Turn left, turn left, TURN LEFT!!! Hey New Zealand where have all the Socialists gone?

New Zealand has an election on the 23rd September. Currently it’s fair to say, I have nobody particularly inspiring to vote for. Economically it would appear whichever way it goes; a right coalition or a left coalition, neoliberal policies will still persist the following morning. That’s not to say there are no differences, but they are to be found in funding certain programmes or the nuances of the said programmes rather than a re-structuring of a failed economic system. So far during the run up to the election, the ‘NZ left’ have had an interesting time of it. Firstly Labour unveiled Jacinda Adhern as their new leader, which initially caused euphoria among progressives. jacindaThis was known unimaginatively by the press as ‘Jacindamania’, which has only slightly started to wane over the last few weeks, primarily because her mention of the dreaded ‘T’ word, that is taxes. Then Metiria Turei, the joint leader of the Greens fell on her sword, after admitting she lied to authorities, therefore, claiming more benefits than she was entitled to. Ms Turei in her defence stated her actions were nothing more than trying to “survive as a solo mum”. The point of this was to initiate a debate regarding the most vulnerable sections of society and the major problems regarding welfare. Instead Turei’s admission became a starting pistol for intense abuse by right wing factions, both National and ACT desperately portrayed Ms Turei as nothing more than cheat and a criminal. This would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. This very National government has consistently allowed corporations to dodge tax and create an environment that provides socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. The tactic of using the poor as an object of aggression, for having the temerity to survive, while the rich get ever richer, is seen all over the neoliberal world and is used to perfection in an effort to keep societies divided.

I came to live in New Zealand from England in 2011, having visited here on our honeymoon in 2010. The longer I spent here, the more I realised that the people are essentially egalitarian, however, this communal spirit stops with a government that is ideologically neoliberal. The differences in NZ from life in most parts of the UK are palpable and hugely welcome. Fruit from your trees gets shared out at work, fish is handed over the fence if somebody has had a good day on the water and people are generally happy to give you hand if you get stuck. Quite often your labour can be used instead of money, for something you may need. For example my last batch of fire-wood was paid for by helping my friends to chop and split wood for the day. Although to most people in the UK this may seem odd as products are bought with that stuff they call money, here it’s pretty normal to exchange goods for your labour. At first I thought maybe this was because I live in provincial New Zealand, therefore as the saying goes ‘if we all get along, we go along’. However, after living in Auckland which is bigger, more frantic and less personal it is still my opinion that even Auckland is a much friendlier place than the average English city. After a few years here I have concluded that this friendly Kiwi attitude permeates pretty much all over the country. So imagine my surprise whilst getting to grips with NZ politics, when I noticed there were no prominent left leaning parties, a problem that still persists today. This blind devotion to neoliberalism hasn’t always been the case, but it’s a doctrine that was borrowed off the US and the UK in the 80’s. The effect of this was to push all acceptable politics to the right and to marginalise the left.

Like most countries in the Anglo-American world Social Democratic parties swung wildly to the right following free-market capitalism being the adopted orthodoxy. It’s not difficult to find examples of this lurch to the right from supposed peoples parties; Bill Clinton took the Democrats to victory in 1993, likewise Tony BlairMSC_2014_Blair_Mueller_MSC2014_(cropped) swept to the top job with Labour in 1997. Both leaders were similar with their liberal rhetoric and easy charm. At the heart of their success, however, was an adherence to a market economy, which managed to sway the support of the corporations and the media. Both Clinton and Blair accomplished the task of achieving relative longevity by balancing neoliberal economic policies, while offering social justice concessions. With this heady cocktail of ideas, often known as the 3rd way, both were able to successfully lure the electorate. Clinton brought in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 while Blair was instrumental in introducing a minimum wage in the UK. These types of policies softened the blow of deregulation of the financial sector and masked the damage that would occur in years to come. One of Bill Clinton’s most destructive actions was to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act which was initially designed to separate commercial and investment banking, this act had been in place since 1933 following the depression in the US. It’s fair to acknowledge that a lack of these types of safety mechanisms among others were a reason the global financial crisis was allowed to reach the devastating conclusion it did. Meanwhile under Blair’s watch university tuition fees were ushered in and privatisation by stealth for the health service increased. The UK and US are not alone regarding their acceptance of a neoliberal doctrine. New Zealand has it’s own tale to tell, which could very well shed some light on the original question “where’s the left”.

New Zealand had always been considered a social democratic state prior to the mid 80’s. From the 1930’s onwards the state owned many assets including Post, Railways, Inter-Island ferries, electricity generation, major public construction works, public housing, hospitals, mining and broadcasting to name a few. The government looked after their citizens and unemployment was quite often below 1%. By the early 80’s people were becoming tired of the National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon from a personal perspective. While many businesses in Auckland were becoming frustrated by a tightly controlled economy. To the surprise of many, Muldoon called a snap election in June 1984, this proved to be his undoing as his opponent David Lange was victorious by a landslide, leading the 4th Labour government. On the night of the election results and following celebrations, David Lange was saddled with the news that the previous government had accrued huge amounts of debts and NZ dollar was massively over-valued. douglasThe newly crowned Finance Minister Roger Douglas who was heavily influenced by the neoliberal ideology of Milton Friedman seized on this New Zealand financial crisis. Douglas had already written a book outlining a radical change to the NZ economy, which was considered ridiculous by most people in the political world. But what Douglas and the rest of the Troika (Richard Prebble and David Caygill) would do next, however, was classic ‘shock doctrine’ as described in Naomi Klein’s wonderful book. This ‘shock therapy’ as used in Chile, Russia, Argentina, US and UK, was to utilise a disaster such as a coup (Chile) or a financial crisis (US and UK) to usher in ideologically driven capitalism. This method, still used today, is consistently in the form of massive deregulation and the privatisation of state assets. These proposed economic changes were heavily supported by the NZ Treasury and the Business Round Table, an exceptionally right-wing think-tank. Within a short period of time New Zealand was transformed from one of the most regulated countries economically to one of the least.

The Labour government proceeded  to sell off national assets worth $2.5 billion at bargain basement prices, while slashing top tier tax from 66% to a paltry 33%. Company taxes were reduced in a similar fashion, at the same time a new regressive Good and Services Tax (similar to UK VAT) was introduced. The Labour regime limited the right to strike, as real wages declined by 10%. Furthermore unemployment climbed from 8.5% to 16.2%. To counter any excessive payments regarding high unemployment the government reduced benefits and abolished payments for under 18’s. As neoliberalism took a hold in NZ, it was common practice to reduce unemployment payments if the gap between declining average wages and the dole became too close. In classic ‘disaster capitalism’ style, Roger Douglas declared that reforms had to be done as quickly as possible, to avoid any form of resistance to them. He even tried towards the end of his tenure to introduce a flat tax, which was a bridge too far for Lange. Following Labour’s resounding defeat in 1990, the country was now in the hands of National, where there would be no let up on the neoliberal doctrine. While in the 80’s NZ had Rogernomics, the 90’s resulted in Ruthanasia. images.duckduckgo.comRuth Richardson was now the Finance Minister and was prepared to put free-market capitalism on steroids. It was their goal to privatise anything that wasn’t nailed down, including health, education, while reducing unemployment, sickness and welfare benefits. Active campaigns using adverts and TV programmes were used to demonise welfare recipients such as benefit cheats, unfortunately the same amount of effort was not expended on tax evaders/avoiders. Like their traditional opponents the National government were happy to maintain high levels of unemployment purposely to keep wages low and therefore, inflation low. Any collective in the form of unions which opposed these draconian reforms were systematically dismantled, with the Employments Contract Act. This intentionally individualised the employment relationship and pitted employee versus employee, this also had the dramatic effect of lowering wages. Although Ruth Richardson was gone by 1993, the National government continued until 1999. By then the die was cast, most people didn’t know any better than capitalism and consumption. The incoming Labour government led by Helen Clark managed to put the breaks on runaway capitalism, but by then individualism and consumerism were ingrained on a national psyche that once stood for egalitarian values.

So I guess the question is, why socialism, why go left? The answer is simple, unbridled capitalism does not have the answers to our very serious problems, both nationally and globally. If you are uncomfortable with socialism. then fine call it something else. The important thing is we need to move away from a massively individualistic society to a collective one. Jeremy Bentham stated “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. Not only is that a moral statement, but a practical one when we think that we live in a finite world and what we do has direct consequences on someone or something else. To live a life as if we are in isolation is foolish and irresponsible. To emphasise this point, the worlds 8 richest people have more wealth than the poorest 50%, while 1 in 9 people will go to bed hungry. How does this make sense? Gandhi famously said;

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

So lets get to our pressing problems and why New Zealand needs to turn left. First up homelessness, a report by Yale University concluded that New Zealand has the highest homeless rates in the OECD. More than 40,000 people live on the streets or in emergency housing or substandard shelters, this equates to almost 1% of the population. While there is one person living rough or in sub-standard accommodation, in my opinion we have failed as a society. This is clearly a difficult problem to solve; there is indeed the physical aspect of having enough accommodation, psychological problems, such as people feeling disenfranchised with society and many other complex contributing factors. But the answer is not how many houses to build, or how we increase mental health provision. The answer is the government needs to find the political will to actually complete these projects regardless of any barriers that may exist. Government’s seem to find money to fund war or bank bailouts, but somehow the cupboard is bare when it comes to the most vulnerable in society. This is quite simply an ideological decision to allow certain sections of society to suffer.

New Zealand has some highest suicide rates in the world. NZ youth suicide has twice the prevalence of Australia and five times that of the UK. Although the reasons are multi-faceted, economic inequality is a huge factor with regards to mental health problems. Feelings of worthlessness and status anxiety increases, while trust decreases. The very fabric of society disintegrates, at a time when many people would benefit from a supportive network. Inequality also has a huge effect on child poverty, in 1982 child poverty was 14%, now it sits around 28%. All the while the incomes of the top 10% compared to the lower 10% have increased from 5 times to 10 times greater. The examples I have mentioned highlighting where NZ falls down have one thing in common, ‘people’. If the wealth of the rich compared to the poor widens, yet many health and social indicators show NZ is severely lacking, this indicates to me that the system has failed and the government has no inclination or desire to change course. One last thought on this; New Zealand’s richest two men (Richard Chandler and Graeme Hart) have more wealth than 30% of the poorest people. That in itself is sickening.

On to my last reason for NZ to turn left. The most important issue we face on this planet is climate change. The National government have signed up to the Paris accord, however, this according to renowned climate scientist James Hansen doesn’t go far enough to avoid temperatures elevating by 2 degrees. Climate scientists warn that this rise would have dramatic affects; one in which seas will rise by more than 5 metres over the coming centuries, and one in which droughts, floods and extreme heatwaves will ravage many parts of the world. Currently National seem to be randomly tossing figures around without any concerted plan. For example the government have stated that it will aim for a 2030 target of 30% below 2005 emission levels, which actually is equivalent to cutting emissions to 11% below 1990 levels. Their rhetoric is meaningless as are their actions, but this shouldn’t be surprising as it’s a party wedded to big business, including the fossil fuel industry.

During this election cycle, National have ran an exceptionally negative campaign towards Labour and the Greens. This has been a two pronged attack; ridiculing Labour by stating their proposals are not affordable, while scaring the public into believing they’ll be paying masses of tax to pay for services. One of the stand-out moments was Steven Joyce the current Finance Minister, claiming there was a $11.7bn hole in Labour’s budget. steven joyceThis was of course total rubbish, but it didn’t matter, it had the desired effect. In the right-wing world there is no requirement to tell the truth only the result matters. These tactics were designed to make Labour seem indecisive regarding taxes, at the same time slowing the Jacinda effect. My thoughts are Jacinda Adhern should have been bold the moment she took office, stating; these are the problems, this is what we’ll do, this is why we’ll do it and here’s how we’ll pay. Obviously the only way they could pay is through taxes. Bizarrely, New Zealand, appears to be tax phobic, which would indicate that the people are heavily taxed. This couldn’t be further from the truth, tax is a little less than most OECD countries and is a lot less progressive than it once was (top tax rate was 66%). Tax is obviously spent on services such as health, education, police, prisons and welfare. Therefore, what we pay on tax is directly linked to what sort of services we want in New Zealand. Tax is no more than the pooling of our resources to make the nation better. Scandinavia is well known for their high taxes, but have an excellent standard of living, often topping rankings in; education, low crime, good health outcomes and excellent social cohesion. Tax isn’t the only solution to problems in New Zealand or anywhere else for that matter, but it does offer a means to improve services and reduce inequality.

So why do I keep harping on about inequality? It’s quite simple, inequality is directly connected with; increased crime rates, poorer health outcomes, less social mobility, substandard education, a decrease in social cohesion and a less stable economy. The ruling elite will continue to divide society, convincing the middle class to blame the poor, while the poor blame the immigrants. All the while the rich will get tax cuts or avoid tax completely. Rather than looking at the most marginalised and the vulnerable in society we should be looking towards the ruling elite to locate where the problem lies. As I stated at the top of this piece, the choices for the election are not particularly stark, but I still hope for a change of government and maybe a step in the right direction.

 

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Election time: Will Britain vote for more zombie capitalism?

Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s courageous fightback in the lead up to this election and a slim chance of victory, I suspect by the morning of June 9th the population of the UK will have walked bewilderingly into 5 more years of Tory rule. A further half-decade of class warfare in which the 1% will continue to beat the peasants into submission with their bonus cheques. We can expect more cuts to public services, further privatisaton of the NHS and ever widening inequality. Never fear, we will be saved by Theresa May as she has declared they will form a ‘strong and stable’ government. The question must be asked, for whom? Surely not the growing amount people who are now forced to use foodbanks just to get by. Certainly not the sick and disabled who have seen their benefits slashed, along with the unemployed. Theresa May I suspect won’t be fighting for larger families either, as families with more than 2 children saw their child tax credit payments reduced. It’s suddenly occurred to me, there is a theme, the most vulnerable in society are getting hit the hardest. This is not ‘strong and stable’, these are actions of a bully, who tend to recruit bigger more powerful accomplices to support them, such as big business and banking. This is exactly what the Tories have done, by consistently reducing corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to the current rate of 19%. The new government also vowed not to regulate the banking system, as the rest of the country recovered from the aftermath of the financial crash in 2008. This was repaid in kind and by 2010 the banking/finance sector funded over half of the Tory Party contributions. All the while the real people have been neglected, sections of society have been cast adrift through Tory reforms, commonly known as “cuts to services”. Although the term ‘austerity’ rarely gets mentioned in 2017, make no mistake it is still alive and well in the UK.

With all this mind, the question must be asked; why do people vote against their own interests? As a personal example I look at my Dad, an intelligent working class man from Manchester who votes Conservative and avidly reads the Daily Mail. What is going on with him and others like him? Of course there are probably a whole range of theories; aspirations, snobbery, family background, newspapers read, self interest and so on. Indeed when I apply these possible reasons to my Dad’s case, some of that fits. He was from a comfortable middle class family in Cheshire, he went to a grammar school, first job was at a stock brokers, he had shares he obtained from the BT sell-off while he worked there, he reads the Daily Fail, has a high intellect and yet worked as a mechanics assistant for decades. At this point it would be relatively easy to make rash judgements, however, I think there is more to this conundrum.

Many people have tried to look at why we make certain political decisions, from varying angles. Jonathan Haidt a Professor of Psychology at New York University suggests that we have six moral channels.

  1. care/harm
  2. fairness/cheating
  3. liberty/oppression
  4. loyalty/betrayal
  5. authority/subversion
  6. sanctity/degradation

Haidt’s study was tested all over the world and led him to a startling observation. Left-wingers or liberals in US parlance have a propensity to use mainly two channels; care/harm and fairness/cheating. While right-wingers (conservatives) tend to use all 6 channels fairly equally, as noted below. Although the chart is a US study and from the older ‘5 channel model’, the results have been almost identical throughout the western world.

6 channels

Haidt describes this disparity as eating the same item but using different taste buds. The result would be as if we’d experienced the same food exceptionally differently. Haidt continues, stating that right-wingers have a broader palate than lefties and suggests this may be why we of the left struggle to forge connections with voters. It’s possible this may explain why right wingers appeal to a larger audience. This is not in any way to suggest for example the Tories are morally correct, just that it may appeal to more people.

I have certain reservations with Jonathan Haidt’s work and this is most probably due to my bias as a socialist. Primarily he seems to assume that all six channels hold the same moral currency. When you look at another model called ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ some of Haidt’s channels are not on the same levels of the triangle. Maslow suggests you must fill one level before you move up and that life experiences can  impede progress.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

If you look above many issues regarding the leftist channels of care/harm and fairness/cheating can be associated with needs on the bottom two levels. While it could be argued although quite fluid, the other 4 channels could be linked to the middle to upper levels of the chart. With my warped anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint, I would offer that with this in mind the left puts more emphasis morally on getting everybody to the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and beyond. As Jeremy would say “nobody gets left behind”.

All this is well and good, but it doesn’t detract from the fact many people will be voting for Theresa May and against their own interests. Maybe we need to dig a little deeper to uncover a wee bit more. There have been a reasonably large amount of studies looking at brain differences using MRI’s, with interesting discoveries. It has been observed that the amygdala an almond shaped structure deep in the brain is generally enlarged in people who identify as conservatives. This is curious as the amygdala is a structure that is more active during states of fear and anxiety. On the flip side ‘lefties’ have more gray matter, in particular at the anterior cingulate cortex, this area helps people cope with complexity.

amyg

The nature versus nurture aspect of this has not been determined, but this finding possibly sheds some light on two politically very different specimens. Most societies are divided into a party that wants change such as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and one that is afraid of change Theresa May’s Conservatives. The leftist party is generally more intellectual and the right-wing party is more anti-intellectual. Right-wing parties put more emphasis on national defence, which magnifies our perception of threat, whether of foreign aggressors, immigrants, terrorists, or invading ideologies like Communism. So with all this in mind it is probably a good time to descend back to earth and decide where all this fits in to the current election cycle.

In recent weeks it has been noticeable that the Theresa May has presented herself as the protector of the UK following the attacks in London and Manchester. Remember this claim doesn’t have to be backed up by truth after all she is appealing to peoples emotions via fear. On the contrary you could present a strong (and stable) argument that Theresa May’s actions as both Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have made the UK more vulnerable. Saudi arms deals and 20,000 police being cut certainly wouldn’t strengthen the security of the nation. Simultaneously the right wing media have been on the attack accusing Corbyn of being a member of anything from the IRA to Take That. The goal of this media blitz is to manufacture a sense of danger, while presenting Corbyn as the incompetent and deceitful traitor. For this magic trick to work as you may have noticed, no truth is required, as long as it hits home at the voters receptive amygdala, mission accomplished. See exhibit A.

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I’m sure you are aware when you are conversing with one of these zombies, rarely do they tell you why you should vote Conservative. In fact they tend to parrot the same bite size intellect free headlines as displayed above, whilst slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. This is why the Conservative Party can serve up a half baked manifesto with no costings and no real detail, because it doesn’t matter, this is not aimed at the critical thinker. It’s directed at someone who is scared of everything, who hates change and who picks “strong and stable” over “calm and logical”. Hopefully I will be proved wrong tonight by the nation and Jeremy gets elected. If so the party is at my place, although you’ll have to provide your own airfares to New Zealand. Sadly, however, I feel we may have to start culling the zombies. Lock and load, stay safe out there.

 

 

Brexit: The Great British con-job.

The world currently has some major problems; climate change with no strategies in sight, multiple devastating wars all over the planet, the rise of far-right parties across Europe, a recently elected narcissist in the US and increased tension between NATO and Russia. Focusing in on the UK’s issues; the NHS is in free-fall, inequality with all its associated problems is increasing exponentially, while the government adds to the woes of the populace, by spending less and privatising more. The ruling elite are a collection of people who are devoid of compassion and care little of the 99%. Remarkably people still state that they would rather vote for them in the 2020 election. How is this so? What magical strategy have these master tacticians conjured up? The simple answer is, ‘divide and conquer’, a method that has been serving tyrants well, all over the globe for thousands of years. More specifically, one of the ways the Tories have achieved this is through the EU referendum. Brexit as it is known is quite literally the scam of the decade and more importantly for the ruling elite it has worked to perfection.

Never has a country been so divided, not just regarding the EU but on every conceivable level; racially, geographically, financially and nationally (attempts at Scottish independence proves this) to name a few issues. The EU disagreements and deep division began months before the 23rd June 2016 and continues unabated to this day. I claim to be no expert on Brexit itself, in fact the whole process bores the pants off me, because I view it as an intentional distraction, clouding much bigger issues as previously mentioned. It’s fair to say, however, that it is presently the most talked about and emotive political subject in the UK. Each time I post a Brexit linked article on my Facebook page there is always much greater interest than anything else I could post. When discussing the EU referendum on varying pages I visit, political discussions quickly deteriorate between opposing factions. Rational debate between ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remainers’ could be at best considered illusive. There appears very little middle ground and every step of this painstaking process to leave the EU sparks less debate, but more anger and vitriol .

As a political junkie, my ambivalence towards Brexit is rooted in my belief that the main purpose of this charade, is to splinter the nation even further. The concept is cunning in as much as the battle-lines between the two camps regarding Brexit are not drawn simply between left and right on the political spectrum. The fissures already evident in society can be complicated further with this added contrived layer of complexity we call Brexit. The population can be divided in a myriad of ways such as; north/south, rich/poor, non-migrant/migrant, Labour/Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP, England/Scotland/ NI/Wales, remain/leave and so on. These varying groups can be manipulated for example by using referendums, inflammatory government policy or media propaganda to disrupt social cohesion. One of the prime levers used leading up to Brexit was immigration. Although the EU referendum wasn’t directly related to non-EU immigration, parties such as UKIP and to an extent the Tories, used the subject of immigration to evoke fear of a country being over-run. They repeatedly suggested that immigration was a primary reason for decreased public services, notably the NHS and an increase in crime. These scare tactics weren’t grounded in facts, nor were they required to be, their job was purely to scaremonger.

farrage

One of the upsides for the government regarding Brexit has been the lack of cohesion within the Labour Party. I hardly think right-wing think tanks would have thought the EU referendum would have such a calamitous effect on the main opposition, but sadly that has indeed been the case. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s overwhelming original leadership election in September 2015, right-wing elements in the Labour party have been desperate to make Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure a tricky one. Labour always describe themselves as a ‘broad church’, but I would offer that they behave more like a ‘dysfunctional family’, such as the Simpsons. There are sections of the party that are simply poles apart, for example, the left largely embraces democratic socialist ideas, while supporters on the other side of the party comically called ‘moderates‘ subscribe to a centre/right ideology. It was this political path also known as the ‘third way’ which Tony Blair and New Labour adhered to. Between them there is no common ground as such, hence the friction. We then added Brexit into the mix and this now gave the ‘moderates’ another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with.

Shortly after the EU referendum result there was a spate of tightly choreographed mass resignations of Shadow Cabinet members, this was jokingly named in left-wing circles the ‘chicken coup’. The reasons provided for these grandiose displays of displeasure generally revolved around accusations of a poor performance by Jeremy Corbyn in his role of persuading Labour supporters to vote remain. This, however, holds little water as 63% Labour party voters decided to tick remain at the ballot box.

lr-by-party

Regardless of the truth, the right wing of the party continued their assault on the elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. What transpired following this debacle was a protracted leadership contest, with the eventual challenger being little known sacrificial lamb Owen Smith. Despite a whole manner of dirty tricks leading up to the day of the vote, Jeremy Corbyn prevailed again by a huge margin. But in no way has this deterred the Blairites as they continue to ignore the members who largely support Corbyn in pursuit of a Labour leader who is willing to support neoliberalism and austerity.

Recently the Labour leader has declared his support for article 50, which will eventually start the Brexit process. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision is generally borne out of respect for democracy following the narrow vote to leave the EU in June 2016. This unsurprisingly has triggered more resignations and consternation within the party, followed by further calls by many ‘moderates’ for him to step down. It is clear to me that not only have the Tories and it’s many politically attached media outlets used Brexit to divide the country, Labour have used it in an attempt to depose of a socialist Labour leader. It would be deemed inconceivable for many of the MP’s to actually have to work with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. This is a man who is diametrically opposed to the Blairite corporatist way of doing things and looks towards a fairer Britain, not a Westminster driven country club for the privileged.

So how did Brexit affect the Conservatives? Well, after David Cameron resigned, they quickly installed Theresa May and life pretty much carried on as before. The fascinating thing was prior to the referendum, it was reported that the party was split and in a shambolic state. However, post Brexit they patched up their differences quickly and continued to destroy the country without missing a beat. borisTheresa May who was ‘a Remainer’ ended up as Prime Minister, while Boris Johnson who was one of the lead proponents of the leave campaign was given the role of Foreign Secretary. The present cabinet is now a mix of ‘Remainers’ and ‘Brexiteers’, so the suggestions of division within their ranks in hindsight seems rather exaggerated. In my opinion their disagreements were short lived because they all believe in one thing; unbridled capitalism aka neoliberalism. Their EU referendum argument would simply be; how could they best create a neoliberal paradise, in Europe or out of Europe? This is the glue that always binds the Conservatives together; a government by the 1% for the 1% and nothing gets in the way of the establishment juggernaut.

The damage Brexit has caused, particularly for the Labour Party will not disappear anytime soon. It is a powerful tool the ‘Blairites’ can use to rock the boat. Just as many from the ‘moderate’ side of the party have played the antisemitic card on several occasions in an attempt to weaken the current leadership. My view about Brexit is simple, in or out of the EU, which now appears out, the left need to push for an agenda that; cares for the most vulnerable, decreases inequality, changes our interventionist foreign policy and endeavours to look after our planet. I can confidently state that these 4 things wouldn’t have been achieved in the near future whether the UK was a member of the EU or not. This is why Brexit holds very little interest for me, Article 50 does not contain a blueprint of how to tackle our biggest issues. All we are doing is squabbling amongst ourselves and wasting time. I appreciate Labour is not in power, which obviously limits what the party can do. This period, therefore, offers 3 more years for the left to get a clear, simple coherent message across, because we cannot afford anymore neoliberalism anywhere on this planet.

This is a recent quote from Jeremy Corbyn referring to a UK outside of the EU.

“I say to everyone, unite around the important issues of jobs, security, economy, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future outside the EU.”

What the hell happened? And the next President of the US is………

For the last few days I have been trying to collect my thoughts regarding the prospect of Donald Trump inhabiting the oval office as the President of the United States in January. For those who follow western politics, this should not have come as much of a surprise, especially if one reflects on Brexit. For the people in the US to vote a clueless, misogynistic, racist, climate change denying, narcissistic bucket of puke, things must have been pretty bad.

Sadly the conditions were perfect and the writing had been on the wall for some time, democracy in the US has failed, more specifically neoliberalism. Whichever flavour of the establishment you chose you ended up with same crappy taste in your mouth. You were left with the unsatisfying feeling that nothing tangible was going to change for the average citizen. Regardless of the tribe, Republican or Democrat, the game would be rigged for life’s winners to continue reaping the benefits, while the peasants suffered year upon year. Some social justice crumbs were thrown off the table during the Democratic Party years, while military spending usually escalated during times of Republican rule, but mostly things stayed on track. The rich got much richer, whilst the poor were completely disregarded. This continues unabated today, inequality is wider than ever and the rich with an army of lobbyist at their disposal makes sure that it stays this way. The vulnerable in society are at the mercy of an unforgiving machine, whilst the working and middle classes have no sway on policies at all. They are given an illusion of democracy in the form of a vote, in between times they do not matter. The rich have used their money to influence government, hence after 40 years of neoliberalism what exists is a plutocracy, an establishment consisting of CEO’s and government facilitators.

Following the financial disaster 2008 Obama was swept to power on a wave of hope and excitement. Eight years later he has achieved next to nothing; a watered down healthcare plan, partial military de-escalation in some regions and a dubious Noble peace prize. On the other side of the ledger; wars have escalated all over the world, nothing discernible has happened regarding climate change and inequality has sky rocketed. People in working class areas and the poorer end of society watched bankers go unpunished despite destroying the economy, while their jobs disappeared overseas, for others pay and benefits diminished out of sight. While all this occurred the neoliberals of varying shades stood by and watched this unfold. People started to get angry, very angry.

This wasn’t the type of anger that is often expressed in mass marches, with hordes of brightly dressed people with face paint, music, placards and whistles, that you often see when liberals are disgruntled. It was a fury that was most probably directed at the TV while watching the news after steelwork or reading the paper. This was the rage of people who worked in car plants, farms, steel mills for 30-40 years, who were witnessing nothing but unemployment and destruction in their hometowns. The enraged were often but not exclusively white, working class, they were seething and desperate. You didn’t hear about them in the polls particularly, but in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin their numbers escalated. No political party or politician could meet their needs or understand their plight, then along came Donald Trump.

If you are a liberal, before this event you may have been relatively happy with the status quo, college educated, maybe living in a diverse community, you will probably have no idea why people were drawn to Trump. You might have watched Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and concluded that the world isn’t great, but it’s not too bad and that ‘steady as she goes’ is just what the country needs. For manyHillary Clinton in the liberal world Hillary Clinton was  deemed ‘a safe pair of hands’, if not too spectacular. Sure many liberals would like to withdraw from war, reduce racism, close the gender pay gap among other things on their wish list, but on the whole Hillary didn’t seems too divisive. From the opposite perspective Hillary represented everything the ‘forgotten’ were fighting against; steeped in governmental bureaucracy, massively rich, totally embedded within Wall St and the ruling elite. For them she was the very symbol of the demise and ultimately the collapse of US democracy. Sadly for Hillary Rodham Clinton she proved in boxing parlance to be ‘tailor made’ for Donald Trump.

I’ve heard people dismiss the near 50% of voters in the US as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic. While this may be true of the man himself, judging by the debates and media reports, this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to the bulk of his supporters. There is no denying his rhetoric towards Mexicans and Muslims would delight the racists within the movement. Likewise his crass comments regarding women, the disabled and the LGBT community may comfort the odd dinosaur who hasn’t quite made it into the 21st century. This doesn’t mean the millions of people who voted for him are bigoted. Trump managed to harness all that anger among his believers and direct it towards practically anyone who was different to them. Minorities as in most parts of Europe currently, were used as scapegoats, to the converted, this sounded like a plausible reason as to why the wheels had fallen off. He used the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, it was vague and empty, but it tapped into some feelings of nostalgia and a yearning for an America that probably never existed. His debating skills were akin to a bully in the schoolyard, but this didn’t matter. Policies were never mentioned, only baseless boasts and insults aimed at Hillary Clinton. The problem is, it worked, people were so lost and desperate they hung on to every bombastic word that came out of his intensely narcissistic mouth.

During the aftermath over this last week we have heard a lot of opinion from liberal hacks, there was one who declared it’s a white thing and that ‘they’ had nothing to be angry about because other people have it worse. While Amanda Marcotte stated in her article that the male white anger was used as a weapon to maintain their superiority and therefore wasn’t valid. These articles and others like it are dangerous, primarily because they serve to further divide the people by race or gender. They continue to ignore the underlying issue, which is a systemic failure of neoliberalism. Instead they approach this global problem of a broken economic and social entity through myopic ‘single issue’ lenses. In a way they are no different to Trump supporters as they are only interested or angered by issues that are important to themselves.

There is no doubt that this will be a tremendously difficult time for all minorities, as the lunatic has taken over the asylum. This will encourage fellow sociopaths to act out their wildest racist, misogynistic, homophobic dreams. We must be aware, however, even though incidences of hate crimes have increased since the election, these people have always been there, they are the minority, but they will feel temporarily empowered. We need to fight against this kind of abhorrent bigotry, it has no place in a civilized society, these people however should not be confused with the millions of delusional but not so dangerous voters who we need to strike up a dialogue with. All sides need to find what binds us together rather than what tears us apart. Most people want safe societies, great education for everybody, clean warm dry living conditions, jobs that pay fair wages, affordable good quality transportation to get us there, excellent health services and many others. These are not race issues, gender requirements or LGBT only problems, these are basic needs that everyone should have access to. If we look towards what we have in common rather than what our differences are, we may create a better society.

 

 

The illusion of democracy.

The western phenomenon of neoliberalism that has been exported globally, whilst exploiting vulnerable people throughout the world, still sits tightly, in a rather smug way throughout the UK and US. Right off the bat, I must reject that either of these countries have a functioning democracy. This is not inherently an Anglo-American issue, but comparisons between these two nations are glaringly obvious.

The word democracy appears in the late 16th century: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule’.

To be fair, I guess at no point was it determined which ‘people’ would possess the ‘power’. So yes, it is technically people power, however, these people are a tiny minority, who hold tightly to the reins of control, whilst deluding the masses into thinking they have any say in the political arena. Forty years of unfettered capitalism and individualism has destroyed any valid social cohesive opposition able to mount a serious attack on the status quo. Capitalberlin-wallism declared an ideological victory following the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, with no valid opposing thoughts to challenge it waiting in the wings. Now any serious debate outside this narrow corridor of an acceptable political narrative is brutally derided before it ever gains traction. Supporters of an alternative to neoliberalism (unfettered capitalism as seen in the UK and US) are pilloried by the mainstream media and laughed at by the establishment who gain exponentially from the current system. Our choices over the last 4 decades have been unbridled capitalism with strong conservative societal morals or unbridled capitalism with an occasional shy nod to social justice. With this lack of choice political despair has increased; leading to voter apathy and poor voter turnouts on both sides of the Atlantic.

On either shore of the ‘pond’ we are offered an illusion of democracy, in the form of political parties. The two main parties in the US and the UK have moved ceaselessly to the right over these 40 years, admittedly the US has veered much further than the UK, but the trends are similar for both. Neoliberalism has now become the only accepted game in town and anything outside of this is considered crazy, at least by the ruling elite.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

However, this hasn’t always been the case. Following World War II, the UK adopted a Social Democratic model, in an attempt to rebuild the depleted economy and the decimated infrastructure following the war. Primarily Clement Attlee and Nye Bevin were responsible for creating the National Health Service. nye-bevanAttlee also nationalised the railways, coal mining, gas, electricity, canals, the Bank of England and finally the steel in 1951. This particular economic model known as Keynesian was readily accepted until the mid 1970’s. Across the Atlantic the US employed a similar system under Franklyn D Roosevelt. This package was known as the ‘new deal’ this started in 1933 as a response to the great depression. Some of its content included; the social security act, banking reforms (primarily the Glass-Steagall act), maximum work hours and huge public spending on infrastructure creating 8.5 million jobs. However, after economic stagnation this system eventually gave way to neoliberalism in the late 70’s. This ideology went into overdrive following the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in UK. Most of the safeguards regarding job security, in terms of both ‘real wages‘ and workers rights have now been stripped away. Most assets including power, water, airlines and any industry whatsoever has been commodified, with maybe air the exception so far. Neoliberalism ripped the heart out of society and never gave it back.

Since the late 70’s we have had decades of unbridled capitalism, an increasing erosion of our civil liberties due to concocted wars, massive inequality driven by corporate greed, all cemented with government collusion, such as low to non-existent corporate taxes. We have a world that is ailing, our home globally speaking is on the ropes because big businesses coerce governments to abandon the people all to secure increased power. This is not a democracy, we end up succumbing to whatever the ruling elite decide, whether we know this or not. We only have to examine the derailment of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his attempt to launch a serious systemic challenge in the US, to realise the system doesn’t work for the people. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is facing massive resistance, not from the grassroots members who he resonates with, but MP’s on the centre-right of the party who still dream of those halcyon, Blairite, neoliberal-lite days. The attacks on Mr Corbyn are numerous, personal and devoid of evidence. All of the mainstream media, including the so-called left media such as the Guardian are persistently running stories on his inability to lead. Although, the recent leadership coup had been planned for months, which was obviously designed to disrupt the efficiency of the shadow cabinet and more importantly undermine Corbyn. All this is designed to distract us from what is really important. Jeremy Corbyn has some logical, straight forward, common sense ideas and the establishment do not want these to gain any traction with the populace. Jeremy Corbyn offers real change from the usual ‘lesser of two evils’ election day dilemma and the ruling elite will endeavour to destroy this credible option at all costs.

A functioning democracy that works for all of society in the US and the UK is currently a myth. The US had their glimmer of hope, but this was quickly extinguished and the majority of Bernie supporters were brought back into line behind Hillary Clinton. For the UK, the dream is not over, but the fight will be long and bloody. images-duckduckgo-comThe establishment have the power, the money, the MP’s on both sides and the media to spread their propaganda. Our power will be found with the people, but in all honesty we don’t have them yet either. People consistently vote against their best interest; economically, health wise and on education to name a few issues. The media have maintained their grip of the people by creating fear. The rich will always vote Tory, as they belong to the 1%, it’s highly unlikely they will ever vote against their own interests. However, the middle classes are coerced to take out their frustrations on the poor, lambasting so called ‘benefit scroungers’. While the poor are convinced via rags such as the Express and the Sun to direct their anger towards the immigrants who are supposedly taking their jobs.

This cunning sleight of hand misplaces our collective angst away from the real culprits; the CEO’s, bankers and the government. As they usher in the next round of tax reductions for the rich and cuts to services that has had catastrophic effects towards the other end of society. Austerity is just another tactic of capitalism that has decimated lives, while making the 0.1% of society obscenely rich. We need to recognise that neoliberalism is the problem. It is protected vehemently by the few and promoted vociferously by the media billionaires. If such a pretense wasn’t guarded so closely the game would have been over long ago and the people would have revolted. It is our job, therefore, to explain to whoever will listen, that there is another way, that this path attempts to look after everybody in society and this is called Socialism.

Here’s the great Noam Chomsky’s with his views on democracy and capitalism.

Jeremy Corbyn: The man with a plan

Jeremy Corbyn has navigated through another tumultuous few weeks, fending off the usual unsubstantiated accusations about him and his supporters. Plus a plethora of dirty tricks from the evil twins of the National Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party, in an attempt to subvert democracy.mr whippy Meanwhile Owen Smith the Labour leadership rival, over this period has trawled the UK’s ice cream hot-spots trying to convince anyone who would listen to him how radical he is by adopting many of his opponents ideas. Smith has largely sounded muddled and inconsistent during many of the debates. This incoherence is primarily due to him adopting a political stance on the left that is unfamiliar. Among all this mayhem Mr Corbyn has responded to his detractor’s cries of ambiguity regarding his proposed rejuvenation of society and presented a plan in the form of a 10 point vision. This much needed and ambitious goal is set to transform the UK from an ailing, highly unequal country to a more compassionate society, where nobody gets left behind.

Corbyn’s 10 pledges

  1. Full employment and an economy that works for all: based around a £500bn public investment via the planned national investment bank.
  2. A secure homes guarantee: building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes. Also rent controls and secure tenancies.
  3. Security at work: includes stronger employment rights, an end to zero hours contracts and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees.
  4. Securing NHS and social care: end health service privatisation and bring services into a “secure, publicly-provided NHS”.
  5. A national education service: featuring universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships.
  6. Action to secure our environment: includes keeping to Paris climate agreement, and moving to a “low-carbon economy” and green industries, in part via national investment bank.
  7. Put the public back into our economy and services: such as re-nationalising railways and bringing private bus, leisure and sports facilities back into local government control.
  8. Cut income and wealth inequality: make a progressive tax system so highest earners are “fairly taxed”, shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
  9. Action to secure an equal society: including action to combat violence against women, as well as discrimination based on race, sexuality or disability, and defend the Human Rights Act.
  10. Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy: aims to put conflict resolution and human rights “at the heart of foreign policy”.

To any Socialist, these are just common sense ideas, they prioritise developing a society as a whole, rather than swelling the ruling elite’s tax avoiding bank balance that’s hidden in places such as Bermuda. On the flip-side, right wingers will be treating this benign list with hostility, disdain and as a virtual deceleration of an ideological war. carlton clubThe neoliberals will interpret this as preposterous, unacceptable, government meddling and it may cause rich, middle aged men sat in their supposed places of importance such as ‘The Carlton Club‘ to choke on their brandy. So comrades, the first thing you may well be asked by any self-respecting neoliberal (if there is such a species) from either a blue or red persuasion is; how does Jeremy Corbyn pay for all this? To appreciate the answer to this question, opponents will have to put their right-wing ideology aside for one moment and try to think holistically. They will first need to discover that they are not the only people in world that matter, while understanding at the same time contrary to what Thatcher declared, society really does exist. This no doubt will be a bridge too far for the most entrenched of Conservatives. However, for the vast majority of people these ideas may appear wonderful in theory, but unattainable in practice. This is partly because we have had years of the Conservatives and more broadly neoliberals in the form of ‘New Labour’ setting the economic terms of debate. Disastrous policies such as austerity, which largely consisted of; being soft on taxes for the rich, cutting back on public services, paying subsidies for private contractors and stagnating wage increases for the peasants. This has not only failed to reduce the country’s debt, but it has increased the debt from roughly 65% of GDP in October 2010 to approximately 85% of GDP as measured in January 2016.

uk-debt-since-95

Solutions

One controversial economic proposal that has been suggested from the Corbyn camp is peoples quantitative easing (PQE), this is described as a new national investment bank. The general premise is, rather than printing money to bail out the banks, PQE would be used to boost spending on infrastructure and public spending. It is surmised that this cash injection via PQE, would boost inflation, which would have the effect of reducing the real burden of our accumulated debt. It is thought that this idea could work but it would have to be used sensibly and needs to be carefully managed.

With the potential problems of PQE in mind, lets see if we can uncover money in a safer way. I have 4 more simple suggestions.

Non-renewal of Trident

I am aware that this has recently been voted through the house, however, it is the most ridiculous waste of money I can think of. This £205bn relic of the cold war just makes no sense. It works on the logic that the Prime Minister has to be prepared to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on a sovereign nation that has already launched its missiles towards the UK. So we solve the imminent deaths of 100,000’s to millions of our own people with the outright slaughter of 100,000’s to millions of other innocent people in a foreign land. Great idea! Hey, I’ve got a radical idea how about we use diplomacy, while not destroying people’s homes in far away places. This philosophy of diplomacy works very nicely with Jeremy’s points 9 & 10. Simple, maximum amount saved £205bn.

Tax recovery

Richard Murphy published a report regarding the amount of revenue lost due to tax avoidance, evasion and late payments. It is estimated that £119.4bn was lost over 2013/14, a similar figure was reported in 2010. Murphy breaks down lost revenue into three categories;

  • Tax debt non-collection – tax that is not paid by a person or a company who knows that they owe it, but who doesn’t pay, or delays payment.
  • Tax avoidance – tax that is lost when a person claims to arranges their affairs to minimise tax within the law in the UK, or in other countries.
  • Tax evasion – tax lost when a person or company deliberately and unlawfully fails to declare income that they know is taxable or claims expenses that are not allowed.

The main area of tax revenue loss was through evasion, £82.1bn failed to reach the system through these varying methods;

  • Tax evasion in the shadow economy. The shadow economy represents economic activities that are not recorded or declared to avoid government regulation or taxation.
  • Tax lost as a result of other criminal or fraudulent activity in the UK economy.
  • Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax and offshore tax evasion.
  • Tax evasion on investment and rental income.

In the document Murphy outlines a number of ways to combat tax evasion and avoidance. The two obvious ones would be; to introduce an anti-avoidance rule in to UK tax law, and secondly an introduction of country by country reporting by multinational corporations. These types of strategies are heavily dependent on the government committing to a crack down on tax evasion and avoidance, rather than paying lip service to it. Sadly the lines between corporate and state interests are becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish. Lobbying groups are ever more persuasive on behalf of their corporate clients, while employees move freely between the two sectors.

However, the fact remains that there is a large chunk of change out there, that could make a huge difference in the public sphere. I believe a Corbyn government would make it their duty to seize as much of this lost revenue, which would go a long way to rejuvenating the nation. Maximum amount saved – £120bn per year

Robin Hood Tax or the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT)

A Financial Transaction Tax is my third suggestion in an effort to obtain funds for Jeremy’s 10 point plan. This proposed tax is a tiny percentage 0.05% that would be placed on financial transactions such as; stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives. These taxes are easy to implement and difficult to avoid, they have also been well tested in other countries. It has been estimated that a tax of this nature could raise up to £250bn globally per year, £20bn in the UK alone. The tax would be imposed at the riskier end of financial services, which would make absolute moral sense. The financial crash in 2008 was largely due to bankers gambling with other people’s money, so it should be their turn to pay back in to society. It is the most profitable industry on earth, yet it caused pain and misery for millions. It’s time they helped clean up this mess. Total savings £20bn per year.

Raising Income Tax top rate to 50%

This usually initiates groans from many people, however, we need to explain to the populace that this top rate would only be paid on anything earned above the £150,000 a year threshold. As you could imagine this doesn’t affect the majority of workers in any way. It it estimated that 300,000 people would be subjected to this rate of tax, which could if collected properly raise up to £6bn per year. Now, this proposal would receive lots of criticism from the right, who will state that it would initiate some form of mass exodus from the business community. The reality is, under Thatcher for the first 9 years the top tax rate was 60%. The hyperbole that would be heard from the neoliberal MP’s, the media billionaires and the rest of the ruling elite, would be borne out of nothing but greed, self-interest and narcissism. Total savings £6bn per year.

So, looking at the scores on the doors using these 4 ideas, we could raise £146bn per year, plus the £205bn Trident would cost over its lifetime. This is a good start towards that £500bn, which I’m sure isn’t intended to be raised in one year. What also needs to be taken into account is the huge sums of money that have been wasted paying subsidies for the failed privatisation of education, health, railways and benefits. Nationalising these services would save money, rather than financialising every aspect of government expenditure all to benefit the few. People want responsible government who care about everybody in the nation. Leadership that acts as the buffer between corporations and the masses. Not a government who exploit the public; whether that’s in the workplace with zero hour contracts, using our taxes to bail out failed corporate ventures or forcing our unemployed to work for free with the threat of loss of benefits constantly looming. This government passes all its draconian policies by instigating fear in our minds. From supposed terrorists on every street corner to immigrants taking our jobs and lazy benefit scroungers tanking the economy. There’s always another target to focus on except the real perpetrators. The masses need to recognise the enemy before we can all fight them effectively.

 

May the force be with you.

Disaster capitalism strikes back! Theresa May has been catapulted into number 10 Downing Street, following the aftermath of Brexit. This calamitous few weeks have enabled the Tory government to shift even further to the right, with a more calculated unempathic Prime Minister than the previous one. At least David Cameron pretended (rather unconvincingly) to care at times. Theresa May I would expect, will not even waste her time with such trivialities. I expect her to continue to spout, baseless, soulless rhetoric as displayed in her opening address. Both are economically on the same wavelength, however, May is more socially conservative than Cameron, with a particular dislike for immigrants, human rights and any form of social welfare.

It never ceases to amaze me how the neoliberals grasp every opportunity to push their ideology more radically following any kind of political or social breakdown. This is what Naomi Klein quite rightly describes in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ as disaster capitalism. The list of incidences whereby the right have used catastrophic events to their advantage is practically endless. These methods can be as diverse as; financial pressure, a manufactured political shift or as we’ve seen for over a decade in the Middle East, threats of military action. Activating events which facilitate the implementation of neoliberalism can be anything from a financial collapse, a coup (military or political) or a full blown military campaign.

The recent debacle known as Brexit and it’s fallout only served to send the country into disarray including the two main political party’s. I would go as far as to say the EU referendum was a sham and served to distract the voters from the real issues whilst splintering any remaining solidarity left amongst the working people of Britain. The masses are clearly unhappy but are currently deeply divided on how to display this. Some have moved over to the left, supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s politics of hope, whilst others have been brainwashed by political elements such as UKIP. This so called political party have spouted ceaseless anti-immigration rhetoric whilst promising to return Britain to the good old days, whenever they were. Looking generally at the right wing’s role in all this, the whole thing felt like a ruse the moment Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farrage ran like bulls in Pamplona once the withdrawal was assured. What followed was an array of confusing statements about how long it would take to leave the EU and how it would affect the UK. In fact most comments drifting from the right indicated that not much would change following this so-called momentous decision. Which kind of left me thinking, why? What is clear, is that all the Tories believe in strong neoliberal principles, to the detriment of working people. What they didn’t agree on with regards to Brexit and the EU, was how to best construct a extreme capitalist superstate in the UK. It is therefore, no surprise whatsoever that the Conservatives have managed to pull themselves together much quicker than the deeply divided Labour Party. What binds them together (neoliberalism) is much stronger than any lingering remains of repulsive forces left over from Brexit.

This cohesion theory of mine has been played out by the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. Even though Theresa May was supposedly in the remain camp she duly became Prime Minister and Boris Johnson who allegedly was in the opposing corner, picked up the post of a senior minister. At this point those on the left should meditate a little on The Who’s awesome rock anthem, ‘We won’t get fooled again’. I strongly suggest this, because we cannot afford to be continually duped by right wing ideologists, who regularly protect their fellow establishment cronies to the detriment of us peasants. Those of us who lean towards socialism, in football parlance have been ‘played off the park’. We need to ditch our naiveté and fight our way back into this, before it’s too late. This is why we need to support Jeremy Corbyn with every ounce of our being, because if the Corbyn flame gets snuffed out, we will remain in the political dark for quite some time.

So let us appraise our anti-immigration, anti-benefits, anti- human rights, pro war leader, to get an idea of what she has in store for the nation. The Conservatives’ have ridiculed the Labour Party recently, stating that they have had 2 female PM’s to Labour’s none. However, I always prefer quality over quantity and Theresa May would appear to be Thatcher 2.0. It only requires a brief look at her voting record to realise that her initial speech (see video below) was either a set of blatant lies or she is suffering from cognitive dissonance. In this section I will review the obvious problems that will impact the country the most. I’m sure many of you out there could suggest a plethora of issues that are close to your heart, but here I will highlight some of the most glaring problematic topics.

Let us start with human rights, here is an example of Theresa May’s hypocrisy. In April 2016, May stated that she would urge Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, despite at the time purporting to be a ‘Remain’ campaigner for the EU referendum. This made no sense as it is a necessity to be a member of the ECHR to be eligible to remain in the EU. What is clear, is most of the Tory Party agree that the ECHR should be replaced by some sort of watered down ‘British bill of rights’. By withdrawing from this 68 year old commitment to the ECHR, this would damage the UK’s international standing, as it is described as an important pillar of foreign policy. It can also be argued that there has to be another body outside of the government to rule on what in fact constitutes as a human right and when they are considered to be breached. Theresa May has consistently opposed laws to promote equality and human rights. In defence of her position May stated in April 2016 “The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights”. This blanket statement, however, would appear to be skipping over what the ECHR provides for us little people. For a quick summary of why the ECHR is so important, here is Patrick Stewart to explain in this wonderful skit.

Regarding foreign policy it is abundantly obvious by perusing her voting record that the UK’s leader has been consistently pro-war, a case in point being the Iraq War, which she supported. May has also always voted for the replacement of Trident; this is an obsolete relic of the cold war era at an estimated cost of £205 billion. At a time when UK public services have been decimated by austerity, MP’s have recently overwhelmingly voted in favour of renewing Trident. May’s unwavering support of nuclear weapons under the guise of a deterrent and other military interventions gives us a clear indication that she would not be shy of using and escalating military force to solve our foreign policy problems. I am sure this stance goes a long way to reassure the US, preserving the US/UK ‘special relationship’. Recently May acknowledged that she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike capable of killing a 100,000 people or more, which never struck me as the most sensible of strategies. I always thought that a retaliatory nuclear strike, hence, matching the death of possibly millions of people, with the murder of few more million human beings was outright lunacy. These points outlined make the prospect of a President Clinton and a Prime Minister Theresa May UK/US alliance, given their penchant for war a deeply disturbing prospect. It appears both premiers would be happy to send young, often poor people to die to support a failed foreign policy. An ideology that has nothing remotely to do with peace, but would conveniently line the pockets of the shareholders who have a significant stake in the companies involved with the arms industry. Recently Theresa May sent a message that she is more than comfortable denying any responsibility for the catastrophic US led western foreign policy by scrapping the ‘Minister for Syrian Refugees’. This at a time when western nations should be coordinating efforts to ensure the safety and humane treatment of refugees fleeing from an impossible situation, that US led foreign policy has helped to create.

For those who have kept an eye on Theresa May’s shenanigans this deletion of the Syrian refugees minister shouldn’t come as much of a shock. As Home Secretary, Theresa May made it crystal clear that she took an unashamedly anti-immigration stance. This is exemplified in both her voting record and her actions whilst in this post. In 2015 Theresa May addressed the Tory faithful stating that immigration threatened Britain’s cohesion. While in 2012 May as Home Secretary proposed that migrant workers from outside the EU who wish to settle in the UK must earn at least £35,000, this is in contrast to the average wage in the UK which sits at around £26,500, after a series of hiccups, this policy is set to be in place by 2016. The new Prime Minister also pushed through a series of blocks, making it much harder for foreign-born students to settle in the UK on graduating from their respective courses. Her main reason at the time was simple; in her view “the net economic and fiscal benefits are close to zero”. Interesting enough she offered a similar reason for leaving the ECHR, when she stated “ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity”. As previously mentioned May’s voting record reinforces her convictions; voting for a stricter asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules.

Returning to the home front, Empress Theresa has repeatedly voted to reduce housing benefits. According to her record, she voted against raising welfare benefits whilst voting for a reduction of spending on the said benefits. May has been opposed to increasing benefits for the sick or people with disabilities and against public spending to increase jobs for young people. David+Cameron+Theresa+May+State+Visit+President+X5YTpU5G37mlTheresa May clearly believes in a ‘everyone for themselves’ type of society, that purports going out and getting a job, but at the same time not supporting any schemes that may promote employment. It would seem that the new PM has no interest at all in helping the most vulnerable in society gain ascendency. However, on the flip side, she has always tried to help her establishment buddies out, voting against tax rises on people who earn £150,000 and above, whilst voting to oppose a tax on bankers bonuses. Ms May has voted consistently against a mansion tax, as I presume this would upset her and her peers, who would be deeply affected. At the same time she has repeatedly stomped on workers rights by voting for more regulation on trade union activity. It is obvious that what Theresa May advocates looking at her record; this is a widening of inequality, by quashing benefits of any sort, while taking any remaining workers rights that currently exist. Counter to this she is delighted for the rich and therefore herself to pay less tax. It is in no doubt that when a decision needs to be made, we can be assured that Theresa May will always vote in favour of the 1% and her own interests. Theresa May’s crowning glory (note the sarcasm) was the proposal of the, Investigatory Power Bill, or otherwise known as the ‘snoopers charter’. This intrusive set of new laws have passed through the House of Commons and is now heading on to the House of Lords to be voted upon. The Investigatory Powers Bill is a new law that will give the UK police and security agencies massive powers to collect, analyse and look at our private communications and internet use. Here are some of the worrying bits;

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be forced to create a record of the websites you visit and the apps you use and can keep this data for a year. This information can be analysed without a warrant. The police only need to get internal sign off to look at this data. Government departments, like the Department of Work and Pensions, can look at this data too.
  • Your communications can be easily obtained by the security services. Tapping undersea fibre-optic cables, GCHQ can record and keep all passing internet traffic for several days, and metadata for six months.
  • The police and intelligence agencies can hack into your phone or computer. You don’t have to be suspected of a crime for this to happen.
  • The security services can easily access any public or private database – whether it’s held by DVLA or Tesco. They have admitted that the vast majority of this data will be about people who are not suspected of any crimes.

All this will be pushed through under the guise of national security, but this is a gross erosion of our civil liberties. The bill is expected to pass through both houses by the end of 2016, at which point, ‘Big Sister’ will be watching you!

With regards to real problems such as climate change; Theresa May hasn’t been shy about showing her disdain for it, within a week of her tenure in number 10 she scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change. While adding insult to injury for environmentalists, Andrea Leadsom the lady who had no idea about climate change was given the post of Environment Secretary. The PM has consistently voted against climate change prevention measures and tighter regulation on fracking, whilst also being in favour of the sale of state owned forests. Her blatant dismissal regarding the importance of climate change is severely worrying, as she seems quite prepared to support big business at the expense of our planet. Her ideology is simply incompatible with the severity of the problem and the tough measures we are going to have to employ particularly against the fossil fuel industry. It is now imperative to limit the damage that has already been estimated to occur due to international governing bodies repeated laxidasicle responses to the crisis. On this issue alone I would declare her unfit for office, as she is contributing amongst other inept leaders to put the planet in severe danger.

So there you have it. While the Tories celebrate that she is indeed a woman, the UK need to be reminded that she is a human rights denying, elitist, war mongering, unempathic, narcissistic, despicable, global danger. Oh, but it’s OK didn’t I tell you…..she’s a woman.

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn: Changing the face of British politics.

If you are genuinely wanting change, someone who will support the people and a Prime Minister who truly cares, then he has been staring at you in the face since his Labour leadership win in September 2015. What Mr Corbyn offers on the surface doesn’t particularly sound threatening. However, you would be mistaken for believing he was the anti-christ the way he has been hounded not only by the Tories as expected but by his own party. MSC_2014_Blair_Mueller_MSC2014_(cropped)The truth is most of the noise permeating within his own ranks have come from the direction of the Parliamentary Labour Party. A group of MP’s still adhering to the New Labour, Blairite philosophy, which espouses a neoliberal doctrine not profoundly different from the other bunch sat across from them in ‘the house’. It is deeply disconcerting when the PLP have more in common with exceptionally right-wing Tories than they have with their socialist leader. This is also a Parliamentary Labour Party that has increasingly lost touch with grassroots Labour voters, the majority of whom are screaming out for real change. Not only that, but it is a PLP that has nothing to offer future voters. It is just the same old corporate driven, establishment riddled crap that a lot of people up and down the UK are sick of. So the question has to be, why? Why is the right flank of the Labour Party clinging on to the broken branch of capitalism. Particularly when there is a clear opening to attack the Tories with both barrels from an anti-austerity and failed policy perspective, that would clearly define battle lines of parliamentary debate.

For just one moment, imagine we are all at a party, the DJ has finished playing music, the bar has closed, the lights have come back on after the last dance and most people are standing outside waiting for their taxi to take them home after a good night. You notice in the corner of the room a small but boisterous group, hugely intoxicated, yelling at the DJ to carry on playing the music, “the night is young, oh go on, we’ve just started”. Even though the DJ is packing away his stuff, getting in his car and the bar stopped serving drinks an hour ago, this delusional, greedy minority insists that everybody else should carry on, because they haven’t had enough. Now transport yourself back to the present day and this is what we are facing in the political arena. Most people are aware either consciously or possibly in the deepest recesses of their mind that something isn’t right and that the world for whatever reason seems a troubled place. 220px-Rupert_Murdoch_-_Flickr_-_Eva_Rinaldi_Celebrity_and_Live_Music_PhotographerA large section of the population realises that capitalism isn’t really working any more, if indeed it ever did. The establishment which consists of politicians, CEO’s, journalists and all the other appendages of a bloated defunct system, such as think tanks and advocacy groups just can’t let it go. Their propaganda is peddled by influential media magnets such as Rupert Murdoch who dictate the political narrative for the masses. This system of neoliberalism that has been created in many western societies doesn’t and cannot work to solve our biggest challenges we have ahead. Yet there is a tiny percentage of the UK who simply cannot throw the towel in, who push to keep it alive no matter what the outcome and for no other reason than they gain exponentially from this damaging status quo. To return to the original metaphor, they blatantly refuse to drink up, step into a taxi and call it a night.

With all this in mind, Jeremy Corbyn is an unmitigated disaster for the establishment, an honest, caring, compassionate leader. Who, with a growing support that share in his values could be a serious roadblock to the neoliberal juggernaut that has swept the globe over the past 40 years. But wait, hang on, maybe the people are gravely mistaken, just maybe the ruling elite are the ones who know better, as they appear to insist. So lets examine some of Jeremy Corbyn’s political core beliefs, to see where he may be going wrong.

  • the NHS should remain a public service and not be privatised
  • the welfare must be there to protect us in times of need
  • the withdrawal from wars on foreign soil
  • social housing should be available for everyone
  • nationalisation of the railways

Well they all seem to make a lot of sense from a moral point of view; it appears he wants to look after the poor, provide affordable services and use the armed forces to protect our shoreline. It all sounds fine, however, predictably at about this point people of a right-wing persuasion are possibly yelling at the screen demanding to know how Jeremy proposes to pay for these crazy policies. So let us have a look at what neoliberals believe and then we will refer back to the above list. We can then attempt to make sense of these differing views from both a moral and financial perspective.

Firstly, it may be useful to backtrack a little and clarify what is meant by neoliberalism. It must be noted that this is a doctrine currently subscribed to by the ruling Tory party and approximately 172 PLP members. Neoliberalism is primarily an economic system, the goal of which is to eliminate government regulations, trade barriers and trade tariffs. It’s ideological views also include shrinking government, therefore, reducing its input, whilst privatising as many facets of society as possible. In the fantastic book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ Naomi Klein highlighted 3 important tenets to this system.

  1. Privatisation – this includes handing over health, education, public transport, utilities amongst others over to private control.
  2. Government deregulation – such as removing environmental protections, decreasing workers’ rights and the deregulation of the financial sector.
  3. Deep cuts to social spending – for instance healthcare, welfare and public services.

With all this in mind the neoliberal argument would generally suggest that privatising services would decrease government spending. They would opine that by selling state owned services to private ownership, quality would improve due to competition, therefore, the companies involved and people using the services would benefit. So firstly, lets look at government spending, the quality of services in relation to privatisation and explore if this claim really holds any water.

We start by investigating the UK’s railways. A report in 2013 written by the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester stated that private train companies were ‘heavily dependent upon the public purse’ to enable them to run services. The report also highlighted that the top 5 private rail companies received £3 billion in government subsidies between 2007-2011, this allowed these companies during this period to make £504 million in profit, of which £466 million were paid out to their shareholders. The report also indicated that the average train fares in the UK have increased by three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012. As Owen Jones mentions in his fantastic resource ‘The Establishment’, the French rail system is almost entirely publicly funded with virtually the same amount of funding as the UK pay in subsidies and yet French rail tickets prices are much lower than in Britain. The final point I’d like to make on the railways is; in 2013 the East Coast mainline was the most efficient rail company in the UK. In that year just 1% of the profits the company made were from subsidies, compared to an average of 36% from the other rail franchises. What is more staggering is that the East Coast mainline during this period was publicly owned. This information is contrary to what neoliberal enthusiasts would have you believe, regarding efficiency, value and cost of the private sector. Call me Mr Picky, but it would appear that the state subsidies only function is to provide these private entities with a profit. I’ve got a radical plan, let’s do away with the private companies and put the money we use for subsidies directly towards a national rail system. Just saying.

Next up, lets look at a permanently hot topic in the UK, the NHS. I will be blunt, the NHS has been slowly privatised by stealth since at least 2006 whilst under the control of Tony Blair and ‘New Labour’. As a former member of the NHS, I can also bare witness to the use of private ‘bank staff’ because of an unwillingness of NHS trusts to employ permanent staff members. Even though the ‘bank staff’ were paid colossal amounts of money to do what was often an inferior job. Nationally in 2014 it was estimated that £6.5bn was spent on the private sector in an effort to get them to see patients, this works out as 6.1% of the total NHS budget. It is also known that this figure has increased dramatically since 2014, possibly as much as 500%. It is quite evident that the general plan from the Conservative Party is to underfund the NHS, which will result in declining services. At which point the government will declare that the only way to deal with this problem is by further privatising the NHS, the details of this plan is highlighted in an article written in 2015. The question is, would wholly privatising the NHS be more efficient? I realise there are many factors when comparing expenditures between countries, however, looking at the graph below, it would appear that privatisation would not be ideal, for the general public that is.

US_spends_much_more_on_health_than_what_might_be_expected_1_slideshow

Which ever way you look at the figures, the UK pays substantially less than the US per capita for healthcare. The US is a private health insurance scheme and although it has been revised in recent times, it is still predominantly a private system. I also conclude that, a lot of the Conservative Party’s attempts to privatise the NHS is no more than an ideological decision. In 2005 the current Secretary of State for Health co-authored a piece of literature called ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party’ in which it called for the NHS to be replaced with an American style insurance scheme. I can only surmise that other people would benefit from this action and this I assume would not be the patients or the taxpayer.

I have provided two examples; the rail system and the NHS as evidence of how privatisation fails in providing an improved and efficient system as the neoliberals would like you to believe. The same issues of spiraling costs and inadequate services, due to the use of private companies can be seen all over, including the department of work and pensions, education, and the prison service. The reason is quite simple, private companies are there to chase profits and will cut back on quality as much as they can provided they retain their contracts.

So lets us return to our initial hero Jeremy Corbyn; this is a man determined to put the masses and those in need first, not corporations, profit or a tiny elite. This type of politics of genuinely serving the people, hasn’t been prevalent in a very long time. TCM8z1eqXAAAstnkhis absence of compassionate politics could quite conceivably cause some people to be skeptical, either because they don’t trust its sincerity or they may feel it wouldn’t work. However, Mr Corbyn has been found on the right side history repeatedly. He has spent his entire political career fighting for people all over the world; whether that was for the anti-apartheid movement, his stand against the Iraq War or more recently in opposition to the bombing of Syria. It’s my opinion that Jeremy Corbyn’s role is to encourage the UK towards a different kind of politics and to show the public that MP’s can maintain integrity and honesty, whilst delivering policies that help the 99%. The masses need to be enlightened to alternative solutions regarding our problems rather than neoliberalism. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has to become a strong, effective opposition, with distinct values from the right wing, austerity obsessed Conservative Party.

 

 

 

The vultures are circling: Why Blairites are self serving opportunists.

Britain is in a state of political turmoil post Brexit following the traumatic vote to leave the EU on the 23rd June. Therefore, what better way to perpetuate stability, than for self-serving establishment Labour MP’s to organise a coup on the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. This is no more than a pathetic attempt to maintain Labour as a poor man’s Conservative Party and to continue the neoliberal status quo. Currently 50 of the Labour Party’s front benchers have resigned and a vote of no confidence has been passed by Labour MP’s 172-40. It’s important to note that this vote is non-binding, therefore Jeremy Corbyn is under no obligation to stand-down as the opposition leader.

This treacherous act is in defiance of the majority of Labour members, approximately 250,000 of them who unanimously voted for Corbyn, giving him 59.5% of the vote in September 2015. Ever since his rise as party leader, Blairite MP’s have done nothing to solidify the party, despite Corbyn’s attempt to reassure MP’s that the party was a ‘broad church’. They have continued to criticise their leader on numerous occasions; such as Hillary Benn’s speech in favour of bombing Syria, which will in due course see him on the wrong side of history. Another example of these subversive tactics were the desperate attempts by rebels to undermine Corbyn following the recent local elections, even though Labour performed adequately.

What this displays above all else, is the extreme disconnect between the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), the Labour grassroots membership and more importantly their constituents . As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, right-wing Labour MP’s have more in common with their Conservative counterparts than they have with the people they are supposed to be serving. What is clear following Brexit, whether you were for or against the move, is that the vote was primarily a protest against establishment politics and for many people the EU referendum was a vehicle to convey their collective displeasure. The PLP as well as the Tories encapsulate everything the peasants are revolting against. Yet the PLP’s decision to use Brexit as a catalyst to revert back to a neoliberal party agenda proves that many MP’s residing in the Westminster bubble have clearly lost the pulse of the nation.

It is now apparent that this revolt was not some organic proposal led by Margaret Hodge, but a carefully orchestrated manoeuvre by Blairites to depose of Jeremy Corbyn, to primarily further their careers. Labour front benchers resigned almost hourly to maximise their perceived effect. The Mirror newspaper suggested that blue-labour, as I shall call them, used a vote of no confidence in the hope that Jeremy Corbyn would resign; as the PLP are well aware that Corbyn would most probably win any further leadership vote. The Labour leader has rightly ignored the pleas of Labour’s right flank, reiterating that he has very strong support from grassroots supporters. The Canary recently reported that this coup has been the brainchild of Portland Communications, which is a company fronted, controlled and supported by an arrangement of former Blairite spin doctors. It is also worth noting that out of all the resignations from the shadow cabinet 15 are members or supporters of the Fabian Society, 9 of theses being shadow ministers. The Fabian Society was initially an gradualist, democratic socialist society, however, like a lot of political entities in the 90’s it was hijacked by New Labour. This movement used the Fabian Society as their forum to promote Tony Blair as the Labour leader and eventual Prime Minister. The leader of this current revolt Margaret Hodge is the Vice President of this society and their voice has been amplified by current Fabian journalist Polly Toynbee, who has criticised Jeremy Corbyn whenever possible. I think we can conclude that this coup has been an organised attempt to promote a political ideology that is currently being rejected in most parts of the UK, but continues to be espoused by a very insular group of self-serving politicians. With regards to timing, there is a very strong suggestion that the revolt  has been executed as this moment to gain control of the Labour Party prior to the release of the Chilcott Inquiry’s report due on the 6th July. This report is set to damage reputations of many high ranking officials, including the Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair. Jeremy Corbyn who was strongly opposed to the Iraq War, has stated that if Tony Blair is found to have committed a war crime, he should be tried for it.

The silver lining in this rather murky cloud is; if Corbyn can survive this onslaught a more unified Labour Party could emerge that reflects not only the party members, but people who are disenfranchised with the current political state of affairs. Corbyn to his credit has not been slow in acting, dismissing Hillary Benn as his Shadow Foreign Secretary. Since then he has sensibly named a shadow cabinet, which is much more of a reflection of Jeremy’s own political views and more importantly the views of the vast majority of Labour members. At this precise moment the Conservative Party and the right in general are in disarray following the Brexit debacle. Now more than ever the Labour Party need to provide a cohesive, unified and coherent opposition to an ideology that has quite frankly over-stayed its welcome. The people who are causing this rift within Labour have no place in a party that is trying to provide a viable alternative to neoliberalism. These myopic politicians are by no means the solution to the UK’s political problem, they are the problem. We have had too many years of politics of self-interest, of blatant lies (Iraq), of economics leading to rising inequality, all the while ignoring our biggest global challenge ahead of us, in the form of climate change.

A revitalised progressive left leaning Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, offering strong opposition to unbridled, thoughtless capitalism might be just what is called for right now. This opposition needs to propose strong, robust, people centric alternatives to empower the neglected and politically apathetic. A set of principles based on compassion, empathy and quiet but self-assured strength. A set of proposals that will allow nobody to get left behind for the benefit of a tiny elitist minority. We require an opposition that can not only diagnose problems at a local level, such as inequality, a failing underfunded NHS and a fearful vulnerable population, but one that can construct well thought-out solutions. Looking at our challenges globally, climate change directly opposes the principles of capitalism. We therefore, cannot continue our frivolous consumerism or the depletion of our finite resources for energy and a strong opposition should reflect this. This is why I feel Jeremy would be the perfect leader at this delicate stage in the country’s history. We have to change direction from an ideological perspective and a principled, moral, compassionate leader such as Jeremy Corbyn, would help facilitate these much needed adjustments to the realities of modern life.

Are the Tories tightening the reins of power?

I was alerted to varying articles in the UK media about a recent Tory government plan to wrestle more control off the BBC. There are reports emerging suggesting that David Cameron is proposing to review the BBC charter every 5 years, as opposed to the current schedule of every 10 years. The plan will also replace the BBC’s self governance and see it supplanted with a 13 member strong unitary bond, with more than half being elected by the government. This newly formed non-independent group would have involvement in the daily running of the corporation, which would include news coverage. With other proposals on the white paper, BBC executives are fearful that this could literally turn the BBC into a state-run broadcaster. The culture secretary John Whittingdale has already stated that the demise of the BBC is a tempting prospect. Although it’s impossible to deny that the BBC has had it’s fair share of problems over the years; if you consider the shambolic news coverage in the US, the BBC is generally well-respected worldwide and is considered a good thing. Knowing that the Tories couldn’t overtly dismantle the BBC, as this would be hugely unpopular, it would appear that they are attempting to gain control of the corporation by stealth.

So why is this potentially so dangerous? For a start, there is something deeply sinister and Orwellian, regarding a government who aims to control the flow and content of the news. No political party should ever have any say regarding what is reported in the national press of any medium. Furthermore, journalists should not be under any pressure to deliver anything other than impartial, well researched information. It’s imperative that we have a news service that asks difficult questions, that informs the recipient, that provides information so we can critically think through what is provided and draw our own conclusions. In the west we derided TASS during the Soviet days, now it’s the Chinese and North Korean media services that get the same negative attention. Is the UK a so-called democracy going down the same slippery slope of state control? This from the very party that so blatantly advocates the free market? Not surprisingly the media isn’t the only target for the current Tory government, who are piece by piece rigging the game with the sole purpose of increasing their chances of keeping control of the nation.

First up the Conservatives intend to make it much more difficult for an opposition to be elected. The Government support is much stronger in England than it is in the rest of the UK; so with this in mind in October 2015, they gave English MP’s greater voting rights introducing ‘English votes for English laws‘ or EVEL. George Osborne also proposed a cut of 19% of state funding for opposition parties, this initially was introduced by Edward Short in 1974 to compensate opposition parties who didn’t have access to Whitehall’s resources, hence its name ‘Short Money‘. Furthermore, in August 2015 David Cameron magically created 26 Conservative peers in an attempt to make the at times rebellious House of Lords more Tory friendly. On top of this, he is also attempting to decrease the power of the Lords by reducing its ‘power of veto’.

Earlier in the year the Tory government confirmed that it would be pushing through the proposal of reducing the number of seats in the house of commons from 650 to 600. By altering the boundaries of certain electorates, it would increase the size of each constituency. It’s worth considering that Labour tend to have seats with fewer voters than Conservatives. As constituencies expand regarding the amount of voters, they will start to include voters in rural areas who traditionally vote Conservative. It is estimated that the majority of seats lost by this restructuring would be Labours’s and seats they did hold on to would become more marginal. In the US they would describe this as ‘gerrymandering’, there is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what is taking place. Turning their attention to the unions, in July the Conservative party introduced the ‘Trade Union Bill‘. This was an ideological decision designed to weaken union support and to ultimately make them less effective in supporting workers rights. The bill makes it harder for unions to call a strike by increasing the threshold to 40% of all members, criminalizing pickets, forcing unions to give 14 days notice before commencement of a strike (therefore allowing employers to use agencies) and making it more ambiguous, therefore difficult for membership payments.

The government have cunningly ushered in the Lobbying Act which prevents unions,  charities and third sector organization’s from criticising the government on the run up to an election. These third sector entities include voluntary and community organisations (both registered charities and other organisations such as associations, self-help groups and community groups), social enterprises, mutuals and co-operatives. The government is also trying to allow ministers more rights to veto requests for information, under the Freedom of Information Act. This is the very act that helped journalists uncover the expenses scandal and the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s lies about the NHS. Is it starting to feel like the dice are loaded against the peasants and as we get cast aside? All these precise seemingly benign manoeuvres taken individually may appear a little concerning, but relatively innocuous. This is of course until you start to examine the bigger picture and the whole thing feels decidedly scary. In 2015 the Tories surprised themselves by winning the general election. The voting percentage was heralded as a bumper year by the Telegraph with 66.1% bothering to vote, however, this is the 4th lowest turnout since 1918 and ranks the UK 76th in world regarding turnout. My suggestion is that the attendance for the election strongly reflects how the UK public feel about their democracy. Historically figures trended steadily downward following the neoliberal hi-jack in 1979 to a low of 59.4% in 2001, since then it has slowly started to creep back up. A triumph of political engagement and democracy, as the Telegraph would have you believe, it certainly wasn’t.

National-Vote-2015

Observing the chart above, what is striking is that non-voters obtained 9 percentage points higher than the people who are now running the country. I think it’s fair to say the effectiveness of the government and indeed democracy as a whole has declined during neoliberal times. This is the inevitable result when you offer the public no real choice regarding political direction from a credible party. Cameron’s austerity driven Conservative party was opposed by Labour, led by Ed Milliband who were as a party effectively austerity light. When you propose a choice consisting of two heads of a hydra, you are asking people to choose the lesser of two evils, which in fairness to the voting public isn’t terribly appealing.

So in reality only 25% of the UK actually voted for the Tories. The Conservatives maybe, cold, unempathic, entitled, out of touch androids, but they’re not stupid. Hence why they are changing the rules, for that potential moment in time when the UK may actually awake from their politically vacant slumber and realise it wasn’t all a dream. That the ruling elite are taking your hard-earned cash, giving it to the rich, whilst kicking you in the balls as a thank you. Like any good illusionist they use misdirection and sleight of hand to keep the masses occupied while they give their corporate buddies tax breaks, simultaneously overseeing crippling austerity measures for the rest of the peasants. All you have to do is peruse the Express, the Daily Mail or the Telegraph, and read misleading fairytales of immigrants taking jobs, potential terrorists pretending to be refugees, or classic stories about welfare queens fleecing the country of millions. Whilst you’ve got your head in these propaganda rags, the plutocracy will be setting up mates rates tax payment schemes, whilst settling on a vacation destination for their hard earned tax-free cash, such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda or if your money gets air sick try Jersey. We all managed to sneak a tiny glimpse of how the 1% live from the information provided in the Panama Papers and I expect more of these leaks to follow. As the great comedian George Carlin once stated “it’s a big club and you ain’t in it”.

So why do we vote for these people? Well as stated before, we don’t have a huge choice. Most reformers who nobly embark on politics barely seem to make a dent, generally due to the neoliberal machine grinding them into dust before they can established themselves. Other politicians are there because they’ve wanted power from an early age, as highlighted by the many establishment MP’s graduating with formulaic PPE degrees from Oxford. Unsurprisingly this isn’t a Conservative phenomenon, Labour MP’s from the ‘Blairite’ wing of the party are equally engaged in this rite of passage. There are currently 35 MP’s in parliament that have completed this one course, that so dominates the upper end of our democracy. Here’s a list of some of the country’s most loved (or not) MP’s who attended the aforementioned checkpoint of political power that is Oxford University:

David Cameron, Boris Johnson, William Hague, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Ed Davey, Danny Alexander. Matthew Hancock, Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Rachel Reeves and Stuart Wood.

What is abundantly obvious is the distinct lack of working class MP’s, as of 2010 91% of members attended university and a third of those attended Oxbridge. These stats confirm that a large proportion of our politicians have a very narrow set of life experiences, coupled with a severe lack of social diversity. This myopia is problematic when approaching issues and is regularly reflected in policy decisions. I am not denigrating university education in any way, however, a wide variety of people from differing educational and societal backgrounds would help to ensure a more rounded view when making challenging decisions.

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Above is a ‘rogues gallery’ of some of the leading characters the public have entrusted with running the UK. So let’s have a brief look at these guardians of freedom starting with George Osborne and we will suitably conclude with the current Prime Minister David Cameron.

George Osborne: Current Chancellor of the Exchequer and a leading proponent of austerity. Son of Sir Peter Osborne, he had a self-professed privileged background, educated in ‘independent’ schools, graduated from Oxford University with degree in modern history and a former member of the now infamous Bullingdon Club.

Boris JohnsonFormer Mayor of London and potential future Prime Minister. Born into a lower-upper class family, Johnson is connected to King George II and is thought quite probably to be connected to most of the royal families in Europe. Educated at the prestigious Eton College, he graduated from Oxford University with a degree in ‘Classics’. Whilst studying, Boris Johnson was also a member of the Bullingdon Club.

Theresa May: Current Home Secretary, the daughter of a clergyman, May was grammar school educated and graduated from Oxford University, with a degree in geography. Theresa May is married to banker Philip May.

David Cameron: Current Prime Minister, son of a stockbroker, mother was a Justice of the Peace. Cameron was educated at Eton and graduated from Oxford with a degree in PPE. Member of the elitist Bullingdon Club whilst at Oxford. Cameron is married to Samantha Sheffield daughter of Sir Reginald Sheffield, 8th baronet, descendent from King Charles II.

You may read these biographies and suggest I am conducting some form of class warfare and in a way I am. My argument is the UK’s top jobs go to very similar people, who although they may appear to have very different backgrounds within their own realm, could only be described as ‘from another planet’ with regards to the general population. In 2014 42.3% of Oxford offers were made to independent school students and yet only 7% of children attend independent schools in the UK. In effect we are handing the reins of power to a very elite group of people, to the point that it could almost be described as incestual. We like to think that they have the country’s interest at heart, but observational evidence doesn’t confirm this hopeful hypothesis. The worry is that we are entrusting people who have a certain ideology based on their narrow experiences to run the nation. A simple example of pursuing an ideology is austerity. Crushing cuts have been made to public services throughout the country, whilst the government continue to pander to the banking sector as if nothing happened in 2008. George Osborne has indirectly stated that the working and middle class are supporting the financial sector for when the next economic disaster hits. Even the IMF, not the most Marxist of organisations has stated that austerity does not work, but still Osborne persists. Inequality continues to rise, climate issues are not addressed in any meaningful way and we continue to support the US in perpetual war. This is all done to appease their backers from big business in banking, fossil fuels and the arms industry, who hold western nations to ransom.

I look at these politicians and feel that for all their fancy titles, Oxbridge degrees and portfolios of financial success, they are not suitably qualified to represent the concerns of the nation. On the other hand they are ideal to serve their own kind, for which they have done a stirling job, to the detriment of the 99%. They are supposedly serving all of the people, however, they only seem to provide for themselves and their peers. This is not a democracy, here we have a small fraction of the nation’s population, an entitled plutocracy telling the masses what is good for them. This approach is not new and was advocated by Edward Bernays in his book propaganda, who stated;

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

It could be argued that what we are really witnessing in most western societies is fascism, especially if you read Benito Mussolini’s description;

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power

The boundaries between the two factions of government and corporatism are blurry at best. It would be more accurate to suggest that their interests are completely aligned, as they serve one another’s interest to uphold power. They maintain the status quo by creating systems that serve the ruling elite, using mechanisms like bogus trade agreements such as TTIP and TPP to sustain their dominance indefinitely. In contrast the interests of the often forgotten, confused, manipulated masses are completely at odds with the ruling elite and the disconnect is rapidly growing. More worryingly is the absolute lack of interest of the plutocracy to reconnect with the population they allegedly serve.

Democracy shouldn’t be a spectator sport, where we sit and hope somebody will eventually make a rational decision on our behalf. This leads to a void, a chasm that will be exploited by people who are delighted to make these decisions and quite often these individuals crave power, not democracy as intended, but control. Narcissists and sociopaths who think they are more than capable in making these gigantic decisions, seem to rise to the surface, willing to send people to war, put people out of work and decimate whole societies. I understand sometimes big decisions need to be made, however, I would question myself 24 hours a day and never sleep faced with these dilemmas. These entrusted public servants in contrast float from one poorly made decision to the next; they put people in danger, whether that would be from endless war, the repercussions of imminent climate change or the total disregard of the importance of life and the potential of every human being. Democracy is everyone’s responsibility, if you shun such a precious fundamental action, you are literally giving away your power to people who are not worthy of it.