Archives for category: Politicians

So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.

 

 

 

Tuesday 25th April – 7.30PM | Kings Heath Baptist Church, Alcester Rd (Opposite ASDA)

Polling day will soon be here. Are you aware of what the Mayoral candidates stand for? Do you know what their priorities are? Do you have any questions you would like to ask?
Moseley Forum, together with Kings Heath Residents Forum, Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum and Brandwood Forum are very pleased to invite you to take part in our hustings event for the inaugural West Midlands Mayoral Election.
This is your chance to ask the questions!
 .

All six candidates have confirmed their attendance and are as follows:

* Communist Party – Graham Stevenson
* Conservative Party – Andy Street
* Green Party – James Burn
* Labour & Co-operative Party – Sion Simon
* Liberal Democrats – Beverley Neilson
* UK Independence Party – Pete Durnell
.

Come along to listen to the debate and what their priorities are if they become Mayor.

Venue
Kings Heath Baptist Church,
80, High Street,
Kings Heath
B14 7JZ
(Opposite ASDA)
This is a free event but seats are limited so please arrive early if you want to sit down.
We look forward to seeing you there at what is likely to be an interesting and lively debate.

Find Out More at http://moseleyforum.org.uk/event/mayoral-hustings/?utm

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As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

i-daniel-blake-posterIn Bournville yesterday – and at other community screenings – people flock to see the film I, Daniel Blake which director Ken Loach hopes will be a catalyst for change. In it, a middle-aged carpenter who applies for benefits payments after a heart attack encounters a range of problems accessing state welfare payments.

His experience mirrors the experience of many over the years. An account of 82 people who have died or committed suicide soon after dealings with agencies such as ATOS and the government’s Department of Work and Pensions was recorded in the Dorset Eye. At the same time, reports of directors and other officers of the DWP receiving new year’s honours for ‘services to welfare reform’ were published.

The film compellingly shows the systematic inefficiency of automated phone systems (aka call queues) and the struggles of people who have never used a computer to apply online.

Catherine Pickford, an Anglican minister who had regularly worked in the Newcastle foodbank, seen in the film writes:

“I spoke to people exhausted from trudging the streets looking for jobs that they knew they would not have the physical stamina to carry out. I saw people so hungry that they sat in the foodbank eating straight from the tin. I watched people gradually deteriorate, physically and mentally, as insecure accommodation turned into full-blown homelessness. I also spoke to jobcentre employees, who were desperately trying to hang on to their sense of personal integrity while administering a system that they knew to be unjust”.

One Bournville viewer stated that the system is deliberately rigged to delay making due payments. When asked for proof by another at the event, she pointed out that the evidence was clear: although those designing the system are well aware that record numbers are successfully appealing against Government decisions to refuse personal independence payments and employment and support allowance, they do nothing to improve the system.

The film is being cited in many news reports about a planned overhaul of the system for assessing claimants for disability benefits.

SNP MP Mhairi Black has spoken to the House of Commons about “the brutal and sobering reality of what life is like for those struggling most in today’s society” shown in this film and her recommendation is: “Watch it, get angry, and do something to change this horrible system.”

*

Note:

After the Bournville viewing a member of the audience spoke about The Project, based in Longbridge, which saw another increase in the number of people needing its services last year. Its website reports that the levels of support provided have increased in all areas, reflecting the current homelessness crisis facing Birmingham and the UK. It records research carried out by the Homeless Link charity which found that 5196 homeless applications were made just to Birmingham’s local authority during 2015 with 3416 people accepted as homeless. Government figures published in June 2016 showed that at the end of March 2016 there were 71,540 households across the UK living in temporary accommodation.

There will be another community screening in Stirchley Baths on Friday, 10 February 2017 from 19:30 to 22:30: watch this site or access https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-daniel-blake-community-screening-in-stirchley-tickets-31092593785

 

 

Seven Combined Authorities have already been established and a further seven proposed – read in detail here.

Why government – and employers – want a directly-elected mayor

A directly-elected mayor is a presidential form of local government, accountable only in direct elections every four years with no right of removal.  It means the government can deal with a single leader and one not tied to local political parties as a council leader is – an arrangement that suits the private sector too. Directly-elected mayors offer the possibility of a Tory mayor, or at least an independent, being elected in Labour-dominated urban areas. And they are ideally suited to the media’s fondness for reducing politics to personalities.

Democratise the Combined Authorities: London has an elected Assembly – why not the West Midlands?

 

batc

 

Richard Hatcher points out on BATC’s website that there is a precedent, the scrutiny arrangements in London: “There ongoing public accountability of the directly elected mayor and the Greater London Authority is ensured by a directly elected London Assembly.  The London Assembly has 25 elected members. They are not just existing councillors drafted onto a Scrutiny Committee, they are elected by citizens who vote for them specifically because they are going to fight for their interests. And they aren’t just reactive to policy, they act as champions for Londoners proactively investigating concerns through not just one but 15 issue-based committees and raising their findings and their policy demands with the Mayor and with the government itself”.

The Constitution of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) does not exclude the option of an elected Assembly, Hatcher asks “If it’s right for London why isn’t it right for the West Midlands?”. Three principles are laid down and seven positive steps – read on here.

Scrutiny?

His article written earlier this month describes the WMCA Scrutiny Committee as being ‘seriously incapable’ of carrying out that responsibility: “The Scrutiny Committee only has 12 councillor members. It is scheduled to have only four meetings during the year, for two hours each.  It is inconceivable that the Committee can engage with the huge range of activities of the WMCA, select issues to scrutinise and carry out a serious process of scrutiny in that time. (Each set of documentation for the monthly CA Board meetings typically amounts to a hundred pages or more, let alone those from the other dozen or more committees.)”

Be aware of conflicts of interest

The Scrutiny Committee allocates 3 places to representatives of the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the employer-led bodies representing business interests. Hatcher comments: “This is an extraordinary decision which seems unique among Combined Authorities”. For example, there are no LEP representatives on the Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny Committee. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into devolution and Combined Authorities, published in June 2016 said:

“It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities”.

So far two of the three LEP places have been taken up by named representatives. One is Sarah Windrum, founder and CEO of Warwickshire technology company The Emerald Group, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The other is Black Country LEP Board Member Paul Brown, Director of Government Services for Ernst & Young, a global accountancy company.

Ernst and Young serves as auditor and tax adviser to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the businesses which have come under the most fire for avoiding taxes. As its website says, it is closely involved in the formulation and delivery of policy “across a wide range of central Government departments”.  Given the controlling role of government in the WMCA, Hatcher thinks it inevitable that Paul Brown, as Director of Government Services, would be exercising scrutiny on behalf of the CA over policies which his employer, Ernst and Young, would have been involved in formulating and delivering.

Other members of the Black Country LEP have a direct interest in investment in land for construction. The Chair of the BC LEP is Simon Eastwood, Managing Director of Carillion Developments, Carillion Plc. Carillion plc is a British multinational facilities management and construction services company with its headquarters in Wolverhampton. It is one of the largest construction companies operating in the UK. Among its projects in the West Midlands is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus in Birmingham city centre. Read on here.

Hatcher concludes: “In the absence of an elected Assembly, the Scrutiny Committee is the only instrument of public accountability of the WMCA. Its credibility depends on there being no suspicion in the public mind that there are actual or potential conflicts of interest. For that reason we believe there should be no representatives of LEPs on the Scrutiny Committee”.

 

 

 

council-house

Birmingham Trades Union Council meeting:

7.30 pm Thursday 1st December

Committee rooms 3 and 4 The Council House Victoria Square BI IBB

For the first half of the meeting there will be a discussion opened by Murad Qureshi, the new national chair of Stop the War Coalition.

Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the recent Presidential election was a big shock to the liberal establishment in the West. His openly racist attitude to Muslims (banning their entry into USA), building a wall on the Mexican border and his attitude to sexual assaults on women have appalled millions of Americans.  Newsnight and other programmes have been mourning the end of the liberal world order with the election of Donald Trump referring to the fact that he openly supports torture and use of enhanced interrogation by the use of waterboarding. But tens of thousands of detainees have been tortured under Presidents

Bush and Obama with the continuation of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp which Obama had promised to closed. Trump is just more honest when he says he supports torture which has been continuously used under previous administrations. Trump will just be a continuation of the brutal imperialist world order imposed on the people of the Middle East and other regions.

But what are his policies on the Middle East and on the American intervention in the region?

Donald Trump has denounced the deal in his election campaign and has appointed several cabinet members have a record of opposing the deal. But given the strong backing of the deal by Russia and the European powers it is difficult to see Trump withdrawing from the deal.

A good summary of the policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is presented in the newspaper “i” by Patrick Cockburn on Saturday 12th November. It is entitled “Trump may be a danger to world peace – but Clinton would have started new wars”. Clinton called for No Fly Zones in Syria which could only be implemented by American aircraft shooting down aircraft and helicopters of the Assad regime and his Russian backers. This would involve a dangerous escalation of the Syrian conflict almost certainly leading to even more civilian deaths. As Patrick Cockburn says, “Hillary Clinton’s intentions in Syria, though never fully formulated, always sounded more interventionist than Trump’s. One of senior advisors openly proposed giving less priority to the assault on Isis and more to getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad.”

The headlines on Trump’s foreign policy has been his praise of Putin, clearly he does not seek a confrontation with Putin which Clinton’s policies would have probably led to. But actually it is very unclear what is Trump’s policies as Patrick Cockburn says, “Nobody really knows if Trump will deal any differently from Obama with the swathe of countries between Pakistan and Nigeria where there at least seven wars raging – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan”. But given his reluctance to get into confrontation with Putin he does seem to have a different policy on the Syrian civil war. Patrick Cockburn sums up this view when he says, “The most serious wars in which the US is already militarily involved are in Iraq and Syria, and here, Trump’s comments suggest that he will focus on destroying Isis, recognise the danger of becoming militarily over-involved and look for some sort of co-operation with Russia as the next biggest player in the conflict. This is similar to what is already happening.”

Trump has appointed some very right wing people to his cabinet to positions of National Security advisor and Head of the CIA so the prospects for peaceful developments in The Middle East seem very unlikely. The Anti-War movement needs to be ready to respond to further aggressive American activity.

 

 

 

pcu-header

Via the Brummie, Political Concern has discovered the Plastic Hippo’s list of agents who wish the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn to be seen as unelectable:

  • the five right-wing billionaires who own the printed press,
  • the small group of anonymous Tory strategists running the country,
  • the state broadcaster flirting dangerously close to charter compliance
  • and about 170 Labour MPs worried about future employment

plastic-hippoHippo presents evidence from two separate academic reports which have concluded that UK news outlets are blatantly biased against Jeremy Corbyn. A study by the London School of Economics found that three quarters of newspapers either ignore or distort Corbyn`s views and comments and act as an aggressive “attack dog” rather than a critical “watchdog”.

A second study by Birkbeck University and the Media Reform Coalition found “clear and consistent bias” against Corbyn in both broadcast and online news feeds with his opponents being allowed double the coverage than his supporters.

corbyn-eu-socialist-leaders

 Welcomed by socialist leaders in Brussels

The study described a “strong tendency” within the BBC for its reporters to use pejorative language to describe Corbyn and his chums with words such as hostile, hard core, left-wing, radical, revolutionary and Marxist.

Hippo adds: “With my very own ears I heard a senior BBC radio correspondent describe the Labour leadership election as “a battle between Marxists and moderates”. And the strange conclusion is:

“After a year of astonishing negativity, utterly preposterous smears, brutal personal attacks, nasty digs, front bench resignations and a vote of no confidence from Labour MPs who accuse unelectable Corbyn of disloyalty and fracturing the party, the bloke was re-elected as party leader increasing his share of the vote to 61.6 %.

“Unelectable? maybe not if the electorate actually has a full rather than half a brain”.

Read the Plastic Hippo’s article here: http://www.thebrummie.net/strong-message-here/

 

 

 

 

“Last week’s announcement by Birmingham City Council that it was commissioning a feasibility study into whether to bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games was as surprising as it was welcome”.

sb-played-cover

So writes Steve Beauchampé, co-author of ‘Played in Birmingham’, Former International Officer of the FSA and member of Birmingham’s Euro ’96 Organising Committee.

Beauchampé notes that in general there had been little expectation of any alteration to the local authority’s previously stated position that a bid was not viable, in a period of unprecedented cuts to council services and substantially diminished central government grants. He continued:

“So what has changed?

“Several things perhaps: Chancellor George Osborne’s departure from office, which has seen his Northern Powerhouse project downgraded, or at least reconfigured as a more balanced national approach to devolution; that new Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief advisor Nick Timothy is from Birmingham, which might result in the city receiving a fairer hearing in Whitehall than was previously the case”.

The backing of the recently established West Midlands Combined Authority, as well as that of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership may well have been decisive, according to Beauchampé, who points out that, “both of these organisations are potentially able to access the sizeable funding streams necessary to develop the infrastructure improvements required to put on a high profile global event and deliver substantial economic regeneration as a consequence”. 

To secure the tacit support of central government and then the nomination of Commonwealth Games England, Birmingham must forget the notion of an ‘austerity’ Games:

“The Games, and the physical legacy they leave, must be tangible, its focal point both visible and accessible from the city centre. And whilst most of the facilities required already exist, albeit with some needing to be adapted, expanded or upgraded, several new venues and facilities will both be required and desirable (including a competition standard 50m pool, a velodrome and an athletes’ village)”.

He emphasizes that the region’s history and culture – sporting, artistic, ethnic and otherwise – should be mined and celebrated both in advance of, and during, the ten day spectacular of competition; there needs to be imagination in each aspect of how the event is conceived and delivered, and in how its benefits are to be maximised and secured afterwards. A Greater Birmingham bid needs to show how the region would advance the concept of what the Commonwealth Games can be, as successfully as London 2012 did with the Olympics.

Beauchampé reminds us that Manchester did not see staging the Commonwealth Games as the end of a process, but merely the beginning: “It’s an approach and a mindset that we too should adopt”.

Read the whole article: Bring The Games To Birmingham here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2016/10/bring-the-games-to-birmingham-2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.playedinbritain.co.uk/authors.php

SAVE OUR BATHS!

city-gavin-warrinsPhotograph: Gavin Warrins

A week after publishing Second city first: Birmingham trounces its rivals, Henry Mance and Andrew Bounds of the FT back this claim by citing the city’s hosting of the Conservative party conference starting on Sunday.

Other glories:

  • Theresa May launched her leadership campaign in Birmingham in July.
  • Her key adviser, Nick Timothy, has called for a focus on ordinary people, which he calls “Erdington modernisation” after the area of Birmingham where he grew up.
  • Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove, ‘a Birmingham satellite town’, extols the Midlands as the home of William Shakespeare, of Charles Darwin, of Isaac Newton [and] Margaret Thatcher.”
  • It may also become the only new metropolitan region to elect a Conservative mayor, Andy Street, currently managing director of John Lewis.
  • It ‘claims’ to be the only part of the UK to run a trade surplus with China, thanks largely to Jaguar Land Rover.
  • On Friday it will ‘indicate its ambition’ by announcing plans to bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

Will the city’s popularity survive the demonstrations at the Conservative Party conference, planned by a range of less satisfied citizens?

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One-party rule for the foreseeable future?

On Sunday evening two of our readers were considering the future and seeing no possibility of anything other than an elective dictatorship, after boundary changes expected to boost the Conservatives by 20 English seats.

The younger generation and their children will bear the brunt

trickle-downAs yet, people in their 20s and 30s in the Birmingham-Solihull area merely express mild concern about this prospect – they don’t seem to realise the implications of such apathy for all who are not wealthy, not of Oxbridge/Russell Group ability or not in good health.

Award-winning journalist Matthew Norman has asked three questions:

How long do you think it will be before a party other than the Conservatives is in position to form a government?

Can you imagine it within two decades, or three?

Can you envisage it in your lifetime at all? 

An article he wrote last February referred to “our enfeebled democracy” and his sense that “Britain is shuffling on its Zimmer towards one-party statehood”. The points made included:

  • Labour is politically wounded by its huge losses in Scotland.
  • Labour has also been financially weakened by the Government’s Trade Union Bill halving what it gets from the unions.
  • Government will continue to sidestep the Commons by using statutory instruments and
  • threaten to create new peers whenever the Lords don’t rubberstamp cruel and oppressive measures.
  • Government will inflict more austerity on the poorest, continue to award beneficial concessions for the richest
  • and allow the health of city dwellers and the climate to be even more affected by many forms of pollution which benefit big business. 

Matthew Norman finds it “incredibly depressing . . . that no one gives a damn”

The writer puts it more mildly, like Yeats she finds that: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity”. 

hegemony-graphic

Democracy appears to be doomed – unless the cross-party alliance to promote electoral reform gains ground.