Posts Tagged ‘The City’

Private Eye on Andrea Leadsom and the Hedge Funds Backing Brexit

June 9, 2016

This fortnight’s Private Eye also has an interesting piece on Andrea Leadsom, one of the leading Tory Brexit supporters. Leadsom has been complaining that several of the organisations warning of the dire consequences Brexit will have on the British economy are funded by the dreaded EU. The Eye points out that Leadsom herself is also funded by her brother-in-law, a hedge fund manager based in the Channel Islands, and that the hedge funds generally support Brexit in the expectation that it will help them avoid paying tax. The Eye writes

Hedging Her Bets

“I put it down to a big institutional ganging up on the poor British voter,” complained Andrea Leadsom, the leading “outer” who is said to be having a good war, referring to the way the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others point out the likely costs of leaving the EU. “What do they have in common, these organisations?” Number one – lots of EU funding.”

The energy and former Treasury minister perhaps knows more than she has previously let on about the power of financial backing to influence views and policy. Leadsom herself ahs had plenty of financial backing from the offshore hedge und run by her brother-in-law Peter de Putron, as has the EU-sceptic Open Europe thinktank, she has championed (Eyes passim ad nauseam).

What result the Guernsey-based donor hopes for is not known. But plenty of other hedgies want out so they can escape EU regulation of their funds (inexplicably confident that a British Tory government would be kinder to them). Others are just pleased it’s all getting nice and tight so they can take positions on sterling and cash in on the early exit poll information they are paying for outside the polling booths. (p. 7).

Her connection to hedge funds and their managers should be one good reason alone why no-one should take Andrea Leadsom remotely seriously. Many of the private care home chains that collapsed a few years ago were run by hedge funds, as is a private hospital in Bath. These organisations see health and social care as a lucrative investment, and their financial arrangements are so organised in order to make it appear that the firms are operating close to their margins so they can benefit from tax breaks. As a result, the care homes and hospitals they manage are often underfunded and genuinely in a precarious financial situation. Hence the appalling failures of several care homes to provide acceptable standards of care to their elderly or handicapped inmates, and their spectacular collapse.

And unfortunately, at the moment the hedge funds and the parasites in charge of them are all too right in their expectations that a British Tory government won’t tax them. The Tories have shown absolutely no interest in doing so up to now. In fact, quite the opposite. They are trying to do their best to protect London and the rest of the country as a low tax haven for dodgy businessmen and financial speculators right across the world. It’s why one international politician declared Britain to be one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, because of the safety it provides to gangster right across the continent and the globe to launder their ill-gotten gains. The Tories are quite comfortable with this vile situation, and will do everything they can to protect it as far as possible, up to and including Brexit.

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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.

Vox Political: Tories Led Campaign to Block EU Attempts to Protect Steel Industry

February 11, 2016

This is further proof of how much contempt the Tories actually have for heavy industry in this country, and the men and women, who work in it. Yesterday Mike ran this story from the Mirror Online, that reported that the Tories, far from seeking to protect the British steel industry, actually assisted the importation of cheap steel from China that’s destroying it: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/10/tories-block-bid-to-help-uk-steel-industry-are-they-traitors-or-simply-enemies-of-the-people/

The article reports that while the Americans slapped a 66% tariff on Chinese imports, the EU only raised theirs by 9%. This was due mostly to Britain.

Unbelievable. But not surprising.

For all their mouthing about being the party of ‘industry’, the Tories – and Blairite New Labour, come to that – represent only a small part of it: the financial sector. They have no understanding of or interest in the needs of the manufacturing sector. One of the Thatcher’s ministers, the only man in her cabinet to come from manufacturing industry, said he couldn’t get the Leaderene to understand how a strong pound actually hurt Britain by making British goods expensive for the rest of the world. Not that Thatcher and her successor, Major, had any sympathy for heavy industry anyway. She destroyed the coal industry, and Major administered the coup de grace because heavy industry means strong unions. And it was the NUM that defeated Ted Heath. The 1984 Miner’s Strike was phase 2 of the conflict, in which the Tories decided they were going to be the winner. And so they were, at the cost of the British coal industry.

The British financial sector is geared to overseas investment. This has been pointed out repeated by everyone from Kinnock, before he converted to the Thatcherite free market, and ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. And its true. New Labour practically caved into the City when Broon and Mo Mowlan made their ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive to win City backing for New Labour. One of the apparatchiks they installed at the Bank of England, Deanne Julius, was previously a staple of the American banking system. She stated that Britain should get out of manufacturing and concentrate instead on service industries.

So it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Tories would definitely not try to protect was remains of British heavy industry from the Chinese. And particularly as Cameron has spent the past few years shuttling back and forth from the Chung Kuo trying to get the Chinese to invest in Britain. Like building roads, new nuclear power stations and so forth. And obviously, for all this to happen, British industry must suffer in the process.

And again, what really galls is the crass hypocrisy. They claim to be the patriotic party, stoutly defending Britain’s interests against Johnny Foreigner. Remember Thatcher’s 1987 election broadcast, which featured footage of Spitfires zooming about the skies, while an excited voice enthused ‘Man was born free’ and ended with ‘It’s great… to be great again’. Alan Coren took this apart the next weekend on the News Quiz, when he drily described it as showing the Royal Conservative Airforce, and reminded everyone that the first thing the servicemen did when they came back from the War was overwhelmingly vote Labour.

And the EU naturally looms large in the Tory demonology as a monstrous foreign power determined to destroy Britain. Well, in this case, the opposite is true. The EU would have helped Britain. The people, who killed our industry this time, are the patriotic flag wavers of the Tory party. The old saying’s right: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’

The Fake Anti-Corporatism of Fuehrer Farage

November 27, 2014

There are several pieces of interest in this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye. One of these, on page 5, is the item Landing on Mayfair, which demolishes the claim by UKIP’s generalissimo earlier this month (November 2014) that he and his party stand for ‘radical change’ from ‘corporatist politics’. The Eye states that it must therefore have been a totally different Nigel Farage, who in May last year – 2013 – went to an exclusive party in Mayfair at the offices of the hedge fund Odey Asset Management, hosted by Crispin Odey and attended by a number of City financiers.

The article then gives the details of the amount of sums big business, and particularly the financial sector, has given to UKIP. Harwood Capital Management’s boss Christopher Mills donated £50,000. Odey gave £22,000, and Arron Banks, the insurance tycoon, has promised a cool £1 million. Furthermore, UKIP’s treasurer is Stuart Wheeler, a former Tory, and the inventor of ‘spread betting’. He has also given £197,300 to the party.

UKIP and the Nazis’ Rhetoric against Big Business

I’ve blogged in the past about the similarity between UKIP and the Nazis in their election campaigning. Both are parties of the Right, who disguise their real policies in order to appeal to as broad an electoral base as possible. Hitler was in no way a Socialist, but he stressed anti-capitalist policies, rhetoric and imagery in order to win over working class voters, who would otherwise vote for the Socialist parties. It’s the reason why members of the Tory extreme Right now, like Daniel Hannan, try to present the Nazis as Socialists, and refer to the ‘Left-wing’ BNP.

Farage’s attack on corporatism is another parallel between UKIP and the Nazis’ electoral strategy. Historians of the Nazis have pointed out that Hitler also posed as the protector of the German working class from exploitation by big business when campaigning in working class, Socialist strongholds. In one speech, Hitler proclaimed that when the Nazis seized power, they would throw the coffers and money chests of the rich out into the street. He then went on to reassure the crowd that only Jewish businesses would be affected, and proper German enterprises would be left untouched and in peace. It was a policy that became horrific reality with Kristallnacht and the persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust.

In fact, Hitler actively sought funding from German business. This was originally from small and medium-sized industries, which feared attack and disruption from the unions and organised labour. Hitler then expanded his campaign to gain the complicity of big business during the Third Reich. An official from the financial sector became the head of the Nazi business cartel. Just before the Nazi seizure of power, the Machtergreifung, Hitler spoke to a meeting of German business leaders in order to gain their support. He declared that only under a personal dictatorship would German industry prosper and benefit from protection from Socialism and the trade unions.

Now Farage is not an anti-Semite, and has ostensibly tried to distance his party from the Fascist Right. Nevertheless, his party is populist, ultra-nationalist and extremely Right-wing, and like the Nazis covers up its true polices against the working class with a façade of anti-capitalist rhetoric, while doing precisely the opposite.

Owen Jones on the Middle Class Domination of the Houses of Parliament

May 5, 2014

I posted a piece this morning on early trade unionist campaigns to get the vote for the working class and working men into parliament and the local authorities. This was in response to the way working people have become increasingly ignored and excluded by the political class, to the point where many feel disenfranchised.

Owen Jones in Chavs describes the way parliament has become overwhelmingly upper and middle class in its composition:

We’ve seen that prominent politicians manipulated the media-driven frenzy to make political points. Like those who write and broadcast our news, the corridors of political power are deominated by people from one particular background. ‘The House of Commons isn’t representative, it doesn’t reflect the country as a whole,’ says Kevin Maguire. ‘It’s over-representative of lawyers, journalists-as-politicians, various professions, lecturers in particular … There are few people who worked in call centres, or been in factories, or been council officials lower down.’

It’s true to say MP’s aren’t exactly representative of the sort of people who live on most of our streets. Those sitting on Parliament’s green benches are over four times more likely to have gone to private school than the rest of us. Among Conservative MPs, a startling three out of every five have attended a private school. A good chunk of the political elite were schooled at the prestigious Eton College alone, including Tory leader David Cameron and nineteen other Conservative MPs.

There was once a tradition, particularly on the Labour benches, of MPs who had started off working in factories and mines. Those days are long gone. The number of politicians from those backgrounds is small, and shrinks with every election. Few than one in twenty MPs started out as manual workers, a number that has halved since 1987, despite the fact that that was a Conservative-dominated parliament. One the other hand, a startling two-thirds had a professional job or worked in business before arriving in parliament. Back in 1996, Labour’s then deputy leader John Prescott echoed the Blairite mantra to claim that ‘we’re all middle-class now’, a remark that would perhaps be more fitting if he had been talking about his fellow politicians. (p. 29)

It would be easy, but lazy, to portray parliament as a microcosm of the British class system. It isn’t, but it certainly showcases the gaping divides of modern society. When I interviewed James Purnell just before the May 2010 election that brought the Tories and their Lib Dem allies to 10 Downing Street, I put to him how unrepresentative Parliament was: two-thirds of MPs came from a professional background and were four times more likely to have attended a private school than the rest of the population. When I referred to the fact that only one in twenty MPs came from a blue-collar background, he was genuinely shocked. ‘One in twenty?’

When I asked him if this had made it more difficult for politicians to understand the problems of working-class people, he could hardly disagree. ‘Yes, indeed. I think it’s become very much a closed shop …’ For Purnell, this middle-class power grab was the result of a political system that has become closed to ordinary people.

In the build-up to the 2010 general election, a number of excited headlines claimed that trade unions were parachuting candidates into safe seats. ‘Unions put their candidates in place to push Labour to the left,’ bellowed the Times. And yet, in the end, only 3 per cent of new MPs were former trade union officials. There was no similar outrage about the number of prospective candidates with careers in the City – the sector that, after all, was responsible for the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. One in ten new MPs had a background in financial services, twice as many as in the 1997 landslide that brought Labour to power. Politics has also increasingly been turned into a career rather than a service: a stunning one in five new MPs already worked in politics before taking the parliamentary oath. pp. 104-5).

He then contrasts with the great political figures from Atlee’s cabinet of 1945 from the working class: Nye Bevan, Ernest Bevin, and Herbert Morrison. They were a miner, farm boy and grocer’s assistant, respectively. He contrasts this with the Tory jeers about John Prescott’s working class origins.

When he entered the House of Lords, that retirement home for the ruling elite, the Telegraph’s chief leader writer scoffed: I’m not sure ermine suits John Prescott.’ the comments left by Telegraph readers on the newspaper’s website were a class war free-for-all. One passed on a friend’s hilarious description of him as ‘the builder’s bum-crack of the Labour Party’. ‘Baron Pie & Chips’ and ‘Prescott is a fat peasant’ were other witticisms, as was ‘John “here’s a little tip” Prescott’. Someone has to serve the drinks between debates!’ guffawed another. Prescott was ridiculed because some felt that by being from lowly working-class stock, he sullied the office of deputy prime minister and then the House of Lords. (p. 106).

We desperately need more working class people in parliament. And as for the Telegraph, Buddyhell over Guy Debord’s Cat has posted a long series of pieces on just how frighteningly far-right the commenters on their website are. Very many of them post horrendously racist and overtly Fascist messages. One even suggested that the Nazis were being demonised out of ignorance (!) and that this would not happen if people knew more about them. (!)
No, the Nazis are demonised because people know exactly what they are like. Hence the attempts by Nazi apologists to deny the Holocaust ever happened, or played down the number of people who were murdered. The Cat has noted that the Telegraph uses the excuse that it can’t be held responsible for what it’s commenters post, and it is therefore not responsible for the ravings of the assorted stormtroopers that post there. This won’t wash. Other website are modded, and stopping genocidal racists from advocating mass murder is one of the few infringements to the right to free speech that most people would applaud. But not, it seems, the Torygraph. Either – God help us! – the editors secretly agree with these rants, or else they are following the old tactic Enoch Powell adopted with his supporters from the Far Right. Powell actually personally wasn’t racist. He spoke Urdu, and had served on various official bodies promoting civil rights for Blacks and Asians before the infamous ‘River of Blood’ speech. See the section on him in Bloody Foreigners: Immigration and the English. He actually hated the NF, but cynically used their support.

As for the Times, this is the quintessential paper of the establishment. I’ve got a feeling it was edited for a time by the very blue-blooded Peregrine Worsthorne. Under David Leppard, it saw fit to publish the lie that Michael Foot was a KGB agent. No wonder it printed scare stories about a coming union left-wing takeover.

A Possible Useful Resource: Colin Challen’s Book on Tory Funding

August 13, 2013

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, carried a short review in its winter 1998/99 edition of Colin Challen’s book, The Price of Power: The Secret Funding of the Tory Party (London: Vision Paperbacks 1998), £7.99. Challen had contributed articles to the magazine on the subject of the Tories’ highly murky finances. The review states that there are far more sources for the Thatcher and post-Thatcher years, despite the fact that Thatcher tried to keep anything to do with the intelligence services and the connections to the Conservatives strictly under wraps. She was unable to cover it all up simply because there was a general, rapid increase of knowledge in those areas while she was in power. According to the article, Challen identified the links between the Conservative party, the City and the intelligence services as the triangle of power at the heart of the British system. The review also notes that while there is less material available on the funding of the Tory party before her, nevertheless there is a surprising amount of information present. Despite this, the review noted that at least half of the Conservative party’s recent financial sources remain secret.

Challen originally worked for the Labour Party, and I’ve got a feeling he left for the Lib Dems when he found Tony Blair adopting the same authoritarianism and contempt for human rights. The Lobster review considers that with Labour adopting the same methods of fund-raising as the Tories, a similar book would one day be necessary for them. The review also states that the book is the only one yet published on the subject. It would be interesting to see if this was still true after fifteen years. I suspect it probably is. The situation made have changes slightly in the intervening period, but I would imagine that the picture of the Tory party’s finances is still pretty much the same. In the absence of later books analysing the Tories and their dodgy finances, this may still be an extremely useful resource.

Source

The Price of Power: The Secret Funding of the Tory Party, Colin Challen, in Lobster, Winter 1998/9, 36: 42.