £17,000 a year, whilst George Osborne gets £200,000 for delivering one speech.

“In Harrods they have sprinklers to protect china dogs

Noting the lack of attention to the repeated and recorded complaints made by the Grenfell Tower residents she asserted that had they come from the affluent area of Kensington they would have been quickly addressed and added a searing afterthought: “In Harrods they have sprinklers to protect china dogs” – but as London MP Harriet Harmon noted, the government has been cutting the money to councils. If you cut money to councils, you can’t put in sprinklers

Campbell’s caller also denounced the proposals made by developers referring to the burnt tower as being a orime brownfield site, insisting that the residents should be rehoused in the same area during the rebuilding process instead of being sent to outlying areas or even different parts of the country; as they work hard in lowly paid jobs they should not also have to spend time and money travelling long distances to work.

A tale of a divided nation – and of two cities

Following a link sent by Felicity Arbuthnot we read the words of Jeremy Corbyn, (seen here with a local resident seeking a 12-year-old girl missing after the Grenfell Tower blaze): “Kensington is a tale of two cities – it is among the wealthiest parts of this country but the ward where this took place is one of the poorest”.

Like the Radio 5 caller he emphasised that residents must be re-housed, using requisition of empty properties if necessary, in the same neighbourhood, adding:

“The judge-led public inquiry must be speedy and all residents should have access to legal aid and the support they need”.

 

 

 

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A progressive alliance with progressive policies

Christine Parkinson has drawn attention to an article in the Guardian, in which MPs Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas  express a profound sense of frustration and dismay about the Conservative victories won by narrow margins in places such as St Ives, Richmond Park and Hastings. They pointed out that if every progressive voter had placed their X tactically, Jeremy Corbyn would now be prime minister with a majority of over 100.

Highlights from their article

The regressive alliance we see forming before our eyes between the Conservatives and the DUP can only be fully countered by a progressive alliance on the opposition benches and if we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve. The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

More than 40 electoral alliances, in which people across parties cooperated on tickets including support for proportional representation and the common goal of preventing Conservative candidates winning, were pulled together quickly for the snap election. People from different parties worked together to ‘do politics differently’ and there was a sense that politics has become hopeful and positive again.

We shouldn’t forget the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free,
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and change on a scale our people and our planet can’t cope with.

It is going to take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation.

Colin Hines adds detail: also advocating a progressive alliance of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens he says that they will need to get their ‘policy ducks in a row’ to win it. He continues:“Firstly, these must provide hope, not just for the young, but for every community in the country.

“To do this Jeremy Corbyn must revisit and vigorously shake his people’s QE “money tree”. This could pay for real economic activity on the ground via decentralised infrastructure projects to make the nation’s 30 million buildings energy efficient, ensure a shift to localised renewable energy, and the building of local transport systems.

“Secondly, the divide between young and old must be bridged by policies fostering intergenerational solidarity. Older people with significant saving should be offered “housing bonds”, paying, say, 3% interest to help fund a massive council and affordable homes programme.Tuition fees would be scrapped, but so too must be the threat of having to lose a home to pay for care, or having to scrabble for means-tested benefits such as heating allowances.

“Financed by progressive and fairer wealth and income taxes, and a clampdown on tax dodging, this should have an election-winning appeal to the majority of grandparents, parents and their young relatives”.

 

 

 

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A new kind of politics would place able loyalists above able opportunists

On the blue leaning Labour List website, Cllr Luke Akehurst refers to ‘entryists’: “We should continue to be intolerant of any sectarian antics from Momentum . . . We must fight to keep Labour as a broad church democratic socialist party with many traditions within it”.

Clive Efford, who leads the 75-plus Tribune group of Labour MPs relaunched last year, was one of several former critics who have heralded Corbyn’s performance in the campaign. He spoke out on the same site, calling for the existing shadow cabinet to be rewarded by keeping their jobs after Corbyn’s health spokesman, Jon Ashworth, urged the leader to “strengthen the squad”.

The shadow team were appointed in the aftermath of the summer “coup” last year, and several of the group, including Barry Gardiner, Angela Rayner, Andrew Gwynne, Emily Thornberry, Ian Lavery, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey proved to be effective shadow ministers. Efford said this work should now be recognised: “Jeremy has got a shadow cabinet that remained loyal and allowed him to perform extremely well during the general election.”

“We questioned whether voters would be prepared to get behind Jeremy at a general election. The opinion polls suggested we were right about that. But it has to be said that Jeremy is a brilliant campaigner and did extraordinarily well. People have had a good look at him and found that they can get behind him. They see him as a credible leader.”

 

 

 

 

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Conservative party chairman advises: “Don’t vote tactically”

Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin has warned that voting for either the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats would lead to votes for Jeremy Corbyn

As the New York Times summarises, tactical voting is a response to a British electoral system in which millions of minority voices can be ‘drowned out’.  

Tactical2017 is a progressive grassroots campaign that encourages the millions of voters who voted for progressive parties in 2015 to put party loyalties to one side, unite with and vote for, the progressive candidate who has the best chance to avoid the consequences of five more years of a Conservative government in Britain.

  • Already we’ve seen £22bn of unnecessary, ideological cuts to the NHS bring our health service to its knees, with 91 GP surgeries being forced to close in 2016 from a lack of funding and resources.
  • 1 in 8 working Britons now live in poverty, with food bank usage in areas where the government’s inhumane welfare reforms have been introduced up by 16.85%.
  • We’ve seen a real-terms wage drop of 10%, an explosion in the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts, and the most unaffordable house prices in history.
  • the while, Britain’s ultra-rich have received £4.4bn of tax breaks, taken from cuts to Personal Independence Payments for the disabled.
  • All this from a party that claims to be the party of economic responsibility, while simultaneously creating more debt than every Labour government in history combined.

It’s not too late to do this in your constituency if you follow this advice: https://www.tactical2017.com/?utm_source=spreadsheet. 

Individual campaign

Claire Wright (independent) announced her intention to stand against sitting MP Hugo Swire in the snap general election on June 8. Tactical 2017 endorsed her as the only candidate who can defeat the Conservatives.

This follows bookmaker’s odds of 9/2 from William Hill, who confirmed that they see Ms Wright as the official opposition in the constituency and makes her the only non-aligned candidate to get support from the organisation.

Read more in Devon Live.

Campaigning organisations

Though many are taking this action for social and humanitarian reasons others, some in organisations such as Open Britain are actively targeting marginal seats with tactical voting campaigns, to block “destructive” hard Brexit proposal.

Gina Miller, the pro-EU campaigner who won a court challenge over article 50, has launched a tactical voting initiative called Best For Britain that supports election candidates opposed to hard Brexit. Ms. Miller said that Best for Britain was also drawing lessons from the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister of Canada, which was helped by tactical voting among supporters of three center and left parties.

See their gallery of sixteen Champions (six pictured below): the first set of parliamentary candidates the campaign has endorsed in the general election. “If tactical voting is successful in electing MPs with strong principles who are willing to hold the government to account, hard or extreme Brexit has more chance of being averted.” These people are ready to fight extreme Brexit, are fighting a winnable seat and have an immaculate track record.

Compass also argues that “only a Progressive Alliance can stop the Tories and cocreate the new politics,” while More United — a movement set up after the killing last year of the Labour lawmaker Jo Cox — aims to increase the number of lawmakers “elected to fight for a more united, less divided Britain.”

Dr. Kathryn Simpson, lecturer in politics and public services at Manchester Metropolitan University, thinks that 48 percenters of Remain may be geared towards tactical voting and adds that if the 18 to 24-year-old group – who are largely opposed to Brexit – come out to vote, this may help to sway the success of tactical voting.

And Colin Hines, a Progressive Alliance supporter, calls in the Guardian for a voice like that of Lynton Crosby, “hectoring our side to repeat endlessly that the weak and wobbly Tories’ pro-austerity, coalition of cruelty must be constrained, and most importantly, keep it simple”. He ends:

 

Vote ABC – Anything But Conservative.

 

 

 

 

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“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”.

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Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/26/jeremy-corbyn-manchester-british-foreign-policy

 

 

 

Under 20s: registered? Will you use your vote?

Why bother?

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?”

 

Anna continues:

“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’.