The whole unspun truth is given briefly in the FT: “a ban on charges for paying via credit or debit card comes into force across the EU from Saturday, making it unlawful for retailers to charge customers additional fees for paying on plastic”.
Though the whole truth is too tall an order in matters of diplomacy, the government wold have been well advised to emulate the FT’s delivery.
No longer confined to the mainstream media, adventures with the truth are mercilessly mocked on social media and more radical media:
See Steve Walker’s shot of the official Conservative Twitter site:
The Independent’s gentler account quotes British MEPs who criticised the Government for claiming responsibility for the move, “which comes as part of a broad range of new payment regulations based on an EU–wide directive that was spearheaded by left-wing politicians in the European Parliament”.
We expect a jaded public response to this ‘business as usual’ spin. No longer has financial or political dishonesty the power to surprise.
May the British public one day routinely hear the truth – or would that be electoral suicide?
“One of the best things about Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has been his challenge to the failed British foreign policy establishment”– Peter Oborne.
For the last week the Labour leader has come under persistent pressure to speak up in support of the protesters in Iran rather than the far larger numbers of Iranian pro-government supporters march during a rally in the city of Mashhad, Iran, on January 4.
On Wednesday, the Times urged Jeremy Corbyn to speak out against Iran’s actions. The Daily Telegraph calls for ‘brave anti-regime protestors’ to be supported by all and singled out Corbyn. Many others have joined in.
Corbyn is no opportunist
Oborne points out that nothing would have been easier for Corbyn than to have given in to his critics and come up with a strongly worded statement condemning Iran’s Supreme Leader – adding “Bear in mind there are no votes for Corbyn in Tehran. A routine denunciation would have earned him praise in parts of the British press where he is normally reviled, and at zero electoral cost”.
The truth is Corbyn’s recent record on foreign policy has been measured and sensible. Corbyn’s principled silence is prudent and sensible. It reflects the fact that at this stage we simply don’t know for certain what is going on inside Iran.
US President Donald Trump praised protesters for taking on a “brutal and corrupt” Iranian government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also wished protesters “success in their noble quest for freedom”. Trump and Netanyahu each have their reasons for getting involved.
The claim that foreign interference has played its part has been ridiculed, but US and Britain have long meddled in the country’s affairs. Oborne believes that Western policy should be held to account:
- In 1953, they overthrew democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP.
- Only 10 years ago it was being widely reported around Whitehall that a Western military attack on Iran was all but inevitable.
- When the neo-cons were banging the drum for an invasion of Iraq, Corbyn wisely advised against. It turned out to be a catastrophe.
- Corbyn was against the invasion of Afghanistan, and proved right.
- Corbyn was one of a handful of MPs who voted against an attack on Libya. Once again, how right he was!
Corbyn’s record suggests that his judgment on foreign affairs demands respect. Corbyn’s critics also accuse him of being selective. But his critics are also extremely selective. They have made the most of recent events in Iran. By contrast the savage crackdown on Shia dissidents in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, or Palestinian protesters in the West Bank, gets far less attention. British military involvement in the atrocities committed by the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen is routinely ignored in the BBC and elsewhere.
Now Newsweek reports that President Emmanuel Macron has accused the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia of instigating a war as Iran was rocked by a week of protests. several other world leaders. The French leader called for dialogue with Tehran and criticized three of his international partners for pursuing what he considered bellicose policies toward a country the trio have increasingly sought to isolate and undermine in recent years.“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters
President Donald Trump decertified President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, of which France was also a signatory and an eager supporter, and has subjected Iran to a travel ban and increased sanctions over accusations it backs terrorism across the Middle East.
Trump has most recently weaponized his Twitter account to launch a barrage of insults against Iran’s leadership and voice support for the scores of Iranian citizens trying to “take back their corrupt government.” He offered “great support,” seeking to align himself with those calling to displace, rather than amend, the revolutionary Shiite Muslim government in the country, despite these voices currently being a minority among protesters on the ground. Trump was quickly accused of meddling in international affairs and of mishandling matters of diplomacy on Twitter.
As Oborne ends:
“One of the best things about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has been his challenge to the failed British foreign policy establishment. Long may he continue! The time may come when we are in a position to make sober judgments about recent events in Iran. In the meantime Britain is fortunate to have an opposition leader who knows when to stay silent”.
CCGs had to release data on payments from private companies and charities under the Freedom of Information Act. With researchers at Bath University and Lund University in Sweden, the BMJ compared the data to the details published in CCGs’ online registries.
NHS clinical commissioning groups, who are in charge of buying health services for their local areas, received payments, including sponsorships and tickets to sporting events and concerts from the building pharmaceutical and hospitality industries.
The BMJ worked with Piotr Ozieranski, a lecturer in the department of social and policy sciences at the University of Bath, Shai Mulinari, a sociology researcher at Lund University in Sweden and Emily Rickard, a research assistant in Bath’s department of social and policy sciences, who intend to publish the full findings of their research in the coming months.. Piotr Ozieranski’s comment: “It seems rather peculiar that CCGs are permitted to accept any payments or benefits in kind from private sector companies”.
Only £1,283,767 of £5,027,818 paid from 2015 to 2017 was declared on public registers
This, despite the revised NHS England guidance which requires CCGs to maintain and publish registers of their conflicts of interest and procurement decisions. This was revised and strengthened after finding, in 2015, that CCGs had paid many millions of taxpayers’ money to companies, hospitals and surgeries in which their members had financial or professional stakes.
National Health Clinical Commissioners responded: “This BMJ investigation seems to imply that there is some wrong doing on the part of CCGs by working with external companies and pharmaceutical organisations, which we would strongly challenge.
Not so: the investigation does not relate to working with these industries, it implies that funding of recreational activities for CCG members, most of which have not been declared as required, is the ‘wrong-doing’.
Paul Glasziou, professor in the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia, says that doctors are often unaware of the effect of drug companies’ activities on their own behaviour:
“Pharmaceutical company dominance of the funding of continuing medical education can result in prescribing that harms.
“Clinicians are often naive about the persuasion tactics used by some companies. So we urgently need better ‘inoculation’ against these tactics, as well as better regulation and funding of balanced continuing education.”
Since clinical commissioning groups were launched in England in 2013, there have been concerns about the conflicts of interest among those who commission health services while also providing them. But the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that drug companies had an important role in supporting healthcare organisations.
Broken Britain 13 – OfS: Young’s appointment confirms fears raised by McKinsey partner at the helm and its self-regulation policy
And yet Education Secretary Justine Greening says that the OfS will be tasked with ensuring the “world class reputation” of the UK’s universities is maintained.
The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 established The Office for Students (OfS) as the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the higher education sector in England from 1 April 2018. The OfS will inherit most of HEFCE’s funding, the administration of the Teaching Excellence Framework and the Register of Higher Education Providers.
Causes for concern include:
Ø The chairman: Sir Michael Barber, who served as Chief Education Advisor at multinational textbook publisher Pearson, is a partner at McKinsey, the arch-globalising management consultants, rallying from its role in the collapsed Enron ‘empire’ and insider trading in 2011.
Ø Its policy objective: opening the sector up to increased competition – McKinsey cheers
Ø Its monitoring standards (TES reports), formerly undertaken by the Quality Assurance in Education (remit set by government commissioned Dearing Report), will now be done in-house – by drawing on assurances from governing bodies and evidence from annual institutional data returns*.
Ø And the appointment of Michael Gove’s close friend Toby Young to the board of OfS, which, as Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) said, is raising serious questions about the OfS’ role in the sector.
Toby Young’s track record
Several media reports recall Young’s words in a 1988 book The Oxford Myth, edited by the sister of Jo Johnson , now Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, that the arrival of ‘stains’ –working-class students – changed Oxford, and that they were ‘universally unattractive’ and ‘small, vaguely deformed undergraduates’ adding, ‘It was as if all the meritocratic fantasies of every 1960s educationalist had come true and all Harold Wilson’s children had been let in at the gate’.
They also point to a column he wrote for the Spectator in 2012, in which he complained about the ‘ghastly inclusivity’ of wheelchair ramps at schools. ‘Inclusive,’ he wrote. ‘It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that has survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be “inclusive” these days. His terms for disabled children of lower intelligence was ‘‘functionally illiterate troglodyte[s]’
Is it unfair to describe such remarks as stupid, cruel and bigoted?
Contempt seems to be his speciality; a video tweeted by Teacher Toolkit, worth watching for Young’s facial expression which ‘speaks volumes’. Extract: “Teachers complain a lot about how tough their job is, but, you know, the day begins in most schools at nine o’clock, ends at 3.30pm. They have six weeks’ holiday during the summer, two weeks’ holiday at Easter and at Christmas. Yes, they don’t just work when they’re at school, but even so, compared to a lot of other jobs, it’s not that tough.’
Toby Young, first known to the writer through his repellent articles in The Spectator, founded the West London Free School in 2011, now a mini free school empire.
The latest news is that, though set up with a pledge to attract and retain outstanding teachers, the school has just named its fourth permanent head in the six years since it opened.
Can this man really be the government’s wisest choice for universities regulator?
The BBC World Service radio this morning, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House – and other mainstream media – offered distorted reporting:
- first headlining the “iron fist” threat and repeating this several times, before acknowledging its conditionality ‘if political unrest continues’
- and failing to focus on the far larger rallies supporting the Iranian government
They stressed that the demonstrations erupted over falling living standards, but Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that those people in the larger demos realised this was due to imposed sanctions – but the BBC website chose only to report his words about the consequences of damage to public property, disrupting order and breaking the law.
The USA’s use of soft power to foment unrest has been effective with many worldwide
The use of soft power was touched on in a linked site in 2015. We quote: “Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011, left), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power. He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.
An illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) is presented and a consumerist culture cultivated. One actor in this drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not co-operate.
Has it escalated in Iran after its threat to further ‘eliminate’ use of the dollar?
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said to Putin in November: “we can nullify US sanctions, using methods such as eliminating the dollar and replacing it with national currencies”. Forbes earlier reported that this policy would be implemented. Several countries have not fared well after ‘ditching the dollar’:
- In 2002 North Korea’s state-run Korean Trade Bank announced a ban on the use of US dollars in daily payment and settlement for its citizens and foreigners.
- In 2003 Coilin Nunan wondered: “Could one reason for the US wish for ‘regime change’ in Iraq and unprecedented European opposition to such a project be Iraq’s decision two years earlier to accept euros only as payment for its oil, instead of the customary dollars? Could America’s current focus on Iran be similarly explained?”
- In 2004 Fidel Castro decreed that the dollar would no longer be legal for commercial transactions.
It should be stressed that the soft power illusions of total normality, freedom and prosperity are a confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led by soft power to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, include pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, inequality of opportunity, youth unemployment, high cost housing and military aggression.
The following 2004 broadside was fired by Lord Steyn, described in his Times obituary as an “Outspoken law lord whose liberal views became a thorn in the side of the Blair government, especially over Iraq and Guantanamo Bay”, following Lord Hoffmann’s suggestion that the courts should not interfere with certain Government decisions.
“Courts must never abdicate their duty to protect citizens from the abuse of power by governments . . .The United States government has already created a hellhole of utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay by committing such abuse.”
Lord Steyn was born and bred in Cape Town and was one of the few native Afrikaaners who fiercely opposed apartheid. He won a Rhodes scholarship to read English at University College, Oxford and after being called to the bar and sitting as senior counsel in South Africa’s supreme court emigrated to Britain in 1973 to start on the bottom rung of the legal ladder.
Though English was not his native language, his Afrikaans accent remained thick and his ‘delivery’ in court was hesitant, he was admired for his clear arguments and his skill in cross-examination. Having served as the presiding judge on the Northern Circuit, Steyn moved to the Court of Appeal in 1992. He was made a life peer in 1995.
A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Telegraph 2016)
In 2003 he accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of using “weasel words” to justify his policy on asylum seekers. Five months later, Steyn branded the US regime at Guantanamo Bay “a monstrous failure of justice” and declared that the system of trial by military tribunal was no more than a “kangaroo court” that “makes a mockery of justice”.
The unkett then blocked his appointment to a House of Lords judicial committee
The senior law lord, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, was asked not to include Steyn on the nine-judge panel to decide on the legality of detaining foreign terror suspects without trial – the first time a government had ever sought and obtained an alteration in the composition of the House of Lords’ judicial committee.
His other achievements include:
- being one of the judges who ruled by a 3-2 majority that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was not entitled to claim sovereign immunity from prosecution;
- reproving Lord Irvine of Lairg, the lord chancellor who sought ‘an unfettered right to impose rule changes on the legal profession; “He is a member of the executive carrying out the party political agenda of the Labour administration. He is a politician. To entrust to a cabinet minister the power to control the legal profession would be an exorbitant inroad on the constitutional principle of the separation of powers”;
- claiming, when Britain introduced executive detention without trial in 2001, that the UK opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights was not justified “in the present circumstances”.
- arguing, as chairman of Justice, the human rights group, that the Iraq War was unlawful and said that, “in its search for a justification in law for war, the government was driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel”;
- dismissing Tony Blair’s suggestion, just months after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, that the war had not made London a more dangerous place as a “fairytale”.
A champion of the Human Rights Act 1998, he retired satisfied that it had already “transformed our country into a rights-based democracy”. Hmm . . .
Anthony Lester, QC, wrote: “He has woven the Human Rights Act into the fabric of our legal system. He has a terrier-like tenacity and the courage of a lion. He’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to replace.” Agreed.
The FT reports that senior executives at several of the largest US banks have privately told the Trump administration they feared the prospect of a Labour victory if Britain were forced into new elections.
It then referred to a report by analysts at Morgan Stanley arguing that a Corbyn government would mark the “most significant political shift in the UK” since Margaret Thatcher’s election and may represent a “bigger risk than Brexit” to the British economy. It predicted snap elections next year, arguing that the prospect of a return to the polls “is much more scary from an equity perspective than Brexit”.
Jeremy Corbyn gave ‘a clear response’ to Morgan Stanley in a video (left) published on social media reflecting anti-Wall Street rhetoric from some mainstream politicians in the US and Europe, saying: “These are the same speculators and gamblers who crashed our economy in 2008 . . . could anyone refute the headline claim that bankers are indeed glorified gamblers playing with the fate of our nation?”
He warned global banks that operate out of the City of London that he would indeed be a “threat” to their business if he became prime minister.
He singled out Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, for particular criticism, arguing that James Gorman, its chief executive, was paying himself a salary of millions of pounds as ordinary British workers are “finding it harder to get by”.
Corbyn blamed the “greed” of the big banks and said the financial crisis they caused had led to a “crisis” in the public services: “because the Tories used the aftermath of the financial crisis to push through unnecessary and deeply damaging austerity”.
The FT points out that donors linked to Morgan Stanley had given £350,000 to the Tory party since 2006 and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, had met the bank four times, most recently in April 2017. The bank also had strong ties to New Labour: “Alistair Darling, a Labour chancellor until 2010, has served on the bank’s board since 2015. Jeremy Heywood, head of Britain’s civil service, was a managing director at Morgan Stanley, including as co-head of UK investment banking, before returning to public service in 2007”.
A step forward?
In a December article the FT pointed out that the UK lacks the kind of community banks or Sparkassen that are the bedrock of small business lending in many other countries adding: “When Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, calls for a network of regional banks, he is calling attention to a real issue”. And an FT reader commented, “The single most important ethos change required is this: publish everyone’s tax returns”:
- In Norway, you can walk into your local library or central council office and see how much tax your boss paid, how much tax your councillor paid, how much tax your politician paid.
- This means major tax avoidance, complex schemes, major offshoring, etc, is almost impossible, because it combines morality and social morals with ethics and taxation.
- We need to minimise this offshoring and tax avoidance; but the people in control of the information media flow, plus the politicians, rely on exactly these methods to increase their cash reserves.
But first give hope to many by electing a truly social democratic party.
Is the rainbow suggesting a new party logo?
In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:
“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.
Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”.
“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.
“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.
“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .
“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .
“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.
“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:
- Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
- Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
- Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
- There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.
“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.
Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.
“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”
The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.