Blog Archives

Could a phoenix rise from the LibLabCon ashes?

The FT “few question Mr Corbyn’s seriousness and integrity”; Boris Johnson’s verdict: thoughtful, caring and principled


Extracts from an article by George Parker, the FT’s political editor:

Mr Parker said that, in a Europe where anti-austerity parties are on the march, Jeremy Corbyn offers a more radical approach, capturing some of the leftwing anger of Syriza or Podemos: “I have been in Greece, I have been in Spain. It’s very interesting that social democratic parties that accept the austerity agenda and end up implementing it end up losing a lot of members and a lot of support.” He continued:

“He often turned out to be right in the causes he pursued though it did not always feel that way:

  • He backed the jailed Nelson Mandela;
  • spoke up for the people wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA pub bombings in the UK; opposed Mr Blair’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003
  • and engaged with “friends” in Hamas and Hizbollah in pursuit of Middle East peace.

At the time he ‘earned criticism’ but, Parker adds an accolade, “few question Mr Corbyn’s seriousness and integrity . . . he offers ideological  certainty” – in other words he knows his mind and speaks the truth – a rare commodity in today’s politics.

Boris Johnson would say that wouldn’t he?

Writing in the Sun Boris Johnson, London mayor, says: Of course, he won’t actually win this leadership election. His ideas would be economically ruinous and would impose huge new taxes on working people”.

He may well be quite wrong: Corbyn may win this leadership election; his implemented policies could lead to increased employment and higher taxes on those who can afford them may well be used constructively.

Johnson says that the reason Jeremy Corbyn strikes such a chord with the electorate can be summed up in one word: Authenticity: “Whatever you say about the veteran MP for Islington, he has thought about his positions. He cares. And he puts his principles into practice” and asks: “Can you really say he has been as eccentric as all that?

  • He spent decades campaigning for higher minimum wages for workers.
  • Yes, he was one of the early campaigners against apartheid. Quite right, too — these days Mandela is regarded as a kind of modern saint.
  • Yes, he was in favour of bringing the IRA to the negotiating table, a view treated as semi-treacherous at the time.
  • These days he looks prescient — Martin McGuinness meets the Queen and no one bats an eyelid. Yes, he abominated the Iraq war and rebelled countless times against the government of Tony Blair.
  • But these days you look at what is happening in Iraq and Syria — the almost daily bombings and massacres — and you have to respect his judgment.

“The reason he is doing so well is that by comparison with the other Labour leadership candidates — a bunch of relatively anaemic, gelatinous and vacillating opportunists — Jeremy Corbyn looks passionate and principled. And that has lessons for everyone in politics”.

Not convinced? Watch him on Newsnight:

Britain’s last best hope

Can we learn from Syriza, despite the jeers of the ‘narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy’?

Eurozone officials recently had to call off a visit by bailout inspectors to Athens, after Greek authorities objected to a trip similar to previous audits by the “troika” — the trio of creditor institutions (IMF, EC, ECB).

left unity syrizaSeventy people in Birmingham, including a delegation from the Spanish Podemos, came to a Left Unity meeting to hear Marina Prentoulis of Syriza speak about the situation that the new anti-austerity government is facing in Greece.

Even though – as LSE economist, Francesco Caselli writes in the FT – collecting taxes is central to any attempt to rebuild the Greek government’s ability to secure revenues meeting the needs of an industrialised economy, EC uncivil servants were said to have “laughed out loud” and described the Greek proposal to combat value added tax evasion as “quite hilarious, if it were not so tragic”. Caselli comments:

prof francesco caselli”Greece is at the mercy of a narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy ignorant of local culture and history and incapable of recognising truly creative, promising, innovative ideas that might help Greece out of its horrendous predicament”.

“Anyone with the slightest experience of life in countries where value added tax is routinely flouted (a category that clearly does not include the officials in question) knows that no matter how sternly the government promises fines and punishments for the evaders, nothing will change until the deeply ingrained culture of tacit acquiescence by customers is broken”.

Caselli mentions two successful measures which yielded large tax receipts and, “perhaps more importantly, did much to shatter the culture of passive acquiescence”:

  • In the 1990s Italy fined customers who left a shop without a receipt,
  • and Argentina exchanged receipts for lottery tickets.

He adds: “It is a fair bet that eurozone officials would have laughed out loud if confronted with such ideas. Far better to carry on destroying the economy and living standards with the current litany of cuts in employment, social transfers and social services”.

Establishment urged to ‘Keep calm in the face of European populism’ – Greens, SNP, NHAP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP please note

99%-3Knives are out for ‘populism’

First debase its meaning:

A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite, becomes ‘a political ideology claiming’/‘asserting’ that it speaks for the common people’, (FT editorial, 28th December), adding:

“They must persuade voters that core elements of the populists’ platforms are incoherent and unrealistic. If implemented, they would harm the economies, social fabric and international standing of their nations”.

The writer adds that an ongoing search will be made for ‘skeletons’ in the cupboards of senior ‘populists’ which can be used to discredit them – standard political tactics beloved of our British ‘Whips’.

The clearest and most objective account of affairs in Spain and Greece was found in a Bloomberg article by Charles Penty in Madrid:

Podemos, a new movement that grew out of street demonstrations against politicians and banks, won five seats in the European Parliament as Spanish voters lent their voice to protests against mainstream parties. It was co-founded earlier this year on the model of Syriza, now leading polls in Greece, by Professor Pablo Iglesias, other academics and participants of the Indignados movement, born after the 2008 financial crisis.

In September, the Wall Street Journal marvelled: “Something extraordinary is going on in European politics. The populist rebellion saw fringe parties secure almost 25% of the seats in the European Parliament in May”, adding that Podemos is the preferred option for 18% of those likely to vote in Spain, citing an opinion poll by Spain’s state-controlled Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.

Global finance might be on the verge of losing this freedom and facing some borders soon if the latest polls from Spain, Greece and Slovenia prove to be an accurate forecast.

Cameron's real changePodemos calls for political control over the European Central Bank and unlimited purchases of government bonds and appears to be a natural ally for Alexis Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party, which won the biggest share of the vote and six seats in Greece.

In November Srecko Horvat shed some light on Syriza, the most popular party in Greece, with an 11% lead over New Democracy commenting: “If an early general election were held in February, there is almost no doubt that Syriza would finally be able to form a government”.

The FT advises politicians to “renounce the discredited game of making patently undeliverable promises in order to win office. If it is too much to expect them to come fully clean about their past occasional incompetence, they can at least say humbly that they will try their best next time to meet higher standards”.

Not a word is said, however, about the corruption which so often exposed in Britain, and currently making headlines in Spain: see the Economist.

gravy trainThe Spain Report, which accepts no advertisements, opting for original, independent, focused, quality, in-depth news reporting and editorial analysis, comments:

“The contrast between cold-hearted market-focused eurocrats and the will and passion of the poorer people in southern Europe will be very stark indeed.

The FT reassures vested interests: “In most countries, populist parties relish their outsider status and prefer slogan-making to the compromises essential to democratic government”.

Could the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and NHAP, driven by a concern for the public good,  manage to work with and influence UKIP for the better? It would be well worth the effort.