On Tuesday, politicians from across the political spectrum, campaigners and people from all walks of life (a few pictured below), took part in the Hungry for Democracy action initiated by Make Votes Matter, a 24-hour hunger strike to call for a new voting system, one that truly represents the diverse nature of Britain today.
Labour, Green Party, UKIP, Lib Dems, Women’s Equality Party, SNP, and Plaid all shared a platform to fight for a parliament that truly represents the people.
Proportional representation is advocated to ensure a fairer distribution of legislative seats At present, the power of the vote is determined by geography because of the out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. People feel disenfranchised and ask why they need to vote when the same party always wins in their constituency. In some of those places the winning candidate is elected on under 50%, and in some instances with under 40% of the vote.
In the last election our voting system made a difference in only 99 of 650 seats.
Over 80% of the public in 2017 voted for one of two parties. An estimated 20% of the electorate voted tactically to keep out the party they didn’t want.
Proportional voting systems used for elections in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, have been in place since 1999, providing a good blend of constituency MPs and regional MPs.
Several parties – or groups within parties – are fighting for a manifesto commitment to proportional representation, building a better kind of politics. There could even be a cross-party, shared manifesto commitment to electoral reform and a constitutional convention.
In an earlier post it was noted that “Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor” (John Grisham) 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks”.
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, wrote earlier this month:
“Across Britain some 3.8 million women are affected by the increase to the state pension age. Though there is a good deal of sympathy for the aim of equalising the retirement age, what has taken place in practice has been appallingly unjust. Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans”.
Guy Opperman, work and pensions minister with responsibility for financial exclusion, failed to reassure women in their 60s, hit by changes to their pension, by advising them to get a job or take up “extended apprenticeship opportunities”.
“Raising the pension age for women, often with little notice and sometimes failing to notify people of the changes at all, is a recipe for disaster.
“Many Waspi women affected by state pension inequality have been working full time and paying national insurance since the age of 15 or 16. In my constituency of Easington, the government’s changes to the state pension age will harm some 4,542 women.
“The OECD has recently ranked Britain’s pensions system as the worst in the developed world – yet the Tories are attempting to deny Waspi women even a basic state pension” . . .
“Excluded from the winter fuel allowance, from the free bus pass and now from the state pension, this generation of women are now in numerous cases having to sell their homes, take on precarious poverty-wage jobs or rely on foodbanks . . .
“The government’s given reason for failing these 3.8 million women is that to give them their pensions would cost as much as £30bn – for six years of pensions.
“Yet research from Landman Economics suggests the cost of helping Waspi women would likely be a more modest £8bn”. Morris lists the wider context:
- Refurbishing Westminster will cost the taxpayer some £7bn,
- Britain’s airstrikes in Syria are estimated to reach a cost of around £10bn.
- Increased privatisation of the national health service is estimated to cost at least an extra £4.5-£10bn each year.
- There have been billions of pounds of needless tax cuts to the bank levy.
“In this context finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice and stop poverty from rising to ever more tragic levels. We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women.
Morris: “The prime minister is herself a Waspi woman but I doubt she ever has or ever will be faced with a choice between heating or eating. Yet this doesn’t mean it is too late for the government to do the right thing”.
“The parliamentary ombudsman is currently investigating the Department for Work and Pensions for maladministration, by failing to notify women of the changes to their state pension age. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the Waspi women the government could have to pay compensation to the tune of billions of pounds”
The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Tory MPs support the Waspi campaign.
Twenty years ago, at the Mebyon Kernow National Conference on 4th October 1997, Dick Cole was elected the Leader of the Party for Cornwall. Two decades on, Cllr Cole continues to be a prominent public figure who is still at the helm of MK and serving his local parish of St Enoder on the unitary authority. First elected to Restormel Borough Council in 1999, he was re-elected in 2003 and 2007.
During this time, he balanced his civic duties with his work as an archaeologist (Cornwall County Council). When Cornwall Council was created in 2009, Dick stood down from his employment, so that he would be able to stand for the new authority. He was subsequently elected in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
In the most recent local election from earlier this year, he polled a vote share of 83%. His majority was the largest achieved by any candidate in Cornwall, and this was his fifth consecutive local election contest in which he polled over 75% of the vote.
Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall – is a modern and progressive left-of-centre political party, campaigning for a better deal for Cornwall and a fairer, more equitable world. It exists to fight for ALL the people of Cornwall, with a political programme that puts Cornwall first and offers an alternative to the London-centred parties.
Speaking on behalf of MK’s ruling National Executive, Deputy Leader Cllr Loveday Jenkin has paid tribute to Dick’s work as Party Leader. She said: “Dick’s long-standing commitment to Cornwall and its people is extraordinary. He has been at the heart of so many campaigns and it is truly remarkable that he has found so much energy to battle for Cornish communities over such a significant period of time.
“It is inspiring how hard he has worked as the leader of Mebyon Kernow and as a proactive local councillor. We are extremely proud of the work that he has done pushing for meaningful devolution to Cornwall, fair funding for Cornwall and its public services, as well as his interventions on a host of planning, housing and other matters. It is disappointing that so much of MK’s pro-Cornwall agenda has not found favour with the other political parties in Cornwall and Westminster, but we are determined to continue to campaign with Dick to secure a better deal for one and all in Cornwall.”
Earlier this year, Dick was listed as No. 3 on the “Cornish List” of the top 50 people who “lead the way in campaigning on Cornish issues” and “flying the black and white flag for Cornwall.”
The list was prepared by the Cornwall Live website, for the Cornish Guardian, Cornishman and West Briton newspapers. He has been at the forefront of numerous campaigns for a better deal for Cornwall, its communities, economy and environment. Read about six of his many achievements here.
Cole addressing MK conference
“Over the past few months, the UK Prime Minister made numerous assertions that there would be no snap General Election. She also repeatedly stated that the next General Election would take place in 2020, as specified by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. As a consequence, Mebyon Kernow has not been making preparations for parliamentary elections and, in 2017, we have focused our efforts on the elections to the unitary authority and town and parish councils across Cornwall. Our members consider that the Prime Minister and other Westminster politicians have shamefully misled voters on this matter and are extremely angry at the disrespectful way in which the General Election was announced during local elections. General Election campaigning undoubtedly over-shadowed and subverted the elections to Cornwall Council, where the focus was shifted away from important local issues and onto Westminster party politics, to the obvious benefit of the Conservative Party.”
Dick commented on Facebook that it had been hard to generate coverage in the mainstream media for MK. It announced that the party would not be contesting seats at the 2017 General Election. As a consequence, he then had to spend much of the day dealing with the media – a live interview with Radio Cornwall at 7.00, and recorded interviews with both ITV and BBC Spotlight. It seemed strange that there was almost zero coverage of MK’s local election campaign on television and yet when they announced they were we not going to stand they got full coverage.
He has been personally responsible for more than forty successful grant applications, large and small. In all, over £570,000 has been secured for St Enoder Parish Council and other community groups.
These projects have included the construction of new community buildings, improvements to existing village halls, as well as the purchase and installation of new play equipment and skate parks.
Hopefully one day there will be proportional representation in England, giving Mebyon Kernow and the Green Party the chances that the SNP have in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales.
2014 meeting with Natalie Bennett, then Green Party leader and Emily McIver of East Devon Green Party
Birmingham Press – Corbyn: a man of integrity with decades of experience outwith the political zeitgeist
Author and Birmingham Press contributor, Steve Beauchampé, assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances
Title & headings added:
My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without.
After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Miliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Miliband but without the geeky visage and voice.
That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second).
Corbyn has fended off the criticism and caricatures with ease
Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.
A politician with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’
However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).
A politician with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics
And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters.
A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics
A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.
The Conservative agenda will be thrown into sharper definition
Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.
So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister?
Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.
If . . .
If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.
Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!
Read the Press article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/the-john-peel-of-politics/
Steve Beauchampé, August 5th 2015, adds:
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:
Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax
Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)
Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built
Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords
Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector
The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband
The minimum wage to apply to apprentices
Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS
Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership
Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities
Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed
Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)
Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum
An elected second chamber
On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.
Nearest to dream team for the 99%: Miliband, supported by Greens, Plaid, NHAP and SNP, with Brand as scrutineer?
Economic inequality: inimical to civilised life
The FT recently published an essay by Martin Wolf, their associate editor and chief economics commentator. He said that the extraordinary response to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century revealed that the ground for renewed interest in inequality was already fertile, noting that two experts, the British economist Sir Anthony Atkinson and the French economist François Bourguignon [chief economist at the World Bank] have written books which make important new contributions:
“Those who desire a thought-provoking guide to policy options in advanced countries should grapple with Atkinson’s work”.
Atkinson notes that the US and UK have experienced exceptionally large rises in inequality since 1980 whereas levels of inequality are relatively low in the Nordic countries. He points out that ratios of wealth to national income have risen sharply since the mid-1970s and that a significant part of this increase in wealth belongs to the middle and upper-middle classes, because of the rise in the proportion of the population that owns its own homes, many of which have appreciated greatly in value. Underlying these trends, argue the authors, are complex economic forces:
- technological change;
- the rise of winners-take-all markets;
- financial liberalisation
Specifics: a huge increase in rent extraction and a decline in the egalitarian ethos of the ‘50s
There has been a huge rise in the pay of the business executives who control a large part of the economy’s resources, in extraordinary earnings in the financial sector assisted by the pro-free-market turn by politicians across the world since about 1980, and a decline in the egalitarian ethos that held sway in many countries in the mid-20th century.
Atkinson argues that unequal societies do not function well. The need to protect personal security or to incarcerate ever more people is likely to become a drag on economic performance and inimical to civilised life. If inequality becomes extreme, many will be unable to participate fully in their society.
He points out that the economic argument is that putting a pound in the hands of someone living on £10,000 a year must be worth more to them and to the economy than it would be to someone living on £1m.
His programme of radical reform for the UK is precise and costed, according to Wolf. It begins with the argument that rising inequality “is not solely the product of forces outside our control. There are steps that can be taken by governments, acting individually or collectively, by firms, by trade union and consumer organisations, and by us as individuals to reduce the present levels of inequality”. Policy makers should:
- develop a national pay policy, including a statutory minimum wage set at the “living wage”,
- offer guaranteed public employment at that rate,
- introduce a “participation income” at a national or even EU level, or — as an alternative to such a universal income — social insurance should be made more generous.,
- offer national savings bonds that guarantee a positive real return, and should create a capital endowment paid to all on reaching adulthood,
- return to far more progressive personal income taxes, up to a top rate of 65 per cent,
- make the tax on property should be proportional or progressive, not regressive, as it is now, largely because the main tax on property — the council tax — bears proportionately far more heavily on lower-value housing.
Yet, Wolf comments, history is not on Atkinson’s side. The two world wars and the Great Depression not only devastated private wealth, but also created a powerful sense that “we are all in it together”. Moreover, capital flows were controlled and capitalism was predominantly national.
Wolf: “a situation in which the world’s wealthiest are among the least taxed is indefensible”
Martin Wolf describing Atkinson’s thinking as ‘radical’, takes a palliative line advocating concentrating resources on children, and particularly the children of the relatively disadvantaged. This could in many cases break the multi-generational cycle of deprivation for some families.
He thinks that the sensible, though politically difficult course, is to tax ownership of land and other scarce natural resources more heavily. Furthermore, a tax on lifetime receipts of gifts and bequests, plus wider spreading of educational opportunities, seems to him to be the only way to limit the cascade of unearned advantages across generations.
It is also important to reduce rent extraction, including by corporate management, and to improve co-operation over the taxation of income, particularly income from capital.
Wolf believes Atkinson’s ideas will not be adopted, at least in the UK, even though he recognises that unequal societies do not function well, increasing ‘the need to protect personal security or to incarcerate ever more people, is likely to become a drag on economic performance and inimical to civilised life’.
The writer thinks that some South and Central American countries, Iceland, Scotland, Wales, the Nordic countries and, at present, Greece, have more sense and a desire to promote the common good with the potential to recreate a powerful sense that “we are all in it together”, with capital flows controlled – voluntarily or politically – and a co-operative capitalism, focussing primarily on meeting the needs of all rather than foreign trade and speculation.
Could Miliband, supported by Greens, Plaid, NHAP and SNP, with Brand as scrutineer move firmly in this direction?
Inequality: What Can be Done?, by Anthony Atkinson, Harvard University Press, RRP£19.95/$29.95, 304 pages
The Globalization of Inequality, by François Bourguignon, translated by Thomas Scott-Railton, Princeton University Press, RRP£19.95/$27.95, 200 pages
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.
Earlier this month George Parker of the Financial Times asserted: “it is the state of the economy that remains at the heart of the malaise in British politics”, but his other reflections were nearer the mark.
He said that: “Panic over the rise of the populists is spreading across the Westminster establishment, which is turning on itself in a round of recrimination bordering on self-loathing. With a general election less than six months away, British politics is about to enter a volatile and unpredictable phase”.
Another comment: “Polls suggest voters regard the Westminster class as out of touch and incompetent . . . Global events have exposed the inability of the British elite to identify risks, let alone deal with them. From the financial crash, through the rise of Russian aggression in Ukraine to the surge in Islamic radicalism in the Middle East, Westminster politicians were initially blindsided, then appeared impotent in their response”.
A serious indictment – and he should have added to it a reference to the fatally corrosive effect of the corporate–political alliances which skew decision-making in favour of the already rich.
This is seen as corruption by many, here and in America (see cartoon). It is noted that – in this particular – the Westminster class are far from ignorant and incompetent when adding to their incomes and those of family and friends – aka ‘feathering their nests’.
Mr Parker expresses the sense, among some British voters, that they are victims rather than beneficiaries of globalisation, which – Political Concern adds – has offered so many opportunities for leaders of corporations and governments to enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘rank and file’, vastly increasing economic inequality and environmental pollution.
He continues: “If the mood continues, the next election could see a remarkable rejection of traditional politics . . . neither of Britain’s main parties can expect to win an overall Commons majority in the election, which will be held on May 7. A period of instability and multi-party coalitions – possibly including minority parties as diverse as UKIP, the Scottish National party, Ulster unionists and the Greens – is a real possibility”. And adds:
Both Tories and Labour acknowledge that supporting UKIP has become a cry of pain from people who no longer feel they have a stake in the future and have lost faith in Westminster politicians to help them.
Many will watch with interest campaigns by ‘minority parties’: SNP, the Greens, NHAP, Plaid Cymru, in Cornwall Mebyon Kernow and UKIP, which still gives cause for concern.
Time for change!
Iraq: The End?
Hywel Williams opens:
“So that’s it then. The long awaited conclusion as the final US soldiers leave the country, closing the gate behind them with a kick.
“That’s it. The end. Forget the lies. Forget the war crimes. Forget mistreating and killing defenceless prisoners. Remember the victory instead. Mr Obama needs the big-up before next year’s elections.”
“In Iraq the violence continues, albeit intermittently. And there will be no comfort for the families of those who died, or those dreadfully injured in body and mind . . .
“[N]owhere is attention given to the 150,000 Iraqis killed, a number which remains uncertain because nobody from the Alliance counted them. The same for the lack of support for the hundreds of thousands wounded or who will spend the rest of their days suffering from the effects of uranium bullets and other accursed modern war weaponry.”
“Is the war really at an end when the USA intend to build a gigantic embassy in Iraq with, according to some commentators, up to 13,000 employees, including private sector mercenaries who have shown themselves to be willing to shoot first and ask questions later, in the good old traditions of the Wild West?
“Plaid Cymru . . . tried to impeach Tony Blair before realising that the other parties wouldn’t scrutinise the behaviour of a man who, incredibly, is now a peace envoy in the middle east.
“Was it a pointless war? No chance! The purpose was all too clear, confirming imperial power in an important strategic part of the world already cursed with considerable wealth. Woe is Syria. Woe is Iran.”