Blog Archives

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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Broken Britain 4: being sold piecemeal to foreign governments and companies

In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:

“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)

Hitchens summarises:

  • Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
  • British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
  • In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
  • My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
  • But they get more expensive all the time.
  • those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.

Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”

Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear

Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.

As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.

 

 

Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5

 

Seeking food supplies from Turkey and Morocco?  Time for change!

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

veg-2shortage

A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/seeking-food-supplies-from-turkey-time-for-change/

 

 

 

Will players in the global casino make rich pickings from Brexit?

paul marshallWorthy souls produce food, some produce goods, some help to build or repair, some produce energy and some speculate on commodities. Others gamble on the markets, taking a loan to borrow shares and selling them in the hope that the price will fall, then buying the shares at a lower price, repaying the loan and pocketing the difference.

Paul Marshall is chairman and chief investment officer of Marshall Wace, a London hedge fund which is said to have made an immense profit in this way.

He rejoiced in the outcome of the referendum: “British business has broken free from Little Europe” seeing a future “punctuated by the exciting agreements that Britain forges as it becomes a beacon of free trade” and recreates a Commonwealth “Anglosphere”.

dr falknerDr Robert Falkner (LSE), whose research focuses on global political economy, global environmental politics, and the role of business in international relations, points out that these hedge funds have no room for such constructive sentiments when profit-making is possible, however, as this sector has already “moved aggressively to bet against the pound and British stocks”, expecting “a sharp deterioration in the UK economy” (“World’s biggest hedge funds pounce on pound after lying in wait for days”).

Andrew Mitchell, a Newcastle commentator, does not agree with Marshall’s contention that the Brexit vote was due to ”a commitment to freedom, democracy, open markets and an enterprise economy”. He points out that the evidence is that the Leave campaign triumphed only through enlisting millions with very different ambitions:

“(O)pen markets and an enterprise economy represent the very opposite of what they voted for. They wish to see protected markets and jobs, aggressive restrictions on immigration and an end to bankers and hedge fund millionaires living high on the hog”. 

 

On that subject, see the forthcoming book ‘Progressive Protectionism’ by Colin Hines, which details why and how groups of regional nation states and their communities could and should join together to reintroduce border controls to protect and diversify their economies, providing a sense of security for their people and preventing further deterioration of the environment

 

 

 

Goodbye British made steel: would a Corbyn-led government say “we can’t favour domestic production in the face of Chinese dumping”

british steel demo football match

The 99% don’t agree with this government policy

Why not favour British production? As festivities celebrating the visit of President Xi Jinping proceed apace, Richard Murphy’s Green Deal colleague, Colin Hines, describes the collapse of the steel industry as “A triple whammy forced on Europe by the Treaty of Rome’s open borders diktat”. He adds – in the Guardian:

The Magic Money Tree: there is a way out of this – and a funding source to finance it

  • The EU must be reformed by a “treaty of home”, allowing national economies to flourish via border controls to goods, money and people. The problems of protecting domestic sectors like steel could then be overcome.
  • Future mass migration could be limited once its causes are tackled; in the interim massive aid should be given to those countries hosting refugees.

David Cameron’s recent assertion: ‘let me tell you a plain truth: there isn’t a magic money tree’, is contradicted by Peter Spence in the Telegraph and Isabel Hardman in the Spectator:

cameron magoc money tree

“The Bank of England’s quantitative easing programme has created £375 billion of magic money, which keeps interest rates artificially low, thus engineering a recovery, or at least the illusion of one. But this sort of magic money tree is more at home in a Grimm’s fairy tale than a modern one where everyone is destined to live happily ever after. Because not everyone’s a winner under QE. If you’re rich and you’re able to borrow, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank as it boosts the value of assets and keeps debt cheap . . . But if you’re prudent – a saver, or a pensioner – then you see the opposite happen”.

And Positive Money points out that creating money is as easy as the flick of a pen and the clattering of some computer keys. While the UK’s “magic money tree” is currently controlled by the private banking system, the UK government is quite capable of altering this situation. All it requires is the political will to act.

Colin Hines recommends that next month, the ECB could instead print:

  • €20bn of “migrant QE” to help cope with the refugee crisis,
  • €20bn of “jubilee QE” to deal with the continent’s debt problems and secure the future of millions of future global warming migrants and
  • €20bn of “climate QE” put on the table at next month’s climate change conference in Paris.

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As Scots rescue their shipyard the government merely says “Goodbye British made steel” and buys shares in foreign steelmakers.

Corbyn would do better: the banks have had more than their share: now for migrant, jubilee debt and climate QE.

‘Green Infrastructural QE’ for ‘jobs in every constituency’: a vote winning commitment

Colin Hines, Convenor of the Green New Deal Group, addresses the Financial Times:

Your editorial was correct to call on the European Central Bank to look at QE, but wrong to say that QE shouldn’t address inequality (‘Farewell to the Fed’s QE3, a monetary job well done’ Financial Times November 1st/2nd).

Opinion is now coalescing around the realisation that rising inequality and the fall in real incomes is threatening future growth through its adverse effect on effective demand within countries.

In terms of the UK, its leading export markets like those of the rest of the Eurozone, are also experiencing slowdowns in effective demand. This points to the need for countries of the EU to concentrate more on their domestic economy, but in a way that benefits all corners of nations as well as the environment. This suggests the need for a new round of QE, which would tackle these problems head on this time.

In the UK this could contribute to funding a carefully-costed, nationwide programme of energy efficiency in the nation’s 28 million homes and 2 million commercial and public buildings. Also crucial, such a QE programme would help to overcome the present annual shortfall of 240,000 new, affordable, sustainably sited, energy-efficient homes.

The previous QE purchased government bonds, and ‘green infrastructural QE’ could buy bonds from a suitably enhanced Green Investment Bank to invest in such a programme.

This is technically feasible since earlier this year your paper reported the Governor of the Bank of England as saying that if the government requested it, the next round of QE could be used to buy assets other than government debt (‘Mark Carney boosts green investment hopes’ Financial Times, March 18th, 2014).

This ‘jobs in every constituency’ approach would create employment, business and investment opportunities in every city, town, village and hamlet in the country, providing a vote winning commitment for all political parties in the run up to the election.

Take back control

99%-3

 Colin Hines writes in the Guardian:

David Cameron is right that the Euro elections showed people wanted a different direction for Europe, but wrong to conflate this with the kinds of reform he is seeking as recompense for his junk Juncker debacle.

The parties that gained the most new seats in the European parliament were those opposing the free flow of people within Europe and those rejecting the disastrous austerity programmes.

Both of these sources of voter concern were made possible by the Treaty of Rome abolishing controls over the free movement of people, goods, money and services.

Colin Hines

Colin Hines

It was the unfettered flow of money and goods which largely stoked up the continent’s debt bubble and resulting credit crunch.

To pay for the state bailouts that followed, the mainstream parties then demanded austerity measures which sacrificed the living standards and social infrastructure of those least responsible for 2008’s free market economic disaster.

Not surprisingly, this has resulted in even more migration from southern and eastern Europe, adding to social tensions across the continent.

The reforms needed are not the rightwing agenda of more labour flexibility and evermore ruthless competition. This is just code for the usual neoliberal priorities of less workers rights and a roll back of social and environmental regulations.

It’s time that Labour countered this by taking seriously the majority’s concerns about uncontrollable European immigration and rising economic insecurity and so start a debate with its allies in Europe to turn the Treaty of Rome into a “treaty of home”.

This would allow countries to cooperate to take back control of their borders for progressive goals, such as reducing inequality and rebuilding flourishing local economies, which could result in increased political support for a reformed Europe that actually addresses the majority’s fears for the future, rather than making them worse.

Soapbox for the 99%: spend money on shovel-ready schemes

 

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Colin Hines, convenor of the Green New Deal Group, writes:

“One of the justifications for the coalition’s cuts is the pretence that they are needed to pay for more infrastructure projects (Editorial, 27 June). Yet the emphasis on new roads and HS2 will be cost-escalating and take money away from the kind of local infrastructure spending that would result in economic activity nationwide. Increased economic activity could be fairly taxed and so get rid of the need for cuts, while helping rescue our flagging economy”.

He advocates:

“Tens of billions spent on low-carbon infrastructure and affordable housing would generate jobs, business and investment opportunities in every city, town, village and hamlet in the UK. Making every building in the UK energy-efficient and repairing, maintaining and improving the public transport system could prioritise the use of UK manufacturers.

“A crackdown on tax dodgers would make billions available to pump prime such an initiative. The result would be a reduction in public debt through a programme that improves society, the environment and the economy – the very opposite of the present cuts”.

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Corporate advantage – 1, Badgers – 0

Having listened long to convincing arguments both for and against the culling of badgers or vaccinating of badgers and/or cattle, a watching brief seemed the only option until today, when corporate advantage yet again – as always – reared its very ugly head.

Why has this expensive advice gone unheeded?

A discussion on Radio 5 caused an online search during which news surfaced of a £50 million taxpayer-funded research programme, over more than nine years, by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG). They conducted and analysed culling trials, concluding:

”Given its high costs and low benefits we therefore conclude that badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of cattle TB in Britain, and recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling.”

Lobbying by large producers and exporters who stand to lose millions?

A throwaway remark during the broadcast gave a clue. Following it up led to the information that there is an EU law against vaccinating cattle. DEFRA explained that breaking EU law by vaccinating domestic cattle would cause loss of exports to the EU in both live cattle (negligible) and cattle products (£375m in 2010).

Solution 1

Address the symptoms as the Badger Trust suggests:

“The “silver bullet” remains a cattle vaccine which will not only protect cattle from the disease but will also allow the UK farming industry to export cattle to EU countries. A test is being developed which will differentiate between a vaccinated cow and an infected cow. This will require acceptance within the EU.”

Solution 2

Being seriously considered by an increasing number of independent economists, including arch-advocate Colin Hines: rebuild and rediversify our economy by limiting what finance, food and goods are allow to enter our borders, and wean ourselves off import and export dependence.

Read more about protecting our economy on his site.

 

 

 

Food production is the priority, not competition!

‘Compete’ – that weasel word – is the injunction of successive failing governments and their failed economists. Coupled with ‘choice’ it has been used to deliver our health, education, water, energy and transport into corporate hands that seek to maximise profits rather than serve the public interest – sending our financial capital and manufacturing abroad. 

Corporates have made money their favoured commodity; not content with it as a medium of exchange and a store of value, they expect it to breed.

One of the few dishonourable exceptions is the domestic arms industry which has been subsidised at enormous financial and social cost and has assisted many corrupt and cruel dictators to oppress their people.

When the dictators overstep the mark and displease our special relative their opposition is lucratively armed and enabled to overthrow them. 

Unless fairer payments are made our food will gradually be outsourced and replaced by cheap and sometimes unwholesome imports. When the process is complete the country’s security will be in ruins – and price of food will rise, like the price of energy, fuel and transport. 

All this has to be set in the context of a rising population. As Colin Hines asks in the Guardian today: 

“What guarantee can we have that a country whose North Sea revenues are on the slide and whose economy is in trouble will be able to afford, or perhaps even have access to, the food imports our present population needs, let alone also for the nearly 7 million extra UK inhabitants projected in 15 years’ time?” 

Food is of paramount importance – essential to life 

Place our MPs and their economists in the often cited desert for a day or so and offer them the choice of a pint of milk or a lorry load of money and they will choose the milk, realising that food is essential to life. 

As the vice-chairman of the West Midlands New Economics Group says, a sound economy needs to be based on food and energy security. To that end, fertile land should be conserved and no longer used prodigally for road and railway building. In addition, food producers should be far more highly valued than our inept number-jugglers and thankfully given prices which cover their costs and overheads. 

But where can we find principled decision-makers who will not succumb to the desire for money and power that makes them act like puppets in corporate hands?