Posts Tagged ‘Exports’

Ian Blackford Shreds May’s ‘Strong and Stable’ Slogan

December 5, 2018

Remember when the Tories were trying to fool the public into thinking that May was ‘strong and stable’ repeating this at every opportunity? This was supposed to be in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn. It was a slogan that was particularly applied to the relationship with Europe. Europe, we were told, would prefer to deal with a ‘strong and stable’ Europe under May.

Mike sent up that slogan after it became abundantly clear that May is anything but. He called her ‘weak and wobbly’. Which is what she is. Instead of being a ‘bloody awkward woman’ who would get the best deal she could from the EU, she was reduced to following the EU president around pleading with him to give her something. She could not be told that the EU was under absolutely no obligation to give her any kind of deal or offer of one.

This video from RT, again of just under a minute long, show Ian Blackford standing up in parliament today to shred May’s precious slogan. He says

Mr Speaker, we were promised strong and stable, what we have is a government in crisis. A government that has lost two Brexit Secretaries, a Home Secretary, a Foreign Secretary, a Work and Pensions Secretary. A government that has suffered from three consecutive defeats in just two hours. The first government to do so, Mr Speaker, in 40 years. And now a government found in contempt of Parliament. Is it time that the Prime Minister took responsibility for concealing the facts on her Brexit deal from members of this House and the public. Will she take responsibility?

As you can see, it’s quite a funny video. When Blackford itemizes the various cabinet ministers she’s lost, their faces pop up below him while a tinkling piano plays sad music, like the theme from Love Story. Then the shots of May’s Tories are shown in black and white, as if it’s all in mourning.

But there’s a very serious side to this. The Tories have created a situation that has split England dangerously from the rest of the UK, as well as Gibraltar, never mind about the rest of the EU. Cameron did so solely for his own advantage as leader of the Tory party. It allowed just over half of the British public to be seriously misled by a ‘Leave’ campaign that lied about the scale of migration from the EU and fraudulently claimed that once we left, 350 million pounds a year would be saved and put back into the Health Service. This was plastered all over the sides of buses by Boris Johnson and his crew, who then denied that they had made any such promise at all. And then after issuing the denial, Boris Johnson, the man who would be the next Prime Minister then went back and repeated the original lie.

And with Brexit and the farcical deal May has negotiated, people have been advised to stock up on food and medicines, as these may be in short supply after Brexit. The curbs on migration from the EU will prevent badly needed workers coming to Britain to supply staff for the NHS. Not that the Tories are going to be too worried about that. They are actively running it down ready for privatization.

People are worried about prices going up, which will once again hit those on low wages, which the Tories have insisted on throughout the last eight years in order to keep labour cheap and disposable, and profits high for employers. Businesses worry about finding staff, and being able to export their goods to the continent. Or import from there the raw materials they need.

It’s a mess. And it is solely due to the Tories.

May was never ‘strong and stable’. It wasn’t even an original slogan, as the Australian spin doctor who came up with it had previously used it to garner support for the Country Party – Australia’s Tories – Down Under. And it didn’t work down there either.

May and the Tories have lied, and deceived not only the general public but also parliament. Meanwhile, half her cabinet appear to have jumped ship like rats before May finally goes down.

And that can’t come too soon. May should go down, and the rest of her wretched, deceitful, mendacious, vicious and incompetent party with her.

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Trailer for Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

October 28, 2018

The left-wing British film director, Mike Leigh, has a film coming out about the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in 1819 when a defenceless crowd that had gathered in Manchester to hear the radical politician, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, was charged by cavalry.

It was a period of severe economic recession, unemployment, political discontent and stifling censorship of freedom of speech, protest and the press. This passage from The History of the World: The Last 500 Hundred Years, General Editor Esmond Wright (Feltham: Hamlyn 1984) describes the conditions at the time.

At the end of the war England entered upon a long depression which brought to many even greater hardship than the war had done. Industries lay depressed with the sudden cessation of wartime demand, agriculture no longer enjoyed the protection that Napoleon’s blockade had brought and began to contract, while European countries, impoverished after years of conquest and exploitation, could not afford to resume their former level of trade. It was, in fact, twenty years after 1815 before British exports recovered to their previous level. Added to the existing problems of unemployment and low wages were some half a million demobilized soldiers and sailors, suddenly thrown onto a labour market that could not absorb them. The years from 1815 to 1820 were mong the darkest in English history when many feared, with some cause, a repetition of the events which had torn France apart in 1789.

Radicalism – an extreme form of politics which advocated fundamental reform of the constitutional and financial system – grew to brief importance under such popular leaders as Cobbett and Hunt. In their hatred of industrialization they preached a naïve ‘back-to-the-land’ philosophy which seemed attractive to populations of former peasants exposed to the insecurities of town life. Significantly, the cause of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, when a defenceless crowd was charged by squadrons of cavalry, was a speech by Hunt, not on the problem of wages or unemployment, but on the subject of land reform.

Most labour movements in the first half of the century had this strong agrarian background. A majority of the new town dwellers were peasants by origin, unaccustomed to the regularity of factory work and the overcrowded life in slums and tenements. They turned instinctively to solutions that offered simpler, better understood relationship in which men seemed to be something more than mere instruments of production. Working people gave their support to Radicalism, not because they understood or even cared very much about abstract democratic principles but because it represented a protest against the unacceptable conditions of life. To its few middle- and upper-class supporters it was much more – a progressive, democratic demand for a government responsible to the popular will and an administrative system based on efficiency rather than privilege.

To such suggestions the governments of the fay responded with severe repression. The Tory party remained in office from the end of the war until 1830, first under Lord Liverpool, later under the wartime hero, the Duke of Wellington. Their belief was that the British constitution was perfect and that any attempt to disturb it must be put down firmly. Trade unions were illegal until 1824 and even after that striking was still a criminal offence, public meetings and meeting-places required to be licensed and newspapers were subject to a crippling stamp duty of five pence a copy. Together with such measures went a crude system which paid a meagre dole to labourers whose earning were inadequate to support their families (the Speenhamland system of poor relief) and which had the effect of impoverishing whole areas of the country. (p. 396).

This sounds very much like the kind of Britain Tweezer, Bojo, Rees-Mogg and their followers would like to return to us to. A country where unions and strikes are banned, restrictions on public meetings and censorship of the press. Except when it supports the Tories, of course. Blair and Cameron both tried to bring in legislation limiting demonstrations. They’ve been banned within a certain area of parliament, and Cameron wanted to pass legislation outlawing public protests if they caused a nuisance to local residents. Which is a convenient way of suppressing public expressions of dissent while claiming that you aren’t intending to do any such thing. ‘The government is fully behind freedom of speech and assembly, but this will be an intolerable nuisance to the people actually in the area’, is how the argument would run. And they’d also like to see more people slaving away in cruel and exploitative conditions in poverty, with a benefits system totally unable to cope.

Which is what makes Leigh’s movie of such contemporary significance. Here’s the trailer.

I caught a few moments of Leigh being interviewed on the Beeb the week before last. He was talking about how the incident was an important event in Manchester’s history. Walking around the historic part of Manchester, he pointed out buildings that had been there at the time and which had been included in the film.

Leigh’s known for his improvisational approach to film making, but the interviewer said that this movie felt more scripted, and Leigh agreed. I can’t say I’m a fan of Leigh’s work – it’s a bit too grim for my tastes – but this is something I’d like to see. The Peterloo Massacre is nearly 200 years ago, but it still has resonance and immense importance to the early 21st century Britain of Tweezer and the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn on Arms to Saudi Arabia, the Environment, the Living Wage and University Education

September 24, 2018

This is a short video from RT of just under two minutes, in which the Labour leader gives his views on Britain selling weapons to Saudia Arabia, Donald Trump’s disastrous attitude to the environment, the living wage, and that university education should be free.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

Addressing the Labour party conference, Corbyn states that whilst he obvious wants us to send all the aid necessary to deal with the consequences of the war and the bombing, the best thing to do is to stop the war altogether and to begin that by ending our supply of arms to the Saudi coalition that is undertaking that bombardment.

The Environment

Corbyn explains that Donald Trump is saying that he wants to walk away from the Paris climate accord and tear up all those decades of environmental campaigning that got us over that hurdle to that place, are totally wrong. Corbyn states that our movement has to be as strong on environmental protection and eco-protection as it is on social justice, because that is the way we protect the future for all of us.

The Living Wage

He declares that he does not think there is anything particularly extreme in saying a living wage should be for all workers at ten pounds an hour. You should have rights at work from the time you start your work.

On University Fees

He admits that Labour’s proposal is expensive, but he thinks it’s the right way to invest our money. It was to end college and university fees in order to make further and higher education free for everyone that wants to undertake it.

These are excellent policies and are certain to draw fire from the Tories and Blairites. There was a piece in the I this weekend about the massive growth in British arms exports. It’s supposed to have grown by 83 per cent last year.

And it was under Thatcher and Major that student grants were axed, and tuition fees introduced under Tony Blair, though they were raised massively by the Tory – Lib Dem Coalition.

As for Trump’s position on the environment, this is almost omnicidally dangerous. Some environmental scientists, according to the press, believe that we may actually only be ten years away from the tipping point where global warming is irreversible. We have to protect the environment, if we are not to bequeath our children a ruined, poisoned, dying world.

Now watch the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the right-wing press go absolutely berserk telling everyone that this’ll all be bad for the economy, that businesses won’t be able to afford it, that it’ll make our exports uneconomical, and repeat all the old tropes about ‘high spending Labour’ and that this will lead to more tax rises ad nauseam. Of course, none of this will be connected to the fact that very many Tory MPs have strong links to the arms and petrochemical industries, and that too many MPs across the House are millionaire managing directors. Quite apart from the fact that any tax rises Labour may make will be placed on the extreme rich, not the poor, who can’t afford it. It’ll be the complete reverse of what the Tories and New Labour have done.

EU Tells Tweezer Unwelcome Fact, So Bojo Spout Nonsense as Distraction

January 20, 2018

More spin and misdirection from the Tories. Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on Bojo’s bizarre utterance about building a channel bridge. He doesn’t like the Chunnel, you see, and thought that a bridge would be much better. This drew down a barrage of criticism from everyone, who had any connection or knew anything about the shipping industry. 500 ships go through the straights of Dover daily, and so the construction of the bridge, if not the structure itself, would cause massive disruption to international shipping. This was pointed out by one of the shipping associations.

The idea’s a complete non-starter.

But as Mike points out, it looks like a clever piece of misdirection on the Tories’ part. Tweezer had been told earlier that day by the EU that Brexit would mean the financial sector leaving London. This is absolutely true. The EU financial regulatory body has packed up and moved to Paris, another international financial organisation has sought pastures new overseas, and Frankfurt ‘Manhattan’ Am Main is doing its level best to encourage financial houses to relocate there.

But the Tories, and Blairite Labour, are handsomely support by the financial sector, and govern on their behalf. One Tory industrialist, who actually came from manufacturing, has said that he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound damaged British exports abroad. And under Blair we were told that British manufacturing was finished, and we shall concentrate on getting jobs and supporting the financial and service sectors. Deanne Julius, who was given a high-ranking post at the Bank of England after working in various American banks, actually said that we should concentrate on servicing American industry. Which shows you which way the Americans think the ‘Special Relationship’ goes.

Bojo is known for uttering nonsense, and saying things that are stupid and controversial. It seems the Tories have weaponised this. And so when the EU told Tweezer the unwelcome news, which would upset her backers in the financial sector, someone it seems prodded Bojo to make a stupid comment. Thus the bilge about a Channel Bridge, which got everyone talking about that, rather than the boring, but very real threat, that the City of London was going to be decimated by Brexit.

And I expect that as more unpleasant news comes out about the effects of Brexit, we can expect more stupidity from Bojo to take the heat away from his party, and the mistress he barely supports.

Philip Hammond Wants to Turn Britain into Neoliberal Tax Haven for the Rich

January 19, 2017

This is more evidence of the Tories’ obsession with turning Britain into ‘America junior’. On Sunday Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about the current chancellor, Philip Hammond’s interview with the German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, in which he said that if Britain could not gain access to European markets after Brexit, it would allow the country to turn away from the European political and economic model. Instead of following the ‘European-style’ social model, with high taxation and regulation, Britain would become ‘something different’.

Mike called this Tory stupidity and arrogance at its worst, and he’s right. Britain cannot win a trade war with Europe. Europe constitutes more than half of the market for Britain’s exports. And every time Theresa May opens her trap about Brexit, investors take fright and the pound plummets to a new level. Mike’s article quotes Jeremy Corbyn as saying that he expected the majority of MPs to be worried about Hammond’s ideas. And he’s right. Mike predicts that Hammond’s idea would result in massive unemployment, as exclusion from the European market means that demands for our products would fall. Furthermore, the low taxation Hammond so glowingly looks forward to would mean that the state would receive less. Mike doesn’t point out what that means, but it’s fairly obvious: state expenditure would immediately slashed, meaning even more welfare cuts, the further rationing and privatisation of the NHS and the education system.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/15/seriously-philip-hammond-youd-cripple-our-economy-for-some-anti-eu-sabre-rattling/

Of course, this is precisely what the Tories have wanted ever since Thatcher. They want to make Britain more like the USA, with its private healthcare system and minimal welfare provision. It’s an economy which has traditionally been based on low taxes, although under Bush the people of America actually started paying nearly the same amount in tax as the people in this country because of the vast military expenditure. At least, that’s what I was told by American friends. However, Bush made a series of tax cuts, followed by Obama with more promised by Trump, which will deprive the poor of even further employment protection and welfare benefits in favour of massive tax cuts for the rich. Just like Cameron and May have done and are doing for the Tories.

Hammond’s moronic idea is not original either. It’s just a continuation of Cameron’s attempts to stop the EU extending its financial regulations over Britain, so that London could become the centre of the global fraud that constitutes offshore banking.

It also shows the absolute ignorance and contempt of Thatcherite economists for the manufacturing industry. Thatcher’s cabinet was dominated by people from the financial sector, as was Blair’s, Broon’s, and, I assume, Cameron’s and May’s. There was one cabinet member, whose background was in manufacturing, who tried to point out to Thatcher that her pursuit of a strong pound would harm British manufacturing industry, as it would make our products more expensive than our foreign competitors. But she couldn’t understand this basic economic fact. As for Tony Blair, he rejected the manufacturing sector, as it was economic dogma during his tenure of No. 10 that the financial sector would become the major industry in the UK. We were supposed to be a ‘post-industrial economy’. Deanne Julius, one of the experts at the Bank of England, and a former officer with one of the big American banks, actually said that we should give up manufacturing and concentrate on the service sector. Manufacturing industry, she believed, should be left to the Americans.

Ha-Joon Chang has pointed out in his books how wrong this attitude is. Britain is still very dependent on its manufacturing industries. These are less significant than they were, because they have not grown as much as the financial and service sectors, but are still very important parts of our economy. If this part of our economy contracts even further, it will be disastrous for the British economy as a whole.

Not that you will hear that from the Blairites or the Tories. New Labour was very keen not to be seen as the party of high state regulation. During the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ in the late ’80s, Broon and Mo Mowlam went round the City reassuring the bankers that New Labour would adopt a ‘light touch’ attitude to regulating the financial sector.

And we can all see how well that paid off, with the great financial crash of 2008. We’re still paying for that. Not the bankers, not the big industrialists, but the ordinary people of Britain, who are seeing are tax bills go up, our welfare benefits and employment rights taken away, and the NHS sold off to private contractors, all to give the 1 per cent even more tax breaks.

And last Sunday, Philip Hammond told the German press he wanted more of the same, but much worse.

This shows his and May’s attitude to Britain’s working people. They are to be forced into even more precarity, with fewer opportunities for employment and massive poverty. Because Hammond wants to make his bankster friends in the City even richer.

And defend the NHS. May and Hunt should resign. Now.

ITV Sees Evidence of British Cluster Bombs in Yemen

November 2, 2016

This is another scandal. I found this piece from ITV news posted on YouTube. It’s a report on some of the cluster bombs, that have been dropped in Yemen in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis. Cluster bombs are illegal. According to the human rights organisations and the Yemeni authorities interviewed by ITV, these bombs were made over here. The Saudis claim that they were made before the weapons were banned, but ITV states that they look recently made. Here’s the report:

This is disgusting. Cluster bombs are an horrific weapon, and its with very good reason that they’re banned under international law. However, I have absolutely no difficulty in believing that these were made over here. Indeed, they may well have been part of that ‘wonderful kit’ Cameron was praising to the skies when he visited that armaments factory in the north of England to promote British exports. Over the years Private Eye has exposed case after case of the British aerospace and armaments industries – mostly BAE – producing weapons banned under international law, like electrified riot shields. Despite the Eye’s best efforts here, I don’t doubt that they’re still being produced somewhere, and exported to the Gulf.

Cameron was, like Blair and Thatcher and Major before him, very keen at promoting British arms sales, particularly to Saudi Arabia and other nations with a history of brutally suppressing any dissent. In the case of Saudi Arabia, 70 per cent of the Yemenis killed by them are civilians, and the Saudis are actively targeting them in schools, mosques, hospitals and factories. If this report is correct, we have absolutely no business helping this brutal regime kill more innocents with illegal weapons.

A Moroccan Immigrant’s Views on Work and Immigration

March 5, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political put up a couple of pics today from the Brexit campaign, all urging us to leave the EU. They showed the hypocrisy of the ‘Out’ campaign, which had accused their opponents, those who want us to stay, of scaremongering. See Mike’s piece at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/05/the-posters-that-show-how-hypocritical-the-leave-campaign-is/. One of these pictures of a meme about the government supposedly giving all 75 million Turks the right to use the NHS. This follows the standard line that all the immigrants from the Islamic and Developing Worlds are all coming over here to scrounge from European, and particularly the British, welfare states.

Leave Turks

The ‘Out Campaign trying to scare us with the threat of all of Turkey coming to Britain because of the NHS.

They aren’t. They came here to work, and were invited in to supply the labour shortage after the Second World War. Many migrants are acutely aware of this, and consider it hypocritical that Europeans now want to stop immigration. This comes across very strongly in David McMurray’s piece ‘Haddou: A Moroccan Migrant Worker’ in Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East, edited by Edmund Burke III (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. 1993). The books a study of the history of the modern Middle East through the biographies of a few of its people, studied by historians and sociologists. Haddou was a Moroccan migrant worker, who came to work first in France, in Paris, before settling down in Dusseldorf, Germany.

McMurray has a couple of pages giving the reasons why Haddou did not wish to return home. He writes

“Why don’t you just go home?” Haddou thought to himself on many occasions. This is what the racists wanted, too. Haddou’s answer was always the same: “To do what?” Most Moroccan men’s answer to this would be to set up a shop and sell something. But Haddou felt himself to be unsuited to the life of a small merchant. They were not involved in productive activity anyway, just buying and selling what others had made. In any case, he needed contacts to make a good profit. Otherwise no one would buy from him, and the Moroccan bureaucracy would slowly bleed him to death without a patron to protect him. Even if he wanted to make some kind of productive investment, the banks were not safe, laws were not enforced, and, besides, in what kind of manufacturing could he invest in Morocco that could possibly compete with foreign manufactures? the government favoured imported goods by keeping import tariffs low. What was worse, the Moroccan consumer was convinced that quality came only from abroad. The only domestic products worth buying consisted mainly of foods and traditional clothing. If he chose to produce them, who would buy his modern shoes, for example, when they could purchase imported Italian shoes? Or who would buy his Moroccan-made shampoo when they could buy it from France or Spain? Even dinner plates imported from Taiwan were preferable to those produced locally. The Moroccan government made matters worse by throwing their support behind commercial activities producing for export. In the region of Nador that meant growing citrus fruit for Europe. But citrus grew locally only on irrigated land, and most of the good, irrigated land had been bought up long ago by wealthy men with contacts. They had been told of the planned irrigation system before everyone else and had bought the land at a cheaper price in order to take advantage of the development. Today that land was too expensive to buy. Equally vexing was the fact that many of the prices for crops grown on unirrigated land were controlled by middlemen and the government in such a restrictive manner that they barely repaid the farmer’s investments – and then only during good years. No subsidies existed to carry the farmers during the bad years, which in recent times had far outnumbered the good.

Given these conditions back home, Haddou never could understand why so many Europeans expected the migrants just to pick up and leave. They acted as if the migrants had come uninvited. On the contrary, he and the millions of other migrants from around the world were in Europe because the European governments, factories, and shop owners originally asked them to come work. The first time Haddou went back on vacation during the early 1960s, his boss gave him hundreds of work contracts to hand out to people in the Moroccan countryside who might want to join him in Europe, so eager was the boss to expand his migrant labour force. No, migrants did not originally knock down the door; it was opened for them. Unlike the better organised and more demanding European workers, migrants could be made to work harder and longer or to do dirtier and more dangerous jobs, thus producing greater profits for their European employers. As Haddou saw it, the real dilemma was that the Moroccans were dependent on Europe no matter what they did. They could stay home and – if they were lucky enough to find a job at all – produce goods for export to Europe, work on assembling and distributing products legally imported from Europe, illegally smuggle products in from Europe, or like himself, they could just pick up and go to work right in Europe. Directly, or indirectly, in Morocco or abroad, they were all working for the Europeans. (pp. 390-2).

Basically Haddou came to Europe partly because of the hostile business environment in Morocco, in which the small entrepreneur is effectively shut out due to the endemic corruption. He also came simply because work was available, and the European business owners and managers were eager to find a cheap labour source to exploit. Whereas the extreme anti-immigrants see themselves as having come to Europe uninvited, Haddou, and probably millions of migrants and former migrants like him, are very aware that this is not the case.

There is no mention in the chapter of immigrants coming to Europe because of our system of welfare benefits, or to exploit the NHS. Which in any case, has been answered already in the piece I put up by Nye Bevan, in which he states that the numbers of migrants using the British Health Service would be small, and it would be morally incumbent on us to give the same welfare benefits to foreigners who were over here, working.

There are legitimate problems and concerns with mass migration, but allegations that they’re just here to steal or sponge off our benefits shouldn’t be one of them.

Vox Political: Labour to Regulate Banking Sector and Create New Investment Bank

February 13, 2015

Open Hours Pic

Arkwright, Granville and Nurse Gladys Emmanuel from Open All Hours: The face of the British s-s-s-small businessman, who should benefit from a proper investment bank for their needs.

Mike over at Vox Political has today published this article, Labour’s bank reform plans, including bonus clawback and a British Investment Bank, announcing that Ed Balls and Labour’s Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Cathy Jamieson, will today announce the Labour Party’s plans to reform the banking industry. The new legislation will extend the amount of time in which the government can confiscate banker’s bonuses in the cases where they’ve broken the law. They also want to increase the levy on payday lenders to support alternative sources of credit and increase competition between banks. They also want to set up an investment bank, which will support investment in small and middle-sized businesses.

Mike’s article begins

Labour is today (Friday) publishing its plans to reform the banking sector so that it better supports growing businesses, economic growth and rising living standards.

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, and Cathy Jamieson, Labour’s Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, will publish Labour’s banking reform paper after a visit to a business in Bedford.

The banking reform paper is part of Labour’s economic plan and sets out a series of measures the next Labour government will take, including:

· Extending clawback of bank bonuses that have already been paid in cases of inappropriate behaviour to at least 10 years and enacting legislation, passed by the last Labour government, to require banks to publish the number of employees earning more than £1 million.

· Creating a proper British Investment Bank to provide vital funding for small and medium-sized businesses. All funds raised from the planned increase in the licence fees for the mobile phone spectrum – estimated to be up to £1 billion in the next Parliament, subject to Ofcom consultation – will be allocated to the British Investment Bank.

· Introducing a one-off tax on bankers’ bonuses to help pay for Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee – a paid starter job for all young people out of work for 12 months or more, which people will have to take up or lose their benefits.

· Addressing the lack of competition in the sector. We welcome the Competition and Markets Authority inquiry which we called for and want to see at least two new challenger banks and a market share test to ensure the market stays competitive for the long term.

· Extending the levy on the profits of payday lenders to raise funding for alternative credit providers.

Mike quotes Ed Balls as recognising the importance of the banking industry to this country, but states that it needs to be better regulated in order to encourage and promote economic growth.

“Banks are essential to our economy, but we need them to work better for the businesses and working people who rely on them.

“We need much more action than this government has been prepared to take. So Labour’s banking reform paper sets out how we will change rules on bonuses, increase competition and get more lending to small and medium-sized businesses.”

He also quotes Cathy Jamieson on the importance of a proper source of investment for small and medium businesses:

“Bank lending to businesses has fallen year after year under this government. This just isn’t good enough. Without access to finance, SMEs cannot grow and create the high quality, well paid jobs we need to increase living standards. That’s why our plans will deliver more competition in our banking sector and a proper British Investment Bank too.”

The article’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/13/labours-bank-reform-plans-including-bonus-clawback-and-a-british-investment-bank/. Go over there and read it. Mike wants to hear what his readers think.

The Importance of an Investment Bank

I have some problems with it, but I think in broad terms it is very much a step forward. It also marks a strong break with New Labour policies. Mike’s been arguing over on his blog that Ed Miliband is not the same as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, whose time is long past. This provides further proof. Despite the rubbish that Cameron and the Tories have spewed about the banking collapse being due to over-regulation by Labour, the very opposite was true. New labour was strongly opposed to regulating the financial sector. Indeed, it played a major role in the City’s change of support from the Tory’s to Labour during Gordon Brown’s and Mo Mowlam’s ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ under Tony Blair. Brown repeatedly reassured the bankers that Labour would regulate them with a light touch. The massive collapse and gaping black holes in the banking industry that led to the recession was not created by too much regulation, but by Labour not watching what the bankers were doing closely enough.

The amount of money bankers have been allowed to pay themselves in bonuses while very efficiently wrecking the economy and ruining the livelihoods of everyone not a millionaire banker is nothing short of scandalous. Extending the amount of time available to confiscate bonuses in cases of illegal conduct is a good start, and should start to restore confidence in the industry.

British industry has also been in desperate need of a proper investment bank for a very, very long time. The authors of Socialist Enterprise and Neil Kinnock, before he dropped Socialism in favour of the free market, recognised that the City was not geared to providing inward investment, and certainly not to manufacturing industry. The major investment banks had been set up to channel investment to Britain’s colonies during the Empire. Even after that had gone the way of ancient Rome, Assyria and Egypt, the banks still preferred to invest overseas than domestically. British domestic investment lagged far behind our competitors in Japan and Germany.

The administrations of the last three decades, following Thatcher, have also been harshly indifferent, or even hostile, to the manufacturing sector. Quite apart from destroying British heavy industry in order to break the unions, Thatcher and her circle had strong links to the financial sector, and neither understood, nor were particularly interested in the needs of manufacturers. In one of their recent issues, Lobster carried a piece about a captain of industry, who did end up mixing with Thatcher and her cabinet. The particular industrialist was a staunch Tory, and so shared her views about crushing the unions and the importance of private enterprise and competition. He remarked, however, on how absolutely ignorant she and her chancellors were about basic economics. One of the obstacles for British exports was the strong pound. This particular businessman tried pointing out to Maggie that a strong pound discouraged countries from importing from Britain, as it made our goods expensive and therefore uncompetitive. Of course, Maggie didn’t want to hear about this, and pointed to Germany as a counter-example. Look at the Germans, she said. The Mark’s strong, and it hasn’t stopped people from buying German. To which the businessman tried telling her that the Mark was strong, because people were buying German goods. It was not a case of people buying German goods, because the Mark was strong. But this was too much for the Iron Lady and her sycophants and acolytes to grasp.

Britain’s manufacturing factor needs to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, Balls and Jamieson’s statement doesn’t recognise this, but the establishment of a proper investment bank will be a very good start.

As for increasing the levy on pay day lenders, I’d rather see them either shut down completely, or have their tariffs lowered even further, as well as promoting alternative forms of credit. Nevertheless, this is another good start.

I also have objections to using money levied on the bankers to set up the compulsory employment scheme. Johnny Void has already attacked the scheme earlier this week with a piece sharply criticising Rachel Reeves. I believe he’s right. The scheme does look like another version of workfare, just slightly better in its treatment of the people forced to take it. I believe the whole welfare-to-work industry needs to be scrapped totally.

Nevertheless, even with these caveats, I believe that Balls’ and Jamieson’s policies should be an excellent step forward. And a proper investment bank that provides support to the small and medium businessman should get the approval of aspiring Arkwrights up and down Britain. Even if it does come from the Socialists.

Lenin and Engels on the Corrupting Influence of the Banks

March 18, 2014

Osborne Pic

Chancellor George Osborne – the ally of big business and the rich against the poor

Since Margaret Thatcher successive governments in Britain have pursued Neoliberal and Monetarist economic policies, which have seen the rich become immensely richer at the expense of everyone else. Thatcher decimated Britain’s manufacturing industry, and attempted to make the financial sector the dominant force in the British economy. The government thus adopted, under both the Tories and New Labour, a series of policies designed to promote the finance industry, and in particular, the City of London. These had a further effect of damaging Britain’s manufacturing industry still further by making our exports uncompetitive. The current government in particular has very strong connections to the City and its financiers.

Engels observed the corrupting influence of the financial sector on government in both France and America in a passage cited by the German Socialist leader, Karl Kautsky, and then by the Russian Communist leader, Lenin, in his 1918 work on the class nature of the state, The State and Revolution:

In a democratic republic, Engels continues, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); Secondly, by means of an “alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange” (France and America).

Cited in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968) 271.

The above passage could describe government policies today, when so much of government policy is formulated to be benefit the banks and the financial sector, so that senior bankers and financiers have been co-opted as government advisors on the regulation and policies for the industry.

In the Great Recession caused by the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the French Communist party had no hesitation in pointing the finger at the bankers they felt were responsible for their country’s economic slump for their own profit, as the poster below shows.

Communist Anti-Bankers pic

While clearly the financial sector is important, we do need government policies that instead once again promote manufacturing, and create properly paid jobs, rather than unemployment, instead of the current Neoliberal, Thatcherite policies that benefit only the very rich at the massive expense of the poor, the sick, disabled and elderly. But this definitely ain’t gonna happen under Osborne. Instead, we’ll see more of the same, and a growing gap between rich and poor and consequent more poverty and despair. The sooner the Tories go, the better.

Third World Thatcherite Britain and the Grab for North Sea Oil

March 1, 2014

oil_rig

Last week both David Cameron and Alex Salmond held separate meetings in Scotland with the petrochemical companies in order to discuss the vital question of the ownership and future of North Sea oil. This is a vital issue. The Scots Nationalists I’ve talked to in the past have all been of the belief that not only should an independent Scotland have a right to the oil reserves off its coast, but that this would support the newly independent nation’s economy. Although this wasn’t mentioned in the news reports, Britain faces the same question. If Britain does not retain revenues from the North Sea if Scotland leaves the UK, then the British economy will plummet. It’s a question of economic survival.

I was taught at school that Britain has a ‘third-world economy’. This meant that Britain was like the various nations of the Developing World in that its economy was heavily based on primary industry. In the Developing World these industries were either mining – the extraction and production of diamonds, for example, or copper in the African Copper Belt, or the various nations around the world specialising in a particular agricultural product – groundnuts, bananas, coffee and so on. In Britain in the primary industry that fundamentally supports the country’s prosperity was North Sea oil.

The authors of the book Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy (Nottingham: Spokesman 1986), Diana Gilhespy, Ken Jones, Tony Manwaring, Henry Neuberger and Adam Sharples, make exactly the same point:

Third World Britain

Under the Thatcher experiment, Britain’s underlying economic decline has continued and gathered pace. Only North Sea revenues now disguise its true extent. Without them it would be impossible to sustain the living standards which the working population currently enjoys. Britain’s present levels of employment, industrial activity and public services are all being paid for on borrowed time. (p. 20).

They then survey the way the Thatcher government effectively devastated the UK economy, while Labour unfairly got the blame for economic mismanagement.

It is worth emphasising how disastrous Tory economic policies have been for Britain in purely economic terms. The Tory Party has never succeeded in cultivating an image of compassion or concern for social justice: but at least, so the convention goes, it can be relied on to promote ‘sound’ economic policies and generally do the things that are in the interests of business growth. The Labour Party, by contrast, seems to have a acquired a reputation for economic mismanagement. The really remarkable achievement of the Thatcher Governments has been to find a set of policies which, while designed to make ‘economic efficiency’ the overriding objective in almost every sphere or our lives, has actually had the effect of making our economy less efficient – as well as having all the more predictable results such as a huge increase in social deprivation, inequality, injustice and division. As a result we are now in a situation where socialist economic and industrial policies offer the only serious hope not only of healing deep social divisions but also of reconstructing a viable and efficient economy.

Employment levels in manufacturing, construction and the public services plummeted after 1979. The international climate worsened, it is true, following the oil price rises of that year. All the major Western countries have faced increased unemployment during this period. But in Britain’s case, government policies have played an almost uniquely important part in creating a fall in national output and an increase in unemployment. By pursuing exceptionally high interest rates as part of the attempt to reduce money supply growth and inflation, and then letting the market determine the level of the exchange rate, the Tory Government precipitated a massive crisis in the manufacturing sector in the period 1979-81 – especially among companies which were relatively dependent on export markets or which had recently expanded investment or stocks in anticipation of sales growth. Meanwhile attempts to reduce public spending and borrowing resulted in a further deflationary effect: there was a particularly severe impact on employment as capital projects and welfare services were sacrificed to pay for the escalating costs of increasing unemployment – not merely a vicious circle but an insane one.

If we look at another traditional measure of economic success or failure, the balance of payments, we see a similar story. Since 1982, a surplus on manufactured goods has been replaced by large annual deficits – the first such deficits since the Industrial Revolution. Imports and import penetration have risen sharply in virtually every sector of manufacturing. These imports have, of course, been paid for out of oil revenues. But declining oil revenues will no longer be able to offset the growing manufacturing trade deficit in the late 1980s and 1990s.

They then go on to consider some of the contributing causes to British industrial decline, such as the price of British goods, lack of investment in research and development, and the lack of an education workforce, some of which is now extremely dated.

Nevertheless, I think the main point is still valid. Thatcher destroyed the British industrial base, and it is still only North Sea oil revenues, which is propping the economy up, despite the Tory and New Labour attempt to promote the financial sector. If Britain loses these revenues, then the British economy will collapse. My guess is that we would still be in the Developed World, but go from one of the most prosperous to one of the least.

The result of this would a further massive collapse in living standards, accompanied by bitter discontent. In the Developing World, mass poverty traditionally gave rise to extremist political movements – Marxist revolutionary groups, and the various Fascist dictatorships like those of General Pinochet, Manuel Noriega et cetera ad nauseam used to contain and suppress them. The same is likely to arise in Britain. This would effectively discredit all of the main political parties, as all of them have been influenced to a greater or lesser extent by Thatcher’s legacy. But those most effected would be the Tories as Thatcher’s party.

No wonder Cameron was up in Scotland last week trying to keep hold of North Sea oil. If that goes, then so does a large part of British prosperity and the Conservatives/ Thatcher’s image as the party of British prosperity.