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Keep the engines of capitalism working? Or find a beneficial alternative?

 huffington-post2

Following the summary of yesterday’s article by the Times’ Jenni Russell, a second analysis is made by John Wight in the Huffington Post article. He writes:

“The liberal order has collapsed and no one should mourn its demise, for on its tombstone is engraved the disaster of Afghanistan, the murder of Iraq and Libya, and the unleashing of an upsurge in global terrorism and religious fanaticism on the back of the destabilisation wrought across the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. Married to a refugee crisis of biblical dimension and the closest we have ever been to direct military confrontation with Russia since the Cold War, these are the fruits of this liberal order abroad.

“Meanwhile at home its moral and intellectual conceit has produced obscene levels of inequality, alienation, and poverty, exacerbated by the worst economic recession since the 1930s and the implementation of that mass experiment in human despair, otherwise known as austerity, in response.

adams-common-good“Tony Blair, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton epitomise this failed liberal order – leaders who perfected the art of speaking left while acting right, presenting themselves as champions of the masses, of ordinary working people, while worshipping at the altar of the free market, cosying up to the banks, corporations, and vested interests”.

  • Are Brexit and Donald Trump ‘unleashing the dogs of racism and bigotry’ as John Wight fears?
  • Is hope in Jeremy Corbyn lost? Wight thinks he failed to understand the danger posed by Brexit and mounted a dispassionate and lacklustre nature of the campaign.
  • Was the manner in which Bernie Sanders folded his tent after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination in decidedly dubious circumstances was tantamount to a betrayal of the passion, commitment and hope that millions across America had placed in him?

He emphasises that politics is not a mere parlour game and says that both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are fully deserving of criticism for taking positions and an approach which has suggested that for them it is, continuing:

mlk-live-together-smaller“Demoralisation and defeatism is never an option”.

Agreed, but there are better prescriptions than those he outlines in his final paragraphs.

Jenni Russell sees ‘the anguished question’ as being how to remedy the acute problems of inequality, while keeping the engines of capitalism working.

Should we instead try the engines of co-operation, peacebuilding, mutuality and increasing self-provision?

 

 

 

 

Is anyone seriously contending that the UK is not corrupt?

Via John Wight’s Twitter account we saw a link to an article by Saurav Dutt, novelist, independent film producer, playwright, screenwriter, graphic design illustrator, accomplished author and writer. After James Landale, BBC diplomatic correspondent -amongst many others – reported David Cameron’s description of Afghanistan and Nigeria as corrupt, Saurav Dutt asked if anyone is contending that the UK is not corrupt?

”What the City and the tax havens are up to isn’t anything as morally defensible as corruption – it’s that good old fashioned criminal act of “receiving”. It gives corruption a bad name . . . There isn’t a lot of corruption in the UK, well, not in cash . . . “

india corruption demo

The well-filled envelope type of corruption is common in some countries. How people laughed at Neil Hamilton when it was alleged that he received money in this way – British corruption is less obvious but now well realised by the general public. When will we protest like the Indian people?

As noted in the earlier post, readers send many links to news about the revolving door, rewards for failure, the political influence wielded by the corporate world and lucrative appointments for the friends and family of those with political influence; this is the British way.

Dutt says that corruption comes from the ‘top’ down and is endemic in Western society: “In a fiscal sense it is the banks, financial institutions and ‘big business’ with acceptance from politicians (who also get their cut one way or another) and moves on to a more moral sense with the Police and the legal professions”.

anti corruption APPG header

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption was established in November 2011 to raise awareness of the impact of international corruption and to enhance and strengthen UK anti-corruption policies and mechanisms. Could they answer Dutt’s questions?

  • How many MPs voted for health legislation when they have interests in private health care?
  • Why does Cameron appoint Ministers to the education department who have a direct interest in academies that their companies are involved in?
  • Why does this government give honours to people who have given their party money?
  • Why does this government pass legislation that directly benefits their donors?

As Dutt says “The Transparency International corruption index shows we have some way to go before we reach the dizzy heights of Denmark, and a short stroll down the slippery path to the likes of Qatar and the UAE”.

 

 

 

Antisemitism charges: commercial and political vested interests attempt to counter Corbyn-Labour’s growing popularity

Strange bedfellows, the Murdoch press and Labour Friends of Israel, fear they have much to lose if they cannot reduce the growing Corbyn-led Labour Party lead in the YouGov polls (below) and the ever-growing support for the Labour leader, overtaking David Cameron this month.

labour lead 3

Two days after John Wight’s widely appreciated Herald Tribune article was republished, Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC television, (left) mounted a weak and insubstantial attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the Times, asking Jews not to support him.

danny cohenDescribed as a prominent figure in London’s Jewish community, Danny Cohen asserted that there was a growing problem of antisemitism in the Labour party which would make it impossible for Jewish people to support it under the present leadership: “I am deeply troubled that our main opposition party is having such frequent problems with anti-Semitism”.

Cohen’s reference can only be to a few low-profile individuals of the kind each political party will have, whose influence is minimal compared with the Labour Friends of Israel, whom he completely failed to mention.

LFI members are drawn from the former Blair establishment – many of the party’s most senior politicians, officials, and donors – who appear to believe that Israel is ‘a beacon of democracy in a region beset by extremism and barbarism’ – rather than a selective democracy in a repressive colonising regime.

UK and USA governments and most of their institutions and corporate masters see a huge commercial advantage in unconditional support for Israel regardless of its repeated violations of international law.

As Wight puts it at some length: “It is the fact that Israel’s brutal subjugation of an entire people for the crime of daring to exist is allowed to go on year after year, with the support and connivance of the political mainstream in the UK and throughout the West, which leaves us in no doubt that those who have extended themselves in exposing and rooting out antisemitism are complicit in that subjugation”.

He regards charges of anti-semitism as a response to the growing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and its success in highlighting the injustice that describes the day to day reality for the Palestinians and in breaking through the political cordon sanitaire around Israel that had long prevented any serious challenge to its right to exist as an apartheid state.

synagogue plaqueWhen Jeremy Corbyn emerged as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election last year than he was subjected to an unprecedented media assault for speaking at public meetings attended by representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah while still a backbench MP.

Though Corbyn was usually not directly labelled an antisemite, Wight saw that the inference was clear enough.

London’s Jewish community judges for itself – opposite.

Members of a Jewish family, current and former constituents of Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to the Guardian to say:

“The accusations of antisemitism are, of course, political manipulations. Influential sections of the Jewish community, maybe guided by their Israeli contacts, are frightened that a notable critic of Israel’s policies and actions might attain a position of prominence in British politics”.

They drew attention to the deliberate conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and the ‘hysterical pressure to desist’ on anyone who wants to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah, as being “so destructive to the prospects of peace”.

To date, vested interest prevails: sadly, that which destroys peace is vitally important to the prosperity of prospective party donors: the multinational arms industry and its host of ancillary suppliers.

Support Jeremy Corbyn, honest and honourable, and reject the “frog’s chorus of swivel eyed Tories and Blairites”

Extracts from John Wight’s latest post, which goes right to the heart of the matter:

The huge disparity in wealth and power that exists today in British society has created an chasm in outlook, with the decimation of Labour in Scotland irrefutable evidence of an end to politics as usual. Decades of Thatcherite nostrums, embraced by both Tories and Labour alike, has left millions marginalised and effectively disenfranchised, yet going by the response of the Labour Party hierarchy to the party’s humiliating defeat at the last general election, you would think they were living in a parallel universe.

Mimicking the Tories on austerity, immigration, and welfare can be described as many things, but progressive politics it is not. Austerity is no more than a mass experiment in human despair. It is not only morally reprehensible, it is economically illiterate, given that it is designed to reduce the consumption of the poor and those lower down the income scale, and with it the demand for goods and services that forms the basis of any healthy economy . . .

jeremy corbynJeremy Corbyn represents the last vestige of hope for a Labour Party that is now almost unrecognisable from its founding principles of equality and social and economic justice for working class people.

Its high water mark came in the postwar period, when led by Clement Attlee it came to power committed to transforming British society from the bottom up, challenging and defeating in the process the vested interests and economic power of the elite. It saw for the first time in Britain a government acting as a check on the unfettered power of market forces rather than an enabler of them.

Faced with a national debt of over 200% of GDP its achievements were phenomenal, responsible for forging a humane society in which working people were regarded as the end instead of the means to the end, a first in the nation’s social history.

In 2015 we are living in a cold, cruel, and desolate country in which benefit sanctions, foodbanks, poverty wages, and ignorance reign, governed by a clutch of rich, privately educated sociopaths whose conception of society has been ripped straight from the pages of a dystopian novel.

Jeremy Corbyn remains one of the few members of parliament that have refused to succumb to this normalisation of brutality, and indeed is among the last of the Mohicans within the PLP who can sing the party’s anthem – The Red Flag – at its annual conference without experiencing pangs of hypocrisy.

Political Concern adds two other vitally important points:

  • the highest praise for Jeremy Corbyn’s record on defence and his denunciation of US-UK illegal warmongering which has destabilised and almost ruined so many countries and
  • the fact that he is an honest and honourable MP, serving his constituents who rewarded him with a 21K majority in May this year and very different from the Lords, ministers and MPs who have not only accepted positions from corporates, ‘feathering their nests’ but in some cases have sought and been prepared to accept cash for questions.

John Wight ends, “His bid for the leadership of Labour is a serious one. The only candidate who can legitimately claim to be standing for the values the party was founded on, the political and media establishment underestimate him at their peril. If he wins it will change everything. As such, it is up to us to make sure he does”.


Follow John Wight on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnwight1

 

Austerity 5: austerity v humanity: SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru :

The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark

Another insightful article by John Wight, whose work was featured on this site in February. He celebrates the emergence, on a mainstream platform, of the voice of progressive politics for people in Scotland and all over Britain:

“Nicola Sturgeon, along with Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, outlined a vision of hope as an alternative to the conservatism of the mainstream parties, Labour included, who remain prisoners of Thatcherite nostrums to greater or lesser extent”.

Wight sees Ed Miliband as being ‘in a bind’, commenting “Of course, in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader will cooperate with the SNP and other progressive forces in order to govern”.

Britain is described as being a desolate and callous place with child poverty, pensioner poverty, the demonisation of benefit claimants, immigrants and the ‘othering’ of entire communities.

For those whose lives have been blighted by austerity and (the writer adds) the more fortunate who are totally disgusted with “government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich’ to quote his earlier article, Wight says that hope is more than a word, it is a lifeline.

The country is crying out for an investment-led alternative in order to return sustainable growth to the economy, replacing the policy of economically illiterate austerity, whose outworkings are analysed by the distinguished American Professor Paul Krugman.

Wight concludes the Nicola Sturgeon, “in articulating the need for transformational change, has become the story of the 2015 general election – to such an extent that the old saw, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, needs to be amended to read ‘woman’.

“Austerity v humanity. The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark”.

 

To read his article, click here.

 

Tax cheats (£34-120bn) cost far more than benefits cheats (£1+ bn) – yet far fewer are prosecuted

hmrcAnalysis of HMRC data shows that the political culture is sympathetic to tax avoiders

Summary of an article by Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the University of Essex, which may be read in full here, adding official data confirming the thoughts of John Wight

Social security benefits come in many shapes, including the state pension, pension credits, income support, disability living allowance, employment and support allowance, jobseeker’s allowances and housing benefits.

  • The total cost of all benefits for 2013-14 is about £164 billion.
  • Around £1.2 billion or 0.7 per cent of the total is attributed to fraud. ‘
  • Benefit fraud has continued to average between 0.6 per cent and 0.8 per cent for the period 2005/06 to 20013/14.

The government has set up a benefit fraud hotline and people are encouraged the blow the whistle on their neighbours and anyone else suspected of fraud. The sanctions:

  • a £50 spot fine, without a court order, on individuals who mistakenly provide inaccurate information on their claims forms.
  • Those suspected of fraud may be able to pay fines of between £350 and £2,000 in lieu for prosecution. From April 2015, the upper limit of the fine will be £5,000.
  • Some may lose their benefits altogether for a fixed period.
  • Private debt collection firms, bailiffs and forced house sales are used to collect penalties.
  • Suspects can be charged under the Fraud Act 2006, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The data shows that most of the criminal convictions are for frauds of less than £10,000. In 2011, two-thirds of fines imposed were for £200 or less. The largest fine imposed was £5,000. For the period 2008-2012, some 1,306 offenders received a prison sentence.

Benefit fraud is officially estimated to cost £1.2 billion (2013-2014) but HMRC estimates an annual tax gap – that is tax avoidance, tax evasion and monies of £34 billion (2012-13).

HMRC’s model is challenged by others who put the tax gap at around £120 billion.

Even in 2004, a former World Bank adviser was saying that the UK is losing over £100 billion a year to tax avoidance and evasion. HMRC’s 2013-14 report states that during the year 421 individuals were detained after arrest by HMRC officers, but none were charged.

Preliminary conclusions

The amounts attributed by the government to tax avoidance and evasion are much larger than the amounts attributed to benefit fraud. But the number of prosecutions and convictions for benefit fraud are much greater.

The political culture is more sympathetic to tax avoiders. HMRC was made aware of the HSBC tax frauds in 2008, but so far only one person has been charged. An excuse offered by HMRC is that it likes to make financial recoveries and thus does not go for prosecutions.

The revolving door swings and tax avoiders go scot-free

Vodafone cio to HMRCWe add that in 2013, just as the Treasury was under pressure to review rules allowing Vodafone to avoid paying tax on its massive £84bn windfall from selling its stake in the American mobile phone giant Verizon, HMRC appointed Mark Dearnley, CIO at Vodafone, as its new Chief Digital and Information Officer.

Sikka points out that, on a number of occasions, the courts have declared some of the tax avoidance schemes to be unlawful. This has not been followed-up by any investigation or even recovery of the cost of fighting the schemes. Big accountancy firms are often the brains behind the schemes but no firm or partner has ever been fined even after the schemes have been declared unlawful.

  • The same firms are given taxpayer-funded contracts, such as those relating to privatisation and Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
  • Their partners advise HM Treasury and other government departments.
  • The firms fund political parties and also provide jobs for former and potential ministers.

In April 2013, the government introduced rules to ban companies and individuals who took part in failed tax avoidance schemes from being awarded government contracts. So far, no such business has been barred.

Britain’s government: “of the rich, by the rich, for the rich”

A reader sent this link to an article by John Wight – well worth reading in full – which crystallises the writer’s unease at the difference between HMRC’s treatment of poor tax or benefit defaulters and its leniency to the very rich.

As he writes: “The sheer scale of tax evasion on the part of the rich in the UK is staggering . . . in 2014 more than £80billion was lost to the Exchequer as a result of tax evasion in 2014 . . .

“At the other end of the social spectrum benefit fraud costs just over £1billion each year . . .”

Mr Wight refers to a two tier system of justice:

  • Those found guilty of benefit fraud are maligned, shamed, and demonised.
  • The rich found guilty of tax fraud are allowed to avoid the inconvenience of prosecution and court in return for an undisclosed pay off.

benefit-fraud-cartoon

And adds that “more damning evidence of the extent to which the rich are ‘getting away with it’ is provided by the fact that despite the mammoth difference in cost to the UK taxpayer the resources that have been deployed to crack down on benefit fraud are exponentially more than tax evasion”.

His overview:

“We have in Britain a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, the consequences of which are tangible. With the advent of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, caused by the greed and recklessness of the banks, the government has effected the transference of wealth from the poor to the rich under the rubric of austerity, a process measured in food banks, payday loans, benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, and zero hours contracts at one end of the social and economic spectrum, alongside an increase in the wealth of the country’s 1000 richest people over the same period”.