Archives for category: Politicians

The West Midlands New Economics blog draws attention to a message from Nancy Platts, a Labour Party councillor, who has worked for London Fire Brigade, Daycare Trust and Consumer Focus. 

She points out that under the proposed new boundaries, the problem of ‘electoral bias’ means the Conservatives will only need a lead of 1.6% per cent to win a majority (less than they won by in 2017) – while Labour will need a lead of more than 8%.

One of the main reasons for this is a total lack of proportionality: under first-past-the-post, seats do not match votes – it is where those votes are cast that really matters. Huge Labour majorities do not equal more representation: instead, millions of votes are thrown on the electoral scrapheap. ‘Losing big and winning small’ is rewarded.

Westminster’s voting system splits the left vote, but projections by the Electoral Reform Society show Labour would now be Westminster’s largest party under the preferential STV system (used for local elections in Scotland).

A new report on the benefits of the case for fair votes makes clear that the experience of councils in Scotland as well as governments across Europe shows that proportional voting systems – where every vote counts – help to foster ‘consensual’ politics, where unions and civil society are included as key players.

Democracies with more consensual structures are more progressive, with larger welfare states and lower rates of prison incarceration and lower economic equality.

EU countries which have proportional representation have embedded trade union rights, high union density and extensive collective bargaining coverage use proportional electoral systems.

Nancy ends “There is increasing momentum for change both in unions and the Labour Party. It’s time to replace Westminster’s broken set-up and extend the progressive voting systems we see in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into Westminster.

“When every vote counts – with seats matching how people really vote – parties don’t just pander to wealthier swing seats and a handful of influential voters. They have to win support across the board”.

 

 

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The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by local commentators, Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.

Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and  Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)

As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.

Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)

His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:

  • The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
  • Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
  • Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.

Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.

Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.

FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:

“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.

 

Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?

 

 

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On November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people, which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.

The Campaign for Conservative Democracy mounted a campaign: Last Chance to save the Conservative Party, prompted by a document sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May).

The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:

  • rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
  • limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
  • scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
  • use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.

Reporting this, David Hencke asks if final approval will be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?

If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.

Apparently oblivious of this Conservative development, The Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges Labour are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’.

Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join and all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.

Gary Younge writes: “Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.

 

 

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Herefordshire Greens decisively gained a seat from the Conservatives in yesterday’s by-election.

Ellie Chowns, who lives in Canon Frome near Ledbury, on an organic farm, was elected.

She has a substantial track-record of local voluntary service as a primary school governor, a Home-Start volunteer, and treasurer of a housing association and enjoys gardening, hill-walking, and playing in a local folk band.

Her experience includes:

  • working in charities and education,
  • co-ordinating a group of MPs in Parliament,
  • tackling fuel poverty in East London,
  • and supporting peace-building in Northern Uganda.

Ellie was awarded a PhD in international development at the university of Birmingham and later and was a teaching fellow in the International Development Department. More detail about her extensive studies may be seen here. 

Currently she works for Voluntary Service Overseas.

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Total Politics, a member of the Dods publishing group, has published the transcript.

See: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/jeremy-corbyns-2017-conference-address/

 

 

 

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WMNEG meeting:

Thursday 27 July, 5-7 pm

 

A discussion on a book by

Green Party MEP, Molly Scott Cato;

Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice

introduced by Robert Kornreich, Kings Heath 

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

 

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

 

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A scientist recently asked in a private email message: “Just how much of a scientific rationalist is Jeremy Corbyn? As far as I know he has never distanced himself publicly from his climate-denialist brother Piers”. He was recommended to read Corbyn’s reports Protecting our Planet & Environment and Energy and to see his video (snapshot right):

It has welcome input from the excellent Alan Simpson, a former Nottingham MP, about the Robin Hood energy co-operative.

More recently Kate Aronoff in the Guardian sees hope for real progress on climate change lying in its appeal to the interests of the 99% (our term, replacing her use of ‘populism’).  

It’s one of history’s greatest “us v them” scenarios, pitting a handful of oligarchs and profit-hungry fossil fuel CEOs against the rest of humanity”.

She continues: “The brand of climate denial that informs Trump and the Republican party line is the result of one of the global elite’s most effective projects yet. It’s been multinational corporations funding the campaign to cast doubt on scientific consensus. ExxonMobil, for instance, has poured at least $33m into such efforts since the Kyoto protocol was launched in 1997”.

Despite this long-running disinformation campaign, Kate notes that the majority of voters in every state support the United States’ participation in the agreement” and today we read about the critical response from some major industrialists and about several US states deciding to ‘go it alone’ after the president refused to be part of the Paris accord. Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. The group (to date) includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses. Read more in the New York Times.

Kate points out – as Hines, Green New Deal convenor has long asserted, that any reasonable solution to climate change will require massive amounts of job creation, putting people to work doing everything from installing solar panels to insulating houses to updating the country’s electric grid to nursing and teaching, jobs in two of the country’s already low-carbon sectors.

She quotes climate scientist Kevin Anderson, who said earlier this year that shifting to a low-carbon society within the timeframe we have is an absolute agenda for jobs, “You are guaranteeing full employment for 30 years if we think climate change is a serious issue. If we don’t, we can carry on with structural unemployment.”

Her tactical advice: “Don’t chide Trump and the rest of his party for denying climate change when they pull out of the Paris agreement. Chide them for denying millions of Americans the well-paying jobs and stable future they deserve”.

Corbyn summarises: “A Labour government, under my leadership, will deliver an energy policy for the 60 million, not the Big 6 energy companies, championing community-owned renewable energy”.

 

 

 

Deeply troubling? Is this democracy? Is this sovereignty? 

Should not political decisions be taken in the interests of the 99% ?

The Guardian article refers to troubling revelations by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer and notes that the Electoral Commission is now investigating the role played by US billionaire Robert Mercer in our EU referendum – adding ruefully, “But if it discovers any breaches of the rules, the penalties are feeble”.

Journalist George Monbiot goes on to highlight the use of ’dark’ money that does not seek to influence elections directly, but to change the broader political landscape.  

He explains that dark money is funding used, without public knowledge, by front groups and some thinktanks which resemble ‘covertly funded lobbyists’. The research group Transparify ranks these “thinktanks” by their openness about their funding and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute and Policy Exchange are rated as “highly opaque”. But though they refuse to reveal their sponsors, they are often invited to speak by the BBC – in the Today programme, Question Time, (IEA’s Jamie Whyte on 5-Live today) and other media.

Monbiot cites the tobacco industry, which has sponsored the IEA since 1963 – a fact only revealed when a legal settlement forced open its archives. Last week the IEA published a report critical of the UK’s smoking ban and tobacco packaging law which was covered in the media, but with no reference to the institute’s funding-related bias.

Though the Conservative Party manifesto outlines a plan to “lead international action against climate change”, it also pledges to ensure oil and gas plays a “critical role” in UK energy provision. 

Ben Chapman in The Independent points out that the Electoral Commission files show oil and gas corporates’ donors to the May government including:

  • Ayman Asfari, the chief executive of Jersey-registered oil and gas firm, Petrofac, who gave £90,000 in December.
  • Ian Taylor, chief executive of the world’s largest oil trader, Vitol. He has personally given the Conservatives £47,000 since Ms May won the party leadership in July last year, adding to hundreds of thousands he had previously donated.
  • Former Vitol partner Matthew Ferrey has also given £124,000 to the Tories since last July. He has now set up his own investment company which invests in the sector.
  • Alexander Temerko, Ukrainian-born former deputy chairman of the Russian Yukos Oil Company, who has donated £63,800.
  • Amjad Bseisu, the Palestinian-born boss of energy company EnQuest who previously worked for Petrofac has given £28,500 to the Tories under Ms May, while
  • Abdul-Majid Jafar, chief executive of United Arab Emirates-based Crescent Petroleum, gave £28,000 in December.

The Independent article records accusations made against some of those listed, a legal case pending and a conviction and Monbiot ends:

“Why has there been no effective action on climate change? Why are we choking on air pollution? Why is the junk food industry able to exploit our children? Because governments and their agencies have rolled over and let such people make a mockery of informed consent. Now the whole democratic system is sliding, and the Electoral Commission is neither equipped nor willing to stop it. There’s an urgent, unmet need for new laws to defend democracy”.

 

 

 

 

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Hippo says: “We can forget the divide between left and right or whatever other divide the ambitious politician might try to invent. The divide is between the old who enjoyed student grants, decent healthcare, access to the housing market, social mobility and a pension and the young who are offered none of the above”.

Plastic Hippo writes that the government, currently deciding to deny voting rights to millions of young citizens, “might appear a little harsh if not actually undemocratic”. He offers ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’, describing its generation (‘millions of people in the UK aged between 50 and 65’), as:

 “a group of wanton hedonists who deserve to be disenfranchised on the grounds of poor taste alone without even considering the total lack of respect, gratitude or accountability that they exhibit. Embracing a lifestyle of binge drinking, drug-taking and promiscuity, it is obvious that for the good of the nation, anyone aged between 50 and 70 should not be allowed to vote or to stand in an election to public office . . .

“Born after the Second World War . . . these self-proclaimed baby-boomers are now in positions of power and influence and have managed to turn a post-war economic miracle into a decade of unnecessary austerity that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor . . .

“(and) have brought us to the brink of a third global conflict, encouraging hatred and division within and beyond nations”.

A generation flocking to hear Jeremy Corbyn who offers them hope of a better future

“In 2014 there were about one and a half million 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK and in the last three years that number has almost certainly increased . . . Denied Surestart Centres, sensible class sizes in primary schools, adequate learning resources in secondary school and barriers to tertiary education, it is little wonder that the current government refuses to allow a democratic voice to the young people who will inherit the mess (remember that golden excuse of the last seven years) left by a government that cut ESA and tripled university tuition fees. People under the age of 25 do not qualify for housing benefit and have no right to the national living wage”.

Their fate is in the hands of this ungrateful post-war generation – regardless of ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’ – charged by Hippo with “blatant indolence, a woeful lack of awareness and an apathetic indifference worthy of sheep being driven to an abattoir . . .”.

Caveat: the writer reminds Hippo that thousands of that fortunate generation have regularly and vehemently condemned the political measures depriving the young of chances in life enjoyed by the post-war generation.

But they have been denied an effective voice by an electoral system, applauded as offering  ‘strong government’ which is willing and able to steamroller the hopes of the young and all on lower incomes or in bad health.

 

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Theresa May has announced that the Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport. During a visit to a factory in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against. As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote”.

Is anyone surprised? What are the lives of a few foxes and the welfare of our least fortunate citizens to a person prepared to press the nuclear button?

Nicola Stavrinou writes about this repeal in Redbrick* (accessed via the Brummie aggregator):

She asks why: as 84% of British people are opposed to fox-hunting, would the Conservative Party back such an unpopular repeal?

Her answer: “Theresa May is using this repeal to gain back the hardliner Tories who wish to see the ban lifted once and for all. She is going for an electoral majority which could potentially remove Labour and SNP from the equation. The anti-hunting Labour and SNP MPs who voted to ban fox-hunting could potentially be replaced with Conservative MPs who are pro-hunting. May knows that she has the power to pass unfavourable laws because of the Conservative’s recent surge in popularity, most recently seen in the Mayoral elections from the beginning of the month”.

Wryly she concludes: “I have no doubt that if there is a potentially high Conservative majority win in the snap election, this ban will be lifted. Not that it has actually stopped anyone from hunting since then anyway”.

*Redbrick is the student publication of the University of Birmingham, established in 1936 under the original title Guild News

It has evolved to include eleven sections covering wide areas of student life, and expanded into the world of digital journalism. All content is produced by student journalists, including reporters, commentators, photographers and editors. As a student society, any student of the University of Birmingham can join and contribute to the publication.

The hard copy is published fortnightly and its website is updated continuously with regular content, videos, audio clips and photography. Events are covered through live blogging, providing a platform for readers to get directly involved with the debates. The website currently receives approximately 40,000 unique views per month.

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