Blog Archives

Could the Stroud formula could rescue Broken Britain? Or will tribalism rule?

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For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).

Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance.  They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.

Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.

Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.

It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.

 

They pointed out the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with. 

Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.

They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.

The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:

“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.

Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.

MPs Lewis and Lucas end:

“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.

“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

Information sought:

People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.

British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.

 

 

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Labour Party infiltration? Have agents – yet again – been ‘planted’ to protect vested interests?

As Simon Jenkins wrote last year: “the rats have gone to work . . .”   

Mainstream media and careerist politicians are continuing to use those whom Jenkins described as “the Blairite retreads in his own party” to discredit the Labour leader whom many view as the country best, indeed – at the moment – only hope.

Today the Murdoch Times has its usual set of articles smearing Corbyn, who would not promote vested interests if elected. A peacemaker with concern for the least fortunate is so bad for business.

But has it gone further? Are the individual party members who make misogynistic, racial or anti-semitic remarks, infiltrators?

The use of arms-length agents is on record and further information about their activities continues to emerge. As many, including Dominic Casciani, the BBC’s Home affairs correspondent have reported, during the 40-year history of the Special Demonstration Squad – the unit at the heart of many of the allegations – police officers used 106 “covert identities”.  Environmental and anti-war protestors were filmed, their mail and phone calls intercepted and undercover police officers (left) deployed to infiltrate protest movements.

Casciani confirmed that official reports had revealed the existence of some of these undercover officers – such as the one who was in a campaign group close to the family of Stephen Lawrence – who helped a senior officer to prepare Scotland Yard for the public inquiry into the London teenager’s murder.

He reported on the legal position adopted by the police and other security agencies in cases involving protection of undercover officers or sensitive sources: “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”.

In the Financial Times, Robert Wright reports Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to meet representatives of the Jewish community to rebuild confidence in Labour, saying. “We recognise that anti-semitism has happened within pockets within the Labour party … I am sincerely sorry for the hurt and pain which has been caused.”

And on Twitter,  he speaks for himself: “I have written to the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of antisemitism. In this fight, I am an ally and always will be. Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement”.

Will this man’s integrity shine through the miasma of accusation and – as has happened to date – will he emerge all the stronger? Many fervently hope so.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Media 77: colluding in “an open invitation to every crazed malcontent to try it again”

Unjust – and unwise

Anne emails, “Of course what happened in London was terrible but my concern is over its reporting” – or, in a link sent by Andy, “over-hyped coverage”.

She compared it with the lack of emotive language in The Independent’s coverage this week of a white supremacist charged with stabbing of a 66-year-old black man in Manhattan. The NYPD said that the young suspect has a deep-seated hatred of black people and had travelled from Maryland to New York to target and kill black men.  Was he not a terrorist? But he was not described as such.

No buildings were flood lit, no sensational description of the killings was given

Then she pointed out that 30 were killed in Syria due to US air attack on a school earlier this week and last week at least 46 people, most of them civilians, were killed and dozens more injured in an air strike on a mosque in Aleppo.

http://www.siasat.com/news/syria-33-dead-us-led-coalition-air-strike-1157431/ (March 23rd report) 

Some lives are more equal than others . . .

The recommended article by Simon Jenkins (below, right) had a more pragmatic concern. It opened: “Wednesday’s assault was a crime. The last thing we needed was our politicians and media hysterically exaggerating it . . . The over-hyped coverage of the Westminster attack will only encourage others”.

Far more are killed & injured by cars (Andy now adds, gov stats: “There were 24,620 people  killed or seriously injured in the year ending June 2016 – not much outrage there”).

He cited the ‘normal’ mode of reporting deaths by knifing in London each year, usually by those who are enraged or mentally deranged, adding “Yet more are run down by cars” and pleads:

“Don’t fill pages of newspapers and hours of television and radio with words like fear, menace, horror, maniac, monster.”

“Wednesday’s assault different was instantly subjected to an avalanche of supposition and speculation . . . Without a shred of evidence, and no “claimed responsibility”, the airwaves and press were flooded with assumptions that it was ‘Isis-inspired’. It was squeezed for every conceivable ounce of sensation and emotion”. Jenkins wisely recommends that even if this had indeed been  “terrorist” act and not that of a lone madman, the way to react is to treat it as a crime:

  • Don’t speculate when you know such speculation will cause alarm.
  • Don’t let Downing Street summon Cobra and drag the home secretary back from foreign parts.
  • Don’t flood central London with hundreds of men with machine guns.
  • Don’t have the police issue interminable empty statements
  • Don’t fill pages of newspapers and hours of television and radio with words like fear, menace, horror, maniac, monster.
  • Don’t let the mayor rush into print, screaming “don’t panic”.
  • Don’t have the media trawl the world for pundits to speculate on “what Isis wants” and “how hard it is to protect ourselves from attack”.
  • Don’t present London as a horror movie set.
  • Don’t crave a home-grown Osama bin Laden.
  • And don’t pretend you are “carrying on as usual” when you are doing the precise opposite.

After referring to the money and jobs lost by this week’s reckless coverage, the liberties the cabinet will curtail, or the million-pound contracts the security-industrial complex will squeeze from terrorised civil servants and ministers, Jenkins ends:

“The actions of the authorities and the media in response to Wednesday have ramped up the hysteria of terror. This was ostensibly a random act by a lone player without access even to a gun. To over-publicise and exaggerate such crimes is to be an accomplice after the act. London’s response to the Westminster attack is an open invitation to every crazed malcontent to try it again”.

 

 

 

 

QE for environmental technology: a political imperative in the run-up to the next election

In the Guardian last week, Simon Jenkins observed that there is too little money around and so a chronic shortage of demand. He adds that Britain and the US addressed this challenge by “printing money”, by quantitative easing (QE).

But QE just channelled billions into bank vaults and boosted reserves, went to stockmarket inflation and into ‘obscene bonuses’.

Jenkins notes that the commentator Anatole Kaletsky has pointed out that if the £375bn of QE had gone to private bank accounts rather than to buying bonds from banks, it would have meant £24,000 per British family and that this would have ‘transformed the demand economy’.

In a letter signed by a number of experienced people, instead of this indiscriminate shower of cash, the advantages of well-targeted “green infrastructure QE” were set down. It would stimulate the economy, boost employment and tackle climate change countrywide by:

  • making the UK’s 30m buildings super-energy-efficient
  • dramatically reducing energy bills,
  • fuel poverty and
  • greenhouse gas emissions.
  • tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brownfield sites
  • providing job security and
  • local business opportunities and
  • rebalancing the economy.

The letter ends by pointing out that the “jobs in every constituency” element inherent in green infrastructure QE means that it should become a political imperative for all parties in the run-up to next May’s election.

The vote on the war in the Middle East: three sources

George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times: MPs sceptical and anxious over Isis strikes

ft.com logo“The vote was decisive and deceptive. An overwhelming majority of 481 gave the impression that the House of Commons was confident in its decision to send British forces to war in the Middle East for the fourth time in 15 years. In fact the mood among MPs was one of scepticism and anxiety – even fear . . .

“During the course of a sombre emergency debate, speaker after speaker stood up to back UK military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, but expressed fears over whether it would work, and where it might lead, in almost the same breath.

commons debate middle east 9.14“The Conservative MP Ken Clarke gave voice to a political class scarred by the experience of previous interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which the former chancellor said had ended in disaster: “What happened in all those cases was that the military deployment produced a situation at least as bad as it had been before and actually largely worse”. Like many other MPs, he concluded that bombing Isis was the least-worst option.

“Yet his short intervention summed up the doubts reverberating around the chamber over what MPs were being asked to approve: the “almost symbolic participation” by the RAF in attacks on Isis targets in Iraq, but not Syria . . . the drift towards a wider engagement beyond Iraq stirred foreboding among MPs who remember the way UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were sucked into an open-ended conflict . . .

“In the upper house, just as in the Commons, the big majorities for British intervention in Iraq did little to disguise the pessimism over its chances of success.

“As Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary, put it: “If we look at the track record of the interventions of the French, the British and the Americans in the Middle East since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, then the odds look as though we won’t succeed. Everything else has gone wrong . . . ”

The Herald reported SNP MPs’ refusal to support air attacks on Isis

herald logoAngus Robertson, the Nationalists’ foreign affairs spokesman, expressed revulsion at the militia group’s reign of terror, which includes beheadings, crucifixions and rapes, and agreed international co-operation was required. However, during an impassioned eight-hour debate, the Moray MP yesterday told the Commons that because there was no coherent plan to “win the peace” in the Coalition’s motion then SNP MPs would vote against it. He said there was “deep scepticism for the potential of mission creep and a green light for a third Iraq war”, given what had happened previously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, adding, “The motion asks for a green light for military action which could last for years [but] there is no commitment in the motion for post-conflict resolution.”

guardian logoIn the Guardian, Simon Jenkins: “This is the moment in any war when peace goes dumb. The cause is just. The enemy is in our sights, and the provocation is extreme. Blood races through tabloid veins. It is white feathers for dissenters”.

“The new Iraq war has no strategy, not even tactics. It is a ` a token, a pretence of a strut on the world stage . . .

“The return to war will reinforce the politics of fear – which is the grimmest legacy of the Blair era in Britain. It has Cameron popping in and out of his Cobra bunker like a rabbit in a hole. Every government office, every train, every airport welcomes visitors to Britain with terror warnings and alerts. Cameron does this because he knows he can only get Britons to go to war by portraying Isis as a “threat to Britain’s national security”. Some Isis adherents may have criminal intent, but that is a matter for the police. Britain survived a far greater menace from the IRA without crumbling. Its existence is not threatened by jihadism. The claim is ludicrous. Cameron must have no faith in his own country.

“The contrast between Asia’s eastern and western extremities is now stark, the one booming, the other descending into catastrophic instability and medieval horror. It is impossible not to relate this to two centuries of western imperialism and meddling. It strains belief that further intervention – through the crudest of all forms of aggression – can bring peace and reconciliation”.

Simon Jenkins: “the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”

Today Donald sent round this valuable link to yet another gem of incisive thought and devastating mockery by national treasure, Simon Jenkins

trident submarine

Political Concern summarises points he made for reluctant or busy readers:

Jenkins “just cannot get enough of the Scottish referendum debate. On every side the unthinkable is thought, the unsayable said . . . revealing swamps of intellectual confusion our rulers would rather keep hidden . . . The murky covers are removed from:

  • North Sea oil,
  • the single currency,
  • the Barnett formula,
  • welfare dependency,
  • the West Lothian question
  • and the fate of Faslane and its Trident submarine base”.

Finance-driven:

No sensible defence expert Jenkins has ever encountered has any time for Trident. Its sole supporters are those with money in the project and lobbyists employed by them: “The world in which these people move is not one of soldiers, guns and bombs but of thinktanks, travel grants and seminars”.

gravy train

Faslane and its missiles will cost British taxpayers £100bn over the next 25 years, but Britain could invade a dozen countries and seize their terrorists for less.

The language is that of faded imperialists . . .

A BBC programme on the topic by Andrew Neil on Tuesday revealed a cast of gloom-laden defence pundits bewailing Britain’s “loss of influence” if Scotland were “lost” and Faslane closed. Our seat at the top table would be removed. Hardly anyone mentioned defence, just prestige . . . out of their time. The only power they know is PowerPoint.

Relocate to Devon or the United States?

american hubris2An intriguing insight into the politics of nuclear weapons is Rusi’s tangential dismissal of concerns over an “accidental ignition of one or all of a submarine’s Trident D5 missiles” and the resulting contamination of 260,000 Devonians. The ignition of the warheads would also make a dreadful mess of Truro . . . but the defence ministry has the right to “waive safety requirements” where it is “in the interests of urgent national security”. The Rusi report discusses basing Britain’s deterrent where it surely belongs, in the US (birthplace of its missiles), particularly as we are told that the Americans retain the secret warhead codes specifically to forestall independent British use.

The sight of a truly daft megaproject has Chancellor Osborne rolling on his back with his feet in the air, cash oozing from every pore

Osborne may be ruthless towards current government spending – he can guard a candle-end – but as soon as each multibillion-pound project – HS2, nuclear power stations, Heathrow runways, aircraft carriers – is announced in Whitehall, Jenkins watches the chancellor and a “rabble of salivating bankers and lobbyists (many of them paid parliamentarians) form a chorus to shout down any sceptic as variously killjoy or unpatriotic. The real victim is always the taxpayer”.

Was the Treasury once so effective?

Jenkins continues: “Not long ago, the Treasury was the one government institution prepared to call the bluff of such megaprojects and hold them to account. It showed lobbyists the door. It was the intellectual powerhouse of the public sector”.

Conclusion: “If the Scottish referendum does indeed force the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent out into the light of day, it is worth it for that alone. If it were to go further and kill Trident stone dead, it would be thank you, Salmond, thank you, Scotland”.

MLK live together smaller

Simon Jenkins on political machismo – Yeo-style

A reader sent a link to the article from which this extract has been taken:

Big-willy politics is the most dangerous politics of all. It appeals to paranoid machismo, not argument or reason.

Yeo’s taunt at David Cameron – is he “a man or a mouse” over Heathrow – is the dumbed-down remark of a politician who takes £140,000 in a year from energy companies while chairing the Commons energy select committee – though this may say more about today’s parliament than about Yeo.

The thesis that any profit to an interest group must be “good for Britain” is insidious.

Read more here.

 

 

HS2: Cameron and Osborne have allowed through a thoroughly bad project – 1, Simon Jenkins’ nutshell

Putting the matter in a nutshell, Simon Jenkins earlier wrote: “Taxpayers must now find £1bn a year in interest payments alone, so a few rich business people can get to Birmingham half an hour earlier.”

From another article – found in archives – Simon Jenkins makes many good points: 
  • Super-speed rail is suitable for countries with cheap energy and long distances between stops, which is not England. It is costly in electricity and depends on premium fares to pay its way.

 

  • The benefit/cost ratio has plummeted to 1.6, meaning that for every £6 spent on the project, only £1 would be gained in economic terms. Such a poor rate of return is normally enough to kill any project.

 

  • The new railway will . . . be voracious of carbon and do little to ease road congestion.

 

  • To be remotely commercial, it must charge high fares – projected to rise at 27 per cent over inflation – and be largely a replacement service for business travellers from Euston, whose first-class carriages are often near empty.

 

  • Commercial lobbyists claim that HS2 would be ‘worth £55bn to business’, which makes it odd that they are not risking a penny on it.

 

  • Taxpayers must now find £1bn a year in interest payments alone, so a few rich business people can get to Birmingham half an hour earlier.

 

He ends: 

Cameron and Osborne should never again complain about Labour debts. They have allowed through a thoroughly bad project. 

Next:

 2: Overview of the rail industry 

3: Reason why this project got off the ground: HS2 lobbyists are embedded in the Whitehall machine led by contractors and consultants.

Sources for posts 2 & 3 as linked above.

HS2: Cameron and Osborne have allowed through a thoroughly bad project – 3: why this project got off the ground

Simon Jenkins: HS2 lobbyists are embedded in the Whitehall machine led by contractors and consultants

“Modern government is addicted to multi-billion-pound prestige projects, from aircraft carriers and health computers to the Olympics and HS2. This reflects the power of headlines, but also of industry lobbyists embedded in the Whitehall machine.

“Last week the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, Sir Christopher Kelly, warned that ‘preferential access to decision-makers’ by powerful interests was damaging respect for Whitehall.

“But what he merely called ‘no smoke without fire’ is a raging inferno, influencing campaigns for military procurement, runways, academy schools and planning changes. Contractors and consultants promised ministers and officials untold glory in return for contracts.

“The HS2 lobby has been led by contractors and consultants who manoeuvred themselves into what has become almost an arm of government. They promised ministers and officials untold glory in return for contracts. The lobby was actually set up by transport officials in 2009 to press their case, largely with the Treasury.

“Since then the HS2 project has been allocated an astonishing £750m of public money – enough for how many schools or hospitals? – without a single spade being turned and before any decision was made to go ahead.”

PCU comment: this is the debased form of government which puts corporate interests before those of the people they were elected to serve.