Category Archives: Government
Two days is a long time in pre-election politics
On 28th November Francis Elliott’s triumphalist article in the Times heralded a seat-by-seat analysis based on polling by YouGov for The Times.
But two days later, a BMG poll which questioned 1,663 voters between 27 and 29 November showed that the Conservative lead had ‘narrowed sharply’ (Reuters) – halved when compared with last week’s poll.
Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, said “If this trend continues, this election could be much closer than it looked just a matter of weeks ago.”
Rob Merrick (Independent) points out that the results come at the end of a week when Mr Johnson has faced further criticism on several counts, compounding earlier allegations, including:
- his appalling attitude to single mothers and working-class men
- his unwillingness to face Andrew Neil.
- the early release from prison of the London Bridge attacker and
- his relationship with Donald Trump, who will arrive for a NATO summit in London on Tuesday.
Robert Struthers said there was growing evidence Labour is “starting to build momentum” ahead of the election on 12 December. 73% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election now planning to do the same on 12 December – up from 67% a week ago.
The change in direction is shown above and BMG’s headline voting intention figures take the Conservative lead from a likely majority into possible hung parliament territory. Will this continue and take the Labour Party into the lead?
In an even-handed review of Andrew Neil’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Pickard said that Mr Corbyn’s appearance was praised by some of his most loyal supporters: Aaron Bastani, from the leftwing Novara Media, said: “This is like a master batsman at the crease”.
A valued correspondent had earlier sent a message about the interview and said that Jeremy Corbyn came across as ‘an impatient irritable old geezer’.
I have never seen a Neil interview and knew little about him so I read around before seeing the interview. I learnt that he had been:
- chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students,
- employed by the Conservative Party,
- worked for Rupert Murdoch as editor of the Sunday Times for 10 years,
- chair of the Dubai based publishing company ITP Media Group since 2006,.
- has strongly supported all military actions,
- compared Tony Blair to Winston Churchill
- and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change,
The snapshot on the right was taken during the first few moments of the interview, showing a far from cordial or polite Andrew Neil.
After focussing on the usual well-worn accusations Andrew Neil was visibly rattled when Corbyn started to speak about the funders of ISIS (our Gulf allies) who created the dangers now facing many – and quickly cut him short.
My verdict: A few of Jeremy Corbyn’s answers could have been better worded but, despite Andrew Neil’s irritability and aggression, the Labour leader endured the frequent bullying interruptions of his answers with great patience and dignified composure.
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
Opposition parties have been looking for a way to ensure that Mr Johnson is unable to fulfil his stated intention to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.
There are concerns the prime minister could seek to circumvent the Benn Act – the anti-no deal legislation that requires him to seek an Article 50 extension, if he cannot get a Brexit deal at the European Council next month.
In August, The National reported that Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National party, said she would be prepared to help to install Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of an emergency government to avert the “catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit.
Today, Laura Hughes reported that this undertaking was repeated by Ms Sturgeon, whilst speaking to the BBC:
“My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson — the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime — out of office, stop a no deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.”
Plaid Cymru also said it would be open to supporting Mr Corbyn, or anyone who would commit to delivering a second referendum and, remarkably, last month Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke (‘Tory rebel’) signalled qualified agreement.
The European reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas reiterated her support earlier this week. She said: “He’s leader of the opposition and I think he had every right to expect to be interim prime minister . . . I think we need to come together”.
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.
Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
So writes Richard House (below, left), in the Western Daily Press,17 September 2019, p. 18–19. He is a (reluctant) left-leaver who wants “out of the EU” and is not blind to the “hopelessly flawed nature of the 2016 referendum”.
He sees no conceivable argument for leaving being “democratically” supported – with nearly two-thirds of the voters not voting to leave, and “the disreputable Brexit campaign defined by the propagandist manipulation of spin-meister Dominic Cummings, the Cambridge Analytica outrage, a near-hysterical anti-EU right-wing press, etc”. He continues:
“Ideological Remainers are clearly oblivious to the powder-keg of anger ready to go off across the nation, if by some mischance the Lib Dems were to win the election and revoke Article 50:
“The future of this once-tolerant country is extremely bleak, with many millions of people feeling the referendum result was being ignored by a pro-EU elite determined to drive through the “United States of Europe” political project. I often do political campaigning on the street, and the level of outrage that exists on this issue is truly frightening. The political class will ride rough-shod over it at their, and our nation’s, peril”.
“I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister”. That pledge made Labour “the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain” and “bring people together”.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn said his intention was to stay out of the fray if there was a second Brexit public vote and focus on running the country – a stance adopted by Harold Wilson, in the original 1975 EU referendum and David Cameron in 2016.
Though remaining neutral in a future EU referendum held by a government he leads, Jeremy Corbyn would allow senior colleagues to back either side of the campaign, in which there would be a choice between Remain and a new Labour-negotiated deal involving a customs union and close single market relationship.
Richard House advises Corbyn’s team to find a succinct and convincing narrative for conveying this view that appeals beyond people’s primitive polarising instincts – because if they succeed, the election is there for the taking.
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.