Archives for posts with tag: Austerity

Today the FT reports that Jeremy Corbyn was given a ‘rapturous reception’ in Brussels on Thursday, as he warned that leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be “catastrophic” for the UK economy. Mr Corbyn met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (above), the European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden on Thursday in Brussels.

Mr Corbyn received a standing ovation from Europe’s centre-left parties as he addressed delegates at the Europe Together conference, just hours before prime minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet her EU counterparts at a European leaders’ summit. He said:

“We’re here to make sure that negotiations get on track, that we defend jobs in Britain, and that we make sure there is trade access to Europe in the future . . . We cannot countenance the idea that we rush headlong into a no deal with Europe. No deal would be very dangerous for employment and jobs in Britain. We are clear in our priorities: a jobs-first Brexit which maintains free access to the single market.”

He advocated “radical alternatives” for Europeans after years of austerity, rising job insecurity and falling living standards.  “The neoliberal economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people,” he said, adding: “Our broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalist and xenophobic politics.”

The FT ends: “Mr Corbyn’s enthusiastic reception was in stark contrast to Mrs May’s arrival in Brussels on Thursday. The UK prime minister was rebuffed from attending a meeting of Britain’s traditional European allies — including the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic countries — on the sidelines of the summit, though Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, was invited to that meeting.”

 

First published in Watershed.

 

 

 

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Political Concern comments on Druids Heath and the role of the modern council

The presenter of this BBC radio programme, Adrian Goldberg, grew up on the Druids Heath council estate in Birmingham, the home of the ‘municipalism’ pioneered by Joseph Chamberlain when he was Mayor of Birmingham – summarised by Walsall MP John McShane in the Commons in 1930:

“A young person today lives in a municipal house, and he washes himself … in municipal water. He rides on a municipal tram or omnibus, and I have no doubt that before long he will be riding in a municipal aeroplane. He walks on a municipal road; he is educated in a municipal school. He reads in a municipal library and he has his sport on a municipal recreation ground. When he is ill he is doctored and nursed in a municipal hospital and when he dies he is buried in a municipal cemetery.”

Adrian is described as being an ideal candidate to judge the changing nature of the local council, because when he and his family moved there the local authority provided a range of services. He comments, “Today the situation is much more complex”- follow the link to read more.

Political Concern adds:

Inside Housing reports the housing minister’s description of sprinkler systems for high rise blocks as “additional rather than essential”, refusing a council’s request for funding offered after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

And comments: “Strangely, the conservative Prime Minister expresses admiration for Joseph Chamberlain”.

Mayor of Birmingham in 1873, city MP in 1876, Joseph Chamberlain directed the construction of good housing for the poorest, libraries, municipal swimming pools and schools. Unlike Ms May and colleagues, he was not in favour of a market economy, arguing for tariffs on goods from countries outside the British Empire. He was also an ‘economic interventionist’ (see Lewis Goodall, Newsnight), described as a “gas and water socialist”. He took profit-making private enterprises into public hands, declaring that “profit was irrelevant”.

In no way is she following the example of her hero. Ms May’s government continues to implement a series of cuts affecting the lives of the country’s poorest and most disabled with might and main. Ironically the contemporary politician sharing Chamberlain’s principles is the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies she echoes but does not implement.

 

 

 

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Thursday 14th September, 5.30 for 6pm start.

UNISON Regional Office, 24 Livery Street, B32PA (next to the Old Contemptibles and opposite Snow Hill Station)

Lucy Seymour-Smith writes:

In times of austerity, services, organisations and communities are being starved of the funds needed to survive and grow.

We cannot regenerate or communities by relying on large organisations who can, and do relocate according to their own financially driven agenda.

Instead we need a new approach to regeneration framed around co-operative values of self-help, participation, social responsibility and democratic accountability that is led by organisations that have a genuine long-term stake in our communities.

In celebration of the Co-op Party centenary this event is an absolute must for all those interested in transforming the West Midlands region by reorganising local economies and supporting communities to help themselves.

First outing at the 2017 Durham Miners’ Gala

Panel speakers include:

Liam Byrne MP

Claire Campbell, UNISON Head of Local Government

Anna Birley, Coop party policy officer and Labour/Coop Party Cabinet Member in Lambeth

 *Spaces limited so sign up quickly*

nibbles and networking

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-can-west-midlands-councils-build-community-wealth-tickets-37093770466

 

 

 

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In January, Aditya Chakrabortty pointed out that though statistically the UK is enjoying a recovery, in reality: “this has been a recovery for owner-occupiers in London and the south-east. It has locked out those without big assets, such as the young, and those renting in the capital. It has penalised the poor. And it has impoverished those who have been forced on to zero hours or bogus self-employment”.

He described the recovery constantly announced by Conservative speakers as so partial, so patchy and so dedicated to putting money in the pockets of the already wealthy that it makes a mockery of Theresa May’s speech about a “shared society”.

Welfare cuts have not only affected people with disabilities, as we recently recorded, but also a larger swathe of the public. Since 2010, under this government and the coalition, Theresa May’s actions speak louder than her words:

  • Under her term as Minister for Women and Equality, Theresa May’s edicts downgraded the provision for carers, children in need and vulnerable people. This policy continues.
  • DWP fit-for-work assessments are now causing mental health damage to 62% of people the department sanctions.
  • Reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people on those routes who don’t own a car now have problems getting to work or hospital.
  • The Independent Living Fund has been cut; in some areas 88% of people have seen their care packages reduced by up to 50%.
  • In 2010 Ms May suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people – to the distress of people hoping to find a trustworthy carer for their child or a vulnerable family member.
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) has been cut by a third. This will affect 500,000 people.
  • Theresa May scrapped the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • Without accessible or affordable transport, due to benefit cuts or closure of bus routes, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families are less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
  • As Home Secretary Ms May closed the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal.
  • 51,000 disabled people lost Motability vehicles, which were vital for them to live independently.
  • Frequent administrative inefficiency, a twenty-year phenomenon in this country under both Labour and Conservative governments, includes losing documents causing delays in payment to those with no savings, who then go cold and hungry.
  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP) from 164,000 people living with mental health issues. And the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has reduced or stopped PIP for nearly half (45%) of all claimants (unpublished figures accessed by FOI request).
  • Ms May’s Investigatory Powers Bill has authorised the state to employ private companies to design hacking technology which can ‘create openings’ in devices, leading to the theft of financial and personal data, creating further problems.

Theresa May promises a government for the ‘strugglers’ – but many prime ministers have made appealing promises which were never kept and this brief overview of Ms May’s record does not inspire confidence.

 

 

 

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As the New York Times summarises, tactical voting is a response to a British electoral system in which millions of minority voices can be ‘drowned out’.  

Tactical2017 is a progressive grassroots campaign that encourages the millions of voters who voted for progressive parties in 2015 to put party loyalties to one side, unite with and vote for, the progressive candidate who has the best chance to avoid the consequences of five more years of a Conservative government in Britain.

  • Already we’ve seen £22bn of unnecessary, ideological cuts to the NHS bring our health service to its knees, with 91 GP surgeries being forced to close in 2016 from a lack of funding and resources.
  • 1 in 8 working Britons now live in poverty, with food bank usage in areas where the government’s inhumane welfare reforms have been introduced up by 16.85%.
  • We’ve seen a real-terms wage drop of 10%, an explosion in the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts, and the most unaffordable house prices in history.
  • the while, Britain’s ultra-rich have received £4.4bn of tax breaks, taken from cuts to Personal Independence Payments for the disabled.
  • All this from a party that claims to be the party of economic responsibility, while simultaneously creating more debt than every Labour government in history combined.

Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin (above) has warned that voting for either the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats would lead to votes for Jeremy Corbyn. But if you think it a good move, it’s not too late to do this in your constituency; study this advice: https://www.tactical2017.com/?utm_source=spreadsheet

Individual campaign

Claire Wright (independent) announced her intention to stand against sitting MP Hugo Swire in the snap general election on June 8. Tactical 2017 endorsed her as the only candidate who can defeat the Conservatives.

This follows bookmaker’s odds of 9/2 from William Hill, who confirmed that they see Ms Wright as the official opposition in the constituency and makes her the only non-aligned candidate to get support from the organisation.

Read more in Devon Live.

Campaigning organisations

Though many are taking this action for social and humanitarian reasons others, some in organisations such as Open Britain are actively targeting marginal seats with tactical voting campaigns, to block “destructive” hard Brexit proposal.

Gina Miller, the pro-EU campaigner who won a court challenge over article 50, has launched a tactical voting initiative called Best For Britain that supports election candidates opposed to hard Brexit. Ms. Miller said that Best for Britain was also drawing lessons from the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister of Canada, which was helped by tactical voting among supporters of three center and left parties.

See their gallery of sixteen Champions (six pictured below): the first set of parliamentary candidates the campaign has endorsed in the general election. “If tactical voting is successful in electing MPs with strong principles who are willing to hold the government to account, hard or extreme Brexit has more chance of being averted.” These people are ready to fight extreme Brexit, are fighting a winnable seat and have an immaculate track record.

Compass also argues that “only a Progressive Alliance can stop the Tories and cocreate the new politics,” while More United — a movement set up after the killing last year of the Labour lawmaker Jo Cox — aims to increase the number of lawmakers “elected to fight for a more united, less divided Britain.”

Dr. Kathryn Simpson, lecturer in politics and public services at Manchester Metropolitan University, thinks that 48 percenters of Remain may be geared towards tactical voting and adds that if the 18 to 24-year-old group – who are largely opposed to Brexit – come out to vote, this may help to sway the success of tactical voting.

And Colin Hines in the Guardian, a Progressive Alliance supporter, calls for a voice like that of Lynton Crosby, “hectoring our side to repeat endlessly that the weak and wobbly Tories’ pro-austerity, coalition of cruelty must be constrained, and most importantly, keep it simple”. He ends:

Vote ABC – Anything But Conservative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jess phillipsWhat a crew! Steve McCabe writes dismal letters about his leader, Tom Watson gripes about Shami Chakrabarti‘s recognition and today we hear from Yardley MP Jess Phillips. 

Left, ready for lunch with a Spectator journalist: “I swoon as she sashays away to serve it to both sides. That’s Jess Phillips, MP. She’s going to be leader of the Labour party one day!”

We read that Jess Phillips threatens to scream if she hears another Labour member lambasting  leadership contender Owen Smith for having worked in the private sector – “one that lots of people would seize, given the chance”.

But – on the other hand – lots of people would firmly rule out applying to the two companies he worked for.

Smith’s past employers: fraudulent marketing and kickbacks

First, Pfizer which reached a $2.3 billion settlement with the US government in 2009 for fraudulent marketing and kickbacks paid to doctors who prescribed Lyrica and other Pfizer products and $400 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over this case.

Privatisation (though Ms Phillips says Smith “wants to protect the NHS”)

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company, Owen Smith

  • endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers and
  • helped the drugs company to strike the sort of exclusive distribution agreement which the OFT’s chief executive warned “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Then to Amgen who had to pay out for its products’ side effects

Mr Smith then decided to move on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015, company recovering ground after its anti-anemia blockbusters, Aranesp and Epogen, had been hampered by losses due to concerns about side effects, regulatory issues and insurance trouble.

Jess: how many London-based vegetarians were in this Liverpool crowd?

corbyn2 liverpool 8.16

After a few snide references to vegetarians and ‘purist ideals’ Ms Phillips plays the well-worn ‘out of touch, London-based’ card, disregarding approaching a million demonstrably ‘ordinary’ people who have flocked to hear Corbyn during the last seven days.

She continues: “People do not want to feel guilty for wanting comfort for their families” – but precious little comfort is offered by Conservative and Labour austerity addicts cutting benefits to those who need them most.

Showing little faith in her constituents – or realistically assessing her deserts – she fears:

“If Mr Corbyn wins we will be a party where people like me are hunted out and no longer welcome”. And ends:

“There is no value in basking in the glow of principled opinion. When the Labour leadership and wider party stop believing their own hype . . . we can get this show back on the road”.

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Lesley Docksey, on the other hand, speaks as one who recently joined the Labour Party; she is mystified by the fact that none of the mainstream Labour MPs seemed to take on board the fact that Corbyn has never sought power; he seeks power for the people, the poor and helpless, the disenfranchised . . .

What is important are the values and vision that he has connected people to. If it is not too over-the-top, she writes, he has become the hillside down which we are all tumbling towards some kind of unity and people-power.

She has also been puzzled by the inability of so many Labour MPs to understand that the party, which they think they run, is actually made up of members who all have the right to speak and many of whom are following the vision that Corbyn has offered.

She – and others – believe that whatever the outcome of this turmoil, Corbyn’s election has been a beneficial ‘watershed’ moment in British political history.

 

 

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As over 6000 people flock to Corbyn’s Leeds meeting and Brighton saw a full house yesterday, we reflect on a message from a Hall Green reader, who writes: David Blanchflower is now turning on Corbyn. Murphy did earlier.

Blanchflower: bow to the markets, “the bond and equity markets would eat JC for lunch”.

David Blanchflower was never really ‘on board’. He writes: “I was not a Corbynista. the new Labour leaders are not economists and are going to have to learn fast: and in cororate=pleasing vein: “They will have to accept the realities of capitalism and modern markets, like it or not.”

Ethics? Principles? Election is the only thing that matters

He continued saying that three-quarters of Corbyn’s MPs, who doubt his leadership qualities, rightly passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence against him: “He should have quit. He doesn’t have enough MPs who support him to be able to form a complete shadow cabinet. Incidentally, if there were even the slightest prospect that he could become prime minister, the bond and equity markets would eat him for lunch”.

Is the lobbyist for Pfizer and Amgen (clouded reputations) a better candidate?

Blanchflower, with the markets’ blessing, thinks so: “This is why I am supporting Owen Smith as the only leader who can prevent a disaster. He has the support of enough MPs to form a credible opposition”.

Richard Murphy: leaving with grace and truthno obeisance to market forces here

“Whatever Labour’s pragmatic need might be it must be infused with a new sense of idealism. If not it is wasting its time and those fighting its internal wars will end up with the prize of perpetual irrelevance . . .

“In whatever the roles that I have, as economist, tax campaigner, chartered accountant or dad, it was clear that Labour offered “austerity light” at that 2015 election . . .

“And no wonder so many who were seeking real difference rallied to support Corbyn and his distinctly different approach to politics. It’s not clause IV socialism. But nor is it the pro-market fundamentalism coupled to the myth of choice that had dominated the offerings of both parties for decades. Corbyn seemed like a breath of fresh air to many.

“Labour has to be an opposition. It must have a substantially different approach to the Conservatives. It must embrace the counter-cyclical investment that is so desperately needed at present . . .

“In the process it would put finance and big business in its proper place, where it is treated as very significant, but not the real power in the land.

“It must say that it welcomes migration if those who come are willing to embrace the UK as their home. Learning English, offering a skill and being willing to work where work is needed can be and should be the conditions of seeking to live in this country. Migration would be a contract, not a right, refugees and asylum status apart. Norway has done this; so should we.

“The party also has to say that outside the EU it would have the ability to create a long-term vision for a sustainable future, using (if necessary) the power of the Bank of England to create money to invest for the long term at a time when interest rates are (and are likely to remain) exceptionally low – invest in housing, business, sustainable energy and (perhaps most of all) people, who should have a right to debt-free education”.

The three commentators looked at essentials, unimpressed by the headlines focussing on Jamie Oliver, the Budget’s impact on Irn Bru – or Jeremy Corbyn’s clothing. Pandering to the latter obsession we note Jeremy outshining Boris (below).

corbyn boris shake hands

The FT’s political editor, George Parker, describes the Budget as ‘a compendium of grim economic news deteriorating growth, bad productivity numbers and confirmation that the Chancellor had broken two of the three fiscal rules he set himself in July last year’.

Steve Beauchampé refers to George Osborne having given ‘the usual illusory and diversionary (think sugar tax) performance’ and George Parker recounts a list of policies ‘corralled’ by Mr Osborne to improve children’s education and help them save for a home or a pension and salutes “the sheer political appeal of a tax to tackle childhood obesity — with some of the revenues being spent on school sport”.

David Bailey in the Post draws on forecasts and data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in measured language, to chilling effect: “Robert Chote, the OBR’s director, succinctly noted that for every pound the chancellor found down the back of the sofa in November, he has lost two pounds this time. So borrowing will be higher than Osborne hoped for”.

Beauchampé highlights George Osborne’s selective use of ‘economic data, financial contortions and highly politicised blames and claims’ – strategies attributed by Parker to Cameron ordering the presentation of a Budget that did not inflame Tory MPs or voters before the EU referendum, which the PM sees as “the only game in town”.

Beauchampé, however, sees the chancellor as being driven primarily by a more personal goal: “(The budget) was not primarily designed to address the current economic realities facing the lives of ordinary people or those issues identifiable for the future, but . . . to coincide with Osborne’s anticipated accession to the office of Prime Minister”.

He points out that, though specific measures for London, Manchester and Leeds were announced, there were no references to Birmingham and the West Midlands, commenting:

“Osborne’s much-vaunted devolution of powers from Westminster and Whitehall to the English regions is part of an ideology that sees the dismantling of traditional local government as essential. Riven with unnecessary politics, authority is transferred not to democratically accountable institutions representative of a cross-section of local society but to business focussed organisations and those whom the Chancellor hopes will be malleable individuals”.

After condemning as a wholly political choice the austerity Osborne has ‘so brutally placed’ on those at the bottom of society, to fund capital gains tax reductions and abandonment of the 50p top rate of income tax for those at or near the top, Beauchampé quotes Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘lambasting’ of Osborne’s record:

“The budget…is the culmination of six years of failures.

He’s failed on the budget deficit,

failed on debt,

failed on investment,

failed on productivity,

failed on the trade deficit,

failed on the welfare cap,

failed to tackle inequality”.

WMNEG logo

On Thursday 10th December, 5-7 pm

West Midlands New Economics meeting

FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, Digbeth, B5 5TH

BFOE warehouse

The main issues on the table will be climate change – the negotiations in Paris, the recent Autumn statement and where Austerity is going.

Holding meetings in the evening has been an experiment we are continuing with. Any feedback on this would be welcome.

On Friday, Jeremy Paxman wrote an article about HS2 in the Financial Times, opening with incredulity,“How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?”

The project had not been an issue for the three main parties during the election campaign; “All decided that the planned HS2 high speed railway line from London to Birmingham and then — if things go to plan — on to Manchester and Leeds by about 2033 was A Good Thing . . . it was left to the UK Independence party and the Greens (who generally love railways) to point out that HS2 is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Some points raised:

  •  Despite living in an age of austerity, the main parties were as one in believing it a brilliant way to blow a projected £50bn of public money.

hs2 cartoon

  •  It will not be £50bn; cost controls on public spending projects are laughable – see the over budget Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly buildings, the cost of the first high speed rail link and the National Health Service IT project.
  • At the end of years of digging and disruption we shall be able to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
  • To get from Leeds to Manchester on HS2 you would have to travel south to Birmingham and then north again on the other side of the country.
  • If, as has been predicted, Birmingham will turn into a suburb of the capital, that will only be for those wealthy enough to afford tickets.
  • The point that seems not to have been much recognised by huge numbers of the poor saps who will have to pay for this project is that at the end of their journey north, the happy business folk will not be alighting in the centre of Birmingham, at New Street station, but will have to take a 10-minute walk to get there from the planned HS2 terminus (Ed: unless the Metro is completed).

Jeremy Paxman concludes:

“Britain is notorious for its shuddering transport policy. When was the last time you heard an MP say, “I’m begging the prime minister to let me go to the Department for Transport and stay there forever, so we can get this country moving properly”? Building a decent infrastructure is serious, unglamorous work with little political dividend, so our system is hopeless at long-term planning . . .

“[U]nless someone comes to their senses soon, future generations will . . . be able to look at great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside to enable a slightly quicker journey through our overcrowded island. More than likely, they will still be paying for it”.