Thursday, 28 December 2017

Only one party is to blame for #Brexit - the #Tories

I voted to remain. I have lots of things I don't like about the EU but, for me, the right thing to do was remain and reform. I wrote a post about it here. The referendum result didn't go well, and now we are stuck with leave - for the foreseeable future. I can understand the frustration and anger of remainers, but there is one thing I can't understand - the desire that many seem to have to blame Labour for the debacle we are faced with.

Lest look at the facts:

  1. The Tories called the referendum and the Tories lost it. It was Cameron who fronted the remain campaign (not Corbyn)
  2. Corbyn went all around the UK campaigning for remain and delivered the votes of 2/3 of Labour supporters for remain.

There you have it. 

Not long after the result lies were spread that Corbyn had not campaigned, really supported Brexit, and even voted leave! Although they were lies many people wanted to believe them. Subsequently, Labour voted to trigger article 50 and it was the right thing to do, respecting the result and reflecting the fact that a majority of Labour constituencies voted leave. Even if Labour had wanted to stop A50 they didn't have the votes in parliament to stop it from happening.

Even now, despite a disastrous election result for the Tories, Labour still doesn't have enough votes to stop the Tories following through with Brexit. So why all the anger directed at Labour on social media because they "refuse" to stop Brexit? And why all the nonsense directed at Labour that they want a "hard Brexit". Labour's policy is clear, it's in the manifesto. Labour wants a soft Brexit which will protect workers rights and the environment. All this is obvious enough but there are many who refuse to see it.

Can Brexit be avoided? Yes, it can but only if the polls shift very significantly so that there is a clear majority for remain. And the only party that can deliver this is - Labour. Labour is playing a long and difficult game, trying to keep their voters and membership onside whilst looking for the softest landing they can. That much is obvious. However, nothing is obvious to many politically naive rabid remainers who expect Labour to ride to the rescue on a white charger. Of course, much of the vitriol directed at Corbyn and Labour from remainers comes from Labour haters and Lib Dems but if those people are really serious about stopping Brexit they need to shut up and start supporting the only party who can prevent it from happening.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A remembrance of things past

Once you pass the big six-o you can no longer pretend to be young. In your fifties, you can just about get away with thinking you could go clubbing, even though you never do. It's not just creaking joints that bring about this situation - its change. Things have really changed since you were young, and you have changed. Even though you probably have a mobile phone and use social media things have moved on - Facebook is for boring grown-ups - not the youth of today. For my part, I use Facebook and Twitter, though I loathe the former, but can't be bothered to also use any more social media apps. The gap between you and youth is growing and it will get wider as time goes on. Their lives, as they develop, will be very different to yours - that's progress.

I began to muse about this during the latest episode of my never-ending quest to clear 'stuff' out of the garage - something I suspect many people will be doing for years to come and that will affect children who haven't been born yet - because the only real solution to this problem is not to have a garage. Whilst sorting through stuff I found a box that contained a number of old letters I'd kept dating back to the early eighties. They were all love-letters from ex-girlfriends and I found them very moving. What struck me about them, apart from the passion, was their length and the relative amount of effort involved. Does anybody do that anymore? Does anyone send long passionate emails to their girlfriends or boyfriends? Its possible but I doubt it - we live in the soundbite age of the text and the Tweet.

I think the letter is something from the past, something we are all, young and old, missing and all the poorer for not receiving. I remember the anticipation of receiving a letter, of hearing the clank of the letterbox as the postie made his early morning delivery (you had two posts a day then) and going to pick up the post. Was there a personal letter for me amongst the brown envelopes? Was it from her? Then sitting down to read and digest the letter's contents - it was good, it moved me. And all the better because it was handwritten, and someone had taken the trouble to craft it. It was personal and had a kind of warmth that can never be reproduced in digital communication.

While I'm on the subject of good things we have lost due to 'progress' I need to put in a word for the vinyl record. For people of my generation, your album collection wasn't just a shelf full of records - it spoke about who you were and what you were into. Your record collection was one of your most treasured possessions and something you happily humped around from student flats to shared houses along with your stereo. Now you can have digital devices that store thousands of tracks, create playlists, and listen to virtually any music for free on Spotify but it's just not the same.

Listening to an album was a ritual, finding the one you wanted, hauling it out, looking at the cover art, lovingly sliding it out of its sleeve, putting it on the deck and then listening to that satisfying clunk as the needle hit the record. Then, sitting down to listen to the music. Listening was a rewarding activity and the music was not just something in the background when you were talking to others or doing the washing up. And the best bit is the fact that the analogue sound quality is superior to digital - warmth, once again.

There is hope for vinyl, sales are increasing, but will we ever see the revival of the letter? We are missing out, but does it matter?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

On Driverless cars

There's a lot of talk in the media nowadays about driverless cars. This, apparently is the future. As someone who has passed middle age, I can see the advantages. I recently had to drive from Shropshire to the New Forest. My satnav told me it would take four hours, in the end, it took seven. I won't bore you with the details but I'm sure you can guess: busy motorways, traffic jams, and roadworks are the norm these days. Even if I had been driving a large, powerful, comfortable car it I would have been knackered when I reached my destination. Driving requires effort and concentration which doesn't get any easier as you get older.

So what's not to like about driverless cars? As long as they can be safe, clean and green they are a great idea, right? Right, but my problem is where they are coming from and how these decisions are made. Who has decided the world needs driverless cars? Apparently, it's Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, that bloke from Google, or some such person. My problem is why should some unaccountable private individual be making important decisions about where the world goes next?

I can hear you thinking 'what is he on about - surely this is progress?' And isn't all 'progress' driven by great individuals - the entrepreneurs of capitalism? Not necessarily, not by any means. In 1945 a Labour government was elected, from that government came the NHS and welfare state. Now that was real progress which benefited, and continues to benefit millions of people. That didn't come from a capitalist or entrepreneur it came from a democratic decision approved by the people.

Recently parts of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, were devastated by a hurricane. Inevitably, despite the idiot Trump, the houses and schools which were destroyed will be eventually be rebuilt. Now if Elon Musk or that bloke from Google had designed eco-friendly hurricane-proof houses which could be manufactured and built at an affordable cost I would be really impressed. Because there is little doubt that the 'new' replacement houses in Puerto Rico will be destroyed by the next hurricane in 5 years time or maybe even sooner.

So my point is - why should the use of money and valuable resources be determined privately when it could better be determined publicly without the profit motive? - when human ingenuity and technology could be so much better employed to do something really useful? Do we really want unaccountable individuals making important decisions about humanity's future? I'd like a driverless car and a mission to Mars, but I'm more than happy to wait for that until after the people of Puerto Rico have all been re-housed in decent safe accommodation and all the people on the planet have access to clean water and healthcare. I'm guessing it will be a long wait.......

Thursday, 26 October 2017

An evening with John McDonnell

On Monday 2 October my political partner in crime, Peter Allen, and I went to see John McDonnell at Manchester Cathedral talking with Gary Younge on the theme of - 'An Economy That Works for All'. The event was part of a series of meetings and demos based around the Tory Party Conference. Predictably, the event was very well attended with an audience of several hundred people and began with the Dean welcoming McDonnell.

John McDonnell is an accomplished speaker who addresses the audience with respect. During the 'debate' he outlined Labour's plans for an expansion of democracy in the UK and spoke about Labour's economic plans. What follows is a summary of what John McDonnell said based on a recording Peter made:

"What we want is for people to come together in their communities to discuss the detailed implementation of our manifesto in their area….that is important to us….where are we going to build the homes that we need,….what sort of jobs do we want… how best to invest in our schools. We will all be going into government together so that change will become unstoppable and irreversible.we need to do work now to prepare for government. 

We will have a constitutional convention, based on a fair nationwide distribution of resources. People are pretty fair. They do want to work together, to cooperate to address inequality. Consensus building is central to Jeremy Corbyn’s politics.

The reason why the Tories are resorting to personal abuse is because they are losing the argument. They say they are defending the free market but what we have is a rigged market. We have ‘corporate capture’, where corporations have taken over the levers of government which is being run in the interests of the 1%. In response, we are calmly proposing alternative solutions. 

People are seeing through what the Tories are all about. They are recognizing that austerity wasn’t an economic necessity but a political choice. I million fewer adults are receiving care because of austerity. There are millions on housing waiting lists and 70,000 children are in temporary accommodation. In terms of political ideas, the Tory Party are bankrupt. As a political party, they are imploding. 

I have been talking to business about our investment strategy. Business is seeking opportunities for stable returns on their investment and we will be offering that. 
John McDonnell at Manchester Cathedral
We need a real living wage and strong trade unions, which offer the best means of protecting wages and conditions. We will restore and expand collective bargaining. Rising wages will lift people out of poverty and raise more taxes. It isn’t rocket science.

We recognise the contribution migrants have made to this country. We need to guarantee the rights of EU migrants living in this country.

Our opponents will always try to divide and rule. We need to bring people together on the basis of recognising injustices. We will clamp down on tax evasion/ avoidance which is on an industrial scale in this country and properly resourced HMRC. UKUNCUT have dragged tax avoidance to the top of the agenda by public protests and should be given credit for the role they have played in this.There should be greater tax transparency. Everyone earning over 1 million pounds and all leading politicians and public officials should be required to publish their tax returns.

From Thatcher onwards, neoliberalism became the dominant ‘hegemonic ‘ idea. After the crash, this dominant idea has been challenged. After 10 years, with the recession having supposedly ended but living standards still being cut more and more people are coming to the view that the current model will never work and I think we can convince a majority of people to accept a different narrative and support a different model.

We believe that education is a gift from one generation to another and not a commodity to be bought and sold. We want a National Education Service, free from the cradle to the grave. We will improve and expand provision in conjunction with service users.

We need to invest in new technology, as Germany has done. Business is not investing sufficiently and we will use public investment to encourage such investment. We will encourage workers co-operatives and worker representation on boards.

We need to prioritise addressing climate change. (loud applause). There will be no fracking. We intend that the UK will become world leader in decarbonizing the economy in its first five years of office."

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The so-called free market has failed we now need a democratically driven alternative

For the vast majority of people in the world, after more than 200 years of capitalism, the so-called 'free' market has delivered little but poverty. The 'free market' economy is meant to deliver investment, innovation, efficiency and a trickle-down prosperity. In reality, it has meant privatisation - where public services are asset stripped and suffer under profit-led management and deregulation - leaving the banks and finance sector free to gamble national economies into debt and exploitation.

In the twenty-first century, we have faced increased prices, cuts to our living standards, lack of housing, long hours and insecurity both in work and in retirement. Here in the UK, unions suffer the most restrictive laws in Western Europe. Prosperity is increasingly seen to be reserved for the unaccountable few, who face none of the pay restraints imposed on workers and none of the regulations and burdens placed on unions. 'Free' market capitalism has been a social, economic and environmental failure.
What the left has to do is nail the lie of the 'free' market - which means deregulation and privatisation that only benefit the rich - as we have seen. What we need is a fair market which workers can benefit from without the fruits of their labour being expropriated by capitalists. The right has expounded simplistic bullshit - like the 'free' market - which doesn't exist and never can - and got away with it because the left hasn't adequately exposed what a fraud it is. That is now beginning to change as the left uses social media and the internet more effectively.

The 'free' market right have also always said that we couldn't afford to re-nationalise utilities, railways etc. Having seen the vast sums invested in propping up the banks after the great recession, we all know that is not true.
 We need to show people that an alternative economy is not only possible but achievable. That alternative needs to be a mix of state ownership and mutualism - to give people a real stake in the economy and their future.

We need to build on explaining the benefits of public ownership as a fair market alternative to free market capitalism. Many people already accept this. Labour has made a very good start on this with their manifesto and more and more people understand they have been ill-served by the cam of privatisation. The events of the past decade, and in particular the last few months since the General Election has given us the opportunity to get that message across in a way that we haven't had for at least a generation.

One consequence of 'free' market neoliberalism is the backlash against the 1% leading to the rise of the far right and, potential break-up of the EU, as well as the beginning of the end of America as a dominant global economic and military force. The very people who wanted this to be the American Century - the neo-conservatives and neoliberals  - have brought their country down. This was very well summed up in an article by John Gray in the Observer. The geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting as I write this, and the American dream has become a nightmare.

Brighton Rocks!

Guest post from my comrade and Green Party member Peter Allen. Peter attended some events organised by The World Transformed at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton:

The Sunday night Compass meeting at the Labour Party Conference was called Alliance Building For A Progressive Future and was chaired by Francesca Klug. 

Like me, Francesca is a High Peak voter and witnessed the successful creation of a Progressive Alliance in the constituency. She recounted how it had involved not just Labour and the Green Party, who stood down to support the victorious Labour candidate, but also a non-party organisation called High Hopes for High Peak. HH4HP ran an effective campaign calling for an anti-Tory vote and focusing on the incumbent Tory MP’s voting record (he complained bitterly that this was unfair!). 

The result in High Peak demonstrated that anti-Tory alliances can extend beyond political parties to unite the progressive majority that exists in most constituencies. The refusal of the Liberal Democrats to participate in the alliance seriously backfired, their candidate obtaining a derisory vote.

Caroline Lucas told the meeting that election night had been bittersweet. The Conservatives had lost their majority which was “ a cause of much celebration “ and she “was immensely proud” of the contribution Greens had made to achieve this. However, it had been very sad that Labour had not been prepared to open the door even an inch to political cooperation, even where there had been a desire at local level. The Green Party had “paid a huge price for our principled commitment to doing politics differently”. Whilst politics had become hopeful again fair voting was urgently needed she said ,to loud applause from a room of Labour Party activists. 

Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Lisa Nandy both expressed thanks and gratitude to Caroline and the Green Party. Clive said that 21st century socialism had to be plural. Politics needed to be done differently, with time running out and the world facing ecological catastrophe. Lisa stressed the need for creative thinking when talking about climate change, particularly in former mining areas, which should have been guaranteed a just transition to a new green economy. 

All three politicians made the point that no one party has a monopoly of political wisdom. Neal Lawson, Director of Compass, agreed and said that voters could no longer be taken for granted, “Deference is gone and it is a good thing “

Contributions from the audience were largely supportive of the need for Progressive Alliances to continue and for Labour to adopt Proportional Representation. The Labour Candidate on the Isle of Wight and an activist from Richmond Park were given a generally hostile reception when they defended their refusal to stand down for the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats respectively.  

Filled with a spirit of unity I then attended some of the meetings organized by Momentum as part of their The World Transformed Festival. I particularly enjoyed ‘ It was the Kids that Done it ‘ on Tuesday afternoon,  which had a panel of young confident women, including Mamel, a Londoner who lived near Grenfell Tower and was part of the local campaign for justice. The speakers recalled how they had successfully engaged young people during the general election campaign. Many more had voted than in previous elections, when they hadn’t been uninterested in politics but had felt that neither of the large parties had made them a decent offer. This had changed with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Cat Smith MP, a member of the Shadow Cabinet with responsibility for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, said that it been her fourth election campaign but the first one when nobody had said on the doorstep ‘You’re all the same’. She also stressed that Climate Change was a major issue for younger voters.

I had to leave the above meeting early in order to join the queue around the building for a meeting addressed by Naomi Klein. In front of me a group of  Labour activists, probably in their early 30’s, were reminiscing about their general election experiences. They e agreed that the Green Party were the unsung heroes of the campaign, having stood aside in several key places. Of course, there should be electoral reform they said, it was a no-brainer. 

Naomi was plugging the message (and her new book) that saying No was not enough. As well as resisting neoliberalism and the climate change deniers we had to say what the alternative was. It would involve a just transition to clean energy, funded by increasing taxation of rich individuals and large corporations. Earlier in the day she had spoken at the Labour Conference itself, arguing that “battling climate change is a once in a century chance to build a fairer, more sustainable economy for the many not the few”.

On Monday evening I had failed to arrive early enough to get into a meeting addressed by Paul Mason. I was able to read his Guardian column on Tuesday however, in which he declared 

“Many Labour people, including myself, want to see a strategic alliance of Labour, the progressive nationalists and the Greens in place, even if Labour were to win an overall majority “

I came away from Brighton more convinced than ever that there is a vital and vibrant role for the Green Party as part of an alliance on the left of British Politics,  trying to ensure that environmental justice is given the same priority as social justice. Talk of moving the Green Party to a position where it is equidistant from Labour and Conservatives is misguided and misplaced. 

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and appeal to voters of all parties. It does mean that the Green Party is very clear where it stands in the political spectrum and knows very well whose side it is on in the struggle between the many and the few. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

We can afford a decent pay rise for public sector workers

Politics has recently become all about what we 'can afford' to do as a nation. This is a political agenda pushed by the Tory Party and its neoliberal friends in the media. And what we 'can afford' we are told has to be paid for by taxpayers with tax increases but the reality is that much of government spending pays for itself. Lets have a look at some examples of what we can and can't afford to spend money on:

What we can afford -
  • renewing Trident = £200 billion
  • Hinkley C = £37 billion
  • HS2 = £52 billion
Total = £289 billion

What we can't afford - 
Total = £11.3 billion

The figures for what we can afford are ones the Tory government has already committed to and though the cost will be spread over a number of years they are likely to be underestimates. The real total is likely to be greater than £300 billion. The figures for what we can't afford are annual costs.

It can be argued that the 'affordable' expenditure is for vital defence/energy/transport infrastructure but it can equally be argued that all those three 'projects' are a complete waste of money.

What we 'can't afford' to do is spend much smaller amounts of money on the public sector i.e. the NHS from which will we all benefit; more police from which we all benefit and a much needed pay rise for 5.5 million public sector workers from which we will also all benefit - because it will boost our economy.

The reality is that these are political choices that have nothing to do with whether the items are 'affordable' or not. 'Affordability' is the smokescreen behind which these choices are hidden and a 'reason' to continue austerity which again is a political choice not an economic necessity.

But lets look at the 'unaffordable' expenditure in a bit more detail. The reality is that the public sector pay rise will largely pay for itself. How? Because we pay 39% tax and 39% will return to the government. In fact, most of that £4.5 billion will return to the government in taxes anyway as it is spent and circulates around the economy - its called the fiscal multiplier

For a fuller explanation of the public sector pay rise see Richard J Murphy's account here. The key point that Murphy makes is that we can afford to pay for a decent pay rise for public sector workers without having to raise taxes.

To re-iterate this whole debate is really about political choices and to say that we 'can't afford' to fund the public sector properly is essentially dishonest. The Tories priorities are tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and privatisation - which can be promoted by running down the public sector. Austerity is and was always a means of furthering this agenda based on the lie that Labour, rather than the banks, got us into debt in 2008, and that we need to 'balance the books' and have a budget surplus - which is economic nonsense.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Reflections on the election #GE2017

Wow what an election! It's been unlike any I can remember, with an incredible turnaround from Labour which floored the 'expert' pundits - most of whom still don't understand what happened. Since 2010 we have been told 'there is no money' - with austerity being used as an ideological weapon by the Tories (and their friends the Liberal Democrats) to destroy the welfare state - something the Tories have wanted to do since 1945. From 8 June this position has become untenable which is the good news the UK desperately needed.

At the start the Tories were riding as high as 49% and Labour as low as 27% in the polls that I saw. A Tory majority of anything from 80 to 180 was predicted. Theresa May's ratings were sky-high and Jeremy Corbyn's rock bottom but from the start it was fairly obvious there were major flaws in the Tory campaign. Theresa May's robotic repetition of the 'strong and stable' mantra, her stage managed 'public' appearances and refusal to take part in the leader's debates all damaged the Tory campaign. Lynton Crosby may have been playing it safe but the electorate aren't daft, they expected much more leadership from someone seeking a mandate to be Prime Minister of the UK.
The wisdom of the punditocracy

In contrast to this performance from May, Corbyn played to his strengths, going on a nationwide campaign tour and reaching out to larger and larger crowds as the election progressed. Naturally this was treated with scorn by the pundits who 'knew' that Corbyn was preaching to the converted, and predicted that there would be no impact on the wider electorate.

What were the key points which turned the election in Labour's favour?:
  • The leaking of the Labour manifesto gave Labour several days of uninterrupted headlines. The contents proved popular with a populace weary of austerity, and increased the turnout of younger voters
  • The dementia tax - the Tory manifesto was a drab and uninspiring document - foxhunting anyone? - but people soon picked up on the removal of any kind of cap on social care costs, something which was bound to hit the support of the Tories core pensioner vote. May failed to deal convincingly with this blunder claiming 'nothing has changed' despite the Tory u-turn.
  • The 'debates' - Corbyn 'debated' May indirectly and although many thought these 'debates' a score draw they were good for Corbyn because they gave him exposure. People could see that he wasn't the monster portrayed in the Tory press
  • Tory u-turns - almost too many to count but including the classic that May had denied there would be an election until 2020 several times
Despite the fact that the MSM and pundits stuck to their guns about the result I could sense the tectonic plates of UK politics were shifting online - Twitter and Facebook - and that more people wanted real change. The final result? Good for Labour and the left but ultimately disappointing in that May was able to hang on in a lame duck government with support from the DUP. As in 2015 Scotland let the left down badly by providing the Tories with an extra twelve MPs without which Corbyn might have been able to form a government.  The headline figure though is not the number of seats the two main parties won but the percentage of the vote for Labour, at 40%, getting its highest vote share since 1945!

The key outcome is not that May has been fatally wounded by this but that the Tories and their austerity agenda has been badly damaged. They are clinging on to power trying to negotiate Brexit with no plan and from a position of weakness. How long can this carry on? Its hard to predict because the wheels could come off at almost any moment, or they might cling on for twelve months or more. My money's on them hanging on by the fingernails for as long as possible because of the fear of Corbyn.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Theresa May the sanctimonious dealer in death

Many people, including me, were outraged when Theresa May produced a sanctimonious 'Easter message' this weekend. May claims to be a Christian and is often heard pontificating about how much she cares about 'hardworking families' and those who are struggling. In her message which can be found here May said:
"This Easter I think of those values that we share – values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage. Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another"
But could this be the same Theresa May that has presided over a regime of benefits sanctions and disability assessments that have lead to an estimated 30,000 deaths? Could this be the same May the 'Christian' that was a senior minister in a Tory government that has implemented massive austerity cuts which have created poverty for millions in the UK and a million people, many of whom are working, using foodbanks?

Here is just one example of many of the victims of a Tory government in which Theresa May was a senior minister:
"The tragic death in July 2013 of 59 year old David Clapson, a former soldier who suffered with type-1 diabetes, highlights the brutality of the system of sanctions. Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis (caused by an acute lack of insulin). His death followed him being sanctioned a few weeks earlier when all his benefits had been cut. 
His sister, Gill Thompson, found him in a flat where he had almost nothing to eat, six tea bags and an out-of-date tin of sardines. He had no money for electricity to operate his fridge where his insulin was kept."
How does one be a 'Christian' and preside over a benefits regime which is killing people, and creating real poverty and hardship I wonder? 

The only conclusion I can come to is that May is not a Christian but a hypocrite whose primary purpose is to serve the interests of corporations, wealthy tax dodgers and the 1% in general. People must die and be flung into poverty so that her already wealthy friends can have an even bigger slice of the cake. Rather than being a 'Christian' I think a more accurate description of May would be that she is a sociopath.

It would be easy to despair when people like May are ruining our country but the only option is solidarity and resistance. This photo from Hanna Murphy on Twitter sums it up nicely. 
Photo - Hanna Murphy - Twitter.

Monday, 3 April 2017

How our sham democracy works

So you think you live in a democracy? Well, you are right, you do. But it's not quite the democracy you probably think. I just pulled this definition off my Mac: - "control of an organization or group by the majority of its members ". To me, that is a satisfactory definition. You could substitute 'organisation' with 'country' and 'members' with the electorate', and you would have a definition which fits the UK. The keyword though is 'control'. In a democracy 'control' means that the will of the electorate can make change happen - including fundamental change.

So why is our democracy a sham? It works like this: You can vote, and you can make change happen but there are certain things that can't be changed, really important things like our economic system, which determines the kind of society we have. Why can't 'we' make those fundamental changes? Because the market, or call it big business or capitalism if you prefer, is in control. How does this work and how did it happen? If we look at recent history - in the past 40 years or so our politicians have ceded control to the 'market'. It has happened through the capture of institutions. The European Union is a good example of this. European treaties contain clauses which dictate how our economy works. In effect, they create a European constitution which binds us to the market through so-called 'liberalisation'. This means that we have to follow a right-wing ideological economic programme

This 'free' market programme is neoliberal and its one that is followed by almost all governments in the 'West'. It means that corporations can dodge taxes, trade unions get disempowered, environmental regulations are watered down, people are mired in debt (e.g. student loans), public services are privatised, and countries are run for the benefit of the 1%.

The USA is still the epitome of capitalism but it doesn't say in the constitution that the country has to be capitalist. Those kind of ideological-cum-economic statements have no place in a constitution. What has happened is that politicians have put commercial interests above our democratic rights. On a lower level, it works in the UK like this. If a multinational wants to build a superstore in your town centre your local council can't stop it from happening. The citizens of that town can't take a democratic decision that they don't want it. The 'rights' of the multinational have been put above our democratic rights. Of course, we can still vote, and we can still decide to do things like introducing gay marriage, because that doesn't threaten the economic status quo, but we can't run our economy in the way we choose.

Our politicians never asked us if we wanted this. If they had they know we would have rejected it. But the point is that many of us are unaware of exactly what happened. Historically, where people have kicked back, such as in the referendums in France and Ireland where European treaties were rejected, the politicians have fixed it so they got the result they wanted in the first place. It's not just the EU but all the major institutions such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank that adhere to this neoliberal ideology masquerading as economic policy. The plan is to ensure that a particularly nasty, laissez-faire version of capitalism is completely dominant - social and collective concerns are subsumed to the agenda of big business, and democracy is undermined.

While they may not appreciate all the details of how our democracy has been stitched up in the interests of corporations and the 1% many people understand that our democracy doesn't work for them. That is one of the key reasons that voter turnout has fallen so dramatically in many countries like the UK. And that is how we can get a government elected by only 24% of eligible voters which is what happened in the UK in 2015. Are the powers that be worried about this? Of course not - voter apathy suits those who are on control!

Despite this, our democracy is still worth something. We can put democratic rights back on top. But we can only do this if we first understand what's really happened, and have the will to re-capture our institutions from those who have 'stolen' them. Only by becoming politically active at a local level and resiting at a national level can we turn the tide against the corporations, tax-dodging rich and their tame politicians who advance their interests at our expense. We need electoral reform, a written constitution, an elected head of state, and an elected second chamber if we are going to live in a real democracy.

This is an updated version of a post from 2012. Nothing much has changed - for the better!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Some remain 'lefties' are busy doing the Tories work for them

As one who voted remain in the 'Brexit' referendum last June I was riled by the use of the term 'remoaner' by those who 'won' the vote to leave. But now I'm beginning to wonder whether some of my my fellow remainers aren't 'remoaners' after all. The leave vote was a huge blow to all of us and many people, including me, are still pissed off about it. However, its now time to move on. The battle is not about whether we leave, triggering Article 50, but what Brexit will look like. But my own anecdotal 'survey' of social media is telling me that many remainers on the left still don't appear to have got beyond the denial stage. 

They think that the Labour Party are going to come riding to the rescue on a white charger and block the triggering of Article 50. But this isn't going to happen, and it never was whoever was leader. Labour are not in government. They are in opposition with less than 250 MPs. The Tories have a working majority. Its that simple really. Many northern Labour constituencies voted leave. They are between a rock and a hard place. Which is why I'm getting a bit sick of lefties bashing Labour but most of all Corbyn.

Corbyn has been battered continuously since winning the first leadership election. He has been blamed for Brexit - wrongly. He is doing the only thing possible under the circumstances and as he quite rightly said the battle now is to get the best possible deal and protect jobs and workers rights by preventing a 'hard' Brexit.

Labour is the only chance of stopping the Tories winning the next election so my message is: get a grip, stop bashing Corbyn, stop the daft threats to leave Labour, and stop doing the Tories work for them. Get behind Corbyn and Labour and others who are working to prevent the Tories turning us into the new Singapore and help the fight to prevent a Brexit which could be disastrous for jobs, the NHS, and all we really care about. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

All you need to know about Brexit

It's now over 6 months since the referendum on membership of the EU. I voted remain but I made it clear I was a 'reluctant' remainer because of the democratic deficit in the EU, the imposition of neoliberal austerity - particularly in Greece - and the fact that the EU is not an EU for the people but a bosses club. My view was, and still is, that we should remain and reform the EU.

Since that fateful day arguments have continued to rage between Brexiteers and Remainers about the vote itself, what people actually voted for and the likely consequences of Brexit. In addition, we hear about how the vote to leave the EU was a triumph for the likes of Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan.

You may not be surprised to read that I don't see it like that. The UK leaving the EU wasn't a massive triumph for Ukip  et al it was in fact a massive blunder by the Tory Party. Something which seems to have escaped the mainstream media - quel surprise!

The truth is that Brexit was a massive Tory fuck up! It was Cameron who decided to call a referendum when he had absolutely no need to do so. It was in the 2015 Tory general Election manifesto. Cameron and the Tories called it and then went on to lose it!

And why did they lose it? Becuase of 5 years of massive Tory austerity cuts, benefit sanctions and a housing crisis which left many millions of people feeling insecure and angry if not actually totally shat upon.

So in six short years the Tories have managed to do very real damage to the UK and its inhabitants and there could be much more and worse to come. So as the economy and the social fabric crumbles, as poverty and homelessness increase and as the NHS and local government falls apart remember who is responsible for this grim state of affairs - the TORIES