Posts Tagged ‘‘Captive State’’

Observer Unveils Launch of New ‘Centrist’, Corporatist Party

April 10, 2018

On Sunday, the Absurder covered the launch of a new ‘centrist’ party, which it was claimed would break the mould of British politics. And talking about it with Mike, I certainly got the impression that the party sounded very mouldy indeed. It has been launched with £50 million worth of funding, backed by businessmen and donors.

Yes, businessmen and donors. This looks to me like more continuity Blairism: claiming to represent the centre, while instead promoting the policies and business interests of the corporate elite. Just like Blair did in New Labour, when he gave government posts to a whole slew of businessmen in return for their cash and support. The party’s launch was also covered by the Mirror, which quoted two of the leading officials in the Labour party about it. One described it as ‘a party for the rich, by the rich, and with the rich’, which sounds very true, although it also describes the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites in Labour. Another leading member mocked the new party for having no members, no rule book and no ideology.

Well of course it doesn’t. It looks very much like Tony Blair trying to claw his way back into British politics. I don’t know if he’s behind this, but he certainly made murmurings about starting a new party. This party has been set up a party to appeal to the ‘centre ground’ he thinks are being alienated from Labour by the ‘far’ left Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Corbyn is centre left, and is actually becoming increasingly popular as the corporatist, Thatcherite policies pursued by Blair and the Tories before and after him are increasingly shown to be failing.

He also doesn’t seem to have learned that far from being attracted by corporatism, voters are actually repelled by it. Blair’s time in office was marked by numerous exposes of his rewarding greedy donors, as well as George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, which described how, under Blair and his predecessors, the British state had been made into the vehicle for the interests of big business. Like the supermarkets, led by New Labour donor David Sainsbury, amongst others. Far from this attracting voters, the Labour party actually lost them as Blair continued to ignore the party’s traditional base in the working and lower middle classes in order to appeal to ‘aspirational’ middle class voters.

And its lack of ideology is part of its Blairite nature. Blair too described New Labour as having left ideology behind, by which he meant socialism, and would use instead what worked. By which he meant private industry, which spectacularly hasn’t. It also appears that Blair believes that this new party will also borrow, or work with members of other parties where necessary or appropriate. Which is back to Blair’s ‘Government Of All the Talents’, which included leading Tories like Chris Patten.

So far from breaking the mould, this new party is simply more of the same from Blairism. It’s also highly debatable how different it is from the other, existing parties. The Tories are dominated by corporate interests, which they have been representing since the 19th century. So too are the Lib Dems under Vince Cable. Statistics gathered way back in 2012 or so showed that 77 per cent of MPs had one or more directorships. This is a major problem for those trying to get our elected representatives to work for ordinary people, rather than the corporate elite. The same problem is particularly acute in America, which is why Harvard University issued a report stating that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but an oligarchy. Once elected to office, American politicos follow the wishes of their corporate donors, not their constituents.

This new party isn’t going to reinvigorate democracy. It’s unnecessary, unwanted, and if anything a real danger to it by standing to give even more political power to business people as its members and donors. It looks less like a serious contender, and more like a vanity project by Blair, trying to show that the public still want him and his increasingly worn out policies.

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Jewish Donor Departs from Labour Anti-Semitism

April 2, 2018

Yesterday evening, ITV news reported that one of the big donors to the Labour party had left the party. The donor, who I think was called Gerard, complained that the party was rife with anti-Semitism, and that very little was being done about it. This must have delighted the biased mainstream media. I’m surprised they didn’t do a little dance of joy.

As everyone, who’s been smeared as an anti-Semite by the Israel lobby can vouch, this is an utter lie. The Labour Party takes such accusations very seriously. So seriously that decent people have been suspended, expelled and smeared as anti-Semites and, in Mike’s case, as a Holocaust Denier, simply through baseless accusations brought by mendacious, cowardly individuals. These people hide their real identities, and deliberately twist the evidence and misquote those they are maligning so as to misrepresent them. There are anti-Semites in the Labour party, just as there are in the Tories. But the anti-Semitism smears have nothing to do with real anti-Semitism. It’s about the Israel lobby and its cheerleaders and lackeys trying to get rid of Corbyn, because he supports the Palestinians. And they’re aided by the Blairites, who fear the rise of a real, genuine socialist Left. This is a blow against their control of the party, and their policy of pursuing the vote of the aspirant middle classes instead of sticking up for the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the working and lower middle classes.

I don’t think that Mr. Gerard will be entirely missed, except by the Blairites. Blair was able to carry through his ‘modernisation’ of the party, getting rid of Clause 4 and transforming it into another Thatcherite political vehicle, because of the funding he was given was by a group of Jewish donors through Lord Levy, who Blair met at a gathering at the Israeli embassy. This made Blair independent of the unions and their funding.

ITV and their guest expert described this latest development as a blow, but said it wouldn’t be as severe as it may have been because Corbyn had transformed Labour into a mass party. And this is the core of the issue.

A couple of years ago Harvard University issued a report stating that America was no longer a functioning democracy but an oligarchy. This is because American politicos ignore what the electorate want, and do the bidding instead of their donors. Hence the Republicans and Corporate Democrats have done their best to represent the interests of the oil industry, big business and Wall Street against ordinary Americans.

And Blair was exactly the same. In Peter Mandelson’s notorious words, New Labour was ‘very relaxed’ about the rich, and Blair promoted a vast number of corporate donors, like Lord Sainsbury, to government posts. If you want to see how many, take a look at the relevant pages in George Monbiot’s Captive State. With the power of the Blairites being challenged by Momentum and the Left, it was always on the cards that the donors Lord Levy had brought into the party to support Blair would eventually abandon Labour. They were never really supporters of Labour to begin with. Indeed, quite the opposite. Like Rupert Murdoch, Who also switched from the Tories to Labour, the impression is that they were only interested in Labour as the best vehicle to pursue their own, corporate interests within the wider area of neoliberal economics. The last thing they wanted was a Labour party which actually does what the public wants and rejects neoliberalism for a mixed economy and proper state funding for education, health and welfare support.

And I doubt very much that anti-Semitism is the real reason Gerard left, despite his bitter comments. It seems to me that he’s another member of the Israel lobby, who feels bitter about the Labour leader supporting the Palestinians. Which does not equate to anti-Semitism. There are a number of Jewish organisations supporting them, which are very definitely not anti-Semitic or remotely self-hating, and who will not accept Jew haters as members.

I’ve been informed that Corbyn is a supporter of Israel himself, but wants a fair, peaceful settlement for the Palestinians. But this seems to be too much for the Israel lobby, who can’t tolerate anybody siding with them, even if they aren’t enemies of Israel as such.

As for Jewish support for the Labour party, Mike and very many other blogs have put up pieces showing the support Corbyn enjoys by a whole ranges of Jewish groups and individuals. And Jewish businessmen have supported the Labour party ever since the days of Harold Wilson, before Maggie Thatcher and her clique seized power in the Tories. I’m confident that the Jewish businesspeople, who genuinely support Labour, will continue to find a welcome place in the party.

It seems to me very strongly that Gerard wasn’t one of them. He looks instead like one of the very many donors, regardless of religion or ethnicity, who supported Blair simply for their own corporate advantage. And in Gerard’s case, to promote Israel against the Palestinians. Now that this is threatened, he has angrily made his departure.

And his accusations of anti-Semitism are just lies made to excuse himself and make his departure look less like the self-interested manoeuvring it is.

Tories’ Comments about Universal Credit and Self-Employed Show They Don’t Care About Small Businesses

March 2, 2018

Mike this evening put up a post about how the Tories are trying to justify the removal of benefits to the self-employed under Universal Credits by claiming that it ‘incentivises’ them. Mike makes the point that it clearly shows the cruelty behind the Tories’ policies. They’re all about cuts and making things harder, not about rewards. It’s always, but always the stick, not the carrot.

I’d have thought that to be self-employed, you have to be very well self-motivated anyway. I’ve heard from my father amongst others that to run your own business, you have to get up early and go to bed late. And about half of all small businesses fold within the first two years.

The self-employed and small businessman have it bad enough already, without the Tories making worse. And I think they should seriously consider voting Labour.

Oh, I’ve met enough small businesspeople, who say that they won’t vote Labour, because of the old canard that ‘Labour wants to nationalise everything’. That hasn’t been true since the rise of the Social Democratic consensus in the Labour party. As articulated by Anthony Crossland, this said that you didn’t need nationalisation or worker’s control, provided there was social mobility, a progressive income tax and strong trade unions. All of which have been destroyed under the onslaught of Thatcherism.

But even before then, socialist thinkers like G.D.H. Cole were arguing that Labour should also seek to protect small businesses as part of their campaign to defend and advance the cause of the working class. Cole was one of the most prolific of Socialist writers, and was one of the leaders of Guild Socialism, the British version of Anarcho-Syndicalism. Even after that collapsed, after the failure of the General Strike, he still beleived that workers’ should have a share in the management of the companies in which they worked. So definitely not a sell out to capital, then.

I am also well aware that many small businessmen are resentful of workers gaining wage rises and further employment rights. They argue that they can’t give themselves pay rises, because of the economics of their businesses, before complaining about how much it would all cost them. Well, perhaps. But they can decide how much they charge, and what they intend to pay themselves. And they control their business, not the people below them. I’m sure it’s true that some white collar workers are better paid than the self-employed, but that’s no excuse for not paying your employees better wages.

But a wider point needs to be made here: the Tories don’t support Britain’s Arkwrights, the s-s-small businessmen, who were personified by the heroes of Open All Hours, as portrayed by Ronnie Barker and David Jason.

And yes, I know about all the rubbish about how Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter, who slept above the shop when she was a child. But Thatcher, and her successors, was solidly for the rich against the poor, and big business against the small trader. That’s why they’ve given immense tax cuts to the very rich, and put the tax burden on the poorer layers of society. It’s why, despite repeated scandals, they will never willingly pass legislation to force big businessmen to pay their smaller suppliers promptly and on time.

And it’s why they will always back the big supermarkets, no matter how exploitative and destructive they are. George Monbiot in his Captive State has chapters attacking them. Not only are they parasitical, in that they pay their workers rubbish wages, so that they need to draw benefits, benefits that the Tories really don’t want to pay, they also destroy the small shops in the areas they move into. And they screw their suppliers with highly exploitative contracts.

In an ideal world, the big supermarket chains would be nationalised or broken up as monopolies.

The small businessperson needs to be protected. They, not the big supermarkets, create employment and healthy, living communities. They should be protected, just like the working and lower middle classes, which includes them, should.

And the only party I see willing to do that is the Labour party. Remember when Ed Balls said that Labour ‘wanted to grow your businesses’ to the small traders about this country? It was sincere. I think it was wrong on its own, as it shows how Labour under Blair had abandoned the working class, and was concentrating on hoovering up middle class votes. But ‘Red’ Ed did have a point. It should’t be a case of either the working class, or small businesses, but both the working class and small businesspeople.

Because the small businessman too deserves protection from exploitation. Which they will never get from the likes of Thatcher, Dave Cameron and May.

Cartoons of Cameron, Osborne, Peter Lilley, Milton Friedman and Paul Dacre

July 2, 2017

Hi, and welcome to another cartoon I drew a few years ago of the Conservatives and their supporters in the press and leading ideologues.

These are more or less straight drawings of five of the men responsible for the present nightmare that is Theresa May’s Britain. A Britain where a hundred thousand people are using food banks to stop themselves from starving. A Britain where a further seven million people live in households where they’re eating today, but don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. This is the Britain where the NHS is being gradually privatised behind the public’s back, so that the Tories don’t lose the next election. A Britain where the majority of the public would like the railways and utility industries renationalised, but the Tories want to keep them in private hands so that they provide substandard services at high prices for the profits of their managers and shareholders.

This is a Britain where the press screams hatred at ‘foreigners’ – meaning not just recent immigrants and asylum-seekers, but also EU citizens, who came here to work, but also second- or third-generation Black and Asian British. A press that demonises and vilifies Muslims, no matter how often they march against terrorist monsters like those of ISIS and their ulema – the Islamic clergy – denounce hatred and mass murder.

Immigrants and foreign workers are net contributors to the British economy. They are less likely to be unemployed and rely on the welfare state, so that their taxes are supporting the rest of us. Many of them have come here to fill very specific jobs. But they are still reviled for taking jobs from Brits, and for being scrounging layabouts, preventing true, hardworking Brits from getting the benefits they need.

This is a press that also denigrates and vilifies the very poorest in society – the unemployed, the disabled, unmarried mothers and others on welfare, so that the Tories can have the support of the public when they cut benefits to these groups yet again.

This is a Britain were the majority of people in benefits are working, but they’re stuck in low-paid jobs, often part-time, or zero hours contracts. Many of them are on short-term contracts, which means that, while they have a job today, they may not in a few months time. Nevertheless, even though these people do still work hard, the Tories have decided that the jobcentres and outsourcing companies should also pester and harangue them to get off benefits, because it’s their fault they’ve got a low-paid job. And this is despite the fact that it has been nearly four decades of Thatcherite doctrines about maintaining a fluid labour market, and a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ to keep wages down.

The Tories are a party that yell passionately and incessantly about how they are ‘patriotic’, while the others were the ‘coalition of chaos’, but who have done so much to break up the United Kingdom into its separate kingdoms and provinces. Cameron called the ‘Leave’ referendum, hoping it would draw the venom from the Tory right. England voted for Brexit, but the rest of the UK voted to Remain. With the result that there is a real constitutional crisis about whether the UK can leave the EU and still remain intact.

It also threatens to renew the Nationalist/Loyalist conflict in Northern Ireland. Part of the Ulster peace process was that there would be an open border with Eire. The majority of people in the Six Counties, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, wish to retain the open border. But if Britain does leave the EU, then there’s a possibility that border will have to be closed.

The Tories have also endangered the fragile peace in Ulster in other ways. Having lost their majority in parliament, they’ve gone into an alliance with the DUP, a group of highly sectarian Loyalists, who condemn evolution, abortion, homosexuality and bitterly hate Roman Catholics and Gaelic Irish. They’re the same people, who demand the right to march through Roman Catholic areas screaming hatred at the residents. A party, whose links with Loyalist terrorists are so strong they’ve been dubbed ‘the Loyalist Sinn Fein’.

This is the party, that tries to present itself as for ‘hard-working’ ordinary people, while its dominated by elite aristocratic, old Etonians toffs like David Cameron and George Osborne.

The Conservatives have also been trying to present themselves as female-friendly and pro-women, as shown by their selection of Theresa May to lead them. But the people worst hit by austerity have been women, who make up the majority of low-paid workers, particularly in the service industries, like care workers and nurses. Some of the latter are so poorly paid, they’ve had to use food banks. When asked about this, all that brilliant intellectual Theresa May could do was to mumble something about how there were ‘complex reasons’ for it. No, there’s a very simple reason: you’ve paid them starvation wages.

This is a Britain where, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by the Tories’ austerity policy – introduced by Dodgy Dave Cameron – in 2015 alone. A policy which has dictated that people on benefits should be thrown off them apparently at the whim of a jobcentre clerk, and that terminally ill or seriously injured citizens should have their benefits withdrawn, ’cause they’re ‘fit to work’. Such poor souls have included cancer patients in comas.

Here’s a selection of some of those responsible for this squalid carnage.

At the bottom left is David Cameron. Bottom centre is George Osborne, and on his right is Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail. This is the Tory rag that has done so much to spread hatred against immigrants, ethnic minorities, the EU, the working class, the trade unions and which has been consistently anti-feminist. This last has been quite bizarre, considering that it was a founded as the newspaper to be read by the wives of the city financiers, who read the Torygraph.

On the right, above Dacre and Osborne, is Peter Lilley, from a decades old issue of Private Eye.

Lilley’s there because of his role in destroying the welfare state and privatising the NHS. It was Lilley, who pranced across the stage at a Tory conference in the 1990s reciting a stupid song he’d written about having a little list, in imitation of The Mikado. This was a list of everyone he hated, including single mothers and other benefit scroungers.

Lilley was also responsible for the PFI scheme, in which the government goes into partnership with private contractors to build and run public services, such as bridges and hospitals. These schemes are always more expensive, and deliver poorer service than if the bridge, hospital or whatever had been constructed using purely public funds. Hospitals built under PFI are smaller, and have to be financed partly through the closure of existing hospitals. See George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, about the way Britain has been sold off to the big corporations. But governments like it, because the technicalities of these contracts means that the costs are kept off the public balance sheet, even though the British taxpayer is still paying for them. And at a much higher rate, and for much longer, than if they had been built through conventional state funding.

Lilley’s PFI was the basis for New Labour’s ‘third way’ nonsense about running the economy. It has also been a major plank in the ongoing Thatcherite project of selling off the NHS. A few years ago, Private Eye published an article showing that Lilley developed the scheme, because he wanted to open the NHS up to private investment. And now, nearly two decades and more on, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries are being run by private healthcare companies, and the majority of NHS operations are actually being commissioned from private healthcare providers. The Tories hotly deny that they are privatising the NHS, but Jeremy Hunt has written a book in which he stated that he loathed state medicine, and Theresa May has kept him on Health Secretary, despite the bankruptcy of an increasing number of NHS Trusts, this shows that the reality is very much the complete opposite of their loud denials.

And the person on the left of Lilley is the American economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was one of the great, free market advocates in the Chicago school of economists, demanding that the welfare state should be rolled back and everything privatised. He was the inventor of Monetarism, which was roundly embraced by Enoch Powell and then Maggie Thatcher. This was to replace the Keynsianism that had formed the cornerstone of the post-War consensus, and which stated that state expenditure would stimulate the economy and so prevent recessions. One of the other world leaders, who embraced Monetarism as his country’s official economics policy was the Chilean Fascist dictator and friend of Thatcher, Augusto Pinochet. Friedman regularly used to take jaunts down to Chile to see how the old thug was implementing his policies. When Pinochet was not imprisoning, torturing and raping people, that is.

One of Friedman’s other brilliant ideas was that education too should be privatised. Instead of the government directly funding education, parents should be given vouchers, which they could spend either on a state education, or to pay the fees for their children to be educated privately. This idea was also adopted by Pinochet, and there’s a very good article over at Guy Debord Cat’s on how it’s wrecked the Chilean educational system. Just as New Labour’s and the Tories privatisation of British universities and the establishment of privately run ‘academies’ are destroying education in Britain. It was also Maggie Thatcher, who began the trend towards removing the payment of tuition fees by the state, and replacing the student grant with student loans. The result has been that young people are now graduating owing tens of thousands in debt.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, said that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism was considered so daft by his lecturers that no-one actually bothered to defend it. He suggested in an article that it was adopted by the Tories for other reasons – that it gave them an excuse to privatise the utility industries, destroy the welfare state and privatise the NHS. Even so, eventually it became too glaringly obvious to too many people that Monetarism was a massive failure. Not least because Friedman himself said so. This sent the Daily Heil into something of a tizzy. So they devoted a two-page spread to the issue. On one side was the argument that it was a failure, while on the other one of the hacks was arguing that it was all fine.

In fact, it’s become very, very obvious to many economists and particularly young people that the neoliberalism promoted by the Tories, New Labour, Friedman and the other free market ideologues is absolute rubbish, and is doing nothing but press more and more people into grinding poverty while denying them affordable housing, proper wages, welfare support and state medicine. But the elites are still promoting it, even though these ideas should have been put in the grave years ago. It’s the reason why one American economist called neoliberalism and similar free market theories ‘Zombie Economics’ in his book on them.

May’s government looks increasingly precarious, and it may be that before too long there’ll be another general election. In which case, I urge everyone to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, as he’s promised to revive the welfare state, renationalise the NHS and parts of the energy industry, and the rail network.

They’re policies Britain desperately needs. Unlike the poverty, misery and death created by the above politicos.

My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.

Vox Political on the Continued Threat to the Vulnerable from Tory Privatisation of Care Homes

June 1, 2016

This is another scandal. Five years ago, in 2011, eleven staff members at the Winterbourne View care home were jailed after Panorama filmed them abusing the patients there. David Cameron promised that he would review the government’s policies on such homes to prevent a similar scandal ever happening again. Five years later, the government has privatised £27 billion of services, putting them into the hands of private contractors, and nothing has been done to safeguard other vulnerable people. A letter has been sent to Cameron by the relatives of the abused patients, demanding that he shut outdated care homes. The letter has been supported by the chief executive of Mencap, the author of the review into Winterbourne View, and the chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/31/after-winterbourne-view-has-tory-nhs-privatisation-put-more-vulnerable-people-at-risk/

Mike in his comment about the above case, and Cameron’s marked failure to take any action, is that Cameron only cares about what money he can make out of the NHS. The continued health of the rest of us and our relatives counts for nothing.

This is absolutely correct. If you read George Monbiot’s discussion of the mechanics of PFI, set up by Peter Lilley to bring private investment into the NHS, you find that it’s far less efficient, and vastly more expensive than simply letting the state run these hospitals, rather than private industry. See the chapter in his book, Captive State. And Private Eye issued a report a long time ago, which stated that Lilley introduced the PFI for one reason: the state ownership of hospitals, medical centres and doctor’s surgeries under the NHS meant that private enterprise were excluded from getting a share of the corporate profits. This is what the privatisation of the NHS, which began under Cameron’s great heroine, Maggie Thatcher, amounts to. It has always been a case of corporate profit first, public health last, and then lie to obscure the fact.

Sainsbury’s Exploitation of Charity and the Free Labour of Others

May 15, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece about the anger provoked when the Camden branch of Sainsbury’s put an advert in the local paper for an artist to redecorate the staff canteen. The multi-million pound corporation, which had profits last year of £587 million to March 12, did not offer to pay the luck artist. Instead, they tried to get away with saying that s/he would get ‘valuable experience’ in the creative industries. It was posted on Twitter by Adam Hess, who also posted his personal response, “Hi Sainsbury’s, I now take food from you without paying because it is a great opportunity for you to impress me’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/14/hi-sainsburys-i-now-take-food-from-you-without-paying-because-it-is-a-great-opportunity-for-you-to-impress-me/

George Monbiot in his book Captive State, about the corporate ownership of Britain, devotes a whole chapter to the supermarkets and their highly destructive effect on British society and agriculture. In contrast to what David Sainsbury and the rest of the supermarket CEOs would have us all believe, they do not create jobs. They destroy them. The areas in which supermarkets establish themselves have higher rates of unemployment than areas with plenty of small independent retailers, who employ more staff. These are also being driven out of business by the supermarkets. And unlike your local greengrocer or butcher, the supermarkets buy their stock from a limited number of suppliers. They also sell their food more cheaply only in more affluent areas, where the rich have the ability to go elsewhere for their food. And they are extremely exploitative towards their suppliers. They make very detailed demands, including for huge discounts, knowing that they can ruin a supplier by not stocking them.

Also shocking is their attitude to charity. Many of these supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, like to be seen as giving generously to charity. But it’s all hypocrisy. Very often, as Monbiot shows in his book, the charitable donations do not come from the supermarkets themselves. They are made by the supermarkets’ suppliers, who have no choice. They are instructed to make the donation by the supermarkets, who then pass the donation off as their own.

Sainsbury’s and the rest of them are convenient, but in very many ways they’re a huge blight on society, exploiters of the worst kind. And their sense of entitlement to the free labour of others, as shown by their request for an artist to work for them for free, is part of the general demand for such labour, under the guise of internships. And they try to sell this exploitation to aspiring youngsters in exactly the same way, whether it’s an office post, a job in journalism, or as artistic project, above: it’s always good experience.

It’s time internships and similar freebies for the big corporations were ended, and they started paying their unpaid workers.

Lord Simon of Highbury: Why Was He in Government and Not Behind Bars?

April 25, 2016

Okay, I’m writing this because it’s left me furious ever since I read about it when putting up the article on Saturday. This was a piece on the ‘Fat Cats’ Directory’, the list of company directors and senior management, who had entered government under Tony Blair in George Monbiot’s book, Captive State. It was a long list of incompetents, who had run their companies into the ground; the self-interested – scientists on the boards of biotech companies, who got on the boards of the funding bodies to give themselves even more money; the environmentally negligent; and the simply exploitative. These last were various company directors, who had made masses of employees redundant, or cut wages, and had been put in charge of Bliar’s ‘welfare to work’ programme and the minimum wage board. But there was one person on the list, who struck me as particularly odious: Lord Simon of Highbury. Here’s what I wrote about him:

Lord Simon of Highbury

Chairman of BP
Vice-Chairman of European Round Table of Industrialists. Under his direction, BP assisted the Colombian government in forcing peasants off their lands, and imprisoning, killing and torturing trade unionists. Gave money to the 16th Brigade, notorious for murder, kidnapping torture and rape.

Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe
One of the ministers responsible for implementing the ethical foreign policy.

By any standards, this resume makes the man a Fascist collaborator. So why is he in government, and not facing trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity? What does it say about our society, that a creature like this can breeze in and out of the halls of power in chauffeur-driven limousine, wining and dining with the highest in the land, when he has doubtless been responsible for some of the most horrific atrocities? Why has he escaped censure, let along prosecution, when others haven’t?

In the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi leaders at the end of World War II, many senior executives of the various firms that served the Nazi state were also tried, and convicted for collaboration. The firms they managed, like the horrific IG Farben, which produced the cyanide gas used against Jews in the death camps, were deliberately broken up into their constituent companies.

Unfortunately, too many Nazis escaped justice, and Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal spent their lives trying to hunt them down and bring them to justice. And it was apparently the same rage that spurred the Baader-Meinhof gang to commit some of their terrorist attacks. They were also outraged that members of the Third Reich had escaped justice, and were living very well in the Bundesrepublik. And so they began their campaign of murder and terrorism. I’m not trying to whitewash or glamorise them here. They were responsible for some of the most horrific terrorism offences of the 1970s. For example, they firebombed a Berlin synagogue, supposedly as part of a campaign against Israel, which they perceived as a colonialist state. They were violent criminals, but when it comes to killing the men, who ran the death camps and torture squads of the Third Reich, you can understand their rage.

It’s the same rage that motivates people to protest and physically fight the clowns in the various far-right Nazi parties – the BNP, National Action, EDL, National Front, North West Infidels and so on. Many of the members of these groups are violent thugs, guilty of the most horrific attacks on innocent people, including murder, simply because of their race or political opinions, and have rightly been jailed. But these are very small fry compared with monsters like Lord Simon. He has aided and abetted an organisation that has violently removed people from their land, and murdered and tortured trade unionists and left-wing activists. By the same standards we applied to the Nazis, and to Radovan Milosevic and the rest of the genocides in Serbia, he should be standing in a dock in a court room at the Hague, waiting for sentencing.

But he isn’t. Instead, I’ve no doubt he still pursuing a very lucrative career as the director of an extremely profitable multinational. Or else he’s taken up a very pleasant retirement. Either way, I doubt his troubled by either the consequences of his actions, or lawsuits from his victims. I don’t doubt that wherever he lives, it’s nice and quiet, very haute bourgeois, and exclusive. He’s probably thought a good neighbour by the others around him.

I am certainly not urging anyone to turn to terrorism and try to copy the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the violence of some of the Antifa street fighters. All I am trying to do is express my outrage that this man was given a place in government, and try to work out why someone with a record as odious as his was being given a gracious welcome at the highest seats of power. My guess is that it’s because he was a wealth businessman. He wasn’t directly responsible for the atrocities committed by the Colombian government, and his company is ridiculously wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. As for the murders and death squads of the various South American Fascist regimes, they’re protected by pretty much the same apathy expressed by Neville Chamberlain in his infamous comments about Czechoslovakia. They’re ‘far-away’ countries ‘of which we know nothing.’ And the only people, who get worked up about what goes on there are the ultra-left types Private Eye’s been satirising for years in the guise of Dave Spart.

Vox Political on the Tories’ Plan to Turn Education into a Tax Avoidance Scam

April 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted up a very ominous piece reporting the tax affairs of one of the academy chains. Bellevue Education, which runs a number of academies in the south east, appears in the Panama Papers as an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands. In other words, it’s a tax avoider. Mike draws the obvious conclusion from this that as David Cameron and Nicky Morgan want all schools to become academies, and thus tax avoidance schemes for the big business fat cats running them.

The Tory plan to turn education into a tax avoidance scam

I don’t doubt for a single moment that Mike’s right, and this fact has very grave implications for the quality of the service these academy chains will provide, and their stability as businesses.

One of the points George Monbiot makes about the PFI initiative for hospitals in his book, Captive State, is that the overheads in running hospitals are so large, that the corporations approached to fund and run them can only be persuaded to do so through massively inflating their costs to the British taxpayer, and by cutting the service delivered to the public. It’s why, thanks to the Private Finance Initiative, Britain now has fewer hospitals than it actually needs, which have been more expensive to build than if the government simply raised the money through the usual sources of bonds, loans and taxation. It’s also why the PFI hospitals are smaller.

The hedge funds that were responsible for running so many of the care homes, that collapsed and were prosecuted for the extremely poor treatment of their elderly or disabled residents, were also involved in massive tax avoidance scams. There was some kind of financial trick involved, which made these homes run at a technical loss. This meant huge profits for the hedge funds running them, but it also meant that they were extremely vulnerable financially. The result was the slew of scandals, which got into the page of the Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ column, which reported on the extremely dubious financial arrangements behind them.

This new revelation that Bellevue Education is based off-shore, suggests that the private education chains running the academies similarly find it difficult to run them at a profit without indulging in tax avoidance at a massive level. Mike reports that academies perform poorly compared to ordinary LEA schools. This bears out the conclusion that for-profit firms cannot effectively run services, like schools and hospitals, that are properly the responsibility of the state. Like the PFI hospitals, it shows that the private investment in schools is more expensive to the British taxpayer, in terms of tax money lost to the government, the burden of which is then passed on to the rest of us. And it also suggests that as businesses, they are also vulnerable and likely to collapse at the merest drop in profits. And then, no doubt, the fat cat bankers behind them will be squealing for the British taxpayer to bail them out.