Category Archives: Health

Key policies from Labour’s manifesto

Richard House draws attention to a useful breakdown of key policies from Labour’s election-winning manifesto

 

 

 

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Labour: setting the agenda for meaningful climate action

Richard House has drawn attention to an article by Carlos Martinez, activist, writer and musician who runs the political history blog Invent the Future.

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”.

 

 

 

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Corbyn: though wealth has corrupted our politics, democracy can move power to the voting booth

Elliot Chappell (below, left) reports that in today’s pre-conference policy announcement Jeremy Corbyn vowed to put “people before privilege”. During the conference he will set out plans to build an economy that values the “health, wealth and wellbeing of every citizen”.

Describing vast inequality as a “sign of a sick economy”, the Labour leader will warn against an “broken” economic system that “inflates the wealth of the richest while failing to invest in our future”. He explains:

“This inequality doesn’t just undermine our future prosperity, it’s linked to all sorts of social problems, including violent crime, worse health outcomes and reduced access to education.”

Chappell reminds readers of the Johnson government plans to introduce tax cuts for those on the higher rate of income tax and increase the threshold for national insurance contributions.

An analysis of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggests this would benefit the richest 20% of families at least seven times more than the poorest 20%, and push 50,000 families below the poverty line.

Catherine Neilan (right) in the CityAM website reports that Labour ‘wonks’ have analysed Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, finding that the richest 10% of Londoners own 61% of the city’s total wealth. She interprets Corbyn’s announcement as ‘taking aim’ at wealthy Londoners in arguing the capital’s inequality is a sign of “a sick economy”- adding as an aside that Corbyn’s own ‘net worth’ is estimated at £3m. She adds:

“Corbyn has made no secret of their dislike for the Square Mile, repeatedly making veiled threats towards banks and bankers, and pitting the financial services industry against manufacturing”.

Jeremy Corbyn said that though ‘concentrations of wealth generate unaccountable power, corrupting our politics in the process . . . democracy moves power from the bank balance and boardroom to the voting booth’.

 

 

 

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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:

12.9.19

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.

11.9.19

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.

3.9.19

The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.

13.8.19

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.

9.8.19

Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.

6.8.19

An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.

5.8.19

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.

 

 

 

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Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”

So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.

Edited extracts

Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.

Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.

The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.

Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.

We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:

  • London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
  • Catalonia is on fire.
  • Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
  • Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
  • The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.

It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)

So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?

On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.

The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).

  • There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
  • Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
  • We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
  • The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.

The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”

Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.

Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here:

 

 

 

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