Posts Tagged ‘Minimum Wage’

Shavanah Taj Speaking at Corbyn Rally in Merthyr Tydvil

August 11, 2016

This is another great video of a pro-Corbyn rally, this time in Merthyr Tydvil. It doesn’t show the great man himself, but instead is of a speech in support of him by Shavanah Taj from the PCS Union. She states that clearly that the Labour party is not the party of the PLP and the Labour rebels, but of the ordinary members, and says that it’s about time that the party changed to reflect this. The talks about how Corbyn has been blamed for not doing enough to stop Brexit. She then says that ‘they have called us racists’, presumably meaning people who backed the Leave campaign. She says very firmly that as a ‘woman of colour’ it’s a load of rubbish. She then goes on to attack the economic devastation of Wales, with cuts to government funding, the loss of jobs, and the savage cuts to welfare spending, which is also damaging the local economy. She makes the point that Owen Smith wants to have the Leave Referendum taken again, which she clearly views as undemocratic. But she makes the point that Smith was nowhere to be seen campaigning for the ‘Remain’ vote. She also attacks the bankers, who have stashed their money away in secret offshore accounts, but when things go wrong go crawling back to the government, demanding bail outs and further cuts for the poor, pleading that ‘we’re all in it together’ as they do. She is rightly bitterly critical of the decision of David Cameron to take a holiday during the campaign.

She also explains why her union, PCS, has come out in support of Jeremy Corbyn. She states that the union is not affiliated to the Labour party, but its general secretary has decided to support him because of all the help and support Corbyn has given them. She gives the example of a dispute the union waged over the treatment of the low paid workers at the National Museum of Wales, which the union won with Corbyn’s support. She says this happened in Carwen Jones’ backyard, but he took little interest in the dispute. She also makes it very clearly that at the current level, the minimum wage is not a living wage. She also makes the point that, when people ask what Corbyn has done, he was instrumental in making the government drop the academisation of all the schools. And he will do much more, if he becomes Prime Minister. She makes the point that after years of abuse, Jeremy Corbyn is at last returning the party to what it was, a Socialist party for Britain’s working class. She makes the point that a year ago, the party’s membership was 250,000. Now it’s 600,000. ‘You can’t tell me that they all joined because of Owen Smith!’ Corbyn is not only the popular choice of the ordinary members of the Labour party, but she is convinced that he will also be prime minister.

I sincerely wish she’s right, as another Tory victory will destroy this country completely. I don’t agree with her apparent backing of the Brexit campaign. It has massively hurt the British economy, and led to a massive rise in racism. That said, there are very many left-wing, anti-racist opponents of the European Union, such as Dennis Skinner, Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, and the crew over at the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch. They’re against the European Union because of the way neoliberal economics and the power of international capital are an intrinsic part of its political and economic structure, and have been so ever since it was established in the 1950s. The result of this has been the collapse of the Eurozone and the pillaging of the Greek economy for the profit of the big EU banks in Germany, a pillaging that has seen the Greek people themselves forced into massive poverty and social deprivation comparable to the Developing World. In this instance, it is no wonder that so many Brits voted to Leave.

I will, however, make the point that I was not one of them, and that the margin of victory so low – 52% of the vote – and the effect this is having on Britain so enormous – that I do support Smith’s campaign to have the referendum taken again. But that’s the only part of his campaign I do support.

Other than this, it’s a great speech from an inspired Labour party activist and trade unionist, which states very clearly why so many people in Wales support Corbyn against nearly four decades of neoliberalism carried out by the Tories and New Labour.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 3

August 8, 2016

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressive is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased person development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Who Really Hijacked the Labour Party?

July 16, 2016

A friend of mine told me yesterday that there had been a lot of ranting on the Labour party forums by the Blairites about how Corbyn and his supporters had ‘hijacked’ the Labour party. Unfortunately, I can believe this. Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece a little while ago, about John Spellar’s rant against the Corbynites on British television. Spellar is the most right-wing of right-wing Labour, and had angrily denounced them as ‘Trots’, ‘Communists’ and the like. Just as Chunky Mark reported in his latest rant against the Coup that Corbyn’s supporters had been denounced, not only as ‘Trots’, but also as ‘rabble dogs’.

My friend was so incensed at the accusation that Corbyn and his supporters had ‘hijacked’ the Labour party, that he posted a piece stating that the real hijack occurred in 1992, when Tony Blair removed Clause 4 from the party’s constitution. This was the clause drafted by Sidney Webb, one of the leaders of the Fabian Society, in the list of ‘party objects’ incorporated into the 1917 constitution. It committed the party

To secure for the producers by hand and brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service. (Henry Pelling, A Short History of the Labour Party (Basingstoke: MacMillan Press 1985) 43-44.

Blair had also threatened to cut ties with the trade unions if they opposed his plans to reform the rather convoluted voting patterns in the party. But the trade unions had been an integral part of the Labour party since the ‘Lib-Labs’ – the trade unionists elected as members of the Liberal party to parliament in the late 19th century. The Labour party was founded in a conference in the Memorial Hall near Ludgate Circus, on 27th and 28th February 1900, in which the Trades Union Congress, the co-operative societies and various Socialist parties, such as the Independent Labour Party, united to plan for the representation of labour in parliament. (Pelling, 6-7).

Blair’s attempt to curtail the power of the unions, his rejection of the Socialist basis on the Labour party, and his continuation of the Thatcherite project to destroy the welfare state effectively transformed the Labour party from a party of the Left to that of the Right. Right-wing critics rightly sneered at it for being a pale-blue imitation of the Tories.

In some ways, the rejection of Clause 4 was nothing new. Tony Crosland, the Labour ideologue, who formulated the party’s programme for much of the 1960s and ’70s, was firmly against the extension of nationalisation, arguing against it in his books The Future of Socialism of 1956, and The Conservative Enemy of 1962. Hugh Gaitskell, the right-wing leader of the Labour party also tried to remove Clause 4 for the constitution. Crosland wanted to play down nationalisation, as it had proved a barrier to Labour extending its support beyond the manual working class, and attracting new groups of supporters. After the euphoria of their 1945 election victory, the party had been shocked when they lost the 1951 election. When I was growing up in the 1980s, I can remember various people telling me that they wouldn’t vote for Labour ‘because Labour wanted to nationalise everything.’ In practice, the party didn’t. It had a mandate in the 1945 election for nationalising the gas, electricity, steel, coal and transport industries. He notes that there was a rejection of sweeping nationalisation at the Labour party’s Annual Conference, and that even the left-wing members of the party declared that they were reaching the end of the natural monopolies to be nationalised, and so did not recommend any further extension of state ownership to industry, in their pamphlet, Keeping Left. (Crosland, The Future of Socialism, 323-4).

Crosland, for all his rejection of blanket nationalisation, nevertheless still believed a case could be made out for some. He also argued that there were other ways of achieving the Socialist object of providing for greater social equality that the extension of state ownership. He wanted strong, oppositional trade unions, high wages for a prosperous working class, a solid welfare state, the incorporation of the private schools into the state education system to make them accept greater numbers of pupils from ordinary, non-monied backgrounds, and the increased taxation of the rich.

Blair, Brown and New Labour have done the exact opposite. They passed laws against the welfare state and the ability of the trade unions to strike and defend workers’ rights. They picked up and revamped the academisation of state education, that had begun with Thatcher. They shifted the tax burden away from the rich. The result has been that the working class has become poorer and marginalised. Social mobility had effectively ceased before the Tories took power in the 2010 election.

Whatever the Blairites may sputter about standing up for Labour ‘values’, it is they who have done the most over the past quarter century to destroy the very basis of the party they support.

Apart from Clause 4, Sidney Webb also produced a policy statement, Labour and the New Social Order, published in June 1918, which became the basis of the party’s policy for the next 50 years. This contained four points:

1) The National Minimum. This comprised a minimum working wage, full employment, a minimum standard of working conditions and a maximum 48 hour working week.

2) The democratic control of industry. Nationalisation, and some form of worker’s control.

3) The Revolution in National Finance. Subsidize social services through the heavy taxation of large incomes, and a capital levy to pay off the cost of the First World War.

4) The Surplus for the Common Good. The balance of the nation’s wealth should be set aside and used for expanding opportunities for education and culture. (Pelling: 44-5).

All these policies are still very relevant today. Including taxing the rich to pay off war debts. It is the poor, who have suffered cuts to their services in order to service the debt created by Blair’s, Brown’s and Cameron’s wars in the Middle East. We need more of them, and to end the Blairite tendency of New Labour.

A Up Let’s Talk on Why We Support Jeremy Corbyn

July 9, 2016

This is a great, impassioned video from A Up Let’s Talk, whose name and accent mark him out as a proper Northerner. In this video, he tells the Labour party why so many people support Jeremy Corbyn. He starts with clips from the great man’s career, such as his speeches in parliament against the invasion of Iraq and how he was arrested for being offensive to the South African ambassador during apartheid. There’s footage also of him praising trade unions for defending workers, millions of whom are now earning below the minimum wages, and praising the NHS and the people who work in it. A Up Let’s Talk contrasts this with the Tories, and New Labour, who are just out for corporate profits and what they can get for themselves. Jeremy Corbyn has support because he fights for what Labour was founded for, and for the issues that actually mean things to ordinary men and women. He also talks about the issues that aren’t reported so much in the news, like the Panama papers, and the massive corruption that revealed. The press gave this, he said, a bit of coverage, just to make it look like they were interested in the same things ordinary people were interested in, and on their side. But they aren’t and they’re not.

He also attacks the way the Blairites have not given any reasons for their attacks on Corbyn, and concludes, as have very many others, that there are none. They’re attacking him for what he is, and what he represents. And rather than complaining that he was a bit too quiet about Europe, he challenges them to come up north, and explain to the marginalised, working class communities why they should vote for him and Labour, and not for UKIP. Many people left the Labour party following what New Labour turned it into, but they’ve returned under Corbyn. They should be listened to, as they were in the party before New Labour, and before so many of the Blairites were even born. He doesn’t expect great changes from Corbyn, or to be massively better off, but he does want a better, more equal society, and that is why he took part in a march this Saturday for Corbyn with his children. He asks New Labour what they have done for people like him and the rest of us workers. He would like to see some ‘quantitative easing’ for himself and other working class people, and not for the bankers,for whom David Cameron went to Brussels to get money. As for the other leading Tories, Theresa May wants to spy on everyone. And he notes how the Tories seem to be coming apart and disintegrating. Boris Johnson is supposed to be the most popular politician in Britain, but where is he? A Up Let’s Talk states that they’re all rats leaving a sinking ship. And Corbyn can win. So let’s rally around Corbyn.

A Up Let’s Talk is exactly right about all of this, and he’s identified all the issues. The Blairites haven’t presented any arguments, just personal attacks. They do stand for the same things as David Cameron – increased power and profits for the rich and corporations, more poverty and deprivation for the rest of us. Issues like the Iraq invasion, apartheid, workers’ rights, the minimum wage, and the health service have immense importance for ordinary people. And the press has shown itself to be hostile to the organised working class, disguising their hatred with a few, token articles. The Tories were and are bitterly divided on Europe, and they are disintegrating. Robin Ramsay in his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster described just how far in decline the Tories are as a popular party. Most of their members of are of pensionable age, and there are only 150,000 as opposed to half a million plus in Labour. They haven’t had any interest in genuinely improving conditions for the working class since the mid-19th century and the middle of the 20th in the Coalition government. Theresa May, the probably next leader of the Tories, does want to spy on everyone. She is a threat to civil liberties. New Labour did betray everything that the Labour party originally stood for, and turned away from the working and lower middle classes to concentrate on winning votes in swing marginals. People did leave Labour because of them. Between 1997 and the 2000s Labour lost five million voters. They’re coming back under Jeremy Corbyn. And the rise of UKIP in northern constituencies – and elsewhere in England – is partly explained by many members of the working class feeling that Labour has abandoned them. The embrace of UKIP as an alternative, however, is counterproductive. There are very good, left-wing reasons to be sceptical of Europe. Lobster and Counterpunch have over the years run very many excellent articles on the highly dubious nature of the EU and the corporativism and Cold War politics behind it. But Farage and the Kippers as they are as just as zealously against the working class as the Tories, if not more so. And the country’s ills are due not so much to immigration or to the EU as to forty years of neoliberalism, wage cuts, and attacks on workers’ rights, welfare benefits and the NHS from the governments of Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron. It’s a vote for the same kind of people that have carried out these policies, while scapegoating migrants and asylum-seekers.

Corbyn isn’t going to introduce massive changes, or make people vastly more wealthy. But he will do his level best to make us a more equal society, and give working people back at least some of what they have lost, and a renewed voice in parliament.

Dennis Skinner on Mike Ashley and Sports Direct

June 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published a piece about Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, finally agreeing to meet the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, who are investigating the employment practices in his firm. Among the issues they wish to inquire into are claims that working conditions at Sports Direct result in employees working for less than the minimum wage. Ashley was unwilling to meet them at their headquarters, and so invited them to come to talk to him at his headquarters, but this violates parliamentary transparency. So they threatened to apply sanctions. This finally worked, and Ashley has agreed to go to meet them.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/06/sports-direct-founder-to-appear-before-mps-after-committee-prepares-to-apply-sanctions/

Shirebrook, where Sports Direct’s headquarters is located, is in Dennis Skinner’s constituency, and the left-wing Labour MP has a few sharp criticisms at Ashley and his firm in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences. Especially as the site occupied by it is on former coal tips, which were levelled and the land reclaimed through funding obtained by Skinner as the local MP. Skinner writes

Mike Ashley, the billionaire operator of sports shops on many high streets and the Newcastle United football club in the premiership, owns a huge Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook in the Bolsover constituency. I secured £21 million from Gordon Brown when he was chancellor of the exchequer to flatten Shirebrook’s pit tips and Ashley’s buildings sit on the reclaimed site. So Ashley’s plant was subsidised out of the public purse.

Sadly, MPs such as myself have no control over planning matters and East Midlands regional development agency didn’t heed advice to demand that trade unions be recognised. As a result, if all the workers I’ve seen from the place are representative of the whole workforce there, the warehouse is filled with hundreds of workers on insecure zero-hours agency contracts at little more than the minimum wage. So taxpayers subsidise Ashley a second time by topping up the low pay with benefits to enable his workforce to survive.

No trade union is recognised at Sports Direct in Shirebrook and I know from conversations with countless nervous workers that they’re terrified of speaking out of turn because they fear they’ll be sacked. Almost everybody I’ve come across was recruited through an agency, on poor conditions, rather than through Jobcentres. I know of very few workers there who are on full-time permanent contracts paying a living wage. I wrote to Ashley asking why at Newcastle United, the football club he owns, a trade union is recognised for the players but he doesn’t recognise a trade union for the workers at Sports Direct. Ashley never replied. What’s more, I, as the local MP, have never, on principle, set foot in the warehouse.

Greedy bosses such as Ashley are why I shall be a socialist as long as I breathe. He’s rich beyond the dreams of avarice by exploiting workers. Worth an estimate £3.75 billion, his loot increased by £1.45 billion last year according to the latest Rich List. He’s amassed a fortune even bigger than that grinning tax dodger Richard Branson. The helicopter Ashley flies in, to and from that Shirebrook plant, is paid for by the sweat of men and women who struggle to afford a bus fare home.

The truth is the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) forced Ashley to recognise a union at Newcastle United. Footballers are a tightly knit small group with a transfer value on the market. At Sports Direct, Ashley holds all the cards – the company hiring and firing at will. He dips into a large pool of vulnerable unemployed. (pp. 101-2).

This shows the double standards between the very lucrative world of professional football, and the poor souls, who slave away in sweatshops all over the world to produce the merchandising sold by exploiters and slave drivers like Mike Ashley. Sports Directs’ head should have much explaining to do, but I dare say he’ll get away with it, or escape with a bare minimum punishment due to the fact that he’s one of the go-getting entrepreneurs the Tories and New Labour just love. And bad luck for the rest of us.

Dennis Skinner’s Personal Recommendations for Improving Britain

May 31, 2016

The veteran Labour MP and trade unionist, Dennis Skinner, also makes some political recommendations of his own in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences, published two years ago in 2014. He summarises his plans, saying

So I’m fighting for a new Labour government to axe the bedroom tax, save the NHS, cut fuel bills, created jobs for the young and raise living standards. My personal manifesto will be to the left of that of the party but I’m committed 100 per cent to the election of Labour candidates across Britain. (p.313).

As for the proposals themselves, he writes (headlines in bold are mine)

I’ve a few suggestions of my own to boost Labour’s popularity and beat the Tories.

End Privatisation

To start the ball rolling we should end expensive privatisation instead of paying a fortune to contractors such as G4S, Serco and Capita that make a mess of services in the process. It’s time we got back to publicly run, publicly owned services provided in the public interest.

Nationalise the Railways

On the railways, the £900m surplus on East Coast trains, operated publicly after the private sector crashed twice, shows us the way ahead. Instead of boosting Richard Branson’s profits, a nationalised railway could make a profit and generate the cash to improve every station in Britain.

A ‘Robin Hood’ Tax on City Speculators

If we want extra money for the National Health Service and social care, we should levy a Robin Hood tax on speculators in the city. Directing the funds raised directly to health and care, including help for the mentally handicapped, rather than to the Treasury, would be immensely popular. We could start with a low rate and increase it when the tax proves to be popular, as I’m sure it will be, by emulating the one per cent National Insurance rise for the NHS when Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

Scrap Trident

Scrapping Trident would free up billions of pounds for a massive house building programme so everybody has a roof over their head and nobody is homeless. The position on council house sales has to change or local authorities won’t build houses if they know they must sell them cheaply after a few years.

End Nuclear Weapons, Restore Local Democracy

The savings from defusing nuclear weapons can also help save local democracy. Councils are being swamped by central government. Powers are either grabbed by Whitehall or transferred to unelected quangos. Ever since the Clay Cross rent rebellion, Whitehall has dictated to communities. We need to reverse the trend.

Nationalise the Utilities

On the question of the utilities – gas, electricity, water – this is the moment to start taking them back into public ownership. We took control after 1945 and right up to Wilson’s final government, when he nationalised aerospace with a majority of only three, public ownership was advanced. To cap energy bills is a good idea but a better plan is to control utilities by restoring public ownership in Britain of firms that are currently owned in France, Germany and almost every country on the globe.

Spend More on Education; End Privatised Schooling

Spending on education more than doubled under the last Labour government, which was impressive. let’s stop the growth of faith schools and misnamed free schools – tax payers fund them so they’re not free – by enhancing the powers of local authorities to champion the education of every single child.

Raise Minimum Wage

We need to end the pay freezes. The people that are carrying the burden of the bankers’ ramp are mainly workers at the bottom of the scale. The Living Wage shouldn’t be optional. Everybody should get it. But let’s not stop at £7.65 an hour outside London and £8.80 in the capital. The trade union campaign for 10 an hour should be Labour policy. A decent day’s work deserves a decent day’s pay.

Ban Zero Hours Contracts

We should introduce legislation to outlaw zero hours contracts and private employment agencies. Playing off worker against worker, ferrying into Britain cheap labour to undercut employees, is poisoning community relations. Sticking 10, 12 or 15 eastern Europeans into a house then deducting large sums form their earnings is in nobody’s interests except cowboy employers. Reasserting the role of Jobcentres as local labour exchanges will improve wages and conditions.

Increase Trade Union Rights

Trade union rights must be strengthened significantly, including the abolition of sequestration. Industrial action requires two sides to be involved in a dispute, yet it is union funds that are seized. Rebalancing employment rights in favour of workers and unions is essential if we are to build a fairer economy.

Abandon Tory Obsession with Fiscal Restraint

And we must escape the dumb economic mantra about balancing the books. There would have been no Spirit of ’45 if Clement Attlee’s goal was to balance the books. There would have been no NHS, new Welfare State, new council houses and unemployment wouldn’t have dropped to 440,000 in 1950, after only five years of the finest Labour government ever. In fact the finest government ever.

We need spending to get people to work and the economy growing. You don’t need a crystal ball to see where we should be going. We can find the way ahead by reading the history books. (pp. 309-12).

He states that they’re not just his ideas, but have been discussed for the last 10 or 20 years in the Bolsover constituency.

I have some caveats. I don’t like the attack on faith schools, having been to an Anglican faith school myself, and I don’t share his euroscepticism. But other than that, I think he’s absolutely right. Thatcherism has done immense damage to this country. Now, after thirty years of it, it is long past the time it should have been discarded.

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

April 25, 2016

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

Lord Simon of Highbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secular Talk on Obama’s Warning Against Democrat Party Becoming Left-Wing ‘Tea Party’

April 25, 2016

Barack Obama last week made a speech warning Democrats against becoming a ‘left-wing Tea Party’. He told the party that they should not adopt policies that would alienate the general public. He also argued that they should not go along with path the Republicans were much further along of adopting more extreme policies and positions. This was a system where you had to compromise, and sometimes you had to take half-loaves. When that happened, it was not because someone had sold you out.

Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski takes very strong exception to this statement, and shows not just why it’s wrong, but also how it supports those who are basically right-wing corporatists like Shrillary and Obama. The Democrats do not have extreme positions that alienate voters, and their most extreme candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, would be considered centrist in most European countries. He states that if you talk to someone from Denmark, they’d say that Bernie Sanders was almost Conservative. Eighty per cent of Americans want the minimum wage to be raised. Free universal healthcare – Medicaid for all – is supported by 51 per cent. Sixty per cent of Americans do not want cuts to the social security and Medicaid budgets. But this is not reflected in official Democrat policy.

He states very strongly that Obama ‘doth protest too much’ when he claims that not having progressive policies is not due to politicians having sold out their political base. Both Hillary and Obama are heavily subsidised by Wall Street, and their policies reflect the concerns of the corporate donors, not want America, or at least, the Democrat base, wants. And so Obamacare, which was a Right-wing policy dreamed up by Richard Nixon, and supported by a whole raft of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, is the furthest left America goes. But not to universal Medicaid. By the standards of everyone else in the world, Obama’s not ‘left-wing’. He’s centre-right.

Kulinski notes that there is a problem with authoritarian leftism, such as the demands for ‘safe spaces’ at colleges, and intolerant attempts to clamp down on free speech. But Obama’s not talking about that. He’s talking about policy. And the problem is that the corporatist system that pays him and Hillary so well is preventing America from developing the welfare network adopted by just about everywhere else in the world.

I’ve decided to reblog this, because it was noticeable that Obama during his visit to Britain last week met with Cameron, made his comments about why Britain should stay in the EU, but did not meet Jeremy Corbyn.

And I’m not surprised. Corbyn’s too left-wing for him. Obama is a creature of the corporatist system. That’s shown in his policies and his support for Shrillary. Corbyn represents the same threat to that right-wing anti-democratic business stance as Bernie Sanders does back in the Land of the Free. Hence the very telling snub.

Monbiot’s List of the Corporate Politicos in Blair’s Government: Part Two

April 23, 2016

Stephanie Monk

Human Resources director, Granada Group plc., which appealed against an industrial tribunal to reinstate workers sacked for going on strike after their pay was cut from £140 to £100 a week.

Member of the Low Pay Commission on the minimum wage, and the New Deal Taskforce.

Sue Clifton

Executive director, Group 4, criticised for mishandling of child offenders after escapes, bullying, riots and attacks on staff.

Advisor to the government’s Youth Justice Board on how young offenders should be handled.

Keith McCullagh

Chief executive of British Biotech. This company has been repeatedly censured by the Stock Exchange, particularly when it was revealed that it’s leading drug product didn’t work.

Chairman of the government’s Finance Advisory Group to help high-tech companies gain financial investors’ confidence.

Sir Robin Biggam

Non-executive director, British Aerospace, which sells weapons to Turkey, some of which are used against the Kurdish separatists.

Chairman of the Independent Television Commission. This revoked the license of the Kurdish satellite station Med TV because of complaints from Turkey that it gave a platform to Kurdish separatists.

Neville Bain

Non-executive director, Safeway, one of the supermarkets which was swallowing branches of the Post Office.

Made chairman of the Post Office.

Robert Osborne

Head of Special Projects division of Tarmac Plc, one of the major constructors of PFI hospitals.

Chief Executive of the Department of Health’s Private Finance Unit. In 1998, returned to Tarmac to run PFI division.

David Steeds

Corporate Development Director of Serco Group Plc.

Chief executive of the government’s Private Finance Panel.

Tony Edwards

Director of the TI Group, which owned Matrix Churchill, the company which provided machine tools to manufacture arms to the Iraqis. He is the company’s chief executive, which is engaged in 150 military operations around the world.

Head of the government’s Defence Export Services Organisation, advising the government on granting licenses to companies wishing to sell arms to different countries around the world.

Neil Caldwell

Director of PTBRO, the distributor of the government’s landfill tax money, for which it receives 10 per cent of the amount handled in administration fees.

Director of Entrust, the regulatory body supervising the distribution of landfill tax money.

Judith Hanratty

Company Secretary, BP-Amoco Plc, one of the most controversial mergers of the 1990s as it amalgamated two of the world’s biggest companies.

On the board of the Competition Commission, monitoring and regulating corporate mergers.

John Rickford

On the board of BT, which has been frequently attacked for having too great a share of the market.

On the board of the Competition Commission.

Sir Alan Cockshaw

Chairman of Construction Company AMEC
Watson Steel, part of AMEC group, won contract to build the masts and cables on the Millennium Dome.

Chairman of the government’s Commission for New Towns. Chairman of the government agency English Partnerships, which is supposed to help ensure that new developments meet public needs.

On the board of the New Millennium Experience Company, firm set up by government to supervise the millennium celebrations.

Michael Mallinson

Property of industry lobby group for property developers, the British Property Federation.

Deputy Chairman, English Partnerships.

Peter Mason

Group Chief Executive, AMEC plc. In 1997 the company was the seventh largest recipient of support from the government’s Export Credit Guarantee Department for construction work in Hong Kong.

The trade body to which it belonged, The Export Group for the Construction Industries – has lobbied against the inclusion of environmental and human rights conditions in the Export Credit Guarantee Department’s loans.

On the Export Guarantees Advisory Council, which governs the payment of government money by the Export Credit Guarantee Department. Liz Airey, a non-executive director of Amec, is another member.

Professor Sir John Cadogan

Research Director of BP.

Director-General of the Research Councils, which are supposed to fund scientific work that doesn’t have an obvious or immediate application for industry.

Sir Anthony Cleaver

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority Technology Plc, which oversaw the organisational changes at Dounreay. These were criticised by the Health and Safety Executive as leaving the company in a poor position to decommission the site. Some researchers believed that Dounreay was the most dangerous nuclear site in Western Europe.

Chairman of the government’s Medical Research Council, which has been repeatedly criticised for failing to provide research funds for investigating the medical effects of radiation. Also member of the government’s panel on sustainable development.

Peter Doyle

Executive director, Zeneca Group Plc. Zeneca’s a major biotechnology firm, and was the foremost developer in Britain of GM crops. The company was engaged in a ten-year deal with the John Innes Centre in Norwich to find profitable applications for biotechnology.

Chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which gives substantial funding to the John Innes Research Institute. Employees of Zeneca sit on all seven of the BBSRC specialist committees.

Member of the government’s advisory committee on Business and the Environment.

Professor Nigel Poole

External and Regulatory Affairs Manager of Zeneca Plant Science; sits on five of the taskforces set up by EuropaBio, the lobbying organisation seeking to persuade European governments to deregulate GM organisms.

Member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

Professor John Hillman

Member of the board of the Bioindustry Association, the lobbying group seeking to ‘enhance the status of the industry within government’.

Director of the government’s Scottish Crop Research Institute, charged with supervising government-funded research projects and providing the government with impartial advice on biotechnology.

Antony Pike

Director General of the British Agrochemicals Association Ltd; Managing director of Schering Agrochemicals/ AgrEvo UK Ltd.

Chairman of the government’s Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), carrying out and funding research into cereal crops. It has not funded any projects aimed at improving organic cereal production.

Professor P.J. Agett

Head of the School of Medicine and Health, University of Central Lancashire. This has received support for its research from three companies producing baby milk. Agett has personally received fees from two companies producing baby milk, including Nestle. The promotion of baby milk to developing nations is one of the most controversial issues in food and nutrition.

Chair of the Department of Health’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). Three other members of COMA have either directly benefited from payments from the baby milk manufacturers or belong to academic departments which have. One of those, who personally received payments was a Nestle executive.

Professor Peter Schroeder

Nestlé’s director of research and development.

Director of the government’s Institute of Food Research.

Sir Alastair Morton

Chairman of the Channel Tunnel construction consortium, Eurotunnel. This had debts of £9m.

Advised John Prescott on financing of Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority responsible for advising the government on the use of significant amounts to the industry, and ensuring that rail transport gives good value for money.

Secular Talk on the Democracy Spring Protests in Washington

April 20, 2016

I don’t know if the media over here have covered it, but last week there was a mass protest – and mass arrests – at the Democracy Spring demonstration in the American capital. 600 people marched against the corporate corruption of US politics from Philadelphia to Washington DC, where they protested on the steps of the Capitol itself. 400 people were arrested, including The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur. It was the largest mass arrest at a demonstration in the nation’s history.

In this video, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski talks about the protests, and why these people are American heroes. He points out that 90 per cent of the time, the party that spends the most wins the election, and this money comes from corporate donors. As a result, the decisions of the country’s government reflects what their donors want, not what the people of America really want. And the effect on American democracy is devastating. According to polls, the percentage of the American populace, which believes that their government is doing a good job, varies from 9% to 20%. And the way in which the donors’ interests are reflected in official policy, while that of Mr and Mrs J. Public are ignored, can be seen in the following.

Wall Street extensively bankrolls politicos’ campaigns. As a result, the banks were bailed out using the hard-earned tax dollars taken from America’s middle class. And then the banks carried on as before, claiming that they needed all that money spent on them to retain all their talent. The same talent that was responsible for the horrific mess in the first place. Yet if your local shop or laundrette goes under, it most definitely will not be bailed out, ’cause the shopkeeper or small entrepreneur ain’t paid his official bribes to the politicians. And it goes on. ExxonMobil receives millions upon millions in public funding, yet it clearly doesn’t need all that for research and development, as it claims. Similarly, America has a massive military budget, thanks to lobbying from the military-industrial complex.

And the desires of ordinary Americans are being stymied and frustrated. Eighty per cent of the people across the Pond want the minimum wage to be raised. But this isn’t on the table, as the corporate donors don’t want it. Sixty per cent of Americans don’t want there to be cuts to welfare, medicare and education. But the government has been trying to do that for the past six years.

Kulinski points out that Obama is as radical as is possible under the present system of corporate politics. But he’s hardly radical anywhere else. In fact, he’s centre right. And his politics largely reflect what the donors want, not what they American people themselves want or need. Only seven per cent of Americans support the war in Afghanistan. It’s now more unpopular than Vietnam. But thanks to the money spent by the corporations, nobody is talking about pulling out.

For Kulinski, the message is clear that what is needed is get the corporate sponsorship out of politics.

Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLk0jMRTE70

I’ve reblogged it, because yesterday and today I’ve put up pieces from George Monbiot’s Captive State, about how the corporations have corrupted politics in this country. Indeed, one of the pieces I put up today was about how senior managers from the supermarket chains not only lobby parliament and the European Union, but also occupy governmental posts in the very departments that are supposed to regulate them.

Mike today also put up a piece over at Vox Political, commenting on a Vice report about the row that’s blown up in the Labour Party over its refusal to invite McDonald’s to the party conference. The party members making the noise claim that it this is simply due to the party wishing to make a facile gesture at working class morality and solidarity. The reality is that many Labour MPs have done very well out of the largesse of McDonald’s and the other corporate donors. And the restaurant chain has no business turning up at the conference of a party, founded partly to represent the trade unions, when it refuses to recognise them. Read Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/20/what-an-argument-about-mcdonalds-tells-us-about-the-labour-party/

Of course, one of the first things Bliar did when he took power in the Labour party is threaten to cut ties with the unions, if they didn’t jump his way. And his protégés have continued to threaten working class people, supporting the destruction of workers’ rights and cuts to welfare benefits. All in the name of increasing ‘workforce fluidity’ and ingratiating themselves with the predatory middle class.

My guess is that the row over McDonald’s is partly about Corbyn’s leadership, and the fear amongst the Blairite’s that working class consciousness and class war might just come back in. But I think there’s also a fear about what’s happening in America. Britain, like America, has thrown open the doors of government to the corporate rich. Corporate donors funded the parties and took on politicians and senior civil servants when they retired or lost their seats. At the same time, the parties gave donors like McDonald’s what they wanted, and appointed fat cat millionaires like David Sainsbury to government posts. Now people in America are getting upset at that cosy and corrupt relationship. There’s been a news blackout about the protests by the corporate shills in the Land of the Free, and my guess it’s rattling a few cages over here as well. Corporate profits might be hit! Ministers might find themselves without a retirement job! The people just might have a little more power over their masters! And that’s frightening to an awful lot of people on both sides of the House.

Britain desperately needs some of those protests that took place over in America. Before the corporations stamp out freedom on this side of the Atlantic as well.