Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

Desperate Tories Start Lying about Building the Health Service

October 1, 2019

Boris Johnson and his odious chums must be feeling the pressure from Corbyn and Labour, as they’ve reverted to doing what they always do in a tight squeeze: start lying about how they’re really good for the NHS. Right at the start of the Tory conference, one of the candidate claimed that they founded it. Oh no, they didn’t! Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece demolishing this porkie. He pointed out that when Labour put the bill founding the NHS to parliament, they claimed to welcome it, but then sought to deny it a third reading. The reason?

It “discourages voluntary effort and association; mutilates the structure of local governent; dangerously increases Ministerial power and patronage; appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of donors and subscribers; and undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment of the nation”.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/tory-nhs-claims-are-a-poor-attempt-to-patch-up-the-dirty-open-wound-that-is-their-record/

Mike comments

Even that was a lie. Healthcare before the NHS was a nightmare for working people. Read the books of Harry Leslie Smith for information on the way a private health system fails to work. That was a hindrance to the nation.

I’ve put up many posts myself on this blog pointing out how poor healthcare was for ordinary working people before the introduction of the NHS. There were hospitals run by local authorities, but these varied enormously in the quality of care. There were also charity hospitals as well as the fully private. However, the charity hospitals relied heavily on donations and so spent much of their time trying to raise cash, and care in them was also frequently poor. Doctors were outside the system of minimal state provision, and so charged fees. After the Liberals came to power there was a system of state insurance available to pay the medical bills of some, but not all types of worker. The result was that there were millions, who were not covered by any type of insurance. Many people simply could not afford medical treatment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Tories try to claim to they invented the NHS, or supported it. They tried it again under Jeremy Hunt a few years ago. And that was also a lie. The NHS was first proposed by Lord Beveridge, a Liberal peer, and put into action and ardently supported by Labour under Clement Atlee and the awesome Nye Bevan. It’s ultimate ancestry goes back to Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s minority report on healthcare provision in Britain right at the start of the 20th century, which recommended a comprehensive system of state healthcare. In the 1930s the Socialist Medical Society, the Fabian Society, now sadly riddled with Blairites, and the Labour party all demanded the establishment of a system of state medical care.

I have had Tories turn up on this blog arguing that Churchill and the Tories were as in favour of the NHS as anyone else, but that they voted against it because it wasn’t costed properly for some reason. Just as Clement Atlee didn’t initially vote for it. Now it’s true that some Labour figures didn’t vote for the NHS initially, as you can see in the lists of those who did given in a book attacking the Tories for blocking the NHS, published by the Left Book Club. But the above statement by the Tories attacking the embryonic NHS and defending a system of largely private healthcare that left millions in grinding poverty with no chance of any proper medical provision refutes this nonsense. And in case there’s any doubt of the Tories’ attitude towards the NHS, a few years after its foundation, in the early 1950s the Tory right tried to have it abolished on the grounds that it was too expensive.

And where have we heard that one before? Oh yes, from Maggie Thatcher, Dave Cameron, Tweezer and the rest of them, all arguing that the introduction of private medicine into the NHS will make it cheaper and more efficient. Only it doesn’t. It makes it more expensive. Hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative are more expensive and have fewer beds than hospitals build using direct state funds. PFI is a fraud, and merely a way-station on the road to the complete privatisation of the NHS. As Mike blogged a few days ago, it’s now saddled the NHS with a debt £50bn, which will probably be closer to £80bn when the debts come to an end in the 2030s. Yes, Labour massively increased the use PFI contracts as part of Blair’s ‘Third Way’. But it was introduced by Peter Lilley under John Major as a deliberate way of opening up the NHS to private industry.

Yes, the NHS has PFI debts – but put the blame where it’s due… on the TORIES

The Tories, or at least some of them, have always wanted to privatise the NHS, because they hate the idea of working people receiving free healthcare at the point of need and service.

And then a few days ago, Boris announced that he was going to be build 40 spanking new hospitals. Except that he won’t. According to the Sage of Crewe on Zelo Street, the greatest number of hospitals that will get built are six. When questioned about the number by Andrew Marr on his show, Bozo blustered that he had a long-term infrastructure plan, and there was seed funding for these hospitals. Zelo Street pointed out that his ‘long-term infrastructure plan is just a rip-off of Cameron’s ‘long term economic plan’. And the seed funding means that while the government pays of securing the land, legal work and ensuring access. someone else will actually have to build them. Yes, it the PFI once again.

‘That sounds like either the PFI that began under John Major, was carried on by Tone and Pa Broon, and even though Cameron and Osborne slagged it off, they did it too – or it means someone else will own and run the hospitals – not necessarily the NHS.

Bozo just confirmed what we already knew – you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/tories-40-new-hospitals-arent.html

And the Skwawkbox also reminded people of the last time the Tories started lying about the NHS when an election was looming.

This was in the run-up to the elections that allowed the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to seize power, c. 2008 or so. Cameron was claiming to defend the NHS from Blair’s cuts. He and IDS very ostentatiously set about a campaign against hospital closures. When the Gruesome Twosome of Cameron and Clegg got in, of course, that campaign suddenly vanished. And it was back to cuts and hospital closures as normal.

For a reminder, see the Skwawkbox article at: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/29/166-reasons-closures-not-to-trust-a-word-boris-johnson-says-about-the-nhs/

This also reveals that the Tories have closed down 166 mostly maternity and A&E units, and closed down another 100 NHS walk-in centres.

These closures are presented as local decisions, but the Skwawkbox shows that it is the result of sham consultations and a central plan to cut costs. As for the six hospitals BoJo claims will be built, they aren’t new either. And some of them aren’t even fully fledged hospitals. One will actually take patients and beds from another hospital, resulting in even less care for local people.

The Skwawkbox comments on the Tory lies:

Boris Johnson’s lips will be moving today. Don’t believe a word that comes out of them.

There is only one party with safe hands for the NHS: Labour.

Absolutely.

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Loser Johnson Loses Majority, Loses Vote and Purges Rebels

September 4, 2019

Ho ho! Things definitely aren’t going too well for the Blonde Generalissimo. Yesterday he lost his majority in the Commons when Philip Lee crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems while he spouting something about the G7 summit. Lee gave his reason for joining them his opposition to the immense harm being done to this country by Brexit. He declared

“This Conservative government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way.

“That is why today I am joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats.”

Even with the odious DUP supporting him, BoJob only had a majority of one. Now he doesn’t even have that. Which means that, democratically, he can’t pass any legislation whatsoever.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/tory-mp-defects-to-lib-dems-now-dictator-johnson-has-no-majority-in-parliament-at-all/

But the humiliation got worse. The 21 Tory MPs who were threatening to rebel against Johnson over the vote whether to debate a bill preventing a no deal Brexit put their money where their mouths were and actually did it. They voted with the opposition. From today backbenchers have control of commons business. The Old Etonian Duce becomes the first Prime Minister since Pitt the Younger to lose his first vote.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/mps-defeat-government-theyll-debate-bill-to-prevent-no-deal-brexit/

The Tories, who voted against him were Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, Guto Bebb, Rory Stewart, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Nicholas Soames, Richard Benyon, Steve Brine, Alistair Burt, Greg Clark, Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James, Anne Milton, Caroline Nokes, Antoinette Sandbach and Ed Vaizey. Clarke is, I think, the father of the House, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer under John Major. Hammond was also Chancellor until a few weeks ago, while Oliver Letwin and Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames have been prominent, even notorious, Tory politicos since the days of Thatcher, as I recall. And unlike many Tory chancellors, such as George Osborne,Clarke did seem to understand something about economics. When a prominent MP like him rebels, the fault’s very much with Johnson, not with him.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/the-21-tories-ejected-from-their-party-for-voting-with-their-consciences/

But BoJob also reacted as he threatened. He removed the whip from them, effectively expelling them from the Tory party. But there are also rumours that, following the advice of his adviser Dominic Cummings, he also removed their parliamentary passes so that they’d find it difficult getting into the Commons today to vote against him. One of the rebel MPs, Sam Gyimah, was reported by Sky News to have said that it seemed he had disabled their passes when they came in yesterday evening.

This was followed by the bizarre behaviour of the Polecat himself. It seems that with nothing to do during the debate except wait, Cummings retired to the bar, where he became, as Private Eye would have said, ‘tired and emotional’. Peter Walker, one of the Groaniad’s hacks, spotted him wondering down the parliamentary press corridor, lost and clutching a bottle of red wine, looking for the office of a particular newspaper. Then Cumming lurched over to Portcullis house where, according to Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Murdoch propaganda sheet the Sunday Times, he started yelling at Jeremy Corbyn ‘Come on Jeremy, let’s do this election, don’t be scared’. Shipman claimed the Labour leader was then whisked away by horrified aides. The Labour MP Cat Smith tweeted that, ‘As one of several shadow cabinet members stood right next to Jeremy (who was on the phone at the time) I just thought there was some loud bloke who stunk of booze yelling at us’. Commenting on this bizarre spectacle, Brexitbin tweeted ‘ Drunk & disorderly in Westminster is a new low even for him. The way to beat these people is not to play their game. Put them under pressure and they crack”. To which Zelo Street added ‘Didn’t need much pressure, did it?’ and concluded ‘Cummings is cracking up. Expect more pissed apparitions before he is taken away.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/dominic-cummings-go-home-youre-drunk.html

Did Boris Johnson really cancel Parliamentary passes of rebel Tory MPs? And what did drunken Dominic do?

This really doesn’t look good for BoJob. Corbyn could seize power, as the Skwawkbox says, it Jo Swinson wasn’t so determined to preserve Tory power in order to keep him out. https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/04/johnsons-majority-shattered-lab-could-form-govt-if-mps-really-want-to-stop-no-deal-time-to-revisit-corbyns-offer/

Johnson has also confirmed that he’s a Stalinist by purging the Tory rebels, who now have absolutely nothing to lose by voting against the government and bringing it down. And as various bloggers, like Zelo Street, have already remarked, it also shows up the horrendous hypocrisy of the press. They were howling a few months ago that Corbyn was an evil Stalinist because he gave the constituency parties the power to deselect their MPs. How terrible and dictatorial, reinforcing internal party democracy like that! In fact, Corbyn hasn’t deselected anyone. But Johnson has. And the Tories are likely to have been embarrassed by it. When BoJob first made the threat, James Cleverly – surely a misnomer? – tweeted out that the party has no mechanism for deselecting MPs. Perhaps not, but Duce Boris has still kicked them out of the party nonetheless. Still, it could have been worse. Dictator Boris could have gone full Hitler and had them all killed like the SA during the Night of the Long Knives. I wonder who would have taken the part of the SS? Conservative Future, perhaps? They seem to be racist enough, if not necessarily that violent.

Here’s the Guardian’s video of Philip Lee crossing the floor:

I hope these are just the first of many defeats leading to this vicious, murderous government finally collapsing. And hopefully taking the whole Tory party down with it for good.

No, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, You and the Press Are also Guilty for Enabling Johnson’s Dictatorship

August 29, 2019

Yesterday the I’s columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown took it upon herself to identify the ‘guilty men’ responsible for enabling Johnson’s seizure of dictatorial power yesterday. This followed an anonymous piece by someone calling themselves ‘Cato the Younger’, with the title of ‘The Guilty Men’. ‘Cato’ blames thirteen western leaders, two of whom are women. Alibhai-Brown, however, put up her own, shorter list of six men. They are George Osborne, Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Now I agree with her identification of all the above as causes of the crisis, with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn. She includes him because he

has been another unknowing collaborator. He still can’t find the voice or moral clarity to oppose Brextremism, and is worryingly beholden to his close, maniacally anti-capitalist advisers. He could come out for Remain and let, say, Caroline Lucas lead a temporary government of unity. It won’t happen. Not even in our dreams.

This is utter balderdash, just Centrist, anti-Corbyn propaganda. Corbyn has made his views on Brexit very clear. He was going to get Britain the best deal he could. If he couldn’t, he would hold a general election and/or second referendum. This, however, has not been reported in the press and media, which still continues to trot out the pat lie that he never campaigned properly for Remain. Swinson, the leader of the Lib Dems, was asserting this outright lie again the other day, claiming that Corbyn was ‘nowhere to be seen’ at the Referendum campaign. He certainly was. Matt Thomas posted a tweet declaring that Corbyn made 123 media appearances, attended 15 rallies and posted 118 pro-Remain tweets. Swinson herself posted only a couple of tweets for Remain.

And Tory Fibs also tweeted

That is a provable lie. During the EU Referendum Campaign 7 May-22 June 2016, Corbyn, over 46 days, campaigned as follows:

• Traveled 5851km
• Spoke at 15 rallies
• Sent 100 Remain Tweets
• Achieved 33,760 retweets
• Received media exposure 120 times

and contrasted this with Swinson’s own lamentable performance. While Professor Andrew Russell pointed out that the Lib Dems, by contrast, were ‘conspicuous by their absence’.

Academic exposes ‘invisible’ LibDem’s Brexit hypocrisy. Swinson pushing UK toward no-deal Brexit

As for Corbyn being ‘worryingly beholden’ to ‘maniacally anti-capitalist advisers’, this is just a bit of doubletalk trying to stir up the Red Scare about Corbyn and the Labour party a little more. One of Corbyn’s advisors is hard Left. Seumas Milne is, I believe, a real Stalinist. But Corbyn isn’t, neither is he a Trotskyite, or any other kind of Communist. And the Labour party’s programme is simply a return to the mixed-economy, strong welfare state with strong unions that gave Britain three to four decades of prosperity and economic growth after the War.

And then there’s Alibhai-Brown’s whinge that he didn’t make way for Caroline Lucas’ female-only unity government. But this was never a realistic proposal. It was profoundly sexist, and ignored the profound differences between all of the women Lucas invited to join her. It looks to me far more like an attention-grabbing stunt than a serious proposal. It also belies Alibhai-Brown’s claim to be concerned about the poor. Earlier in her article, attacking George Osborne, she states quite correctly that he

punished the neediest, weakened the welfare state and rewarded the richest. Those “left behinds” who voted for Brexit were deliberately left behind by this coldly ideology, small-state Tory.

All of which is correct. And it also describes precisely many of the women Lucas invited to join her unity government. They were also ideological Thatcherites, determined to punish the poor, reward the rich, and destroy the welfare state. And it’s remarkable that Alibhai-Brown, who has spent her journalistic career fighting racing, hasn’t pointed out that not one BAME woman was included on Lucas’ list.

Of course, the real reason Alibhai-Brown is trying to dump on Corbyn yet again, is because she shares her masters’ fears about a Corbyn government that would really empower working people and bring the profiteering super-rich to heel. And so a fair amount of the blame for BoJob’s seizure of power should go to the men and women of the Fourth Estate. 

Murdoch’s papers naturally share a very large part of the blame, because they have relentless hyped and promoted the Tories and particularly Boris Johnson. So have the Torygraph, owned by the weirdo Barclay twins, while the Heil and Depress have also pushed the same extreme right-wing views.

But the nominally left-press should also shoulder their fare share of the blame. The Groaniad, Absurder and the I followed the Tory press in lying about, vilifying and smearing Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, for exactly the same reasons as the Tory papers: they are afraid of anything that really empowers the working class. The only difference is that they have tried to dress up their Thatcherism with some shreds of progressive ideology. The I, for example, tried promoting Sandi Toksvig Women’s Equality Party. That feminist organisation’s credentials went out the window when Toksvig declared her backing for Hillary Clinton in the American presidential election. Clinton shared her husband’s attack on the American welfare state, such as it was, passed racist legislation designed to come down hardest on Blacks supposedly to tackle the ‘war on drugs’, and presided over an aggressive programme of regime change every bit as militaristic as George Bush’s. Clinton was very much a member of the American establishment, but she tried telling everyone she wasn’t, ’cause of her gender. Now we have Alibhai-Brown trying out the same tactics in promoting Lucas against Corbyn. And in doing so Alibhai-Brown shows what a hypocrite she is.

She, and the rest of the press, have also contributed to Johnson’s resistible rise. All of them have supported the neoliberal economics that have empowered the Tory Brexiteers, even when, like Swinson, they claimed otherwise. The left-wing press could have got behind Corbyn. They didn’t. And so they deserve their share of the blame, along with the Tory rags, for keeping the Tories in power, and allowing Johnson to elevate himself to virtual dictator. 

To Stop the Fash, Vote Labour against Farage

May 23, 2019

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m asking everyone to vote Labour today to stop the rise of Fascism generally and Nigel Farage’s grubby Brexit party in particular. Mike’s put up a piece this morning making this point, and citing some great tweets from people who know exactly what’s at stake.

As Zelo Street pointed out yesterday, Farage is not a man of the people. He’s one of the elite he rails against, hobnobbing with George Osborne and nipping round to Buck House for garden parties with the Queen. He’s a millionaire financier who wants to privatise the NHS and destroy the welfare state. He will do absolutely nothing about low wages and exploitative part time and zero hours contracts. And if he wins, he will receive immense support from Tory defectors and donors, flocking to him in reaction to the failures of their own party. Or else his victory will encourage them to become even more virulently right-wing.

He is anti-feminist and racist. One of his old teachers has said that he used to sing Nazi songs when he was a schoolboy and was something of a Fascist even then. The Brexit party, like UKIP, is not just against the EU but against immigration, and particularly and most vehemently against non-Whites and Muslims. Under Farage, UKIP used an photograph of a long line of Muslim immigrants waiting to get into the West that was exactly like a similar picture of Jewish migrants fleeing eastern Europe used by the Nazis.

Hope Not Hate are so worried about the Far Right winning that they are urging their supporters to tweet that they are voting today, and that they will take people to the polling booths to stop Farage winning by voting for any other party except those of the far right. This is the message I got from them today by email:

I’ve just done the most important thing I can do in this campaign – vote.

This election has been extraordinary. From Nigel Farage to Carl Benjamin to Tommy Robinson, we’ve seen a huge number of people standing for office on a platform of hatred and division.

The most effective antidote to the poison they seek to spread is a simple act that all of us can engage in today – voting.

That’s why I’m sending you this email. I need you to do two things:

    1. Click here to send a tweet saying that you’re voting today
    2. Head to your polling station today and #VoteHOPE

Those standing on a platform of hate all have one thing in common – they are relying on a low voter turnout to win their elections. That’s why it’s so important that as well as voting yourself, you also get everyone you know to do the same.

Whether it’s taking your colleagues to the polling station on your lunch break, or posting on social media to reach as many people as possible, it’s vital that we get everyone we know to a voting booth before 10pm.

Good luck, and have a great day.

Nick Lowles

CEO, HOPE not hate

One of those links is for donations to the organisation. I haven’t done so myself, but I do encourage everyone to take their advice about voting. Obviously, they’re not asking people specifically to vote Labour. But I believe that only the Labour party will stand a chance of defeating the Fuhrage and the rest of the Fascists through creating a strong anti-Fascist bloc in Europe and attacking the root causes of the rise of Fascism: neoliberalism.

People have fought and died to get working men and women the vote. Use it, and vote wisely.

But if you can’t vote Labour, then please vote for one of the mainstream, non-racist parties.

It’s imperative to vote Labour. But even more so is the need to stop the Fash (Fascists) winning.

No pasaran!

 

Private Eye on the Real Reason James Dyson Is Moving His Business to Singapore

February 8, 2019

A week or so ago I put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on the outrage James Dyson caused when he announced that he was moving his company’s HQ to Singapore.

Dyson has been given a great deal of support from this country, and in the West Country he was regarded, or at least presented by the local media as a local hero. But he’s done this before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath give him more land to expand his business. They refused, so he decided instead to expand in the Far East. He needn’t have done so. If there was no room at Bath, he could have happily gone to other south-western towns. He already has plants in Malmesbury and Bristol, for example. Or gone further afield, like Wales or the north, which would also have been glad to have him. But he didn’t.

It was especially hypocritical as Dyson was telling everyone within earshot a few years ago that we should have joined the Euro. Then he decided he was backing Brexit. Now it appears that he has gone to Singapore partly because they’ve signed a trade agreement with the EU, which would make it easier for him to export his goods to them from there rather than Blighty.

Private Eye has run two pieces on Dyson in this fortnight’s edition for 8th-21st February 2019. And they make it very clearly that he’s going for the same reasons every exploitative multinational is heading abroad due to neoliberalism: to take advantages of countries with low tax rates, where workers can be hired and fired almost at will. The first article, ‘Bye-Bye Suckers!’ on page 7, runs

So Sir James Dyson’s relentless bullishness about post-Brexit Britain was so much hot air. The man who will now move his HQ to Singapore evidently has little real faith that Brexit will unleash the potential he has long claimed.

Th benefits of Singapore are likely to go beyond the proximity to his Asian empire that Dyson claims. By moving east it will also be easier to reduce workers’ rights. As Dyson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr last year: “This is controversial, but since I don’t know what orders I’m going to get next month or next year, industry, manufacturing industry’s very volatile. Not being able to flex your workforce is another big reason why you wouldn’t start a manufacturing business or expand a manufacturing business.” Elsewhere, he agreed bluntly, it was easier to hire and fire.”

This is not the most generous response to what the UK has given Dyson. Since 2012 his group has sucked up around 100m pounds in tax credits, ie discounts on its corporation tax bill. IN 2011 the then chancellor George Osborne brought in a special tax break for buyers of “energy efficient hand-dryers”, which meant…Dyson airlades.

There’s more information in the Eye’s ‘In the City’ column, entitled ‘Singapore fling’ on page 41. This runs

What is it that so attracts billionaire inventor, entrepreneur and avid Brexiteer Sir James Dyson to Singapore? Last month he announced that his privately owned Dyson group was switching legal residence to the Far East city state for “commercial reasons” and “future-proofing”. This followed the decision to produce the Dyson electric car in Singapore from 2020.

The Dyson party line is that the imminent move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax – it will still pay UK tax on UK operations – but all to do with Singapore being a lot closer to China, its main market, than Wiltshire. Who knew? Dyson’s 2bn pound move from hairdryers and bagless vacuum cleaners into cars is his biggest gamble.

So what does Singapore have over a “no deal” Brexit Britain – which Dyson welcomed? What about:

* A recent free trade agreement with the EU, to go with ones with China and the United States, plus the Singapore Freeport;

* International companies who headquarter themselves in Singapore can see corporation tax (currently 17 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in the UK) fall to 10 or 5 per cent or even zero, thanks to lengthy tax breaks and generous incentives, especially for those who create jobs;

* No tax on dividends – the Dyson family could have paid 38 per cent on the 86m pound dividends for 2017 (down from 111m) from the parent Weybourne Group;

* No capital gains tax on a future sale or inheritance tax (IHT) (Dyson is 71);

* Less stringent corporate disclosure and governance requirements for private companies (a Dyson moan);

* Finally, no risk from a Corbyn government targeting the rich.

Dyson moved control offshore once before – to Malta in 2009 – then returned in 2013. He has also legitimately taken advantage of film tax schemes and IHT-efficient investments in agricultural land. Still, Singapore tax and access attractions clearly played no role in the move east by this latter-day Stanford Raffles, who assured Leave voters that no deal with the EU was no problem because “they’ll come to us”. Now it seems Dyson has decided to go to them.

Evening Standard Set to Sell Editorial Independence to Big Business

June 4, 2018

This is a very sobering video from Novara Media, which shows precisely how degraded the mainstream media is becoming, and implicitly, why independent news outlets like Novara and the other news sites and shows I repost here are so necessary.

Aaron Bastani reports and comments on an article put up by Open Democracy last Wednesday that the Evening Standard is due to sell its editorial independence to big business tomorrow, 5th July 2018. This move, led by editor George Osborne, who not at all coincidentally used to be Dave Cameron’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, will see the paper sell positive coverage to firms like Google and Uber for £3 million. Bastani states that this is important, as it breaks down the divide between journalism and paid-for advertising content. But, he continues, it’s nothing new.

He then talks about how the Evening Standard is owned by a collection of shady Russian oligarchs, and reflects their business interests. He goes on to describe how the media is increasingly dominated by Tory politicians. The first person to interview Donald Trump when he became president was Michael Gove in the Times. Danny Finkelstein is a Tory lord, and the Standard’s Associate Editor. Robbie Gibb, who is the brother of a Tory MP, and was Theresa May’s head of communications, edited the Beeb’s Daily and Sunday Politics. Boris Johnson has a column at the Torygraph, even though he’s Foreign Secretary.

Bastani concludes that the revolving door between politics, industry and the media has vanished, and those hitherto separate areas have become fused. He makes the point that while quality journalism is a public good, if it’s left to Osborne, Johnson, Gove and Lebedev we will have ‘a profoundly broken society’.

Bastani’s right, but this is just the latest development in a process that has been going on for a very long time. Editorial independence in many papers declined in the 1980s, when newspapers like the Observer were bought up by magnates with interests in multiple industries. Tiny Rowland, who owned the Observer, owned mining concerns in Zimbabwe, and so spiked stories that paper wanted to run exposing human rights abuses there. I also remember how, in the 1990s, Private Eye also ran articles every so often revealing how the Observer had published yet another glowing article about a country or corporation, without revealing that it was a puff piece paid for by the nation or company featured.

It’s also been the case that politicians very often have had their own columns in the papers, or written the odd article about a particular issue. Sometimes this happened after they left office. For example, David Blunkett was given a column in the Sun by Rupert Murdoch. As for Robbie Gibb at the Beeb, Mike’s put up a number of articles about the way the news department at the Beeb is dominated by members of the Tory party, including Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg. And it seems every couple of months someone else leaves the Beeb to work for the Tories. But the Corporation still keeps on pompously denying that it’s biased, despite its vicious attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

But Bastani’s piece does show how far this process has gone, and is set to go, with the Evening Standard providing puff pieces for global corporations as news, while being packed, like the rest of the right-wing media, with Tory MPs. It’s almost a case of life imitating art. Or rather satire. Remember a few years ago, when people started satirising the corporate media with comments like ‘And now for our corporate approved content’, and slogans like ‘Remember: Corporate loves you.’ It now looks almost like Osborne saw the satire, but thought it was a good idea.

Until the mainstream media reforms itself, it has shown that it absolutely cannot be trusted. And people are far better off taking their news from the alternative media instead.

RT Reports on People Attacking Robots and Driverless Cars in California

March 9, 2018

This is a very short video – about 2 1/2 minutes long – I found over on YouTube by RT. It reports attacks on driverless cars and other robots by the good folks of California. The other robots attacked include a robot guard, designed to shoo the homeless away from business entrances, which was put out of action several times, and a robot burger chef. The machine is basically just an arm and hand, which is shown flipping burgers, and laying them out ready for the bun. The attacks on this machine have included comments about it taking people’s jobs.

The piece cuts to an expert, who says that when you have predictions that mechanisation will destroy half the jobs in America, which will cause massive social dislocation – people are going to be angry. He then makes the anodyne statement that they have to find ways to make automation work for the benefit of everyone.

There is no way under capitalism that automation will work for everyone. Value under capitalism is determined by scarcity. The scarcer and more vital a product or service is, the more people are willing to pay for it. Hence the neoliberal dictum that there must be a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ to bring down wages, whatever George Osborne and the other liars in the Tory party say about reducing unemployment. Making half the workforce unemployed will create immense poverty, but I can see the Tories and their backers salivating over that, as it means jobs will become more precious, and the working and lower middle class more dispirited and willing to put up with even worse condition to get them.

Of course, one solution would be to nationalise the companies not using a given proportion of human labour, so that their profits could be used to benefit everyone, perhaps through a universal citizen wage. The Polish SF author, Stanislaw Lem, mentioned this option in one of his short stories in Tales of Pirx the Pilot. But there’s no way this is going to happen, as the Tories and other apologists for capitalism will scream blue murder about the sanctity of private industry. Even when that industry is destroying jobs for private profit.

There needs to be a complete change in the structure of our society, if such widespread automation goes ahead. And it should begin by kicking out the Tories and the other corporatist politicos.

George Osborne Lies about Responsibility for the Collapse of Carillion

January 16, 2018

No, not Marillion, who had a hit in the 1980s with the classic, ‘Kayleigh’, and whose singer was called Fish, ’cause he drank like one, but Carillion, the outsourcing giant which has gone belly-up.

Mike’s put up a post about Carillion’s collapse, pointing out that the company was in dire financial trouble, and had issued at least three profit warnings. But miraculously it was still able to win government contracts.

George Osborne, our former comedy Chancellor to Dave Cameron’s comedy Prime Minister, decided to put his oar in today. Faced with the question of who was responsible for awarding these contracts to the ailing company, Osborne did what every Tory does: he lied and spun. Oh no, whined Osborne, now the editor of the Evening Standard, it’s not the Tories’ responsibility they got government contracts. It’s all the fault of civil servants.

Er, no, George. It’s not. It’s your fault, and the fault of every Thatcherite government since the days of John Major.

If you enter the civil service, you will be told that it is your duty to provide the government with impartial advice. This marks the British civil service out from its continental cousins, where the upper levels of the civil service belong to the ruling party, and so change with each election. There have been cases when the civil service has been less than impartial, such as when the rail network was privatised. This was the brainchild of a particular civil servant, who was a keen promoter of free market private enterprise. But this particular mandarin has been and gone.

Looking back, a scandal like Carillion was almost inevitable. When outsourcing began in the 1990s under John Major, firms like Capita, dubbed ‘Crapita’ by Private Eye, became notorious for the way they continually got government contracts, despite coming in late and over budget on just about all those they had been awarded. Or else the systems they installed just didn’t work. But it was Tory – and Blairite – ideology that private enterprise was always better than the state, even when, to most people, it most certainly wasn’t. And there was a revolving door between these firms and the Tory party. Under John Major, the various ministers responsible for privatising particular firms magically got jobs on the board of the same, now private companies, afterwards. Amazing! But civil servants weren’t to blame for that, although certain high level civil servants did benefit from the revolving door, particularly and most notoriously in the MOD. The system got so bad that John Major’s government got a justifiable reputation for ‘sleaze’. But a French politician was much more accurate in his description of it. He said that in Britain, we called it ‘sleaze’, but in La Patrie, they simply called it ‘corruption’. Indeed. Over the other side of La Manche, a civil servant or politician has to wait two years after they’ve retired from office before they can take up a job with a private firm. Which means that their address book, which is what the firm really wants, is out of date, and they’re of no value to them. Problem solved.

Carillion was allowed to go on because of a series of legislation put in place by the Tories to protect the outsourcing companies. Like as private companies, they are not subject to FOIA, and any attempts to probe their financial affairs is automatically denied by the government on the grounds of ‘corporate confidentiality’. You see, such requests would jeopardise their position by opening them up to scrutiny by their rivals. We’ve seen this used when justifying giving contracts to private firms in the NHS. NHS performance is published and scrutinised, but not those of the private firms angling for lucrative NHS contracts.

This has been brought in by the Tories, including Dave Cameron and George Osborne.

And while we’re at it, let’s make the point that much government advice doesn’t come from the civil service. It came from private consultants, like Anderson Consulting, who were responsible for turning the Benefits Agency as was into the shambles it now is. Under Tony Blair this grew to enormous proportions, so that Blair was taking advice from SPADs -Special Advisors – from private industry, rather than the civil service.

So it’s fair to ask which set of private consultants argued that Carillion ought to be given a contract? Perhaps no-one did, but I think it’s a fair question, given just how much sponsorship the Tories received from private industry. Was Carillion one of their corporate donors?

So who’s responsible for the government awards given to Carillion? You are, George. You, Cameron, and your whole disgusting party. Now stop lying. You were rubbish as chancellor, and you’ve got no business editing a paper either.

Justine Greening Wants Tories to Re-Introduce Maintenance Grants – More Lies from the Tories?

October 5, 2017

The I newspaper yesterday reported that Justine Greening, the Tory education minister, wants to reintroduce maintenance grants for the poorest students in order to combat Labour’s popularity with them over the issue of student debt.

The I wrote

Ministers are preparing plans to bring back university maintenance grants. The move is part of the “broader thinking” being undertaken by the Department for Education to implement policies that will have greater appeal to younger voters.

The level of debt in which graduates are leaving university has come under mounting scrutiny in recent months. Tuition fees became a major election battleground following Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to scrap the policy which saw young voters flock to Labour in their droves.

Over the weekend, Theresa May announced plans to freeze tuition fees at £9,250 a year while the income threshold at which graduates will be expected to start paying back their loans was raised from £21,000 to £25,000.

But I understands that the DfE wants to go further and bring back maintenance grants to help the poorest students as the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, battles with the Treasury to push through the plans.

“We didn’t think it is right that the poorest students come out of the university with the most debt,” a senior DfE source said.

The source refused to rule out that the plans could be contained in the Budget next month, although separate sources said the plans were not that advanced.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, bringing back maintenance grants would cost just under £500m. the IFS published research yesterday showing that the Prime Minister’s plans to raise the repayment threshold would cost the taxpayer £2.3bn a year, and lead to 83 per cent of graduates never paying off the full amount of their loan.

The former Chancellor George Osborne announced in 2015 that maintenance grants would be scrapped in time for the start of the 2016 academic year as part of the Government’s austerity drive. The grants were kept by the devolved government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The move to abolish the funding meant students from the lowest-income households were forced to take out loans on top of their tuition fees loans to pay for living costs.

Labour has said it would bring back the grants, and the policy is gaining support from university vice-chancellors. Universities UK, which represents the majority of higher education institutions in Britain, said the return of maintenance grants would be a “welcome enhancement”.

Alistair Jarvis, UK’s chief executive, said: “Students tell us that it is cash in their pockets while studying that matters most.

“It is right to continue to examine how the current system can be improved to ensure that money isn’t a barrier for students.”

See Greening battles Treasury for maintenance grants return, in the I for Wednesday, 4th October 2017, page 4.

So an anonymous source in the Department of Education claims that Justine Greening would like to bring back maintenance grants, as Labour intends to do so, thus becoming massively popular with the young people looking at being saddled with massive debt. And other sources say the plans aren’t that advanced, and the Treasury don’t want it.

This shows that the claims is yet another lie, intended to make the Tories look more like they actually care about providing for the British public, rather than giving more money to the extremely rich.

Just as the article shows that Theresa May’s plan to cap student debt still would leave four-fifth of all students unable to pay it off.

And Mike has shown how May’s claim to freeze tuition fees actually represents an increase. And who’s going to bet that the freeze only lasts as long May decides it’s convenient. Which from the evidence of the rest of her broken promises, means that it’ll be dumped as soon as she gets back into power. Assuming that ever happens.

The Tories are lying to us again. Just like they always do. But students aren’t daft, and I doubt anyone is going to be taken it.

If you want to make sure our young people are able to go to uni to get the education they want, and which this country needs, then vote Labour so that Corbyn can do something about the monstrous level of student debt forty years of Thatcherism have inflicted on students.

‘Bomber’ Fallon and the Merchants of Death Arms Fair in London

September 17, 2017

Mike today has put up a piece over at Vox Political commenting on Michael Fallon’s speech yesterday at the DSEI arms fair in London. Fallon, who earned the monicker ‘Bomber’ because of a speech in which he declared that Britain had a moral duty to bomb the peoples of the Middle East, now went on to say that, thanks to Brexit, Britain’s future as the world’s leading arms exporter looked good. And that we should try to sell armaments to anyone in the world, regardless of morality.

Mike makes the point that Fallon’s comments are insensitive, coming as they do when Britain is selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is using it to kill innocent civilians, including children in schools and madrasas, in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia has no qualms whatsoever against using such armaments against us. 17 of the 19 people involved in the 9/11 hijacking were Saudis, and the trail of responsibility for that atrocity goes right up to the top of the Saudi government itself.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/17/warmonger-fallon-wants-the-uk-to-sell-arms-to-anyone-who-wants-them/

This weekend’s Counterpunch also carries an article by Michael Dickinson, ‘Stop the London Death Fair’, about the DSEI trade fair and its dealings with some of the world’s most evil and repressive governments. It begins

Roll up! Roll up! Ballistic missiles and hand grenades! Drones, helicopters and warships! Rocket launchers, tanks and assault rifles! Welcome to the biennial London Arms Fair! Showing now until 15th September at the Excel Centre in Docklands, the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) – “a world-leading event that brings together the defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge” – presents one of the world’s biggest arms bazaars, displaying the latest high-tech arms and surveillance technology, crowd control and weaponry. This year the exhibition is split into five key zones: air, land, security and joint, all showcasing the latest equipment and systems. DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, with extensive cooperation from the British government.

Military personnel, politicians, private defence contractors and consultants mingle as they shop. Countries accused of war crimes and human rights abuses, Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Ukraine are among the invited. Although not an official guest, the Israeli arms industry has special pavilions at the venue, where over 34,000 visitors are expected to view the latest in killing weaponry for sale, exhibited by more than 1,600 arms companies, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

With authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan among the official UK government guests in attendance, this year’s keynote speakers at the opening day conference included British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and many of the top brass in the UK military establishment. Fox said that overseas governments had an inaliable right to defend themselves and that if they could not buy the equipment they required from developed countries with effective controls, like the UK, they would look elsewhere. Last year Britain’s arms export industry turned over 3 billion pounds.

Andrew Smith, a spokesman from the activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “DSEI is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. It exists purely to maximise arms sales. Prime Minister Theresa May and her colleagues may talk about promoting human rights but DSEI could not happen without the full support of government. A lot of the regimes in attendance have been linked to terrible human rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in future. It is vitally important to spread as much awareness as possible of this terrible arms fair taking place. ”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/stop-the-london-death-fair/

Conservative governments, including Margaret Thatcher’s, keenly supported the British arms industry, and this policy was taken over, along with just about everything else, by Tony Blair and New Labour. It’s hardly surprising. George Orwell remarked when he finally gave up his anti-War stance in the face of the Nazi threat, and went to work for the BBC writing anti-Nazi and pro-war material, that if you’re a member of the British upper and upper middle classes, you’re bred for war. This has always been true, ever since the modern armed forces emerged from the military aristocracies of the Middle Ages. The officer elite has always been solidly middle class, although there has been some efforts to make it more diverse.

The government has tried to defend its massive support for the arms industry by arguing that arms sales open up foreign markets to British industry generally. After buying some of that ‘wonderful kit’ David Cameron enthused about, foreign nations would go on to buy other British products and services. But they don’t. They buy British weapons, tanks and other pieces of hardware, and nothing else.

And the British ruling class, its politicians and senior civil servants, also stand to benefit personally from the arms trade. Private Eye for decades has exposed the revolving door between the MOD and British defence ministers, and the arms industry, in which British generals and officials find very lucrative places on the boards of defence contractors and arms manufacturers once they retire or leave office.

As for the private military contractors, previously known as mercenaries, that the British government has supported, these have been used by the Tories to give unofficial support to regimes, where it would have been otherwise embarrassing for Britain to send in the regular army. Like Sri Lanka.

It hardly needs stating that the arms industry is a deeply immoral trade, and that by lauding Britain’s role in it Fallon has shown the complete absence of any kind of moral consideration for the victims of these weapons and a complete indifference to the nature of the regimes he intends to sell them to.

As far as he’s concerned, war is a business. And business is good.

Close down the arms fair, and kick out Fallon and the rest of his vile government.