Category Archives: Economy
Mervyn Hyde writes: “I feel that in order to get to the heart of our struggle we need to highlight where power lies and the tools by which the powerful maintain their interests”.
If we are to convince people that there is such a thing as a better life, we have to inform them of the past and how things have to come to pass – from the first world war to the present day
It should of course be obvious that neoliberalism is the main tool that took hold in the early 1970s; the other tools are the institutions and language used to propagate the messages that sustain the whole system.
An American description:
Prior to the 1970s a pre-war dispute raged between Friedrich Von Hayek and John Maynard Keynes as to what economic values best served people’s interests. Naturally Keynes won the argument and his policies were broadly implemented post the Wall Street crash and the last world war; they created growth and an expansion of living standards never seen before.
- Greater openness to international trade and investment;
- total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services;
- de-unionisation of workers, lowering of wages and working conditions;
- cutting public expenditure for social services like education and health care;
- reducing the welfare safety-net;
- eliminating the concept of “the public good” and replacing it with “individual responsibility”;
- increasing government subsidies and tax benefits for business;
- reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits;
- selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors.
“The Golden Age of Capitalism”
Then in the 1970s Milton Friedman (part of the Mont Perelin society of which Hayek was also a member) persuaded us that freedom of expression could only be achieved through free markets, privatisation and deregulation – the main pillars of neoliberalism.
Using crises created by the corporate sector or by political events as outlined in Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”, they redrew the political consensus that had existed since the war. This process has been in continual flux up to the present day but moving ever forward to return all public property and services into the private sector – aided by politicians, political institutions “Think Tanks” and Lobbyists.
The reasons for their success have been the coordination of all the instruments of state, a corrupt media and stage-managed attacks on working people’s support systems.
This document drawn up by Nicholas Ridley in 1977 shows the kind of planning the Tories drew up long before trade unions ever dreamt of such attacks.
The key proposals are in the confidential annex, showing how they break the power of the unions in order to privatise the nationalised industries.
Following this and the advent of the Thatcher era, the Labour Party had been either infiltrated or through our universities – MPs began to accept greater degrees of private intervention and took neoliberal doctrines as read into the future.
Whilst outwardly objecting to the harsh nature of Thatcherism as it was then known, more and more Labour politicians have become wedded to it. Even today over 100 Labour MPs are still committed neoliberals although would never admit it.
Margaret Thatcher and her chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe were behind a politically toxic plan in 1982 to dismantle the welfare state, Margaret Thatcher’s secret 1982 cabinet papers “the longer term options” released in 2012 are reported to have caused consternation amongst her colleagues and she later disowned them.
Mervyn Hyde adds, “The actual archive link can be found here, noting that it is viewed through archive viewer, so you have to click on where it says Image viewer” – but as yet the writer has failed to see them.
Until now this has been the general trajectory, in essence neoliberal politicians of all colours have collaborated to achieve the same ends, a transfer of power and wealth to the corporate sector.
From here on, what do we have to recognise in order to bring about change that will irrevocably transfer that power back into the hands of the many?
The last election could be described as a text book analogy revealing how, over the last three years, established sources combined to defeat the one and only enemy they have – socialism. Using a fabricated crisis and the perfect divisive outcome of the referendum, they were able to manipulate just enough people and confuse the rest, whilst weakening support for the Labour Party from within. The elements brought to bear to achieve this were: racism, ignorance, and apathy, aided by a complicit media that feeds prejudice and hate as well as confusing information.
Neoliberal doctrine has successfully divided the nation into fragmented parts, creating an illusion that this is how life really is. People have over the last forty years grown to accept the conditions two-thirds of us now see as normal – roughly one-third being dedicated to opposing the illusion.
For this minority ever to break out of the cordon set up by the establishment, they must recognise that those within our movement have to be challenged, as well as those outside it. That means challenging these orthodoxies:
- we can’t afford our public services,
- private enterprise is efficient and will increase the well-being of people,
- competition is no longer relevant,
- deregulation brought about the financial crash
- and the myth that we need rich people and financiers to provide us with wealth to sustain our life style
Apart from the media and its influence we also have to recognise that a lot of people seem not to care about anything except their own interests and it will require substantial efforts to break them out of their mould. When told that the NHS is being dismantled, their eyes glaze over – some would even say ‘oh well it needs changing anyway’ without the slightest knowledge of what they were talking about. Hyde calls this a form of blind faith that either they won’t suffer from these changes or they just won’t happen and things will go on as they have done; he points out that the reality is that the agenda will roll on and possibly over them.
The way to break out of this from his point of view is to challenge power at its source, be that the media or government and change the way members of the party think essentially through educating them.
Rebuild our manufacturing base via public investment, which would make our economy much more stable
Again through general ignorance lots of good people in the Labour party are oblivious to Britain’s real economic position. Some have socialist beliefs on how they can transform our well-being, but they still don’t understand that Britain’s position is unique in Europe, due to the fact we have our own currency and as such can spend directly into our economy, without the need to raise taxation, which would be used as a regulator of the economy.
What this also means is that we do not have to rely on trade to raise income, since Margaret Thatcher dismantled our manufacturing base we are a net importer of other countries finished goods, we could therefore rebuild it via public investment, which would make our economy much more stable and even export some of what we produced. Doing nothing as we are is financially unstable (Ed: also socially damaging).
This video of Professor Costas Lapavitsas (above, SOAS) breaks the EU illusion held by lots of Labour supporters, by describing in detail why getting out of Europe is essential. But after seeing the video readers may also find that we are not likely to get a genuine settlement no matter how hard we try.
Fundamentally the countries in Europe (Eurozone) can only spend into their economies by raising Euros through trade, this causes huge disparity among EU members especially those in the south, and the only real winner in this is Germany with its massive manufacturing base. This creates such an imbalance of trade and power that it can’t theoretically survive unless changes are made, like becoming a federation of states subsidised by the European Central bank, which breaks all the neoliberal trade rules they have put in place. This graph clearly describes the fundamental imbalance that currently exists:
Hyde sees a need to challenge the perception of Labour Party members that somehow Europe is some sort of economic Utopia that will defend our interests and feels that due to the problems facing Europe, sooner or later the whole pack of cards will fall in.
In addition to the economic problems facing Europe fascism is on the rise. Germany is still the richest country in Europe with massive trade surpluses, yet it has consistently produced right of centre governments and coalitions. As in England the left suffered defeats even though wages and living standards were falling under right wing regimes – due of course as here to the perception that the neo-liberal centrist politicians were no better than their counterpart conservatives. Since the war the predominant party coalitions have been centre right. So Hyde feels it would be better to concentrate on attacking the establishment and describing how Britain, with its unique position, can effect change more rapidly than any other.
Within our ranks we have neoliberal MPs dedicated to undermining any socialist advances
“When Blair first took office as prime minister, I attended one of his members’ forums in Reading, and after he gave his speech, a member asked the question, “where was the socialism in his speech” and Blair replied, “socialism is dead”. Judging from some of his old front benchers and their comments over the years I have no doubt they hold the same views and won’t ever change. the Lisa Nandys of this world etc. Our messages have been stifled and diversions such as anti-semitism have been created and not adequately rebuffed; hence we now need a voice strong enough to call out the lies and deceit in the media.
“This is not a full explanation of the need to change perceptions about our economy and relationship with Europe, there are a number of academics that highlight just how bad Europe is and how progressive Britain could become with the right government in place, but trying to change Europe from within as explained by Costas is virtually impossible.
“Changing those perceptions and ridding the Labour Party of those who actively work against us is the priority. Identifying LibDems, New Labour, and the Tories as being the same is essential to growing support, which they are, although they would claim they are not as extreme as Johnson etc., the reality though is no different; they all have the same objectives, just faster or slower time- tables – in fact if you listen to them they all use the same language, which is the big give-away.
“We lost the last election for many reasons, some of which I have outlined here, Jeremy’s only fault as Ian Lavery said, was that he wouldn’t join Johnson in the gutter. Sadly our unsophisticated electorate didn’t comprehend his magnanimity and – if we are to cut through – we need to speak the language they understand, without of course getting in the gutter to do it”.
He asks how climate change can be tackled effectively, stressing that the poorest countries should not focus on reducing their CO2 emissions, which are already extremely low – three-quarters of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, and commenting: For low-income countries, development has to be the priority, and this relies on energy. If that energy is to be green, then OECD countries should take responsibility, providing technology and financial support. “The great global injustice of climate change is that the peoples who have contributed least to the problem are the most vulnerable to its effects”.
Ann Pettifor’s book The Case for the Green New Deal succinctly explains what the Green New Deal (GND) is, where the idea came from, why it’s necessary, and how to make it happen. It was conceived a decade ago by a group of British economists and environmentalists and recently popularised by progressive US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
GND measures to decarbonise economies which will create millions of jobs include:
- investment in renewable energy and zero-carbon public transport;
- upgrading buildings for energy efficiency;
- building “smart” distributed power grids to provide affordable clean electricity to all; reorganising the food system;
- ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry;
- and prioritising basic needs.
But though OECD countries need to cut emissions by 80% over the next decade fiscal revenue isn’t sufficient to finance large-scale green development. Economist and an expert in monetary theory, Ann Pettifor is well placed to describe how the GND can be funded.
With a tightly regulated financial system based on publicly-controlled and accountable central banks, it’s possible to fund a Green New Deal that will eliminate waste, transfer green technology to the rest of the world and build a fairer, more equal society.
Citing China’s effective deployment of capital and exchange control measures, she argues that in order to implement this programme, public control over the monetary system must be regained, offshore capital must be brought back onshore and capital flows regulated and taxed.
The GND represents a set of economic and political reforms that, in combination, form a platform capable of uniting hundreds of millions. As such, it should be a key plank for left parties in Europe, North America and Australia.
Martinez comments: “The cost of failure will be climate breakdown: vast areas of the planet rendered uninhabitable; hundreds of coastal cities (including New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Lagos) permanently submerged; food and water scarcity; vicious climate wars; hundreds of millions of climate refugees”.
He ends: “If a Corbyn-led Labour government can implement its version of the GND (labelled the Green Industrial Revolution), this will be a huge boost for the global battle to save the planet”.
He had seen the estimate by the Federation of Small Businesses in Time to Act: The economic impact of poor payment practice that large companies neglecting to settle their bills cause about 50,000 businesses to fail every year.
Research from Lloyds Banking Group, which analysed the companies that reported their payment practices, found that 65% took more than 30 days to settle invoices and 21% took more than 50 days.
And the Small Business Commissioner (SBC), set up in December 2017 to help the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses tackle late payment, adds:
- a third of payments to small businesses are late;
- 20% of small businesses have experienced cashflow problems due to late payments;
- and that if small businesses were paid on time it could boost the economy by an estimated £2.5 billion annually.
James Hurley, Enterprise Editor, had earlier explained that rules have been designed to force large companies to reveal how long they take to pay their suppliers: companies who meet two of three qualifying criteria: £36 million annual turnover, an £18 million total balance sheet or at least 250 staff.
But there is a loophole: where services are contracted and paid for by group subsidiaries that fall below these thresholds, there is no duty to report.
Debbie Abrahams, the Labour MP, said that suppliers would “continue to be unfairly squeezed” unless the loophole was addressed and other MPs, together with representatives of small companies, are calling for the “duty to report” legislation to be rewritten.
One example is that of G4S, the outsourcing group, was criticised by Paul Uppal, the small business commissioner, for “persistent late payment” of a supplier. G4S, a member of the FTSE 250 share index, paid this supplier through a subsidiary that does not meet the threshold.
The legislation has not yet been rewritten, though a report published by the government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee last December acknowledged the truth of these allegations and urged government to introduce a tougher regime to tackle larger companies who treat small businesses ‘disgracefully’ by enforcing long payment terms, paying their suppliers late or using the ‘loophole’ to evade scrutiny.
The subject of late payment should appear in Labour’s election manifesto
Colin Hines, co-ordinator of the Green New Deal group, draws attention to Kate Proctor’s account of today’s vote at the Labour Party’s autumn conference in Brighton, backing a motion by the campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal to set a target to achieve net zero and guarantee green jobs, working with scientists and trade unions to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
For the record, the members of this group, who have been working together for at least ten years, are Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, Colin Hines, Co-Director of Finance for the Future, former head of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice, City University, Director Tax Research LLP, Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME), Charles Secrett, Advisor on Sustainable Development, former Director of Friends of the Earth, Andrew Simms, Co-Director, New Weather Institute; Coordinator, The Rapid Transition Alliance, Assistant Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility and Geoff Tily Senior Economist, TUC.
In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn wrote his Protecting Our Planet manifesto
In it, he said he would stand for Britain providing international leadership on climate change and the socialisation of our energy supply leading an end to the era of fossil fuels. Measures to be taken would include:
- building a modern, green, resource-efficient economy – creating 1 million new green climate jobs,
- ensuring everyone has access to a low-carbon, affordably heated home and
- tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution.
The Green New Deal proposals to retrofit zero-carbon measures on social and council housing and public buildings relate to the first two measures listed and there are many more, which would usher in a green industrial revolution creating tens of thousands of good, green jobs across the country. Lauren Townsend, a trade unionist and spokesperson for Labour for a Green New Deal, said: “It is time for our movement to come together to build a Green New Deal from the ground up in every town, village and city.”
In May, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally after Parliament had agreed to take action on climate change following Labour’s call. After delegates passed the motion today, Labour officially backed the Green New Deal proposition which should be added to its next manifesto. Anti-climate change activists have said it is the most radical set of left-wing policies to be passed by party members in a generation.
Will the next government move more freight by rail and waterways to reduce air pollution and road accidents?
Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.
Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.
The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.
Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.
A few recent accidents:
The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.
M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.
The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.
The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.
Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.
An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.
There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.
There is an alternative:
A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.
The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.
The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:
The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.
Richard House draws attention to an article by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, which had been shared 1600 times at 15.48 today.
Jeremy Corbyn asserts that Boris Johnson’s government wants to use no deal – which would destroy jobs and cause shortages of food and medical supplies from day one and hand our public services and protections over to US corporations – to create an offshore tax haven for the super-rich and sign a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.
Meeting at the G7 in Biarritz
He reminds us that in 2017, Boris Johnson, when foreign secretary, proclaimed that there was no plan for no deal because they were going to get a deal, continuing: “But clearly they haven’t got a deal. And now, running scared of being held to account for his reckless plans for a Trump-deal Brexit, Johnson has decided to shut down parliament to stop them doing so”.
Adding that, ‘in the maelstrom of the coming days and weeks’, all should remember that sovereignty doesn’t rest in Downing Street, or even in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn states that the democratic way forward, when a government finds itself without a majority, is to let the people determine the country’s future and call a general election which will give them the chance to have the final say in a public vote, with credible options for both sides, including the option to Remain.
He ends by expressing his determination to ensure that Labour will bring people together by giving hope and confidence that a different future is possible and that real change can be delivered for every region of this country.
A Moseley resident draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne (left), recalling that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies struck a chord with some voters as he cut the Tories’ Commons majority in the 2017 General Election. These included the intention to impose tougher wealth taxes, to renationalise great swathes of the country’s public utilities, to cancel our Trident nuclear defence system and to introduce rent controls.
He added: “Above all, they saw a man who stuck to his principles, unlike David Cameron and Tony Blair who they regarded as snake-oil salesmen . . . I believe that voters were right to admire Jeremy Corbyn back then”.
Oborne expressed later disappointment: “He’s sat on the fence for so long that the iron has entered his soul, as early 20th-century PM David Lloyd George once said of an opponent. . . Rather than being too Left-wing, I’m convinced Corbyn is not radical enough. Very occasionally we get a reminder of his old passionate commitment to Left-wing politics”:
- He has been outspoken in his opposition to U.S. warmongering in the Persian Gulf against Iran
- He is the only frontline British politician to condemn India’s illegal clampdown in Kashmir
Has Corbyn been “spineless and far too willing to change his mind?”
Oborne notes that in 2013 Corbyn (right) was one of a dozen Labour MPs who voted in the Commons against spending seed money on HS2 high-speed rail project. But then he changed his mind and voted for its construction. The following year, Labour’s election manifesto supported the new link.
Less cogent is his criticism of Corbyn because in the 1975 referendum, he voted for Britain to leave the EU’s predecessor, the Common Market and in the 2016 referendum, he changed his mind and campaigned for the UK to stay. The writer believes that this is a perfectly reasonable attitude, shared by many, because:
- the EU has seen peace between its member states, despite their history,
- poorer regions have received funding,
- many of the EU’s environmental policies have been beneficial
- and the economies of member states have become so closely interwoven that a break would cause serious and prolonged disruption to the British economy.
Oborne continues: “But U-turn Jeremy then supported a Commons amendment in January demanding that we stay in the EU for longer and then called for a permanent customs union and close alignment to the single market . . . and now his Labour party wants a second referendum”
Towards the end he writes: “Next month will mark (Corbyn’s) fourth year in the job and it looks more and more as if he has flunked that chance. His influence is waning by the day. On October 31, with Brexit, this country faces one of the most important peacetime decisions for generations. It will be the last proper chance for Corbyn to show leadership”.
In the Financial Times, noting that Conservatives and Labour are ‘neck and neck’ in the polls, Jim Pickard – formerly a severe critic of Jeremy Corbyn – wrote today “With British politics in a state of acute flux, there is increasing interest from business leaders about Labour’s policy proposals”.
At the launch of the annual Living Standards Audit by the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank that focuses on low pay, the Independent reports that shadow chancellor John McDonnell (right) will announce details of Labour’s commitment to ending in-work poverty over the course of the next parliament, due to cover the years 2022-27 unless brought forward by a snap election.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said last year that ‘in-work poverty is the problem of our times’ and McDonnell will make a commitment to ending this modern-day scourge, eliminating it by the end of Labour’s first full Parliamentary term.
In September it was reported here that the Financial Times appeared to have left the anti-Corbyn/McDonnell media caucus, somewhat warming to the shadow chancellor. Following Jim Pickard’s first respectful report on any aspect of Labour policy, an article, by Jim O’Neill, chair of the Chatham House think-tank and former Treasury minister, had the headline, “The UK opposition steps into an economic void left by a government grappling with Brexit”.
The second sign was the FT’s comment in a December article that the UK lacks the kind of community banks or Sparkassen that are the bedrock of small business lending in many other countries adding: “When Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, calls for a network of regional banks, he is calling attention to a real issue”.
As a paragraph in his address today says: “As Chancellor in the next Labour Government, I want you to judge me by how much we reduce poverty and how much we create a more equal society, by how much people’s lives change for the better. Because that is our number one goal.”