Archives for posts with tag: EU

The government will decide, in November, whether to make a formal bid to host the Games.  Birmingham based its application around the city’s four indoor arenas and the Alexander stadium, currently the home of UK Athletics, which it plans to refurbish for the 2022 event and make it the UK’s largest permanent athletics stadium. It also put forward plans to run a business convention alongside the Games.

The Origin Sport Group was selected by the council to assess sporting facilities such as this

In the Birmingham Press (2012), the website that was first to call for Birmingham to try and stage the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, Steve Beauchampé congratulates Councillor Ian Ward, Steve Hollingworth (lead officer for sport at the Council) and their colleagues at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bid Company, stating: “The government chose Birmingham because it offered a low risk, low cost Games fit for post-Brexit Britain”.

He points out that Birmingham’s cautious and (a word they used often) ‘compliant’ bid spoke to the government’s search for a low-cost, low-risk Games and adds: “It is telling that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport statement outlining why Birmingham’s name is the one that goes forward highlighted phrases such as ‘risk-minimisation’ and ‘value for money’”.

A Games for our times

“A Games for our times then, and a decision set against very real concerns that a further extended period of economic uncertainty for the UK lies ahead. A decision taken by a Government striving to reduce the annual budget deficit, yet confident that overseas competition for the right to host 2022 would be limited. An austerity Games perhaps; strong and stable, yet deliverable and placed in the hands of reliable and trustworthy organisers”.

Beauchampé adds that as Britain leaves the European Union, damaging relations with our closest neighbours in the process, it urgently needs to develop new trading links beyond Europe and counter Britain’s growing image as an insular, nationalistic and increasingly irrelevant island.

Yet despite the understandably positive response by many in Birmingham to Thursday’s news, he feels that a degree of perspective might not go amiss

He foresees that if Birmingham is eventually selected to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games it will not transform the city or its fortunes in the way that hosting in 2002 transformed Manchester. After listing the changes to be made to Birmingham’s sporting infrastructure he ends:

“Undoubtedly there will be some permanent new employment opportunities (along with considerably more temporary ones) whilst Birmingham’s national and international profile and image may undergo a degree of positive change. Fine as far as it goes, but should the city eventually be awarded the Games, it must use them as the starting point for long-term transformation, rather than the culmination of it. And that will require considerably greater ambition than we have witnessed thus far”.







West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 25th May 5-7 pm

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

25 May – BREXIT – looking forward

What do we want as the outcome to the negotiations?

What worked for us in the EU?

Are there opportunities to introduce new things we think desirable?

A round table discussion

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire 




On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.


A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on:




Michael Overduin, Director of Science Capital and Professor of Structural Biology in Birmingham, leads a laboratory studying protein mechanisms involved in cancer and genetic diseases

He draws attention to a petition which ends tonight and needs 60,000 more signatures:, adding “We’re not political, but this is important for UK science, medicine, engineering”.


Young researchers are starting to leave the country to go to receptive countries including Canada, as reported in Nature today.

The writer signed, though realising that applications of some scientific, medical and engineering research have been far from beneficial.





jc brighton 2

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”.

A verbal sparring match between the Birmingham Press’ independent Steve Beauchampé and Rachel Sylvester in the Murdoch Times would be well worth turning out for.

Welfare and workers’ rights – so yesterday

Ms Sylvester, working to diminish members’ increasing support for the Labour leader, evident in the recent YouGov poll, sees Mr Corbyn merely “trotting out old arguments about the importance of immigration, welfare and workers’ rights, apparently oblivious to the way in which public opinion has shifted in the last 40 years. . . “ and smears: “There is no sense of passion, more a suspicion that he sees the EU as a capitalist conspiracy against the masses but is nervous of saying so”.

Beauchampé has a different perspective, pointing to David Cameron’s dismissal of many elements of EU law that make a tangible, positive impact on the daily lives of British citizens, “such as crucial environmental legislation, consumer protection laws, the working time directive, social chapter, maternity leave and necessary health and safety legislation.

He adds that the PM’s willingness last autumn to negotiate away British workers EU employment rights, sets the Tory ‘Remain’ vision of Europe decisively at odds with that of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

Ms Sylvester damns Cameron with faint praise – Murdoch apparently backing Boris: “Having conceded a referendum in order to appease his rightwingers, and mounted a bogus negotiation in an attempt to hold the Tories together, (Cameron) has now moved beyond the partisan bickering to put a statesmanlike case for Britain’s membership of the European Union”.

Beauchampe goes to the heart of the matter:

  • “Cameron should have focussed instead on transferring more power to the democratically elected (and by proportional representation) European Parliament, simultaneously reducing the authority of the unelected Council of Europe.
  • “He should have requested greater financial transparency regarding EU budgets (audited accounts would be a start).
  • “And he should have been opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as it is currently envisaged, a treaty that threatens to undermine democratic institutions at local, national and international level, in favour of global business interests to the detriment of millions of EU citizens.

A knockout blow?

“The EU is our bulwark against tyranny”: Cameron

broken britain 3 mps bankers

Today’s headline in the Times will cause many to reflect on these words.

The EU is indeed an admittedly limited bulwark against government attempts:

  • to reduce good working conditions
  • to allow polluting industry to run rampant
  • to ignore pollution of air, water and beaches
  • to fill land with recyclable waste and
  • to engage in military aggression.,

cameron merkel                   attending the Matthiae dinner in Hamburg

In your Hamburg address, you referred to the Islamic threat, Mr Cameron: that is a self-inflicted backlash against the UK/US devastation of several Middle Eastern countries.

alex andreouAlex Andreou confirms what a young Greek resident said yesterday, in Kings Heath. Both informants stress that if family and neighbourhood bonds had not been so strong, there would have been three times as many victims of austerity. As it is, family members working abroad are doing what they can to help relatives who cannot pay their rent in full because of restrictions on cash withdrawals and people are leaving the cities for rural areas where food is grown; the only changes noticed there are in the falling pensions.

Andreou’s Friday Byline article described the political corruption and corporate tax evasion rife in Greece for decades:

“Accounts were falsified in order to facilitate entry into the Euro. Unforgivable economic crimes were committed. These weren’t committed by most ordinary people of course – the very people now asked to take on the burden of the follies of our rich oligarchs. Corrupt politicians who passed the country back and forth like a joint were quick to secure their money in Swiss bank accounts. But we must share in a collective responsibility for them. We all knew what was going on and we either became part of it or didn’t rebel soon enough or loudly enough . . .” He countered the idea that Greece has not paid a heavy price for those sins:

“In the last five years, we have made adjustments which reduced a 15% deficit to zero, while the economy contracted by a quarter. Incomes fell by over a third. Pensions were slashed by 40%. 18,000 people are sleeping rough in Athens alone today. 11,000 are estimated to have committed suicide explicitly because of financial worries. The Church is raising thousands of children in orphanages. Almost a third of the population are living below the poverty line”.

Myths are circulating

Andreou addresses default: “a normal part of debt, not some monstrously catastrophic event. Germany has defaulted on its debts four times in the last century. Italy six”.

In banking parlance, due diligence was not exercised

jdc logo2In January on the Jubilee Debt website, Tim Jones points out: “It is not the people of Greece who have benefitted from bailout loans from the IMF, EU and European Central Bank, but the European and Greek banks which recklessly lent money to the Greek State in the first place”.

Andreou adds: “The IMF report, published yesterday, vindicates Syriza’s position almost entirely. Greece’s debt is not viable, it says. The approach of “austerity first, debt relief maybe” was a disaster. Another programme of cuts without debt restructuring would be so counter-productive that the IMF refuses to be part of it.

A precedent

Greece was one of the countries which took part in the debt cancellation conference based on the 1953 London conference which agreed cancellation for 50% of Germany’s debt to governments, people and institutions outside the country. Tim Jones reminds us that the payments on the remainder were made conditional on Germany earning the revenue from the rest of the world to pay the debt. It supported German economic recovery, and gave an incentive for creditors to trade so that they would be repaid. He points out that Syriza is proposing a similar conference (some have suggested a reduction of around 50%, though there is no policy officially stated), with the remainder of the debt to be paid over several decades to ensure that Greece can continue to repay.

Professor James K. Galbraith, who holds a chair in Government and Business Relations at the University of Texas and has worked for the past four years with Yanis Varoufakis, now Greek finance minister, dispels nine of the myths in circulation about the Greek crisis here. Amongst them:

The creditors have been generous. Angela Merkel has called the terms offered by the creditors “very generous” to Greece. But in fact the creditors have continued to insist on a crushing austerity program, predicated on a target for a budget surplus that Greece cannot possibly meet, and on the continuation of draconian policies that have already cost the Greeks more than a quarter of their income and plunged the country into depression. Debt restructuring, which is obviously necessary, has also been refused.

The Greek government is imperiling its American alliance. This is a particular worry of some US conservatives, who see a leftist government in power and assume it is pro-Russian and anti-NATO. It is true that the Greek Left has historic complaints against the US, notably for CIA support of the military junta that ruled from 1967 to 1974. But in fact, attitudes on the Greek Left have changed, thanks partly to experience with the Germans. This government is pro-American and firmly a member of NATO.

The Greek government is playing games. Because Finance Minister Varoufakis knows the economic field of game theory, lazy pundits have for months opined that he is playing “chicken” or “poker” or some other game. In Heraklion two weeks ago, Varoufakis denied this as he has done many times: “We’re not bluffing. We’re not even meta-bluffing.” Indeed there are no hidden cards. The Greek red lines – the points of principle on which this government refuses to budge – on labor rights, against cuts in poverty-level pensions and fire-sale privatizations – have been in plain view from day one.

A “No” vote will destroy Europe. The citizens of Greece face a referendum on Sunday that could decide the survival of their elected government and the fate of the country in the Eurozone and Europe. To those who believe in the ninth myth, Galbraith affirms that only the “No” vote can save Greece – and by saving Greece, save Europe.

Andreou’s warning:

“The EU is actively trying to install a government formed of the very corrupt entities that stripped the country like locusts for four decades”.

Galbraith’s encouragement:

“A ‘No’ means that the Greek people will not bend, that their government will not fall, and that the creditors need, finally, to come to terms with the failures of European policy so far. Negotiations can then resume – or more correctly, proper negotiations can then start.

“If there ever was a moment to speak for decency and democratic values – as well as our national interest – it is right now”.

Many readers will hope that the expertise finance minister Varoufakis gained in mathematical statistics at the University of Birmingham, in economics at Essex and elsewhere will stand him in good stead.


News from West Midlands MEP Philip Bennion follows Sunday’s Associated Press account of Israel’s new Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog meeting President Mahmoud Abbas at his HQ in the West Bank.

israeli labour herzog and abbas

Herzog told the Palestinian president that most Israelis support a peace deal with the Palestinians. He added that the Labor Party will back any future agreement and provide a parliamentary safety net for Netanyahu if he reaches such an agreement. This is one of many signs that Israelis are asserting a desire for peace.

MEP Philip Bennion, substitute member of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, is backing a cross-party appeal to Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission to ensure that EU cash does not end up funding activities in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, illegal under international law.

The appeal was made in a letter signed by 114 MEPs urging the High Representative to ensure that no form of EU-funded support is provided to Israeli entities based in settlements illegal under international law, or to activities or operations in those settlements, as implied in Haaretz accounts of EU guidelines which say that any Israeli ‘entity’ seeking funding from or cooperation with the EU will have to submit a declaration stating that it has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank. An extract:

MEPs letter re israeli settlements

Phil Bennion said, with reference to Horizon 2020, the EU £60 billion research and development programme:

phillip bennion2“The EU is a strong supporter of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israel dispute based on the right of both sides to co-exist peacefully in their own state, backed by international law.

“The EU is a friend of democracy and a friend of Israel, but at the same time must not end up supporting entities unlawfully established in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories or supporting activities related to these settlements, which remain illegal under international law”.


Michael Ward gave a persuasive and eloquent address at the October public meeting held at St Martin’s Church to discuss the future of the Bull Ring Open Market and Wholesale Market, which can be seen and heard here.  One of the memorable points made was that it is naïve to think that you can dig up a market and expect it to replant itself on a suburban lorry park and keep its networks intact. 

He draws on experience as Chief Executive of a Regional Development Agency and a local regeneration partnership, working on projects which support the renewal of communities and places. 

His earlier presentation to the National Association of British Market Authorities Conference in Harrogate on the challenges facing local markets will be of interest to many readers. Those with the right software can see the PowerPoint slides at his site.

NABMA is the country’s leading markets organization and has promoted the interests of its local authority members for over 80 years, playing a key role in shaping the future of markets.

Michael Ward described local authorities who retain ownership of a market site or hall and sometimes see them as ‘cash cows’  – like car parks. When no longer seen as profitable sections are sold off, or markets are closed or relocated. 

He referred to the countrywide Clone Towns, memorably described by the New Economics Foundation, and to Ghost Towns. An unusually clean and tidy one is described here in a BBC video.

Trade has been drained from the town centres to out-of–town supermarkets; as one trader said: “We built the town up – now they want to give it to the supermarkets.”

European countries value their markets 

Mr Ward said that England is the only country in the European Union which doesn’t seem to care about what markets offer. Councils were urged in his St Martin’s address to regard them as a source of pride, not embarrassment. 

He concluded:

Markets are central to the health and vitality of a city – rich in social capital – and councils should value and nurture them: 

“Markets should be at the heart of localism and the Big Society.”