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Elite stranglehold on Britain – unbreakable?

As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

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Corporate/political interests threatened by the public support for Corbyn’s caring policies

The corporate world continues to make vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader, whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles.

corbyn a threat graphic

Brief reference will be made to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. One reflection on each sector will be given here – of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade

Steve Beauchampé: “A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”. The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Theresa drew attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. At the time, the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news. The world’s largest manufacturer of low-cost vaccines said that British taxpayers are paying for excessive profits earned by big Western drugs companies.

Construction

Most construction entries relate to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors are already owned by foreign investors. In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food and compromising food security. She sees big business making fortunes from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are exploited, also putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers and their families. Large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand. She ends, “They do this simply because they have the power to do so”.

Pollution

Government does not act on this, appearing to prioritise the interests of the corporate world. The influential transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air  pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. Last November a report found that waste incineration facilities and cement plants across Europe, had seriously breached emission limits. Intensive agriculture’s lavish use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers has also released harmful chemicals into the air, in some cases causing water pollution. Manufacturing industries and petroleum refineries produce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds and chemicals which pollute the air. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma. The burden of particulate air pollution in the UK in 2008 was estimated to cause nearly 29,000 deaths. DEFRA’s report for 2013, however, does not refer to health impacts, though admitting serious levels of air pollution.

Some features of the corporate-political nexus summarised: victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door

  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances. Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence. Paul Gosling gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

As Steve Beauchampé reports (link to follow), there is a coterie of arch-Blairite, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs who never accepted the decisive democratic mandate Corbyn secured last autumn:

JC large rally

“Mann’s very public intervention can be interpreted as a calculated move to undermine the party’s electoral chances this Thursday . . .

“Realising that they have at best 4-5 months to try to oust him before reforms anticipated at this September’s party conference transfer crucial powers from the party hierarchy into the hands of members, the forthcoming elections will be used by Corbyn’s adversaries as an excuse to try and replace him”.

Will increasingly media-sceptical people – who support Corbyn because they seek the common good – hold firm?

 

 

For the common good: economists advocate a moral vision to rescue our manipulated, extractive and highly unequal economy

mark mazowerMark Mazower, a British professor of history based at Columbia University, writes in the FT that the moral reasoning that lay behind the Greek election result began from a simple insight: that the economic trauma of the severity Greece has suffered is destroying society:

“With youth unemployment above 50%, an entire generation is being consigned to the scrap heap. At the same time, the notion of the common good is being sacrificed through forced sell-offs of state-owned lands as well as businesses, with the prospect of ecological destruction as a result.

“What is the moral vision the creditor nations propose?

“Frugality is not a policy. And if finance is to serve Europe rather than run it, a notion of the common good needs to be restored. The alternative is an increasingly fractious continent”.

Urban Britain also has a disturbing level of youth unemployment and has sold its state-run utilities for a pittance to foreign companies

michael wilkesTo replace our “desiccated, manipulated, disloyal, extractive and highly unequal economy that has been allowed, and – by some administrations – encouraged”, Birmingham-based economist Emeritus Professor Michael Wilkes advocates a new discipline, socionomics, 

A citizenry of good intent

He acknowledges that the social and moral education needed to produce a citizenry of good intent that will make the socioeconomic system work properly and sustain it for future generations, and that winding back globalisation will take longer and will involve more people and organisations and other countries.

Wilkes advocates certain steps that could be taken immediately:

  • the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation,
  • the introduction of living wages,
  • the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance,
  • the undertaking of thorough corporate reform
  • and the recreation of an active, interventionist and self confident public sector.

He concludes: “These measures would represent leadership in its finest form. This, and the promotion of the concept of stewardship in place of the present self serving forms of ‘leadership’ ”.

FOR THE COMMON GOOD: architect and environmentalist, James Bruges

 

We now turn from the three described in the last post by Max Hastings, as being without ‘a scintilla  of decency’ to another working, like Professor Bailey, for the common good. 

A brief summary of James Brugesthinking on monetary reform

You may find it hard to believe but that’s how money is created – out of thin air – not for the needs of the country, but for the benefit of banks.

It’s so cynical, when I first heard it I could scarcely believe my ears. However, the governor of the Bank of England has confirmed it.

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, put it like this in 2010. “The essence of the modern banking system is the creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks’ often foolish lending.”

OK, it’s a bad system, but it’s what we have and to change it would be difficult. Or would it?

The campaign for monetary reform has set out in detail how the change would take place.

A Money Creation Committee would increase or reduce the money supply on a monthly basis to keep inflation at 2%, making sterling the most stable currency in the world.

 How would it affect you and me?
  • Household debt – yours and mine – stands at a staggering £1,500 billion, equivalent to ten-years’ worth of income tax revenue. It is the nation’s money, which the banks have been allowed to create out of nothing, so it belongs to the nation.
  • Premiums would return to the government, which would use this revenue for welfare, schools and hospitals.
  • Half of it would be distributed as a citizen’s dividend with the requirement that you must first eliminate your remaining debts.
  • Household debt would drop dramatically, austerity measures would no longer be necessary and your mortgage would diminish.
Banks would, once again, provide us with a useful service and my fury would evaporate.

 *

The New Economics Foundation has published “Where Does Money Come From?” which is now a university textbook.
James Robertson has written “Future Money”.
Positive Money has an engaging website with videos and has published “Modernising Money”.
 
The full, updated text may now be seen here: http://neweranetwork.info/reports/why-austerity-james-bruges-21-3-2013/

 

FOR THE COMMON GOOD: encouraging the uptake of low carbon vehicles

Professors David Bailey and Nigel Berkeley (Coventry’s Applied Research Centre for Sustainable Regeneration) agree that, as new markets often need some state support to get moving, government is right to encourage the take-up of low carbon vehicles. They find, however, that its attempts have failed to have any significant real impact – to date.

They regret that the Plug-in Car Grant for private car buyers and fleets, worth up to £5,000 and available for the purchase of at least nine electric cars, failed to have any significant impact due to poor advertising and promotion, in marked contrast with the scrappage scheme of 2009-10.

Promotion of the findings of the Technology Strategy Board funded low carbon vehicle projects, with regard to the performance, practicality and suitability of EVs is recommended, to enable car buyers to make informed choices.

The latest data from the plug-in grant scheme is cited, showing that just over 3,000 electric vehicles have been registered to date and – according to the DfT website – around 3,000 charging points installed, currently many more points than electric cars.

Electric buses are now running on park-and-ride routes in Coventry

Electric buses are now running on park-and-ride routes in Coventry

Instead of the proposed award of £37 million of funding for the installation of thousands more electric vehicle charging points across the UK, government is advised by Bailey and Berkeley to look beyond private mass market purchases:
  • car2go3It could give subsidies to encourage the use of EVs in clubs/schemes that operate on a car share, pay-as-you-drive hire basis, such as Car2go. Currently operating in London, drivers can hire vehicles by the minute with fuel, insurance, road tax, and maintenance included in the price. They are exempt from the congestion charge and have free parking.

 

  • Subsidies could also promote the replacement of public and private sector fleets with EVs. Two micro-level initiatives from Coventry and Warwickshire are worth highlighting. Electric buses are now running on park-and-ride routes in Coventry.

 

EV doctors trialJust Auto reports that in Warwickshire doctors from two local health centres will trial Peugeot iOn EVs for local home visits, prescription delivery and on-call services.

The EVs have been fitted with tracking devices to enable their journeys to be recorded throughout the project with data being analysed by Coventry University to see if electric vehicles are suited to the needs of UK GPs, health centres and similar rural businesses.

Read their blog about charging-up the market and sparking interest in electric cars here: http://blogs.birminghampost.net/business/2013/03/electric-cars-sparking-an-inte.html

Professor David Bailey and Professor Nigel Berkeley both work at the Applied Research Centre for Sustainable Regeneration at Coventry University Business School.