Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

December 4, 2019

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

Lib Dems Now Claiming that Only They Can Stop Tory Majority

November 30, 2019

The Lib Dems have started changing their tactics, I see. According to an article in last Monday’s I, 25th November 2019, Jo Swinson has scaled back her ambitions. She is no longer saying that the Lib Dems are going to form a government. Instead, she’s just claiming that it’s only her party that can stop the Tories forming a majority. The article by Nigel Morris reads

Jo Swinson says the Liberal Democrats are best placed to prevent Boris Johnson securing a majority as her party continues to scale back its election ambitions.

The party no longer portrays its leader as a prime minister in waiting as it struggles to make headway in opinion polls.

Ms Swinson acknowledged the Prime Minister appeared to be ‘on course’ for victory at the moment. And she signalled the Lib Dems were changing tack to argue that Remain supporters should support them to stop Mr Johnson winning a majority for his version of Brexit. Surveys yesterday suggested the party averages around 15 per cent in the polls, which could leave them with fewer than the 21 seats they held when the election was called.

Ms Swinson suggested on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that she could give the go-ahead for Mr Johnson’s Brexit blueprint as long as it was conditional on a second referendum.

This should raise red flags for anyone, who really think the Lib Dems are progressive and are actually the party of Remain. It has always seemed to me that Swinson’s support for the Remain campaign was tactical. Only two per cent more of her party support Remain than the number of Labour supporters who do so. And she is absolutely not a progressive in any sense of the word. She’s an arch-Thatcherite. She consistently voted with the government under the Tories, in fact far more so than many leading Conservatives. And she wants to put up a statue to Thatcher.

This looks to me that she’s trying to imply that she’s willing to form a coalition with Labour when she absolutely isn’t. She’s said that she would prefer a Conservative government to Corbyn, and that’s definitely the way she’ll go. If there is another hung parliament and it’s a choice between the two parties, she’ll do exactly what Nick Clegg did and join Boris in government without a moment’s hesitation. And I think that in negotiations between the parties, her commitment to a second referendum will be jettisoned. Or postponed. Or something, so she doesn’t have to act on it.

Don’t be misled. Swinson is preparing to sell out Lib Dem voters yet again. Just like her party did under Clegg.

 

Mates Jacob Publishes His Dossier of Tory Islamophobia

November 22, 2019

Last Friday, Zelo Street put up a very informative piece about Mates Jacob’s decision to publish his dossier about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party. Mates Jacob is the internet personality, who published details of the racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia he found on Twitter and other internet groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And it was a very nasty, seething mass of bigotry and hate he uncovered. They demanded the usual stop to immigration before moving on to deportation and even assault and murder against Blacks and Asians, and particularly against Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan.

Zelo Street reports that Mates Jacob had refrained from publishing his dossier on islamophobia in the wider Tory party in the hope that chairman James Cleverly would do something about it. Well, Cleverly and they had their chance, and they blew it. This is going to be another inquiry the Tories will hold after the election. So Mates Jacob has published it. And Zelo Street has in its turn blogged about a selection of Tory politicos in the dossier, and their vile views. They are:

Councillor Roger Taylor of Calderdale council,

Councillor Beverley Dunlop of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council,

Councillor Christopher Newbury of Wiltshire council,

Councillor Danny Scott of Blackpool council,

Councillor Vera Walters of Walsall council,

Councillor Duane Farr of Bournemouth Council,

Councillor Alistair Redman of Argyle and Brute council,

Councillor Malcolm Griffiths of Redcar and Cleve Council,

Councillor Paul Marks of Kettering council,

Councillor Nick Colbert of South Somerset council.

They have been caught expressing such delightful opinions, like wondering why the anti-racist journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still in Britain, demanding an inquiry into Muslim rape gangs targeting White girls; worrying about Marseilles becoming Europe’s first Muslim majority city, describing Muslims as ‘barbarians’ and wondering why anyone has a problem with PEGIDA; stating that Muslims have been terrorising and seeking to dominate everyone who isn’t of their faith for over a thousand years through imperialist, colonialist wars; demanding a halt to immigration from Africa and describing famine as a natural method of depopulation; admiring the way the BNP doesn’t shy away from tackling issues others wouldn’t due to political correctness;  promoting a video from Paul Joseph Watson entitled ‘The Islamic State of Sweden’; describing the Afghan boy who attacked and injured four people on a train in Germany as ‘chopping them up’ and remarking sarcastically that it must have something to do with Brexit; and claiming that voter fraud was massive, when it’s so small it’s insignificant, and that it’s all down to women in hijabs handing over ballot papers to imams.

Now it’s true that Islam has expanded through imperialist wars, as has Christianity. But this is only part of the religion’s history, just as it is only part of Christianity’s.  And it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Muslims, many of whom are the victims of horrendous persecution, like the Rohingya in Burma and the Uyghurs in China.

The sage of Crewe concludes his piece by pointing out that these are only ten of many more in the Tory party, who hold similar views, and that Cleverly hasn’t done anything about them. He states

‘There is only one major political party that is institutionally racist. And it is the Conservative Party.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-islamophobia-laid-bare.html

Well, there’s also the Brexit party and the remnants of what used to be UKIP, but it’s a fair point. The Tories have no business smearing Corbyn and Labour as anti-Semites, when there is so much more hatred and bigotry in their ranks. And they aren’t going to do anything about it, because as we’ve seen from the Hostile Environment policy and the Windrush deportations, and indeed from the contents of papers like the Mail and Depress, they use racism to promote themselves.

 

South Mead Hospital and the Manufactured NHS Funding Crisis

July 21, 2016

The BBC’s local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, reported tonight that the city’s Southmead hospital is in a financial crisis, and needs something like a further £48 million. This is in common with very many NHS hospitals across the country. And it’s not accidental. The contributors to the book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS-SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, make the point that under Labour the NHS was kept within budget. They further point out that the budget should be sufficient for its needs now. It isn’t, because of the way the system is being broken up and privatised from within. The result of this is that money is not allocated to where it is needed. Furthermore, the NHS is being deliberately starved of funds, so that more services can be awarded to private sector hospitals, and private sector firms encouraged to take over NHS hospitals, as so many have been before. Now it seems Southmead hospital is one of those slated to be given to private sector management. Or amalgamated with another hospital under a PFI programme.

It’s disgusting. This is the result of nearly forty years of Thatcherism, including Blairite New Labour and Cameron’s and May’s Conservatives. This needs to be reversed. The only politician, who is interested in doing so is Jeremy Corbyn. He needs to be supported. In the meantime, I urge everyone concerned at the privatisation of the NHS to read Davis’ and Tallis’ book.

Ctesias and Florence on Big Business in Government after Monbiot’s Book

April 24, 2016

Terry Davies, one of the commenters on this blog, wondered what happened to some of the corporate fat cats listed in George Monbiot’s chapter, ‘The Fat Cats Directory’ in his book Captive State. Florence, another commenter, added a few details to the subsequent roles in government of some of the corporatist politicos in her comments on my article on the corrupting influence of the supermarket chains in politics, from the same book. She wrote:

Sainsbury, an old Etonian, stopped funding the Labour party when Ed Miliband became leader, but has handsomely funded Progress, the Blairite party within the party since then. Progress supports those attacking Jeremy Corbyn and lobby against the democratically elected leader. They have placed many “true Blairite” New Labour supporters (neo libs) throughout the party. The electoral commission fined two Blairite groups in 2014 – Progress and Movement for Change – for failing to register political donations from Sainsbury who was not at the time on the UK electoral register, although the fines, totaling £11000, were small beer against Sainsbury’s donations of an average of £260,00 PER YEAR. The Progress group also declared donations from the others in the retail sector including the British Retail Consortium. None of this funding is actually available to the Labour Party.

She also cited a piece in the Guardian on how Britain’s health policy under Andrew Lansley was written with the assistance of the junk food manufacturers.

From Nov 2010 in the Guardian – “McDonalds and Pepsi Co helped write UK Health Policy”. These plus Diagio, Kellogs, and other manufacturers of junk food were at the heart of the writing of policy on obesity, alcohol and diet -related diseases, along with strong presence from the supermarkets, through the board chaired by Andrew Lansley (Con). Medical professionals were “concerned”.

So the corporatists are still there. They’ve simply jumped ship and are now subsidising and sponsoring the Tories. Or else they’re doing exactly David Sainsbury is doing, and giving money to the Blairite faction in order to turn the Labour party away from anything resembling Socialism into another clone of the Tory party.

Big corporations in parliament: your poverty and disease is their profit.

Ha-Joon Chang on the Failings of Free Market Capitalism

March 30, 2016

Chang Capitalism Book pic

Ha-Joon Chang is a Korean-born Cambridge economist, who has popped up here and there because of his criticisms of Neo-Liberal free market economics. Mike over at Vox Political, for example, has reblogged a meme quoting him on how trickle down economics don’t work, and are merely there to transfer wealth upwards to the rich in the form of tax cuts. He’s also the author of a popular book on economics and the failings of the free market, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (London: Penguin 2010).

Chang makes it clear that his book is not an attack on capitalism per se. He states in the Introduction

This book is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same as being against capitalism. Despite its problems and limitations, I believe that capitalism is still the best economic system that humanity has invented. My criticism is of a particular version of capitalism that has dominated the world in the last three decades, that is, free-market capitalism. This is not the only way to run capitalism, and certainly not the best, as the record of the last three decades shows. The book shows that there are ways in which capitalism should, and can, be made better.

He is, however, very clear on the devastation that has been wrought across the globe by the doctrine of the unrestrained free market.

The result of these policies has been the polar opposite of what was promised. Forget for a moment the financial meltdown, which will scar the world for decades to come. Prior to that, and unbeknown to most people, free-market ideologies had resulted in slower growth, rising inequality and heightened instability in most countries. In many rich countries, these problems were masked by huge credit expansion; thus the fact that US wages had remained stagnant and working hours increased since the 1970s was conveniently fogged over by the head brew of credit-fuelled consumer boom. the problems were bad enough in the rich countries, but they were even more serious for the developing world. Living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa have stagnated for the last three decades, while Latin America has seen its per capita growth rate fall by two-thirds during the period. There were some developing countries that grew fast (although with rapidly rising inequality) during this period, such as China and India, but these are precisely the countries that, while partially liberalizing, have refused to introduce full-blown free-market policies.

Thus, what we were told by the free-marketeers – or, as they are often called, neo-liberal economists, are at best only partially true and at worst plain wrong. As I will show throughout this book, the ‘truths’ peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, if not necessarily self-serving notions. My aim in this book is to tell you some essential truths about capitalism that the free-marketeers won’t.

Which is more than enough to give the late Mrs Thatcher a fit of the vapours.

Ha-Joon Chang Pic

Chang states that his goal is to empower people to make decisions and have opinions on these issues, whereas they might otherwise leave them to the experts on the grounds that they don’t have enough technical expertise, and so become active citizens demanding the right course of action from decision-makers.

The book itself has a rather eccentric organisation. Instead of chapters, there are ‘Things’, meaning different topics, so the contents include the following

Thing 1 There is no such thing as the free market.

Thing 2 Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners.

Thing 3 Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be.

Thing 4 The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has.

Thing 5 Assume the worst about people and you will get the worst.

Thing 6 Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world any more stable.

Thing 7 Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich.

Thing 8 Capital has a nationality.

Thing 9 We do not live in a post-industrial age.

Thing 10. the US does not have the highest living standard in the world.

Thing 11 Africa is not destined for underdevelopment.

Thing 12. Governments can pick winners.

Thing 13 Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer.

Thing 14 Us managers are over-priced.

Thing 15 People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries.

Thing 16 We are not smart enough to leave things to the market.

Thing 17 More education in itself is not going to make a country richer

Thing 18 What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States.

Thing 19 Despite the fall of Communism, we are still living in planned economies.

Thing 20 Equality of opportunity may not be fair.

Thing 21 Big government makes people more open to change.

Thing 22 Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient.

Thing 23 Good economic policy does not require good economists.

Conclusion: How to rebuild the world economy.

He also makes seven suggestions how you can read the book, to answer certain queries, reading selected chapters to answer such questions as what capitalism is, or if you think politics is a waste of time or if you think the world is an unfair place, but there isn’t much you can do about it.

And while the book isn’t an attack on capitalism itself, some of the solutions to its problems do involve an element of Socialism or worker participation. For example, in the ‘Thing’ about why companies should not be run in the interests of the people who own them, Chang points out that the ownership of a country by shareholders means in practice that these have less interest than traditional owner managers in it being profitable or viable, as they can always take their shares out and put them somewhere else. As a result, the countries which have some of the most stable, and hence, most profitable companies, are those which have encouraged long-term investment or encouraged their workers to have a stake in them. Such as France, where several companies are part-owned by the state, or Germany and Austria, which have a degree of worker’s control through works’ councils.

It’s a fascinating and very necessary critique of the free-market capitalism beloved by the Blairites in Labour, and the Tories. Economics is notoriously the ‘dismal science’, but this is well and engagingly written for the ordinary reader, and I hope it encourages more people to criticise and bring down this deeply flawed and iniquitous system.

Vox Political: Tory School Privatisation will make Standards Worse

March 27, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a very interesting piece from the BBC. The leaders of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour groups in the Local Government Association have written a joint letter to the Observer, stating their opposition to the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies. The stats actually demonstrate that all academy schools actually perform worse than the schools under state/ local government control. There’s also a graph with the article that demonstrates this.

Mike asks the obvious question of why, if Academy Schools are so poor, are the Tories so keen to convert all our schools into them? Is it because they don’t want an educated, critically-thinking electorate, but indoctrinated drones that will take low-wage jobs because they lack the qualifications for anything else? Or is it because they know that everybody else’s children are more intelligent than they are, and can’t handle the competition?

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/27/tory-academisation-plan-will-worsen-education-standards/

My guess is that the Tories are keen on privatising our schools for a number of reasons, not excluding those Mike has outlined. They firstly want to privatise them for the economic profit of their paymasters in big business, including one Australian-American media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who also has an educational arm to his business empire. I think it’s called Aspire, rather than something more suitable, like ‘Despair’.

Secondly, it’s carrying on from Thatcher’s campaign to create a class of schools removed from local authority control. Like Mussolini, Maggie Thatcher is, to the Tory faithful, always right. Anything she does cannot be criticised in any shape or form and is absolutely correct, whatever happens. To quote the old scientist, it is very much a case of where there’s a difference between theory and reality, so much for reality. Thatcher was basing her campaign against state education, and more broadly, teachers, on the popular resentment in the 1970s and ’80s about teachers from the ‘loony Left’ indoctrinating children in state schools, teaching them that gays were equal and making them anti-racist, when they should instead have been teaching them good, hearty Tory values. Remember the clause in her education bill attacking the teaching of homosexual propaganda in school? And I can remember her also delivering a foam-flecked rant to the Tory faithful about how ‘Fabians’ were teaching children ‘anti-racist mathematics’. At the time, there were concerns about the failures of those schools which had adopted ‘progressive’ educational policies. Like one school in inner London, where the teachers decided not to teach, as this would ruin children’s innate creativity. There were also horror stories run in the press about Brent and Lambeth councils, and the bizarre, highly authoritarian attitude they took to education, in which nearly everything was suspected of racism. They were supposed to have altered the old nursery rhyme, ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’, to ‘Baa, Baa, Green Sheep’ to make it less racist. It’s been stated several times since that this was just an urban myth, and that the Sun has admitted it made it up. On the other hand, I’ve met people, who did go to school in those boroughs, who claimed they did have to sing it. So I honestly don’t know. Given the mendacity and racism of the Scum, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had made it up.

Thirdly, there was and is a strong perception that comprehensive education, which was mostly introduced by Labour, but which also had some Tory support, had failed, and that standards had fallen. The older generation in particular looked back to the grammar schools with nostalgia as institutions where standards were much higher. It looked very much like Thatcher was using this nostalgia to try and reintroduce them, albeit in a slightly different, updated form. In actual fact, the Labour party under Crossland had decided to introduce comprehensive schools because the grammar schools were elitist. Very few working-class children were sent there. Instead, they were considered more suited to the secondary moderns, where they would be taught a manual trade. Grammar schools were reserved for those set on clerical careers and the like, and so were very much bastions of the middle classes.

There were immense problems with some of the comprehensives. Some of them were too large, too underfunded, and hampered with the kind of teaching staff that have become stereotypical amongst the Right. Hartcliffe, one of the comprehensive schools in my part of Bristol, had an unenviable reputation for poor academic performance, and chronic theft and bullying amongst its pupils. It has changed greatly since then. It’s been divided into two buildings, rather than a single huge one, and standards have risen markedly in the past few decades with a change of headmasters.

My guess is that the changes that occurred to Hartcliffe, have also been common amongst failing schools throughout the country. Standards in state education have risen. But this counts for nothing, as the Tory Right is ideologically opposed to state education. Tory toffs like Cameron, Gove, Osborne and Thicky Nikki seem to look back for their view of a good education system to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when schools, or at least, the grammar schools, were largely private, and the proles were given just enough education to allow them to get a job once they left school, which was at 12, then 14. Changes in industry mean that you now need a more educated, technically proficient workforce, and so they can’t get away with sending children that you out to work. So the higher education sector has expanded, but the Tories would like that to be the nearly exclusive province of the monied classes, and so have raised tuition fees to exorbitant heights after they were introduced by Bliar.

And so contemporary schoolchildren are going to suffer because of a political orthodoxy that started with Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, and has continued through a mixture of greed and ideological inertia. Oh yes, and the Goebbels-like determination to keep pushing a good lie if it gets you votes.

Vox Political: Debbie Abrahams Reports Government about to Cut £1.2 billion from Disabled

March 13, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece reporting the claims of Labour Shadow Minister for the Disabled, Debbie Abrahams, that the DWP is preparing to slash £1.2 billion from the PIP budget for the disabled. Madam Abrahams states

“Just a week after forcing through cuts to support that will take over £1,500 a year from disabled people, the Tories have today snuck out a proposal to take away a further £1.2 billion, by removing support from people who are not able to manage toilet needs or dress unaided. This will mean that over 600,000 disabled people are set to lose almost £2,000 a year.

“In coming to this decision, the Tories are yet again ignoring the views of disabled people, carers and experts in the field, trying to press ahead with changes, just two years since the introduction of the system. While their own proposals admit that the vast majority of respondents did not think the case for change had been made.”

More information can be read at Mike’s blog at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/12/more-than-24-billion-has-been-taken-away-from-disabled-people-to-support-tax-cuts-for-the-rich-who-dont-need-them/.

The title of Mike’s piece has the rhetorical question whether the £24 bill taken from the disabled is to fund tax cuts for the rich. Considering how the government is shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor, I really don’t think there’s much doubt about it.

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Meme: Reward and Strengthen Labour to Make America Great Again

January 25, 2016

This another political meme I found over on the Tumblr site, 1000 Natural Shocks. It advocates strengthening the unions, and giving working people jobs and a proper, living wage, to restore America’s place in the world. The meme may come from the other side of the Pond, but it equally applies over here in Britain as well. And, apart from the country, there’s not a word I’d change.

Working people of all countries, unite!

America Labour Meme

If you want to look at the original, be aware that it is an over 18 site.