Posts Tagged ‘CBI’

Lobster on the Economic Damage Caused by the Financial Sector

November 22, 2019

Lobster over the years has criticised the dominance of the financial sector over the British economy, and attacked the way this has actively harmed other sectors, particularly manufacturing industry. Thatcher, Major and then Tony Blair favoured banking and financial services over the industries, partly from economic illiteracy and partly from the conviction that Britain’s manufacturing sector was doomed. Thatcher believed very much in a strong pound and didn’t think it would harm the manufacturing industries. One of the few businessmen from that sector in Thatcher’s government tried to tell her otherwise, and show her that it would damage our exports by making them too expensive over our competitors. But Thatcher wouldn’t hear of it. She was convinced that it wouldn’t have any effect on manufacturing because the Germans had a strong manufacturing base, and they had a strong Deutschmark. The businessman tried to explain to her that the Mark was strong because they had a strong manufacturing base, not the other way around. But it was too much for the Leaderene’s brain and she refused to listen.

Thatcher also made it very clear that she was not going to help failing industries. What help there was, was supposed to come from the privatisation of state utilities and the operation of market forces. This was supposed to open up new forms of private investment. If they didn’t, then that company or industry was uncompetitive and doomed to fail. Meanwhile, the thinking went that the financial sector would take over from the failing manufacturing industries as a new source of wealth and employment. Thus Blair, Brown and the late Mo Mowlam opened up the ‘prawn cocktail’ campaign to win over the City of London, promising light regulation. One of the chief executives at the Bank of England, imported from America, was Deanne Julius, who said that Britain should abandon its manufacturing industries and allow them to be replaced by America’s. Instead, Britain should concentrate on the service industries.

This is another load of neoliberal economic rubbish that has been conclusively proved wrong. The Oxford economics professor, Ha-Joon Chang, in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism shows that despite Thatcherite dogma, manufacturing is still crucially important for the British economy. It only looks weaker than the other sectors, because it has grown at a slower rate.

Now Robin Ramsay in the latest update to his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 78 has published a piece actually describing the active harm the privileged position of the financial sector has done the British economy as a whole. It’s in a piece ‘The Future of Britain’s Crisis’, which begins with a few sharp observations about the impotence of the House of Commons Security and Intelligence Committee. This is supposed to supervise Britain’s intelligence services, but its lack of effective power is demonstrated by Johnson’s suppression of the report into Russian influence in UK politics. From leaks to CNN and others, it shows that rich Russians have purchased UK citizenship and poured money into Tory coffers. He states that this is just part of the price Britain has to pay for Britain being one of the leading centres of money laundering. He continues

The idea that there is a structural conflict between the interests of the manufacturing economy and that of the City has been around since the late 1970s in my experience, and probably much longer. The conflict was rarely articulated by public figures beyond the British left but in 1980, with Bank of England base rates lifted to 14% ‘to control inflation’, Sir Terence Beckett, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told its annual conference that they had to ‘to take the gloves off and have a bare-knuckle fight’ with the Thatcher government. But no such fight ensued, Beckett resigned and in the following decade while the City boomed, British manufacturing shrank by about 20%.

The focus these days is less on structural conflict than on what is known as ‘over-financialisation’: roughly, that the financial sector gets to be too big for the rest of the economy. Recently a trio of economists/econometricians (from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield) have tried to quantify the cost of UK over-financialisation and have concluded:

‘Our calculations suggest that the total cost of lost growth potential for the UK caused by “too much finance” between 1995 and 2015 is in the region of £4,500 billion. This total figure amounts to roughly 2.5 years of the average GDP across the period.

The data suggests that the UK economy, may have performed much better in overall growth terms if: (a) its financial sector was smaller; (b) if finance was more focused on supporting other areas of the economy, rather than trying to act as a source of wealth generation (extraction) in its own right.

This evidence also provides support for the idea that the UK suffers from a form of “finance curse”: a development trajectory of financial overdependence involving a crowding out of other sectors and a skewing of social relations, geography and politics.’ [Emphases in the original.] 

On similar lines, Grace Blakeley writes in her On Borrowed Time: Finance and
the UK’s current account deficit, that

‘Rebalancing the UK’s international position requires moderating the significance of finance within the UK economy and bringing asset price volatility under control, while nurturing non-financial exporting sectors.’

Ramsay concludes the article by remarking that it would be a difficult job convincing the political establishment of this, never mind the electorate. The failure of people working within London to understand that the capital’s influence and share of the country’s wealth is harming the rest of the country has helped the rise of the Scots and Welsh Nationalists, along with less significant movements like the Yorkshire Party, the Campaign for the North and Mebyon Kernow.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster78/lob78-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

£4,500 billion lost to the British economy between 1995 and 2015! 

And never mind the millions of jobs lost, the destruction of working class communities right across the country from Cornwall to Scotland and Northern Ireland, lost skills and damaged lives!

All that simply so that Thatcher’s, Blair’s, and now Boris and Rees-Mogg and their chums in the City of London could make a tidy profit.

This is proof that we need a Corbyn government that will do something for public services and manufacturing industry, rather than more of the self-serving Tory economic policies that benefits only the City.

‘I’ Reports Labour Intends to Renationalise Local Bus Services

November 20, 2019

There was an article by Hugo Gye in yesterday’s edition of the I for 19th November 2019, reporting that the Labour party is planning to renationalise the local bus services, which were privatised in the 1980s by Maggie Thatcher. The article runs

Labour will open the door to the nationalisation of England’s buses if it gets into power in next month’s election, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The party would give all councils the right to take control of their local bus services and give free bus travel to anyone aged under 25.

The move, which will form part of the Labour manifesto when it is published this week, is the latest in a string of nationalisations announced by Mr Corbyn. But bus industry officials insisted it would do little to improve services.

Speaking at the CBI conference in London yesterday, the Labour leader said he would encourage individual councils to take direct control of bus networks when franschise contracts expired. He added: “We need to integrate bus and rail services, we need to re-empower local authorities to develop bus services if they wish.”

The plan – which would apply only to England because transport policy is devolved – would give councils that right to remove franchises from private companies such as Stagecoach, Go-Ahead and FirstGroup. The nation’s bus network was privatised and deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s, although in London it is still heavily regulated by the city’s mayor.

Katy Taylor, commercial and customer director at Go-Ahead, said: “The biggest issues we face are congestion and council cuts, and regulation would do little to solve either of these. While bus usage continues to fluctuate in some parts of the country, our experience in cities like Brighton – where ridership is higher than anywhere else outside of London – shows that public and private sector working together is the best way to deliver a transport service.”

Labour’s bus policies are similar to its rail nationalisation scheme, in which each train franchise would be brought into public ownership as soon as its current contract expired.

The party has pledged to nationalise a number of public services if it wins on 12 December. This would including buying the country’s water system and the National Grid.

This is great news, as the bus service we currently have in my bit of Bristol is appalling. The bus company has cut services and I’ve heard that they regard it as a country route, even though it is actually within the city limits. People have complained to the council and the bus company, FirstBus, but all they got were letters from each blaming the other.

I was at school when Thatcher privatised the buses, and can remember the immediate effect. The new, deregulated bus company immediately reorganised the bus routes to send its buses down one of the major roads into town. The result wasn’t greater efficiency, but less. The buses were caught in the traffic jams that built up, so that buses that should have got all the schoolkids from my bit of south Bristol into school in town well before the 9 O’clock bell got in much later.

And FirstBus’ reputation in Bristol generally is so low, that the company has acquired the nickname ‘WorstBus’.

The much vaunted competition that Tories claim will always improve services hasn’t worked either. There has been an alternative bus company set up, and for a while that ran some good services to our part of Bristol. But these also seem to have disappeared or been cut back.

There are some excellent bus services run by charities, but people should not have to rely on volunteer organisations for a good, efficient bus service. Clearly the buses in Bristol need the support of local authorities, because privatise enterprise alone simply isn’t up to the job. It seems that the bus companies are too interested in creating a profit for their shareholders than providing a service for their customers. Indeed, the greed and profiteering by the directors of the newly privatised companies, like Ann Gloag, and the shabby way they treated their workers, customers and people they’d hit in accidents, was so bad that every fortnight Private Eye seemed to be running a story about them.

The local bus company in Bristol wasn’t brilliant by any means when it was under council ownership, but it was better than what followed with privatisation. Thatcher’s policy of privatisation and deregulation of public services has been a miserable failure right across the board. It’s ‘zombie economics’, and the only reason it hasn’t been put in the grave long ago is that the rich 1% – including the media barons boosting the policy – massively profit from it. While the rest of us have to put up with substandard services.

It’s time to vote the Tories out, and bring in someone who will improve public services in this country. And that person is Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Secular Talk: Bernie Sanders Proposes ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’ to Make Trump Keep Election Promise

November 30, 2016

Here’s another great idea from Bernie Sanders, the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’, who should definitely be the one to go to the White House next year, rather than Trump.

Remember how Trump was telling everyone at his rallies that if he got into power, he was going to stop the corporations outsourcing their jobs abroad to create more poverty and unemployment in America? Aside from the racism and the islamophobia, it was this promise which may have helped him gain the votes of middle class and blue collar workers, whose jobs are threatened by the neoliberal outsourcing policies championed by the establishment Republican and Hillary Clinton and her clique in the Democrats.

Now Bernie Sanders has come up with a proposal to try and keep Trump to his promise. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses the report in the Huffington Post that Sanders has put forward the outlines of an ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’. If this was passed, it would punish companies moving jobs out of America. Those corporations that did so would be banned from receiving federal tax breaks, grants or loans, and demand the repayment of any federal perks. The offending companies would also have to pay a tax equal to the amount they saved through the outsourcing, or 35 per cent of their profits, whichever is the greatest amount. The executives would also be banned from receiving bonuses, stock options or golden handshakes.

Kulinski makes it clear that Democrats and progressive should not be prepared to give an inch of cooperation to Trump when he trying to pass any of the massively unjust or racist measures he’s promised, such as deporting undocumented immigrants, registering Muslims and building that wall with Mexico. Kulinski recognises, however, that the latter is rapidly being played down, with Trump himself now claiming that it was mainly metaphorical. When Trump does propose something that will benefit all Americans, rather than just the corporate elite, or racist Whites, they should be prepared to work with him. This proposal is Bernie’s attempt to make sure Trump doesn’t go back on his promise, and actually does something positive for the American people.

We need something similar in this country. Executive pay has massively outstripped ordinary people’s wages and salaries, and companies are outsourcing jobs abroad, including elsewhere in the EU. It has been something of a local issue here in Bristol, where the local chocolate factory, Cadbury’s in Keynsham, a small town between Bath and Bristol, was closed down after it was taken over by Kraft foods. I’ve got a feeling the company then moved the jobs to a new factory in Poland.

I’m not sure how much chance Bernie’s proposal actually has of ever becoming reality. Trump is now very rapidly going back on all of his election promises, appointing Washington insiders and establishment bankers to important cabinet posts. These include some of the very people he personally attacked at his rallies. And even if it had his backing, neoliberal and corporate interests are now so entrenched in both sides of Congress that it would be bitterly attacked and voted down.

And you can imagine how the Conservatives and their paymasters in the CBI would scream and holler if Jeremy Corbyn promised anything similar in the Labour party. They’d almost certainly be joined by the Blairites. After all, Tony Blair said that his administration was ‘extremely relaxed’ about becoming rich, and did so much to promote businessmen to important and lucrative government posts. And vast numbers of MPs, possibility the majority, are managing directors or senior executives of companies, and therefore stand to benefit personally from government policies that boost business at the expense of domestic jobs.

We need to clean up parliament, and remove the corporate interests so that it starts to represent the British people as a whole, and not wealthy businessmen and women. And we do need to prevent further jobs being lost abroad, and punish the firms that make big profits from creating unemployment here in Britain.

Vox Political: Tory ‘British Jobs’ Policy Taken from Mein Kampf

October 6, 2016

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Adolf Hitler and the previous Tory PM David Cameron. The face has changed, but its getting harder to tell the difference between the Tories and the Nazis.

Mike has a very ominous piece about the startling similarity between Theresa May’s ‘British jobs for British workers’ policy, announced yesterday, and those of the Nazis. The two policies are identical, as far as I can tell, and this struck the LBC presenter James O’Brien so hard that he announced it on his own programme yesterday. Amber Rudd had made a speech stating that companies will be compelled to list the numbers of foreign workers they employ, in order to give preference to British workers. Mr O’Brien read out Hitler’s statement of precisely the same policy, for the exact same reasons, as contained in chapter 2 of Mein Kampf. He said at first he was reading part of Rudd’s speech, but later corrected himself after he had read out the passage, and admitted where it was really from. He said

“If you’re going to have a sharp line of distinction between people born here and people who just work here, you’re enacting chapter two of Mein Kempf. Strange times.”

Mike also notes that the phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ was a BNP slogan from a few years ago, and shows the proof in a picture of an election billboard on one of the Nazi organisation’s vans.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/06/radio-presenter-reveals-amber-rudds-speech-echoes-mein-kampf/

There have always been unnerving links between sections of the Tory party and the extreme Right. There was the Anglo-German Fellowship of wealthy businessmen and aristocrats advocating friendship with Nazi Germany before the Second World War. These links were re-established in the 1960s and 1970s, if not before, when the National Front coalesced from a number of different extremist groups, including Arnold Leese’s the Britons and the League of Empire Loyalists. Despite the Monday Club, then a section of the Tory party, banning members of the extreme Right from joining and opening its membership books to inspection by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the connections with the Fascist right continued under Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was impressed with General Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile, and was personal friends with the mass murderer when he visited Britain. The libertarian section of the Tory party, the Freedom Association, also appeared several times in the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, for its dinners at which the leaders of various South and Central America death squads were the guests of honour. The links between the Tories and Fascism were so strong, that the BBC made a documentary about Nazi infiltration into the party, entitled Maggie’s Militant Tendency, after the Trotskyite entryist groups then a subject of controversy in the Labour party. Maggie showed her customary attitude tolerance and openness to tolerance and media criticism, and had the programme pulled.

Mike over at Vox Political has followed and described the increasingly authoritarian anti-immigrant attitude in Cameron’s government. Remember when he put the vans on the streets encouraging people to inform on illegal immigrants? And the posters which asked immigrants to turn themselves in, promising free repatriation back to their countries of origin if they did so? How long before the Tories start whipping up popular anti-immigrant hysteria, urging us to be vigilant and watch for illegal immigrants and foreign workers? Perhaps May will also start organising house to house searches for those that have gone underground, while those caught are rounded up and put into concentration camps for their own protection. Guarded, no doubt, by G4S, who have done such great work providing security staff for the present detention centres.

Mike commented on one of his blog pieces about the latest Tory attack on immigration that the Tories are trying to set Brits and immigrants against each other in divide and rule strategy. Keep the two at each other’s throats for scarce jobs and welfare benefits, all the while cutting down on the latter after running scare stories in the Heil and Murdoch press about immigrants occupying council houses and taking unemployment. All the while keeping from the public the fact that immigrants aren’t taking native Brits’ jobs, and are actually net payers into the welfare state, rather than a drain.

It isn’t immigrants, who are causing unemployment, lowering wages and cutting welfare benefits: it’s Thatcherite, neo-liberal economics, which is encouraging the outsourcing of industry, massive privatisation of whatever is left of the state sector, and the destruction of the welfare state. This is done with the deliberate intention of creating a cowed, fearful workforce, permanently in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy and destitution, ready to take any job, no matter how poorly paid and exploitative the conditions. It isn’t immigrants, who often work in poorly paid and exploitative jobs themselves, who are causing the immense profiteering of this country’s bloated rich. It is the wealthy industrialists, aristocracy and financiers and their puppets, the Conservatives and Blairite New Labour.

This is why we desperately need a genuinely socialist government to create proper jobs and restore the welfare state so that people can rely on decent medical treatment and the state support they need to care for them in sickness, disability, unemployment or retirement. Nye Bevan, the architect of the modern NHS, described the goal of such a socialist government in the title of his book, In Place of Fear. The Tories, on the other hand, believe in ruling by fear. And the grasping immigrant, ready to take British jobs, is another bogeyman set up to keep us afraid and divided.

Don’t be taken in. Immigrants are not our enemies. Our real enemies are in government and the CBI. We have to unite, and get them out. Only then can we start building a decent society built on proper compassion and respect.

Private Eye on the Childish Stunts and Real Backers of the Tories’ Brexit Campaign

February 21, 2016

Private Eye’s issue for the 23rd January -4th February 2016 issue had some very interesting snippets in their piece, ‘Cummings and Goings’ on page 12. The article was about how the head of the Vote Leave campaign in the Conservative camp, Dominic Cummings, was so obnoxious that he managed to alienate a sizable number of his former colleagues. His former National Comrades were leaving for other jobs, including UKIP, rather than stay working with him. Part of this dissension is over the stupid stunts Cummings had resorted to. For example, he has infiltrated students in to heckle a CBI conference, and threatened businesses backing the EU. The Eye states that his critics fear this is ‘making Eurosceptics look like a juvenile mob’.

Well, it’s impossible to say ‘No’ to that.

More interesting, perhaps, than the personality politics involved is the real group behind the Tories’ Out campaign. According to the Eye, it’s the Taxpayers’ Alliance. This, remember, is the astroturf group that claims it’s not part of the Tory party, when all its leaders are, and which campaigns for lower taxes through privatisation and welfare cuts. With these bozos urging Britain to leave the European Union, you can bet that any money saved from Britain’s contribution to the European budget will not be spent on the infrastructure, like roads, or health service or anything else remotely constructive. Instead, it’ll be spent as they want – giving tax cuts to the rich.