Monday, 27 July 2015

Bercow`s hypocrisy should not go unpunished

 Greg Hands has surely made the understatement of the year with his comment that "All MPs should be setting a better example than this when it comes to spending public money" (Bercow lands taxpayer with £172 bill for chauffeur-driven trip of less than a mile,25/07/15). The Speaker`s disgraceful disregard for Parliament`s reputation, and the huge hypocrisy he has shown by lecturing on the need for parliament "to ensure it is a credible institution" beggar belief. It would be interesting to discover how many afternoons he spent watching the tennis during Wimbledon fortnight, for he was certainly not presiding over the Budget proceedings, nor over the debate the following day, when he was photographed at the tennis, sitting behind fellow MP John Whittingdale. I am sure Bercow`s constituents will be interested in such details about their MP`s work output just weeks before his massively long summer break, not to mention the announcement of a significant pay rise. Delegating your work to a deputy so that you can spend the afternoon at one of the world`s premier sporting events sounds like the action of a skiver to me! Any public disgrace coming Bercow`s way sounds as though it`s fully deserved. I`m surprised there are no calls for his resignation as there are for the deputy Speaker at the House of Lords!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Unpublished Observer letter on its Corbyn coverage

   Rather than offering a detailed analysis of the policies and leadership qualities of all four Labour candidates, assessing their “solutions to some of the hardest questions of our time”, your paper favoured a one-sided attack on the left-wing contender, Jeremy Corbyn (If Jeremy Corbyn is the answer then Labour is asking the wrong question,19/0715). Cooper and Burnham got off lightly, despite the editorial, with its dubious comment that only Hunt and Umunna “seem fully to grasp the scale of the challenge”, and the main political articles all favouring the Blairite-based views of Liz Kendall. The “British notion of fairness” is seen as crucial, yet their proposals on issues such as rising inequality, decreasing social mobility, exploitation of private tenants, and tax avoidance were ignored.
      Rawnsley`s jaundiced piece on Corbyn stood out for its anti-left prejudice, with the ridiculous “Lenin cap” getting a double mention, and the similarly twice-included 1983 “suicide note” manifesto getting full blame for the election defeat, despite the existence of the Labour-SDP split and the Falklands` effect (Why Labour is gravitating towards the Conservatives` dream candidate,19/07/15). With the  “endorsement of the Trotskyites” and such like, it sounded more like the anti-Labour rant of a Telegraph editorial than a balanced, unbiased article from the respected Sunday newspaper of our choice. Rawnsley even reported how some New Labour bigwigs had quit politics, “to do something more rewarding with their lives”, failing to add the phrase, “in the private healthcare industry”!
     The idea, that a left-leaning Labour party cannot win elections, is a product of the Tories` propaganda machine, as the right have clearly realised that as long as Labour stay in the centre ground they will pose little electoral threat. Rawnsley got it wrong: Kendall is the Tories` “dream candidate”!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Diplomacy not bombs!

It looks like the British public are being softened up for yet another foreign war (Hammond seeks to win support for widening air strikes against Isis in Syria,22/07/15). We had the political input on Monday from May and Cameron , and now the Foreign Secretary is making the military case for extending the bombimg of Isis into Syria. With "surveillance and reconnaissance" already taking place, Hammond strangely thinks it is "militarily inefficient" because when information is gathered, it has to "task another asset belonging to another coalition partner".  Provided my understanding is not being muddled by the confusing  language, handing over intelligence to another country to do the bombing sounds reasonably efficient to me.
    As Paddy Ashdown rightly says, however, the bombing "will not destroy Isis just by killing more Muslim Arabs with Western bombs" (Diplomacy not bombs will defeat Isis - the West is being sucked into sectarian conflict,22/07/15). Of course, it is obvious diplomacy has to be the first resort, especially as the usual justification given for violent jihadism is the foreign policy of the west, with its repeated invasions, interference and killing. The UK and its government should not only learn from its recent actions in the Middle East, rather than repeat the mistakes, but also remember how peace finally came to Northern Ireland.

   A prime minister hectoring young Muslims about British values does no good whatsoever, but its damage is nothing like that caused by an unnecessary increase in bombing. Parliament must resist this, and listen to Ashdown.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The right are running scared

Despite the Tories` election win and overall majority,which clearly took them by surprise, the right are running scared in this country. Proof? The hysteria being built up over the possibility of Jeremy Corby winning the Labour leadership contest, and the ridiculous details in the government`s anti-trade union bill.
    So frightened are they that Corbyn will win, because he actually promises to deliver policies the people will support, the Torygraph and the rest of the right-wing media have built up a propaganda campaign, which says that a Corbyn-led Labour party is unelectable. This gets support, too, from the Blairite wing of the Labour party itself, based on the spurious evidence that Foot and Kinnock lost elections because of their radical proposals, and Blair won them because of his more moderate manifestos. This is the same group which claims Miliband lost the election because his policies were too left-wing, and ignores the voting in areas like Scotland and the north of England.
     The truth is they all know a Corbyn-led Labour party is extremely electable, capable of uniting the party, excluding the Tory wing, attracting back those lost to the radical nationalist and Green parties, and, perhaps most importantly of all, winning the support of young people and non-voters. He has already outlined how he would finance the ending of student loans, and there will be more announcements, inevitably, on housing and dealing with the extortionate rents young people especially, are having to pay for private accommodation. Osborne did Corbyn a huge favour last week with a budget favouring the wealthy and business interests, whilst attacking the less fortunate, the young and public sector workers. Corbyn can also benefit from the way the Greek crisis was handled, which should finally have convinced the majority of voters that austerity does not work, and that excessive austerity measures are not only unnecessary, but hold back economic growth. With evidence also pointing to the public`s support for re-nationalisation of the railways, and much increased regulation of the energy companies, Corbyn`s left-wing agenda certainly does not make him unelectable.
     Could the right,also, be afraid of the likelihood that his policies, as leader, would almost certainly include increases to the income tax rates for the high earners? With the average earnings hovering around £25,000, is it really likely that the public think taxing those earning over £100K a year a little more, and those over £150K a lot more, is a policy too radical to support at the ballot box? Then there`s the tax on company profits, which Osborne intends to reduce to 18%, which is 22 percentage points below the rate  of corporation tax in the States, and the idea of having a sensible ratio for earnings of CEOs and the average pay of their employees. With inequality increasing even though the UK is already 28th in the OECD`s equality league table out of 34 so-called developed nations, and social mobility decreasing, with 70% of top jobs in politics, law, journalism and such- like going to the 7% of the population who are privately educated, the need for radical change is needed, and this frightens the right. With a sensible propaganda machine, which bans idiotic ideas like pink buses and policies set-in-stone, of course Corbyn can win, and his policies will have appeal north of the border, too.
     Further evidence supporting the fact that the right are running scared, like Cameron was over a televised debate with Miliband, is provided by the government`s anti-Trade Union Bill; they are clearly anticipating calls for more industrial action in response to their cruel cuts and pay freezes, for the Bill`s details are certainly disproportionate to the fact that workers spent 788,000 days on strike last year, way down on the millions in the 1980s. A maximum of six on a picket line, voting thresholds, and even limiting the use of social media by strikers are clear indicators that they are expecting a huge increase in anger and despair from people like public sector and London underground workers, who, it seems are prepared to take industrial action but strangely, not vote for a left-wing Labour leader! Of course they will, and more will vote for a left-wing prime-minister.
    Corbyn faces an uphill struggle; if they are not already, all the other candidates will soon be repeating the right`s mantra about the unelectability of a left-leaning leader. The more it is repeated, the clearer the true message: they "protest too much"! It`s what happens when the facts have to be kept hidden. Repeating a lie over and over, as Labour knows to its cost, happens when the perpetrators are frightened of the truth being told. The right is lying about Corbyn because it is running scared. The Torygraph`s campaign to get Tories to vote for Corbyn is a ruse to frighten Labour supporters into voting for a moderate, but they are the ones who are really frightened! A moderate Labour party would provide little threat in 2020, but one offering real change is the one they fear. History has repeatedly shown that those who have sold their principles at the altar of power especially fear those who refuse to do so!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

1983 "suicide note": full version

Many political writers, sadly not all right-wing apologists for continuing austerity and relentless cutbacks, appear to swallow fully the Blairite agenda with the description of the radical Labour manifesto of 1983 as the "longest suicide note in history". This was originally written by the New Labourite, Gerald Kaufman, who blamed the left-wing nature of many of the proposals for the disastrous election defeat for Labour, and the majority of 144 for Margaret Thatcher`s Tories. Ever since then, the term has been dug up by Blairites to remind the Labour party that it can never hope to win an election with principles the party traditionally held dear for over a century. The proof they use is, of course, that when Labour sacrificed its principles in favour of Blair`s neoliberalism, Labour won elections. Now, the same old scare-mongering is being adopted, because Jeremy Corbyn is winning support for his outspoken views against austerity and inequality.
      Obviously, some facts are sorely needed: blaming the `83 defeat on the left-wing manifesto is totally misleading, as it ignores the "hatchet job" done on Labour`s then leader, Michael Foot, by the right-wing media. Who will forget the criticism he received because he wore, at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in 1981, a short blue-green overcoat, bought for him by his wife, "at  considerable expense" at Harrods according to Foot`s official biographer, Lord Morgan? His enemies, many of whom were in the Labour party, had a field day, saying how he looked like an "out-of-work navvy" in his "donkey-jacket", even though the coat lacked the necessary leather shoulders.
       Simply putting the blame for the defeat on the "note" also ignores the facts that the anti-Tory vote in 1983 was almost evenly split between the SDP/Liberal alliance and Labour, that the Tory vote fell by 700,000, and that Thatcher had to resort to an unnecessary war in the Falklands to bolster her own, and her party`s, support, so badly was she doing in the polls. Corbyn is being blamed for not playing by the usual party political rules, and for sounding different from the other "Stepford" candidates for Labour`s leadership, but look where following such rules has got Labour!
       If such rules, as Blairites insist, forbid Labour to argue against Trident, they presumably also prevent support for any form of re-nationalisation, despite its popularity in the polls, or of wealth tax, or of strict regulation of the banks; anything, in fact, which copies or resembles proposals from the 1983 manifesto. That same "suicide note" included pledges to raise living standards by a minimum wage, and to introduce a National Investment Bank, with a commitment to "attract and channel savings, by agreement, in a way that guarantees these savings and improves the quality of investment in the UK". Also promised was a Keynesian £11bn "programme of action", and  the re-imposition of exchange controls to "counter currency speculation". How our bankers would have loved that!
        Many of the 1983 pledges were enacted, such as the Freedom of Information Act, a ban on foxhunting, and devolution to Scotland and Wales, but, of course, most were not, and the opportunity to prevent the disastrous
neoliberalism taking hold, and with it the inevitable rise in inequality, was lost. Were the months prior to the 1983 election really, as the likes of Toby Young imply, the "days of delusion" for Labour?
     Why should  it be assumed, as the Tories clearly do, that the monstrous £12bn benefit cuts will be forgotten by 2020, especially by the 63% which did not vote Tory last May? A Labour party misled into mimicking the Tories by its own right-wing, because it fails to understand its own history, could well be writing its own "suicide note", but this time, for real!


In praise of Maxine Peake

Well done again, Maxine Peake! Not only does she deliver yet another brilliant, "mind-blowing performance" in Caryl Churchil`s play, The Skriker, as she did two years ago in the "Masque of Anarchy" about the  Peterloo massacre, she rightly attacks Labour leadership candidate, Liz Kendall, for her focus on "aspirational middle-class voters" (Morning Stars, 8th and 11th July,2015). The Blairite nonsense about Labour losing the election, because of offering inadequate policies to wavering Tory voters keen on making their first million, needs to be kicked into touch along with the insufficiently "pro-business" rubbish; Labour must never try to out-Tory the Conservatives on winning over the CBI. Unsurprisingly, given Maxine`s socialist principles, like the rest of us she sees Jeremy Corbyn as "a beacon of hope to get the Labour party back on track". Apparently, when asked about her views on the TV series, Game of Thrones, her reply was that she hadn`t seen it, "obviously"; she would never subscribe to a television network owned by Rupert Murdoch! What a change to have such a talent proud of her background and political roots.
       By the way, Morning Star writers may think that Maxine rose to fame "portraying working-class life" in Dinner Ladies and Shameless, but in our house she was already a star for her role in the brilliant "Early Doors"!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Germany`s mistake over Greece

The Guardian`s editorial listed four "essential facts" about the Greek agreement, but there can be little to substantiate the dubious point that  the Germans "believe that it could" work (This agreement takes Europe into dangerous waters,14/07/15). Economically, the deal provides no opportunity whatsoever for economic growth, debt repayment, or even for hope that the eurozone will be a more viable unit as a result. The reason for a settlement, which is not "even remotely reasonable or fair", and which humiliates the Greek government and its people, has to be based on politics; the conservative government of Germany, backed by a few like-minded administrations like Finland, wants to demonstrate to the rest of Europe, above all else, that  debt and the accompanying "severe package" of austerity measures cannot be avoided by electing a left-wing government. In fact, countries who choose anti-austerity parties, no matter how democratic the process, have to realise the economic consequences.
    By adopting this tactic, Germany has made a fateful error; she has forgotten how her treatment after the war by a generous Europe, terrified of the spread of communism, enabled her economy to recover and flourish. German economic predominance, now being used as an excuse for political supremacy, is already, as the editorial states, creating "rancour" within the EU, which can only increase as long as her intransigence persists. There is clearly an alternative view growing in Europe that, when debt crises occur, the borrowers must share some of the blame. Dividing Europe in this way is particularly mistaken not just because "Putin`s embrace" awaits defaulters, but because it plays into the hands of nationalist eurosceptics.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Labour`s "rich pickings" from the budget

With one brief sentence, your editorial summed up George Osborne and his budget perfectly, and sent the clearest of messages to the Labour party, pointing it in the direction needed to be taken over the next five years (Observer view of the Budget,12/07/15). Whether it will be understood by all of the candidates for the party`s leadership is debatable, and certainly Tristram Hunt`s desire for "a new progressive patriotism" seems to suggest that he doesn`t grasp the real significance of Osborne`s budget (The speed and rapidity with which Labour is starting to be seen as irrelevant and out of the debate is terrifying,12/07/15).  The statement,"The data doesn`t lie", is, perhaps, too implicit for many on the Labour front-bench to grasp its meaning and significance, but Will Hutton certainly does, seeing the "rich pickings" available for Labour as long as they understand "the possibilities", and "challenge Osborne`s narrative" (Welcome to Osbornia, an Orwellian land of false hope and dashed dreams,12/07/15).
      Labour lost the election on the basis of a myth which the Tory propaganda machine developed and perpetuated, that overspending by the Labour government caused the economic crash. That same machine is now attempting to create the belief that, because the Conservatives are supposedly the party of the working people, Labour is no longer necessary.
On the contrary, their opposition to this most duplicitous of governments is needed more than ever, to stress the shortcomings of the Budget, using accurate figures to emphasise the one economy "Osborne is the master of", that of  with the truth, and the fact that the so-called "northern powerhouse" was an election pledge never expected to see the light of day in a coalition government Far from being "irrelevant" as the shadow education secretary supposes, the Labour party can return to former levels of support by exposing the Tory government`s duplicity, but it must start now; the budget was only an "emergency" one because there needed to be a summer break immediately after it to let the dust settle. Labour must not allow that to happen; the country will be in a much worse state after five years of Tory rule turn the "one nation dream" into a "nightmare". Labour can win the 2020 election, provided  its campaign starts now!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Guardian letter on CBI and unions

With total predictability, the CBI is giving its backing to the government`s proposals to reduce the power of trade unions (Strike law plans: unions will have to explain tweets,16/07/15). It takes every opportunity
to divert attention from the obvious facts that its members are paying wages which are far too low, employing too many staff on zero-hours contracts, and avoiding paying the taxes due to the Treasury. Already this month it has objected to Cameron`s aim to force companies with more than 250 employees to publish pay differentials between male and female workers, preferring the proven failed policy for data to be published on a voluntary basis.Then there was the blame for low productivity being put on the "skills shortage", whilst simultaneously objecting  to the budget`s "measures to boost apprenticeship numbers", a proposal which could lead to businesses themselves teaching the exact skills needed (Skills shortages hindering growth in critical sectors, CBI poll reveals,12/07/15). The CBI presumably thinks the taxpayer should fund thousands of new teachers being trained to deliver advanced courses in schools, in subjects like construction, manufacturing and engineering, even though it constantly lobbies for lowering corporate tax levels, and does nothing about reducing the £40bn tax gap., 
       The common practice amongst FTSE100 companies of paying CEOs around 140 times the amount paid to the average worker in the company has to be a huge hindrance to improving productivity, especially when workers are denied a share of the profits their efforts bring to the firms. Decreasing the huge gaps in pay, both between bosses and workers, and males and females, is critical in reducing the problem of low productivity, itself  the result of  lack of foresight shown all too often by our politicians and the CBI.

    Your article quoted the CBI`s deputy director-general`s comment supporting the "introduction of thresholds as an important but fair step", but omitted the section which stressed how the CBI "has long called for the modernisation of our outdated industrial relations". If they are so outdated, shouldn`t the CBI be supporting the introduction of "electronic balloting" for unions, as Frances O`Grady sensibly argues (Partisan politics is no basis for proper policy-making,16/07/15)? 

Friday, 17 July 2015

Osborne and the banks

With all the fuss quite rightly being made about the duplicitous Osborne and his ridiculous "blue-collar Budget claims", the favours granted to HSBC have received far too little publicity (Morning Star,10/07/15). We all remember how the bank is threatening to move its headquarters out of London, possibly to Hong Kong, because, it said, the bank levy imposed by the government was so high it was seriously limiting the amount dished out to shareholders. The reduction in its profits, presumably, had nothing to do with the huge fines it had to pay out for the raft of fraudulent misdemeanors it had committed, from money-laundering the profits of Mexican drug cartels to the help given to customers of its Swiss arm to avoid the payment of billions in tax. In order to encourage the former, the tellers` windows in the banks were widened to allow access for the massive boxes of cash!
    Predictably, our brave chancellor, frequently lauded by the right-wing press for his courage in taking difficult decisions, caved in to the threat, and the bank levy was duly halved, and to apply only to banks` British operations. No prizes for guessing which bank`s new levy bill will no longer be £1bn but a mere £300m!
 It will be interesting to see how hard the slap on the wrist is for Stephen Green, ex-trade minister in the last government, and of course, the boss of HSBC during  its most blatantly criminal period, when he faces questions from a House of Lords economics committee next Tuesday. Perhaps even more revealing will be which financial corporation employs Osborne when he hangs up his political boots!


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Verdict on leadership candidates` Guardian interview on education

At least there was no mention of ridiculous oaths, re-licensing and Performance Related Pay, all of which perhaps explain why Labour`s election campaign "failed to project a strong radical message" on education, but there were some serious omissions in the leadership candidates` proposals (And so, leadership candidates, what`s the devil in the detail? 07/07/15). Whilst all four rightly condemned Gove`s narrowing of the curriculum with the "compulsory Ebacc", only Burnham seemed aware of the "unjustifiable" nature of the former Education Secretary`s damaging assessment reforms. They do support more responsibility for local authorities, and most stressed the importance of "investing in the early years" of education, but there was no mention of solving the problem of teachers` workload of around 60 hours a week. No mention, either, of solutions to the profession`s recruitment and retention problem. Corbyn regretted the amount of "pressure" on teachers, and Cooper admitted "teachers are not being listened to", but if "Labour`s education policies in the past were timid", where is the evidence for change? The fact that there was no mention by any of the would-be leaders of the role of teacher unions speaks volumes.
     Timidity was evident, too, in the views on "cracking inequality" and increasing social mobility, with no candidate writing about ending the dominance of the privately educated in the senior ranks of politics, medicine, the law and journalism. As 7% of pupils attend private schools nationally, couldn`t the same proportion be the maximum of privately educated undergraduates at any university? Surprisingly, the term "coasting schools" was nowhere to be seen, despite the Education Secretary`s recent definition of them as "those that fail to ensure 60% of pupils get five good GCSE grades" (Education secretary raises the bar with new "coasting schools" criteria,30/06/15). Where is the candidate with the knowledge and courage to say that there are some brilliant schools, with hard-working staff and pupils, with results nowhere near 60%? 

     I would have thought, too, that with the recent fuss about the party being insufficiently "aspirational", Jeremy Corbyn would not be the sole candidate wanting to "bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance", whatever the cost.

Osborne has done Labour a favour

Of course, as Chris Leslie said in the Commons, this week`s budget was "entirely concerned with chasing headlines" to support the chancellor`s personal ambitions (Morning Star,10/07/15). In fact, Osborne has done the Labour party a massive favour. Although he was attempting to finish off what the election result had started by stealing ideas from Labour`s manifesto, Osborne may well have seriously miscalculated; he has illustrated beyond doubt that Labour should never try to out-Tory the Tories on business, as his proposal to have corporation tax levels 22% points lower than those in the US has shown. His attempts to woo the "working people of Britain" are already being  revealed by the Institute of Fiscal Studies to be misleading and little more than electoral posturing. Resolution Foundation`s revelation that, with cuts to tax credits, the real living wage needs to be above £11 an hour, and higher, when inflation is taken into consideration, by 2020, needs to be shouted by Labour from the rooftops. Failing to attack Tory mythology led to the last election defeat, so all four leadership candidates should know exactly what is immediately needed.
      Labour should also be clearer, now, about where to target their policies; research showing women being hit more than twice as hard as men by the budget makes the female vote an obvious target, as long as no idiotic pink buses are involved, while the removal of the maintenance grant, withdrawal of housing benefit from 18 to 21 year olds, and exemption from the so-called "new living wage" for under 25s should alert Labour to the electoral potential thereby provided, especially when private landlords inevitably retaliate to Osborne`s changes with rent increases. With public sector workers facing more job cuts and decreasing real wages, and the government`s attack on six million trade unionists yet to start, Corbyn should not be the only leadership contender supporting forthcoming industrial action!
        The Tories` timing of this "emergency budget", so-called presumably to ensure floating voters have time to  forget about the cuts in time for the 2020 election, was also intended to use the forthcoming summer recess to their advantage, but Labour must not allow the details of this duplicitous budget to be forgotten, and continue the offensive against it until long after the next leader is chosen.

      Labour will never be sufficiently pro-business to win over most wavering Tories, but the race to win the "fairness vote" is theirs for the taking!

Europe needs to do more to contain Germany

Fintan O`Toole is absolutely right to say that Europe has changed since the Cold War; no longer is it deemed necessary to "compete with communism on its own terms", and with the lack of a perceived enemy, it seems perfectly acceptable for the Greek people to be left to suffer (Europe was once a story we all believed in. It was about solidarity and security. When did we stop believing?05/07/15).
  The truth is, of course, that the European people are being tricked by conservative politicians and monetarists into believing that deficits need instant reduction, only achievable by austerity, with opposition parties in general, unwilling to appear spendthrift despite the vital need for investment in infrastructure. Why doesn`t the Labour party, for instance, at least show an inkling of solidarity with the Greeks? If there is, as O`Toole suggests, a "need to contain Germany", why isn`t some of the blame for the Greeks` predicament being put at the German door? Didn`t they encourage the lending of billions to Greece and other poorer states so that German goods could be bought? Wasn`t it Germany who sold tanks and submarines to the Greeks, but who, restricted in their own arms expenditure for obvious reasons, kept the lid on their own defence requirements?
 Similarly, the Italian Prime minister Renzi has to do more than just rebuke fellow EU leaders for their pathetic "voluntary plan" to deal with the migrant and refugee crisis, when it is left to the countries with the weakest economies to take the majority of the fleeing people. Sensible politicians would not allow Germany to give the austerity orders without taking responsibilty. Further irony is added when one considers what effect German-inspired policies will have on the polling potential of Greece`s neo-nazi party, Golden Dawn!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Our duplicitous "courageous" chancellor

How duplicitous can the Chancellor get? After forcing the BBC to "accept the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for over-75s", Osborne had the gall to say that this "fulfilled the Conservatives` manifesto pledge to maintain pensioner benefits" (You must pay for pensioners` TV licence from now on, BBCi s told,07/07/15). No doubt such economic chicanery will be evident in this week`s "emergency" budget, presumably called this because most of the unfair £12bn of cuts have to be announced now to ensure floating voters forget about them in time for the 2020 election; when making his reductions to tax credits, there will probably be vague suggestions that firms take it upon themselves to raise pay to living wage levels, £9.15 an hour in London, and £7.85 elsewhere. What he will not admit is that these figures are calculated assuming tax credits and housing benefits remain unchanged, and that without them, according to the Resolution Foundation, the London living wage is actually £11.65 an hour.
   Despite this, as Sir Christopher Bland wrote, Osborne has somehow acquired "a reputation for taking courageous decisions" (Osborne has silenced debate with accounting worthy of an Enron finance director,07/07/15). It is time this myth was well and truly debunked; it does not take courage to attack the most vulnerable in society, as this budget will almost certainly do, and as he as Chancellor in the last five years has done repeatedly, from cutting benefits for the disabled to introducing the notorious bedroom tax. Courage is required, however, to challenge the financial sector to change their culture of greed, to reduce the country`s growing inequality, and to end the tax avoidance and evasion which costs the country hundreds of billions in lost revenue every year. As Bland says, Osborne lacked the courage to deal with the issue of "free TV licences for the over-75s", and we can expect his budget to be delivered with a similar cowardly display of deceit and subterfuge. There will be rhetoric about workers being allowed to keep more of their earnings, without mentioning that six million do not earn enough to pay any income tax; he will mention the Greek crisis and the deficit, but not the £375bn miraculously found for our banks through quantitative easing, something that makes comparison with Greece totally fallacious.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Letter on Germany and Greece

Larry Elliott`s article was a timely reminder of how leniently Germany was treated after the second world war, particularly in relation to the Marshall Plan, from which Germany was granted "four times as much as Greece received", and to the "granting of debt relief at the London conference of 1953" (For Germany 1953,read Greece 2015,07/07/15). This "Lesson from History" surprisingly omitted the important point that such generosity was brought about by the realisation that "squeezing" a country "until the pips squeak" was counter-productive, and creates only increased animosity; the continued insistence by the eurozone to impose harsh austerity on the Greeks can only lead to exactly that.
   Regardless of the suffering about to be endured by the Greek people, including, after its exit from the eurozone, hyper-inflation, which ironically is etched into the mind of every German politician following Germany`s 1923 experience, politics takes precedence. An anti-austerity party like Syriza cannot be allowed any form of success, for fear of encouraging electorates in the other debt-laden countries, and that, sadly, is more important, obviously, than not only all historical antecedents, but also than driving Greece into the arms of Russia, and the Greeks suffering yet more intolerable hardship. And all the while, the fact that prosperous countries like France and Germany lent Greece billions to enable her to buy their goods, including weapons, as Giles Fraser reminded us at the weekend, remains conveniently forgotten (Throughout history, debt and war have been constant partners,04/07/15).


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Nato spoiling for a new cold war

 If there is anything more despairing than reading about the duplicitous Tory government trying to hide the increases in child poverty it has caused, it possibly is catching up on latest thinking at Nato (Nato rethinks nuclear weapon strategy,25/06/15). On learning that Russia has responded to Nato`s decision to store weapons on her border in Poland by stating an intent to "buy 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles", Nato has decided to "re-evaluate its nuclear weapons strategy". Presumably the extra missiles, added to Russia`s existing total of "515 missiles and bombers", take their numbers too close for comfort to Nato`s 785? Even though a superiority of 230 is apparently not enough, they still deny a return to cold war arms racing, begging a question about their knowledge of recent history.
       Added to this is the recent outburst from the US commander in charge of most of America`s nuclear missiles, General Wilson, whose claim that there has never been so much power "put in one person in Russia" as there is with Putin, reveals a total ignorance of Tsarist and Stalinist Russia. It seems that the lack of diplomatic skills is not the only problem at Nato`s headquarters!

      Unsurprisingly, the historical lessons of "squeezing until the pips squeak" have obviously not been learned at Nato, but sadly, not by EU politicians either; this is made obvious with the approval, "without debate", by EU foreign ministers of the extension of existing sanctions on Russia for another six months (Sanctions on Russia are extended until January,23/06/15). How can compromise solutions be made over, not only the future of Ukraine, but also the expansion of Nato, when economic uncertainty in Russia is being purposely exacerbated by the west? At a time when diplomatic talks are urgently needed, and when there are opportunities for east-west deals over energy provision, what can be achieved by the permanent exclusion of Russia from the G7? Isn`t 20th century history on the curricula of private schools?