Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tory pledge on Fracking!!

      So the government is assuring us, just nine months or so before the next election, that applications will be refused for fracking "in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites" unless "in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest".
      As if the need for a conditional clause isn`t worrying enough, there is another  problem! Similar promises were made by these people in the build-up to the 2010 election; "no frontline cuts","no top-down reorganisation of the NHS", and "no VAT rise" spring to mind, whilst there was no mention of tax cuts for the very wealthy, or the privatisation of parts of the health service or of Royal Mail. 
    Neither were we told how state schools would be forced to accept academisation or face financial difficulties, that the Education Maintenance Allowance would be scrapped or that university fees would be trebled. We were, however, informed that tax avoidance was "morally repugnant", but not that Tory funds would be boosted by donations from the CEOs of companies like Vitol, which paid 2.6% tax on profits of $846m last year. Doesn`t that basically mean that instead of such companies paying a decent sized tax bill, they donate to the Tory party instead? 
      A government intent on reducing state interference to 1948 levels, and which cannot be trusted to keep its word, is not going to run a "well regulated shale industry", no matter what its friends in the Institute of Directors might say!


Guardian letter on "poor doors"

Disraeli, appalled by the inequalities pervading Victorian Britain, adopted "One Nationism" for his Conservative party, to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The consequent laws passed even included extending the rights of trade unions, and allowing peaceful picketing. Today Ed Miliband, in an acknowledgement that the country has reverted to Dickensian times, has chosen "One Nation Labour" as his election slogan, and nothing could justify his choice more than the existence of "poor doors" and the "segregation of inner-city flat dwellers", only fit for "vile coloured plastic panels on the outside" of their homes.(Poor doors: the segregation of inner-city flat dwellers,26/07/14) The transfer of the adjective from the property to the people signals the arrival, in London at least, of a form of economic apartheid; "affordable tenants" being treated with contempt because they cannot afford £500,000 for a studio flat, are being kept apart from high-income neighbours. This is clearly the sort of divisive behaviour which the previous mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, tried to eradicate with his "pepperpot" policy of social housing  mixed in with other accomodation.
 The fact that developers and "buying agents" are calling the tune is yet another reason for Miliband to pledge more regulation, and to propose legislation which bans all such "segregation"; such promises would not be unpopular. After all, what is the point of having a government which insists that civilised values are taught in our schools, when it allows, perhaps encourages,such intolerance, snobbery and bigotry in its housing policies?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The "Miliband problem" a Tory myth! The Labour List article

As the 2015 general election approaches, it is becoming more obvious by the day what the Tory strategy is; there are no new ideas, policies will continue much as they are now, with the emphasis on denigrating Labour proposals and the Labour leader. If Labour announces details to increase income or corporation tax, Tories are ready to pounce.
   The Tory propaganda machine has successfully convinced the more gullible that somehow the spending of the last Labour government on schools and hospitals caused the 2008 economic crash, and that as a result, they cannot be trusted to manage the economy. It`s upon this, rather than their own proposals, that the Tory election programme is based. Tories do not shout from the rooftops what their aims are: shrinking the state back to 1948 levels, a further reduction in both social mobility and, of course, immigration, to please defectors to Ukip, and more cuts in government spending. They will claim their "long-term economic plan" is successful, but will worry their assertion that more people than ever in Britain are working, with most new jobs part-time, on zero-hours contracts and very low pay, will be found out. On their "achievements" like the Bedroom tax, the continued tax gap of at least £50bn, the unregulated banks complete with bonuses and scams, the austerity policies which failed to kick start the economy or reduce borrowing, and the infamous tax reduction for the very rich, there will be silence!
    Education, Tories will tell us, has improved exponentially, but they will ignore the fact that academisation has taken place because most schools are fearful of financial problems, and has not always brought examination success, despite heads having more freedom to expel problem students. Even more worrying, perhaps, is the fact that academies and free schools do not come under the auspices of the local authority, sometimes with worrying consequences. Similarly absent from the Tory manifesto will be the recent figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which indicate the largest cut in public spending on education over a four year period since the 1950s has taken place since 2011.
      With so many other no-go areas, like the NHS and Royal Mail,, for the Tories to dwell on, the main focus of their strategy has, and will continue to be, the fabrication of the idea that Miliband is not prime-ministerial material, because of his "weirdness". Has the Labour leader changed since becoming leader of the Opposition? No, of course not, but a sudden awareness of his "strangeness" has recently emerged, just months before the election; according to Tory propaganda, which is supported to the letter by Tories` allies in the media, Miliband`s looks, eating methods, speech, teeth, and geekiness make him out to be more like a cartoon character than a prime minister-in-waiting. They are so bereft of policies which can attract new votes, they will attack Miliband with anything they can dig, or make, up.
   With humour and self-deprecation, Miliband defended himself well last week, but that should be it! He is no weirder or more geeky than other politicians. For goodness sakes, until a few months ago Gove was touted as a future PM. Yes, Gove!!
 Miliband`s "weirdness" is a Tory myth, created to divert voters` attention from the fairness and validity of Labour policies, and the unfairness of theirs. Sadly, the few left-wing elements of our media have fallen for this Tory con-trick, and the articles by Toynbee, Rawnsley and Richards, and such like, have only added unnecessary gravitas to the issue. It`s time for all Labour supporters to rally around their leader, and when asked about his "geekiness" or whatever, to reply with the same response, learned off by heart, word for word:
 "The only difference between Ed Miliband and any other politician is that he is the leader otf the party with the policies to transform this country, and create the just and fair society we all want"! Repeat it, if asked again, robot-like if necessary, and the penny will soon drop!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Morgan unlikely to change things

Of course, teachers all over the country, "pushed to breaking point by Gove`s nightmare schools experiment", will have celebrated his removal. However, did they notice that after Cameron`s reshuffle, Labour commented that nearly all the education ministers at the DfE were privately educated, when their shadow secretary for education is Tristram Hunt, former pupil of University College School, with fees around£5K a term? Presumably Hunt`s initial appointment had much to do with the need to challenge Gove at the dispatch box in the Commons, where his posh historical expertise could be a match for the Secretary of State`s superiority complex? Whether such "skills" are needed now is debateable.

   Morgan`s appointment will inevitably entail a more conciliatory approach,and no doubt, problems for Labour. It will certainly hinder Hunt`s policy of out-Goveing the previous encumbent. His refusal to support the teaching profession, either in their struggle to maintain acceptable pay and pensions, or in their objections to the assessment reforms and removal of the "level playing field", could well prove yet another embarrassment for the Labour leader, especially if Hunt continues to insist that "character and resilience" can only be found in the private sector! That alone should have been enough for his removal, not to mention his crossing picket lines! Another reshuffle could well be on the cards!
   There must be somebody in the Labour party, state- educated, who appreciates the brilliant work being done by everyone working in the education state sector. Unlike, obviously, the current Secretary of State!
What is revealed when privately-educated, corporate lawyer, Nicky Morgan says that she "will be nice to teachers" is that this government, still dominated by multi-millionaires,will continue to insult and patronise the teaching profession. Would the Attorney General make a similar comment about the legal profession? Is the Foreign Secretary going to be "nice" to Putin or Obama? Of course not, but when it comes to 60 hours a week, pay-frozen teachers, the condescension can be laid on with a trowel.
  Gove did it for four years, and succeeded in uniting all the teaching unions, something previously thought impossible! But if she thinks such patronising remarks will prevent future industrial action, she`s clearly got another thing coming, especially after the "fantastic success of the July 10 public-sector strike". (Morning Star,24/07/14) Most of us would have thought that serious praise for the excellent work being done in our state schools would have been the obvious start!

Letter about BBC bias over Gaza

Ian Burrel is absolutely right to say that there`s "no room for complacency" at the BBC.(BBC can`t win as both sides accuse it of bias over the Middle East,28/07/14) It`s also true that the "caution that existed in the wake" of the 2004 Hutton report has increased with the more recent Savile revelations, and this is reflected in its coverage of the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. Burrel may "reject the idea" of pro-Israeli bias, but the lack of detailed analysis about how international law is being flouted in the blockade of Gaza, and the allowing of Israeli spokesmen to churn out prepared lines about the enemy, Hamas, without explaining why their war is against the Gazan population suggest otherwise.
By attempting to avoid controversy, and pursue a "neutral course", the BBC has shifted rightwards, and ignoring to give due coverage to the worldwide anti-Israeli protests, and appointing a right-wing economist as Newsnight presenter, and soon, a right-wing politician as its Trust chairperson, prove it!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Basically, Blairites need to shut up!

      Was the "intensity of the adulation for Blair" at a Progress event really "a cause for concern" for Miliband, as Steve Richards suggested in the Independent this week? Given that Progress is, and always has been, a New Labour pressure group, support for their old leader, regardless of the fact that the speech was packed full of "general assertions" which were "rarely backed up by detailed prescriptions", was to be expected, but should not worry Miliband one iota.
      The truth is that the Blairites` divisiveness, and their leader`s advice to cosy-up to business and not to rock the financial institutions` boat, are the reasons Labour finds itself with a smaller than expected lead in the polls. Alarmingly, the most recent Ashcroft poll predicts that Ukip will win one of Labour`s target seats!

      Labour has been haemorrhaging votes to Ukip because its policies have been too similar to those of the Tories, and every time Blair, or one of his acolytes like Blunkett, suggests returning to "a comfort zone on the centre ground", the situation worsens.
      Far better if they all shut up, and put up a united front; they really need to contemplate what damage another 5 years of Tory dominance would do to this country!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Letter to i on Tories and tax avoidance

Thank you i for exposing yet another tax avoiding British company.(The £550,000 Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain`s biggest tax avoiders,24/07/14) The news begs the obvious question: if, as George Osborne says, tax avoidance is "morally repugnant", what on earth does that make the Tory party`s acceptance of donations from the boss of a company that last year  "paid 2.6% global tax on profits of $846m"?
It`s certainly another reason to believe that all talk from Cameron about businesses having to "wake up and smell the coffee" was pure political rhetoric. With a tax gap of around £35m a year, and a National Health Service in dire need of extra funding, we can only hope that this government`s duplicitous approach to tax avoidance is remembered by every single voter in next year`s election.

Guardian letter re Labour`s Catch22

Whilst Polly Toynbee may well be right to say that "the solidity of the policies taking shape is giving Labour a new spring in its step", but she omits the fact that it is the moderation of the policies which has lost Labour so many voters, especially to Ukip, predicted in the latest Ashcroft poll to win two of Labour`s target seats! (Labour`s got its spring back but what about the swing? 22/07/14) Goodwin and Ford`s research suggests the defectors to Ukip were not so worried by doubts about Labour`s "fiscal rectitude" as about  policies resembling those of the Tories too much, and some members of the front bench being too close to the City.(Revolt of the dispossessed,10/03/14) 
      This apparent Catch-22 situation is not insoluble, as there is in Toynbee`s words,"room for manoeuvre"; policies can be radicalised in some areas without additional cost, as in retaining RBS as a People`s bank, and a declaration of war on tax avoidance. In its struggle to win the swing voter`s trust, Miliband could insist that all Labour MPs and candidates make public their tax details  prior to the election, so that the electorate can be quite clear that there is at least one party willing to be transparent on this very important, and ethical, issue. Cameron failed to carry out his promise back in 2012, that the tax details of the leading lights of the cabinet would go public, and completely avoided answering a question about it in last week`s PMQs. Could this be the silver bullet Labour seeks?

Commemoration, not celebration!

   Most reviews of the Crimson Field, the latest new programme from the BBC`s First World War centenary season stated correctly that it was "an opportunistic mishmash", with pretty girls, "predictable lines" and, of course, a very sanitised  view of the war.Isn`t this exactly what many people feared the centenary commemorations would lead to, the unrealistic portrayal of war, more Mills and Boon than realism, romantic history rather than accuracy? Unless war is going to be shown with all of its terror and horrors, the result will be misleading, and the message confusing.Commemorations are better without political point-scoring,and the parties` leading lights competing with each other for the most sincere speech, or the most nationalist and patriotic soundbite.
     Politicians clearly prefer for the people and their children to be spoon-fed a false version of history; it has proved successful before. Didn`t the royalist, jingoistic and imperialist history churned out at the turn of the last century play an important role in providing politicians with the cannon-fodder needed for the slaughter in the 1914-18 war? Doesn`t Gove want schools` history today to be based on rote-learning of chronological facts rather than evaluation and analysis? Young people who think in too much depth about wars tend not to be their most avid supporters!  
    The news that the Ministry of Defence has recently attempted to suppress the publication of a book* which describes how aggressive tactics of the British forces, such as using huge amounts of air strikes and dropping tons of explosives, with inevitable civilian casualties, caused the Afghans to hate the British more than the Taliban, is,sadly, not surprising. Gove`s examination proposals for History, which increase British content to 40%, suggest that the aim is for students to study what ideological politicians decide what is best for them, rather than what should be deemed essential for growing up in the 21st century. The idea that Britain only ever fights "just" wars is, apparently, one which must be drummed into pupils` heads, whatever analysis of the evidence shows, and it looks like broadcasters are the government`s willing partners in the case of the first world war. With television presenters cashing in on the centenary with their "history" books, the public appear to be getting a raw deal.
    Jeremy Paxman has recently commented about "British generals struggling to fill a trench" because young people are "bubble-wrapped by a feckless culture", but it`s not so much the "changing nature of warfare" that is the reason for the war-weariness of the country, and the young in particular, but the lack of trust for politicians. The undertaking to send our soldiers into unwinnable and unecessary wars, often for reasons which politicians have deliberately created to generate both jingoistic support and exaggerated fear of the so-called "enemy", allied to Britain`s position in world affairs as America`s poodle, at her beck and call to appease her rightwing bias and warmongering defence industry, go a long way to explain why the young are "war-shy". Could this be the underlying reason for many of the education reforms, and the continued justification for supporting Britain`s aggressive foreign policy?  
     Just because Downton Abbey provides millions every week with something alluding to the establishment`s view of how servants lived, does not mean that the first world war should get similar treatment. A huge disservice to the millions who died and suffered will be done unless dramas about the war actually show the true horror; how could there be a dressing station or field hospital near the front without terrifying noises, filth and blood? Do we want to send yet another generation to war who know little about the realities of past wars?
      The truth is that wars are so horrific no-one should be able to watch dramas about them without being shocked and horrified. If the television companies are going to take part in the war commemoration, they need to remember that they have a responsibility to history; it is not an excuse to celebrate war!

* An Intimate War -An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict by Dr Mike Martin

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

"One Nation"; Disraeli meant it!

When the Labour party adopted the "One Nation" slogan, it was widely accepted as reasonable, bearing in mind that it was going to be a party for all the people.
It was Disraeli, of course, who first coined the phrase for his brand of conservatism, aware that the existence of two nations, the "haves" and the "have-nots", was unacceptable. Having enfranchised the working-class male in 1867, he was clearly thinking of elections when he described the working class as the "Angel in the Marble", the ones who could guarantee his party election success. Nevertheless, winning the 1874 election did not stop his courtship of the working people and it is worth looking at a few of the laws passed during his administration, which lasted until 1880.
 Most pertinent of all, in view of Cameron`s promises to make it almost impossible for legal strike action to take place, was the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, which legalised peaceful picketing! Gladstone`s law prohibiting it had led to the arrest of women for "hooting" at no less a place than Chipping Norton! Also, an Employers and Workmen Act put both on the same legal footing.
 Disraeli continued to gain support from working people with a number of Acts, which historians criticise for being "permissive", but they are worthy of mention. A Food and Drugs Act tightened up laws against the adulteration of food,an Enclosures Act prepared the way for the green belts in cities, an Artisans` Dwellings Act pulled down uninhabitable homes, whilst the Factory Act reduced the hours of the working week, making possible the arrival of Saturday afternoon sport. They weren`t brilliant,the working people were still exploited and inequality was massive, but it was the 19th century, and it was a Conservative government in power.

     Fast forward 140 years and there are lessons for our 21st century Labour party. What is the point of having the "One Nation" slogan if Labour will not fight for the right to strike?

Monday, 21 July 2014

VOTE LABOUR: two acrostics, but which do you prefer?

 One "VOTE LABOUR" acrostic is designed to get 30-35% vote, max, whilst the second, being more radical , would attract 40-50% votes and give Labour mandate to transform, rather than tinker. You have to decide which is which!

V- Voting registration encouraged, but no radical change proposed to voting          methods. Voting at 16 for the future.
O- Osborne`s austerity policies to be continued, as Labour continues to cosy up to     the City and business.
T- Taxation to be made mildly more progressive, with 50% for earners of £150K+, and   a mansion tax, plus 10% band at the bottom.
E -Ending privatisation frenzy, but with caution eg public sector allowed to bid for    railway franchises.

L-  Living wage to be encouraged by offering tax breaks to firms willing to pay it.
A-  Avoidance of tax to be discouraged , with minor additions to government`s current policy.
B-  Bedroom tax to be abolished,with rent arrears £343m since tax introduced. Private rents to be capped.
O- Out-Goveing Gove (Morgan) in education, by supporting free schools, PRP, and re-licensing teachers, but wanting no unqualified teachers in schools.
U- Unions to be tolerated but no industrial action supported, no matter how just the cause. Denial in parliament of union connection to be continued, for fear of "Red Ed" allegations.
R- Repeal all NHS legislation, end top-down reorganisation and support Andy Burnham`s reforms.


V- Voting changes to include registration at polling stations, polling stations in town centres, university campuses and supermarkets.
O- Osborne`s austerity policies not working or necessary, and to be dropped. According to tax expert Richard Murphy, a more sensible approach is to "run a deficit equivalent to GDP multiplied by the rate of inflation and effectively stand still in budget terms". How many people, who have seen their real incomes reduced significantly by this government, believe austerity is essential, when billions can be spent on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, the unnecessary Trident renewal, HS2 railway, and third runway, billions wasted in cheap sell-offs of our taxpayer-owned assets and tax reductions for the very wealthy, billions more in subsidies to private companies to run public services, and yet billions more not going to the Treasury because of the government`s feeble efforts to rein in tax avoidance? Government investment in private and social housing instead! Advertising jobs abroad rather than in locality to be outlawed.
T- Taxation to be progressive; with the Laffer curve discredited, and the IMF admitting the rich should pay more, income tax bands for those earning between £65K and £150K to be 45%. From £150K to £200K, it will rise to 50%, increasing incrementally, and stopping at 80%. Financial Transactions Tax will raise billions, with only the City objecting; its payback time!
E- End the nonsense that is privatisation, starting with railways and each franchise being brought back into public ownership as it expires. Energy companies next, and RBS to become fully under state control and converted into a People`s Bank.

L- Living wage to become the new minimum wage, to be paid by all employers, with possible exceptions to apply for special dispensation. Zero hours contracts to be illegal, unless requested by employee. With wage growth at 0.3 and inflation rising to 1.9, it is essential to improve living standards of the poorest workers. Present "predatory capitalism" is simply unacceptable!
A- Avoidance of tax to be eliminated. Loopholes to be closed, and all guilty of avoiding taxes to be refused honours, state employment and representation rights. This includes CEOs and board members of guilty companies. Business rates of tax avoiding firms to be massively hiked! Anyone not choosing UK as domicile for tax purposes not to be allowed to represent UK teams etc.
B- Bedroom tax abolished, and private rents capped at 2010 levels. Ofsted-type inspectorate to be set up to band properties for rent and set local rent levels. Tax avoiding landlords to be banned from charging rent for property.
O- Out-Goveing as an education policy to be dropped. Gove`s organisational and assessment reforms to be repealed, and previous powers returned to local authorities. All private and free schools to be inspected by Ofsted, and Ofsted inspectors to have to re-apply for positions every five years to ensure validity of their views.
U- Unions to be granted similar status as in Germany with policy of Co-determination; union representatives to sit on boards of large and medium-sized companies.
R- Repeal of all NHS reforms carried out without electorate`s mandate since 2010, and all aspects of NHS already privatised to be reversed. Andy Burnham`s ideas to be given full support.

More Lib Dem duplicity.

It`s not just northerners being taken for mugs by the political parties. After Cameron`s feeble attempts to woo female voters with a cabinet reshuffle, now it`s the turn of the Lib Dems.The sudden concern they have for reducing the gender pay gap is commendable, but it`s a shame that the issue does not seem to have bothered them seriously in the last four years.Their idea for larger companies to "publish the average pay of their male and female workers, or face fines" does not go far enough. 
   Firms have been named and shamed for avoiding tax on an almost daily basis; banks have been shown to have mis-sold insurance to their loyal customers, and fixed interest rates; many companies lay off workers so that their new "efficiency" allows them to pay lottery-win-like bonuses to the CEOs; wages are often so low the taxpayer has to subsidise the employees.

   The truth is that the need for short-term profits comes before ethics and fairness every time, so the demand for transparency will make little difference. Without legislation making equal pay the law, tax avoidance illegal, and the living wage the new minimum wage, businesses will continue to rip us all off.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Regaining trust the easy way

Andrew Rawnsley wrote in last week`s Observer that no-one in modern society can be trusted, from bankers to politicians. He even quoted a Labour politician saying that people still trust the queen, but many of us remember how back in 2010, she requested a poverty grant to help heat her palaces, as the £15m government grant to maintain them was inadequate!
       However, the situation is not necessarily a permanent one; as Rawnsley concludes, "there is a great prize here for someone in politics to win". Ed Miliband  was right to mention in his speech about the "Tory lie machine" and could win that "prize", and the election with it, but it would require more of the courage he showed in standing up to the Murdoch press, and the energy companies.
       Before the election, he could insist that all Labour MPs and candidates make public their tax details, so that the electorate can be quite clear that there is at least one party willing to be transparent on this very important, and ethical, issue. The coalition government has done so little to discourage the practice, and as Cameron failed to carry out his promise back in 2012, that the tax details of the leading lights of the cabinet would go public, failing also to answer a question about in in the last PMQs of this session, only Labour is left of the main parties.
        If Miliband wants our trust, and without it, election success is unlikely, he has to deserve it before May, 2015. Other methods will be more accessible only after he has won, like putting his money where his mouth is on the energy price freeze, and introducing legislation to reduce inequality, but until then, some tax transparency will suffice. Rawnsley is right to say that the British public "yearns to see some restoration" of trust, and this is certainly  an easy way to achieve it. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Labour and business

Attempting to break records for disingenuity, when faced with facts relating to "increased fatalities in the construction industry" and deaths from "occupational illness such as work-related cancers and stress", the Minister for Health and Safety comments that "workplaces are getting safer".
      Like the chief-of-staff for the Lib Dem MP who has advertised nine unpaid internships, requiring "computing and writing skills and an understanding of confidentiality" saying  that they were not " real jobs", we are under a constant barrage of examples of "economy with the truth". Presumably, this is because they know there is little danger of a serious reprimand, or even repudiation, ever since the Tories unbelievably got away with the biggest lie, blaming Labour`s spending for the financial crash. Goebbels-like, they now expect us to believe anything! They really want to develop the north`s economy, even though HS2 won`t get there for many years, and a third runway, to go with Crossrail, is destined for London. Cameron cares so much about gender equality, suddenly, months before the election, that he has a reshuffle, to look as though the cabinet isn`t full of Etonians, male multi-millionaires and Bullingdon club members.
     It`s not just the politicians who take ingenuity to new levels. A recent CBI report is calling on politicians "to help the most disadvantaged in society", and to "do more about affordable childcare", whilst saying that providing "ladders" to enable promotion and increased pay is "a joint challenge for government and business"! Next they`ll be saying government should subsidise pay so that businesses can pay really low wages- N0! THAT HAPPENS ALREADY!! Oh, and we mustn`t forget how top executives now get 162 times the average worker`s pay!
     A Labour party should see through all of this nonsense, and start by challenging businesses to get their houses in order. How dare they expect the Treasury to fund more childcare when they pay parents less than a living wage? How dare they expect the taxpayer to "help the most disadvantaged" when companies do their utmost to avoid paying their fair share of tax, even though many use the "patent box" scam to lower their corporation tax to a single figure rate? How dare the government ignore the Health and Safety issues on construction sites, and the refusal of many companies to employ trade union members, the same government telling us it is tackling tax evasion when it`s reducing the number of tax inspectors at HMRC, and the tax gap increased by £1bn last year?
     With inequality rising to Victorian levels, the NHS in need of extra funding, tax avoidance costing at least £35bn a year, and welfare services reeling from the government`s imposed poverty and austerity policies, Labour must stop proposing "middle way", compromise solutions; nothing smacks more of a dithering leadership than proposals which are neither radical nor conservative, whilst attempting to appear both. That`s why its so disappointing to see Miliband "picking up where former leader Tony Blair left off", cosying up to business.
What Balls and Miliband should be doing is advocating an increase in corporation tax, especially for firms not paying the living wage. What is the point of attracting foreign companies, like the huge operator of drilling rigs, Rowan, to domicile here, when they end up paying derisory taxes and keeping  their HQ and management in the US? Tax expert, Richard Murphy, estimates the overall cost to the UK of this mistaken policy is £10bn. A relatively new trend is for American firms to attempt " inversion takeovers" of British firms in order to reduce their tax bills, something that the government is loath to condemn. A recent Morning Star editorial was right to say that the only fear fat cats have is of a "Labour party riding high in the polls"; a "business-friendly manifesto" guarantees that won`t happen! 
     Time for Labour to show bottle and launch an offensive against Tory lies; how about starting with the one about privatisation benefitting the country, and take a bolder stance on railway re-nationalisation? The electorate might appreciate a party telling the truth, for a change! 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Labour to reshuffle Tristram?

Interesting that after Cameron`s reshuffle, "Labour noted that nearly all the education ministers were privately educated", when their shadow secretary for education is Tristram Hunt, former pupil of University College School.  Presumably Hunt`s initial appointment had much to do with the need to challenge Gove at the dispatch box, where his posh historical expertise could be a match for the Secretary of State`s superiority complex?
   Morgan`s appointment will inevitably entail a more conciliatory approach,and, as Melissa Benn says, will "prove a problem for Labour". It will certainly hinder Hunt`s policy of out-Goveing the previous encumbent. His refusal to support the teaching profession, either in their struggle to maintain acceptable pay and pensions, or in their objections to the assessment reforms and removal of the "level playing field", could well prove yet another embarrassment for the Labour leader, especially if Hunt continues to insist that "character and resilience" can only be found in the private sector! Another reshuffle could well be on the cards!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Letter to i about Cameron`s reshuffle

He really does take us for idiots. Not content with feeble attempts to woo northern voters, with vague promises of extra funding whilst supporting the HS2 link from London to Birmingham and a third runway in the capital, Cameron is now trying to convince female voters of his support for gender equality. Does anyone really believe his sincerity in "promoting  a series of high-flying female ministers in a government reshuffle", when he has been in power for over four years,with a cabinet dominated by Eton-schooled, male millionaires? With ten months to the general election, last-minute promotions will fool no-one, and when the Tory party has to decide on Cameron`s successor, it`s odds-on that another male will be chosen! The truth is that the Tory party has done nothing to encourage the feminist cause, and attempts to remedy the situation now will be seen by the electorate for what they are, political bribes and cheap stunts!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

"Tougher strike laws"- Well, Mr Miliband?

Rather than threatening a "renewed Thatcherite onslaught" to restrict the rights of the trade unions, Cameron should be planning the exact opposite. (Tories to restrict strikes in essential services,10/07/14) With inequality rising, especially with tax avoidance and evasion increasing, and the "squeeze on earnings drastically underestimated", union representation on company boards, taking part in collective bargaining and restoring a semblance of sanity to boardroom pay, is now essential.
 Such co-determination has been in existence in Germany since the 1950s, with the effect of avoiding major industrial action, acting both as a brake on inequality and as a method of increasing productivity. Instead of insulting strikers with absurd comments like the one from Francis Maude that when strikes happen, the "hard-working people suffer", as if the strikers are lazy, the government would do better to follow the German example.It`s not just football that Germans are better at!
As for Labour, the continuing lack of support, as witnessed last Thursday, for unions in their struggle to attain decent standards of living for their members, is becoming embarrassing; can Labour win an election simply because they are not the Tories? Disraeli didn`t only coin the phrase, "One Nation" but also the description of ordinary people as the "Angel in the marble", in the belief that his party could win the support of the working class and become electorally undefeatable; one of the first Acts of his 1874-80 administration increased trade unions rights, including one allowing peaceful picketing. Detailed knowledge of history can be useful, Mr Miliband!
      Cameron`s Toryism, however, is intent on destroying the rights of the working people, and so, instead of decent levels of corporation tax as in the other G7 countries, we have pay freezes and a minimum wage requiring subsidies from the taxpayer. His pledge to "back tougher strike laws" if elected in 2015 is a clear indication that he sees nothing wrong with the disgraceful levels of inequality we now have, and, in fact, intends to extend the rich-poor divide further. Churchill, with his disgraceful attitude to trade unions, might have agreed, but Disraeli certainly would not have. Neither should Miliband, not if he wants our votes! 

Taking us northerners for mugs

The call by a Labour MP for northern England to "be given the same tax and borrowing powers as New York" is the latest in a long line of proposals from the main parties in their attempts to convince us that the vast wealth of London is to be shared more fairly throughout the country.Earlier this week the Tories promised billions would be spent updating transport and such like, whilst last week the Adonis plan was for £30bn to be spent over the term of the parliament. Desperate for votes, both main parties conveniently "see rebooting regional growth as a core objective", just months away from a general election, and are keen to display sudden generosity,They really do take us for idiots, don`t they? 
    Funny how they didn`t think the issue was important enough when discussing HS2. Had they done so, they would have insisted that the first phase to be built should be the northern section. Everyone knows that speeding up the journey from Birmingham to London will only increase the economic importance of the capital itself, and enhance its reputation as the place to work.
    Similarly, did it not occur to any Labour or Tory politician that an excellent method of spreading the wealth would be to improve the airport capacity of one of the major northern cities? No, of course not! They cannot wait to spend billions on a third runway in the capital, even though the  plans will involve increased discomfort for thousands. Already, Crossrail, the biggest construction job in Europe, costing billions, is well under way, and will improve  London`s transport considerably, but clearly, not enough.As for the rest of us, well how about some fracking, which, it seems, is all we`re good for?
       Suddenly, there are offers to spend money and devolve some power to the provinces, but the motive certainly is not to reduce the economic predominance of London. We don`t expect any better from Tory politicians, but from Labour we do; waiting for the leadership to come to its senses before it`s too late, and to rid itself of such Mandelson-like practices, is beginning to look like a waste of time!
     What incentives are there for businesses to move out of London when the largest proportion of government investment is clearly destined for the south-east? Rather than having lorries clogging up the north-south motorways, a high-speed freight line to Folkestone might be a better bet! 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Chancellor`s sums on the tax gap

The news that HMRC set the compliance yield baseline £1.9bn too low and, as Margaret Hodge says, misled "ministers,parliament and the taxpayer", is, of course, disappointing, especially as it comes after, what the government says is its "best year for collecting tax revenue". 
    However, closer examination of the figures reveal, in fact, that the tax gap increased by £1bn to £35bn, a figure tax expert Richard Murphy says is nearer £40bn because of company sales being hidden from the taxman. What Hodge also didn`t comment on  was that HMRC made "efficiency savings" of £235m., clearly by redundancies. Historically, each tax inspector raises for the Treasury at least two to three times his/her salary in tax, often many times more, so how can it possibly make sense for a government, ostensibly intent on decreasing the tax gap, to reduce their number? The number of HMRC staff in enforcement and compliance fell by 1529  in the years 2010-12. Even if he doesn`t know what 8 times 7 equals, the chancellor should be able to spot this obvious error!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

FDR`s solutions could be relevant today

With increased concern over a likely crisis in NHS funding, it becomes more important than ever for the tax gap to be closed, and a "reappraisal of priorities" to take place.Will Hutton`s article in last week`s Observer on the lack of ethics in the corporate and public sectors showed how "the absence of purpose, of a moral language within government, media or business" have infiltrated society.
 America faced similar problems in the 1930s after the previous profit-at-any-price, "fast buck", decade, and perhaps Miliband, as clearly the other main party leaders are not concerned, could learn from this Roosevelt too. Fearful of wild Republican and media accusations about "revolution" and "communism", FDR`s solution was the Blue Eagle, awarded to all companies working towards an economic recovery for the country, rather than just their shareholders; these awards could be use to attract custom, and were also a means, of course, by which consumers could judge where to spend their money. In this country similar accolades,rather than the costly bribe of 12 months tax breaks, could be given to companies which pay a living wage, at least, to all their employees. All businesses which pay the correct amount of corporation tax would be eligible to receive one, too. Perhaps there could also be one for introducing apprenticeship schemes, another for allowing trade unions, for not paying obscene salaries and bonuses at the top, and a Fair Rent award to non-exploitative landlords? Allied to these could be a re-vamped Honours system, which did not recognise greed and tax avoidance.
 Such a proposal would be a step in the direction towards not only "responsible capitalism", but a time when funding our most essential public services would not be at the whim of politicians and ideologues! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

BBC needs transforming too!

Not too long ago , the BBC was affectionally called "Auntie" by many, and it was highly regarded and revered in a similar way to the way the NHS is today.There were many reasons to justify this, and, of course, everyone willingly forked out for the licence fee.
   It may have only had two television channels but the Beeb`s quality of production and programming was the envy of the world. Drama, politics, and investigation were the standard fayre for adults, plenty of educational and entertaining programmes for children, with even TOTP for teenagers and Whistle Test for the more discerning music fan. Sports coverage focussed on all the major and popular events, from Grand National to the Open championship, the Cup Final to cricket tests. Radio had played its part in the second world war and was trusted by the nation to report news accurately, and give us the truth.  
   And it was for its news production which made the BBC stand out as the prime broadcaster in the world, with its full coverage and unbiased opinion. Admittedly, it wasn`t perfect, as it often was the voice of the Establishment, but nevertheless, better than everyone else`s television and radio by miles.Even when its popular music presentation was ridiculed by pirate radio stations, its response was to develop the highly popular Radio One and Two channels.
    How things have changed! Now, with massive failure to deal with the Savile matter, followed by revelations regarding an over-layered management structure, excessive pay-offs and obscene amounts paid to prevent the so-called "stars" being lured away by rival channels, and even concerns raised in some media outlets over arrangements facilitating tax avoidance, the BBC allure is beginning to look tarnished. Even worse, the sports broadcasting now is dominated by other channels, and much of its live action has more limited appeal. Many other programmes have been made simply to entice viewers away from other channels, with results often failing to match previous high standards. Occasionally, brilliant programmes are still made, live coverage can still excel, but overall quality has diminished.
   What is most disconcerting is the fact that the BBC is no longer the unbiased corporation it once was. It, more than ever, appears to have a pro-monarchist slant, and perhaps, even more worryingly, an anti-left wing bias. Its political and economic commentators all seem very Conservative in their views, with Jeremy Paxman now confessing his essentially Tory views, and Nick Robinson the ex-president of the Oxford university Conservative union.The recent anti-austerity march did not begin at BBC headquarters for no reason, whilst the BBC`s scant coverage of the demonstration itself attracted much criticism on the social network sites, and over 6000 complaints to the Corporation itself! How many times do we see or hear left-wing views expressed? How rare it is for a trade union leader to be heard on the much-vaunted Today programme on Radio Four; in fact, research at Cardiff University has revealed that on the Six-o-clock News there is 19x more chance of hearing the views of business representatives than those of the workers` representatives. Recently, there was more concern shown by the BBC`s outrageous publicity given to the right-wing party with no MPs, Ukip, and its leader, in the build-up to the May elections, with far too many appearances by Farage on popular discussion programmes like Newsnight and Question Time. To cap it all, the recent developments:  the wording of the job description of the vacant Chairmanship of the BBC Trust has recently been altered to suit the preferred candidate, the ex-Tory MP, Sebastian Coe, as if the Corporation was not sufficiently right-wing already; the use of secretly taped Cruddas comments to embarrass Ed Balls on Newsnight.

     It is clearly time for change, with either the licence fee being removed, or its political stance restored to one of neutrality, with views from all sides of the political spectrum given an equal airing. The last thing the country needs now is for the taxpayers to be funding a pro-Tory propaganda device!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Miliband and strong leadership

Michael Meacher in the Morning Star recently and correctly criticised the Blairite faction for its constant criticism of Miliband`s leadership,"spitting out its vitriol and bile".(Morning Star;23/06/14) The failure of the likes of Mandelson to go public in outright support for the leader of his party, when the general election is looming ever nearer, and when a divided party is the last thing Labour and its supporters need, is inexcusable. However, Miliband has got his work cut out if he is to win, not so much because of Blairite treachery, but because he is failing to provide, or give the impression that he can provide, the country with the strong government it seems to require.
       Thatcher certainly won over many voters with her strident personality, and her pledge to dominate the Cabinet; the "vegetables" joke was symptomatic of that domination! Churchill, despite his racism, his history of putting down the working people, not to mention his misogyny, won elections because no-one believed he could not provide what he wanted.Other leaders have shown exactly the opposite tendency, and have floundered come election time. In football, the strong managerial style of Ferguson won the begrudging respect of most fans, envious of the effort of his players, fearful of incurring the wrath of the boss. There was never a chance of him "losing the dressing-room", but whether Miliband has is more of a moot point!
     People are hugely in favour of Miliband`s brave attacks on the energy companies, but few think he can carry out his threat to freeze energy prices. Is it because he seems too "weird", as the right-wing press repeatedly say, or does the problem lie with the presentation of the policies? He even began a recent speech with the word "Friends", emulating a successful tactic of FDR`s in the 30s, so why is he not gaining the credibility accorded to the American president? Do his cabinet colleagues sound as though they not only agree with Miliband`s policies but were involved in their origin? 
        What does Miliband need to do? Strong leadership is usually signified by sackings, and there are certainly some people in the shadow cabinet who need demoting for their lack of loyalty, and some, like Tristram Hunt, who are alienating the very support they were presumably appointed to regain.
     He can also denounce some of the Blairite claims as the nonsense they are, the Blunkett "fifteen years in the political wilderness", for instance; describing the impoverished Britain of 2020, devoid of the NHS and welfare state as we know them, that would exist after five years of Tory mis-rule, would do the trick. 
    A third solution would for policies to be less compromising in nature; nothing smacks of dithering leadership more than proposals which are neither radical nor conservative, whilst attempting to be both. The pledges on capping rent in the private sector is a prime example, leaving present rent levels way too high, and doing nothing about the blatant profiteering and tax avoidance of the landlords. Why "tinker" when the country desperately needs "transformation"?
    There are also important questions which Miliband needs to address if he is to convince the electorate. What is his stance on Trident, with the possibility of saving £50bn or more? HS2 is something Labour seems to have gone quiet on, not even addressing the more urgent need for investment north of Birmingham. Then there is the vexed problem of support for Israel, which comes as second nature to America, but its refusal to obey International Law worries many in this country. The leader`s silence cannot be interpreted for ever as evidence that these issues are under control.
    Not only does Labour`s half-hearted acceptance of Miliband`s leadership need to end, a collegiate spirit and unmitigated support for Miliband must be developed immediately, or we wave goodbye to hopes for a Labour victory. With the majority of the media, including, sadly, the politically neutral BBC, enjoying their anti-Miliband "season", the need for unity is essential, but there have to be signs of strong leadership too!