Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Teaching Excellence Framework: typical Tory nonsense

With the Tories` somewhat distorted views on education, the expectations of their "teaching excellence framework" were probably to enhance reputations of Russell group members, and cast doubt on the value of so-called lesser institutions (Elite universities given low scores in new table, 22/06/17). Basing rankings on statistics which have little to do with, as the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute said, "any meaningful assessment of teaching", the awards instead rely on results which often have nothing to do with how well students are taught, such as drop-out rates and graduate employment figures. 
         In fact, the results tell us more yet again about Tory governments which refuse to listen to experts, who have naturally "urged prospective students to treat the results with caution", and which are completely out of touch with the society they were elected to serve. It is little wonder, either that students call it "another meaningless ranking system", or that the University of Southampton is "appealing against its bronze award" ; it won`t be the only one.

Is it any wonder the Russell Group has said it "does not believe the Teaching Excellence Framework measures absolute quality" (Top universities not up to the new gold standard, 22/06/17)? Rather than assess the quality of teaching by actually observing lectures, these Tef gradings have been awarded using results based on student satisfaction, drop-out rates and graduate employment figures. How typical of Tory governments to ignore the advice of experts. Imagine if schoolteachers were assessed without being seen at work in the classroom!

Friday, 23 June 2017

"Biggest bribe in history" - as if!

It`s surprising that Simon Jenkins thinks that Labour`s "£50bn tuition-fee relief" to all graduates was "the biggest election bribe in history"(Where are we now? 16th June, 2017). Where has he been in recent years?
     In all of the elections held at least in the last forty years, the Tories have promised either massive tax reductions to the richest individuals and corporations in our society, or continued freedom for financial institutions to develop tax avoidance schemes without fear of serious punishment. As long as the rich voted Tory, they could continue to squirrel away their wealth in tax havens. Then there has been the raft of privatisations, guaranteeing huge profits for those wealthy enough to participate, but only available after Conservative election victories. Similarly, landlords have been promised freedom to raise rents, free in the knowledge that a Tory government would allow modern-day Rachmanism to flourish, leading to the appalling situation today,where many tenants pay as much as 70% of their earnings on rent. Older people have been bribed for years, not only with promises on pensions, but with pledges on their right to avoid inheritance tax. 
     Then, of course, the Tory promises to de-regulate, and allow developers to build or gentrify properties without rules insisting on health and safety taking priority, ensured profit maximisation, as did pledges to restrict the rights of unions to fight to improve the pay and conditions of their members.
 Some students will undoubtedly have been persuaded by Labour`s tuition-fee promise, but many more will have supported Corbyn because of his promises to reduce inequality, and return an element of fairness to our society. Perhaps Mr Jenkins would call that a bribe too?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Socialism with a human face - if ever there was a need

The editorial last weekend ended brilliantly by saying how the Grenfell fire "exposes a country with the wrong priorities, lorded over by a worthless elite who have nothing to offer" (Morning Star, 18/06/17).
     Successive governments have caved in far too easily to profiteering landlords, illustrated not only by Rachmanism again being allowed to flourish, and tenants being forced to pay extortionate rents, but by the way the coroner`s recommendations after the Lakanal House fire were not immediately enforced.  If we look back at the record of recent Tory governments, it comes as little surprise.
    For example, in January last year a Labour amendment to the housing and planning bill was defeated, with Conservative MPs voting against proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are "fit for human habitation". Then there was the Tory housing minister telling MPs  that the fire industry, "rather than the government", should "encourage the installation of fire sprinkler systems", because the added cost "may affect housebuilding".
     A change in government attitude, which is based not only on reducing cost rather than increasing safety, but also possibly on self-interest, with far too many MPs being private landlords themselves, is required before people will trust a Tory government`s housing policy again. Indeed, the fire raises similar questions about safety in government transport and energy policies, where cost-cutting and profit-maximisation also dominate.

    All governments have a moral responsibility, but May`s actions fail to reveal her understanding of this! Corbyn, on the other hand, looks more prime-ministerial by the day; the need for "socialism with a human face" has never been greater!

Gaby Hinsliff asks questions about whether "successive governments caved in too easily to profiteering landlords" (Grenfell - shameful symbol of a state that didn`t care,16/06/17), whilst your editorial finds it "very hard to understand why" the coroner`s recommendations after the Lakanal House fire "were not immediately enforced" (Grenfell Tower is shaping up to be Theresa May`s Hurricane Katrina, 16/06/17).
      Is it necessary to look further than the record of recent Tory governments? For example, in January last year a Labour amendment to the housing and planning bill was defeated, with Conservative MPs voting against "proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation" (Tories reject move to ensure rented homes fit for human habitation, 12/01/16). Then there was the Tory housing minister telling MPs  that the fire industry, "rather than the government", should "encourage the installation of fire sprinkler systems", because the added cost "may affect housebuilding" (The tragedy in west London must bring lasting change, 15/06/17). 
 A change in government attitude, which is based not only on reducing cost rather than increasing safety, but also possibly on self-interest, with far too many MPs being private landlords themselves, is required before people will trust a Tory government`s housing policy again. Indeed, the fire raises similar questions about safety in government transport and energy policies, where cost-cutting and profit-raising also dominate. Hinsliff stresses all governments` "moral responsibility", but May`s actions fail to reveal her understanding of this! Corbyn, on the other hand, looks more prime-ministerial by the day; the need for "socialism with a human face" has never been greater!

Following one of the most horrendous fire tragedies imaginable, which was probably the result of using "the cheaper, more flammable version of two options" to clad Grenfell Tower, we read that safety groups want to ban the use of combustible materials in the construction of buildings that "firefighters cannot reach from the ground" (Calls for ban on combustible cladding panels on tall buildings,17/06/17). So that would mean profit-hungry tenant management organisations could carry on using the cheap and dangerous cladding on all their properties up to ten storeys, with further risk to life? It is quite feasible in these days of over-stretched emergency services, that fire-engines would not reach an inferno blazing in a moderately tall building in time to save all the inhabitants. For the sake of a few thousand pounds!
       The regulations should be quite clear: no combustible materials should be used to clad any building, regardless of their height. As Theresa May infamously said, albeit about another subject, "Enough is enough"!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Corbyn has rewritten the rules

The fact that Britain is "headed for a hung parliament" shows that not only has May`s arrogant gamble failed, but that there is a lesson to be quickly learned by the Labour party (Corbyn stuns the Tories, 09/06/17). With Corbyn clearly not unelectable as so many of the parliamentary party believed, and a left-wing manifesto in the 21st century  far from being one of the "longest suicide notes in history", now is the time for all wings of the party to rally round their democratically elected leader. A disunited party under Corbyn has "changed the face of British politics"; imagine what a united one could do!
     The election has also made clear the point that the broadcasting media have no reason whatsoever to continue their policy of inviting Ukip`s opinion on everything political; the sooner it stops the better!

Corbyn has indeed "rewritten the rules", as even Jonathan Freedland admits (Corbyn didn`t just gain seats - he shredded the rulebook, 10/06/17). The election proved that it is possible to "advance from the left", and that every manifesto a couple of degrees left of Blair`s is not a candidate for the "longest suicide note in history" award.
     Freedland is keen to remind us that Corbyn "still lost" the election, but not that he won the campaign, backed by a disunited parliamentary party, by a country mile. Already I have heard a so-called Labour "moderate" on the radio distancing himself from Corbyn. Will such people never learn? As your editorial rightly says, it is "Mr Corbyn`s party now", and with some pride-swallowing by the likes of Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves, this wonderful opportunity can be grasped (The voters have called for a different Britain. Business as usual is not an option, 10/06/17). Corbyn has shown a willingness to compromise; it is their duty to do the same! A "better and fairer Britain" is a small price to pay!

Friday, 9 June 2017

NS didn`t like this

Like Peter Wilby, I hope Corbyn`s Labour gets around 35% of the vote, so that we hear less from "Blair, Mandelson and their ilk about how Labour can`t win on a left-wing manifesto" (First Thoughts, 2nd June, 2017).The trouble is their thoughts have been echoed in most of the recent articles on domestic policies in your magazine. You say that you "campaign for a more just society", but when Corbyn`s policies are aimed at achieving exactly that, you join in the right-wing media`s obsession with attacking him (Labour and the common good, 2nd June, 2017).
      Jason Cowley suggests that after his predicted "shattering defeat" for Labour, the party "must start again by listening to the people" (The reckoning, 2nd June, 2017). Isn`t this exactly what happened after the last election, with the right-wing elements led by Tristram Hunt stressing how Labour lost because it had too little aspirational appeal? This nonsense has been repeatedly rejected by Labour supporters, preferring Corbyn`s honesty and dignity to Tory-lite policies. The people have been listened to, and the result is, at last, a real left-wing challenge to a Tory party dedicated to reducing the tax burden of the rich, and imposing austerity measures on the least fortunate.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Too appalling for words

Polly Toynbee gave us "just 10 of the multitudinous reasons" why another five years of Tory government must be avoided, but the omission of a number of obvious ones reveals how "terrible" the prospect really is (Here are 10 good reasons to dread five more years of May, 06/06/17). No mention of a foreign policy based on making allies of any dictatorship, regardless of the cruelty of the regime, as long as British weapons are bought; nothing, either, about the inevitable increased inequality which will result from a refusal to tax the rich fairly, and to pass legislation to decrease tax avoidance.        
  The continued exploitation of those renting their homes from greedy landlords, permitted by a Tory government not even bothered whether such properties are actually fit for habitation, could have been included (Tories reject move to ensure rented homes fit for human habitation, 12/01/16). Then there`s the fearful likelihood of five more years of a government refusing to listen to the experts, which, in terms of health, education, policing, and just about everything else, is frankly appalling.
    Toynbee didn`t mention either, five more years of having to listen to Tory rhetoric, duplicitously claiming to be the government of the workers, one which cares about the "just about managing", and  which "doesn`t work for a privileged few" (What she said and what she meant, 13/07/16). Justifiably so; it`s too appalling for words!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Tory "magic money tree"

Simon Kelner`s excellent appraisal of the election even acknowledged that some of the recent "puerile discourse" is partly the responsibility of the media (Most soul-destroying election of my life, 02/06/17). He mentioned the Tories` latest soundbite "to discredit Labour spending plans", which is frequently mentioned in the media, the "magic money tree", but then failed to add any information about another "money tree", the one funding the Tories` election campaign.
Since the election`s announcement, £9.5m has been donated to the Tories, compared to Labour`s £3.4m, and rumour has it that much of this Tory money is from people linked with tax avoidance. Some of the donors have been fined by HMRC for using tax avoidance schemes, whilst others are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, or have companies registered in tax havens. This is clearly another of the subjects which the media has "left hanging in the air".
I don`t care if my prime minister can`t remember every single figure in the manifesto, but I most certainly do object to a PM who talks about making Britain a "country that works for everyone", but relies on donations which should be funding our schools and NHS! 

BBC anti-Corbyn bias

Well said, Richard House! (Morning Star,31/05/17) He is right to castigate the right-wing press and the Tory propaganda machine for their "character assassination campaign" aimed at Jeremy Corbyn, and absolutely correct to include the anti-Corbyn "bias shown by the BBC". When the Labour leader forgot the figures relating to the cost of the child care policy, it was headline news on both Radio 4`s "World at One" and BBC1`s "News at 10" programmes. Labour`s Barry Gardiner stressed the unfairness of this on the radio programme, pointing out that Theresa May had made a complete mess of the costing for free breakfasts for all primary schoolchildren, but that never got near the headlines. He could have mentioned, also, all the other gaffes made by Tory bigwigs - Gove and immigration figures, Hammond and the cost of HS2, Fallon`s all too frequent "mis-speaks", Boris Johnson every time he opens his mouth etc
    What Corbyn should have said was that such questioning was pointless, unless the whole point of an election campaign is to test and see which potential prime minister has the better memory! Learning figures off by heart might get you a job at the BBC, it seems, but it is not something that most of us see as essential for a politician. What is needed is someone who cares for the majority, not just the privileged few, and who is prepared to act against unfairness and inequality. In this election, it`s a no-brainer

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Corbyn`s the true patriot

At least Toby Helm was prepared to admit that the election is "becoming more difficult to call day by day", contrasting strongly with Andrew Rawnsley`s refusal to do any word-swallowing (This was a "safety first" campaign for May. But as her strategy falters, will the primetime TV showdowns this week become a huge risk? 28.05.17) Whilst stating that journalists responded to May with "open mockery" after the duplicitous social policy "U-turn by Mrs Strong and Stable", Rawnsley could not bring himself to acknowledge that such derision should have been started by political commentators like himself months ago (The Supreme Leader doesn`t seem quite so invincible now, 28.05.17).
   Rather than accepting at face value the prime minister`s words on the steps of Number 10 back in July, some analysis by the likes of Rawnsley  would have seen through such deceitful rhetoric: no evidence, either in the Autumn statement nor the Budget this year, to suggest that the "just about managing" were to get help; no proof that May was serious about tackling "burning injustices", or about making Britain a "country that works for everyone". Not "entrenching the advantages of the fortunate few" is actually about as far away from the policy of extending grammar schools as you can get.
  In the last few days before balloting, Tories will almost certainly attack Corbyn for being unpatriotic, so, hopefully, your paper will remind readers that "patriotism" actually means standing up for the rights of a country`s populace. Companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of taxes are the unpatriotic ones, and a government that refuses to make the wealthy contribute towards the essential needs of the people, preferring to allow inequality to flourish, and to target the most vulnerable with unnecessary austerity policies, is acting unpatriotically, and is not worthy of support. In fact, Corbyn`s Labour party, working for the majority and not the privileged few, is the true patriotic party in this election.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Can`t believe a word (1)

Corbyn is absolutely correct to say that the "war on terror is simply not working", and "strong against terrorism and its causes" makes sense as a useful slogan at a time when governments like May`s and Trump`s are all too keen to suck-up to the Saudis (Morning Star, 27/05/17). The need to be honest and frank about the issues which threaten our country`s security have to be addressed, so when May retaliates by saying Corbyn "isn`t up to the job", her opponents have to be united and strong in their opposition both to her duplicity, and to her damaging rhetoric.
      The right-wing press have recently been keen to stress how May`s "interventionist instincts" long pre-date this election, and remind us how she "vowed to take on vested interests in the private sector" back in March 2013. Indeed, they repeat that on entering Number 10 she again pledged to fight "burning injustices", not to be driven by "the interests of the privileged few", nor to "entrench the advantages of the fortunate few", but to help the "just about managing". The trouble is they ignore the evidence, as you would expect.
     Had May`s government ordered an enquiry into the horrific events at Orgreave during the miners` strike, had her party written a manifesto detailing increased taxes on the rich, had she personally not promised to designate 80% of our children as failures with her grammar school policy, and had her chancellor`s autumn statement and budget actually included financial support for struggling families, there might be reasons to believe her. 600,000 children from working families about to lose their free school lunches tell a rather different story.
     Nothing has been done by May`s government to reduce tax avoidance, and there are few causes for optimism, with her husband working for a company in the City whose portfolio includes £20bn of shares in Amazon and Starbucks.

The u-turn on the manifesto`s care proposals emphasises the point that May`s "Red Toryism" has to be accompanied by a pinch of salt, and with polls finally moving in the right direction, could it be the case that the penny is finally dropping?

Can`t believe a word (3))

Rather than accepting everything the prime minister says at face value, my cynicism urges caution (The return of the state, 19th May, 2017). Your Leader mentioned how May`s "interventionist instincts long pre-date" this election, and reminded us how she "vowed to take on vested interests in the private sector" back in March 2013. Indeed, on entering Number 10 she again pledged to fight "burning injustices", not to be driven by "the interests of the privileged few", nor to "entrench the advantages of the fortunate few", but to help the "just about managing". Had May`s government ordered an enquiry into the horrific events at Orgreave during the miners` strike, had her party written a manifesto detailing increased taxes on the rich, had she personally not promised to designate 80% of our children as failures with her grammar school policy, and had her chancellor`s autumn statement and budget actually included financial support for struggling families, there would be reasons to trust her. 600,000 children from working families about to lose their free school lunches tell a rather different story.
     Nothing has been done by May`s government to reduce tax avoidance, and there are few causes for optimism, with her husband working for a company in the City whose portfolio includes £20bn of shares in Amazon and Starbucks. As for doing more to "protect existing workers` rights" than any other Tory government, she clearly is thinking of taking us back to the `70s; like May, Disraeli in the 1870s saw the political potential of wooing the "angel in the marble", and passed the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act to allow workers to picket. Seeing their real wages decline, voters then rejected Disraeli`s "one-nation" Toryism; we can only hope history does sometimes repeat itself!

Can`t believe a word (2)

A far more pertinent question than the one asked in your editorial is "How can we believe a word Theresa May says?" (Will Brexit menace progressive Mayism? 21.05.17). The so-called "Christian democratic Mayism" has been around since she made her first speech as prime minister on the steps of Number 10, though why aspects of it hadn`t been evident in her six years at the Home Office is anyone`s guess. That July speech promised a fight against "burning injustice", but no attempt of any sort has been made by her government to reduce inequality. The "just about managing" received no hint of respite in the autumn statement or budget, and your headline news that the proposed ending of free primary school lunches will effect 600,000 "young children recently defined as coming from ordinary working families" makes a mockery of May`s words (May`s schools meal plan "to hit 900,000 poor children", 21.05.17).
      Someone who pledges not to "entrench the advantages of a privileged few" is not expected days later to announce support for an extension of selective grammar schools. May was talked out of forcing businesses to include workers` representatives on their boards, and the silence on tax avoidance has been deafening! 
The u-turn this week on the manifesto`s care proposals emphasises the point that May`s "Red Toryism" has to be accompanied by a pinch of salt. The Observer editorial staff have far more faith in the prime minister`s words than is justified by the evidence.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Guardian letter on biased media

Jonathan Freedland is probably right when he says that what matters in the UK`s general elections is "credibility", the party`s "ability to deliver" what it promises (Voters are rejecting Santa and embracing Scrooge, Why? 20/05/17). His attempt, however, to explain why this is so particularly relevant now is revealing.
     This election, he says, stands "in the shadow of the 2008-9 crash", but is nevertheless "billed as a Brexit election", with austerity and the deficit "mentioned rarely". This is an understatement, with austerity-amnesia having clearly broken out amongst the British media. Tory failures to balance the books, despite the job losses, continued cruel benefits` cuts, and wage freezes, are spoken about only by Labour politicians, whilst the slightest mistake by them becomes a "car-crash". Where are the headlines in any newspaper, including the Guardian, about Hammond`s failure to get the figures for HS2 correct, about Rudd`s ignorance of police salaries, about Gove`s cluelessness about immigration numbers? Is it any wonder the media`s attention on Abbott`s failure to nail police costings  has made it the "one event" that has "cut through"?
      Freedland`s conclusion is as ill-thought out as the Tories` care policy. The lack of trust in Labour is explained by comparing patients accepting their doctors` advice with voters believing what the Daily Mail et al tell them, whilst voting Labour is like taking advice from an alcoholic. Really, Jonathan? When was the last time you wrote about unnecessary Tory austerity policies, or Labour proposing to raise corporation tax to a level well below that tax`s level in the USA, France, Italy or Germany?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Letter Morning Star published plus 1 the i didn`t

Emily Thornberry`s succinct but accurate condemnation of the claim made by Michael Fallon about Labour`s policy towards the Falklands can be extended to a large majority of the pledges made by the Conservative party in recent months (Morning Star,15/05/17). Two budgets have proved the mistake of believing May`s promises to help the "just about managing", just as cuts to council grants exposed the myth that was George Osborne`s "northern powerhouse".
     Labour has rightly labelled May`s proposals to increase social housingas "spin with no substance" whilst the prime minister`s plan to introduce "the biggest extension of workers` rights by any Conservative government" again reveals how these arrogant Tories are treating the voters as mugs (Morning Star,16/05/17) . As practically all Conservative governments throughout history have reduced unions and workers` rights, one would have to go back to Disraeli`s administration of 1874-80, to see a Tory government extending them. His Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act restored the right of trade union members to picket peacefully, a blatant attempt by Disraeli to woo the working class voters. His duplicity was obvious, and he lost the 1880 election. We can only hope history does sometimes repeat itself.

Imagine the fuss there would have been if Labour had not explained in great detail how it was going to pay for its planned expenditure! Yet, when the Tories do exactly that, your paper acknowleges it with a brief article, taking up approximately one tenth of page 5 (Heavy on policy, but light on costings, 19/05/17). Half of page 8, however, is devoted to an anaysis of Labour`s costings relating to just one of its manifesto`s fiscal points, the increase of corporation tax to 26% (Fact Check: Could Labour raise £19,4bn by increasing corporation tax? 19/05/17). Even this failed to mention that the levels of corporation tax in France, Italy, the USA and Germany are all higher than the one proposed by Labour.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Real reason for election now

Both George Eaton and Jason Cowley stressed the "propitious" circumstances, with Labour "fatally divided", and the  polls "giving the Conservatives a 21-point lead", in being important factors in influencing Theresa May`s election decision, but both omitted something equally important (Politics: The greatest gamble, and Newsmaker: The Brexit PM seeks a mandate, 21st April, 2017). The situation, both economically and socially, is going to get much worse, and by 2020, the British public would have seen through the prime minister`s duplicity.
      The hard Brexit cannot prove beneficial; EU leaders are already pointing out that conditions for an ex-member of the European club are bound to be worse than for the loyal 27. Why else would May and her ministers spend so much time globe-trotting in search of alternative trade deals? Companies are already making plans to move headquarters out of London, whilst the government`s continued austerity policy intensifies the hardship felt by many, without lowering either the debt, or the need for increased borrowing.
  Eaton did mention the "squeeze on living standards" being on its way, but nothing about May failing to put the rhetoric about helping the "just about managing" into action, despite the opportunities afforded by two budgets. She can stress the need for unity as much as she likes, but an education policy which divides pupils at eleven into successes and failures is going to fool no-one.
     Let`s face it; May is going to the polls now, because the alternative, an election in 2020, is unthinkable.


"Tax grab" misleading

Considering the relevant article on Labour`s manifesto and fiscal proposals was reported accurately and reasonably, the front-page headline, "Labour`s tax grab on the rich", gave a misleading impression (Corbyn will vow to stand up to the "rich and elite" at manifesto launch, 16/05/17). Raising tax levels on those earning in excess of three times the national average, or taxing the very wealthy at levels 10% lower than the rate Thatcher imposed in her first budget, can hardly be seen a a "tax grab".
   Very few people in this country think that our tax system is fair, or that the rich do not contribute enough to fund essential services. Even the Institute of Directors, which demands the problem of "teacher shortage crisis" be solved, must realise that taxes have to be raised, and that those earning around the average or less simply cannot afford to pay more (Tackle teacher shortage, directors urge parties,16/05/17). Unless taxes on the rich are increased, inequality will continue to grow, and the economy will suffer. Labour needs to be supported in its attempts to transform our society into one based on fairness.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Voters deceived times 3!

John Harris's analysis of the current electoral situation exaggerated divisions amongst the voters (Brexit Britain has three kinds of voter: disconnected, deceived and dismayed, 06/05/17). Rather than the three categories he suggested, the second one would almost certainly suffice. Deceived by the Referendum campaign run by Brexiteers totally economic with the truth, by the media on the unacceptability of Labour's policies and leadership, and by a prime minister both unable to participate in the "absolute basics of what electioneering entails", and unwilling to tell the electorate about the continued austerity and state-shrinking which she plans.

Monday, 24 April 2017

May`s "stability" and "unity"

Theresa May claimed that the election is needed to provide for "stability and certainty" ( Morning Star, 19/04/17). With "stability" meaning "resistance to change", May clearly intends to govern in the same way. How difficult is it for Labour MPs to unite with one voice against continued austerity, more underfunding of schools and the NHS, and  tax benefits for the well-off and big business being the dominant economic policy?
   The "certainty" is that another Tory government will continue to have shrinking the state and taking government spending back to levels last seen in the 1930s at the heart of its policies. May added in her announcement that Britain needed the "strong leadership" she provides, but if Labour MPs cannot counter her nonsense with the true facts about her kowtowing to Trump, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the rest, revealing the country`s panic-stricken response to Brexit, and complete lack of effective leadership, they are not worthy of candidature.
May even had the nerve to say that divisions in Parliament "risked hampering the Brexit negotiations" and unity. "Divisions in parliament" are usually called the "opposition", so the election, she hopes, will give her the freedom and autocracy she craves to deliver a "hard" Brexit, with rights for workers forgotten.
        As for the "unity" in the country, it`s not often I agree with Alastair Campbell, but May clearly needs to get out more!

     It is not too late for Labour MPs to unite behind their leader; if they think May is a better alternative PM to Corbyn, they should say so, and stand down.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Observer letter on solving education`s problems

Grammar schools are not the answer to the problem of "huge geographical disparities"  existing in our unfair education system, as your editorial rightly said (Our schools are failing the poorest pupils. Politicians have no answers, only soundbites,16.04.17). It added that the top priority for education funding should be "attracting and developing the best quality teaching" in deprived areas, like Knowsley, but omitted to mention how this could be done. Certain areas, and some individual schools, could be designated  "Educational Priority Areas"(EPAs). Here, pupil-teacher ratios would be smaller, and pay augmented with significant annual retention bonuses, or deposit-free, low interest mortgages.
       A large majority of my forty-plus year teaching career was spent in Knowsley,and one huge problem I experienced, but which was not highlighted in the editorial, was the quality of leadership. Headteachers in "EPAs" would have to have experienced many years of teaching  in such areas. Too often heads are appointed on the basis of ticking the right boxes with the current jargon, and like many politicians, they provide "soundbites", but lack the necessary experience and ability to inspire and lead. A role for staff representation on the selection panel is a must.
       Ofsted criticism of schools in "EPAs" would be banned; it is pointless labelling schools in deprived areas as "failing", when teachers are working hard, but hindered by administration-overload, weak leadership and under-funding.
       "Meaningful answers" can only be provided by the experts. Lack of trust in teachers explains most of the wrong-headed nonsense spoken by politicians about education. This was epitomised, not  only by Gove`s tenure at the DfE, but by the shadow education secretary only a few years ago suggesting all teachers take an oath to demonstrate their commitment to the profession! 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Nuclear war not a game

Paul Mason is right, to remind us both of "what a nuclear weapon does", and that nuclear warheads are now in the hands of "men for whom the idea of using them is becoming thinkable" (Nuclear war has become thinkable again,18/04/17). With leaders like Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-un, who revel in playing war games like children playing chicken, it is indeed "criminal" that the UK prefers "silence" to using our "diplomatic clout". May clearly thinks any offence given to Trump will not only hinder a post-Brexit trade agreement, but also her chances of retaining the Tory leadership. She`s keen to remind us that "politics is not a game", but still plays along, whilst Corbyn`s Labour is muzzled by fear of the right-wing press seeing caution as weakness, and preferring May`s more gung-ho approach.

     The nuclear explosion at Chernobyl back in 1986 caused such devastation it focused minds, even Russian and American ones; the SALT agreements, which limited warheads, morphed into START negotiations which effectively ended the nuclear arms race. It looks as though our stubborn and intransigent politicians need to be reminded of a little recent history! None of them appear to realise that there`s more to politics than unilateralism and "crowd-pleasing".

Friday, 21 April 2017

A vote for May is a vote for austerity

Very pleased to see that the outbreak of "austerity amnesia" at the New Statesman has subsided, and that, the word, even though, as Helen Lewis tells us, "has disappeared from the government`s vocabulary", still has an important place in your journal`s leading articles (Notebook,7th April,2017). At a time when the prime minister is telling us how hard her government is working to get the British people the best possible Brexit deal, she is simultaneously continuing with the callous and unnecessary cuts aimed at the least fortunate in our society. Are we expected to believe that a government which cuts the Widowed Parent`s Allowance and the Employment and Support Allowance is seriously intent on solving the problems raised in last week`s Leader about "the rising cost of health care and pensions" (The 100- year life, 7th April,2017)? When it has to make the choice of "raising taxes or closing hospitals" May`s response is obvious.

   No-one should be allowed to forget that this Tory government, and its predecessor, faced a similar choice over cuts or taxing the rich, and that they not only chose the former, but accompanied it with reductions in taxes for the well-off! When Tory MPs supported May for leader, their interpretation of "a safe pair of hands" meant someone who would continue with the same austerity policies which hurt no Conservative voters. They were right!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Street-Porter`s lack of understanding re grammar schools

Janet Street-Porter appears incapable of understanding that some people can see the unfairness of grammar schools, even though they actually attended them (Grammars get my support,15/04/17)."Why is Labour so hypocritical", she asks, when the likes of Corbyn, McDonnell, Flynn and Abbott were educated in grammars? How can she "have nothing but praise for a system", which classes around 80% of all eleven year-olds as failures, and which takes hundreds of millions to fund at a time when state schools, catering for children of all abilities, are being starved of cash by the government?
 It beggars belief that Street-Porter can see grammar schools as part of "May`s ambitious plan to create a fairer society", and that the comprehensive system has "damaged thousands of young people". I hope that the people who enjoyed massive success in comprehensives, and who value the work done there by overworked and underpaid teachers, were as disgusted as I was when reading the article.


On British foreign policy

Of course there has been "too much optimism" that Russia could be easily "persuaded to ditch the Syrian president", and, clearly, there still is |(Trump`s unpredictability demands European steadiness, 12/04/17). Why else would Johnson reject the opportunity afforded by the first visit by a British foreign secretary in five years, if the British government, in its usual arrogant way, didn`t think, firstly that European countries would take Johnson`s advice, and, secondly that the threat of yet more sanctions would "shift Moscow"? What should be clear to May and Johnson, is that not only has British influence waned since Brexit, and that Johnson`s posturing has the look of desperation, but that Putin will not be bullied into changing policy.
         However, with presidential elections in Russia next year, protesters demonstrating in many Russian cities, and their economy struggling, now is the time for Britain and the rest of Europe to show some diplomatic skill, especially with so little of it evident  across the Atlantic. Trading deals with Russia, especially in energy provision, could provide a way forward, as could some obvious flattery. If Trump is worthy of some buttering-up with a state visit, Putin must be too! Johnson sees himself as a historian, so he should remember Bismarck`s role as the "honest broker" in 1878 in Berlin. Why not offer to hold a congress on Syria in London, invite all the main leaders, get Merkel to be the chair, and the royals to be the hosts, and organise the catering? The chances are that May and Johnson would "back the wrong horse", just as Disraeli did, but it would at least tick a few boxes, and, as it answers the "need for a non-military response", prevent further missile and air strikes.

It is ridiculous that, as Kim Sengupta states, Boris Johnson is being retained in his post as Foreign Secretary because "keeping a recent rival for the leadership...damaged but inside the tent" is the "best of all options for the prime minister" (A tale of two diplomats: UN envoy impresses while Johnson flounders, 13/04/17). Johnson is not simply making a fool of himself with his wrong-headed ideas about getting tough on Russia, he is displaying the same, extreme arrogance in foreign affairs which May herself shows in dealing with fellow European leaders.
    It cannot be correct, politically or morally, for the British foreign minister to be someone totally unsuited to the job, because his failures are likely to ruin his career, and end his leadership prospects. Anyway, if Sengupta is right, Johnson "can do little" without May`s permission, so let`s start putting the blame for the G7 summit fiasco where it belongs, Downing Street!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Morning Star letter on Greening and grammar schools

Greening`s attempts to justify her boss`s vanity project were both implausible and disrespectful (Morning Star,14/04/17). How dare this government deliberately underfund comprehensive schools and make cuts in real pay for their teachers, and spend hundreds of millions on extending grammar schools because, apparently, comprehensive schools are not good enough for the well-off? How dare Greening say that children from "ordinary working families" would no longer have to "just make do" by attending the local comprehensive? Could an Education Secretary ever have been more insulting to a profession which is so hard-working, despite constant criticism? Is it any wonder there is such a huge teacher recruitment problem, something this government refuses to acknowledge, or even care about. 
   Greening also suggested that these new grammars will be prioritising "disadvantaged" children, and those from "ordinary families, so that must mean the number of children attending grammars from prosperous families will be reduced. As if that is going to happen! Tory MPs know where their bread is buttered, and they are not going to create grammars in their constituencies in which there is no room for their voters` children.

 Perhaps Mr Corbyn might like to mention this at the next PMQs?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

2 unpublished letters: on executive pay and low productivity

Nils Pratley is wrong when stating that LTIPs (long-term incentive plans) have been the "executives` best friend and the biggest driver of inflation in boardroom pay" (Boardroom poison, 05/04/17). Those descriptions almost certainly belong to fellow executives on the pay committees, who know that driving up pay in other companies` boardrooms will lead to similar tit-for-tat  increases in their own businesses. That`s why politicians calling for "a ban on LTIPs" are wasting their time, as replacements would soon be found.

        Instead of the the business, energy and industrial strategy committee making recommendations about companies simplifying "the structure of executive pay" and publishing "pay ratios between top executives and other employees", it should be insisting that May`s government introduce legislation to ensure the necessary reforms are made. After all, didn`t Mrs May enter Downing Street with pledges "intended to hold corporate Britain to account" (Theresa May to unveil boardroom crackdown on private big business, 29/11/17)?

As your editorial states, productivity does rise "when employees have
access to the latest kit", and the necessary "skills to use it properly, but until company bosses are prevented from getting huge bonuses for continuing their short-termist policies, British productivity will remain 20% below that of European rivals (Brexit makes solving the productivity puzzle a priority,10/04/17). Not for nothing did Nils Pratley recently write that misleadingly named "long-term icentive plans" were the "executives` best friend", because they did not require, despite their name,  long-term investment in technology and education to warrant the payment of obscene bonuses (Boardroom poison, 05/04/17).
Inevitably the CBI will spout forth the need for taxpayers` money to be spent on improving technical education in schools, so that company profits can rise, along with the productivity, but what is obvious to the rest of us is that British companies need to improve their apprenticeship schemes. The state certainly should "step into the breach", as is suggested, and a national investment bank would be beneficial.  Until that development occurs, however, why not introduce legislation banning the payment of all bonuses unless productivity rises significantly? After all, Mrs May did enter Downing Street with pledges "intended to hold corporate Britain to account" (Theresa May to unveil boardroom crackdown on private big business, 29/11/17)? 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Unpublished Observer letter on May`s Brexit

Can Andrew Rawnsley really expect us to believe that the "link between a trade deal and continuing co-operation on intelligence and security", in the letter to the EU, wasn`t "intended as a threat" (Even your best poker face won`t be enough for success, Mrs May,02/04/17)? As Daniel Boffey tells us, the link "was made 11 times in the six-page letter", so it clearly was not an oversight, as many have claimed (UK`s military "must not be used as a Brexit talks bargaining chip",02/04/17) It`s no wonder the letter provoked a "furious response", and accusations of "blackmail"!
      How can we regard ourselves as a civilised society if we are prepared at any time even to mention the possibility of witholding vital information from our geographical neighbours, our present, and hopefully future, trading partners, and through Nato, military allies? Trying to improve the conditions under which Britain leaves the EU by threatening to reduce mutual cooperation over security is simply disgraceful, and deserves worldwide criticism. Refusing to inform neighbours of such things as security issues which may cause problems, recent movement of known terrorists or of people connected to terrorists, or the likelihood of terrorist action which may threaten lives, should not even be contemplated, let alone implied.
     Similarly, remarks like "a red, white and blue Brexit" are not, as Rawnsley describes them, "vacuous guff", but deeply worrying, especially as this paper over the last few months, has emphasised May`s careful and deliberate use of language. It`s as if this arrogant government`s main tactic is to give offence to all 27 EU members, so that a "no deal" solution is inevitable, which is exactly what the "Brexextremists on this side of the channel" want. That way we end up with a low-tax, de-regulated and offshore Britain, shrunk back to levels last seen in the 1930s, which has been the Tory plan since Cameron`s time. Having a corporate tax of 10% might well benefit the economy of Gibraltar, but it certainly doesn`t encourage neighbourly goodwill!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Who speaks for liberal Britain?

Jason Cowley asks "who will speak for liberal Britain", but as long as the New Statesman includes pieces by such writers as Rachel Johnson, and takes such a blinkered view of the continuance of unnecessary austerity policies under May, the answer, sadly, is not "this magazine" (Editor`s note, 31st March, 2017)! Cowley rightly says that Cameron`s England "was characterised by public penury and private ostentation", but then adds that "Labour activists were sickened", as if no-one else was disgusted at the way the Tories were deliberately targeting the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.
Of course, Corbyn was seen as "an alternative", and again sadly, he has not been the "inspirational leader" for whom we had hoped, but criticising his front bench as "the least qualified" in Labour`s history is misguided (Corbyn`s failure is no excuse for fatalism, 31st March, 2017). Presumably their lack of Oxbridge honours degrees means they cannot make considered judgements based on fairness, or perhaps be taken seriously by parliamentary colleagues and commentators? This, of course, is outrageous! Can no-one else remember the complete hash made of the shadow education secretary`s job by the very well qualified Tristram Hunt, who was so out of touch with state education, he advocated teachers taking an oath, and suggested all state-educated pupils lacked "character and resilience"?  Osborne`s Oxbridge qualifications did not prevent him making mistake after mistake as Chancellor.
 At least the article did throw a challenge down to Labour`s so-called "best and brightest MPs" to "prove their worth". Instead of sulking because of their dislike of Corbyn, they owe it to the country, let alone their constituents, to oppose the Tories. They should realise Corbyn`s policies, like Stephen Bush clearly does, are not "hard-left", and can be part of an attractive election manifesto (Politics, 31st March, 2017). The Tories are not moving to the right because of the weakness of the opposition; they still have the same aim as in 2010, to "shrink the state" back to levels last seen in the 1930s, and all of "liberal Britain" should be united against them, centr-left press included.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Beatle songs could save economy!

Yesterday, or perhaps it was the night before, I read Larry Elliott`s article, where he wrote about Project Fear, the Beatles` tribute band, "predicting immediate recession in the event of a Brexit vote" (Brexit may be just the crisis we need to cast off the status quo,01/04/17). He also wrote something about things only getting better when businesses and individuals are forced  to get back "out of their comfort zone" to increase productivity. The word is that it won`t be long before help arrives, because soon government and businesses will come together, and realise the end of the economy running on "worryingly high levels of debt" is essential, and that the "saving ratio", currently 3.3%, has to be increased (Debt fears loom as savings hit record low, 01/04/17). This means more money has to be provided, the minimum wage and savings rates have to rise, and firms have to invest in new technology, or face the wrath of the taxman.

  Ending misery doesn`t require a revolution, but a government working for no one but the rich has to realise there`s a place beyond Austerity-UK, and what goes on there matters!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

i letter on the "May doctrine"

Well said, Simon Kelner (Theresa May - so passionate about the wrong things, 0504/17)! If only our increasingly ridiculous prime minister expressed "such passionate disapproval" in Saudi Arabia about its multitude of crimes against humanity, rather than reserving her outrage for the National Trust, and "preached a gospel of reason and consideration", she would at least be attempting to unite our clearly divided country.
 Instead May`s insistence, that her "doctrine" is that everything her government does "is in our British national interest", simply means principles and ethics no longer matter. Presumably. we will continue to sell arms to any country, regardless of how and where they are used, and trade with any murderous dictator.
  Is it not in "our British national interest" to ensure our health and education services are properly funded, workers are paid sufficiently so that children are not brought up in poverty, and food banks are made a thing of the past?


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Lord Howard`s omissions

What Lord Howard unsurprisingly omitted to mention, in his "inflammatory comments" about Gibraltar, is that when Thatcher sent the task force "against another Spanish-speaking country", she was way behind in the polls (Tories fire off warnings on future of Gibraltar, 03/04/17). The Falklands crisis was the result of diplomacy being abandoned in favour of the prime minister`s political gamble.
   The same thing happening again over Gibraltar cannot, however, be ruled out; someday soon, the electoral penny will drop, the truth about helping the "just about managing", and other such unfulfilled promises, will be revealed, and May will need a pre-election boost! 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Parliamentary watchdogs?As if

The news that the chairman of the committee of standards in public life reacted to Osborne`s shameless greed by saying ," We have not ruled out MPs having second jobs up until now, but we now have to look again at our rules", is only slightly encouraging (Morning Star,20/03/17). With far too many MPs having lucrative second jobs, major changes are unlikely: Lord Bew`s response should be seen as rhetoric rather than serious policy.
     The fact is that the breed, previously known as "parliamentary watchdogs" is now extinct, with the much more obedient cockapoo taking over. Of course, editing the London Evening Standard and being a worthwhile MP is impossible, and Osborne might get a reprimand, but only because the Tory brand is being brought into disrepute.
       Osborne accepted the editorship without first receiving official permission from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which apparently scrutinises commercial positions for former ministers. Doesn`t this reveal the irrelevance of this toothless committee? "Watchdog" indeed!

       The idea that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is actually the MPs` "expenses watchdog" is equally misleading, especially judging by its recent decision regarding MPs employing family members. Members of MPs` families who are already employed  will be allowed to continue to work after 2020, so the widespread practice, despite receiving widespread criticism from the public, will continue; the ban only applies after 2020 to "new connected parties"!
   That it`s acceptable for over one hundred MPs to continue to employ relatives at the taxpayers` expense, even though Ipsa admitted that it`s "out of step with modern employment practice", beggars belief. Yet more cockapoo poo!

Friday, 31 March 2017

letters:1) teacher unions and 2) heads

With the creation of a "super-union", following the merger of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and the obvious attacks being made on state education by the Tory government, there could not be a more appropriate time for teacher representation to be strengthened further (Teachers` groups merge to form super-union,23/03/17). The newly created National Education Union, with "more than 450,000 members", would be far more of a "game-changer" if it also included the 320,000 teachers in the NASUWT union. Howard Stevenson is right to say that "governments deliberately seek to exploit divisions". Many times in the duration of my career, industrial action by one of the main unions was undermined by the non-action of the other, with the government subsequently able to claim that, as only a small proportion of teachers were involved, the issue was clearly of little consequence, and undeserving of its attention!
     Laura McInenerney predicted earlier this week that schools could be soon "stripped back to basic entitlements", with increases in tutoring and parent contributions soon to be the norm (The Tory dream: no frills unless you pay, 21/03/17). A united front is needed to change current government thinking, improve teacher recruitment, and campaign for better pay and conditions. This merger has shown how unions can work with joint-leadership and shared values, but with the exclusion of a major teaching union, the "divide and rule" policy will still be available to governments. In times like this, when state education faces an existential threat, teachers need their leaders to speak "with one voice". Talks about further amalgamation should begin immediately.

Alas, Miles Secker is way off the mark (Letters, 28/03/17). All too often headteachers are appointed without having been "thoroughly tested over years as classroom teachers, department heads, then assistant and deputy heads". In fact, in my experience, far too many candidates with exactly that background have been overlooked, whilst the ones willing to support the latest educational fad, to make unnecessary changes, or to use meaningless jargon in the interview, were appointed. Within days, staff and pupils knew the wrong person had got the job, with the inevitable result that the school entered a period of decline. 
     If heads could all draw "on a deep fund of thought and experience", education today would be in a far better place! 

Osborne article too lenient:"austerity amnesia"

The clever heading for Jason Cowley`s article on George Osborne`s shameless acquisition of jobs and obscene wealth was sadly misleading (The austerity editor,24th March, 2017). The paragraph on his record as chancellor concluded that it was "mixed"! Rather than criticising him for the ideologically driven and unnecessary austerity policies, which targeted the weakest and most vulnerable in society, and which aimed at reducing government spending to levels last seen in the 1930s, Cowley simply mentions his "pursuit of expansionary fiscal contraction". Later on, Osborne is described as the "former austerity chancellor", but neither his roles in the current NHS, education and prisons crises, or the job cuts and pay freezes for which he also shares responsibility, are mentioned.
 Calling him an "austerity chancellor", without any of the drastic consequences he caused, suggests a bout of "austerity amnesia" is doing the rounds at the New Statesman`s office. Letting the politician who dreamt up the idea of a "Northern Powerhouse" as an electoral wheeze, whilst slashing the budgets of Labour-controlled northern councils, off the hook is simply too generous. Theresa May might well have "unceremoniously sacked" him, but his policies still linger on, and such callousness must not be forgotten, especially as it contributed hugely to the EU referendum result.

 If the decision as to whether he can combine the numerous jobs with being an MP is for "his own conscience", there can only be one result!  

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Response to Nick Cohen re Corbyn

Nick Cohen`s sneering at the leaders and "second XI" of the Labour party doesn`t do him any credit (Don`t tell me you weren`t warned about Corbyn, 19/03/17). Presumably, we should be more impressed with the millionaire Tories currently in power, with their politically opportunistic leader having her blind trust to keep her wealth hidden, the chancellor refusing to make public his tax details, and a foreign secretary prone to racist and sexist remarks? 
      Are we to assume Cohen would prefer a more moderate, centrist Labour leader, more concerned about the south-east and the City? We know how popular electorally that would be! Cohen asks whether we would "be happy to live in" a low-tax and low-regulation Britain, but clearly doesn`t understand how New Labour disappointed millions, who were, unlike its leaders, not "intensely relaxed" about the "filthy rich" getting richer. At least, Corbyn has given hope to many that fairness can exist as a political policy, that inequality can be reduced, that the NHS can be properly funded, that equality of opportunity can be re-invented as an educational objective for government. Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna so ineffectively "struck back against" the Tories` "austerity programme", it was often difficult to tell who was more in cahoots with the City!
     It`s all very well having an Observer journalist so anti-left wing, he resorts to calling many of his readers "fucking fools", and so angry he fails to check the gender of his source in Cabinet, but perhaps he would do more to earn his not inconsiderable pay by spitting his venom at the Tories. The Labour MPs, whom Cohen supports, should be doing the same; instead of "biting their tongues" they should be exposing the real party of economic incompetence, and backing policies which put fairness in society at the top of the agenda! If teachers sulked because they didn`t like their head, very few pupils would ever get taught!

Friday, 24 March 2017

"Austerity amnesia" reaching epidemic proportions

"Austerity amnesia" is now influencing too many of your recent articles, with Andrew Marr and George Eaton especially appearing to suffer from short-term memory, when it comes to recent Tory policy. In the former`s review of Goodhart`s book, The Road to Somewhere, he attributes the Somewheres` contempt for parliament on the Blair government`s "armed intervention in Iraq in 2003", and on "the relatively minor scandal" concerning MPs` expenses, totally omitting the Tory-dominated coalition`s austerity policies, which punished the poorest and most disadvantaged, and which May`s government is happy to embrace (Understanding Brexit, 17th March,2017). Along with economic policies which favoured the south-east and their richest inhabitants, austerity played a huge role in creating the large group of Britons, who felt "left out and left behind".
    George Eaton appears to see Tory Remainers as the country`s only hope, even while admitting that many had only opposed Brexit "in the hope of advancement under Cameron" (For a softer Brexit, Theresa May needs to face a tougher opposition, 17th March,2017). He, like Marr, has a memory block when it comes to recalling which policies these MPs actually support; shrinking the state, cutting taxes and the associated services and benefits, privatisation, reduced funding for the NHS and state schools, are just a few points on the Tory agenda. Yet Eaton can`t resist blaming Labour`s "toxic leadership", which "has made Tories reluctant to ally with them", when clearly, their lack of principle is the most important factor. 

    Of course, a "stronger opposition" is needed, but it would be helpful if writers concentrated more on Labour`s principled stance against austerity and inequality, and less on joining in with the Tory media`s blame-game.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

May a "safe pair of hands" and early election

To whom was Martin Kettle referring when using the first person plural in his article on the prime minister (We used to think May was a safe pair of hands, No longer 17/03/17)? Certainly not the majority of Guardian readers, and not even all Guardian writers. Alan Travis, last July, warned about about May`s approach to civil liberties that was "too cavalier", and reminded us both of her disgraceful "Go Home" vans which toured immigrant communities, and policies which split up "an estimated 33,000 families because they didn`t earn enough" (What does Theresa May`s record as Home Secretary tell us? 18/07/16).  How much of the present crisis in prisons is due to the illiberal approach adopted over her six years in charge? Travis wrote of how she "joked" that, whereas Ken Clarke wanted to "let them out", she preferred to "lock them up".
  A "safe pair of hands" avoids unnecessary risks, but long before her Scottish "gamble" May was making promises for which it would be difficult, in some cases impossible, to garner Tory party support. Since when have Tory MPs not been driven "by the interests of the privileged few", or cared about "burning injustice"? Two budgets have revealed how little this government is concerned about  the "just about managing", whilst May`s sudden support, both vocal and financial, for grammar schools, when state schools face "real-term cuts to funding by 2019-20", imperils party unity further. 

  A safe bet she certainly never was, but the low profile "Submarine May" deliberately kept during the referendum campaign revealed a political cunning, which might well have peaked too soon! 

Opposition parties need to be careful! Conservative MPs may be saying in public that a snap general election should be called "to capitalise on Labour`s woes", and to "secure a personal mandate" for the prime minister, but I suspect the real reason is more duplicitous (May`s MPs urge her to call snap general elction, 20/03/17). Even Lord Hague has admitted "trouble is coming"!
  With the election expenses` scandal likely to escalate, the grammar school issue to backfire, Scotland to continue to be problematic, and 27 EU members to be adamant the Brexit deal be unfavourable to the UK, Tory MPs must know an election now, rather in 2020, is their best bet on political survival. Going to the polls in 2020, after a hard Brexit, no access to the single market, and increasing inflation, interest rates and unemployment adding to woes caused by the Tories` deliberate underfunding of the NHS and state schools, does not appear an attractive prospect to most Tory MPs. The "just about managing" certainly won`t be voting for them, despite the rhetoric!
      Labour being on "an early-election footing" is requisite political posturing, but its leaders should be considering the likely pitfalls of an election now, and the obvious benefits of one later. McDonnell admits that Labour is "not getting a fair hearing with the media", so why give May the opportunity to increase her majority? By 2020 the polls might well be different!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Observer letter on Brexit and Tories

Tom Kibasi`s excellent analysis of the UK`s economic problems, where he supported the idea of "using Brexit as a moment to bring about the change that Britain needs", omitted one very salient point (Article 50 is upon us but neither Brexiters nor Remainers grasp the vital changes that Britain needs, 12/03/17). As the Autumn Statement and the recent budget revealed, Osborne`s misguided and unnecessary austerity policies are being continued by May`s administration, with the ultimate aim being the same as Cameron`s, to "shrink the size of the state" back to levels last seen in the 1930s, and to reduce the "so-called tax burden", as William Keegan reminded us (We all need a stiff drink to swallow Hammond`s austerity, 12/03/17). 
   It makes no sense whatsoever for the 27 EU members to offer a trade deal beneficial to the UK, as it would simply encourage Leave campaigns in their own countries, so the likely result is a deal which our government will reject. May and her ministers have already threatened that their response, in such a situation, would be to cut back even further on taxation and regulation, failing to mention that this has been their objective since 2010. They will then have an excuse both to lower corporate tax to Irish levels, and to bin workers` rights, to "attract investment".
   Brexit has played into Tory hands; this not only explains the Tories` sudden belief in the sanctity of democratic decisions, despite their willingness to break manifesto promises, but also why May is so adamant on avoiding parliamentary interference

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Brexit playing into Tories` hands

As the Star editorial rightly said on Thursday, the "humiliation heaped on Hammond and May as a result of their U-turn emphasises that their government is vulnerable" (Morning Star,16/03/17). May`s weak leadership, with many of her apparent wishes outvoted in cabinet, adds to the Tories` problems, as does her inept handling of the Scottish Nationalists` desire for their second referendum.
    The trouble is that May will head the Brexit negotiations, and anyone who thinks a good deal for British trade and workers is on the cards needs to re-consider. Britain cannot be seen to emerge from the talks with a beneficial deal, as this would encourage all would-be Leavers in each of the 27 EU member states, to copy Britain. With no acceptable deal available, May and Hammond have both threatened that the UK`s response would be to lower taxes and decrease regulations even further, matching Ireland`s 12% corporate tax levels, for instance, to "encourage investment", and to "free up employers" from  EU red tape, like the rules which limit hours in their workers` days.
      As the low tax, less regulation regime has been the stated aim of Tories since getting into power in 2010, and the real objective behind the austerity policies, which May and her cronies still support and enact, the Brexit vote has now fuelled the Tories with another excuse to carry out the policy of "shrinking the state" back to levels last seen in the 1930s.

     The Tories may well be "wobbling" at the moment, but Brexit has played into their hands!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

On the Budget and Osborne`s shameless greed

Putting up the National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, of whom, as Zoe Williams informs us, 91% "are earning £20,000 or less" (Plausible, sober, and yet divorced from reality,09/03/17) is hardly the action of a chancellor who "has been brave", as your editorial on the Spring Budget suggests (The chancellor provides political theatre - but is it all an act? 09/03/17). Going after the companies "who use self-employment as a way of dodging national insurance", not to mention their responsibilities regarding sickness and holiday pay, should have been Hammond`s first, rather than "next step". It seems, however, that would be too much to expect from an increasingly duplicitous Tory government, which refuses to deal with the financial crises in the National Health and care systems, even when blessed with unexpected tax windfalls amounting to billions.
    It is blatantly obvious, to the Guardian`s readers if not all of its writers, that May and her team have no intention of governing in the way announced on the steps of 10 Downing Street last July, and that many of the "just about managing" will have to continue to do just that, albeit reliant on scant government subsidies. An Opposition leader who "lambasted the chancellor", and whose post-Budget speech criticised the Tories for their "utter complacency", should be praised for his stance against inequality, rather than the recipient of snide remarks (Corbyn attacks complacency as services suffer, 09/03/17).  

      Rather than looking "at the benches opposite", perhaps Hammond is more aware of the lack of "pressure to defend himself for extending austerity", refusing to tax the rich proportionally, and for his "appalling priorities", in the nation`s leading centre-left newspaper (Hammond was swaggering in the ring alone, 09/03/17)!

Your editorial is absolutely correct to say that there are "habits, courtesies and unwritten codes of decency and honour" which should govern politicians` behaviour, but wrong to suggest that there is "something distasteful" about George Osborne "cashing in" on his time as chancellor, whilst remaining an MP (Printed pledges and unwritten protocols both matter in politics,10/03/17). It is utterly disgraceful, totally reprehensible, and completely unacceptable! He clearly feels no guilt about the horrendous suffering his unnecessary austerity policies have caused, otherwise he would have resigned.
 What a shame the British press don`t see the need for a hatchet-job on the former chancellor, yet continue to lambast Corbyn, a decent politician fighting against the inequality which Osborne both espouses and epitomises!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

May losing her marbles?

The fact that Greece has called for the return of the Elgin Marbles, stolen from them by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, in the early 19th century, affords the British prime minister a wonderful opportunity (Calls for Marbles` return to help bolster Europen unity, 14/03 17). Not only would their return act as a "symbolic act in the fight against the dissolution of Europe", and be a conciliatory gesture at the start of extremely difficult Brexit negotiations, it would illustrate how May`s speech in Downing Street last July was not simply rhetoric and political posturing. She promised then, amongst many other things based on fairness, to act against all "burning injustice".

       Unable, apparently, to persuade her cabinet to support help for the "just about managing" in two budgets, or to introduce legislation to get workers` representatives on all large companies` boards, or even to support an enquiry into a very obvious "injustice" at Orgreave during the miners` strike, May`s return of the Marbles would show, at least, that she understands the value of diplomacy, and that she is not all talk. Sadly, I`m not holding my breath!