Blog Archives

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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Wolf: Theresa May’s policies ’make a mockery of her rhetoric’. Are they also provoking ‘generational jihad’?

theresa-may-conf

Martin Wolf (FT) reminds readers of the words of Theresa May, the prime minister, in her speech to the Conservative party conference last year: “Our economy should work for everyone, but if your pay has stagnated for several years in a row and fixed items of spending keep going up, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.” She earnestly promised that this would change.

He continues: “Was Mrs May’s speech hypocritical? Yes”.

The work of the increasingly high-profile Resolution Foundation, a charity funded by Resolution, a successful insurance investment firm founded by Clive Cowdery, focusses on low earners and the policy responses required to lift their living standards. Cowdery was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to children and social mobility

david-willettsHowever, Resolution’s new ‘Executive Chair’ is David Willetts, a former Tory minister, described as a pioneer of generational jihad – revealing “a country that is choosing to give priority to the well-off over the poor, and the old over the young” (see https://twitter.com/resfoundation)

Wolf comments that whatever such a country might be, it is not one that, in the prime minister’s own words, acts “to correct unfairness and injustice and put government at the service of ordinary working people”.

Willetts should heed Richard Smerdon (Letters, FT): 

As I and many others can testify, millions of ageing men and women in this country are supporting their struggling children (themselves in their 30s and 40s but struggling nevertheless) in a huge variety of ways: childcare, money (in lump sums, guarantees and regular payments) and accommodation. This at a time (since the banking collapse) when returns on one’s savings have been negligible. We’ve been clobbered as well! The mess the government has got itself into over the crass handling of the tax credit issue (reform, yes, but wholesale impoverishment, no) is entirely its own fault, but many pensioners will be bracing themselves to help out yet again — which we do out of love for our children of course — but it seems an unfair additional penalty to pay for government incompetence.

Using the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility to project household incomes up to 2020, the picture is one of rising inequality. Wolf asks, “Why is this happening?” He gives several reasons, including the impact of Brexit and the tax and benefit plans inherited and maintained by Mrs May.

Theresa May, as the Resolution Foundation puts it, is “actively choosing to increase inequality”. To those who have, the government has decided to give

The significant cuts in benefits for those of working age, notably the freeze on most benefits in cash terms are being exacerbated by the rising post-referendum prices. Also important are substantial tax cuts for the relatively well-off. FT View (editorial) adds: “By pressing ahead with these inherited policies Theresa May, prime minister, as the Resolution Foundation puts it, is “actively choosing to increase inequality”.

Wolf states: “This outcome makes a mockery of the government’s inclusive rhetoric”.

Mary Dejevsky refutes the Resolution assertions (echoed by MSM) that government is prioritising the old over the young

Wolf writes: “The government is giving priority to the well-off and the old over the poor and young”, but Mary points out that the average pensioner still has an income 25% below the average worker, adding: “You wouldn’t guess that from the media”. She points out:

“The state pension is one of the last truly contributory payments. To present it as just another handout and part of a ballooning benefits bill is an invitation to the young to resent the amount spent even more — and to the recipients to feel that they are being patronised. The state pension should be separated from the overall benefits bill forthwith”.

A graph compiled by Aegon Insurance shows that though the income gap has narrowed substantially, working households still have a higher disposable weekly income than pensioner households.

aegon-pensions

The Foundation’s latest report includes housing costs to back up its announcement that pensioner incomes (most mortgages paid) have overtaken working-age households (paying rent or mortgage charges).

A year after Mary wrote this article, the Western Daily Press reported on a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

“The elderly are dying from heart attacks and strokes because of the stress of cuts in their pensions, according to new research. Rising mortality rates among over 85s has been linked to reductions in spending on income support for the worst off. The study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests some vulnerable older people have paid the ultimate price for austerity measures in England. Almost nine in ten of the 4.6 per cent increase in deaths in 2012 can be explained by the decline in pension credit beneficiaries, say scientists. In England, total spending on Pension Credits, income support payments for low-income pensioners, reduced by 6.5 per cent in 2012”.

Wolf concludes that the UK confronts huge challenges. Not only is productivity stagnant, it must also navigate Brexit: “It is hard to believe wise choices are being made for a country that wishes to secure a better future for its people. It is still harder to believe these are moral choices for a country forced to share out losses imposed by a massive financial crisis and weak subsequent growth” ending:

“The government may be brazenly hypocritical. But it also seems likely to get away with it”.

But the FT editorial adds a stark warning:” There is little chance of Philip Hammond, chancellor, reversing his predecessor’s regressive policies in next month’s Budget. Yet he should keep them under review. If the outlook darkens, a combination of falling living standards and rising inequality would be an extremely dangerous one in today’s febrile (Collins: intense, nervously active) politics”.

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In other words: a roused public might rock

the corporate/political boat.

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Media 71: Peter Burgess tells the truth and pulls no punches

jeremy-corbyn-2Much of the media is taking its usual stance referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘handlers’ as though he were a pit bull terrier. The Times has determined that he was making a bid to relaunch his leadership which has been derailed and Jim Pickard in the FT, author of many hostile articles, focusses on pay caps but not pay ratios.

It is good to turn to sane and rightminded commentators such as Peter Burgess (Times comments) and Maisie Carter (recent article). Peter spells out the Corbyn message with absolute clarity and rather more bluntly than JC:

  • It is very clear he wants top execs pay to reflect that of the lowest paid worker for them to earn more and not rely on tax payers to boost their salaries and for the top execs to earn a decent salary but nor one that is obscene (sadly so many Tories want to see the poor get poorer and the rich richer).
  • He also wants to ensure that we continue to bring in workers when needed but ensure they don’t depress wages for British workers.
  • Of course those at the top getting obscene salaries want to disgrace Corbyn because the last thing they want is for their salaries to fall under £500,000 a year.
  • There’s big and there’s obscene especially when they are telling others to tighten their belts, can’t afford to pay you more then handing themselves 7 and 8 figure salaries and bonuses.
  • What shows double standards are all those commenting on here who think salaries of over £100,000 a year are too much if somebody is running the NHS, a local authority or running a Union.
  • I do find it difficult to understand how anybody can find the policies which have allowed so many workers to have their wages and working conditions deteriorate whilst CEO’s are paying themselves up to 700x the salary of their employees as being fair and something they’d support.
  • I would add that labour to their shame played an important part in allowing these obscene differentials since Maggie was in office. Some of them thought £500,000 a year for them and their friends was not enough.
  • Yes Corbyn needs to keep shaming all those, including some labour MP’s who’ve happily supported the policy of “austerity” that have hit the poorest whilst allowing the richest to continue to get richer.
  • I’d support a return to the differentials back in the days of Maggie. Top execs back then were hardly struggling. 20x / 30x acceptable 700x isn’t!

Endnote: Maisie Carter’s appeal

“Unite around Jeremy Corbyn’s ten point programme, which proposes the building of one million homes in five years, a free national education service, a secure, publicly provided NHS, with an end to health privatisation, full employment, an end to zero hours contracts, security at work, action to secure an equal society, a progressive tax system, shrink the gap between highest and lowest paid; aim to put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy.  On the last point, as the wars waged or aided by the West are the cause of mass immigration, we must step up foreign aid and instead of spending £37bn a year on foreign wars as our government does, invest in helping to rebuild these war torn countries”.

Read Maisie’s article in full here.

 

 

 

Austerity 8: the prison service

Impressive new entrance (Winson Green) and corporate/political rhetoric: fearful reality

winson-green-prison

After a series of violent incidents in recent months at HMP Lewes and HMP Bedford, four wings at HMP Birmingham in high-security Winson Green, had to be sealed after disturbances broke out. About 260 prisoners were involved.

Despite the record of G4S, which now runs five prisons in the UK, management of this prison was handed over to the private sector company in 2011. Unions opposed the deal which reduced staff numbers and pay rates.

So many public sector officers had to be drafted to ‘manage’ the Winson Green ‘dispute’ that control had to be transferred to the public sector HM Prison Service.

There have been sharp cuts to prison staff numbers as part of the 2010-15 coalition’s austerity drive even though the prison population has doubled since 1993 to more than 85,000. There are now 65 assaults behind bars every day and in the year to June, assaults on staff jumped 43% to 5,954, with 697 recorded as serious.

gove

Yesterday former Conservative Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove appeared to have a change of heart. His words, reported in a recent speech, were: “I am convinced that we cannot provide the effective level of rehabilitation we need for offenders without either increasing expenditure significantly or reducing prisoner numbers overall, because overcrowded prisons are more likely to be academies of crime, brutalisers of the innocent and incubators of addiction rather than engines of self-improvement.”

 

 

 

American blue collar workers are angry (The Times); Martin Wolf adds a growing and widespread sense that ‘elites are corrupt, complacent and incompetent’

pinn blue collar workers

Today the Times interprets unusual polling results in the United States. Like many American media commentators, it predicts that “blue-collar workers who are worried about the effects of globalisation on American jobs promise to shape the November election”.

In the Financial Times, analyst/economist Martin Wolf expresses a belief that the ‘native working class’ are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.

’A plague on both your houses’?

He writes: “The projects of the rightwing elite have long been low marginal tax rates, liberal immigration, globalisation, curbs on costly “entitlement programmes”, deregulated labour markets and maximisation of shareholder value. The projects of the leftwing elite have been liberal immigration (again), multiculturalism, secularism, diversity, choice on abortion, and racial and gender equality . . . As a recent OECD note points out, inequality has risen substantially in most of its members in recent decades. The top 1% have enjoyed particularly large increases in shares of total pre-tax in­come”.

pinn church v state moral missionDavid Cameron responds to church leaders’ attacks by saying that the reforms are part of a moral mission

Wolf continues: “In the process, elites have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. It is not hard to see why ordinary people, notably native-born men, are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused. After the financial crisis and slow recovery in standards of living, they see elites as incompetent and predatory. The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not”.

Wolf sees the electorate turning to ‘outsiders’ to clean up the system in Britain, the US and many European countries and advises ‘the centre’ how to respond:

  • People need to feel their concerns will be taken into account, that they and their children enjoy the prospect of a better life and that they will continue to have a measure of economic security.
  • They need once again to trust the competence and decency of economic and political elites.
  • There must be a fundamental questioning of its austerity-oriented macroeconomic doctrines: real aggregate demand is substantially lower than in early 2008.
  • The financial sector needs to be curbed. It is ever clearer that the vast expansion of financial activity has not brought commensurate improvements in economic performance. But it has facilitated an immense transfer of wealth.
  • Taxation must be made fairer. Owners of capital, the most successful managers of capital and some dominant companies enjoy remarkably lightly taxed gains.
  • The doctrine of shareholder primacy needs to be challenged. With their risks capped, their control rights should be practically curbed in favour of those more exposed to the risks in the company, such as long-serving employees.
  • And, finally, the role of money in politics needs to be securely contained.

Wolf concludes pragmatically: “western polities are subject to increasing stresses. Large numbers of the people feel disrespected and dispossessed. This can no longer be ignored”.

Self interest rules OK! The threat to the status quo is paramount – the ethical dimension totally ignored.

Media 52: Mainstream media protect their sources and paymasters against a leader who is “exposing the smoke and mirrors designed to keep us in our places”

Margaret from Swansea (and a co-founder of VIP) recently sent a comment by email:

The vitriol launched against the polite, intelligent, principled new leader of the Labour Party by media and politicians, including members of his own party, isn’t really so surprising. He is rocking their nice, comfortable boat and quietly threatening the pillars of capitalist society – exposing the smoke and mirrors designed to keep us in our places. He dares to say that austerity comes from an economic ideology – that there IS an alternative! We don’t have to carry on in the same destructive direction, laying waste to planet and people; we could be more compassionate and use our intelligence to produce a better world.

What a threat a thinking, honest politician must be to the industrialists and their friends!

The FT’s George Parker and Jim Pickard have now been joined by a John McDermott to continue their mission to diminish a leader perceived as a threat to the affluent

jc4Below a picture of Corbyn conveying the image of him as a dictatorial rabble rousing agitator (omitted), they assert that “the gap between Mr Corbyn and the MPs he aspires to lead has this week widened to a chasm”, quoting one ‘hostile senior’ Labour MP. “But how’s it going to end?” A good question which they answer correctly, switching to truth mode:

“Mr Corbyn is sustained by the knowledge that 250,000 ordinary party members and supporters backed him . . .”.  A friend of Mr Corbyn said: “He’s quite relaxed about all of this. People are still rooting for him. All that support that was there for him still feels like it’s there.”

As conservative Peter Hitchens explains in the Mail, “ If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap”.

The FT continues: “If MPs mount a coup the party membership could still re-elect Mr Corbyn: his allies are seeking to clarify the rules to ensure that he would automatically end up back on the ballot sheet . . . Even Mr Corbyn’s critics admit it could take several years before the “Corbynistas” realise their alleged mistake and in the meantime the Labour leader is trying to tighten his grip on the party.

How do the FT journalists describe this ‘grip’?

“Grass roots members of the Momentum pressure group are telling dissident MPs to keep quiet or face deselection at the 2020 election”.

momentum first meeting city

Not true; in a recent meeting of the Birmingham group (above), only one in a hundred made this suggestion and it was not accepted by the group.

The FT ends: “Ultimately Mr Corbyn’s fate will be determined at the ballot box: he needs to show his critics that his “new politics” appeals beyond a hard core of supporters. The Oldham West by-election next month, where Labour is defending a majority of almost 15,000, will be a crucial early test”.

The writer hopes that this contest will follow the pattern of the three successful by-elections which have been ignored by mainstream media.

Tim Farron – the second disappointment

 In 2008 Mr Farron appeared to be a doughty supporter of food producers who then, as now, are often paid below costs of production, endangering the country’s future food security.

As primary sponsor, he introduced the EDM 1067: Country Living magazine Fair Trade for British Farmers campaign.

Then he became silent and left all to his colleague Andrew George who never faltered in forming and backing the campaign for a Groceries Ombudsman, despite strong opposition from large retailers. The fact that this has proved of little help to farmers is due to the government’s emasculation of the original proposal.

Opportunist youth or principled maturity?

Now, in a politically understandable but ethically reprehensible move, he is not only courting former party members who left during their spell in coalition but making headlines for a delighted establishment media, with unsubstantiated claims that Labour Party members are contacting him – the implication being that they might join the party.

A formerly active Lib Dem member, who has joined the Labour Party under Corbyn, has forwarded Mr Farron’s claims in his e-letter – apparently referring to the Miliband administration:

“Labour shows no intention or desire to understand economic responsibility. They have given up challenging the Government on the economy, and given them the freedom to make punitive decisions against the most vulnerable”. This does not apply to Corbyn’s administration. And ends:

“We cannot let the Government go unchallenged, and it’s why the Liberal Democrats are now the only party of credible opposition. Liberal Democrats represent people in Britain who care about helping those in need, who believe that those with the broadest shoulders must carry the heaviest burden, who care about how free and fair our society is, and who believe we need to spend within our means to achieve it”.

If that sounds like you, I have one big offer to you: join the Liberal Democrats today and become a part of our movement – for only £1 a month.

jeremy corbyn (2)How much more logical and constructive it would have been for Farron to join the new politics being created by the current Labour administration and leaders of parties like NHAP, Plaid, the Greens and Mebyon Kernow. And many have welcomed the words of the SNP’s able Commons leader MP, Angus Robertson at the latest PMQs. In statesmanlike tones, and with an effective reproof after David Cameron’s lapse, he said that his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident”


Next: Times’ journalists: ignorant of John McDonnell’s work and alliances, economical with the truth, or under orders?

 

 

Who is driving the Financial Times to desperation – Corbyn, or vested interests?

As condemnation mounts, more people rally to support Jeremy Corbyn. Very slow to rouse, has the need for a wholesale rescue finally taken hold of British hearts and minds? Will this movement grow and prosper, resurrecting what has been called ‘the Dunkirk spirit’ (Macmillan) in the face of a government dominated by wealthy interests?

jeremy corbynFT View, which never names its author, felt the need to open its article with a savage caricature of Jeremy Corbyn. It was decided not to reproduce it, but stay with the reality (right).

The title given: ‘Jeremy Corbyn means trouble, and not just for UK’s Labour party‘.

Subtitle: ‘Victory for the radical would cause problems for Britain’s body politic’.

But Britain’s corporate ruled body politic is already in deep trouble

broken britain 3 mps bankersOne comment on the article describes the country asa country where the gross distortions of hot and corrupt money and the encouragement of it by successive governments have led to a sense of despondency in voters”.

As FT View says, the young idealists and trade union members who support Corbyn “aim for a full-throated protest movement against fiscal austerity and “neoliberalism”. They are redefining the purpose of politics”. Not before time. Another comment:

“The sheer lack of humanity and care for the most vulnerable of people has finally lit a touchpaper in the country.  Good”.

The FT continues: “Even if Mr Corbyn narrowly loses out to Yvette Cooper, the leadership rival who finally spoke out against him on Thursday, the sheer scale of his following would drag her to the left”. . .

And provide a real opposition, then a government serving its electorate, after years of plutocracy?

Mr Corbyn’s decent constructive economic policies are dismissed as “quaint” – shareholders in privatised postal services, transport and utilities no doubt would use stronger language. His outlook on foreign policy is deemed “troubling” – especially to the arms industry.

The next comment sets FT View right:

JC ft comment

But the FT View writer ends: “Folly upon folly has brought a grand political party to this predicament, from which it is not certain to recover. That would be bad enough. The potential harm to the rest of British public life is just as worrying”. Yes . . .the signs are that many more might ‘worryingly’ start taking a real interest in politics and become immune to media brainwashing.

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A true socialist government would care for the 99%.

 Britain might even become honest, compassionate, egalitarian and respected.

 

Austerity 3 – but not for me

 retweeted

None of those insisting austerity is needed, will actually suffer it themselves.

Nor their family or friends.

Only other – poorer – people

The £50bn HS2 project – a folly – must hit the buffers: Jeremy Paxman

On Friday, Jeremy Paxman wrote an article about HS2 in the Financial Times, opening with incredulity (“How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?”) that the project had not been an issue for the three main parties during the election campaign, “All decided that the planned HS2 high speed railway line from London to Birmingham and then — if things go to plan — on to Manchester and Leeds by about 2033 was A Good Thing . . . it was left to the UK Independence party and the Greens (who generally love railways) to point out that HS2 is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money.

Some points raised:

  • Despite living in an age of austerity, the main parties were as one in believing it a brilliant way to blow a projected £50bn of public money.

hs2 cartoon

  • It will not be £50bn; cost controls on public spending projects are laughable – see the over budget Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly buildings, the cost of the first high speed rail link and the National Health Service IT project.
  • At the end of years of digging and disruption we shall be able to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
  • To get from Leeds to Manchester on HS2 you would have to travel south to Birmingham and then north again on the other side of the country.
  • If, as has been predicted, Birmingham will turn into a suburb of the capital, that will only be for those wealthy enough to afford tickets.
  • The point that seems not to have been much recognised by huge numbers of the poor saps who will have to pay for this project is that at the end of their journey north, the happy business folk will not be alighting in the centre of Birmingham, at New Street station, but will have to take a 10-minute walk to get there from the planned HS2 terminus (Ed: unless the Metro is completed).

Jeremy Paxman concludes:

 “Britain is notorious for its shuddering transport policy. When was the last time you heard an MP say, “I’m begging the prime minister to let me go to the Department for Transport and stay there forever, so we can get this country moving properly”? Building a decent infrastructure is serious, unglamorous work with little political dividend, so our system is hopeless at long-term planning . . .

“[U]nless someone comes to their senses soon, future generations will definitely be able to look at great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside to enable a slightly quicker journey through our overcrowded island. More than likely, they will still be paying for it”.