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Theresa May: “the government wants people to be able to manage their own (universal credit) budgets”

Yet again, the vulnerable suffer. Due to successive governments many now in need have been ill-educated, ill-nourished and under stress because they could not find work.  In similar circumstances Mrs May and few of her colleagues would be managing their budgets well.

The introduction of universally paying housing benefit direct to landlord (stopped in 2008) was extremely helpful to those not able (or willing) to budget. It has been retained under universal credit and actually adds to the problems of landlords and tenants alike.

Quoting from a letter circulated by GAP Property during PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Will the prime minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed? Or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?”

GAP Property said the introduction of universal credit would affect the vast majority of its tenants and it needed to take action to avoid a slew of rent arrears, which could put it out of business.

The company’s owner, Guy Piggott, said the letter was not intended to be threatening and he was pleased it had been highlighted by Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“We are not planning to throw people out, but the prime minister should read this and recognise the problems . . . the majority of his tenants were on an average household income of about £17,000 a year. “People are already living hand to mouth . . . At best, if they need to wait six weeks to be paid, it will be the end of February before it comes, and by then they might have spent the money they had on feeding their families or heating their homes”.

Paragraphs from a snapshot of the letter:

Piggott said many landlords would soon refuse to take people who were on universal credit. “A lot of landlords are now saying enough is enough”.

Jeremy Corbyn said: “Will the prime minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed? Or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?”

Mrs May replied that she wanted to “look at the issue of this particular case” but said the government wanted people to be able to manage their own budgets and expressed less than impressive hopes that the government could act next week to cut the six-week wait for payments to five.

 

 

 

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FT: a strange blend of truth and spleen unwittingly affirms Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘superannuated socialist’ stance

The FT’s Philip Stephens, Tony Blair’s biographer, pertinently remarks:Today’s elites should ask themselves just when it became acceptable for politicians to walk straight from public office into the boardroom; for central bank chiefs to sell themselves to US investment banks; and for business leaders to pay themselves whatever they pleased”. He continues:

“Now as after 1945, the boundaries between public and private have to change. At its simplest, establishing trust is about behaviour. . . The lesson Europe’s postwar political leaders drew from the societal collapses of the 1930s was that a sustainable equilibrium between democracy and capitalism had been shattered by market excesses.

“Citizens were unwilling to accept a model for the market that handed all the benefits to elites and imposed the costs on the poor. In the US, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal. Europe waited until the continent had been reduced to rubble in 1945 before building what the British called the welfare state and continental governments called the European social model. Economic prosperity and political stability were the rewards.

“The present generation of politicians should learn from the experience. Defending a status quo that is manifestly unfair in its distribution of wealth and opportunity serves only to put weapons in the hands of populists . . .

“One way to start redrawing the boundaries would be to take on the big corporate monopolies that have eschewed wealth creation for rent-seeking; to oblige digital behemoths such as Google and Apple to pay more than token amounts of tax; to ensure immigration does not drive down wages; and to put in place worthwhile training alongside flexible markets”.

The difference: Corbyn would act for altruistic reasons, but thepresent generation of politicians’ concede only to retain privilege

Stephens (right) ends by saying that what we need is a social market economy – combining the central elements of a free market (private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices) and universal health care, old-age pension and unemployment insurance as part of an extensive social security system

And most of this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour party leader, wholeheartedly supports. Though dismissed by Stephens as a ‘superannuated socialist’, he would uphold and enhance the system presently faced with public disgust at the ‘fat-cat’ political-corporate revolving door with its rewards for failure. This disgust is combined with anger at the austerity regime imposed by those currently in power, which prevents local authorities from continuing basic public services and deprives some of the least fortunate of food and decent housing.

 

 

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Student loans: compound interest builds up huge debts

Today The Times reports that the chancellor is considering slashing the annual tuition fee universities can charge to £7,500, in this autumn’s budget, after young voters swung behind Jeremy Corbyn when he pledged to abolish fees if in government.

The Blair Labour government introduced university tuition fees in 1998. Students had to pay up to £1,000 a year, depending on their parents’ income.

In 2008 student loans were removed from protective legislation, by Section 8 of the Sale of Student Loans Act and the Conservative-led coalition increased fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year from the 2012/13 academic year. Fees charged by English universities are now capped at £9,250 but can rise with inflation from this year.

The political/public argument

At the time, minister Alan Johnson said “There is nothing progressive about working people, many of whom will get nowhere near a university, cross-subsidising mainly middle-class students to have a completely free higher education.”

The political/corporate argument

As the FT’s Miranda Green and Alice Hancock report, since the first graduate contribution the UK has stayed high up the international university rankings, with a ‘lucrative higher education export business’, as imposing new buildings spring up on campuses, student flats proliferate and vice chancellors receive average pay packets of £277,834.

Alongside this boom in construction and salaries however, doubts are being raised about the quality of tuition and the content of many degrees now being offered. A comparatively mild one came from Alice Hancock: “In all the discussion over price, there has been little talk of product. I’m happy to make my monthly donation towards my education: it led me to a better job. But I attended a university where I received an average of 15 hours of tuition each week, much of it one-on-one. This is far from commonplace”.

To pay for this expansion, interest rates on student loans are now three percentage points above the retail prices index of inflation; from this autumn they will carry 6.1% interest  – more, as Estelle Clarke, Advisory board member of the Intergenerational Foundation points out in the FT: the Student Loans Company ‘hidden in the small print’, charges a monthly compound interest rate of 6.1% . . .

“It ensnares many student/graduate borrowers in a debt trap. . . Less well-off students suffer twice as much with these punitive costs if they have maintenance loans as well as tuition fee loans. For, instead of having loans of roughly £30,000 (tuition fees), their loans will be roughly £60,000 (tuition fees and maintenance loans). Imagine the monthly compounding interest cost on that at 6.1%!”

She adds: “I believe that if more understood what education costs our graduates, monthly compounding rates would have been confined to the dustbin of immoral exploitation. Were student loans regulated, neither punitive compounding interest rates nor inadequate explanations by the SLC would be tolerated”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s £11bn pledge has proved appealing but the FT journalists fear that if he were to act on it in power, a booming, world-class higher education sector would be plunged into financial crisis.

As it is the 99% will pay for government’s corporate-friendly decisions

If, as the Higher Education Policy Institute projects, 71% of students will never repay loans, who will eventually repay the costs of the campus buildings and student flats? The Telegraph quotes Nick Hillman, director of the institute refers to this as a “very substantial” subsidy from future taxpayers to higher education which is “concealed in the system”.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ report explains that if graduate earnings are 2 percentage points lower than expected, the long-run government contribution increases by 50%. It calculates that in the long term the government (the taxpayer) will foot the bill for unpaid student loans, which are written off after 30 years: “the expected long-run cost to the taxpayer of HE for the 2017 cohort is £5.9 billion”.

As economist Alison Wolf argues in her 2016 report, many disadvantaged young people would be better served by funding one or two-year high-quality technical courses — or better early years education. But the political corporate alliance would see little profit in doing this.

 

 

 

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Career-minded ‘moderates’ and radical ‘Corbynites’

Times journalist Hamish MacDonnell writes of the Scottish Labour leadership campaign as being ‘expected to turn into a battle between the anti-Corbyn and moderate wings of the party’.

Later he amplifies: a “battle between those who want the party to become more left-wing, in tune with Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-left Momentum followers, and those who are more moderate”

Translation:

  • hard left Momentum followers: people who want to see social justice in the country
  • the ‘more moderate’: career-minded people – sometimes described as ‘Tory-lite’ who would only slightly mitigate the worst excesses of ‘Broken Britain’ if given the chance.

Wholesale radical reform is sought by ‘Corbynites’ – and what a threat that is to the vested political and finaial interest with which most moderates are entangled – or hope to be.

No candidate has yet to declare that they will stand, but the frontrunners — one from each side of the party — have made it clear they are almost ready to enter the fray.

Richard Leonard, former union organiser with the GMB, is seen as the pro-Corbyn candidate with trade unions (the bogey) ‘lobbying hard’ for him. No reference was made to trade unions Unite and Community, to which Anas Sarwar, of Labour’s ‘moderate’ wing, belongs.

Since this was written, both men have announced that they will stand for election.

 

 

 

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Wimbledon warns Corbynieres: “No politics, we’re British’, Professor Freedman offers reassurance

The Telegraph reports that AELTC appears to anticipate ‘displays of Corbynmania’, during this year’s event.

Sharing mainstream alarm at the unprecedented scenes witnessed at last month’s Glastonbury festival, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, a private members’ club which hosts the Wimbledon Championships, hopes that warning notices, “No political slogans!”, on display at the entrance gates will be taken to heart by Corbyn’s supporters and other political activists.

This is a continuing manifestation of a threatened establishment – a general right-wing demonisation of Corbyn.

Corbyn is the norm – in tune with European heads of state

A more stable response comes from many well-informed commentators who explain that Corbyn’s ‘extremist’ ideas are actually in line with mainstream European policy and practice (above: European Socialist heads of state).

In the Financial Times, Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London, has remonstrated with economist Tim Harford, author of the latest two epithets, who accused Corbyn of ‘scapegoating’ and ’xenophobia’ (re requisition of empty foreign-owned property to house the Grenfell survivors).

Freedman believes that this ‘unwarranted criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the (Grenfell Tower) tragedy should be placed in the context of the 2016 FT report ‘s finding of some 9,169 vacant flats and houses in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, adding:

“It is not “xenophobic” to suggest that these homes could be usefully occupied by those who actually need somewhere to live. It is simply common sense”.

 

*Des Freedman Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London

 

 

 

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Revolving Doors 39: NAO calls to order politicians supporting nuclear power

Today the National Audit Office – the public spending watchdog – recommends that the government reconsider whether more nuclear plants are needed and reproves ministers for failing to consider alternative ways of the costs of the Hinkley nuclear power plant, which could have halved the overall cost to households.

The NAO found that the case for building Hinkley Point had weakened while the government negotiated the final deal, partly because alternative low-carbon sources of power, such as wind and solar, became cheaper.

The plant is under construction in Somerset and is due to open in 2025, supplying 7% of Britain’s electricity. However, the NAO report recommends that the government produce a “plan B” to fill the gap in power generation if the project is delayed or cancelled. It notes that projects using the same reactor design in France, Finland and China “have been beset by delays and cost overruns”.

Note senior politicians or members of their families lobbying for the nuclear industry

  • Three former Labour Energy Ministers (John Hutton, Helen Liddell, Brian Wilson)
  • Gordon Brown’s brother worked as head lobbyist for EDF
  • Jack Cunningham chaired Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum
  • Labour Minister Yvette Cooper’s dad was chair of nuclear lobbyists The Nuclear Industry Association.
  • Ed Davey, Lib Dem energy minister’s brother worked for a nuclear lobbyist. When failed to be re-elected went to work for the same nuclear lobbying firm as his brother.
  • Lord Clement Jones who was Nick Clegg’s General Election Party Treasurer was a nuclear industry lobbyist.
  • Tory Peer Lady Maitland is board member of nuclear lobbyist Sovereign Strategy.
  • • Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press spokesperson, has been nuclear lobbyist for over 25 years.
  • Tory Peer Lord Jenkin was a paid consultant to nuclear industry.
  • Tory MEP Giles Chichester is president of nuclear lobbyists EEF

Comment from a Times reader who has long held significant reservations about Corbyn and McDonnell, ”Putting aside their sixth form foreign policy, I’m just about willing to give Labour a shot. If we’re going to have somebody (botching) the public finances I’d rather they did it out of well-meaning innumeracy – with some good ideas like a National Education Service & renationalised railways . . . “

 

Other nuclear industry lobbyists including politicians, journalists, academics and lobbyists are listed here: http://powerbase.info/index.php/Category:Individuals_linked_to_the_push_for_nuclear

 

 

 

 

 

Media 80: election result confirms waning influence of corporate media

Readers from other countries (left) who found the Media 79 article of interest are directed – for a fuller account – to a detailed article in Media Lens discovered after this post was written. As George Monbiot writes:

“The billionaire press threw everything it had at Jeremy Corbyn, and failed to knock him over. In doing so, it broke its own power.

Its wild claims succeeded in destroying not Corbyn’s credibility, but its own. But the problem is by no means confined to the corporate media. The failure also belongs to the liberal media, and it is one from which some platforms might struggle to recover . . .

He adds that broadcasters allow themselves to be led by the newspapers, despite their massive bias, citing the 2015 election campaign, during which opinion polls revealed that the NHS came top of the list of voters’ concerns, while the economy came third – but received four times as much coverage on TV news as the NHS, which was commonly seen as Labour’s strongest suit: “This appeared to reflect the weight given to these issues in the papers, most of which sought a Conservative victory”.

Monbiot records that an analysis by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck College found that, despite the rules on impartiality and balance, when Corbyn’s leadership was being challenged last summer, the BBC’s evening news bulletins gave almost twice as much airtime to his critics as they gave to his supporters. They often ascribed militancy and aggression to him and his supporters, but never to his challengers and quoted one report on the BBC News at 6 which finished with the words,

“This is a fight only one side can win. The others are being carted off to irrelevance. The place for political losers”. The accompanying shot showed a dustbin lorry setting off, painted with the word Corbyn”.

Suzanne Moore also looks at the futile attempts of these tabloids to ‘crush Corbyn’ in the Guardian but in a slightly less crude way the Times and the FT also devoted much space to this end (see the Rachman FT article and cartoon, below) – and signally failed to achieve their objective.

Many ‘ordinary’ people have suspected that social media has been becoming far more influential – Suzanne observing that: “the hope of so many on social media and the tirelessness of those out campaigning contrasted with the stunned, sometimes agonised coverage of the old men who govern the airwaves”.

After detailing the evidence of bias in the Guardian George Monbiot concludes that the liberal media have managed to alienate the most dynamic political force this nation has seen for decades:

“Those who have thrown so much energy into the great political revival, many of whom are young, have been almost unrepresented, their concerns and passion unheeded, misunderstood or reviled. When they have raised complaints, journalists have often reacted angrily, writing off movements that have gathered in hope as a rabble of trots and wreckers. This response has been catastrophic in the age of social media. What many people in this movement now perceive is a solid block of affluent middle-aged journalists instructing young people mired in rent and debt to abandon their hopes of a better world”.

Monbiot asks why it has come to this, even in the media not owned by billionaires – apparently not taking into account that retaining the lucrative corporate advertisements is of crucial importance to    newspapers. He points to the selection of its entrants from a small, highly educated pool of people adding “Whatever their professed beliefs, they tend to be inexorably drawn towards their class interests”.

He ends “We need to interrogate every item of the news agenda and the way in which it is framed” and we enlist his support for Media Lens, which is doing exactly that”. 

 

 

 

 

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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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General Election 2017 – Peace Policies and Foreign Follies

People in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are desperate for strong and stable government. Theresa May is partly why they don’t have it, says Steve Beauchampé.

The General Election campaign has returned after last week’s brief hiatus and with it a volley of unedifying Conservative attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s historic support for a united Ireland and the Palestinian people, highlighting the most tenuous of links and associations.

Yet serious examination of Jeremy Corbyn’s activism shows him to have been on the right side of history and ahead of mainstream public opinion time and again, standing up for anti-racist and anti-apartheid causes, refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality, the LGBT community, environmental issues, animal rights and the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and self-expression long before such things gained widespread acceptance. Perhaps not surprising then that when you campaign in support of so many marginalised groups and outsider causes that you will from time to time encounter those whose frustrations and sense of powerlessness has led them to step outside of the law.

As regards Irish republicanism Corbyn’s attempts to achieve conflict resolution through dialogue may at times have been naive, but were his actions so dissimilar to the approach adopted around the same time by MI5 and later by John Major, both of whom ultimately realised that a decades-old conflict, whose death toll was inexorably rising, could not be won solely by military means?

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s peripheral rôle in the republican cause has been (and continues to be) pored over and examined by his opponents half a lifetime later, the record and judgement of Theresa May with regard to much more recent UK military interventions requires equally forensic scrutiny given her claims to be a fit and proper person to lead Britain.

And frankly, history’s judgement on this aspect of Theresa May is unlikely to be generous. After first being elected an MP in 1997, she voted in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (having already supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the frenzied post-9/11 atmosphere). Like so many of her colleagues on the opposition Conservative benches at the time, May failed to hold the Blair government to account despite the widely expressed caution of many experts over both the reasons for going to war and the lack of a post-conflict plan to stabilise Iraq. Instead, May limply and dutifully gave her support.

What followed for Iraqis has been almost fifteen years of societal breakdown throughout large parts of this once architectural, cultural and scholastic gem of a nation, with swathes of land occupied until recently by Islamic State and a fracturing of the country along religious, sectarian and tribal lines in a way that will be hard, if not impossible, to heal.

By 2011, and as the then Home Secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Theresa May backed the Anglo/Franco-led military action in Libya, which despite its billing as merely creating a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebel fighters, mainly located in the east of the country, quickly escalated into regime change, culminating in the overthrow and lynching of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Again, as a senior government minister Theresa May ignored warnings that historic tribal divisions, the absence of a strong and stable government or a long-term strategic plan would quickly fracture the country.

Six years on and Libya exists in little more than name only. There is no central government, armed militias and feudal warlords hold considerable power, whilst every international Islamist terror group of substance now boasts a flourishing branch office in the country from where they increasingly export their murderous ideologies. And every month, if not every week, scores of desperate migrants, people who long ago lost all control of their lives, drown off the Libyan coast whilst seeking something better than the hell that their lives have spiralled into.

Learning nothing from history and the consequences of her own actions, in August 2013 Theresa May supported Prime Minster David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade MPs to back UK air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The absence yet again of a coherent post-conflict strategy was sufficient for Labour leader Ed Miliband to refuse his party’s support to Cameron, who narrowly lost a House of Commons vote on the issue. The main beneficiaries of such an intervention, with its intention to downgrade Assad’s military capabilities (if not to remove him from power), would likely have been the plethora of extremist groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, principal amongst them the then nascent Islamic State.

Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has continued the supply of British made weapons and military expertise to Saudi Arabia for use in its war crime-strewn bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign which has killed countless numbers of civilians and is fast creating yet another failed state in the region.

Iraq, Libya and increasingly Yemen: countries where British military interventions have created power vacuums swiftly filled by a combination of anarchy, lawlessness, violence and economic depravation, with catastrophic consequences and relentless, unending misery for millions of civilians.

Theresa May supported each and every one of these military interventions. Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of them. So whose judgement would you trust?   

May 29th 2017

Written for The BirminghamPress.com

 

 

 

 

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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