Posts Tagged ‘Tobacco Industry’

What A Surprise! Anti-NHS Thinktank Funded by Tobacco and Fast Food Industries

May 18, 2019

One of the fascinating articles Mike put up yesterday was about an article in the British Medical Journal that reported that Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing think tank that funds the Tories and which demands the privatisation of the NHS, is funded by all the industries that actively damage people’s health: tobacco, gambling, alcohol, sugar and fast food. One of the major donors to this secretive think tank is British-American Tobacco. The report noted that the IEA had attacked campaigns against smoking, drinking and the obesity academic, and raised concerns that a future leader of the Tories would side with these industries against the interests of the British people.

Well, as Bill Hicks used to say ironically, ‘Colour me surprised!’

I don’t wish to sneer at the doctors and medical professionals behind this article, and am absolutely fully behind its publication. But I’m not remotely surprised. It’s almost to be expected that a think tank that demands absolute privatisation and deregulation in the interests of complete free trade, should be funded by those industries, which have the most to lose from government regulation. And in the case of the Tories, that has always included tobacco, alcohol and gambling. Way back in the early ’90s under John Major, when Brits were just beginning to get into the habit of binge drinking and the government was considering allowing pubs and nightclubs all day licences, there were concerns about the damaging effects of alcohol. People were demanding greater regulation of the drinks industry. But this was being blocked by the Tories, because so many Tory MPs has links to these companies. This was so marked that Private Eye actually published the names of these MPs, and the positions they held in various drinks companies.

As for gambling, the Labour government after the War tried to crack down on this, but it was the Tories under MacMillan, who legalised the betting shops. Later on, Tony Blair, taking his ideas from them, had plans to expand the British gambling industry further with the opening of ‘super-casinos’, one of which was to be in Blackpool, I believe. But fortunately that never got off the ground. Unfortunately, there has been a massive rise in gambling addiction, despite all the warnings on the the adverts for online casinos.

The Tories have also had a long relationship too with the tobacco industry, resisting calls for bans on tobacco advertising. Private Eye also reported how, after Major lost the election to Blair, former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke then got a job with British-American Tobacco. As did, I believe, Saint Maggie of Grantham herself. BAT was employing him to open up markets in the former Soviet central Asian republics. The Eye duly satirised him as ‘BATman’, driving around in a car shaped like a giant cigarette, shoving ciggies into people’s, mostly children’s, mouths.

The Institute of Economic Affairs is a particularly nasty outfit that’s been around since the mid-70s. For a long time, I think it was the only think tank of its type pushing extreme free market ideas. A couple of years ago I found a tranche of their booklets in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. One was on how the state couldn’t manage industry. This looked at four examples of state industrial projects, which it claimed were incompetently run and a waste of money. One was the Anglo-French supersonic airliner, Concorde. The booklet had a point, as many of the industries they pointed to, like British Leyland, were failing badly. Concorde when it started out was a massive white elephant. It was hugely expensive and for some time there were no orders for it. But now it is celebrate as a major aerospace achievement. While the British aircraft industry has decline, the French used the opportunities and expertise they developed on the project to expand their own aerospace industry.

Looking at the booklet, it struck me how selective these examples were. Just four, out of the many other nationalised industries that existed at the time. And I doubt the pamphlet has worn well with age. Ha Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism and John Quiggin’s Zombie Economics have very effectively demolished their shoddy and shopworn free market capitalism, and shown how, rather than encouraging industry and prosperity, it has effectively ruined them. Read these books, and you’ll see just why we need Corbyn, whatever the champions of free market capitalism scream to the contrary.

Oh yes, and ladies, particularly, be warned. This is an anti-feminist organisation. Mike mentions in his article that it has a spokeswoman, Kate Andrews, who turns up regularly on Question Time to push for the privatisation of the NHS. Or rather, its reform, as they don’t want to alarm the populace by being too open about what they want to do. Despite this feminine face, this is an organisation that has very traditional views about gender roles. One of the pamphlets I found had the jaunty title Liberating Women – From Feminism. The booklet was written by women, and I know that some women would prefer to be able to stay home and raise their children rather than go to work. And that’s fine if it’s their choice. But this outfit would like to stop women having a choice. Rather than enabling women, who choose to stay home, to do so, they would actively like to discourage women from pursuing careers.

The IEA really is a grubby organisation, and the sooner it’s discredited everywhere, the better. Like the Tories.

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Oliver Cameron Plans to Purge Parliament

October 28, 2015

Since the Lord’s threw out Cameron and co.’s plans to end tax credit for the low paid, he and Tories have muttering about how ‘undemocratic’ they are and how the Upper House needs to be reformed. Among those to join in the fulminations against the Lord’s was Bojo. According to the Tories, the Lord’s are only there to advise on amendments to legislation.

Not quite. They’re part of the system of checks and balances that were built in the British constitution. Part of this is the separation of powers – the legislative should be separate from the executive, and all that. They have always had the power to block legislation, but if I recall correctly they can only do so three times. Nor is their objections to legislation passed by a Tory dominated parliament anything even remotely unique. I can remember when the Lord’s under Thatcher regularly blocked her bills, causing her to rant even more about ‘Wets’.

Cameron’s ignorance of the British constitution isn’t surprising. This is, after all, the man, who said he didn’t know what the Magna Carta was on American TV. He probably thinks ‘constitutional checks’ should be spelt with ‘que’ in the second word, and are what he and his lackeys get paid by corporations for passing laws in their interests. Like all the Tory MPs, who blocked attempts to curb tobacco and alcohol advertising, because they sat on the board, or received donations, from the breweries and companies like British American Tobacco.

As for reforming the House of Lords, this is another piece of Tory hypocrisy. Remember when Tony Blair introduced his reforms for the House of Lords, so that the second chamber received ‘people’s peers’ nominated by Blair himself? The Tory press ranted at the time about this foul attack on the British constitution. The Lords, according to some on the right, like Roger Scruton, if memory serves, were held to be supremely fitted for their role, as they had been brought up to it through breeding and education. It was almost a eugenics argument, that somehow the peerage were all members of some master race. I’m sure that’s how they view themselves, but it certainly not obvious from some of the prize items on display in Cameron’s cabinet. Like that scion of the Baronet of Ballymoney, George Osborne.

There were even dark comparisons with Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell also attacked the English constitution by getting rid of the House of Lords, and altering the conduct of elections so as to exclude his enemies in the lower house. Quite apart from killing half the population of Ireland. He virtually ruled as a military dictator until his death and the restoration of the monarchy.

Now Cameron, from the party that has always defended aristocratic privilege, has decided that the House that enshrines the privilege is ‘undemocratic’ and needs to be reformed. How things change! There are further comparisons with Cromwell. The Lord Protector also hated and abolished the Anglican Church. Cameron has also had a battle with the churches. In the case of Cromwell, it was because the Church of England was, in his opinion, too close to that of Rome. Cameron is much less sectarian – he’s been under fire from just about all of them, because of the terrible effects of his reforms on the poor.

As for being a democratically elected lower house, even that claim is dubious. Much of the country stayed away from the polls, meaning that the result would be invalid under the government’s trade union legislation. Further reforms from the Tories could lead to as many as 10 million people losing their right to vote. The anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate, has started a campaign to get people to register. See their report at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/voter-registration-report/.

So this is just more hypocrisy and attacks on democracy and the constitution from a party, which has always hated the proles voting, and really can’t stand it when their own side, the Toffs, side with them.

For many British, and particularly Irish historians, Cromwell was a figure of hatred and revulsion, a proto-Fascist military dictator, complete with short hair cut and the goose-step. Cameron is becoming increasingly like him. How long before he starts calling himself ‘Lord Protector’, after the great revolutionary?

Vox Political: Labour’s Plans to Curb Political Corruption

March 5, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political reported the Labour Party’s plans to introduce reforms to tackle rowdy behaviour in the Commons, regulate the commercial interests corrupting parliament, reform the upper house, and make voting easier and the franchise more democratic. It’s entitled Labour launches plan to attack political corruption and begins

If there’s one area of British life that needs reform, it’s politics.

Every day, Vox Political receives at least one comment from somebody saying that the system is corrupt and desperately needs an overhaul. Today (Tuesday, March 3), Labour is due to announce its plans for tackling this very issue.

The trouble is, of course, that many people are saying Labour is part of the problem.

The claim is that the party and its high-level members have a vested financial interest in keeping the system as it is – and the gravy train rolling along. How will Labour combat these?

Well…

There are plans to consult on new powers for the Speaker to tackle the worst and repeated instances of rowdy behaviour in the Chamber with a so-called ‘sin bin’.

Former Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans described the idea as “rubbish”, pointing out that the speaker already has the ability to remove MPs in certain circumstances and has lots of discretion at present.

But the Speaker himself, John Bercow, has given a cautious welcome to the suggestion that MPs face a rugby-style “yellow-card” temporary ban for bad behaviour in the Chamber. Answering questions at a Hansard Society event at Westminster, Mr Bercow said: “I think there is merit in it, it’s not for me to decide, it’s for the House to decide.”

The other measures, which were to be proposed by Angela Eagle, included lowering the voting age to 16, and a trial period to assess the viability of on-line voting; introducing a Prime Minister’s question time for the public along with measures to give ordinary people a greater say in law-making; creating compulsory legislation governing lobbying and regulating MPs’ second jobs; devolving further powers and replacing the House of Lords with a ‘Senate of the Nations and Regions’.

The article quotes Madam Eagle, who said “The recent debate over MPs’ second jobs reminds us that so much needs to change in Westminster. When trust in politics and politicians is already at a record low, only radical reform will restore faith in our political process.

“Labour’s plan will deliver the reform our politics needs. We will reform the Commons to strengthen its ability to hold the government to account. And we will ensure our political system always puts people before rich and powerful vested interests.”

Eagle acknowledged that the parliamentary system was adversarial, but stated that the excessively rowdy behaviour in parliament was putting some people off.’

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/03/labour-launches-plan-to-attack-political-corruption/. Go and read it.

Cutting Down on the Barracking May Attract More Female MPs

I think that some of these measures will undoubtedly make parliament far more democratic and representative. Although many would consider it only a minor issue, curbing some of the aggressive shouting and barracking in the Commons might actually make parliamentary politics far more attractive, as Madam Eagle claims. The weird shouting, booing and bizarre animal noises from MPs were a target of the satirists way back in the 1990s. It’s also been said that women in particular are put off politics because of the very aggressive, masculine atmosphere of the House. Making it more genteel may combat this and so encourage more women to enter politics and ensure there is a larger and more representative proportion of female MPs.

Young Voters more Idealistic

Lowering the voting age to 16 may also be beneficial. The SNP wished to do so, as their research suggested that younger Scots were more nationalistic than their parents and elders. It’s also generally the case that younger people tend to be more idealistic and inclined towards Socialism and left-wing views.

Lobbying and MPs’ Corporate Interests

Regulating MPs second careers and introducing proper laws on lobbying will also undoubtedly clean up parliament and restore some measure of public confidence. Many MPs enjoy positions on the boards of private companies, and the policies they introduce frequently reflects the interests of their companies, rather than that of the British public. The Tory party is currently carrying out the privatisation of the NHS by the backdoor. It is certainly no accident that 92 Conservative MPs also hold positions on the boards or in the senior management of private healthcare companies. This has been a scandal ever since the ’90s, when Private Eye began listing the companies to which various MPs belonged, which appeared to influence their voting. This was during John Major’s administration, when there was increasing concern about drinking and the effects of advertising alcohol on TV. Legislation to reform them were, however, blocked by the Tories because many of their MPs had posts in drinks industry. There was a similar scandal with the tobacco industry, because of the links of senior Tories there. Kenneth Clarke, for example, after he left office joined British-American Tobacco.

The power and influence of lobbyists has also been a major concern. It desperately needs to be regulated. However, this needs to be very carefully framed so that the laws do exactly what they claim, and cannot be circumvented. Cameron in this parliament introduced legislation ostensibly to regulate lobbying, but which has had the opposite effect. It has places serious constraints on the power of the general public to petition and hold parliament to account, while leaving the professional lobbyists untouched. This needs to be repealed and the whole process genuinely reformed. Labour must be seen to be acting clearly in the public’s interest when they do so.

I also support a genuine reform of the House of Lords to make it a genuinely democratic chamber, with the power to act as a genuine constitutional check on malicious or flawed legislation.

Devolution and the Threat of Further Cuts

I have, however, severe reservations about the benefits of devolution to the regions. About half the money spent by local authorities comes from central government, raised through national taxes. My fear is that if more local authorities are given greater, devolved powers, the central government will use this as an excuse to cut funding, arguing that a greater proportion of the money spent by local authorities should come from their own taxes or the community charge. Cuts would then be made by local authorities in order keep taxes down. This would have the effect of making the poorest areas even poorer, and encourage wealthy boroughs with low community charges, like Westminster, to do even more to cleanse their areas of the poor and other social undesirables, who require more to be spent on them.

In support of this view, take Bristol’s elected mayor, Mayor Fergusson, for example. He is a strong supporter of the city gaining further devolved powers, and was at a meeting earlier this week to promote the idea. Yet Fergusson, for all that claims to be an independent, is a former Lib Dem, who has made massive cuts to the city’s expenditure. Last winter, for example, he pushed through £90m worth of cuts. There is a real danger that giving elected mayors like Fergusson even greater powers will merely result in further massive cuts to public services, regardless of whether or not the majority of local councillors are in favour.

A Lesson from Weimar Germany: Gustav Stresemann, Company Directors as Politicians and the State Funding of Political Parties

August 5, 2013

While the Conservatives have attacked the Labour Party for its links to the trade unions, they themselves have profound links to big business and have consistently acted in the interests of the corporations that fund them and of which many of their MPs are directors. My brother, Mike, Another Angry Voice , Street Democracy, and numerous other bloggers have noted that the Conservative MPs, like Ian Duncan Smith, proposing the dismantlement of the welfare state and the NHS have connections to companies seeking to profit from this. Their spin doctor, Lynton Crosbie, is in the pay of the tobacco companies, hence Cameron’s decision not to pass laws requiring the sale of cigarettes in plain white packaging. See http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/cameron-corrupt-corporate-whore-according-to-meacher/, https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/the-discreet-charm-of-lord-coe/, http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/lies-lobbying-lynton-and-a-last-insult-before-the-long-summer-break/, http://streetdemocracy.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/social-services-for-vulnerable-children-in-england-to-be-privatised/, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/lazy-lord-coe-and-tory-nhs-reforms.html, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/lynton-crosby-conflicts-of-interest-tory.html, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/tory-donations-peerages-contracts.html, for example. Going further back in time, Private Eye in the latter Thatcher administration and Major era printed the number of Tory MPs with connections to the alcohol industry, when those administrations introduced 24-hour drinking and rebuffed calls for greater legislation regarding its sale and advertisement.Recently there have also been called for state funding for political parties, following the fall in their funding as they have lost members. These issues are, however, very definitely not unique to early twenty-first century Britain. Concerns over the politicians’ connections to industry and suggestions that this should be replaced by state funding were first raised nearly ninety years ago by the German statesman, Gustav Stresemann.

Stresemann was the leader of the Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP, or ‘German People’s Party’.This was the successor to the National Liberals of pre-WWI Germany. Anti-socialist with the slogan ‘From red chains make yourselves free/ Only the German People’s Party’, it was the party of business and academia. Its party councils attracted leading businessmen, and industrialists such as Stinnes, Vogler and Kalle served as DVP deputies in the Reichstag. In 1930 ten of the Party’s deputies in the Reichstag between them were directors of 77 companies. This troubled Stresemann, who wished the party to develop a more genuinely Liberal, disinterested approach to politics. In 1928 he and his colleague, Julius Curtius, received complaints from other members of the party when the joined the cabinet of the new Reichschancellor, Hermann Muller, a member of the SPD, the German socialist party. Stresemann countered that the 23 members of the parliamentary party were connected with big business, and did not have the courage ‘to take a position contrary to that of the big employers’ groups and industrial associations’. Stresemann began to consider that the only way to prevent such undue industrial influence in the Party should be by limiting the donations from industry and establishing a system of state funding for the parties. Unfortunately, the catastrophic economic collapse of 1929 and the foreign policy crises of the late 20s and 30s prevented him from doing anything about this. Nevertheless, it is significant that he recognised this as a problem, and suggested that state funding should be used to oppose it.

Most people in Britain probably feel that politicians are already paid too much and too well rewarded, and their parties too corrupt, malicious or incompetent to deserve state funding. It is important to note that in all the calls for the state funding of political parties, no-one has called for limiting political donations. Instead state funding is seen as solution to a general lack of funds. I feel that the next there are calls for political parties to be subsidised by the state, it should be accompanied by legislation limiting the amount they can receive from industry, as suggested by Stresemann. Only then can we expect anything like a parliament free from such commercial interests.