Category Archives: Politics
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.”
In addition to the apprehension about the private American companies further invading the NHS, the imports of adulterated meat and genetically modified produce, there are the unpredictable hazards of truckling to a second Trump administration.
Reams have been written about Boris’s private life and his expensive mistakes as mayor but even more alarming is the trait of opportunism which he shares with Donald Trump.
Judge by appearances? 90% infallible?
Boris Johnson as foreign secretary with Kim Darroch on Capitol Hill
Boris Johnson refused to say whether he would keep Kim Darroch as UK ambassador to the US, following verbal attacks by Donald Trump on the British envoy after the leak of diplomatic cables in which Darroch called the Trump administration “inept”.
The FT reports that Mr Johnson, a former foreign secretary, said it was of “fantastic importance” for Britain to have a “close partnership with the US”.
Harking back to World War II many deplore the acceptance of the Lend-Lease programme for which Britain and other nations paid dearly in the form of ‘reciprocal aid’, then the coalition in the Iraq war which arguably was responsible for the destabilisation of the Middle East today. Assisting military adventures in Afghanistan is said to have cost the UK £30 billion (and around 600 lives) and both ventures are widely regarded as strategic failures.
Our role in the post-war world as that of an imperial poodle
From our extradition treaties to our nuclear deterrent to our business practices, no “ask” is too big or small for Uncle Sam as Alex Proud wrote a few years ago:
“Our drugs policy is America lite. Rather than upset the US government, we pursue a policy which has been proven not to work. When our government’s own advisers and scientists question this, they are sacked and their studies suppressed.
“We pursue regressive American-style taxation policies and wonder why we’ve got an underclass. And we applaud the American economic model, which, even when it’s working well, benefits very few ordinary Americans”. And soft power: ‘that American citizen of convenience, Rupert Murdoch’ exercises considerable political and economic power through control of our TV and press.
Proud presents the spectre of Tony Blair as a warning to all politicians who decide to follow the path of discipleship: ”His blind subservience to Bush and co all but destroyed his reputation in this country and in much of Europe. Unloved by his own people, he is now doomed to wander the earth, welcome only at Neo-Con fund-raisers and the desert palaces of gas-rich Kazakh dictators”.
The elephant in the room here is the prospect of being linked to a leader who appears to have no awareness of the various threats of climate change, though this is widely thought to be increasing the incidence of uncontrollable floods, fires and storms on his own doorstep.
Britain should now lead rather than follow – in co-operation with one of those promising presidential candidates who should replace Mr Trump.
Richard House throws down the gauntlet in a letter to the editor:
The squalid shenanigans of the Labour right over the Chris Williamson question are beneath contempt.
Good old Tosh McDonald for sticking up for him (MPs hounding Chris Williamson are ‘bullies,’ prominent trade unionist says, M Star June 29–30); and I want to respond to the call by Tosh’s for Chris’s defenders to stand up and be counted.
First, on the letters pages of this and other newspapers, I have said exactly what Chris said about anti-semitism in Labour, in the speech for which he was suspended from the party. His statements were absolutely correct and factually accurate. Chris and I both passionately believe that to the extent that there is anti-semitism in Labour, it is abhorrent and must be eradicated.
But the scale of the media coverage that the anti-semitism issue has generated is grotesquely out of proportion to the actual problem.
It has been stoked, orchestrated and weaponised in a despicable anti-Corbyn putsch attempt by the likes of Tom Watson and the Labour right.
So, I’m saying it again here, in black and white and without mealy-mouthed triangulation or equivocation, just as Chris has rightly pointed out.
So come on, rightists: suspend me from the party, too. And if you do, I look forward to seeing you in court, where, once and for all, I’ll take great pleasure in exposing your shameful shenanigans for all to see.
These people’s divisive disloyalty and misconduct are in effect making the election of a Labour government less likely, and so if anyone should be suspended from the party, it’s them, not the likes of Chris.
Dr RICHARD HOUSE
Stroud Constituency Labour Party
Two correspondents – who admire JC in many ways – think so and one has expressed their misgivings in an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn:
First, congratulations to Labour for winning the Peterborough by-election and staving off a surge from Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party.
But what a missed opportunity earlier last week?
Much as I understand your strong antipathy towards Donald Trump, you should have made a genuine effort to meet the President of the United States when he came on his State visit.
You made your views quite clear from as far back as April that you planned to boycott Trump’s visit. You fulfilled your promise and instead spoke at an anti-Trump rally.
I have to say that your decision not to attend the State banquet was misguided and I am concerned about the lack of diplomacy you are displaying on the world stage. I am also concerned about who is advising you on foreign policy.
Jeremy, when are you going to realise that as the leader of the official opposition, you will have to meet and work with politicians that you disagree with on many issues? I would rather you had met with Trump than being on the outside looking in. But despite your protestations leading up to visit, lo and behold Trump told the public that you wanted to have a private meeting with him and he turned you down.
The ideal thing for you to have done, when you were first aware of Trump’s visit, was to issue a public statement welcoming the visit and that you look forward to discussing a number of critical issues with the Donald. Then Trump may have been more forthcoming. If not, then you would have had the upper hand in calling him out.
Yes, Trump is a polarising and controversial leader. He can be pompous, rude and offensive. But he is the most important head of government that you will have to consult on a regular basis should you become PM.
Trump’s modest operandi is all about planned chaos before resolution. So expect the drama, PR stunts and the snide remarks. But look beyond such behaviour and bluster from Trump to achieve your Party’s own goals.
Jeremy, you are the leader of a political party where many of your own colleagues have been rude, pompous and offensive publicly to your face (and back) since you became leader.
In Tom Watson (your deputy leader) you have the most insubordinate number 2 I’ve ever seen in UK politics. Even Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has made harsh remarks about your leadership.
[I know you must realise that Khan is using his own public row with Trump to boost his chances for re-election and also to go after your job.]
Remember Jeremy, you are constantly accused of allowing anti-Semitic behaviour to thrive in the Labour party. Whether this allegation is true or not, how would you feel if international leaders refuse to meet you because of such allegations?
The UK is currently being led by a rudderless Conservative government and thus here was an opportunity to meet Trump on cordial terms. You could have raised concerns over BREXIT, trade, Iran, Cuba, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, intelligence, North Korea, and China.
Just imagine the faces of Netanyahu and John Bolton if they saw pictures of you discussing Palestine with Trump? You could have been that rare of person – a pro-Palestinian politician with access to Trump.
Despite the numerous disagreements that you and Trump have, there are a few things you both have in common:
- The mainstream media in the US and UK hates you both in equal measure. Especially the BBC.
- You both are anti-EU.
- Senior management of US and UK intelligence services are no fans of either of you.
- You both support less US military aggression across the globe.
- You both support negotiations with North Korea rather than the far scarier alternative
- Sadiq Khan hates you both.
To be honest Jeremy, by now you should have globe trotted to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and UN to get first hand understanding of issues affecting the wider society, hone your diplomatic craft and build key networks.
Yes, we all know Trump has made some incendiary comments about race, women and much more. On the issue of race your advisors could have consulted the likes of Van Jones to learn how he worked successfully with Trump to achieve changes to the criminal justice system.
Jones, a Democratic Party strategist, has been a vocal critic of Trump from the very night the latter won the 2016 US presidential elections. Yet Jones managed to work with the Trump administration to pass the First Step Act, which allows non-violent criminals early release by way of increased “earned time credits.”. The Act rolls back some of the harsh and unfair measures in the 1994 Crime Bill that was passed under the Bill Clinton administration. The Crime Bill damaged the lives of African Americans more than any other group of Americans. Jones is African American.
The Labour Party’s fortunes have been floundering in recent months for reasons you do not need reminding of right now. But I strongly suggest that you add some advisors with solid diplomatic experience to your inner circle. Also do get out of the UK bubble and meet leading politicians from other nations on their home soil. We have yet to witness Corbyn the statesman on the international stage on a consistent basis.
The UK is crying out for major changes at Downing Street. The current crop of Tory candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as PM should hopefully not be there too long. We have had a decade of Tory led governments and many have grown tired of their policies, wickedness and incompetence.
It’s Labour’s turn. Just don’t blow it.
Spent three decades in working in Whitehall mainly for Customs and Excise, Cabinet Office and Home Office. Worked for public sector bodies in the UK, EU and US. Ex-London tour guide. Now lives in Jamaica. Loves photography, reading, arts, music, sports and farming.
“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”: Paul Halas
Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.
In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.
But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.
The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.
The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.
He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.
OBR: damned with faint praise?
- The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
- The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
- One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
- Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.
Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:
Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.
It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.
And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.
Jeremy Corbyn’s statement: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government” is followed by video evidence of those atrocities – lest we forget.
The Times’ misleading headline (left), its stock-in-trade, has been echoed by others, though not borne out by the following texts. These report only that Assange shouted – to give his point of view in a noisy crowd – and did not co-operate with the placing of handcuffs. No doubt if he had remained silent and passive, that would have been reported as evidence of shame and guilt.
Hansard reports faithfully – how long will that be permitted?
The Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott said: “I thank the Home Secretary for his account of events. On the Labour Benches, we are glad that Julian Assange will be able to access medical care, treatment and facilities, because there have been worrying reports about his ill health. Of course, at this point that is all a matter for the courts.
“We in the Opposition want to make the point that, even though the only charge that Julian Assange may face in this country is in relation to his bail hearings, the reason we are debating this this afternoon is entirely to do with his and WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing activities.
“These whistleblowing activities about illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale have put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US Administration. For this reason, they have once more issued an extradition warrant against Mr Assange . . .
“We have a precedent in this country in relation to requests for extradition to the US, when the US authorities raise issues of hacking and national security. I remind the House of the case of Gary McKinnon. In October 2012, when the current Prime Minister was Home Secretary, an extradition request very similar to this one was refused.
“We should recall what WikiLeaks disclosed. Who can forget the Pentagon video footage of a missile attack in 2007 in Iraq that killed 18 civilians and two Reuters journalists?
“The monumental number of such leaks lifted the veil on US-led military operations in a variety of theatres, none of which has produced a favourable outcome for the people of those countries.
“Julian Assange is being pursued not to protect US national security, but because he has exposed wrongdoing by US Administrations and their military forces”.
Vic writes from Vietnam after visiting his children and grandchildren in Australia:
Poor old Jeremy, what a battle he has had since becoming leader. When first elected, I said to him: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” [Porridge: Norman Stanley Fletcher]. He smiled and said: “I won’t.” And he kept that promise!
I’ve been active in the Party for well over twenty years, so I knew he was in for a hard time. You cannot convert a party of arrogant career politicians who are, or were, Bright Young Things [lacking life experience] with an ideology worshipping The Market “God” and Blairism. These Bright Young Things have been taking over our NGOs, charities, pressure groups, etc. over recent decades, as some sort of political parallel career.
I was at last year’s Progress*conference when the keynote speaker was the arch spin doctor, Alistair Campbell. They gave him a roaring, standing ovation!!! I remained seated!!
Of course, this Westminster bubble does not understand the meaning of “democracy.” Unlike in the past, members count for nothing! This is why the Blairites cannot come to terms with the Labour grassroots membership wish for even a moderate form of Socialism espoused by Jeremy AND that brilliant election manifesto!!
How could, for example, the Co-operative Party elite appoint a General Secretary who knew little, if not nothing, about co-operation? Was it because the Blairites have taken over the Co-op Party? A genuine co-operator is a Socialist at heart, but the abundance of Blairites undermine this principle. They are not truly Co-operators.
I asked this question at the Annual Co-op Party conference when Jeremy took office. “If you are co-operators, do you support Jeremy Corbyn?” The reply was a great deal of embarrassed responses. The then leader, John Woodcock, resigned shortly after shaking my hand!
Jeremy needs the big rallies, to show the strength of the membership’s support for him. His Glastonbury appearance was soooo significant! Of course, the adulation is overwhelming at Labour Annual conferences.
This is Richard House’s challenging assertion as anti-Corbyn Labour MPs deserted the party in recent days. He continues:
“It’s too easily forgotten that the deserters are the same people who never accepted Corbyn’s leadership of the party from day one, and who’ve continually done everything possible – eagerly aided by their establishment media friends – to undermine him at every turn, so making his leadership job quite impossible.
“Remember the attempted MPs’ coup led by these people in their unconstitutional attempt to get rid of Corbyn? – this was long before the Labour Party anti-Semitism hysteria had ever been heard of.
“And having failed to displace Corbyn with their spiteful coup attempt, their fall-back was to concoct a carefully choreographed plan: namely, create a hysterical (but fictional) media storm about anti-Semitism; allow it to rage for a few months; then re-kindle it (literally making it up as they went along); and finally, when the fire was raging again, use this as a baseless pretext for splitting the Labour Party so we can have another five years of heartless Tory rule. Establishment job done.
“These “courageous” people have discharged their quasi-Tory bidding very well.
“Oh, and of course it’s just a coincidence that these deserters are all virulent Remainers who’ve never accepted the democratic result of the EU referendum, and will continue to do anything possible to reverse it.”
“One thing that May and Corbyn do have in common is that at least they’re trying to stay true to the democratic result of the EU referendum.
He concludes that – rather than having to devote huge amounts of time and energy defending themselves from relentless attacks from ‘serial underminers‘ within their own party – Corbyn and his team can now spend all their time on exposing the nation’s headlong social disintegration under Tory austerity.
And above all “inspiring us with their stellar policy portfolio”.
Dr Richard House
Source: Western Daily Press, 25 February 2019, p. 16–17