David Collins, a Committee member of the Movement for the Abolition of War of Friends of Le Monde Diplomatique and of Veterans For Peace UK, has drawn attention to a video on VfP’s website, “Made in the Royal Navy”, published by Child Rights International Network (CRIN). The film charges the British army with intentionally targeting young people from deprived backgrounds for the most dangerous front-line jobs. It plays on the natural anxiety in boys and young men about how they are going to become a man and go out into the world. Its message is that the Navy will remake the raw youth into a heroic version of the inadequate boy that they once were.
The actual experience of most of these youngsters is set out in a report published in August 2019: Conscription by Poverty? Deprivation and army recruitment in the UK.
This is a long-standing concern of many on our mailing list. In 2011, Britain’s child soldiers – 2 reminded readers that, twelve years earlier, the BBC had reported the British Army was being urged by the United Nations to stop sending young soldiers into war.
Following Symon Hill’s work in The Friend, the Ekklesia website, and a Nato Watch article, an article by Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for Quakers in Britain, pointed out that “with the exception of Russia, and apprentices in Ireland, the British Army is unique in Europe in recruiting at the age of 16. Of 14,185 recruits into the army last year, 3,630 or over 25%, joined under the age of 18 . . . Deprivation and army recruitment in the UK . . . Those joining the army at the age of 16 often come from the poorest and least educated backgrounds. Some have reading ages of a child of half that age. They lack the confidence to seek a change in their career in the same way as those training for professions.”
Ian Davis, the Director of NatoWatch, sent a reference to the post by Symon Hill, now placed on its website. He added that the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, together with War Child, UNICEF UK, the Children’s Society, and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England are calling for the Armed Forces Bill to be amended to end the “outdated practice” of recruiting soldiers aged under 18, a call backed by Amnesty International UK and the United Nations Association.
Five years later Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch presented a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation on the visits of armed forces to schools in Scotland. Over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces in a two-year period, according to a 2014 ForcesWatch report.
A 2016 report by public health charity Medact found that soldiers recruited aged 16 and 17 were twice as likely to be killed or injured when in combat compared to those enlisted when aged 18 or over. Medact also found that they were more likely to commit suicide, self-harm, abuse alcohol and develop post-traumatic stress disorder than older recruits
In May this year, the BMI Journal reviewed an article: Adverse health effects of recruiting child soldiers, published in February. It rejected the main justification resting on fears of a ‘recruitment shortfall’: saying that given the extensive harms described in its report, to put recruitment figures above the health and well-being of children and adolescents seems misguided and counterproductive for both the Ministry of Defence as a governmental body and wider society.The second justification alleging economic and occupational benefits to recruits, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds was also rejected:
“(W)e have seen that it is precisely child recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds who are at highest risk of adverse outcomes in the military. Furthermore, figures from 2017 show that those recruited under the age of 18 constituted 24% of those who voluntarily left the Armed Forces before completing their service—this also increases the likelihood of lower mental health outcomes”.
It supported the views of those of the fourteen organisations mentioned here, recommending that the UK end its practice of recruiting adolescents to the armed forces.
Richard Murphy of Tax Justice, has drawn attention to some key sections of the report by Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur (below), highlighted by Scottish think tank CommonSpace.
“It might seem to some observers that the Department of Work and Pensions has been tasked with designing a digital and sanitised version of the nineteenth century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens, rather than seeking to respond creatively and compassionately to the real needs of those facing widespread economic insecurity in an age of deep and rapid transformation brought about by automation, zero-hour contracts and rapidly growing inequality.”
Employment is no escape from poverty
“Almost 60 per cent of those in poverty in the United Kingdom are in families where someone works, and a shocking 2.9 million people are in poverty in families where all adults work full-time. According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, 10 per cent of workers over 16 are in insecure employment. And 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis, employees’ median real earnings are, remarkably, still below pre-crisis levels.”
Eat or heat
“People said they had to choose either to eat or heat their homes. Children are showing up at school with empty stomachs, and schools are collecting food and sending it home because teachers know their students will otherwise go hungry. And 2.5 million people in the United Kingdom survive with incomes no more than 10 per cent above the poverty line –just one crisis away from falling into poverty.”
“In England, homelessness rose 60 per cent between 2011 and 2017 and rough sleeping rose 165 per cent from 2010 to 2018. The charity Shelter estimates that 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless, and recent research by Crisis suggests that 24,000 people are sleeping rough or on public transportation –more than twice government estimates. Almost 600 people died homeless in England and Wales in 2017 alone, a 24 per cent increase in the past five years.26There were 1.2 million people on the social housing waiting list in 2017, but less than 6,000 homes were built that year.”
The disappearing safety net
“The Special Rapporteur heard time and again about important public programmes being pared down, the loss of institutions that previously protected vulnerable people, social care services at a breaking point, and local government and devolved administrations stretched far too thin. Considering the significant resources available in the country and the sustained and widespread cuts to social support, which have resulted in significantly worse outcomes, the policies pursued since 2010 amount to retrogressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations.”
Ideological, not economic
“The ideological rather than economic motivation for the cutbacks is demonstrated by the fact that the United Kingdom spends £78 billion per year to reduce or alleviate poverty, quite apart from the cost of benefits; £1 in every £5 spent on public services goes to repair what poverty has done to people’s lives.40Cuts to preventive services mean that needs go unmet and people in crisis are pushed toward services that cannot turn them away but cost far more, like emergency rooms and expensive temporary housing.”
Harm done by Universal Credit
“The Special Rapporteur heard countless stories of severe hardships suffered under UC. These reports are corroborated by an increasing body of research that suggests UC is being implemented in ways that negatively impact claimants’ mental health, finances and work prospects. Where UC has fully rolled out, food bank demand has increased, a link belatedly acknowledged by the Work and Pensions Secretary in February 2019.”
“One of the key features of UC involves the imposition of strict conditions enforced by draconian sanctions for even minor infringements. As the system grows older, some penalties will last years. The Special Rapporteur reviewed seemingly endless evidence illustrating the harsh and arbitrary nature of some sanctions, as well as the devastating effects of losing access to benefits for weeks or months at a time.”
Women and poverty
“Given the structural disadvantages faced by women, it is particularly disturbing that so many policy changes since 2010 have taken a greater toll on them. Changes to tax and benefit policies made since May 2010 will by 2021–2022 have reduced support for women far more than for men. Reductions in social care services translate to an increased burden on primary caregivers, who are disproportionately women. Under UC, single payments to an entire household, which are the default arrangement, can entrench problematic and often gendered interpersonal dynamics, including by giving control of payments to a financially or physically abusive partner.”
The ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ may be read in full here.
The recent by-elections gave cover for the latest government announcement of emergency legislation inflicting further cuts on disabled people – ‘a good day to bury bad news’.
Two tribunals had ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which helps disabled people fund their living costs.
- One ruling found that someone who needed support at home to take medication or monitor a health condition like diabetes would score the same on the benefits criteria as people who needed help with a demanding procedure such as kidney dialysis.
- A second ruling said people who struggled to travel independently because of conditions such as anxiety scored the same as someone who was, for example, blind.
Ministers then swiftly revised the law to deny the increased benefit payments to more than 150,000 people.
A Lib Dem work and pensions spokeswoman said it was outrageous that the government was using the ruling to make matters worse for disabled people: “What makes things even worse is that they have sneaked this announcement out under the cover of [Thursday’s] by-elections.”
From April, it is reported that new claimants will see a reduction of £29.05 in their entitlement, which will fall to £73.10 a week. This follows on from the cuts that the DWP tried to implement last year, which resulted in Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation.
Liz Sayce from Disability Rights UK said: “We’re not aware of one single disability employment or benefits expert who thinks this particular cut will be an incentive for disabled people to get a job.”
Unfortunately this logic, and a host of scathing comments seen in the Metro won’t pierce the thick skins of affluent legislators and further deprivation will hit the least fortunate in many sectors.
On 14th July a Moseley reader emailed to say “Theresa May’s speech yesterday sounded more left wing than your mate JC!”
My reply was a one year snapshot of her actions in office which belied this humanitarian stance, published earlier on this site:
- In 2010 she suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
- On 4 August 2010 it was reported that May was scrapping the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
- This was followed on 6 August 2010 by the closure of the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbiéchild abuse scandal.
“Rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.
This is another of Ms May’s Corbyn-like soundbites made shortly after Corbyn’s description of what he saw as the difference between the Conservative and Labour offerings, in the form of a question:
“Do you want to be bargain-basement Britain on the edge of Europe, cutting corporate taxation, having very low wages, having grotesque inequalities of wealth? Or do you want to be a high-wage, high-investment economy that actually does provide decent chances and opportunities for all?”
We read that Theresa May has launched a cabinet committee on the economy and industrial strategy, which she is to chair; it will bring together the heads of more than ten departments and focus on “rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.
Is Corbyn the most powerful, though least acknowledged of Theresa May’s advisers on the political economy?
If only she would heed him on nuclear and foreign policy issues.
In their latest post, Media Lens say that people on the political left embrace Bernie Sanders because he talks honestly about corporate control of society. We include a summary of their article here, believing that the British media is also, to varying degrees, an ‘arm of the ruling class’.
- Sanders talks about the causes of vast and shameful inequality in the world’s wealthiest country.
- He talks about corporate media bias rooted in advertiser funding.
- He talks about ‘whether or not we think it’s proper for the United States to go around overthrowing governments’.
They see Sanders’ recent discussion with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) show as an astonishing departure from standard, six-second soundbite politics. Imagine a high-profile UK politician talking like this about the media:
‘First of all, we’re talking about the corporate media, right?…We need to break through the fog of the corporate media, which does everything that they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues. I’m on the corporate media every single day and you don’t know how hard it is just to try to demand that we begin to talk about the real issues. They really do not want to. They talk about everything under the sun, but not the real issues.’
Sanders is not arguing that the corporate media is merely biased, or unbalanced, in reporting issues; he is arguing that it never talks about real issues.
He offers a jaw-dropping example: ‘Here’s the story. I have been mayor for eight years, Congressman for sixteen, a US Senator for nine years. Do you know how many times people in the media have said: “Bernie, what are you going to do to end poverty in America? This is an outrage! We have 47 million people in poverty, what are you going to do about it, Bernie?” The answer is zero. Not once.’
The remarkable result, as Sanders notes:
‘Concepts of income and wealth inequality, concepts of justice, learning what goes on around the rest of the world [are] never talked about in the corporate media.’
So what is going on? Why won’t corporate media discuss real issues?
Sanders explains: ‘I had to write a letter to the presidents of all of the networks to tell them that on their Sunday shows they never talk about climate change. Almost never talk about it. Why? Well, does it have to do with the fact that they get a lot of coal company and oil company money advertising? I think it does. They don’t talk about it.’
He is correct. The not-for-profit Media Matters for America reported that, despite ever-worsening warnings of the dangers and a long list of broken temperature and other records, media coverage actually declined in 2015. (Much more detail is given in the article, link below). He adds:
‘I want a vigorous effort to address climate change. I mean, I am very worried. I talk to these scientists. This planet is in serious danger. You can’t cuddle up to the fossil fuel industry; you’ve got to take them on.
‘The fact is that big business does not want the public to be alarmed about climate change because people will demand action that will cut into corporate profits’.
‘So the media is an arm of the ruling class of this country and they want to talk about everything in the world except the most important issues. Because if you talk about real issues, and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change.
‘They are scared to death. They get scared to death of the idea that young people are actually getting involved in the political process and want real change. That working class people are saying, “You know what, we need to end establishment politics and economics, and move in a different direction.” That is their nightmare.’
After a passage about the press coverage shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Corbyn received during the leadership campaign Media Lens editors end:
Like most leftists, we support Sanders’ comments and reject the liberal commentariat for reasons to do with concern for the welfare of all citizens, not just the rich, and above all out of fear for the survival of our species and planet. Business as usual – with corporate power subordinating everything to profit – is now the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. As Klein says, and she is not overstating: ‘If the next president wastes any more time… the climate clock will run out, plain and simple.’
Read the Media Lens article here: http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2016/816-last-chance-president
Politicians and corporate donors from wealthy countries often flaunt their use of donations to accelerate development in impoverished regions.
More accurately, at a Glasgow business conference a week ago, David Cameron changed last year’s rhetoric about pride in aid for one of self-interest, saying that British firms should not be “embarrassed” about cashing in on the Government’s overseas aid spending and insisting that the country would gain “commercial benefits” in return for the multi-billion pound handouts to developing nations.
A coalition of UK and African researchers has confirmed this, releasing research findings in the Health Poverty Africa report illustrating how Africa actually loses $192 billion – over six times the $30 billion it receives annually in aid.
Their research published recently indicates that current practices within the continent tend to favour wealthy countries. These include:
- tax evasion and illicit financial outflows,
- $21 billion on debt repayments annually – some ‘odious’ debt,
- illegal fishing and logging,
- repatriation of multinational companies’ profits,
- costs incurred from adapting to and mitigating climate change,
- and the exodus of skilled workers (brain drain).
“The report highlights that Africa is essentially not poor. A combination of inequitable policies, massive disparities in power and criminal activities perpetrated and sustained by wealthy elites both inside and outside the continent are keeping its people in poverty. The UK and other wealthy governments are at the heart of this theft”.
“For example, the continent haemorrhages $35.3 billion annually through the tax evasion and other dodgy financial flows enabled by tax havens. These tax havens are jurisdictionally linked to the G8 and the European Union and account for 70% of global tax haven investment. The UK has 11 tax havens under its jurisdiction!”
Page 16 of the report points out that, “It would be logical to assume that countries rich in resources would have lower levels of poverty and higher well-being but in fact the reverse is true. Of the world’s poorest one billion people, one-third live in resource-rich countries. Resource-rich countries account for nine of the 12 countries at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI), a measure of wealth, life expectancy and education”.
The authors of the report attribute this state of affairs to the impact of corruption facilitated through tax havens and secret corporate activities.
Source: Think Africa Press
Anne-Marie O’Reilly has sent an emessage pointing out that 27% of children in the UK are growing up in poor families, 20,000 disabled people will lose support for the basics in life when the Independent Living Fund closes and thirteen times more people are visiting foodbanks than did five years ago.
Despite this Britain’s military spending was set at £38 billion in 2014 – a figure confirmed by the Financial Times.
She itemised Budget proposals:
- £570 million of public money for upgrading the UK’s nuclear weapons
- £700 million to subsidise arms exports,
- £2.5 billion for new fighter jets,
- £6.2 billion for new aircraft carriers
As CAAT’s Outreach Co-ordinator she stresses that it’s time to shift priorities. It is hoped that a Global Day of Action on Military Spending on Monday 14th April will turn the tide on military spending and readers are asked to share these powerful spending comparisons on Twitter and Facebook.
Global Day of Action on Military Spending event in India 2013