Archives for category: Politicians

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.

Other recent articles:

The One Show: It May Never Get Cringier Than This

Labour Party Broadcast: A New Peake?

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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!
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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
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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.”

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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.