uk cached version 20/01/2019 19:30:50 en Brexit, democracy and the sacred <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is no way back to anything resembling a&nbsp;united&nbsp;kingdom without some kind of sacrifice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Pixabay</a>. <a href="">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>The philosophical heart of Brexit is the unexamined relationship between democracy and the sacred. The crux of the UK’s problem is that there is something sacred about democracy but there is nothing democratic about the sacred; that’s why the first EU referendum is considered by many to be sacrosanct while a second risks being sacrilegious.</p> <p>What makes something sacred is not that it is religious or even that it is good, but that it represents a moral touchstone or boundary; something held to be fundamental and inviolable. We hold as sacred whatever we are deeply invested in to the extent that to lose it - family, flag, place, idea - would represent an existential threat to our identity and capacity to make meaning out of life. The sacred is not an ally to instrumental thinking but its antidote. Hard though it is for Remainers to understand, Brexit is sacred in precisely that way for many who voted to leave. </p> <p>At the core of our Brexit predicament is therefore an unresolved sense of dissonance. Two and a half years after the initial vote, in aggregate the country appears to feel both that we should not leave the EU and that we have to leave. This dissonance has taken hold because there has been no national consensus about what the result of the referendum meant in its fullest sense. Back in June 2016, we needed a moment of collective reckoning, a wholehearted conversation about the causes and consequences of leaving the EU. Instead we had “Brexit means Brexit,” a series of unhelpful negotiating postures and political decisions, and an irresolute opposition; all of which manifests now in the lack of a parliamentary majority for a viable way forward.</p> <p>What makes Brexit so maddening is that two of democracy’s moral logics are talking past each other. The utilitarian logic is about avoiding or managing the negative consequences of Brexit; but the deontological<a href=""></a>&nbsp;logic (whatever is inherently right, regardless of the consequences) is about guarding the&nbsp;<em>sanctity</em>&nbsp;of the decision to leave, again regardless of the consequences. Another major moral logic, currently neglected but crucial for moving on from the impasse, is virtue development, the missing conversation about what it means to live well together.</p> <p>Alas, we are now spending billions of pounds preparing for a no deal Brexit that few want because there is no sense of shared purpose, and the language of consequences has no standing in matters that are perceived to be sacred. As pragmatism and principle go head to head, what looks superficially like a civil war between Leavers and Remainers is actually more like a decisive challenge to a barely coherent political system. </p> <p>Whether you think leaving the EU increases our sovereignty or diminishes it, democracy is a valid touchstone in this debate. Democracy is grounded in a principle of moral equality between citizens, manifest in our human rights within the rule of law, and made politically tangible through the principle of One Person One Vote where voting outcomes are respected. When Brexiteers speak of not leaving the EU in terms of ‘frustrating the will of the people’ or ‘betraying democracy’ it can sound shrill, but it is the violation of this principle of moral equality that they are invoking, even if their ultimate motivation may lie elsewhere. Democracy is the founding principle of our shared life together. If that shared touchstone goes, or is seen to have gone, everything else could go with it.</p> <p>The success of Brexiteers has been to sacralise a particular outcome of a democratic process in the name of democracy, despite the fact that it is the principles underlying the process that are sacred, not the outcome. <a href="">Democracy</a> should be an evolving historical and institutional process, part of a shared setting in which complexities are aired, opinions evolve and debates are resolved. But Brexit&nbsp;has <em>reduced</em>&nbsp;democracy to a distilled opinion of 17.4 million people at one moment in time; a revealed religion that found evangelical form in ‘the will of the people.’</p> <p>What follows for what we should do now? We might find a way to stumble through without another referendum, but not without economic harm and continued cultural rancor. In light of our tangled moral logics there is a case for a resolutely cathartic approach. The deeper rationale for a new public vote is not just to ‘sort it out,’ but to subsume the toxic and divisive energy of the first referendum with a more transformative approach in the second. </p> <p>The details need careful attention, but the extension of Article 50 (notification of intention to leave the EU) needs to provide enough time to connect the new referendum process to a national conversation about all the issues that are implicated in Brexit; everything from social and economic policy to status, identity and constitutional change. </p> <p>As a sacrifice to Remainers, the new referendum should include those forsaken in the last one; EU nationals who have made the UK their home and 16-17 year olds, many of whom see the EU as part of their home too. That loads the dice heavily in favour of Remain. However, as a sacrifice to Leavers, we should set the bar for remaining in the EU much higher, requiring a simple majority in all four home nations and an overall UK supermajority of anywhere between 52% (eclipsing the 51.9% victory for Leave in 2016) to the highest supermajority bar required for constitutional change in some countries - 66.6%. </p> <p>Whatever figure is chosen should leave the outcome of the referendum in doubt, with a positive campaign to be fought and won. A vote lower than 40% for Remain could lead to a managed No Deal Brexit on WTO terms, and between 40-50% would be an acceptance of Theresa May’s negotiated deal. A further concession to Leave is that even if Remain won over 50% but less than the agreed supermajority, this would entail Leaving, but with the softest possible Brexit, pre-negotiated in outline with the EU and EFTA countries and detailed in a White Paper. It is a messy approach, but honestly and purposively so, because our problem is not primarily procedural in nature. </p> <p>The purpose of the supermajority requirement and expanded electorate is to neutralise the legitimate claim that another referendum would cause further division and be a betrayal of democracy. The resulting campaign cannot be about wishing away the first vote; it should focus on national renewal within a further-democratised transnational alliance, and it should be collaborative and inclusive by design.</p> <p>In the light of existing support for independence in Scotland and growing support for a United Ireland; and due to the socio-economic divisions and alienation between rulers and ruled that drove the original referendum result, there is no way back to anything resembling a&nbsp;<em>united</em>&nbsp;kingdom without some kind of sacrifice. The UK has been weakened both by the Brexit process and all currently conceivable outcomes, but sacrifice is precisely about the transition from weakness to power, in which, as <a href=";pg=PA129&amp;lpg=PA129&amp;dq=Terry+Eagleton+puts+it,+self-dispossession+is+a+condition+for+self-fulfillment.&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=n7wQKaCX16&amp;sig=ACfU3U3gQn1qXxm-TYk4Tq2svDinh9dZpQ&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjK9Pan7_TfAhUBc98KHfZ">Terry Eagleton puts it</a>, self-dispossession is a condition for self-fulfillment. Asking for a second referendum in which we can only remain with a supermajority and leave even with a simple majority for Remain is a form of self-dispossession, but this has to be a genuine sacrifice for there to be a chance of fulfillment.&nbsp; </p> <p>The sacred has two faces. One is what <a href="">Rene Girard</a> calls the archaic sacred, in which someone or something is sacrificed to sustain the natural order and the cohesion of society. It comes at a cost, but mainly <em>to</em> an Other; in the extreme case it’s the expulsion or killing of a scapegoat, an action which is cathartic in restoring order and propitiating the gods. Arguably this is what happened with immigration on Brexit.</p> <p>The other aspect of the sacred is modelled in the Christian tradition by Jesus, the kenotic self-giving <em>for</em> the Other that we see in parental love and self-sacrificial care. These two forms of the sacred manifest all the time in politics: scapegoating, violence and purging happen, but so do compromise and the willingness to recognise obligations to, and the demands of, Others. The challenge is that a sacralised goal that calls for other-sacrifice is liable to be obnoxious, which is why a re-run of the referendum is viewed by many as unacceptable, or as The Daily Express might put it: ‘They are going to take away your Brexit.’</p> <p>However, a sacred approach that calls for self-sacrifice and self-giving in other ways has the potential to be healing. Clearly, moving towards these kinds of transformative ideas will require more political vision and capacity for sacrifice than is currently evident in British political life. Still, there is a dearth of good alternatives, and stranger things have happened. </p> <p>The current impasse might well lead to a second referendum with terms similar to the first, but that entails significant political risks (losing again due to strength of the betrayal narrative) and cultural risks (enduring divisions). We have learned that referendums often offer neither closure nor catharsis and it would be foolish to carry on regardless. Yet perhaps the real lesson is that we haven’t been doing public votes properly. Brexit was a wake-up call, and we need to stay awake, grow through crisis, and commit to reweaving the social fabric of the country as a whole. Whatever form it finally takes, any new referendum has to be more truly democratic than the one it seeks to subsume, and to be seen to be so.</p> <p><em>A longer and referenced version of this piece is available <a href="">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/into-vortex">What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-rowson/charlie-hebdo-is-nothing-sacred">Charlie Hebdo: is nothing sacred?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation uk Transformation Brexit Jonathan Rowson Trans-partisan politics Love and Spirituality Sun, 20 Jan 2019 19:28:57 +0000 Jonathan Rowson 121329 at Voting doesn’t build consensus – we need a People’s Debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With a Damocles sword hanging over UK democracy, everyone is underestimating how many people they need to listen to or persuade for real progress to be made.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2019-01-20 at 15.04.47.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2019-01-20 at 15.04.47.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="359" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot detail: Gilets Jaunes demonstration, Champs Elysee, January 5, 2019. Wikicommons/Stefan Jaouen. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>As usual, my colleague Anthony Barnett has posed <a href="">the meaningful question</a>: ‘What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean?’ </p> <p>But by concentrating for his answer on the character of the party leaders – an observer sport, entertaining as it is, that belongs to a bygone era – he has surely missed a far more important factor. In a way it is obvious. What the unprecedented defeat means is that in an era that has moved into many-to–many communication as its dominant characteristic, one-way persuasion no longer works. </p> <p>Yet from the beginning of the Brexit process, one-way persuasion is all that has been attempted. </p> <p>Let us remember the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ with which we have been hammered and battered for two and a half years. It turns out, of course, that 70 days off from the self-imposed Brexit guillotine, we still have not a clue about what Brexit means. Even the hard Brexiters can’t agree among themselves about what it meant – and their insistences that they can look increasingly suspiciously like the opinions they happened to hold in the first place, So, this was not ultimately a persuasive phrase, was it?&nbsp; But it was a very insistent attempt indeed at one-way persuasion. Theresa May was going to do it (and maybe is still going to do it) ‘her way’.</p> <p>One-way persuasion under cover of negotiation with the EU meant leaving an awful lot of interlocutors out. It meant not talking to the parliamentarians at all, or letting them scrutinise the Withdrawal Bill as they ought to have done; it meant never talking to Scotland, Wales, Labour, 16-18 year olds, EU citizens in the UK, divided remainers (including working class, middle class and anti-EU remainers) and divided leavers (including middle class and working class leavers and Lexiters) – and reputedly not even talking persuasively to people in her own Cabinet including a succession of Brexit secretaries for two and a half years. </p> <p>And of course it also meant trying to make sure that there was no major opportunity for them to talk to each other. That was another function of ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Not only – ‘I know what it means’ (despite the fact that I am leading a minority government dependent on the DUP with whom I don’t agree about absolutely everything) but also, crucially, ‘<em>I</em> know what it means so there is absolutely no point at all in <em>your</em> talking about it.’</p> <p>Two and a half years is a very long time when so much is at stake. What is extraordinary is that we collectively sat around waiting for the outcome of this one-way-persuasion process, and didn’t have the gumption to get ourselves together, and work out what we wanted through <a href="">mutual persuasion.</a> We didn’t call for <a href="">opportunities to do this</a>. And we weren’t offered them – by anybody.</p> <p>Those who did stir contented themselves instead with slagging off whoever happened to be their polar opposite at the starting gate, in a manner that had been carefully prepared for us by the forces that openDemocracy’s investigative journalists <a href="">have been investigating</a>. This calculated production of just a sufficient range of enemy images to keep us pinned in servility is by far and a way the most serious disservice that the oligarchs and the mercenary propaganda firms have done to the UK, the EU and the future of democracy. Far more serious than the dark money involved or the rules broken. These breaches are just indicative of the larger depredation, the enemy images which have led pretty quickly to murder, incivility, and to our ongoing servility.</p> <p>Because they also seem to have persuaded us that we too knew who the enemy was, who the leavers were and who the remainers were, and how much they disagreed about the UK and the EU, without our ever getting together to meet each other and see whether we couldn’t change each others’ minds. Critics of the EU on both sides for example, have never exchanged views about the fundamental reforms needed there and how best to initiate them. The same goes for critics of the status quo in the UK, although as Yanis Varoufakis <a href="">so cogently argues</a>, the Brexit process has in itself exposed a whole raft of constitutional issues that fundamentally need addressing if we want to live in a democracy.</p> <p>They have <a href="">done better in France,</a> where Emmanuel Macron is also finding out in a rather more French way, that in the many-to-many communications era in which we now dwell, despite all those elegant speeches with classical references, governance by one-way persuasion simply doesn’t work. </p> <p>In France, the Gilets Jaunes have got out on the streets together. I have seen with my own eyes quite far left and quite far rightwing people walking arm in arm up the Champs Elysee, calling for a profound change in their mutual interest. Whether they can get to the next stage of talking through their differences… they agree, is a challenge. But they have been able to force Macron to offer the unimaginable – (of course to be sure with all sorts of hedging about and careful selection of topics designed to hijack the outcome for the status quo – what after all is power for if it is not to hold onto power!?)!</p> <p>But Macron has had to offer a <a href=""><em>debate between French citizens</em></a>. It remains to be seen whether British governance can be persuaded to offer <a href="">anything similar</a>. </p> <p>Why is <em>debate between</em> so important? Firstly because it is the only way to be truly inclusive. Everyone can contribute to the debate – why not?&nbsp; This could be a substantial opportunity to give people previously not listened to a voice, something that our referendum result was calling for, almost as clearly as the Gilets Jaunes flocking to roundabouts to talk to each other and get their voices heard. Secondly, because when people get together, they can change each others’ minds, both about who all of them are and about what they want. It is the only way of <a href="">arriving at a better consensus</a> and in a world of many-to-many communication, this is the only kind of democracy which is ultimately going to work. </p> <p>The people of the UK, like the other peoples of Europe, all of whom have their own national versions of a rising nationalist far right, a democratic crisis, a wrecking austerity, and a scapegoating enemy image of migrants (joining bullying and gambling as another mainstream form of distraction), will only become ‘rulemakers’ when we have fought for and begun to win more of a democratic say in both. When we have begun to build a consensus on all those major issues that can no longer be ignored by power, and when we are vigilant enough not to let ourselves be manipulated, divided and conquered, over and over again.</p> <p>Unfortunately, I can’t see a way that the People’s Vote could avoid being yet another chapter in the latter, unless it is preceded by a more comprehensive opportunity for voice, an open, trust-restoring People’s Debate. <a href="">Adam Ramsay’s suggestion </a>of a ‘citizens’ assembly to craft the options that should be offered’ would certainly be a small <a href="">step in the right direction</a>, but would hardly in itself ensure ‘a chance for genuinely democratic dialogue’ that would not be rudely and prematurely shut down by the vote itself. This is because it is very hard to see what either side winning the vote would achieve, given a country with so many unpersuaded and, as many of the Gilets Jaunes seem to have realised, without a significant change in the power relations that govern us. The downside, in either eventuality, in terms of the additionally aggrieved, is only too clear.</p> <p>Parliamentarians should now ignore the inflexible British prime minister altogether, get together and build a consensus between themselves for the best holding operation that gives us time to set up an inclusive People’s Debate, throughout the nations of the UK. </p> <p>This holding operation could be on either side of the leaver/remainer divide, as long as there is a commitment to a comprehensive process of debate with the potential for radical renewal, and no chance of democracy being once again put back in its box. Unhooking us from infertile pre-occupations with leaving or remaining would release us from the pressures of the ticking clock. Instead, we could commit ourselves to a comprehensive exchange about the future for the UK that we really do want.</p><p>For this is surely the other answer to the question, ‘What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean?’ It also means that despite the government’s best efforts and unless it is brutally taken away from us, democracy is finally in danger of breaking out.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/philippe-marli-re/yellow-vests-or-discrediting-of-representative-democracy">The yellow vests, or the discrediting of representative democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-two">A People’s Vote won’t heal Brexit divisions – we need a People’s Debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/creativity-must-operate-across-borders">Creativity must operate across borders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk UK EU Rosemary Bechler DiEM25 Sun, 20 Jan 2019 15:10:07 +0000 Rosemary Bechler 121363 at Britain’s devastating cuts to social security breach international human rights law, NGOs find <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is time to invest in a fair future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// rights.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// rights.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Section 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which forms the basis of international agreements the UK is a signatory to. Credit: Richard Lemarchand/Flickr, CC 2.0</span></span></span></p><p>In accordance with <a href="">international human rights law</a>, countries must take concrete steps to the maximum of their available resources to fulfil economic and social rights progressively. This includes the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living.</p> <p>In case of serious economic difficulties, countries can slow down, halt and even reverse some of the progress, but those measures must be time-limited, objectively necessary and proportionate, adopted after meaningful engagement with those most affected by them. They cannot be discriminatory, and must mitigate inequalities and ensure that the rights of the most disadvantaged people are not disproportionately affected. These are the <a href=";Lang=en">requirements</a> of the human right principle of non-retrogression.</p> <p>But tax and social security cuts since 2010 have not met the mentioned requirements of non-retrogression, a <a href="">briefing</a> recently written by the social rights NGO Just Fair for the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee shows - and therefore these cuts <em>breach the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living</em> This means that the UK is infringing the <a href="">International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a> (Articles 9 and 11) and the <a href="">European Social Charter</a> (Articles 12 and 13), both of which have been voluntarily subscribed to by the UK. Brexit will not change that.</p> <p>The briefing is supported by 15 local and national groups working on fair taxation, community engagement, workers’ rights, child poverty, equality and food security: Caritas Anchor House, Unison, Women’s Budget Group, Back To 60, Equality and Diversity Forum, Community Links, Sustain, Fair Play South West, Race On The Agenda, Taxpayers Against Poverty, Research for Action, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Tax Justice UK, The Equality Trust, and 4 in 10.</p> <p>Tax and social security policies since 2010 have not been justifiable in terms of the goals they were meant to achieve. They have not been proportionate, and the effects have been discriminatory. The weight of local government funding cuts has fallen on people at risk of harm, discrimination and disadvantage, and benefit sanctions have been harmful and largely ineffective. To address each of those in turn in a little more detail:</p> <h2>Not justifiable in terms of their proposed effects</h2> <p>The Government <a href="">justified</a> “welfare reforms” as a lever to encourage, “including through benefit sanctions where appropriate, those who can work to find and keep work and to increase their earnings rather than relying on benefits”. However, the UK Statistics Authority <a href="">cast doubt</a> on any significant causal relationship between “welfare reforms” and the labour market: “The available numerical evidence does not demonstrate a particularly strong causal link between the benefit cap and the decisions made by individuals about moving into work”. The National Audit Office has <a href="">disclosed</a> that neither they nor the Department of Work and Pensions are confident <em>it would </em><em>ever be possible to measure whether the economic goal of increasing employment has been achieved.</em> It is true that “welfare reforms” and historically low levels of unemployment have happened at the same time, but correlation and causation are two separate things.</p> <h2>Not proportionate</h2> <p>According to the <a href="">European Committee of Social Rights</a>, UK levels of state benefits are not sufficient so as to ensure an adequate standard of living. <a href="">Families on benefits</a> now have to live without 40% of their required budget, and there are <a href="">1.5 million</a> destitute people in our country. That’s the whole of Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool together. As pointed out by the <a href=";LangID=E">UN Special Rapporteur</a> on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights at the end of his UK mission last November, “when the Chancellor could have used the windfall he received from the Office for Budget Responsibility to end the benefit freeze a year earlier than planned, he instead chose to change income tax thresholds in a way that will help those better off and will do nothing to move the needle on poverty”.</p> <h2>Discriminatory</h2> <p>The <a href="">Equality and Human Rights Commission</a> reports that the largest cash gains from changes to income tax and national insurance contributions were enjoyed by the wealthiest 30%. As a result of changes to benefits and tax credits and Universal Credit, households in the second and third deciles have lost more than twice as much as those in the top 20%. At this pace, in four years from now 1.5 million more children will live in poverty, the child poverty rate for lone parent households (nine in 10 of which are women) will exceed 60%, and households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will lose 13% of their income. Lone mothers will lose almost one fifth of their annual income.</p> <h2>Harm falls on those most at risk</h2> <p>The weight of local government funding cuts falls on people at risk of harm, discrimination and disadvantage.<strong> </strong>According to the <a href="">National Audit Office</a>, local government funding fell in real terms by almost half between 2010-11 and 2017-18.&nbsp;Local authorities&nbsp;that received the largest share of their funding from government grants in 2009 experienced <a href="">most significant cuts</a> to their service spending, nearly three times as much. The damaging effects of these cuts are also <a href="">unevenly distributed</a> in society. Minority ethnic groups often live in deprived areas, and cuts to local authority spending has led to cuts in local services many women rely on, such as social care, public transport and services for children.</p> <h2>Harmful and largely ineffective</h2> <p>“Welfare reforms” have been particularly harmful for people that struggle the most to make ends meet. Researchers have found a clear <a href="">correlation</a> between the increase of food bank use and the rollout of Universal Credit, and <a href="">between</a> food bank use and benefit sanctions. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee <a href="">denounced</a> the “unexplained variation” in the use of benefit sanctions in different parts of the country. Reflecting on the role of sanctions in getting more people to work, the Work and Pensions Committee <a href="">concluded</a> that “at best, evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, and at worst, it shows them to be counterproductive”. Both this Committee and the National Audit Office <a href="">criticised</a> the government for not doing enough to assess the impact of sanctions on people on low incomes.</p> <h2>So what should happen next?</h2> <p>The Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, u-turned in early January and <a href="">announced</a> that the Government will not apply the two-child benefit limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017. This is good news but it is not enough. The Government must assess the cumulative impact of tax, social security and public spending decisions since 2010, reverse benefit freeze and cap, as well as the two-child limit, and restore the link between social security entitlements and the cost of living.</p> <p>Social security is an investment in people; it is itself a human right and essential to the realisation of other human rights, as put in the forefront of the <a href="">Scottish Social Security Act 2018</a>. In Ruth Patrick’s <a href="">words</a>, “properly reimagined, social security could be a source of pride for citizens and create a more equal society”. We need an entirely different approach. A free and fair society needs a strong safety net that guarantees the material conditions of freedom. It is time to leave austerity behind and start investing in a fair future.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Koldo Casla Fri, 18 Jan 2019 15:15:52 +0000 Koldo Casla 121348 at The Planetary Health Diet isn’t much use to people living in food poverty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People shouldn’t be forced to choose between eating well, and eating in an environmentally conscious way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// images.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// images.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="482" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture: Images of meals used in the Planetary Health Diet report.</span></span></span></p><p>The ‘planetary health diet' was announced yesterday by <a href="">an international commission</a> established to prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change. But for the <a href="">5 million people in the UK </a>who are estimated to be malnourished or at risk of becoming so, the high cost of this earth-friendly diet will be out of this world.</p> <p>The ‘planetary health diet’ is a welcome initiative to define a sustainable diet in the face of global environmental catastrophe and widespread lack of access to healthy food, and the ambition of the <a href="">commission’s report</a> is compelling. But with fresh berries, avocado, sourdough bread and fresh edamame served up on the planetary menu <a href="">put together by the Guardian</a>, the sample meals seem more like offerings from the latest book by <a href="">Deliciously Ella</a> instead of truly accessible, affordable food. </p> <p>There’s no price breakdown included in the menu, but meals like “courgette, cavolo nero and tomato gratin with breadcrumbs and almonds, and a green salad and polenta on the side” are likely to be out of financial reach for the almost 4 million children in the UK who are estimated to live in households that struggle to afford <a href="">enough fruit, vegetables</a> and other healthy foods to meet official nutrition guidelines as it is. </p> <p>These sample meals are simply intended to demonstrate that it’s possible to produce appetising food using the diet, but they raise an important concern. People shouldn’t be forced to choose between eating well, and eating in an environmentally conscious way. In Britain, where <a href="">food deserts are becoming increasingly commonplace</a>, the messaging around the ‘planetarian’ diet (to coin a phrase) has to be very carefully managed, or it risks being read as another middle-class fad instead of what it is: an urgent call to arms. </p> <p><a href="">The report acknowledges</a> that the “concerted commitment can be achieved by making healthy foods more available, accessible and affordable in place of unhealthier alternatives”. The challenge, should we choose to accept it, is to double our national consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and halve our consumption of red meat and sugar by 2050. If the UK is to reach this target without leaving millions of families behind, business leaders and policy-makers need to work with farmers, supermarkets, suppliers and communities to tackle the gross inequality in the UK food system. And the government must lead the way by taking decisive action to subsidise healthy, sustainable food. </p> <p>We can start by ending the damaging conflation between ‘sustainable’ food and luxury. The point is left just hanging in the air that being ‘environmental’ is expensive as if it’s a law of physics. Healthy and environmentally sustainable food is not unavoidably or inherently expensive – it’s the result of political and economic choices. </p> <p>We are, understandably, quite resistant to being 'told what to eat'. And often the campaigning messages get it wrong (step up Peta, who have chosen this week to <a href="">ruin vegetables for everyone</a>). But hidden behind cheap price tags are existing price systems and subsidies which already influence what people decide to cook for dinner – or can afford to buy in the first place. </p> <p>People have become disconnected from the way food is produced, so wholesale systemic change needs to happen at the local level if it’s to gain enough traction. Schools, <a href="">local growing projects</a> and public health initiatives all have a part to play. Change the system, and you truly give people the choice to go green.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/darren-baxter/are-we-headed-for-dustbowl-britain-and-what-does-that-mean-for-our-wildlife-and-our">Are we headed for dustbowl Britain – and what could that mean for our wildlife and our food?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/love-and-hunger-in-breadline-britain">Love and hunger in breadline Britain </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk food Anya Pearson Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:44:08 +0000 Anya Pearson 121346 at Lexit: The biggest unicorn of them all <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Lexiters who portray the EU as mostly underpinned by Hayekian neoliberalism have got it wrong, writes Paul Walsh.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: NikkiJW/Flickr, CC 2.0</span></span></span></p><p>Grace Blakeley&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">writing in the New Statesman</a>&nbsp;fires her guns at the EU, the bogeyman of Britain’s right and left for a generation, and calls for Lexit as the radical left policy of choice.</p> <p>But is the picture she gives an accurate view of the EU as it was, is, or can be? And is the Lexit she presents even possible?</p> <p>Of course, she’s right to point out the crimes of neoliberal mafia don Friedrich Hayek Corleone, as well as his ideas. As far back as 1939 Hayek&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>&nbsp;that a future “interstate federation” could remove the “impediments” relating to the movement of people, goods, and capital between states, and serve the goal of making peace.</p> <p>But it would be a mistake to say that Godfather Hayek’s red-blooded neoliberalism has ever been implemented by the EU, as there are simply too many variables, or governments, to contend with. Think of the&nbsp;<em>dirigiste </em>tendencies of the French or the social-welfare commitments of the Scandinavians. A neoliberal utopia has simply never arrived.</p> <p>And Hayek, never afraid of sitting on the fence, was ambiguous about supranational federations himself. In his 1944 book&nbsp;<em><a href="" target="_blank">The Road to Serfdom</a></em>&nbsp;he claimed it would be difficult to “preserve democracy” if power and decision-making were to “rest with an organisation far too big for the common man to survey or comprehend”, a critique Brexiters and Lexiters have taken to heart.</p> <p>Far from being the “intellectual godfather” who “heavily influenced the creation of what became the European single market” as Blakeley claims,&nbsp;the EU’s early history was steered not by the ideas of Hayek but its “father” Jean Monnet, for whom "common action" on common problems was simply a way to peace through integration, as opposed to disintegration through war.</p> <p>Monnet saw the proto-EU as a way for governments to pool sovereignty in limited ways, in specific sectors. This would then, it was believed, generate 'spillover' effects such as increased loyalty by elites. The Monnet-inspired <a href="" target="_blank">Schuman Declaration</a>&nbsp;of 1950, which first proposed the pooling of coal and steel production, was clear: “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” Integration would lead national governments to lay down their arms in return for economic security. The national Barzinis and Corleones would finally be at peace.</p> <p>This specific form of integration has often drawn criticism from neoliberals rather than agreement. As noted in Quinn Slobodian’s book&nbsp;<em><a href="" target="_blank">Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism</a></em>, German neoliberal Wilhelm Röpke condemned the EEC as a protectionist bloc shielded from global competition. What he and other “universalist” thinkers wanted was a global system "encased by universal norms and upheld by inter-state cooperation". For them, Europe was a mere stopping place to a grid of rules guaranteeing the free flow of capital. Aspects of the EEC machine, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were anti-competitive heresy to their ears.</p> <p>In contrast, ‘unreformable’ is the critique thrown at the EU by the left. But this doesn’t explain how Nigel Farage and other Brexiteers leveraged EU institutions to gain power and hoover up EU cash; it doesn’t explain why the far-right sees the European Parliament as a beach-head for reconstituting nationalist mafias – while getting paid for doing it. And it doesn’t explain why staunch EU critic Yanis Varoufakis is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">running for the EU parliament</a>&nbsp;this year on a platform of radical change.</p> <p>So yes, a critique of the EU has its place; the days of ‘More Europe’ to answer every problem are surely gone. But if Lexiters had adopted the same fatalism about the Labour Party that they clearly hold for the EU – then how would Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum and the radical left revival ever have happened? And how does the Lexit–Brexit offer of ‘More Nation’ give us anything more?</p> <p>Laying Europe aside, the other issue is what Blakeley calls the “confrontation” between “capital and labour”; something inevitable under a transition to socialism. And she’s right about this. The day will come when the left will need to say what it intends to do, and do what it intends to do, to fight the most rapacious form of capitalism the world has known.</p> <p>But taking the fight to capital involves an organised working class—not a battered working class. Take a walk around towns in the Midlands and the North and you’ll see the result of decades of neglect: hollowed out towns and lives which no amount of magical thinking can fix.</p> <p>Brexit offered the public three wishes: you can take back control of your money, your borders, and your laws. Lexit does much the same with a socialist twist. Offering little more than dreams, both sides fail to realise that in an interconnected world, you can’t take back control without giving something up.</p> <p>Without a proper account of the EU’s complexity and origins, the Lexiter position tends to fall into a self-made abyss of misunderstanding. And without having the class power to back up its position, a Lexit – just like Brexit – may condemn the UK to perpetual autarky and possible disintegration.</p> <p>That’s why from all the&nbsp;unicorns&nbsp;available, the Lexit&nbsp;unicorn&nbsp;may be the biggest of them all.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit Paul Walsh Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:14:59 +0000 Paul Walsh 121344 at Salmond, Sturgeon and the end of the SNP's imperial era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Just when Scotland's voice is needed in the Brexit mess, the SNP's famous internal discipline seems to be disintegrating into factionalism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// salmond.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// salmond.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of the SNP during the 2015 General Election campaign. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Images, all rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>The Tories continue their thirty-year civil war on Europe, while Corbyn’s Labour continue to uphold constructive ambiguity informed by their leader’s long held Euroscepticism. The Lib Dems struggle for any relevance after the Cameron coalition. This present impasse has shown the limitations of British democracy and a deep-seated malaise about the meaning of Britain, with Brexit debates reduced to Westminster parlour games shaped by the most obsessional opinions, and a Tory Party in the grip of a reactionary, insular, backward looking English nationalism, which has the potential not only to destroy the Tories but take all of us over the cliff into the abyss.</p> <p>The historic moment is, however, somewhat anticlimactic, as Fintan O’Toole has suggested. Much of the script has been written by a fantasy version of history. Brexit, he writes, is “full, not just of nostalgia, but of pseudo-history. It is an old curiosity shop of fake antiques.”</p> <p>This point even more underlines the challenge to Scotland and the need for a Scottish voice and influence to be brought to these debates. Yet, at this critical point, the SNP has become embroiled in a huge, high powered divide between its two main figures, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, which threatens to have lasting and damaging consequences.</p> <p>A recap. Last August the Daily Record revealed that the <a href="">Scottish Government were investigating the Alex Salmond</a> after two staff members complained of inappropriate behaviour during his time as First Minister. Salmond disputed the claims and took the Scottish Government – which he had headed for seven years – to court claiming their process was tainted. </p> <p>Last week <a href="">Salmond won his case</a> at the Court of Session with the Scottish Government caving in at the first hurdle, admitting its investigation process had been “unlawful, procedurally unfair and tainted with apparent bias”. It has also emerged that Salmond and Sturgeon had a series of private meetings and exchanges last summer. Salmond requested the first of these meetings - held in Sturgeon’s house on April 2nd - as key individuals became aware of the investigations. <a href="">Sturgeon subsequently only notified the Permanent Secretary </a>&nbsp;about the first meeting after two months. All of this has left many loose threads and <a href="">several inquiries</a>. There is an internal inquiry into the failures of its own investigation, an investigation (to which Sturgeon referred herself) of whether Sturgeon she breached the ministerial code, an Information Commissioners inquiry into the handling of the original investigation, as well as an ongoing police inquiry into the substance of the original complaints against Salmond which he robustly rejects denies.</p> <p>This comes on the back of a series of slow simmering resentments which have been building between the once dream team of Salmond and Sturgeon since the indyref, and more acutely, post-Brexit. Salmond – who sees the indyref victory as rightfully his, but stolen by forces ranging from the BBC to ‘The Vow’ – gives the impression that he finds it difficult to leave the stage or to find a constructive role: hosting a tacky Edinburgh Fringe show and then embarking on a broadcasting career with RT (formerly <em>Russia Today).</em></p> <p>Sturgeon, in the eyes of Salmond and his supporters (as well as others), has soft peddled, and even back peddled, on the cause of independence and on calling a referendum. It has been put off, pushed back and relegated in importance it is claimed, while more general criticism is made of Sturgeon’s leadership style and the record of her administration. </p> <p>Hyperbolic claims – for example from the BBC’s Sarah Smith – of “outright civil war” in the SNP, lack nuance and can be easily dismissed by Nationalists. But nor can the situation be dismissed as a unionist conspiracy. There’s something serious going on. </p> <h2>The end of the Imperial SNP</h2> <p>This is the end of a certain period of the SNP: of its once impressive and self-imposed discipline. This is the end of the imperial period of SNP dominance. They may well for the foreseeable future continue to be Scotland’s leading party, but that will be more open to possible challenge. That isn’t that surprising after twelve years in office. What is surprising is how this has come about.</p> <p>If not a “civil war”, this is certainly already a proxy conflict for all sorts of other divisions, and could clearly escalate further. There are bruised feelings, mutual suspicions, competing stories and allegations, and clearly defined rival camps. </p> <p>The emergence of Salmond and Sturgeon camps with elements in each briefing against each other recalls the recent history of New Labour. Once upon a time Blair and Brown were the closest of allies, but as divisions emerged, slowly at first from the Granita ‘Deal’ to more seriously in office, the ‘TBGB’ problems began. </p> <p>These were fuelled by incessant briefings between the Blair and Brown camps over a host of things from Brown’s virtual autonomy in the Treasury to the date of Blair’s departure from No. 10. The two camps soon passed a point of no return where the years of harmony and discipline could not be recreated. Once you have two rival camps each doing the bidding and counter-bidding of their respective leaders, those leaders lose control of their acolytes. This is what is beginning to happen in the SNP, and if as is likely it continues, there is literally no way back from such self-destructive politics.</p> <h2>The bigger political divides on Independence – and the absence of a strategy or plan</h2> <p>Many in the SNP are hoping this all goes away and that normal politics can be resumed. But it can’t. This has become about more than the original allegations and the failures of government process.</p> <p>First, underlying the Salmond-Sturgeon divide are differences over independence. Salmond has consistently said that independence’s victory was snatched from his grasp in 2014. He clearly has never really come to terms with losing. Sturgeon has never ever uttered a similar bad loser’s perspective.</p> <p>This translates into how each now views independence. Salmond has post-Brexit pushed at every opportunity for calling an indyref. Sturgeon has not shown such an attitude, and when she moved in March 2017, many interpreted it as a result of private pressure from Salmond. Sturgeon was burned by this experience and Theresa May’s stonewalling of her call, and has subsequently backed off calling for an immediate indyref. </p> <p>A deep sore has been caused here and one factor has been amidst all the noise the vacuum and silence on what independence is post-2014. No post-mortem on defeat. No re-evaluation of the limits of the 2014 offer. No open fessing up from Sturgeon of the challenges and difficult choices of independence – beyond the sidelined Growth Commission. And while she was damaged by the March 2017 indyref call, she has since not been explicit about timescales and endgames, attempting to play for time – and hence in the process annoying a whole host of independence true believers. </p> <p>Secondly, this illustrates the different leaderships and political styles of Salmond and Sturgeon. But as important is when in the political cycle each has been called to leadership. Salmond’s second coming in 2004 came when the SNP was in the doldrums and had a mere 8,000 members. He took the SNP from that low point on a rising tide which encompassed the 2007 and 2011 victories and a 45% independence vote. </p> <p>Sturgeon inherited a party heading towards 120,000 members and on the brink of winning 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. In short, Salmond took the SNP to the top of the mountain (or very near the summit in the case of independence), and for Sturgeon, the only realistic prospect in terms of party support is a slow descent from that peak. The only real question is the nature of that descent: whether it can be managed and slow or a bumpy ride.</p> <p>The SNP’s current position is to prioritise a second Brexit referendum – the logic being to minimise the damage of Brexit, exert maximum leverage in Westminster, and speak up for the 62% pro-EU majority in Scotland. But this has also caused disquiet in the ranks with many people seeing it as distracting from independence.</p> <p>Sturgeon stated on Wednesday that she will come back in the “coming weeks” to outline her planned timetable on pushing for a second indyref. This in the context of the above events just doesn’t make any sense beyond the base and true believers, and underlines the damage caused by the lack of any strategy, plan or new offer. How could Scotland realistically consider another indyref when no independence package is on offer or being prepared? And what does that say about democracy and the critical need to speak to, honour, and win over No Voters? If anyone thinks the answer is to win a referendum on the principle with minimal detail (‘Britain is bust, let’s get out’), have a look at the mess that has got politics into on Brexit.</p> <h2>The limits of court politics and SNP modernity</h2> <p>No one could have predicted how all of the above would explode onto the political scene. But a wider set of trends could have been guessed at. The nature of the imperial era of the SNP was always unsustainable. The party has developed post-2014 into a safety first, cautious manageralism mixed with control freakery and presidentialism that has not sat well with the party’s professed values.</p> <p>There is also a longer story in recent times of the SNP under Salmond and Sturgeon, and the descent of the party into what can only be called court politics: a politics of personality and insiderness. This is after all how traditionally much of Scotland has done politics and how Labour behaved itself and ran Scotland for years. We as a nation actually have a pretty poor reservoir to draw from on how we do active, engaged democratic politics, particularly in office.</p> <p>There are numerous paradoxes. The SNP is more than Salmond and Sturgeon and their camps. It has 120,000 members, resources and ideas, and one factor stopping this from being Sarah Smith’s “outright civil war” is that so far this has been an elite and leadership faction fight. The mass membership have not yet taken sides. But what is also true is that since 2014 the SNP leadership have consciously tried to manage and exclude the party’s own membership from having much of say in the party or the big debates. A salutary fact is that since 2014 there has been not one substantive debate about independence at SNP conference.</p> <p>Wider tensions are at play. The SNP claim to be a movement when they are a party. The cause of independence is interwoven with the appeal of the SNP, and while they are different, the former is impossible without the latter. But the SNP at senior level have become at senior level the party of insider Scotland - and even, of the status quo. Some of the most ardent Nationalists inadvertently illustrate this when they defend every part of present-day Scotland from criticism – from education to hospital to even train times. </p> <p>Twelve years of dominance as a party in office is a long time in modern politics and the SNP have changed Scotland and themselves in the process. This has shown many of the strengths of the party but also its limitations: the thinness of its social democracy, the conceits of even the most civic nationalism, and its lack of feel and interest in democracy and dispersing power. They are failings that are not just owned by the SNP but by wider Scotland.</p> <p>One era of Scottish politics is drawing to a close, though not in a manner any of us imagined. There was always a conflict even in the 2014 indyref between the emerging Scotland that was more diverse and disputatious towards authority and power, and the bright shiny promise of SNP modernity. Those fault lines have come to the fore post-2014, and run through independence opinion, just as they run through radicals and progressives the world over. Just as the UK enters storm filled waters, the SNP itself is heading for crisis and division, out of which will come a different party, leadership and politics, and from that a different vision of Scotland and independence. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Brexit Gerry Hassan Fri, 18 Jan 2019 12:15:11 +0000 Gerry Hassan 121343 at Brexit – The Uncivil War: The former Chair of Labour Leave responds <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As we look for ways through the current Brexit impasse, it’s crucial to understand both the key role played by Labour Eurosceptics in swinging the vote – and that movement’s long history.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Brexit, The Uncivil War. Credit: C4.</span></span></span></p><p>Was the widely acclaimed film <em>The Uncivil War </em>an accurate record of what happened?</p> <p>I was Chair of Vote Leave for much of the time covered by the film – and there’s another story to tell. While Dominic Cummings, played extremely effectively by Benedict Cumberbatch, is portrayed as a flawed but highly effective genius, I am given a bit part with two or three short scenes portraying me as an incompetent and disloyal figurehead. As Brian Monteith said in a review of the film for City AM, “the portrayal of John Mills – a highly successful businessman and Labour’s largest private donor – as an out-of-touch dinosaur was hugely unfair.”</p> <p>Both Cummings – and the film – underestimated the key role played by Labour Eurosceptics – a movement with a long history and one that needs to be understood as we look for ways through the current impasse.</p> <p><strong><span>A little history</span></strong></p> <p>My involvement with what was originally the European Economic Community (EEC) and the Common Market goes back a long way. As an Oxford PPE undergraduate at the dawn of the 1960s, I came to the view that membership of the Common Market would not be in the UK’s best interest. Far from improving our economic performance or political advantage, I foresaw that it would lead to higher food prices, a deteriorating trade balance, significant net financial contributions and to an “ever closer union”, which was not what the British people wanted.&nbsp; I was not at all against co-operation across Europe, recognising the benefits that the EEC had brought about in reconciling France and Germany, but I thought European co-operation would work better on an inter-governmental basis than as part of a political project. Events since the early 1960s have not significantly shifted my views. &nbsp;</p> <p>During the 1975 EU referendum I was co-opted onto the Eurosceptic National Referendum Campaign (NRC) Committee. As its other members were generally much more interested in policy than in organisation I rapidly found myself in charge of managing the national campaign – arranging nightly TV interviews, creating a national network of willing helpers, and distributing millions of leaflets and posters. I ran the London area myself. Despite valiant efforts by the NRC – out-financed by the Britain in Europe campaign by a factor of some ten to one – the electorate voted two to one in favour of the UK staying in the Common Market. Those of us on the Leave side thought that we had won the argument but – clearly - we had not won the referendum.</p> <p>I have been a life-long Labour supporter and in the 1970s most of the opposition to Common Market membership came from the left. An organisation to link together Labour Eurosceptics was clearly required. Ron Leighton, later to become an MP, and I therefore set up the Labour Common Market Safeguards Committee (LCMSC) shortly after the referendum. I have been its Secretary ever since. It attracted a large number of heavyweight Labour MPs to its ranks, including Gordon Brown and Jack Straw – and even Tony Blair at his first parliamentary election. During the 1970s and ‘80s Euroscepticism was widespread in the Labour and Trade Union movements but as time wore on, sentiment changed.&nbsp; A highly effective speech by Jaques Delors at the 1988 Trades Union Congress swung key union leaders towards a more favourable view of what was still the EEC while Neil Kinnock – again an ex-Eurosceptic – pulled Labour towards a more favourable view of what was becoming the European Union.</p> <p>From around 1990 until the mid-2010s, the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign (LESC), as the LCMSC had by then become, carried the torch for left-of-centre Euroscepticism. We fought against the UK joining the euro. We opposed the Stability and Security Pact. We published bi-monthly Bulletins, had regular public meetings particularly at the Labour Party Conference, and provided support to small number of Eurosceptic Labour MPs who shared our views. By the early 2010s, however, mainly as a result of Conservatives becoming much more Eurosceptic, and partly driven by the rise of UKIP, it was clear that the prospects of an EU referendum were becoming much more substantial.&nbsp; I therefore got involved with – and helped to fund – a number of cross-party organisations, in addition to the Campaign for an Independent Britain for which LESC had long provided membership support. In particular, I became the Chair of The People’s Pledge, which campaigned for an EU referendum. And at the same time I helped to found and became Joint Chair of Business for Britain, the organisation which eventually spawned Vote Leave, which I also chaired until I stood down in February 2016 in favour of Lord Lawson, who in turn stood down in March 2016 in favour of Gisela Stuart MP. In 2015, I also founded a specifically Labour organisation with Brendan Chilton to campaign within the Labour Party for a referendum. This organisation, which I also chaired, eventually became Labour Leave.</p> <p>By the time Labour Leave got going and people like Dominic Cummings got involved, I had spent forty years campaigning in the Eurosceptic world. I had chaired and supported financially a spectrum of cross-party and specifically Labour Eurosceptic organisations. I had written and published hundreds of thousands of words on EU issues in bulletins, pamphlets and books. I had a huge web of contacts on which to draw. Although by the time of the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum, the Parliamentary Labour Party was probably 90% for Remain, as were maybe 80% of Labour Party members, among traditional Labour voters there was much more Leave support, which I think my activities had helped to create.</p> <h2>Vote Leave</h2> <p>Vote Leave got underway as a campaigning organisation during the autumn of 2015. In many ways it was very effective. Dominic Cummings had originally intended just to help set up the organisation and then to leave others to run it, instead he became its main driving force. Dominic was acutely aware of the potential for using up-to-date social media techniques for identifying and then fostering supporters. He also clearly understood the psychology required to motivate people. No-one could doubt either his high intelligence or his commitment. In all these respects, he had the full support of the Vote Leave Board.</p> <p>All these positive aspects of the way in which Vote Leave was run did not, however, make for a very happy ship – or for easy relations between Dominic, the Board, and various other key groups of people who needed to be kept on side, not least MPs and donors. Underlying the tensions which built up, there were major bones of contention.</p> <p><strong>Firstly, </strong>Vote Leave found itself in competition for being the principal Leave campaign with, a rival organisation financed and largely organised by Arron Banks and fronted by Nigel Farage. <strong>&nbsp;</strong>Clearly,<strong> </strong>this was a problem, but I always thought that it was a mistake for Vote Leave to distance itself and to foster antagonism with to the extent it did.&nbsp; It was obvious that Nigel Farage had a strong but limited appeal so that two different campaigns had to be fought at the same time – one to reinforce the UKIP hardcore sceptical vote and the other to win over the undecideds, with the acrimony that resulted from the failure to develop better relations &nbsp;being largely Vote Leave’s fault. It seemed to me that much more was lost in terms of the external perception of internal warfare and lost fundraising opportunities than was gained by increasing Vote Leave’s appeal to the middle ground by distancing itself from</p> <p><strong>Secondly, i</strong>t was always obvious that a key Leave constituency was the Leave-leaning Labour voter, but Vote Leave did remarkably little to cultivate such voters. Labour only had a very limited number of Leave adherents at national level, and it was of key importance to have people like Kate Hoey MP on board. Vote Leave made them so unwelcome, however, that in the end most of them decamped to – leaving me personally, as a reasonably well-known Labour figure still heavily involved with Vote Leave, in an increasingly impossible position. </p> <p><strong>Then there was Grassroots Out (GO)</strong>. I was at the original meeting on behalf of Vote Leave when Peter Bone MP and Tom Pursglove MP proposed setting up what became GO to expand traditional electioneering activity, particularly by holding large meetings to supplement what was being done on social media. It seemed to me that Vote Leave ought to have welcomed this initiative and taken it under its wing. Instead, it cold-shouldered it, so that in the end GO joined forces with, putting designation for Vote Leave very substantially at risk. Vote Leave, of course, subsequently won the designation battle, albeit by a narrow margin, but the inter-regnum until this happened, apart from anything else, made it much more difficult for Vote Leave to raise funds in the crucial period before the full campaign began.</p> <p><strong>And finally – and crucially – there was a neglect of Post-Referendum Policy&nbsp; </strong>Vote Leave was always against formulating any details as to what policies should be followed if Leave won the referendum. I could see the arguments for avoiding very detailed proposals about which there was bound to be disagreement, but it did seem to me that far too little was done by Vote Leave to prepare the ground in policy terms for a Leave victory and to counter the Remain argument that Leave had no idea what Brexit would entail. Although this happened two and a half months after I left, I was extremely surprised to see Vote Leave almost totally disbanding itself within days of the referendum being held, rather than continuing – albeit on a slimmed down basis – to play an important role in monitoring and influence events. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The outcome of these disagreements was that relations between me and Dominic Cummings, particularly around Vote Leave’s lack of positive relationships with potential Labour-leaning Leave supporters, deteriorated to a point where my position become intolerable. At the end of April 2016, I resigned from Vote Leave to concentrate full time on Labour Leave for the remainder of the EU referendum campaign. </p> <h2>Labour Leave </h2> <p>Labour Leave is barely mentioned in <em>All Out War, </em>the book by Tim Shipman on which the film <em>The Uncivil War </em>was largely based. In my view, Labour Leave played a lot more critical a role in bringing Leave over the line than the book suggests might have been the case. The film does not mention Labour Leave at all. </p> <p>9.3 million people voted Labour in the 2015 General Election and it was always clear that Leave would never win unless a substantial proportion of these people could be persuaded to vote Leave in 2016. The problem was that Vote Leave, no doubt partly because it was essentially a heavily Tory-oriented organisation, showed little interest in appealing specifically to these people.&nbsp;, on the other hand, undoubtedly appealed strongly to some of them but repelled others. There was thus an urgent need for a non-UKIP Labour organisation with which Leave-leaning Labour voters could identify and in which they could find a home. Labour Leave did exist from October 2015 but not as an effective organisation. Although nominally part of Vote Leave, Kate Hoey, Brendan Chilton and others decamped to GO and because of the unsympathetic way they were treated. Vote Leave had control &nbsp;of Labour Leave’s bank account and social media resources but blocked the Labour Leave management from using them, all of which made effective campaigning by Labour Leave impossible.</p> <p>When matters came to a head at the end of April 2016, it was agreed that I should resign from Vote Leave to run Labour Leave as a separate organisation, with control of our own bank account and social media activity. As soon as this was done, all the Labour Leave campaigners came back together again and in very short order a major campaign was under way. Over a two-month period – between the end of April and 23rd June 2016 – Labour Leave raised and spent nearly £0.5 million, much of it on a social media campaign very similar to the one adopted by Vote Leave, but specifically targeted to Labour-leaning voters. By 23rd June 2016, Labour Leave had recruited an army of 140,000 supporters to enable us to be effective on the ground as well as in the air.</p> <p>We monitored how effective our campaigning was by watching the poll figures and our best estimate was that over this two-month period the proportion of 2015 General Election Labour voters who were going to vote Leave rose from 27% to 37%.&nbsp; It is interesting – and, I think, very revealing – that this 10% swing correlates exactly with what was reported in <em>All Out War </em>which is that at the same time as we were swinging into action, Britain Stronger in Europe found Labour-leaning support dropping from 70% to 60%. Of course, many other factors were at work, but this 10% shift in the way 9.3 million people came to vote when the referendum took place certainly helped to secure the result which was achieved – which might well not have been attained without it. 930,000 people switching to vote Leave instead of Remain put Leave 1.8 million ahead of where it otherwise would have been – and the Leave majority was only 1.3 million.</p> <h2>Conclusion </h2> <p>In <em>The Uncivil War</em> film there are three scenes in which I am a significant figure. I am portrayed in a swimming pool with Arron Banks, apparently plotting on my own initiative to give a bigger role in the Leave referendum campaign. No such event ever took place. There were a couple of occasions over this period when I did meet Arron Banks to try to improve working relations, but these meetings were all sanctioned in advance by the Vote Leave Board and none of them involved my meeting Arron Banks on my own. The scene covering the Vote Leave Board trying – unsuccessfully – to alter Dominic Cumming’s role to one which was less dominant did take place, but did not result in my ceasing to be chair of the Vote Leave Board. I resigned several weeks later – to become Vice-Chair – for completely different reasons. The scene where, after this abortive meeting, I am shown ringing Arron Banks to tell him what had happened is pure fabrication.&nbsp; </p> <p>The respective contributions of Dominic Cummings and myself to the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum will be for history to decide. But a fictionalised history which almost completely writes out the role of left Eurosceptics will do no-one any favours in providing an accurate record of what actually happened.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/looking-at-lexit/opendemocracy-john-mills/john-mills-chair-of-labour-leave-explains-his-hopes-for-">John Mills, chair of Labour Leave, explains his hopes for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/looking-at-lexit/julian-sayarer-xavier-buxton/looking-at-lexit-mission-statement">Looking at Lexit: mission statement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/who-actually-are-vote-leave-brexit-boris-johnson-michael-gove">Who actually are Vote Leave?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mark-perryman/forward-march-of-remain-it-still-hasnt-got-out-of-starting-blocks">The forward march of Remain? It still hasn&#039;t got out of the starting blocks</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/laurie-macfarlane/left-brexit-trilemma">Labour&#039;s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit John Mills Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:16:17 +0000 John Mills 121342 at Ten reasons I came round to a People's Vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A second referendum denies democracy, I thought - but arguments on the other side have become overwhelming.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: David Holt, Flickr, CC2.0</span></span></span></span></span><p>“If Scotland had voted Yes in the independence referendum, and you’d told me we’d have to vote again, I’d have told you to fuck right off.”</p><p dir="ltr">That was my reaction when, the Monday after the European referendum, the idea of a People’s Vote was first put to me. I was in Parliament, chatting to Caroline Lucas and her staffer, my friend Matthew Butcher. While the country had been in shock they’d been strategising.</p><p dir="ltr">In two years’ time, they explained, the Tories would come back with a deal. It would be a deal which would prioritise the needs of bosses over workers, which would do nothing to address the concerns of many of those who had voted Leave, and which wouldn’t get the support of a majority of MPs. It would deliver a parliamentary stalemate.</p><p>At that point, they argued, the conundrum should be resolved in public. It should be up to the people who voted for Brexit to decide whether to accept the deal, not a backroom stitch-up.</p><p dir="ltr">The case had its internal logic. But for a long time, I stuck to my initial reaction. No matter how much I disliked Brexit, making people vote again before doing what they decided seemed a democratic travesty. People had voted Leave, and Leave we must. The democratic way to change our mind, if we do, would be to then rejoin, if they'd then have us. Had Scotland voted Yes to independence in 2014, and ended up staying in the UK, the democratic damage would have been deep and long-lasting.</p><h2><span>1. A question of sovereignty</span></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image, Houses of Parliament</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">I did have one qualification, though. The openDemocracyUK section of this website was started in 2009 to “address the unfolding crisis in British democracy”. Its initiator, Anthony Barnett, who had stepped down from being Editor-in-Chief, had been the first director of Charter 88 back in 1988, which fought for Britain to have a democratic constitution. It may have been bad then but today the British political system is utterly broken. Mending it now requires a bottom-up convention, as I argue in my pamphlet “<a href="">Trying to milk a vulture: if we want economic justice we need democratic revolution</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">Right after the Brexit vote, we should have held such a convention. In parallel to the negotiations with the EU, we should have had a process in which a jury of citizens drafted a new constitution, and put it or each element of it to public vote. Such a constitution would, I hope, shift the UK from the broken and elitist notion that the “crown in Parliament” is sovereign to grounding our democracy on the people's sovereignty. And the first stage of the creation of that constitution would be putting it, or key elements of it, to the people of the country.</p><p dir="ltr">If we had such a process, and if direct democracy was to become a more normal tool in the UK – as it is, for example, in Ireland – then allowing the public a say on something as big as the final deal with the EU would seem much more normal. The reason that Westminster is aflame right now is that there is no real agreement about where power ultimately lies – as Anthony Barnett and I <a href="">explained back in 2017</a>, the Gina Miller case was a contest between four sources of sovereignty: government, Parliament, people and courts.</p><p>For around a century, ever since the first Labour MPs were wined and dined and inducted into the establishment by the wiser of their Tory colleagues, the Labour Party has accepted the core myth at the heart of the British state: that Westminster is, and ought to be, where power lies, that sovereignty sits in Parliament and that the problem isn’t so much the way the country works, but who runs it.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea of “The despotism of the King in Parliament”, as Anthony Barnett <a href="">has pointed out</a>, dates to the high point of the British empire, when Westminster and Whitehall, propped up by the plunder of colonialism, could do as they pleased. Any truly emancipatory politics needs to be based on the principle of popular sovereignty, that power rises up from the people, and that it is, ultimately, for the people to decide. </p><p>Now, in the early days of 2019, we no longer have time for a pre-Brexit constitutional convention. And our despotic parliament is unable to come to a conclusion. It seems this is the moment to set a new precedent: that major decisions should be made by the peoples of the UK. Parliament, after all, has demonstrated that it is not up to the task. As things stand, a parliamentary resolution – led by either Labour or Tories – would likely be a backroom stitch-up. </p><p>Seen this way, a People’s Vote would be about accepting, finally, that Parliament has lost the sovereignty it bought with the plunder of empire. The fundamental legitimacy of the British state is broken. The government has been defeated by an historic margin, and yet limps on. In our new era – and until our power can be properly codified, it should be up to the people to choose where we go next.</p><h2 dir="ltr">2. How legitimate was the referendum?</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Ben Birchall/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Six months after the referendum, my colleagues and I started digging into the dark money that funded the Leave campaigns. We uncovered a £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party from who-knows-where, via a Scottish Tory who, we revealed, set up a company in 2013 with a former <a href="">head of Saudi intelligence</a>, the father of the Saudi ambassador to the UK. At the same time, Carole Cadwalladr at The Observer started uncovering other Leave campaign shenanigans.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout, I have felt that the level of rule-breaking required to annul a result should be high. I imagined how I’d have felt if this had been the Scottish independence referendum, in which I supported the Yes campaign. If, after a Yes vote, it had transpired that some people I probably didn’t know in the official campaign office – or worse, some other random pro-independence group – had broken the law, that wouldn’t annul my decision to vote Yes. A ballot paper isn’t the property of whoever tries to influence its use, it is the sacred possession of she who casts it.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, there has to be a punishment for rule-breaking. The laws of our democracy are constructed to stop the mega-rich from buying power. They are an attempt to ensure a degree of equity in an unequal world. And as we’ve uncovered ever more law-breaking, it’s been hard not to reach the conclusion that the threshold must have been reached. If an MP cheats, they can be sacked by an election court. But the referendum cannot be annulled by judge and jury because, in a tyically British, ad hoc way, it wasn’t a legally binding process. (This is why the whole process should be framed by a constitution: legally the referendum was 'advisory' and it is parliament that has taken the decision.)</p><p dir="ltr">By my sums, Arron Banks appears to have given around £15 million to the various Leave campaigns. So when the Electoral Commission say they have reason to believe – as a result of our investigations – that the money didn’t really come from him, we should take that very seriously. Vote Leave broke spending limits by claiming a large chunk of their payments to AggregateIQ was in the name of 21-year-old fashion student Darren Grimes.</p><p>When I raise these matters, people often respond by claiming that the Remain campaign spent much more than the Leave campaign, because of that God-awful booklet the government produced. The figures people use are invariably wrong, as they only count spending during the final 10 weeks of the campaign, when most of Arron Banks’s millions seem to have been spent before that, meaning we have no idea how roughly £11m <a href="">were spent in the full course of the campaign</a>. But their argument doesn’t change the point: the referendum in 2016 was run appallingly badly. The laws governing it hadn’t caught up with the internet age. <a href="">Mercenary propaganda firms</a> were allowed to use weapons of information warfare, and the government was allowed to use its budget to patronise the country en masse.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea that this vote – marred by large-scale law-breaking – represents an unshakable mandate which cannot be challenged by a future referendum, is democratically dangerous. The laws of our democracy exist to level the playing field between those with vast wealth and the rest of us. If it’s possible to break them without consequence, the rules become meaningless.</p><h2 dir="ltr">3. It’s not democracy that divides us</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the most pernicious lie that the neoliberalism ever told is that democracy is divisive.</p><p dir="ltr">For the last two years, we have heard repeatedly that the referendum campaign tore us apart as a country. Over those two years, I spent a reasonable amount of time travelling around the UK. And what I found horrified me.</p><p dir="ltr">Go to Kent or Surrey, or Newcastle, or Sunderland, and you find an England that has been ripped apart by fences, walls and security cameras. A generation of soaring inequality has torn the people of the country from each other, dividing neighbourhoods into ghettos and gated communities. As power has been centralised at Westminster and privatised to faceless executives, we’ve become less and less skilled in making decisions together, and so we’ve been told that we are incapable of making decisions, that democracy is too divisive, that we can’t be trusted.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, the last referendum did provide an outlet for mercenary propaganda firms and public-school bigots to promote racism, and it showed us how bad England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have stories of their own) has become at democracy. This came to a head in the horrific murder of the MP Jo Cox and in the gruesome rise of hate crime after the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">But this division didn’t just appear from nowhere, and racism won’t be resolved by leaving power in the hands of our structurally racist national institutions.</p><p dir="ltr">Too often, I see friends on the left accept the implicit line that ordinary people can’t be trusted with power, that it is democracy that has divided us, and so a second referendum would tear us apart. In reality, it’s the lack of democracy – the market – which has wrenched our communities asunder. It’s benefits sanctions and corporate tax cuts. It’s our racist and sexist media. And the way to mend it is not to capitulate to Boris and his army of bigots. It’s to learn to take decisions together, as equals. </p><h2 dir="ltr">4. Labour tactics and strategy</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//;s_Vote_March_2018-10-20_-_No_Tory_Brexit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//;s_Vote_March_2018-10-20_-_No_Tory_Brexit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: by Colin, CC4.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Much opposition to a People’s Vote comes from those who see it as an attempt to undermine or attack Jeremy Corbyn. And, of course, in a sense they are right: there is a group of continuity Blairites whose political careers suddenly ran out of runway when Corbyn was elected, and hope the European cause will helicopter them back to relevance. Often, these people have spent their time attacking the left of the Labour party, and in doing so, have managed to alienate the core group of people they needed to win over to secure a People’s Vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Worse, many of the advocates of a second referendum seem to think it would be a mechanism to return to 2012, as though austerity, the financial crisis, climate change and species loss weren’t already disasters then, as though history isn’t chronological, and now isn’t a consequence of then. And lots of Remainers labour under the smug misapprehension that Europe is a continent, with a genuinely progressive identity, when in reality it’s just a racist peninsula at the end of Asia, inhabited by wilting imperial states: a pompous subcontinent melting in an identity crisis.</p><p dir="ltr">That said, those who hope to see Theresa May booted out of Downing Street by someone who will stand up to the unconstrained power of British capital shouldn’t just accept the strategic decisions of the current Labour leader, but engage openly in debate. As Rosa Luxemburg wrote “Marxism must abhor nothing so much as the possibility that it becomes congealed in its current form. It is at its best when butting heads in self-criticism, and in historical thunder and lightning, it retains its strength.” Or, to put it another way, criticism of Corbyn’s strategy on Brexit doesn’t necessarily imply a desire to stop a left Labour government.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn has had two major tactical successes with regard to Brexit. In 2017, he managed to shift the debate away from Europe and onto many of the other reasons people wanted to kick the establishment: privatisation, inequality and austerity. In recent months, he’s managed to ensure Labour doesn’t get the blame for the current mess.</p><p dir="ltr">The risk, however, is that Corbynism was built on the idea that politics is about more than tactical manoeuvres. It was a refreshing reaction against focus-group politics. It’s hard not to feel, when it comes to Brexit, that the Labour leadership is setting its policy based on whatever triangulation will allow it to win the next election, and on leaving the Tories to destroy themselves, assuming that the default alternative will be the opposition.</p><p dir="ltr">The reality is that the default alternative to Tories in English politics is different Tories. As Corbyn showed in 2017, Labour will do well when it is seen to make a coherent and powerful argument, from principle, about the important issues of the day. Its leaders could duck Brexit in 2017: it’s not clear the same strategy will work next time.</p><h2 dir="ltr">5. A general election?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MPs elected in 2017 - Wikipedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Instead of using this constitutional crisis to call for radical constitutional change (including a People’s Vote), Labour activists are focussed on demanding a general election. And again, in a sense, they are right. For the prime minister to lose by the biggest margin in modern history and then not stand down is astounding.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, the argument is predicated on a myth: it is a simple fact of parliamentary arithmetic that the Tories plus the Northern Irish DUP have a majority. Tory MPs are not going to vote to bring down a Tory government. And the DUP – a far-right Loyalist party – is not going to vote for a general election which could usher in a radical left republican government in Northern Ireland. The DUP had its best ever general election in 2017. They hold every seat they can hope to, and have more power over the government than they have ever dreamed of. The idea they are going to pull the plug on that is delusional.</p><p dir="ltr">In principle, Labour (and the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens) were right to call a vote of no confidence. But it was never going to pass, and, barring a string of convenient by-elections, that won’t change. It is not a plausible alternative to opposing Brexit by demanding real democracy. </p><h2 dir="ltr">6. Lexit mistakes</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="260" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The chamber of the European Parliament. Image, Wikimedia commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Another key element of opposition to a People’s Vote within the left comes from signed-up Lexiters. And I have <a href="">some sympathy</a> with them: the EU enforces austerity internally, and brutal trade deals and violent borders externally.</p><p dir="ltr">But, for me, Lexiters make five consistent mistakes.</p><p dir="ltr">First, they forget that most of the EU rules they complain about were put there by British governments. Were Corbyn elected, then there is good reason to believe that his government could reverse many of the pro-market measures written into EU laws at the moment. The EU is in crisis, it will not survive in its current form; the question is how it is changed.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, at the height of the anti-globalisation movement, one of the key questions was how to globalise democracy. As George Monbiot argued in The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order, “everything has been globalised except our consent”. As my brother, Gilbert Ramsay wrote before the referendum, the EU is the first, flawed, <a href="">experiment with globalising democracy</a>. Leaving it means keeping Britain within a whole web of international institutions which have no direct accountability to the peoples they supposedly represent – the UN, NATO, World Bank, IMF and WTO – but jettisoning the one place where international relations are held to account by a directly elected parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">Third, too often, particularly on the English left, we see people arguing that the EU is inherently neoliberal, without asking any serious questions about the British state, which they seek to empower. This is, simply, nationalist exceptionalism, deluding itself that the most neoliberal county in Europe is somehow less neoliberal than Europe’s institutions.</p><p>Fourth, Brexit means more border controls. It means border posts in Ireland, with all the implications that follow. It means limiting the movement of working class Romanians as we suck wealth from their economy and it means limiting the movement of people in the UK. The rich have always had the freedom to move. The EU gave working class people that right across a continent. Brexit takes that away.</p><p dir="ltr">And, finally, Lexiters often fail to take full account of the genuine risk of what some call a hard Brexit, and I call a Puerto Rico model. </p><p>What our investigations have consistently shown is that a large portion of the right sees Brexit as an opportunity to shift Britain out of the European-regulated space and into the American (de-)regulated space – as Daniel Hannan MP, founder of the European Research Group has argued, to turn Britain into an “offshore, low tax haven”.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the reasons that Brexiters were split on Theresa May’s deal is that the more intelligent of them – the likes of Liam Fox – understand that it is a temporary measure, buying him the time to arrange the sorts of trade deal that he wants: deals which would seek to transform the UK into a new Puerto Rico: a taker of American rules, but without votes in American elections, a new haven for the American mega-rich, and services workhouse for the rest of us.</p><p dir="ltr">The Tories have a majority until 2022 if they can make it that far, and there likely won’t be much chance for Parliament to block Fox’s trade deals before then, if he can turn them round in time. His department has already finished the <a href="">public consultation stage</a> on a number of deals, including one with the US and one on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While the timelines for these things can be slow, Fox’s aim is clear: act fast, and dodge accountability.</p><p dir="ltr">A left Labour government elected in this context would find its agenda tied up in the international courts (under a similar arrangement, Canada was forced to pay American businesses <a href="">major compensation</a> because they placed a moratorium on fracking).</p><p dir="ltr">There is a theoretical Brexit model, which we could call Cuba, under which a left government separates itself as much as possible from the architecture of international capitalism. But as things stand, the Puerto Rico model is much more likely.</p><p>Whatever the possibilities of a theoretical Brexit under a theoretical Labour government, the real Brexit now is a disaster capitalist project being delivered by a right-wing Tory government led by the racist van prime minister. The choice is simple, collaborate, or resist.</p><p dir="ltr">(And, as my colleague <a href="">Laurie Macfarlane outlines</a>, the third option ‘Norway plus’, does nothing to address the concerns of Lexiters, leaving the UK subject to EU rules.)</p><h2 dir="ltr">7. Class and betrayal</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jacob Rees Mogg. Image, Cantab12</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Much of the Lexit argument is bound up with the idea that Brexit was primarily delivered by working-class voters. And, of course, there is some truth to this: I spent the week before the referendum <a href=";epa=SEARCH_BOX">in Doncaster</a>, which overwhelmingly backed Brexit. There are significant numbers who voted Leave because, as one man put it to me, “Nothing round here has changed for 40 years. This wasn’t necessarily the change I wanted, but I’ll try anything.”</p><p dir="ltr">But this narrative isn’t nearly as neat as the media often implies: many of the poorest parts of the UK, such as the Wests of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain, as did the vast majority of working-class people of colour. At the same time, wealthy areas like Wiltshire backed the Leave vote. Academics who studied the class <a href="">breakdown of the Brexit vote</a> found “the Leave vote to be associated with middle class identification and the more neutral ‘no class’ identification. But we find no evidence of a link with working class identification.”</p><p>It’s important to draw a distinction between the tabloid image of the working class – male, white, middle-aged, post-industrial, racist – and the actual working class as it exists in the real world. The latter isn’t nearly as Brexity as we’re always told.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, our research has consistently shown that those who led the Brexit movement – those who funded and steered it – are connected to the emerging global oligarch class, who wish to use it to asset strip the country. The Farage base is southern, pink-gin-drinking, blazer-wearing, bourgeois empire nostalgists, and the notion that Brexit is a working-class backlash against the establishment is heavily over-emphasised.</p><h2 dir="ltr">8. Fascism and fiction</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Leave Turkey immigration ad_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Leave Turkey immigration ad_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Far right grievances are built on fiction. Image, Vote Leave Facebook advert, DCMS Select Committee.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">One fear about a People’s Vote – a fear that I certainly hold and have often expressed – is that it would create a significant grievance for the far right. And it is true that the far right would shout about it. We shouldn’t entirely discount that. But one of the key lessons I learned when I travelled round central Europe and Northern Italy in November is that the grievances of the media-driven far right of the modern era don’t have much to do with reality.</p><p dir="ltr">In Hungary, concern is about Muslim refugees, when there are almost no Muslim refugees. In the Alpine towns of Northern Italy, it’s about black people. There are almost no black people. The rise of fascism is driven by the growing power of a global oligarch class, and their control of the dominant media of the day. It is driven by the elitist institutions of white masculinity, and its propaganda is post-modern, built on fictions and falsehoods. The way to defeat them is through democratic organising, not retreating to elite institutions.</p><h2 dir="ltr">9. It is winnable </h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caroline Lucas, speaking at People's Vote March. Image, YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">If there was a snap People’s Vote today, I suspect the result would be Remain. The anti-establishment vote, which turned out in large numbers to give a kicking to the prime minister of the day, David Cameron, would, it seems to me, be less likely to show up to vote for a government policy. On the other hand, enthusiastic opposition to Brexit has grown significantly since June 2016, and we could expect much higher turnout in London, Scotland and especially Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Wales, which voted narrowly for Leave seems to have shifted decisively for Remain. Similarly, the demographics are on Remain’s side: more Brexiters have died and more Remainers become old enough to vote. All of this should be enough to swing the small margin of victory in 2016.</p><p dir="ltr">However, one thing could change that. If a People’s Vote looks like an establishment stitch-up, an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle, then there seems a good chance people would show up in huge numbers to tell the establishment where to go. And many representatives of the campaign for a second vote seem complacent about, if not determined to ensure, that that’s the impression people get. As Paul Hilder argued at <a href="">the recent Convention</a> on a second referendum, securing a Remain result – and doing so convincingly – will require winning over alienated working-class voters, young people enthusiastic about Corbyn, the organised left and trade unionists, and Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists.</p><p dir="ltr">The campaign as set up at the moment, run from Millbank Tower, in London, just down the road from Parliament, appears a lot like Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign in 2016: the perfect machine to lose the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">However, Caroline Lucas (who sets out an <a href="">anti-status-quo argument</a>), the SNP and other figures from outwith the old regime are taking on an increasingly prominent role in the campaign, and the referendum will only happen if Labour supports it, giving some hope that Remain might hold onto its lead.</p><h2 dir="ltr">10. A chance to do it right</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="220" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Polling station, by "Descrier",, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p>A People’s Vote would provide a chance for genuinely democratic dialogue, which means offering people the various meaningful options they may want, probably in the form of a preferendum (ranking in order of preference). The process should be everything that the 2016 vote wasn’t, ideally starting with a citizens’ assembly to craft the options that should be offered. Rather than the millions spent on its awful booklet, the government should give the Electoral Commission cash to seriously police the laws of our democracy, and should lift the maximum fine from £20,000 to, at least, £500,000 (as is available to the Information Commissioner). And it should be the start of a process of radical democratic renewal, not a chance to put democracy back in its box.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, the SNP unveiled a 650-page document, “<a href="">Scotland’s Future</a>”, outlining what it meant by independence. Whilst other groups proposed more radical versions, everyone accepted that, if it was a Yes vote, the white paper would be the baseline for what the Scottish government would have tried to negotiate. Voters in the European referendum had no such document. There was no agreement about what Brexit means. Parliament cannot agree what it means. And so it must default to the people to decide.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/into-vortex">What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/laurie-macfarlane/why-left-must-now-unite-against-brexit">Why the left must unite against Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/mary-fitzgerald/investigating-murky-deals-beyond-parliament-brexit-pantomime">Beyond the Brexit pantomime</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk People's Vote Brexit Adam Ramsay Thu, 17 Jan 2019 17:11:39 +0000 Adam Ramsay 121331 at Why the left must unite against Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The debate about Lexit is now irrelevant. The only form of Brexit that is possible is one that will entrench the status quo or produce something far worse. The left must unite against it. <strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><img src="" alt=" Bankenverband – Bundesverband deutscher Banken, Public Domain" /></p><p dir="ltr">Theresa May has survived to fight another day as Prime Minister. But the humilating defeat of her proposed withdrawal agreement in parliament has blown the Brexit debate wide open. Yesterday, after surviving a no confidence vote, the Prime Minister <a href="">called on</a> MPs to "put self-interest aside" and "work constructively together" to find a way forward. In this context, the Labour Party’s next steps are critical.</p><p dir="ltr">One idea that remains influential on the left is that Brexit can still be made to serve socialist ends. As the Guardian’s Larry Elliot<a href=""> puts it</a>&nbsp;today: “The left’s case for Brexit has always been based on the following notions: the current economic model is failing; socialism is needed to fix it; and the free-market ideology hardwired into the EU...<span>will make that process all but impossible without a break with the status quo"</span>.</p><p dir="ltr">As I have<a href=""> detailed elsewhere</a>, the left-wing case for leaving the European Union (or ‘Lexit’) deserves to be taken seriously, but I do not believe it stands up to scrutiny. However, in many respects this debate is now irrelevant. The question that really matters now is not whether the Lexit vision is <em>desirable</em>, but whether it is <em>achievable</em>. And the answer to this is clearly in the negative.</p><p dir="ltr">Politics is about power, and the Lexit vision has no mass power base either at the grass roots level or in parliament. The proportion of MPs and the electorate that are both left-wing and pro-hard Brexit is<a href=""> very small</a>. The version of Brexit that actually exists (not another version that theoretically could exist) is a radical right-wing project being driven by a combination of extremist free-market ideologues and anti-immigration xenophobes.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Politics is about power, and the Lexit vision has no mass power base either at the grass roots level or in parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">In another world things might have been different. For example, had someone like Tony Benn still been alive to mobilise public support for a Lexit position, we may be in a different place. But this is not the reality of the social conditions we find ourselves in, and this is not going to change over the next few weeks. Without any significant power base behind it, the Lexit vision has been crushed by more powerful and better organised Brexit strategies, which is why no political party has come close to embracing it.</p><p dir="ltr">What are these alternatives? There are now broadly two realistic Brexit outcomes, both of which are deeply problematic for the left.</p><p dir="ltr">Firstly, we could end up with a ‘soft’ Brexit of the kind that is currently being proposed by Labour. This would involve joining a customs union with the EU and maintaining a “close relationship” with the single market. Another softer option is the so-called ‘Norway plus’ option, which would see the UK remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) and joining a permanent customs union with the EU. </p><p dir="ltr">The great irony of these options is that they would both leave the UK more subservient to EU rules than the status quo. Both involve accepting EU state aid and competition rules as part of ensuring a ‘level playing field’, while sacrificing any meaningful democratic say over them. The ‘Norway plus’ option would likely involve full regulatory alignment and significant contributions to EU budgets, as well as maintaining the freedom of movement of labour, capital, goods and services. By severing the link between economic arrangements and the democratic process, a ‘soft’ Brexit represents the ultimate strategy for entrenching the status quo.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">a ‘soft’ Brexit represents the ultimate strategy for entrenching the status quo</p><p dir="ltr">The second possible Brexit outcome is a hard Brexit. This could occur if the UK and the EU fail to secure any deal by 29 March, or if a deal is agreed that keeps the post-Brexit relationship to a bare minimum. This is the only form of Brexit that is compatible with the Lexit strategy, but ironically it is also the scenario that poses the greatest threat to the left, which is precisely why Jeremy Corbyn is so keen to <a href="">avoid it</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Leaving aside the painful adjustment process that would devastate many parts of the country, we should be under no illusions about what a hard Brexit would represent. It would confirm the takeover of British politics by radical right-wing forces, for whom a hard Brexit is the prize of a long running power struggle. Under such a scenario it would be these forces, who have a considerable power base both in parliament and among the electorate, who would be empowered – not Lexiteers. It would represent a huge triumph for some of the most reactionary forces in the country, and a colossal defeat for the left.</p><p dir="ltr">Does this mean that the best we can hope for is the status quo within the EU? Absolutely not. The Lexit argument that the UK must leave the EU to gain control of economic levers such as state aid, competition policy and capital controls is overblown. By virtue of not being in the Eurozone, the UK enjoys considerable room for manoeuvre that other member states do not, and the UK could use these levers provided there was the political will to do so. The problem is that so far this political will has been lacking. As an influential member of the EU, the price of pushing the boundaries of EU state aid and competition rules might be a diplomatic row. But compared to the costs, risks and unanswered questions involved with the Lexit strategy (solution to the Irish border question, anyone?) this is a walk in the park.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">By virtue of not being in the Eurozone, the UK enjoys considerable room for manoeuvre that other member states do not</p><p dir="ltr">Such confrontations will be an important part of challenging neoliberal hegemony regardless of whether we are inside or outside the EU. But our bargaining power will be far greater if we are inside. The world has moved on from when Britannia ruled the waves. Today the global economic agenda is being shaped by the major economic superpowers – the USA, the EU and China. After Brexit, the UK will be forced to abide by decisions taken by these major power blocs. For all its flaws, one thing the EU can do that the UK cannot is hold multinational corporations to account and enforce labour and environmental standards across supply chains – essential tools in the armoury of any socialist project.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">While we should not be dewy-eyed about the prospect of radical reform, it is important to remember that the EU’s neoliberal trajectory can partly be attributed to the UK’s influence within it. As the neoliberal consensus crumbles across Europe, the EU's future trajectory is all to play for.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Lexit was and remains a coherent intellectual position to hold. But adherents must now confront reality: the only form of Brexit that is possible is one that will entrench the status quo or empower something far worse. The left must unite against it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/laurie-macfarlane/left-brexit-trilemma">Labour&#039;s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Laurie Macfarlane Thu, 17 Jan 2019 13:08:36 +0000 Laurie Macfarlane 121328 at 2019 is the year to embrace energy democracy - or face social and climate breakdown <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The private sector has proved it can’t lead the transition to a low-carbon economy. It's time for something new.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// jaune bicycle.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// jaune bicycle.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Gilet Jaunes protests began as a protest against tax increases on oil products. Toulouse, 29 December 2018. Credit: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”</em> Is there any better explanation for our collective failure so far to prevent climate breakdown and social division? As another year passes with global greenhouse gas emissions still rising, it’s time to shake up what we’ve always done.</p> <p>2018 was a thunderous year for the climate which gave us a glimpse of the new normal: record-breaking heat, a blazing Arctic, the northern hemisphere seemingly on fire. These, alongside a clanging alarm about the <a href="">disastrous impacts of 1.5°C of global warming from the UN in October</a>, contributed to growing public recognition that climate breakdown is very real and its effects serious. </p> <p>2018 also saw growing momentum for climate movements in confronting political inaction. From the <a href="">Extinction Rebellion movement in the UK</a>, to <a href="">thousands of school children on strike in Australia</a> (and similar movements elsewhere). Climate demonstrations in Europe bigger than ever. A record 5,000 people joined <a href="">civil disobedience to protest coal mines in Germany</a>. A number of laws were also passed that pointed in the right direction: <a href="">Ireland and a number of cities divested from fossil fuels</a>; the <a href="">EU gave backing to citizen and community-owned renewable energy</a>, and <a href="">Spain lifted the controversial 'sun tax'</a>. The costs of renewable energy and energy storage also fell.</p> <p>And yet fundamentally, and depressingly, little <em>really </em>changed on climate change.The <a href="">UN climate talks in Poland at the end of 2018, sponsored by the coal industry</a>, once again resulted in low ambition, loopholes to undermine action, and steps backwards on meaningful finance and equity for countries of the global South. In the three years since the Paris Agreement of 2015, major industrialised countries have pledged carbon cuts that would result in global warming twice as hot as the targeted 1.5°C. And most countries are not on track to meet even those. </p> <p>One reason is that climate policy has been dominated by the neoliberal idea that the private sector can lead the transition to a low-carbon economy<strong>. </strong>Such approaches to climate action have failed spectacularly. They have not stopped the <a href="">rise in fossil fuel use</a>, despite growth in renewable energy. Rather, renewables have grown in tandem with fossil fuels and energy demand. <a href="">Market-focused policies have constrained the roll-out of renewables</a> and other climate friendly solutions - which are restricted according to their ability to generate profit for private interests. And they have resulted in growing energy poverty. </p> <p>Market-first approaches have failed to reduce emissions as much as they have fallen short in terms of social justice. The <em>Gilets Jaunes </em>(yellow vests) protests in France have shown that unjust ‘green’ policies result in push-back from lower income people, who feel penalised and stand to gain nothing from them. They are challenging the current climate discourse. The climate movement must see these protests for what they are: a push back against neoliberal approaches which seek to unload risks and costs away from corporations and on to the shoulders of the working class majority. The fight to fix climate breakdown will never be won if workers and low-income households are excluded. Expecting them to pay for the costs of the pollution that they did not create will backfire. </p> <p>In 2019, climate action must shift in a different, radical direction. The missing link is energy democracy. Energy democracy starts from the standpoint that energy is a common good - not a commodity to be bought and sold. Access to energy is a human right for everyone - a basic condition to participate in public life with dignity. Energy democracy calls for public and social ownership of energy, to serve both social and ecological needs: energy that is reliable, affordable and clean. </p> <p>With energy socially owned and in democratic control, we can reduce energy waste and overall consumption, decarbonise, and empower communities to make their own energy choices. Democratic control would mean a much faster transformation to 100% renewable energy for all. It means inclusive solutions - tackling energy ownership, generation, savings, storage, and action on energy poverty together - that would improve millions of people’s lives. Unlike the current profit-focused model, it does not ignore the dire need for quality energy efficient homes for all. </p> <p>Energy democracy rejects profit-focused energy, which has seen large energy interests stubbornly cling to fossil fuels and resist action on energy poverty. It provides a path away from the destructive competition for “market share” - a legacy of privatisation. Servicing investor profit ties the large ‘incumbent’ companies to their existing capacity, forcing them to resist the introduction of renewables. All of this prevents the kind of planning, cooperation, and local input that the transition to a fossil-free economy demands. </p> <p>We must encourage and support communities and municipalities to take control of their own energy needs and wants, putting solidarity as a central value. But energy democracy needs to operate at all levels <em>- </em>local communities, regional and national governments, and international institutions like the EU. </p> <p>Energy democracy promotes a genuinely ‘Just Transition’, ensuring workers whose jobs could be impacted by the shift away from fossil fuels, are protected and actively included in decision making. And it allows for a planned and orderly transition, not one that’s held captive to the enforced chaos of the market. </p> <p>We can't fix climate breakdown by continuing to do what we’ve always done - nor without tackling social division. In 2019, let’s put energy democracy centre-stage. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alex-randall/why-new-york-times-is-wrong-about-climate-change">Neoliberalism drives climate breakdown, not human nature</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/climate-disruption-time-to-speak-up">Climate disruption: time to speak up</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/why-labours-pledge-to-renationalise-electricity-doesnt-go-far-enough">Why Labour&#039;s pledge to &quot;renationalise electricity&quot; doesn&#039;t go far enough</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/to-fix-climate-crisis-we-must-acknowledge-our-imperial-past">To fix the climate crisis, we must face up to our imperial past</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/video-how-to-create-democratic-energy-system">VIDEO: How to create a democratic energy system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/platform/democratic-energy-beyond-neoliberalism">Democratic energy beyond neoliberalism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk climate change environment energy Sean Sweeney Susann Scherbarth Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:50:42 +0000 Susann Scherbarth and Sean Sweeney 121321 at Beyond the Brexit pantomime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Forget the political melodrama. What matters most are the deep weaknesses in our democracy that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Theresa May speaking before the vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London. Image: PA" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May speaking before the vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London. Image: PA</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Ignore anyone who claims to know where Britain will be in a week’s time. The New York Times has produced a <a href=";module=Top%20Stories&amp;pgtype=Homepage">flowchart</a> for the constitutional mess the country now finds itself in. Unsurprisingly, it’s mindbendingly complex. No one really knows where we go after Theresa May’s crushing defeat in Parliament. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The coming days will be filled with excited chatter, behind-the-scenes horse-trading and misleading smoke signals. But while commentators fixate on the tawdry political melodrama, it’s worth sitting back and reflecting on the far wider, systemic weaknesses that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across the European continent.</p><p dir="ltr">That it has taken two-and-a-half years for Britain’s parliament to start a conversation about what Brexit really means is a damning indictment of a political system that badly needs reform. For Britain, a written constitution and a fairer voting system that builds a culture of political dialogue, compromise and deeper democratic engagement with citizens would be a start.</p><p dir="ltr">But Brexit has triggered far more than this. Over the past two years, openDemocracy and a small network of investigative journalists have exposed just how vulnerable to manipulation our democratic systems are – in the UK and across Europe. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">Law? What law?</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK, there are laws which are supposed to allow citizens to know who funds their politics. But the system is full of holes. My colleagues Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay have exposed how a large <a href="">Brexit donation to the Democratic Unionist Party was channelled via a secretive group</a>, abusing outdated Northern Irish laws to shield the identity of the donors. Despite <a href="">mounting calls from politicians</a>, the UK elections watchdog has still refused to launch a full investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Along with Carole Cadwalladr at The Observer and others, we’ve exposed how Arron Banks, the largest Brexit donor, <a href="">misled Parliament</a> and <a href="">lied to regulators about the sources of his wealth</a>, triggering parliamentary questions on ‘Russian interference in western democracies’ and an <a href="">investigation by the National Crime Agency</a>. Vote Leave and Banks’s Leave.EU were both found guilty of breaking electoral law, with senior figures reported to the Metropolitan Police.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ve exposed the connections between the <a href="">Brexit campaign, Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica</a> – and how British taxpayers are funding a <a href="">hardline pro-Brexit lobby group of MPs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our work has had an impact. Lawmakers <a href="">ended donor secrecy</a> in Northern Ireland. Our reporting was<a href=""> cited as evidence</a> by the UK’s influential parliamentary inquiry into fake news, has made headlines across the world, and fed into ongoing investigations by lawmakers in the US and UK.</p><p dir="ltr">But – what does it all amount to?</p><h2 dir="ltr">Beyond Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Britain’s politicians are set to struggle through a constitutional labyrinth that could well lead to another referendum, some time within the next six months. Meanwhile Europe gears up for elections in May which are likely to deliver significant gains to the far right. Both of these democratic processes are plainly vulnerable to the kind of wide-scale manipulation our investigations have found in the original referendum campaign – and elsewhere. </p><p>Last year, during Ireland’s historic abortion referendum, we<a href=""> dug deep</a><a href=""> into who</a> was financing and supporting the anti-repeal lobby, and how voters were being targeted on social media, despite Facebook’s promise to ban foreign-funded adverts. The same day that Mark Zuckerberg was assuring MEPs in Brussels that Facebook had sophisticated systems in place to prevent foreign interference in the Irish vote, <a href="">our journalists were able to circumvent these so-called firewalls in a matter of hours</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Multinational tech firms will not protect the pillars of democratic culture if their own profile and profit margins will suffer in the process.</p><p>Time and again, the tech giants have shown that the regulation of the democratic process must not be outsourced to them. They are part of the problem. Google, for example, has poured millions into its Europe-wide Digital News Initiative, aimed at helping to ‘save’ the news industry. But last May, openDemocracy revealed that Google was one of six companies that had<a href=""> agreed a secret £3 million deal with London’s Evening Standard</a> newspaper for “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage. Editor George Osborne faced widespread calls to resign and the controversial project was delayed. This is just a microscopic example of how vast multinational tech firms will not protect the pillars of democratic culture – be they press freedom, transparency, accountability or the rule of law – if their own profile and profit margins will suffer in the process.</p><h2 dir="ltr">How to strengthen democracy</h2><p dir="ltr">So what can be done to prevent a rerun of the abuses of the 2016 EU referendum in Britain’s next democratic contest – whenever that is – and in the EU elections in May?</p><p dir="ltr">There are short-term solutions that will make a difference. Far heftier penalties for breaking British electoral law would be a start. (Currently, you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you <a href="">can for subverting Britain's democratic process</a>.) We need real-time campaign spending reporting – so that cheating is exposed before the vote, not after it’s been won.</p><p dir="ltr">Criminal and regulatory enforcement agencies across Europe must get far greater resources and a wider remit to investigate and scrutinise. Lawmakers, at the national and European level, must compel the tech platforms to be more transparent and co-operate. This is complicated – and will take time – but we cannot outsource democracy to Silicon Valley.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Nothing will change if the public doesn’t know what has gone wrong.</p><p dir="ltr">Most importantly, and immediately, citizens, philanthropists, governments and frankly anyone who has a dime should be giving whatever they can to support investigative journalism that has a proven track record in exposing how those with hidden agendas are seeking to influence what we see, hear and think. </p><p dir="ltr">Why is this the most important thing? Because nothing will change if the public doesn’t know what has gone wrong.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The openDemocracy agenda</h2><p dir="ltr">Of course, it’s my job to make the case for openDemocracy (<a href="">and you can support our work here</a>), but there’s a wider, long-term crisis in the funding of high-quality journalism right when we need it most. </p><p dir="ltr">It is very likely that British voters will be back at the polls soon. Whenever that happens, we urgently needs the resources to:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Forensically investigate all the major sources of political funding, and the channels through which funds flow;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Track how so-called ‘grassroots’ campaign groups are financed and organised – so abuses like Vote Leave’s <a href="">illegal exploitation</a> of a 23-year-old fashion student can’t happen again;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Closely monitor how voters are being targeted on social media, compiling evidence that prevents the abuse of vulnerable groups and the spread of misinformation online – we have a <a href="">track record of success on this</a>, but need to do far more;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Expose how secretive, unaccountable lobbying operations are trying to influence public debate. (We've already exposed much to be concerned about at the influential, dark-money funded&nbsp;<a href="">Institute for Economic Affairs</a>, and at the <a href="">Legatum Institute</a>.)</p></li></ul><p>We have <a href="">fresh leads to chase down</a> on overseas links to major players seeking to shape Brexit, and on those seeking to redraw the political map of Europe in May’s parliamentary elections. We are already mapping the networks that are financing and organising key far-right groups across Europe; analysing how their messaging is targeting voters on social media; and exposing how these groups are seeking to circumvent laws aimed to ensure political transparency and to prevent foreign interference.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, investigative journalism is not enough. In this age of tech-platform dominance, we also need media which actively and thoughtfully seeks to challenge assumptions and burst filter bubbles. (See <a href="">Why I voted for Donald Trump</a>, or<a href=""> Stop sneering at Leave voters, they knew exactly what they were doing</a>). We need publishers and platforms committed to helping stimulate a deeper democratic culture, of debate and dialogue, which confronts polarisation head on. Often, the most revolutionary initiatives in this space are happening in local communities, and we need to hear their stories. <a href="">A film we made in Belfast</a>, for example, shows how grassroots groups are overcoming prejudice and intolerance against refugees and migrants by doing something quite simple: hosting face-to-face conversations.</p><p dir="ltr">We are part of a very small, under-resourced network of journalists working on stories which have raised a string of vital questions for modern democracy: who gets to shape our elections, and our public conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">We aren’t doing this because we <a href="">have a pro or anti-Brexit agenda</a>, or any other political goals or allegiances, but because we believe it’s vital that citizens everywhere know who is seeking to influence what they see and hear, and who has access to key information that affects their lives.</p><p dir="ltr">If you agree, please consider <a href=";id=34" target="_blank">supporting our work today</a>. Thank you.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor">Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick/george-osborne-s-london-evening-standard-promises-positive-news-coverage-to-uber-goo">George Osborne’s London Evening Standard sells its editorial independence to Uber, Google and others – for £3 million</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Mary Fitzgerald Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:26:12 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 121320 at What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are headed into the vortex</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2019-01-16 at 09.59.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2019-01-16 at 09.59.03.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB">It was the oddest ‘historic’ day in Westminster politics. What was really unprecedented about it – and in this sense genuinely ‘historic’ – was that a hugely important decision was not taken. The country’s leaders declared in the most resounding fashion that they could not make up their minds! </p> <p class="AB">The prime minister, Theresa May, responded to the landslide rejection of her negotiations by saying, "It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support”.</p> <p class="AB">The near identical point had just been made by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, in his summing up. Foreseeing the defeat of the premier’s proposals he stated, “it is not enough for this House to vote against the deal before us and against No Deal. We also have to be for something”.</p> <p>But what is the House of Commons for, what does it support? </p><p>Corbyn emphasised that MPs had “to consider all the options available”. </p><p class="AB"><em>openDemocracy</em> readers around the world are not the only ones to find themselves baffled as to what is going on.</p><p class="AB">The crux of the problem is that the leaders of both the government and opposition want, sensibly, for the UK to remain a trading partner within the EU’s regulated space. At the same time they don’t want the UK to be governed by it. The result is an irresolvable tension. Because they cannot resolve, it could tear the political system apart.&nbsp;</p> <p class="AB">This is Jeremy Corbyn attacking May’s deal last night: “The vague Future Partnership document says it: ‘can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes… as well as checks and controls’. There is no clarity whatsoever. And there is not even any mention of the ‘frictionless trade’ promised in the Chequers proposals. The former Brexit Secretary promised a ‘detailed’, ‘precise’ and ‘substantive’ document. The Government spectacularly failed to deliver it. So I confirm that Labour will vote against this deal tonight because it is a bad deal for Britain”.</p> <p class="AB">But Theresa May was merely keeping her options open for the future trade agreement. </p> <p class="AB">For his part Corbyn wants a deal that ensures the UK stays in the EU’s Custom Union, one that will also, “guarantee our participation in European agencies and initiatives. Losing this co-operation undermines our security, denies our citizens opportunities, and damages our industries”.</p> <p class="AB">In which case, what is the point in leaving? </p> <p class="AB">A question that right-wing pro-Brexit commentators have raised in objecting to May’s approach. </p> <p class="AB">So there is something very uncanny about the impasse. At the heart of a massive typhoon of a crisis are two leaders who seem personally rather similar in their inflexible commitment to being half-in and half-out. </p> <p class="AB">Nor do either the prime minister or the leader of the opposition back the obvious solution for their immediate problem.</p> <p class="AB">For May, this is to amend her deal by saying it has to be ratified by the voters in a referendum or we stay. This simple move would enable her to put her deal, which she says delivers the “instruction” of the voters, to the voters themselves to confirm that it does indeed do so. Thus amended her deal would immediately command a majority, if a small one, in the Commons. </p> <p class="AB">All Corbyn needs to do is… exactly the same. Put aside his once convenient but now implausible notion that he could negotiate a better Brexit and propose an amendment to May’s deal that it must be backed by the people, or the UK stays in the EU. He might not get a majority for this if the government opposed it, but he might.</p> <p class="AB">Of course, in any such referendum May would be advocating her deal and Corbyn would support staying in, so the same amendment would not bring them together. </p> <p class="AB">However, they are united in resisting a new referendum or People's Vote. Some people say it is because Corbyn is a Brexiteer. Others say May is committed to her deal and won’t risk its fate in a public vote. I suspect something else is at work.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">For the key to understanding Brexit is not to think that Brexit is about Brexit or the realities of Europe and the UK’s relationship with it. </p><p>It is about Britain and how the country is ruled and its political culture and self-regard. </p><p>At the centre of this for both May and Corbyn is the Westminster system in which they have spent their lives. Each believes in it and senses that institutionalising referendums ends the sanctity of its sovereignty. Neither liked the 2016 referendum itself. Both seek to “respect” its outcome not because they thrill to its democratic audacity but because they want to limit its impact and redirect energy and public loyalty back into the House of Commons. </p><p>For example, their supporters say that to even risk going back on the decision of the 2016 referendum would lead to a "loss of trust". What they mean is that they do not trust the people but want the people to trust them. Far from embracing the democratic radicalism of the moment, they want to shore up traditional form of winner-takes-all power and the UK's very centralised forms of&nbsp; government, albeit for contrasting social and economic objectives. Foolishly, they think that "delivering" on the result of the referendum will re-establish the battered authority of Parliament.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">"they do not trust the people but want the people to trust them"</p><p class="AB">But there is an additional twist that makes this a genuine drama for the sustainability of the system as a whole. </p> <p>For the divisions over ‘Europe’, which are in reality over what it means to be ‘British’, run more deeply through the Tory party than in Labour. The Corbyn leadership’s strategy is to encourage the division of their opponents so as to wreck the Tories and inherit power long-term as they implode. But this is a risky precisely because Brexit is not about Brexit. It isn’t a policy, as many Labour figures seem to think, when they compare it to the divisions over the Corn Laws over which the Tories split in 1846 for a generation. A binary decision has to be made by them as well, one that has profound cultural and class consequences from which Labour as we know it may well not emerge either way. </p><p>By taking a traditional, parliamentary approach Labour may in fact blow up themselves. They are not going to easily survive a ‘no deal’ their approach makes more likely. Article 50 is like an anvil, it forces Britain out of the EU on 29 March unless the Commons can agree on a course of action. Meanwhile the Trump administration is like a hammer, backed by Murdoch’s Sun, driving the Brexit ultras on. They know what they want. Time is on their side. </p><p>The Brexit ultras may be a minority but they can only be frustrated by opponents who also know what they want and will fight for it by persuading voters to change their decision. There is no other way of staying in or now it seems half-in the EU. But England, unlike Scotland, does not yet have a coherent, positive leadership that could win a new referendum with the necessary élan – just outstanding individuals, above all Caroline Lucas. If May and Corbyn, the two main party leaders and their teams, stay opposed to a new referendum they won't be able to match the force of the hard Brexiteers. Equally stubborn, mutually uninspiring and jointly parliamentarian, May and Corbyn are taking the UK into the vortex. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">Trump&#039;s visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Wed, 16 Jan 2019 03:34:07 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121301 at An Englishman, a Scotswoman and Irishman talk about Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fintan O'Toole, Lesley Riddoch and Anthony Barnett grapple with the 'Strange passions of Brexit'. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="260" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"></iframe></p><p>Many outside the UK are baffled by what is going on with Brexit and the cultural implosion that seems to be taking place. This short discussion may help. It is not about policy - instead it addresses the strucure of feeling in England. On Friday 11 January, an <a href="">emergency Convention</a> on a People's Vote over Brexit and how to 'Think Anew, Act Anew' was held in London, convened in just over a week by Henry Porter. It was opened by <a href="">Caroline Lucas</a>, whose powerful message set the direction of the day. A sequence of panels of often young speakers set a new spirit for popular opposition to Brexit. Videos of all the sessions can be <a href="">watched here</a>. I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with Fintan O'Toole, author of <a href="">Heroic Failure</a>, chaired and moderated by Lesley Riddoch, author of <a href=";btrck=TkVsZFgyVDlaZ1FMRVRpT3RNVE1MbjFIQllhaGpKQ0owY1lSeVRjcDFaV2l5eHh1eVgrUUZCMnYrNXhjUHZWSA&amp;utm_source=bing&amp;utm_medium=cpc&amp;utm_campaign=ShoppingGB&amp;msclkid=a0143c66cb7c17970052605b310c431f">Blossom, what Scotland needs to flourish</a>. She got us to tackle some of the issues closest to the bone, not least the nature of the English support for the Brexit vote and its relationship with Britishness and Europe.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/think-anew-act-anew-convention-on-brexit-and-peoples-vote">Think Anew, Act Anew: a Convention on Brexit and a People&#039;s Vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Anthony Barnett Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:24:44 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121295 at Paddy Ashdown – a frank remembrance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Normal1">Ashdown’s successes as a relatable man, a tactician and a statesman should not blind us to his strategic failures.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// clegg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// clegg.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Paddy Ashdown, who died on 22nd December 2018, pictured with then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg during the 2015 election campaign. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Normal1">Paddy Ashdown, who died on 22nd December 2018 aged 77, was in the eyes of many the most successful Liberal leader of our times. That may be true, but he was also more responsible than anyone else for the current demise of the Liberal Democrats as a significant third force in British politics and this, too, should be remembered. </p> <p class="Normal1">What follows is an honest reflection on his contribution to public life by a colleague-in-arms. It looks back on a lifetime of effort that ended in frustration which demands frankness rather than eulogy or self-congratulation.</p> <p class="Normal1">His background made him a relatable, regular person with exceptionally high energy. Born in India, he returned after World War Two to his parents’ homeland in Northern Ireland where he was raised, acquiring an Ulster accent and hence the nickname “Paddy”, before boarding at a minor public school in Bedford. Indifferent ‘A’ Levels and a decline in his family’s fortunes prompted him to enlist as an officer cadet in the Royal Marines and on being commissioned he received the Sword of Honour for being top recruit. </p> <p class="Normal1">He served for thirteen years mainly in the Far East with the Special Boat Service, where he learnt Mandarin, and in Belfast during the Troubles. He retired from the Marines in 1972, having been denied further promotion and joined the FCO, acting in military intelligence while stationed in Geneva. However, career advancement was not offered here either, so he moved to Yeovil with his young family where he held an assortment of unprepossessing jobs in commerce. He joined the Liberal Party, became locally very active, and was selected to fight the General Election in 1979. Losing heavily to the Tory incumbent, he nevertheless managed to come second overtaking Labour. He was re-adopted to fight Yeovil again. In those parlous days for the Liberals it was considered a target seat. </p> <p class="Normal1">Experiencing continuing financial problems and at the nadir of his adult life he decided to seek employment in local government and abandon his political activities. The first I heard of him was when Pratap Chitnis, secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd (JRRT), reported this news to the Trust’s directors who then sent £1000 to supplement his dole benefits so that he could retain his candidacy. Contrary to expectations Ashdown won the seat in 1983. </p> <p class="Normal1">As an MP, he initially forsook his military and espionage background and advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament for the UK, but he did not maintain this. He was an assiduous constituency MP, but while not a great Commons performer, he eventually succeeded David Steel as Liberal Leader in 1988. </p> <p class="Normal1">Ashdown was party leader at a critical moment – the rise of New Labour – in what could have been a huge moment of political reform. Very sensibly he sought a possible Lib/Lab collaboration with Tony Blair which would have led to a positive re-alignment of British party politics. The landslide Labour victory in 1997 put paid to the idea, and with it any chance of pushing electoral reform through parliament. Almost certainly, Tony Blair had been stringing him along as a precaution in case of a close result. </p> <p class="m-393594344119993044normal1">The history of this period is embarrassing to the official Lib Dem history as well as to the Blair establishment and has never been properly registered. It was the Party’s real historic opportunity and Ashdown, supported by his consiglieri Richard Holmes, encouraged by Blair, were so committed to being part of the governing machine they failed to challenge&nbsp;it when, paradoxically, its very success&nbsp;made it<strong>&nbsp;</strong>vulnerable to others laying claim to the 'brand' of being radical yet unifying. It was an understandable, all-too-human but nonetheless fatal strategic error.</p> <p class="Normal1">The moment when New Labour was at its zenith was between the 1997 and 2001 general elections, when it pushed through its far-reaching changes to the constitution, such as the Human Rights Act, the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, the Good Friday agreement, the principle of the Freedom of Information and ridding the country of most hereditary peers. The great prize for the Lib Dems was to add proportional representation to the list. Blair seduced Ashdown into believing that a Commission headed by Roy Jenkins would deliver PR. But reform of this kind needs public energy to overcome established vested interests, not least Labour’s own. </p> <p class="Normal1">Ashdown could have challenged Blair to deliver on an overall new constitutional settlement and give lasting expression to the radicalism of that moment. Instead of expanding the reform agenda, however, so that PR became a defining issue for a full-scale popular democratic agenda, the Lib Dems allowed voting reform to become a technical discussion of how it might be achieved while retaining the constituency system. Blair was then able to suffocate it without difficulty and the prize was lost. </p> <p class="Normal1">While being physically very energetic and telegenically personable, Paddy Ashdown was not as good a party leader as some obituaries have suggested. The Liberals increased their number of MPs, but this had little to do with Ashdown’s leadership. He asked for the JRRT’s regular donation to be paid to Lib Dem HQ, but this was denied and instead the vast bulk of the money was given over to the Association of Liberal Councillors, regarded as a better conduit for promoting electoral success. Accordingly, Chris Rennard, the Party’s campaigns director, assiduously concentrated efforts on local activism that, particularly after Charles Kennedy became leader in 1999, increased the number of MPs to 63. This unprecedentedly high post World War Two figure was aided by Kennedy’s very overt opposition to the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which Ashdown foolishly supported. </p> <p class="Normal1">Undoubtedly, Ashdown’s greatest achievement came in the four years from 2002-06 when he served as the fourth International High Commissioner and EU Special Representative in Sarajevo during the Serbo-Croatian war. The situation played directly to his strengths as a very energetic tactician because the turmoil of daily events called for quick and immediate responses if damage was to be minimised or reversed. He was in his element for which he received much praise and recognition including an honorary doctorate from Ulster University (which I had proposed as former Vice-Chancellor). </p> <p class="Normal1">On returning to take up his position in the Lords, Ashdown’s subsequent participation in Liberal Democrat party activities proved disastrous in at least three respects.</p> <p class="Normal1">First, his intimate relationship with Nick Clegg. Ashdown became a very close adviser to the relatively inexperienced Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister (not that Ashdown himself had any Cabinet experience). Although Ashdown would have preferred to work with Labour, he actively encouraged the formation of a Coalition with David Cameron. This was to prove an electoral disaster for the Lib Dems at the next General Election in 2015. </p> <p class="Normal1">Secondly, Clegg placed Ashdown in overall charge of campaigning for that Election. With much flourish he set up his “Wheelhouse” headquarters and paid out or withdrew central funds to the key constituencies based almost entirely on membership returns. This created uncertainty and confusion. The result was that his direction led to a net loss of 49 MPs, from 57 down to a mere eight. He was only successful as a campaigner in his own constituency of Yeovil. In 2012 I had publicly castigated the aimless Clegg as “a cork bobbing on the waves”. From the vantage point of his special position, Ashdown should have clearly recognised this and advised Clegg to withdraw from the Coalition but he, too, was overawed, albeit vicariously, by the trappings of Clegg’s office. Ashdown never possessed any ability to think through strategically; his strengths were as a tactician.</p> <p class="Normal1">This is not to say he was unaware of the need for longer-term strategic planning. He perceived such a need in 2017 when he published his Four Dangerous Ideas. They covered student fees and distance learning; owning one’s own personal data; internet-networked rather than constituency-based membership of political parties; and putting the emphasis on enhanced citizens rather than enhanced States. These somewhat disparate issues were hardly novel, but he neither developed them nor brought them together in any overall cohesive fashion precisely because in my view he lacked the broad intellectual philosophical capacity necessary. And this constituted his third major disaster. </p> <p class="Normal1">Similarly, when Nick Clegg decided to chase the money - which, to his great credit, Ashdown never did - and join the board of Facebook, Ashdown urged him to advance Liberal values. This was surely as forlorn a hope as Adam and Eve imploring their son Cain to be nice to his brother Abel!</p> <p class="Normal1">&nbsp;During much of his career, Ashdown had been a compulsive womaniser, earning him the sobriquet “Paddy Pantsdown” after the revelation of one of his affairs. Paddy was always convivial, could be relied upon to tell good jokes, and his work in the Balkans was an undoubted success. He was at his best when constrained by checks and balances, but unbridled and left to his own devices, he made many poor decisions.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/lablib-pact-that-never-was-but-should-have-been">The Lab-Lib pact that never was, but should have been</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/callum-gurr/its-time-for-liberal-democrats-to-admit-that-nick-cleggs-leadership-was-failure">It&#039;s time for Liberal Democrats to admit that Nick Clegg&#039;s leadership was a failure</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/trevor-smith/what-next-for-liberal-democrats-view-from-lords">The challenge facing the Liberal Democrats</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jem-bendell/towards-liberal-green-alliance">Towards a Liberal Green Alliance </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/dear-liberal-democrats">Dear Liberal Democrats</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/max-kiefel/is-this-end-for-liberal-democrats">Is this the end for the Liberal Democrats?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/mirela-zarichinova/bosnia-and-herzegovina-twenty-years-on-from-dayton">Bosnia and Herzegovina: twenty years on from Dayton</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Lib Dems Trevor Smith Tue, 15 Jan 2019 11:37:31 +0000 Trevor Smith 121290 at The NHS Long Term Plan, prevention, and a century of promises <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Bringing together prevention and cure, health and social care, is hardly a new – or strange – idea. So why hasn’t it happened?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Portrait of Nye Bevan by Marcus Stone, 1945. Credit: People's History of the NHS.</span></span></span></p><p>The fanfare that surrounded the publication of the <a href="">NHS Long-Term Plan</a> made sure to highlight its promise that a shift away from hospital treatment will not only <a href="">save the NHS “over £1 billion a year in new expenditure averted”</a> but also <a href="">save half-a-million lives</a>. Which rather raises the question: if the locus of care is to be relocated away from the expensive hospital, then to where? There is one popular alternative that has had a difficult history, not least with the Conservative Party, over the past century.</p> <p>In the aftermath of the First World War, Lloyd George was turning the attention of his government to post-war reconstruction and social reform. This included the creation in 1919 of a new government department – the Ministry of Health – under the direction of Christopher Addison, a GP turned Liberal MP and one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies. One of his first acts as Health Minister was to establish a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Dawson, formerly the King’s physician,&nbsp;to investigate the “schemes requisite for the systematised provision of such forms of medical and allied services as should… be available for the inhabitants of a given area”. </p> <p>The committee’s interim report the following year outlined <a href="">detailed plans for establishing a network of health centres in every area across the country</a>. However, a final report was never written, and the health centres were never built. As Lloyd George’s influence over his own coalition government waned, and the Tories were demanding ‘retrenchment’ – what today we would call ‘austerity’ – a whole raft of social reforms fell to the wayside. </p> <p>Two decades later in 1942, when Britain found itself at war again, Lord Dawson wrote in the&nbsp;<em>British Medical Journal,</em>&nbsp;saying that his long-neglected plans “might well form the basis of reconstruction to-day”. Indeed, by the end of the war, it was widely assumed that the widely debated new National Health Service would include a host of new health centres. Four years before the NHS was established in 1948, before Labour had won the 1945 election and Aneurin Bevan appointed Health Minister, medical social workers were worrying that the inevitable new health centres would be set up too slowly. Hoping to capitalise on the wartime expansion of social services, <a href="">social workers warned in 1944</a> that: “Unless health centres are rapidly developed general practitioners will not be able to take full advantage of the preventive and social services existing for the patient’s welfare”. </p> <p>Despite expectations, health centres never really became a feature of the NHS. New health centres were not a priority for a nation in need of much post-war rebuilding. Meanwhile, the leadership of the medical profession was suspicious enough of the new state service, without relocating GPs <em>en masse</em> into NHS health centres. Over the first 15 years of the NHS, only 17 health centres were opened – hardly the national network the Tories had scuppered back in the 1920s.</p> <h2>From 70s optimism to Darzi polyclinics – and Cameron</h2> <p>The idea of health centres, as a place to bring together the preventive and curative services of the NHS, had caught on by the 1970s, when their building peaked at 100 a year. These health centres were often built by local authorities, who employed health visitors and nurses, renting out space to GPs and dentists. They proved popular but too expensive for that rate of building to continue once the financial troubles of the late 1970s set in.</p> <p>Efforts since then to radically develop the siting of primary care, to allow for a shift away from expensive hospital provision, have not been easy. Under Gordon Brown, Labour’s answer was polyclinics. They offered the possibility of integrating various health and social care services for those with long-term conditions, but deeply divided opinion. While Professor Darzi saw them as central to his 2008 ‘Healthcare for London’ plan, questions over funding were combined with suspicions on the left over the role of the private sector and those on the right about central government imposing a standardised system on local communities. Polyclinics didn’t survive the arrival of David Cameron’s coalition government in 2010 and they aren’t what the new plan is talking about.</p> <p>As the <em><a href="">Financial Times</a></em><em> </em>noted, “the NHS cannot close hospitals until new primary care facilities are established”, but there’s no proper discussion of such actual centres in the plan. Instead, there’s talk of digital GP consultations and the promise of £4.5billion to fund the expansion of multidisciplinary community teams to work with local GPs. The idea is that over a number of years, in each area, GPs will enter into a single ‘network contract’ with district nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dementia workers and others, including from social care and the voluntary sector (no mention of the private sector). There’s no plan to physically bring them together, but instead for them to be supported by undefined ‘community hubs’. </p> <p>Whether there will be staff needed for these teams, whether the agreed funding will prove enough or whether these new ethereal health centres can avoid the setbacks and controversies of their concrete predecessors over the past century remains to be seen.</p> <p>Of course, this isn’t just about which medical services are provided where (or even by whom). It's also part of the much wider canvas of social provision, which stretches beyond the obvious health and social care services. After all, the NHS doesn't exist in a vacuum.</p> <h2>Where’s the joined up thinking on prevention?</h2> <p>“Prevention is better than cure” was the motto of the <a href="">National Health Society</a>, founded in 1871 by the world’s first woman MD, Elizabeth Blackwell, the leader of the Victorian public health movement, Edwin Chadwick, and others. One of their key campaigns was for more urban green spaces, in which they were soon joined by Lord Meath’s Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association and Miranda and Octavia Hill’s Kyrle Society. These city parks and school playgrounds were intended not only to provide the poor a chance for some fresh air away from the slums, but also as a space for the masses to engage in outdoor sports. 140 years ago, their campaigns were based on the understanding that preventing illness means supporting healthy lives in a whole variety of ways. It was this same understanding that led Addison to introduce the first council housing from the new Ministry of Health, and gave Bevan the dual task of beginning the rebuilding Britain’s blitzed cities at the same time as setting up the NHS.</p> <p>In spring of this year, we’re promised guidelines on <em>Putting Health into Place</em>, to build on the NHS’s work with the <a href="">Healthy New Towns</a> programme to work towards a healthy built environment. But this features in an appendix on how the plan will allow the NHS to help others. Something largely missing here is an acknowledgement that the success of the envisaged shift away from hospital provision rests in no small part on factors beyond the NHS itself. </p> <p>The new plan talks of ‘cutting delays in patients being able to go home’, somewhat downplaying the fact this doesn’t just mean patients being ready to leave hospital but also having somewhere to go. It refers repeatedly to integrating health and social care services, particularly for older people, but <a href="">the lack of a parallel plan for residential social care</a> is striking.</p> <p><span>If the government had truly realised that these ambitious plans for the NHS are inextricable from the wider raft of social and welfare services, wouldn’t Amber Rudd be scrapping or undertaking a far more fundamental rethink of the much-maligned universal credit system? Wouldn’t there be a plan to revitalise the local authority public health and social services that have taken such a battering from a decade of austerity?&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The fact this plan cuts such a lonely figure suggests the government hasn’t begun to grasp the scale of the challenge ahead for our NHS.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS George Gosling Fri, 11 Jan 2019 17:12:30 +0000 George Gosling 121265 at Former shadow Northern Ireland minister asks elections watchdog to investigate DUP Brexit dark money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Northern Ireland frontbencher joins cross-party MPs calling for ‘full investigation’ into Richard Cook and the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook, chair of the secretive group that channelled £435,000 to the DUP, is interviewed at his home by Channel 4's Alex Thomson. Image used under Fair Use: Channel 4. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Owen Smith, the former Shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has asked the Electoral Commission to open an investigation into Richard Cook, the man behind the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a secretive group that funnelled £435,000 to the DUP for Brexit. The call comes after </span><a href=""><span>openDemocracy revealed fresh concerns about Mr Cook’s business dealings</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>In a letter sent to Northern Ireland Electoral Commission Friday, Smith urges the elections regulator to investigate Cook, the CRC and the DUP donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"This individual, Richard Cook – and his organisation, the CRC – clearly has a blatant disregard for the rules of electoral law. Therefore it is in the public interest that all new information on this disturbing donation is fully investigated,” </span><span>the former shadow Northern Ireland minister wrote.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><br /></span><span>Separately, SNP MP Brendan O’Hara has also written to the Electoral Commission, calling for the watchdog to publish evidence of any due diligence that was conducted on the source of the £435,000 donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"The least the Electoral Commission can do is to provide reassurance to the public that no stone has been left unturned and that no lead has been left unexplored in confirming the veracity of this massive donation,” said O’Hara.<br /><br /></span><span>Last weekend an openDemocracy investigation revealed that Cook’s waste management company had been involved in </span><a href=""><span>shipping in illegal waste, leaving an international trail of regulatory concern, legal action and debt stretching from India to California</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP, which props up Theresa May’s government, is set to play a crucial role in the outcome of Brexit in the Commons. But the source of the £435,000 given to the DUP just weeks before the 2016 referendum - </span><a href=""><span>revealed by openDemocracy</span></a><span> &nbsp;remains clouded in mystery due to donor secrecy laws then in force in Northern Ireland.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP donation was made through the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a secretive group whose chair and only known member is Cook, a Glasgow-based businessman and former Scottish Conservative vice-chairman.<br /><br /></span><span>Both Cook and the DUP have refused to say where the £435,000 came from. Under British electoral law political parties need to know the source of all donations, but last year DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell said that </span><a href=""><span>it was not his party’s responsibility to check out Cook or the CRC</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission fined the CRC for failing to declare the DUP donation, saying the group "<a href="">had no reasonable excuse for these failings</a>"</span><span>. But the elections watchdog has so far refused to launch a full investigation into Cook or the CRC.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.17_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.17_1.png" alt="" title="" width="400" height="569" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /><br /></span><span>Owen Smith said: </span><span>"openDemocracy's latest revelations raise serious questions about Richard Cook's business dealings and the £435,000 given to the DUP to campaign for Brexit which the Electoral Commission needs to fully investigate.<br /><br /></span><span>“Even if you have assurances from Mr Cook that the source of the funding is legitimate, use of the Commission’s full resources and powers should be used to verify this. And if rules have been broken, then this is a clear occasion when public action by the commission is needed.”<br /><br /></span><span>Brendan O’Hara MP also told openDemocracy that it was time for the Electoral Commission to investigate Cook and the DUP donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"I have written to the CEO of the Electoral Commission asking that he publish all the due diligence carried out by the Commission on the £435,000 paid to the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) during the Brexit referendum,” said O’Hara. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span> </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>"Recently the Electoral Commission declared the money to have come from “permissible sources”, yet there has been no public scrutiny whatsoever of where this money came from, and I suspect that the CRC knowingly channelled money through the DUP precisely in order to avoid public scrutiny.”<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.48_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.48_0.png" alt="" title="" width="400" height="528" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /><br /></span><span>O’Hara is a member of the influential Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s investigation into disinformation and ‘fake news’. </span><span>The DCMS committee has also written to Cook about the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation.<br /><br /></span><a href=""><span>Cook claimed that his response to the DCMS committee had been “lost”</span></a><span>, but </span><a href=""><span>openDemocracy recently revealed</span></a><span> that he did subsequently reply to the committee chair, Conservative MP Damian Collins, in what has been described by sources close to the committee as “a less than conciliatory manner”.</span><span> <br /><br /></span><span>Cook recently appeared in the WhatsApp message group of the European Research Group, the hardline group of Conservative MPs pushing for a no deal Brexit. The CRC also donated money to the ERG. <br /><br /></span><span>Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland in the wake of openDemocracy’s revelations, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw also called on Cook to say where the DUP money had come from but stopped of short of saying he would ask the former Tory general election candidate himself.<br /><br /></span><span>The bulk of the DUP donation, £282,000, was spent on a wraparound advert in the Metro, a free newspaper that does not circulate in Northern Ireland. Investigative journalists at BBC Northern Ireland last year revealed that </span><a href=""><span>the Metro ad was booked by Richard Cook, and not the DUP</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The Good Law Project, founded by Jolyon Maugham QC, is seeking </span><a href=""><span>a judicial review of the Electoral Commission over its decision not to investigate the DUP donation</span></a><span>. Maugham argues that because Cook placed the advert directly himself, the DUP ‘donation’ ought to be counted as expenditure by the CRC in the same way that a controversial ‘gift’ by Vote Leave to the 23-year old fashion student Grimes was later counted as expenditure. Both Vote Leave and Grimes were subsequently fined and referred to the police over </span><a href=""><span>“illegal donations</span></a><span>”.<br /><br /></span><span>Reacting to openDemocracy’s recent revelations, Maugham said: "You look at Cook's history and you can't help but think 'What does someone have to do, who do they have to be, to cause the Electoral Commission to take an interest'?"<br /><br /></span><span>An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “The Commission continues to be prohibited by law from commenting on donations made before July 2017 relating to Northern Ireland recipients. We are therefore unable to provide more complete information about the steps we took to fulfil our regulatory duty in any particular case. What we can say, however, is that we fulfil this duty to the highest standard".<br /><br /></span><span>Richard Cook's lawyer says he denies any wrongdoing. Peter Watson said that while his client would not respond in detail, any claims suggesting wrongdoing by his former waste management company DDR were baseless and actionable.<br /><br /></span><span>Mr Cook has previously told the Sunday Herald: “The CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors. We donate solely to permissible UK entities.”<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the CRC donation.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor">Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Fri, 11 Jan 2019 14:11:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121261 at Terrorism policing: the YPG/YPJ, an ally abroad but a danger at home? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The erratic treatment members of the YPG/YPJ receive at the hands of Europe’s counterterrorism networks doesn’t look set to change in the near future. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Johannes Koenig, musician, charged by Munich police for liking an article about the Kurdisch YPG on Facebook by the satire site Der Postillion. Sachelle Babbar/Press Association</span></span></span></p><p>The first time Roni ( a pseudonym) came home to London after his 8 months as a medic for the anarchist Kurdish YPG/YPJ in northern Syria, he was nervous. If it wasn’t to see his closest Kurdish friend — a filmmaker for the same forces — <a href="">laid to rest</a> in Highgate Cemetery, he would have never boarded the plane. </p> <p>The passengers had not yet disembarked when four uniformed officers marched straight to his seat.</p> <p>“They escorted me out like a celebrity,” Roni said.</p> <p>The questioning was polite and ended in a “thank you for your cooperation,” but it was enough to convince Roni that this may be his last time in London. At least for a long time. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Roni has two passports: one British and one Turkish. He was born in a majority Alevi Kurdish town – a minority within a minority in Turkey – but remembers little about his childhood. His parents don’t talk about it. So he feels British.</p> <p>The questioning might not go so smoothly next time Roni visits London because he might be linked to the PKK — whose ties to the YPG/YPJ are still debated — and lose his British passport. Only dual nationals can have their <a href="">citizenship revoked</a> for being a member of a terrorist-listed organization. To Roni, that would mean not being able to avoid compulsory military service in Turkey, where he would face near-certain imprisonment. It would also add another level of precarity in the UK.</p> <p>So until he is sure that he is safe in the UK, he will wait in what he jokingly calls “Yugoslavia.” Considering how erratic the UK and other European states have been in pursuing their citizens who were former YPG/YPJ volunteers, Roni and his friends in arms will probably not have an answer to this quandary soon.</p> <h2><strong>Abroad and at home</strong></h2> <p>Turkey and Qatar are the <a href="">only</a> countries to list the YPG/YPJ as a terrorist group, since they equate it with the Turkey-based PKK. Despite heavy lobbying efforts, however, Turkey has not changed the mind of its NATO allies on this issue. Many rely on a strict demarcation between the two groups to legitimize their support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mostly YPG/YPJ-led group formed by the US-led coalition to help push back the so-called Islamic State. The SDF is the only opposition group in Syria that has won significant territory from Bashar Al-Assad and will remain a main player in forming Syria’s new geography. </p> <p>While these coalition countries – for the sake of this article, the UK, France and Germany – don’t let Turkey have its way on how they maneuver in the Middle East, they make up for any friction in the relationship however by being vigilant about the YPG/YPJ domestically. These crackdowns on former fighters, whether to please Turkey or not, are a symptom of ever-expanding counter-terrorism powers across the continent. </p> <p>The UK, France and Germany track YPG/YPJ fighters indiscriminately – as they do all combatants coming from Syria and Iraq – but only on occasion decide to take legal or punitive action, like opening court cases, confiscating passports or marking some with easily exploitable statuses. When they do, it has until now been action taken against non-Kurdish nationals (only <a href="">Denmark</a> has arrested a Kurdish YPJ fighter who was also a Danish national) and justified under the heading of counter-terrorism strategy. </p> <p>Those singled out are not necessarily more politically radical than others, and did not necessarily have more evidence against them. Their exceptions may prove the rule, but they also mean potential precedents that could affect anyone else in the YPG/YPJ, including non-national residents, asylum seekers and its PYD political representatives. They indirectly touch people like Roni and send chills across Europe’s large Kurdish diaspora, which is already under the close eye of police. Kurdish European nationals who opt for the more entrenched PKK over the younger YPG/YPJ – the vast majority of them – could become easy next targets.</p> <p>Their selection also reveals the sometimes conflictual, sometimes complicit relationship between the interior, foreign and justice departments – and the expanding ability of law enforcement to play acrobatics in pursuit of whomever they consider politically dangerous, terrorist-listed or not.</p> <p>The UK, France and Germany do not have a consistent policy toward the few returning YPG/YPJ nationals and maybe never will. Yet something can be deduced from the actions already taken and the pathways already explored.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>The United Kingdom</strong></h2> <p>More than 400 non-Syrians joined the YPG/YPJ. Of those, most came from Turkey, then the US, then the UK. The British supported their operations through the SDF with non-lethal weapons and airstrikes in their fight against ISIS. Britain has also sold more than <a href="">$1 billion</a> in arms to Turkey and continues to court its buyers as a looming Brexit forces the country to find new friends. </p> <p>When Turkey began stepping up its rhetoric against the YPG/YPJ, the UK, caught between the two, wondered if it had to choose sides. In October 2017, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons began an <a href="">inquiry</a> to decipher if the YPG/YPJ was in fact the UK’s friend or foe, terrorist or not. Two months before, the Henry Jackson Society had published a <a href="">report</a> arguing that returning YPG/YPJ fighters were a threat to UK security. The committee’s findings quoted the report but did not take the same position — it actually took none, apparently more confused than at the outset. </p> <p>So, police continued stopping most YPG/YPJ returnees when they arrived and keeping their passports — an action reserved for citizens who have “<a href="">actual or suspected</a>” plans to disturb the public interest. Some were detained and questioned for hours. Some have had their movements restricted to certain places and hours, one of the more <a href="">severe measures</a> police can take to prevent terrorism. Some have had their houses raided for incriminating evidence. If the police have found evidence, the attorney general and the Crown Protection Services, have prosecuted. Three cases have occurred so far. </p> <p>The first YPG returnee, <a href="">Josh Walker</a>, was charged under the Terrorism Act with possessing information “likely to be useful” for committing an act of terrorism: in his case, a digital copy of <em>The Anarchist Cookbook</em>. He was found not guilty.</p> <p><a href="">James Matthews</a>’ charge was more direct. The crown suspected him of being trained on a military camp "for purposes connected to the commission of preparation of terrorism". They argued that the same camp was run by the PKK. The prosecutor did not cite evidence to support the claim and gave no reason when the crown dropped the charge.</p> <p>“The whole thing was a mess and a mystery,” Matthews’ lawyer, Joel Bennathan QC, told me. European citizens have the right to be able to anticipate why they might be prosecuted, but since the YPG/YPJ is a “grey area” whose treatment is “in flux,” said Bennathan, no one knows when or why the gavel might fall. He said that lawyers representing the returned fighters speculated that pressure from Turkey, possibly indirect, had influenced the decisions to go after its former fighters, some of which have become celebrated public figures. Roni sees Matthews’ case as a low-hanging fruit: the UK could cave in under pressure in a case against a British veteran that it is sure to lose.</p> <p>One outstanding case could still set a precedent. Shortly after Matthews pleaded not guilty, police charged <a href="">Aidan James</a> with three counts of terrorism, including “preparation of terrorist acts.” Sources close to the case worry that the charges have more to do with acts the person committed unrelated to the armed group, but a conviction might damage the prospect of a similar defense.</p> <p>In fact, courts could prosecute returning fighters for terrorism if they really wanted to. The UK has almost a dozen Terrorism Acts, including one <a href="">about to be passed</a>, that expands the definition of terrorism far beyond being the member of a listed group. Anyone who picks up arms abroad, not for the British army or for a mercenary group, qualifies. Anyone who travels to an area that the Secretary of State deems could expose the UK public to the “risk of terrorism” can be tried. </p> <h2><strong>Foreign fighters and freedom fighters</strong></h2> <p>Courts, at least until now, have chosen not to touch the YPG/YPJ. Even if the UK finds enough evidence to draw an explicit link with the PKK, they may still do nothing: only one recruit, <a href="">Shilan Özçelik</a>, has been convicted for trying to join the PKK. Possibly sympathizers made enough noise outside her prison gates to dissuade them from a second conviction. </p> <p>But police still treat YPG/YPJ recruits as ripe for counter-terrorism strategy. The UK has a decentralized police force, so ten separate counter-terrorism units each follow their own way of doing things. One unit created a <a href="">cheat sheet</a> of extremist symbols, which lists the YPG as “regarded as so close to the PKK as to be almost a subordinate entity.” Several make recruits sign a document that says they will travel to Syria knowing that they might face terrorism charges when they return, and then detains them when they do. Sometimes decisions come from above, like the deployment of Prevent officers to the families of the fighters that fall. </p> <p>John Cuddihy, former head of organized crime and counter-terrorism in Scotland who now advises forces internationally, lamented that broader counter-terrorism policy doesn’t explore the nuance between who is a “foreign fighter” and a “freedom fighter.” He said it is wrong to cram the YPG/YPJ and ISIS into the same category, though YPG/YPJ returnees are too few to motivate enough resources for a customized approach. For now, Scotland, which has a devolved system like Wales, targets potential YPG/YPJ recruits for deradicalization efforts just like any population “vulnerable” to extremist groups. </p> <p>Since terrorism is “drawn in very wide terms,” its application is “profoundly dividing lawyers and counterterrorism officers,” says Bennathan. Indecision – and diplomatic concerns – can mean inaction. When Turkey sentenced former British soldier and YPG volunteer <a href="">Joe Robinson</a> to eight years in prison, the UK didn’t say anything. </p> <h2><strong>France</strong></h2> <p>France’s stance on the YPG/YPJ is clear: it is their closest ally in Syria, and the relationship – fed by on-the-ground <a href="">support</a> and a French <a href="">cultural center</a> – is built to last, according to the group’s spokesperson Nuri Mahmoud. The UK and Germany do not meet officially with their representatives of YPG’s political wing, the PYD, but French President Emmanuel Macron has shaken the hand of the Paris representative, Khaled Issa, <a href="">in public</a>. </p> <p>The meeting didn’t stop him from also shaking hands, time and again, with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Commercial profit between the two, which adds up to about <a href="">$14.6 billion</a>, continues to <a href="">rise</a>. Turkey is not just a NATO ally, but also a partner in France’s fight against homegrown terrorism, promising to repatriate French ISIS fighters.</p> <p>In the eyes of the foreign ministry, the dividing line between the PKK and the YPG/YPJ is solid. But the interior ministry could decide otherwise. (When asked for comment on its surveillance of the YPG/YPJ in France, the press contact for counter-terrorism policing refused comment on the domestic treatment of the PKK.) </p> <p>Even without crossover between the two groups, the French police has a big counter-terrorism toolbox to pick from. Since Macron <a href="">institutionalized</a> the state of emergency, police and intelligence have the power to arrest and surveil, after warning the prosecutor, anyone who they have “serious reasons to believe” are “commonly in relation with persons or organizations inciting, supporting, spreading or adhering to a thesis inciting terrorist acts or doing their apology.” These acts must apply to French soil – which the YPG/YPJ has not touched. Police could then play up the premise that they were paid – in non-monetary ways – for their service, since fighting as a mercenary is illegal in France. But no court has tried to push that argument.</p> <p>The last way to catch a YPG/YPJ volunteer, would be to stop them from flying to so-called “<a href="">jihad zones</a>”, given the risk that could come with working alongside a criminalized group. However, the Senate <a href="">affirmed</a> last summer that it grants Kurdish forces certain privileges: unlike other Syria-bound nationals, fighters with the YPG/YPJ “are not systematically pursued, regarding YPG cooperation with the French armed forces.” </p> <p>But ‘not systematically’ does not mean never. </p> <p>While some never see an officer, others have their passports confiscated, their driver’s licenses snatched, their bank accounts frozen. All of these powers came in with the new counter-terrorism measures. One former fighter sued the French state for how it treats of the YPG/YPJ. He won. Since then, said fellow fighter Serhat Tikkun*, police have been careful about pursuing them down the same alleys.</p> <p>But the drills continue. Tikkun said that he and his mother have had regular check-ups with the DGSI, France’s domestic intelligence agency, since he was referred to psychological services that handle cases of radicalization. That was three years before he left, when he was first learning about the militia. He moves around a lot, so he has got to know counter-terrorism officers from around the country – along with their counterparts in other European states, thanks to Interpol tip-offs. </p> <p>Most of the volunteers that came from France are former soldiers, but some are anarchist, communist and union activists. Of those, many were already closely tracked. Tikkun said that one DGSI officer told him that far-left terrorism is their second priority after Islamist terrorism – and that far-right terrorism comes only after separatist groups, like the PKK, which has risen on their radar. </p> <p>The Senate <a href="">report</a> mentions that Islamic jihad “must not eclipse non-Islamic terrorism,” such as attacks against mosques by far-left groups “notably from the anarcho-autonomous movement, from which several have gone to Syria to fight against the Islamic State, and therefore are trained to handle arms.” </p> <p>Still, Tikkun said that officers would not let him, a self-described communist autonomist, go as easily as “if I was called Mohammed and came from the projects.” Since the state of emergency was declared, several politically active Kurds have been detained for terrorist financing without specification. Even more have been flagged with “FIJAT” and “S” files, a signal for special police treatment to prevent threats to national security. Those marked are not the most obvious candidates, said a Kurdish activist close to them, while those who travel to Northern Syria for civil and political work have been let off the hook. </p> <p>French surveillance of the politically-involved Kurdish diaspora is, to say the least, a sensitive topic. Former President François Hollande openly met with PKK members, but in 2013, three of them were assassinated in Paris. The <a href="">slip-up</a> embarrassed French intelligence, which since then has been softer on the group and its sympathizers. But with “terrorism” a buzzword in post-state of emergency France, the question of policing is very much back on the table. </p> <h2><strong>Germany</strong></h2> <p>Of the three countries, Germany has the least contact with the SDF and the closest relationship, historically, with Turkey. Its participation in the US-led coalition in Syria is mostly symbolic, while it <a href="">continues</a> – despite a current temporary hault – to sell Turkey arms and tanks that it <a href="">used</a> in its offensive in Afrin. Germany also leans on Turkey to keep its 3.5 million Syrian refugees on their side of the shore – and hosts the largest and most politically active Kurdish diaspora, the one most represented in the YPG/YPJ forces. </p> <p>This equation makes the YPG/YPJ question a more urgent one to solve. The answer, though, still depends on who is asked.</p> <p>For the federal prosecutor, no YPG/YPJ fighter has yet warranted a charge. The justice ministry has yet to weigh in on whether the group is a terrorist organization or not, but <em>Die Welt</em> reported that it considers it “<a href="">politically inopportune</a>” to do so while this would anger France or the US.</p> <p>As for the interior ministry, a hint might come in a <a href="">2015 report</a> where members of parliament asked about continuing operations against the PKK. In it, the interior ministry said that anti-ISIS fighters (it <a href="">could not separate</a> PKK and YPG/YPJ fighters) are fewer in quantity than Syrian jihadist fighters, but similar in quality. </p> <p>“We do not distinguish between supposedly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorism,” said the report. In other words, they may fight for different reasons, but their weapons training – as long as it’s done outside the authorized frame of the German military – could pose the a similar threat to German nationals when they return. The report failed to cite when a returned YPG/YPJ fighter had intended to stage an attack in Germany. But their aims run close to those of the PKK, it found, a group which threatens the territorial integrity of a NATO ally. </p> <p>Answering questions from a parliamentarian in October, the interior ministry counted <a href="">nearly 250</a> anti-ISIS fighters who have left for Syria, half of whom have returned. Of those, federal police are investigating 32, including 27 for links to terrorist organizations; the others for planned attacks and recruitment for a foreign military organization. Seven of them were labelled “relevant” persons and two as “dangerous.” One is still being investigated for possible war crimes. Half of all cases were closed for lack of evidence that offenses were committed on German territory.</p> <p>Terrorism is still not <a href="">defined</a> in Germany, but under criminal law, it is illegal to be trained in a camp run by a terrorist organization, to plan an attack in Germany or to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity anywhere. Mere membership of a terrorist-listed organization abroad cannot be prosecuted, however, nor can it justify the revoking of citizenship. </p> <p>But officers are ordered to walk before judges can talk. When Martin Klamper* returned from Syria, he was detained at the airport and had his <a href="">passport</a> and phone confiscated. He is still waiting to get them back and is not allowed to leave Germany until further notice. He said other YPG/YPJ fighters from Germany avoid flying in for that reason, but police end up finding them anyway.</p> <p>Some state police push even further. Bavaria – home state of the current Interior Minister – leads the way, followed by other state governments that have crept in expanding counter-terrorism <a href="">powers</a> for their police forces that skip judicial overview and lower the bar on searches and detention. </p> <p>One additional measure of this kind is to revive the police title “Gefährder,” roughly translated to “potential threat,” which lets police detain anyone they believe might plan an attack. So far, the title has mostly been used on Islamists, and a few times on fascists and anarchists. We have learned of two <a href="">cases</a> when it was applied to returned YPG fighters. These individuals have limited access to justice, and their status is not recognized federally.</p> <p>“We haven’t seen these kinds of laws since Hitler,” said Nick Brauns, who drafted the queries for Left Party parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke on how the interior ministry handles anti-ISIS fighters. </p> <p>Brauns also compares Germany’s current crackdown on Kurdish political groups to what happened in the 1990’s, when the PKK was at its most active and most repressed in Turkey. Then, <a href="">after attacks</a> against Turkish sites in Germany, Germany became the first country after Turkey to list the PKK as a terrorist organization. Abdullah Öcalan, ideological father of both groups, has promised he would not touch Germany if his supporters were left alone – but his image was banned last year. The YPG/YPJ flag was banned, too, when police consider it is used to substitute the PKK flag. Enforcement has since been devolved to states. </p> <p>If the YPG/YPJ is brought into the counter-terrorism frame alongside the PKK, its returning fighters who are not German citizens – about three out of four, according to the <a href="">report</a> that lumped together both groups – face even fewer protections since their cases would be treated by immigration, not criminal, law. A trip to Syria could then threaten their application for citizenship or asylum.</p> <h2><strong>Beyond borders</strong></h2> <p>These counter-terrorism developments don’t stop at borders. Even when Brexit yanks the UK out of the EU picture, intelligence and police coordination, especially within the scope of preventing terrorist acts, will continue. Cuddihy, who helped shape policing of the Kurdish diaspora in Scotland, said that police in Glasgow, London and several German cities share intelligence and work together closely since they recognize that the Kurds share networks across those cities, too. Then there’s Interpol, Europol, and a smattering of new initiatives to encourage intelligence sharing and best practices. States choose how much they share, which tends to be on the rise.</p> <p>Meanwhile, whatever intelligence these states don’t gather, Turkish secret services might. They have official permission for a number of surveillance operations in the three countries and, since the coup attempt in 2016, have been more aggressively on the lookout for members of both Gülen movement and the PKK — which to them includes the YPG/YPJ.</p> <p>How far they can go depends largely on the stance each country’s interior ministry takes. This position isn’t static: it depends on who heads the ministry, what’s at stake in the relationship with Turkey or the US, and what happens politically in Syria. Then there’s what the fighters and their supporters say and do back home. One Kurdish activist in Paris also said that she’s found that there’s an unspoken balance in Europe. When France goes easier on the group, Germany plays bad cop, and vice versa.</p> <p>In the end, some of the returned fighters even welcome the vigilance. They’re reassured that their police are watching out for terrorism, which is what they left for Syria to combat. But what worries them is the amount of information that police allow themselves to collect and sit on. They might not flex their counter-terrorism powers openly, but that doesn’t mean they never will.</p> <p>“You’re on the books until you’re worthy of their political agenda,” said Roni. “We can be sacrificed for the greater agenda.”</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk United States Turkey EU Syria Conflict Democracy and government International politics Nora Martin Wed, 09 Jan 2019 20:05:21 +0000 Nora Martin 121243 at Think Anew, Act Anew: a Convention on Brexit and a People's Vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An emergency, public gathering in London will take place this Friday ahead of the big parliamentary debate on the UK and the EU. Come along!</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// _cdn.evbuc_.com_images_54386347_204136176092_1_original.20181228-113814.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// _cdn.evbuc_.com_images_54386347_204136176092_1_original.20181228-113814.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB">An emergency <a href="">Convention</a> on the need for a second EU referendum will take place in London this coming Friday, 11 January. Organised at very short notice by Henry Porter under the banner of <a href="">‘Think Anew, Act Anew’ </a>its aim is ambitious. </p> <p>A second referendum may prove to be the only way to break the deadlock in the House of Commons over Brexit. Perhaps for this very reason, many MPs don’t want it to happen, sensing that it will confirm Parliament’s unique role as our sovereign is now past its sell-by date (which many of us anyway think was 1832). </p><p>But, however unlikely, a People's Vote is the only plausible way out of the immediate impasse in Westminster. It is therefore a real possibility and it would be reckless not to be prepared. For if it happens it will be the most important public engagement of our time in Britain as a whole. And it will offer a chance to bring the country together around what is best for the UK’s future and its young people. </p><p>Provided, that is, it is not conducted in the same way as the last referendum. It has to be fought in a radically different manner to the 2016 vote. Certainly the so-called ‘Remain’ campaign need a positive focus on the benefits of EU membership such as free movement, as well as on the profound faults in British politics that have led to so much division and alienation. </p><p>The <a href="">Convention</a> will, therefore, draw on new voices from within and outside Parliament, with a focus on fresh thinking by Caroline Lucas, who will open the day, and other high profile speakers such as Eloise Todd, Ian Dunt, Joanna Cherry, James O'Brien, Fintan O'Toole, Femi, Adam Ramsay, Laura Shields and Jarvis Cocker. To declare my interest I’ve been assisting Porter and his team and will be speaking with O’Toole and Leslie Riddoch. </p><p>For me the most important thing is to show MPs, journalists and broadcasters that we can conduct a new referendum in a different fashion. They need to be able to tell the wider public that it will not be about ‘cancelling’ the last one or seeking to revert back to the status quo. There was a powerful, democratic impulse in the original vote for Brexit, which should not just be ‘respected’ it should be embraced. In this way, a new referendum and a positive vote for staying in the EU but not the Eurozone will help build democracy across the UK, not undermine it. The <a href="">Convention</a> will explore how this can happen. </p><p class="AB">It is surely undeniable that we need to talk and listen, debate and question, assess and prepare, and the <a href="">Convention</a> is a most welcome way of assisting this as the country moves into its greatest peacetime crisis for a century.</p> <p class="AB">So <a href="">come along</a>! Tickets are £6 and selling fast. Date and Time: Friday 11 January 2019, 09:30 – 17:30 GMT, Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 3DW </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-campaign-for-people-s-vote-is-changing-politics-again">How the campaign for a People’s Vote is changing politics (again)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/andrea-pisauro-rosemary-bechler/people-s-vote-without-people-s-debate-won-t-bring">A People’s Vote without a People’s Debate won’t bring about Another Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes">We have the answers to Brexit’s causes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk London UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Tue, 08 Jan 2019 10:03:58 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121222 at No one rules Britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A first hand account of a country and an economy led by lemmings taking the wider public with them over the cliff edge.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// opportunists.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// opportunists.jpg" alt="" title="" width="320" height="500" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;is an astonishing account of the British ruling class in decomposition. It is the result of twenty years of intense research, over 350 interviews with the heads of corporations, senior civil servants, journalists, politicians and public relations firms. </p><p>There are now many books on why Brexit happened, but none like this. Aeron Davis reveals how those in charge have become incapable of exercising a shared sense of responsibility for the fate of the nation. His unique report is a frontline account of the way the political, industrial, financial and media elites are disabled by their own culture and methods from acting in the collective interests of the country. </p> <p>Davis sets out his argument in nine short chapters, action‐packed with revealing quotes from his many interviews. Particularly interesting is the way he shows how both the worlds of government and commerce are chronically insecure, run on “self‐deception”, much of it embedded in the self‐serving systems of “communication”. While those at the top may be doing nicely in terms of incomes, they face precarious employment just as much as the ‘precariat’. </p> <p>The safest way to survive and prosper in such an environment is to join with everyone else in playing the system. Davis tells the story of Tony Dye. A top analyst and fund manager, Dye foresaw the dot‐com bubble of 2000, but “too early”. The value of his holdings did not rise with the market when others did. He was fired. When the crash occurred, they lost massively and he was vindicated. Did they laud his foresight and re‐hire him or offer some compensation? Hell no, for that would have meant they'd have had to fire themselves for screwing up. The moral drawn by his colleagues was to play it safe and get it wrong like everyone else. </p> <p>Davis's gripping account reveals a country and an economy led by lemmings taking the wider public with them over the cliff edge. After twenty years of interrogating the managers and politicians of the UK, he finds their leadership to be “solitary, rich, nasty, brutish and short” when it could and should be “connected, modestly paid, nice, civilised and long”. He provides a two‐page list of reforms that might help.</p> <p><em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;has changed my mind on how Britain is governed. But its overall grasp of why it has become the way he describes is uncertain. The book provides the ingredients for a new analysis of Britain's Lords of Misrule, though they are still undercooked and await a historical theorisation. Davis starts&nbsp;<em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;with a generous reference to&nbsp;<em>The Establishment: And how they get away with it,</em>&nbsp;by Owen Jones and to Robert Peston's&nbsp;<em>Who Runs Britain?</em>. Both texts are recent, justified diatribes against the extreme inequality being generated by the UK's current arrangements. But neither has any sense of postwar history. Jones is a wonderful polemicist and interviewer, but he simply presumes the existence of a coherent ruling elite that he then assaults. Peston does not go even that far. He uses no concepts at all and does not answer the question posed in his catchy title:&nbsp;<em>Who Runs Britain</em>?.</p> <p>In the 1950s and ‘60s, ‘The Establishment’, as mapped by Anthony Sampson and others, was almost exclusively white, male, public school, Oxbridge and did run the country. Today, this order has been overturned. Bi‐partisan policies of neoliberalism have undermined public service and hollowed out the support essential to ensure a well‐governed society. Davis illustrates how the City is now driven by rough-necked outsiders alongside public schoolboys in hock to ‘greed and ruthless self‐interest’. The result is an unstable, disunited system far more extensive than the financial sector alone. He observes, “self‐interest and competition has left politicians willing to destroy their parties, civil servants their departments, chief executives their companies, and journalists their publications”.</p> <p>The downfall of the system began with the triumph of late Thatcherism and the reforms of Blair. First, there was Thatcher's confinement of the trade unions and the Big Bang deregulation of the City as well as the full‐scale privatisations of the 1980s. An expanded public sector followed under New Labour but it was crucified by demands for simulated ‘competition’, targets, outsourcing and internal markets.</p> <p>Davis's systematic account convinces me that it is simply wrong to assume that there is any longer a unifying, governing interest at work across the political, financial, commercial and industrial systems of government in the UK. It is not that ‘The Establishment’ is failing. There isn’t an ‘Establishment’. The individuals involved may be connected in the way of all elites – collaborating as well as competing in the short term. But what he shows with unrivalled detail is that there is no longer an economic ruling order consciously united by a shared view of a larger British interest.</p> <p>For an outsider, Brexit is the consequence of this non-system having a breakdown rather than the outcome of a well‐governed society choosing which way to relate to its continental partners. Davis has revealed the chaotic, profiteering vertigo of a rudderless system beyond government.</p> <p><em>Review: Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment, by Aeron Davis. Manchester University Press. 149 pp. £9.99.</em></p><p><em>This is a short version of <a href="">review essay</a> published in Political Quarterly which can be read for free <a href="">here</a> until 7 February 2019. </em></p> <p>Anthony Barnett will be speaking with Fintan O’Toole and Leslie Killoch at <a href="">The Convention</a> on 11 January 2019. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Tue, 08 Jan 2019 09:08:11 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121219 at Brexit, lies, and rich folk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Leave campaign was built on lies, and as the UK hurtles toward the brink the liars who told them are laughing all the way to the bank.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Jacob Rees-Mogg attends a fringe event to discuss Brexit during the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham in 2018. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The American social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has defined evil as exercising power to intentionally harm, hurt, destroy, or commit crimes against humanity. Clearly this definition relates to a range of human behaviour from the merely nasty to the historically atrocious. </p> <p>In 1983 the American psychiatrist and writer M Scott Peck published the book People of the Lie, which found a common factor linking ‘evil’ behaviour. Drawing on his experience in clinical psychiatric practice as well as in the US military and government, he argued that lying needed to be given a central place in any understanding of the psychology of evil. </p> <p>He found that if he confronted a parent who was abusing their child, as he sometimes had to do, they would compulsively lie. They would deny even the most conclusively damning evidence. He also found that, at the height of the war in Vietnam, when he asked government officials or military officers about the indiscriminate use of napalm they would always assert that it was someone else’s fault. Regardless of whether an individual was part of the decision-making structure or pressing the trigger to drop napalm on children, everyone claimed they were just following someone else’s orders. </p> <p>In other words, he found that central to the psychology of evil is the denial of personal responsibility. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">With each new lie, Brexiteers seek to re-affirm that Brexiteers are not responsible for the gargantuan mess they have created.</p> <p>Lying and the evasion of personal responsibility seems today to have become epidemic. Donald Trump, the US president and a compulsive liar, has popularised the concept of “fake news” to undermine those with the temerity to try to hold him to public account. His acolytes have invented the notion of “alternative facts” to bolster the self-serving lies that Trump conjures for his gullible faithful.</p> <p>This is anything but a peculiarly American phenomenon. Systematic lying is central to the Brexit political project as well. The lies told before the referendum by the leaders of the Brexit campaigns – the £350 million for the NHS; that there were no downsides to Brexit; that the trade deal the UK would conclude with the EU would be the easiest in human history – have been well documented. When these fantasies collided with hard reality, new lies were invented to paper over the cracks: everything would have been great but for the “Remoaners”; that the DUP speaks for the people of Northern Ireland; that everything would be fine if only a proper Brexiteer was actually prime minister. </p> <p>With each new lie, Brexiteers seek to re-affirm that Brexiteers are not responsible for the gargantuan mess they have created. Many of these go unchallenged by either opposition politicians or much of the broadcast media. This makes it easier for them to stick. </p> <p>These lies, whether told before or after the referendum, have another objective. As Churchill may have put it, they are the bodyguard of a deeper truth: that of the real purpose of Brexit. </p> <p>In his book Heroic Failure, an excoriating analysis of the causes of Brexit, Fintan O’Toole identifies another book called The Sovereign Individual by William Rees-Mogg, the father of Jacob,<em> </em>as being particularly illuminating. In it, says O’Toole, Rees-Mogg senior espouses “an avowedly apocalyptic mess of Ayn Rand-ish prognostications, addressed quite explicitly to the super-rich”. Rees-Mogg senior wanted the ultra-rich to operate outside political boundaries, free “from all the constraints of nationality, citizenship and, of course, taxation”. This will starve nation states of tax revenue, leading to first their collapse and then to that of mass democracy itself. </p> <p>When I worked in Angola in the 1990s, at the time fragmented by civil war, this sort of thing was referred to as the <em>Somalisation</em> of a country. There, as in Somalia before it, the breakdown in the state had contributed to the impoverishment of ordinary people while those privileged with power or wealth were able to evade or profit from the engulfing catastrophes. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">For Rees-Mogg and Farage the benefits that Brexit can deliver the ultra-rich is worth every lie they tell.</p> <p>Brexit, even in its hardest form, does not yet threaten to reach that depth. Nevertheless the immediate consequences of Brexit will still be consonant with Rees-Mogg senior’s dystopian ideal. For most people Brexit will mean increased economic hardship. The British manufacturing sector will be at risk of collapse under the weight of Brexit customs bureaucracy and friction-filled trade. Pressure on public finances will grow and increasing racism will take deeper root. Vital financial and human resources for public services, such as the NHS, will become more scarce and austerity will continue.</p> <p>As all this happens, the ultra-rich will still profit. Brexit will protect those ultra-rich domiciled in the UK from the EU Tax Avoidance Directive, which comes into force in early 2019, and the goodies – for them – will keep on rolling. Rees-Mogg junior is a chip of the old “sovereign-individual” block, for all his claims of patriotism and recapturing the Agincourt-spirit. Hypocrisy is also a type of lying. Rees-Mogg has already <a href="">established investment funds in Dublin</a> to allow his business interests to continue to benefit from EU rules and regulations. Nigel Farage’s lies about the results of the 2016 referendum, claiming his side had lost even when he knew otherwise, <a href="">allowed speculators to profit further from the collapse of Sterling</a>. Disaster speculators can reasonably hope for new profits in 2019 if the UK crashes out of the EU. Or, as Brexiteer liars like to call it, “a managed transfer to WTO terms.”</p> <p>The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has recently started using the idea of <a href="">“lying” like a Brexiteer</a> in some of his domestic political arguments. This will bother Rees-Mogg and Farage very little. For them the benefits that Brexit can deliver the ultra-rich is worth every lie they tell, and any price the proles have to pay. </p> <p>But, as lying and the evasion of personal responsibility is also cowardice, you won’t see any of that on the side of a bus. </p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/brexit-can-be-good-crisis">Brexit can be a good crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/andrea-pisauro-rosemary-bechler/people-s-vote-without-people-s-debate-won-t-bring">A People’s Vote without a People’s Debate won’t bring about Another Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/symon-hill/if-government-puts-soldiers-on-streets-in-hard-brexit-we-must-refuse-to-obey-them">If the government puts soldiers on the streets in a hard Brexit, we must refuse to obey them</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/gabriella-alberti-roxana-barbulescu/deserving-settlement-in-post-brexit-britain-challenges-posed-">‘Deserving’ settlement in post-Brexit Britain: challenges posed by the settled status scheme</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/fresh-concerns-raised-over-dup-s-secret-brexit-donation">Fresh concerns raised over DUP’s secret Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/volker-patent/conceptual-paradox-of-trusting-in-brexit">The conceptual paradox of trusting in Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-arron-banks-brexit-campaign-had-more-meetings-w">Revealed: Arron Banks Brexit campaign&#039;s &#039;secret&#039; meetings with Cambridge Analytica</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/tom-shelton/will-post-brexit-britain-see-breaking-apart-of-even-more-families">Will post-Brexit Britain see the breaking apart of even more families?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Aidan McQuade Mon, 07 Jan 2019 08:00:00 +0000 Aidan McQuade 121183 at Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>MPs call on Richard Cook to “emerge from the shadows” after we uncover his trail of illegal waste, unpaid bills and court documents stretching from India to California.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook and David Cameron. Image:, fair use.</span></span></span> <span>MPs have called upon Richard Cook, the man behind a secretive group that channelled&nbsp;<a href="">£435,000 to the DUP’s Brexit campaign</a>, to “emerge from the shadows and explain where this money came from”.</span><p>Their calls come as openDemocracy today reveals disturbing new details about Mr Cook's business dealings across the globe. Our investigation has uncovered an international trail of regulatory concern, legal action and debt linked to Cook that stretches from an Indian port to a California courtroom.</p> <p><a href="">Cook has so far refused to reveal the source</a>&nbsp;of the controversial £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which bankrolled lavish pro-Leave campaigning in the final weeks before the EU referendum. However, amid escalating questions around his business career, cross-party MPs are now demanding that Cook appears before parliament to explain the source of the money.</p> <p>Brendan O’Hara, a Scottish National Party member on the powerful Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said that Cook should appear before the committee’s ‘fake news’ inquiry to answer questions about his role in funnelling the biggest donation the DUP has ever received.</p> <p>“I think [Cook] has information which would be very useful to our investigation in relation to spending around the Brexit referendum,” O’Hara said.</p> <p>Today, we detail a series of international deals linked to Mr Cook and his waste management firm, DDR Recycling Ltd, which have provoked concern, including:&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook was a defendant in a California court case after DDR Recycling left an international haulage firm with unpaid bills of over $1.5m for shipments to Korea. A default judgement was made against DDR and Cook.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;UK and Scottish environmental regulators told Cook that he was involved in an “illegal waste shipment” of 250 tonnes of rubber to India. Test results supplied by Cook to the regulator appear to be fake.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook said that an Eastern European company was to blame for the illegal Indian waste shipment. When authorities pointed out that Cook’s own LinkedIn page said he was a director of the firm, he claimed that his account had been hacked.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;On that LinkedIn page, Cook lists his current post as “president of international development” at a Canadian waste management firm. This company has regularly failed to file accounts, in breach of corporate law in Canada, and shows little sign of economic activity.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;DDR Recycling Limited is currently in liquidation owing British tax authorities around £150,000. After Cook left the company, it was involved in a trade in gold that saw $5m deposited in a Cambodian bank account. Liquidators are “currently investigating”.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook had previously said that he had signed agreements worth $1bn to build environmental projects in Pakistan. A US businessman reportedly involved in the deal said that his company had not worked on the project and complained that Cook “never returned a call or an email”.</p> <p>Cook strongly denies any wrongdoing, but the fresh details of his business career have renewed focus on the Brexit cash he channelled to the DUP, via a secretive group called the Constitutional Research Council.</p> <p>The DCMS committee first wrote to Cook about the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation in November.&nbsp;<a href="">Cook claimed that his response had been “lost”</a>, but openDemocracy can now reveal that he did subsequently reply to the committee chair, Conservative MP Damian Collins, in what has been described by sources close to the committee as “a less than conciliatory manner”.</p> <p>The DUP, which now props up Theresa May’s government in Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="">has always refused to reveal</a>&nbsp;where its record amount of Brexit cash came from, or why it was channelled via the secretive Constitutional Research Council (CRC), whose chair and only known member is Richard Cook.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Under Northern Irish laws in force at the time, the identity of the original donors can remain a secret – even though the cash was not spent in Northern Ireland. But last month the Electoral Commission confirmed it had<a href="">&nbsp;fined Richard Cook's CRC for failing to report the DUP donation</a>.</p> <p>openDemocracy has previously revealed that Cook, a Glasgow-based businessman and former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives, went into business with<a href="">&nbsp;a former head of Saudi intelligence</a>&nbsp;and<a href="">&nbsp;a Dane involved in gun-running in India</a>.</p><p> Both Cook and the DUP have claimed that the Brexit cash came from permissible sources. But our new findings raise fresh questions about the dark money that drove the DUP’s Brexit campaign.</p><h2 dir="ltr">From Clarkston, to Belfast, to Westminster &nbsp;</h2><p>The story of the DUP’s dark money begins far away from the corridors of Westminster or the streets of Belfast, on a stretch of pebble-dash semi-detached houses in the sleepy Glasgow suburb of Clarkston.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="315" height="232" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Richard Cook once had high hopes of a career in politics. Back in 2010 he was a 38-year-old recycling company director in Clarkston, widely tipped as the next Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire. Expectation of a Conservative gain from Labour’s Jim Murphy in Glasgow’s ‘stockbroker belt’ was so high that the BBC even sent a film crew to follow Cook’s campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook made much of his environmental credentials. His leaflets talked of “protecting green spaces” and the <a href="">importance of recycling</a>.<br /><br /><img src="" alt="" width="306" height="303" /> </p><p dir="ltr">He had worked for almost a decade in the accounts department of a major waste management company, Biffa. And in May 2008 he became a founding director of DDR Recycling Limited, a company dealing in the “recovery of sorted materials”, operating out of a small office on an unremarkable industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Illegal waste</h2><p>But while Cook was promising to “clean up politics” on doorsteps in East Renfrewshire, his business was very far from environmentally friendly. Email correspondence obtained by openDemocracy suggests that Cook’s company was involved in illegal shipments of waste.</p><p>In April 2009 DDR sent a shipment of ten containers from Felixstowe in England to the Indian port city of Cochin. It was claimed that the shipment contained 250 tonnes of valuable ‘hard rubber crumb’. But on inspection Indian authorities discovered that the containers were filled with scrap tyres, a lucrative – but prohibited – cargo.</p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="481" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In a letter that December, the Environment Agency told Cook and his long-time business partner Donald McCorquodale about this “illegal waste shipment”. The regulator instructed DRR to ship the containers back to the UK, warning, “Failure to comply... may result in formal enforcement action being taken against your company.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p>In January 2010, the Environment Agency again wrote to Cook, saying “I have not received a response to my letter nor any details of your arrangements to effect the return of these containers of waste, as requested.”</p><p dir="ltr">The following day, Cook wrote to the regulator suggesting that the illegal waste could be sold on “to licensed end users in India”. Less than an hour later, the Environment Agency wrote back warning that DDR was not permitted to sell the waste on to a third party or to move it to another country. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“Potentially fraudulent” </h2><p>The Environment Agency contacted Cook again on 23 February, saying that Indian customs had conducted a lab analysis on the rubber and “determined that the material is soft rubber, most likely originating from used vehicle tyres, which means this is an export of waste.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cook responded later that day, telling the regulator that the tests conducted by the Indian authorities in Cochin were “inaccurate” and “potentially fraudulent”. Cook sent the regulator tests that DDR had supposedly done on the material and which found that the rubber was of high quality.</p><p dir="ltr">But the “material authenticity” test results that Cook supplied to the regulator appear to be fake.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the documents that Cook gave the Environment Agency, the tests were conducted by a company called Grapevine Networking Limited. This firm, which was dissolved in 2015, was a recruitment company with an address in the centre of Glasgow run by Cook’s fellow DDR director, Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale, now DDR’s sole director, told openDemocracy: “Grapevine never did any tests on any rubber at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">Asked how test results on Grapevine-headed notepaper could have been sent to the environmental regulator by Richard Cook, McCorquodale said “I have no idea. No idea. Absolutely no idea… it does seem strange but I have no idea at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy understands that the waste material was eventually shipped from India. McCorquodale told openDemocracy that he did not know what happened to the waste.</p><p dir="ltr">“We shipped the goods under the instruction of an Indian gentleman based in Leicester, we shipped it using the coding he requested,” he said. “That’s as much as we know. We were never involved, we were never asked to attend a court case in India or anything.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">LinkedIn hack...?</h2><p>This was not the only curious exchange between Richard Cook and the Environment Agency. Also in February 2010, McCorquodale forwarded an email to the regulator from a company called Xener Import Export SRL claiming that the company, which had an address in Romania, “acted as an intermediary” with responsibility for the rubber shipment to India.</p><p dir="ltr">On 3 March the environmental regulator wrote to Cook asking if he could “advise me of the precise relationship” between himself and Xener. Cook took a month to respond, saying that he had missed the regulator’s calls as his mobile provider “had archived some messages over the past fortnight, due to excessive call numbers”. But his email did not answer the question about his relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">At the general election on 6 May 2010, Cook came second in East Renfrewshire, more than 10,000 votes behind Labour’s Jim Murphy. Adding to his woes, on 17 June the Environment Agency wrote again to DDR asking about Cook’s relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">This time the regulator pointed out that on his LinkedIn page Cook himself claimed to be a director of “Xener Imports/Exports, Romania.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="372" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I would be grateful of an explanation of the meaning of this link between Mr Cook, DDR Recycling Limited and Xener Imports/Exports, Romania,” the regulator wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">On 22 June Cook told the regulator that he has “never been a Director of any foreign company and have never had any relationship with Xener Import Export SRL other than the containers they ordered and paid for from DDR Recycling Limited”. Cook said that he had contacted the director of Xener’s parent company using LinkedIn and speculated that the LinkedIn “entry has something to with him”.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook suggested to the regulator that his LinkedIn profile may have been hacked. “I have contacted LinkedIn to establish how a fraudulent entry could be made on my profile,” he wrote. <br /><br />openDemocracy understands that LinkedIn did not receive any complaint from Cook.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: “Our members control the information on their profile and we encourage anyone who thinks there’s an issue with their account to contact us so we can investigate it immediately.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Californian courtroom drama</h2><p>California is a long way from Clarkston. But it was here in 2014 that Cook, McCorquodale, DDR Recycling, a company called DDR Recycling Limited USA and a number of associates were cited as defendants in a case brought before a district court judge.</p><p dir="ltr">International logistics firm UPS filed a lawsuit against Cook and his colleagues after they failed to pay over $450,000 for a shipment of steel wire transported by UPS to Busan, South Korea, in December 2012. </p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="349" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">UPS said that Cook and his business associates had made small payments before the South Korean shipment in an an apparent attempt to build up trust with the company. In November 2012, Cook wired $3,315.32 to UPS. “Such payment was for the purpose of inducing UPS to provide additional shipping services to DDR,” court documents state.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents submitted by UPS paint a picture of consistent evasion by the Scottish company’s directors after the shipment was sent to South Korea. After a series of exchanges, in May 2013 a UPS lawyer wrote to McCorquodale “your emails have been non-responsive and appear to be solely for the purpose of delay”.</p><p dir="ltr">“At this point I am not inclined to waste any more of my time or of my client’s money engaging in your dilatory tactics… your emails to date have provided UPS with no pertinent information and only seek additional non-relevant information in a transparent attempt to avoid your debt,” the lawyer added.</p><p><img src="" alt="" width="602" height="137" />&nbsp;</p><p>Neither Cook nor any of the other DDR Recycling defendants appeared in court or offered a defence. In July 2014 a California district court judge awarded a default judgement of &nbsp;$1,506,586.51 against Cook, McCorquodale, and a number of the company’s associates. A default judgement is issued against a defendant who fails to answer a lawsuit.</p><p dir="ltr">The money owed to UPS does not appear to have been paid. A spokesperson for UPS told openDemocracy, “UPS received a default judgment in that case. The company does not disclose customer information.”</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy: “We had nothing at all to do with it… it was completely nothing to do with the company in the UK, it was a company in California who used our name. Nothing to do with us at all.”<br /><br />“We weren’t pursued for it in the UK because it was a completely fictitious judgement,” McCorquodale added.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cambodian gold</h2><p>Richard Cook resigned as a director of DDR Recycling Limited in February 2014. The company was put into liquidation in 2017, owing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs around £150,000. The only current active shareholder is Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">But documents obtained by openDemocracy suggest that DDR Recycling could have $5m in a Cambodian bank account, following the apparent sale of gold nuggets from Tanzania.</p><p dir="ltr">In December 2014, a Tanzanian company named Barax Mining Limited invoiced McCorquodale for the sale of 200 kilograms of gold nuggets, worth exactly $5m. Barax’s invoice listed an address in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.</p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="494" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2015, a Cambodian bank called CIMB wrote to DDR Recycling stating that McCorquodale had $5m on deposit in a Phnom Phen bank account. Screenshots of the company’s Cambodian bank account appear to support this. </p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="602" height="428" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In January 2015, McCorquodale paid just over $25,000 to the Cambodian ministry of economy and finance as “payment for clearance stamp duty fee”. In May, McCorquodale paid a further $75,000 to the “department of anti-money laundering” of the Cambodian government. A receipt describes this payment as a “clearance fee”.</p><p>Investigations by openDemocracy have yet to identify a “department of anti-money laundering” in the Cambodian government.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="376" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to Cambodian bank documents, the barrister representing McCorquodale in Phnom Penh was one Tran Thuyen Ly. A few months later a man with the same name was detained in connection with <a href="">setting up fake bank accounts in Vietnam</a> for Nigerian scammers targeting local women. It is not clear if the barrister and the detainee are one and the same person.</p><p>openDemocracy understands that DDR’s Cambodian bank account is being investigated by the company’s liquidators.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy that the Cambodian gold sale “was completely a waste of time. We didn’t get any goods and the whole thing was just a complete waste of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“The information about the $5m in Cambodia was reported to the liquidator at the time of the liquidation, they have been pursuing that money. Unsuccessfully as I understand it. So there is nothing more for me to say.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Pakistan plants</h2><p dir="ltr">Since resigning from DDR in 2014, Cook appears to have remained in the waste disposal business. According to his LinkedIn profile, since May 2012 he has been president of international development at a company called <a href="">Sentinel Waste Management</a>, based near Toronto.</p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="439" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel describes its business as eliminating “waste dumping problems with sustainable technology”, principally through diverting waste from landfill by converting it into pellets. But the company appears to have struggled for clients.</p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel has frequently failed to file accounts on time, in breach of Ontario corporate law. It filed all returns from 2011 to 2015 on a single date in 2016, and has not filed anything since that date. According to the Ontario Corporations Information Act, annual returns have to be filed within six months of the end of the last tax year. </p><p><img src="" alt="" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond Cook’s LinkedIn page, the only instance openDemocracy found of his name in relation to Sentinel was in the description of a video on the company’s YouTube channel.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2012, it was widely reported that Sentinel Waste Management had agreed a $1bn deal to deliver environmental projects in Karachi, Pakistan. In a ceremony at Glasgow City Chambers <a href="">Cook signed a memorandum of understanding</a> with Pakistani officials to work with the Port Qasim Authority to develop drinking water production facilities through desalination.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time Cook said: "These projects will be extremely significant in developing an infrastructure in Karachi which provides its population with significant environmental and health benefits."</p><p dir="ltr">The Pakistan work does not appear to have gone any further. Peter Gross, the former head of one of the firms reportedly involved, a US-based waste-water treatment firm called Aeromix Systems Inc., expressed surprise that the company had been named in the 2012 agreement with Pakistani officials.</p><p>Gross said that he met Cook once, in Ireland, in 2012. “It was pretty obvious a week after that meeting [that nothing was happening],” he said. “No one returned calls or emails. There was no follow-up.”</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing in relation to the proposed Karachi work.</p><h2 dir="ltr">DUP donation: ‘running down the clock’?</h2><p>The exact role of Richard Cook – and the secretive Constitutional Research Council he chairs – in the £435,000 given to the DUP ahead of the Brexit referendum remains unclear.</p><p>Brendan O’Hara MP said: “Where did this money come from and how did it get into the hands of the DUP? And why was it felt necessary to funnel it through the DUP rather than being open and transparent about it? It feeds into that whole narrative about secrecy, transparency, the undermining of accepted norms and processes of fighting elections and referendums.”</p><p dir="ltr">O’Hara added: “My concern is that in the crisis that we are wading through at the moment, Mr Cook thinks that he can run down the clock on this and somehow it will be forgotten and I sincerely hope that our committee don’t forgot it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ian Murray echoed calls for Cook to appear before the DCMS committee:</p><p>“At a time when our politics is under extensive scrutiny with regards to the breaking of the electoral rules from the Leave campaign, we need as much transparency as possible to have confidence in our electoral system,” the Edinburgh South MP said.</p><p dir="ltr">“It is in the interest of Mr Cook, the DUP and the Electoral Commission for the appropriate people – including Mr Cook – to appear before the appropriate committee to answer these questions. By continuing not to appear before the committee to answer the questions, people will be suspicious that our electoral system is not as robust as it should be, particularly on the back of all the questions that have been posed about the 2016 EU referendum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Carlaw, second in command at the Scottish Conservatives and a frequent campaigner for Cook during his election bids, has also said that the CRC chief <a href="">should reveal where the DUP cash came from</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP’s Brexit donation money – almost ten times more than the party had spent on 2015 general election – was mainly spent on lavish pro-Brexit advertising in the final days before the Brexit vote. More than half of the cash was splashed on a wraparound advert in Metro, a newspaper which does not circulate in Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as the Metro advert, the DUP also spent money on online campaigning with the Canadian data analytics firm, Aggregate IQ, used by the official Vote Leave campaign. This spending was permitted but has raised concerns of co-ordination between different pro-Brexit groups .Undeclared co-ordination is illegal. Vote Leave have already been <a href="">fined and referred to the police</a> for co-ordinating with another pro-Brexit group</p><p dir="ltr">Under British electoral law, parties need to know the source of their donations. But last year DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell told a journalist from investigative website SourceMaterial that it was <a href="">not his responsibility to check out Cook and the CRC</a>. An investigation by <a href="">BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team</a> also raised serious questions about Cook’s business dealings.</p><p dir="ltr">Someone named Richard Cook also recently appeared in WhatsApp group containing members of the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group, to which the CRC also donated money.</p><p dir="ltr">On 12 December 2018, the day of the unsuccessful no-confidence vote in Theresa May, Cook hailed the “outstanding leadership of Brexit” by Steve Baker, the Conservative MP who was head of the ERG before he became a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union. Baker resigned his ministerial post last July.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="" alt="" width="468" height="466" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has so far<a href=""> declined calls to launch a full investigation</a> into the source of the DUP’S Brexit cash.<a href=""> Judicial proceedings have been proposed</a>&nbsp;against the regulator’s decision not to investigate the handling of the donation.</p><p>The lawyer acting for Richard Cook denies any wrongdoing in his business dealings. Peter Watson said that while his client would not respond in detail, any claims suggesting wrongdoing by his former waste management company DDR were baseless and actionable.</p><p dir="ltr">Mr Cook told the Sunday Herald: “The CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors. We donate solely to permissible UK entities. Any suggestion that we have done anything else is basically defamatory. I’m not going to get into the donors, like I am not going to get into the members.”</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the CRC donation.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesman said: “The DUP is well aware of its responsibilities and has complied with the regulations as set out by the Electoral Commission. If we failed to comply we would be subject to further investigation.</p><p>“In the interests of transparency we have provided information into the public domain which we were not legally obliged to provide. There is no additional information provided to the Electoral Commission that we have failed to publish.”</p><p><em>Additional reporting on this story by <a href="">Drew May</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK India United States Democracy and government Democratic Unionist Party investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sat, 05 Jan 2019 20:50:58 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121191 at Brexit can be a good crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Brexit is not about Brexit. Certainly not just about Europe. It poses matters both economic and democratic simultaneously as it demands an answer to the kind of country we are."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of over half a million protesters who demanded a Final Say at the People's Vote March, London, October, 2018. Ik Aldama/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With his powerful combination of intimate knowledge of the UK, a foreigner’s overview, a passion for democracy and first-hand experience of Brussels realpolitik, Yanis Varoufakis has published a <a href="">brilliant intervention</a> in the Brexit debate. Calling on us to stop being negative and turn Brexit into a ‘Celebration of Democracy’, he proposes the country holds a three year People’s Debate that puts our own government into order before making a call on EU membership.&nbsp; </p><p>His argument has three parts. He sees an eightfold hydra-headed challenge to the status quo in Britain: eight different national, constitutional and economic issues exposed by the referendum over EU membership that combine to form the Brexit impasse. I’ll come back to these. Their clarity, brevity and completeness make them the authoritative starting point for any assessment of what should be done about Brexit. </p><p>Varoufakis points out that none of the proposed solutions on offer resolves the extraordinary situation the country finds itself in. On the contrary, each will worsen the crisis. They are familiar: the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, to crash out with ‘no deal’, or rescinding Article 50 to stay in. </p><p>What few have dared to say Varoufakis does. Namely, that the fact that there is no clear majority for any of the three in either parliament or the public is a sign of the country’s good judgment. Because none of them will in fact deal with the deeper, eight-fold test the country now faces. In their different ways each, he argues, whether delivered by parliament or People’s Vote, will only exacerbate the system breakdown under way. <span class="mag-quote-center">Put Brexit on hold, have a People’s Debate.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Hence Varoufakis calls for the whole framework to be shifted. Put Brexit on hold, have a People’s Debate starting in regional assemblies, that lead to a constitutional convention out of which Parliament generates the questions that then go to a new referendum and a ‘People’s Decision’ in 2022. There are similarities with the approach <a href="">Gordon Brown takes</a> and also with the call for a Citizens' Assembly to advise on the way forward proposed by <a href="">Neal Lawson</a>. All seek to break free from the confinement of the current Brexit options. Thus the former Prime Minister calls for a people’s version of a ‘Royal Commission’ made up of a citizen’s jury, to use deliberative processes to confront the profound democratic discontent Brexit has exposed. </p><p>Their shared weakness is how the course they advocate can come about. Implicitly all call on the Labour Party to adopt a much more creative approach. I’m a supporter of a People’s Vote and want Labour to support the option of remaining in the EU put to the voters. At least this is something that the Labour conference put on the agenda as an option, if only as a last resort. </p><p class="AB">But I’d applaud parliament if it put the issue into the hands of a Citizens' Assembly and I’d gladly see a new referendum ask whether or not to hold a constitutional convention on how we govern ourselves before we take our decision on EU membership. Indeed, more than any other path, this would deliver on the call to ‘Take Control’ and in this important sense fulfil the ‘cry’ of the referendum vote. &nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">This would deliver on the call to ‘Take Control’ and in this important sense fulfil the ‘cry’ of the referendum vote.&nbsp;</span></p><p>The question Varoufakis’s intervention highlights for supporters of a People’s Vote, is how to ensure we deliver more and better democracy if his option does not convince the Corbyn leadership. Here we, just like Varoufakis and indeed the entire country, come up against Labour’s stubborn yet underpowered effort to bypass the golden opportunity Brexit offers to take on the system as a whole. </p><p>Apparently many Labour supporters share the weird belief that they can inherit power after Brexit and deploy the existing British state to deliver egalitarian social and economic policies. Varoufakis’s list shows what nonsense this. For Brexit has simultaneously brought to a head eight linked issues: the question of who rules Ireland; Scotland’s autonomy; England’s lack of representation; the rigid two-party system; the lack of real democracy; the need for a parliamentary constitution people believe in; the inequities of austerity and how this generates moral panic over immigration; and the chronic dependency of a de-industrialised, finance-dominated economy.&nbsp;</p><p>I believe that Varoufakis is right to insist that the Brexit impasse is the expression of this concatenation of issues. It means that no government whether May’s, Corbyn’s or any other, can focus on delivering just one set of them as if the storms around the others will conveniently subside. Each demands attention at the same time and all are linked. The compelling significance of Varoufakis’s diagnosis lies in his combination of the well-formulated issues he itemises. Brexit is not about Brexit. Certainly not just about Europe. It poses matters both economic and democratic simultaneously, as it demands an answer to the kind of country we are. </p><p>Hence Brexit can indeed be welcomed as a chance to tackle the UK’s acute economic challenges by replacing the vulture state responsible for them – to use <a href="">Adam Ramsay’s formulation</a>. What used to be called 'constututional reform' was seen as a centrist project beloved by anoraks. Now it is clear that urgent need for economic equality that generated the Leave vote in England's northern and midland constituences demands deep democratisation of the way we are governed. </p><p class="AB">Why is it, however, that the country’s parliamentarians are unlikely to grasp what Varoufakis calls our “rare opportunity to come to terms with the country’s great challenges while re-thinking the UK’s relationship with the EU”? At the moment, none apart from <a href="">Caroline Lucas</a>, show much stomach to do so. A few have stepped forward to make passionate, far-reaching critiques of the politics of Brexit. Especially women, for example <a href="">Sara Wollaston</a> and <a href="">Anna Soubry</a> among Conservatives, <a href="">Leyla Moran</a> for the Lib Dems, and <a href="">Bridget Phillipson</a> and <a href="">Lisa Nandy</a> for Labour (and outside the Commons, Nicola Sturgeon is outstanding as Scotland's First Minister). But apart from Lucas none have yet called on the country to build on the democratic radicalism of Brexit implicit in its rejection of the old elite - something that certainly will not be delivered by Brexit itself.<span class="mag-quote-center">Varoufakis says, rightly, that any “People’s Debate must address… the British constitution."</span></p><p>Women politicians across the spectrum are demonstrating the capacity to rise to the ooccasion. But the UK’s profoundly male-dominated political-media operators fear the loss of their British self-importance. The bogy that spooks them is the country’s national question. Varoufakis says, rightly, that any “People’s Debate must address… the British constitution, including the creation of an English parliament or multiple regional English assemblies…” and that this needs a “national convention”. But for the UK this can only be a <em>multi-</em>national convention and here is the rub. For what if the Scots don’t agree or the English decide they do not wish to share authority over their historic country with much smaller ones?&nbsp;</p><p>I’ve argued, most recently in <a href="">Albion’s Call</a>, that the country has the capacity to achieve a popular, federal Britain. But a constitutional convention cannot but be a convention of the nations as well. Who knows whether the younger generation, who will rightly dominate it, might prefer the Irish example over the Westminster model. In other words, they might prefer to express their fluid cultural Britishness unrestricted by the political institutions of an all-British state and embrace independence all-round within the EU. This choice cannot be foreclosed in any process of the kind proposed by Varoufakis or indeed Gordon Brown. <span class="mag-quote-center"> Brexit is terminating the epoch of parliamentary absolutism to replace it with popular sovereignty.</span></p><p>Brexit is terminating the epoch of parliamentary absolutism to replace it with popular sovereignty. Given the dangers of the latter, a&nbsp; democratic constitution has to be on the way. As the outcome can only be achieved by persuasion not pre-emption, whether it will lead to a federal union or separation is an open question. The other major question is how long this will take – three years or thirty?&nbsp; Like Varoufakis, I think we should start now and make it three. Instead of being in fear of ‘letting go’ our political leaders and their media supporters should welcome the opportunity. Then, indeed, Brexit can be transformed into a celebration of democracy. </p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is a member of DiEM25 and author of <a href="">The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</a></em></p><p><em><a href=""><strong>ADVERT!</strong> COME ALONG TO THE CONVENTION ON BREXIT AND ANOTHER VOTE IS POSSIBLE: THINK ANEW, ACT ANEW</a><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="u-mb-se article__title--main article__title cell xlarge-7 large-offset-2 large-8 medium-offset-1 medium-10 small-12" dir="ltr">See <a href="">'Turning Brexit Into a Celebration of Democracy'</a> by Yanis Varoufakis, December 26, 2018. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election">A call to &#039;take a break from Brexit&#039; for a general election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy">Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom&#039;s crisis in democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england">Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Anthony Barnett DiEM25 Thu, 03 Jan 2019 08:50:37 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121168 at White is the new black: populism and the academic alt-right <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“It is our duty to expose this moral agenda for what it is, not by 'deplatforming' them – only adding victimisation to their already lavish arsenal – but through reasoned argument.” </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Wayne as Ghengis Khan in poster for Hollwood film,'The Conqueror'(1956). Wikicommons/ Reynold Borwn. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Whitewashing, or the habit of casting white actors for minority roles, might have <a href="">a long pedigree in Hollywood</a> (some outlandish examples include John Wayne playing the role of Genghis Khan in 1956 or Laurence Olivier performing as Othello in blackface in 1965), but the use of the term is by no means limited to American mainstream movie-making. </p> <p>Tracing its origins to the early eighteenth century, the <em>Oxford English Dictionary</em> defines whitewashing as the “attempt to free from blame; to provide with a semblance of honesty, respectability, rectitude, etc.” In addition to this more familiar meaning, the term also refers to the practice of covering “(the face, etc.) with make-up or a similar substance intended to make the skin look lighter.” One of the quotations <em>OED </em>has chosen to exemplify this particular meaning is quite revealing: “‘Why do you whitewash your face like that?’ he queried. ‘It’s just talcum powder,’ I muttered abashedly.”</p> <h2><strong>Calling a spade a spade</strong></h2> <p>I argue that this is exactly how a spate of recent studies on populism work, as “talcum powder” to cover the worst excesses of an exclusionary white nationalism, to free nationalist-populist demagogues and various far right formations from blame, and to provide illiberal, anti-immigrant sentiments and discourses with a veneer of respectability. </p> <p>It is indeed true that there is a dire need to fathom the grievances of the many who vote for far right parties or their mainstream copycats. But it is one thing to understand, and quite another to legitimize, accredit, even consecrate the latter as the <em>academic alt-right </em>does. <span class="mag-quote-center">This is exactly how a spate of recent studies on populism work, as “talcum powder”.</span></p> <p>Let me be clear. By academic alt-right, I do not mean the likes of Jordan Peterson, a once obscure psychology professor at the University of Toronto who skyrocketed to stardom with his lecture entitled “Identity Politics and the Marxist Lie of White Privilege”, or better-known figures of the white nationalist movement such as Jared Taylor, David Duke or Richard Spencer. I use ‘academic alt-right’ to denote a loose constellation of established academics and commentators like David Goodhart, Matthew Goodwin, and Eric Kaufmann – among several others. </p> <p>In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Goodhart, Goodwin and Kaufmann are the triumvirate of the academic alt-right as their names are often bundled together by anyone who wants to make a case for populism and/or against a vaguely defined liberal left. Judging by the frequency of their invariably positive references to each other’s work, it seems happily so. </p> <p>Is it far-fetched to employ the ideologically-loaded qualifier <em>alt-right</em>&nbsp; – &nbsp;a term associated with right-wing ideological movements “characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate provocative content, often expressing opposition to racial, religious, or gender equality” – to depict the work of such respected figures? I believe it is not, for two reasons. </p> <p>First, the thread that runs through and connects all these writings is an aggressive, at times almost McCarthyesque, disdain for the left (liberal or otherwise) which is seen as the root cause of the White majority malaise. Polarization is caused, we are told, by “the perfectionist creed of multiculturalism, whose <a href="">shock troops are the so-called Social Justice Warriors</a>” (Kaufmann) or “an increasing fixation or near-total obsession among Democrats and <a href="">the liberal left with race, gender and ‘diversity’</a>” (Eatwell and Goodwin). Those "who see the world from Anywhere" attach little value to "group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)", t<a class="OWAAutoLink" href="">hus cannot understand the "popular&nbsp;hostility to needy newcomers jumping queues in social housing or the NHS</a>" (Goodhart).</p> <p>Second, the impact of the writings in question is no longer limited to a small nomenklatura of fellow academics. Studies on populism, the far right and (white) nationalism are now part of the wider public debate that rages around these issues, thanks to changing trends in academic publishing in favour of less jargon-laden trade books that are aimed at a wider readership, and more aggressive marketing strategies that make efficient use of conventional media and increasingly ubiquitous social media outlets. </p> <p>Take Eatwell and Goodwin’s <em>National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy</em>, a recent, highly popular, addition to the academic alt-right corpus. Even though it is published in October 2018, the book has been reviewed in most major English-language newspapers and weekly magazines, including <em>The Times</em>, <em>Financial Times</em>, <em>The Economist </em>and <em>The Guardian</em>, and listed among the books of the year by <em>The Sunday Times. </em>The dedicated website of the book has a special section entitled “Events” and a calendar which includes 9 events to discuss the book between 15 October and 6 December 2018. With such visibility, I maintain, the claims of Eatwell and Goodwin and their cohort matter. White is “the new black” – the new “cool” of the academic industry. </p> <h2><strong>A moral call to arms?</strong></h2> <p>Yet this new trend is hardly innocuous. By legitimizing and ultimately promoting a conservative-reactionary agenda based on spurious arguments regarding ethnic/racial purity and “threatened (white) majorities”, it expands the bounds of acceptable public discourse on populism and the far right, and contributes to the creation of a cultural atmosphere wherein outright racism ceases to be an aberration. </p> <p>A detailed critique of the vast academic alt-right corpus is far beyond the scope of this essay. But let me clarify what I mean by focusing on one example, Eatwell and Goodwin’s case for the “national populist” cause. </p> <p>National populists, Eatwell and Goodwin tell us <a href="">in their book</a>, promise “to give voice to a people who feel that they have been neglected, even held in contempt, by distant and often corrupt elites”. Their challenge is not anti-democratic; rather, they are opposed to certain aspects of liberal democracy, and are driven by a deeper desire “to reassert the primacy of the nation over distant and unaccountable international organizations” and “cherished and rooted national identities over rootless and diffuse transnational ones”.</p> <p>Eatwell and Goodwin disagree with their detractors who, they claim, dismiss national populist leaders and movements as a new form of fascism. “We do not see leaders like Trump, Le Pen or Wilders as fascist.” It would be wrong to refer to, say, Trump as racist, despite some of his “ill-considered” actions, including his “provocative statements about Mexican ‘rapists’, Muslim ‘terrorists’ and ‘shithole’ countries’”. </p> <p>The same is true for the likes of Geert Wilders who may hold “xenophobic views about new Muslim immigration”, but “his party has never agitated against Chinese or Vietnamese minorities”. And Marine Le Pen anchors her hostility towards Islam and rapidly growing Muslim communities in a defense of women’s and LGBT rights, and she often presents herself “as a twice-divorced single mother who was successful in her own right as a lawyer”. In any case, the authors conclude, “their agenda is moral rather than a physical call to arms.”</p> <h2><strong>Credibility</strong></h2> <p>Even this cursory outline of some of Eatwell and Goodwin’s arguments is sufficient to reveal the pernicious nature of the <em>morality tale</em> propagated by the academic alt-right. In this tale, calling the members of a particular nation or religion “rapist” or “terrorist” becomes an ill-considered, provocative statement; sending troops to and building a wall at the Mexican border are considered to be part of a moral, not physical, call to arms (not to mention the forceful separation of kids from their families or the kicking out of protesters in political rallies); attacks on freedom of press or the judiciary are presented as opposition to “certain aspects” of liberal democracy. </p> <p>More problematic cases, like Orbán and Kaczyński, are either ignored or presented as “outliers”. In fact, Kaufmann, another prominent member of the academic alt-right openly expresses his respect for “the way Eastern Europe has avoided the worst excesses of left-modernism” (while criticising “the lack of support for the rights of minorities like the Roma”). And&nbsp;for Goodhart, Fidesz in Hungary and the Law and Democracy Party in Poland&nbsp;are&nbsp;mainstream parties which appeal the most to "decent populists". </p> <p>The list could be extended endlessly. One final example – a hidden gem really – from Eatwell and Goodwin’s <em>National Populism </em>to hammer the point home. A common concern among critics of populism, the authors claim, is its penchant for conspiracy theories. Thus, “national populists like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán argue that liberal politicians within the EU, <em>along with the billionaire Hungarian-Jewish financier George Soros</em>, are engaged in a plot to flood Hungary and ‘Christian’ Europe with Muslim immigrants and refugees, which they see as part of a quest to dismantle Western nations” (my emphasis).</p> <p>This would have passed as a banal, almost matter-of-fact observation had it not been followed by another seemingly trite comment: “National populists today share these ideas, but it is also worth noting that some of their claims are not entirely without credence. For example, Soros <em>does</em> invest heavily in civil-society campaigns that tend to be pro-EU and anti-Brexit (original emphasis).”</p> <p>What is the link between a belief in “a plot to flood Hungary and ‘Christian’ Europe with Muslim immigrants and refugees” and Soros’s investments in civil society campaigns? How responsible is it to hint at “shadowy” links between plain facts and unproven intentions at a time when <a href="">a top Facebook executive admits to hiring a public relations firm to attack George Soros</a>, when Soros’s <a href="">Open Society Foundations have taken the decision to pull out of Turkey</a> following the arrest of one of its founders Hakan Altınay (alongside 12 other academics and activists), and Erdoğan’s direct attacks on Soros whom he accuses of trying to divide and destroy nations or, indeed, <a href="">when Central European University has decided to move its campus to Vienna under pressure from the Hungarian government</a>? <span class="mag-quote-center">How responsible is it to hint at “shadowy” links between plain facts and unproven intentions?</span></p> <h2><strong>Reasoned argument</strong></h2> <p>The morality tale propagated by the academic alt-right is pernicious not only because it promotes some sort of populism – or even white nationalism-lite, but also because it does so in a subtle, sophisticated, hence at first glance credible way. It is our duty to expose this moral agenda for what it is, not by “deplatforming” them – which would only add victimisation to their already lavish arsenal – but through reasoned argument.</p><p>As Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren,&nbsp;a leading character on&nbsp;the original&nbsp;Netflix series&nbsp;<em>Orange is the New Black</em>&nbsp;which inspired the title of this article, so&nbsp;wittily remarks, “I used to think you were a yellow dandelion, but&nbsp;you are all dried up with the puff blown off.” It is high time for us, "Everywheres", to blow off the puff of&nbsp;populism and nationalism and painstakingly craft a left universalist alternative more attuned to the needs of the gloomy&nbsp;times we live in. </p> <p>* I would like to thank Ivan Krastev, Claus Offe and Ruth Wodak for their comments on an earlier version of this text. All the views expressed herein are my own. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/roger-eatwell/rising-tide-of-national-populism-we-need-to-talk-about-immigration">The rising tide of national populism: we need to talk seriously about immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">Framing ethnic diversity as a &#039;threat&#039; will normalise far-right hate, say academics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/on-extremism-and-democracy-in-europe-three-years-later">On extremism and democracy in Europe: three years later</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jon-bloomfield/dangerous-road-to-divisive-places">Dangerous road to divisive places</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ric-fassin/neo-fascist-moment-of-neoliberalism">The neo-fascist moment of neoliberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eric-kaufmann/alt-right-academia">Alt-Right Academia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk Turkey United States EU UK Umut Ozkirimli Wed, 02 Jan 2019 20:11:51 +0000 Umut Ozkirimli 121161 at After Me Too, can we trust the UK government to tackle sexual abuse? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If our lawmakers fail to confront abuse in their own workplace, how do we trust them to enact effective policies for the rest of us?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom responds to questions about allegations sexual harassment at Westminster. Picture: PA. All " title="" width="460" height="247" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom responds to questions about allegations sexual harassment at Westminster. Picture: PA. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 12 December 2018, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May <a href="">faced a ‘vote of no confidence</a>’ in her leadership. Her Conservative party MPs were invited to vote in a secret ballot, indicating whether they thought the prime minister should continue in her role. Conservative party rules stated that she would have to resign as party leader if she lost the vote.</p><p>May knew it was going to be a tight vote, as she needed the support of at least 159 out of 317 of her MPs to survive. The Conservative party then announced that two MPs who had previously been suspended following allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths, would be <a href="">reinstated ahead of the crucial vote</a>.</p><p>Earlier this year, the Sunday Times newspaper revealed that <a href="">Elphicke had been accused of rape </a>by a former staff member. He had undergone a police interview under caution in March 2018, but no rape allegation was put to him on that occasion. Elphicke maintains his innocence and has <a href="">denied any wrongdoing</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Griffiths had sent thousands of <a href="">text messages to women in his constituency</a> including explicit comments like his desire to “beat” a woman during sex. He subsequently said he’d sent these texts while having <a href="">a manic episode</a>, and that he was “ashamed and embarrassed”.</p><p>The Labour party criticised the Conservatives for “<a href="">betraying</a>” women by reinstating the suspended MPs ahead of the vote. A year after a series of #MeToo allegations broke in parliament, in late 2017, this welcoming back of alleged harassers for political expediency begs the question: what has changed for women in politics? And can this government be trusted to pay more than lip service to our rights when it’s political crunch time?</p><p dir="ltr">On 12 December 2018, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May <a href="">faced a ‘vote of no confidence</a>’ in her leadership. Her Conservative party MPs were invited to vote in a secret ballot, indicating whether they thought the prime minister should continue in her role. Conservative party rules stated that she would have to resign as party leader if she lost the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">May knew it was going to be a tight vote, as she needed the support of at least 159 out of 317 of her MPs to survive. The Conservative party then announced that two MPs who had previously been suspended following allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths, would be <a href="">reinstated ahead of the crucial vote</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the Sunday Times newspaper revealed that <a href="">Elphicke had been accused of rape </a>by a former staff member. He had undergone a police interview under caution in March 2018, but no rape allegation was put to him on that occasion. Elphicke maintains his innocence and has <a href="">denied any wrongdoing</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Griffiths had sent thousands of <a href="">text messages to women in his constituency</a> including explicit comments like his desire to “beat” a woman during sex. He subsequently said he’d sent these texts while having <a href="">a manic episode</a>, and that he was “ashamed and embarrassed”.</p><p>The Labour party criticised the Conservatives for “<a href="">betraying</a>” women by reinstating the suspended MPs ahead of the vote. A year after a series of #MeToo allegations broke in parliament, in late 2017, this welcoming back of alleged harassers for political expediency begs the question: what has changed for women in politics? And can this government be trusted to pay more than lip service to our rights when it’s political crunch time?</p><h2>Abuse in the lobby</h2><p dir="ltr">In October 2017, women around the world came forward under the MeToo banner, accusing powerful men of sexual assault, harassment and rape. From the Hollywood mogul <a href="">Harvey Weinstein</a> to <a href="">news anchors</a>, <a href="">journalists</a>, and <a href="">Wall Street bosses</a>, it wasn’t long before MeToo came to <a href="">Westminster</a> – the home of the UK parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">This year, a survey commissioned by MPs found one <a href="">in five people</a> working in parliament had experienced sexual harassment. Women reported twice as many cases as men.</p><p>Following disclosures of sexual harassment from the journalist <a href="">Jane Merrick</a> among other women, the defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon was the first to <a href="">resign from his ministerial post</a>, in November 2017, admitting his conduct may have “fallen short” of standards.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Sir Michael Fallon resigned from his UK cabinet position in 2017 following disclosures of sexual harassment. Image: PA. All righ" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sir Michael Fallon resigned from his UK cabinet position in 2017 following disclosures of sexual harassment. Image: PA. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A few weeks later, the deputy prime minister Damian Green resigned amid allegations of <a href="">inappropriate behaviour</a> towards a young Conservative party activist (which he <a href="">denied</a>). A parliamentary inquiry had found these allegations “<a href="">plausible</a>” and that he’d previously made “misleading” statements about <a href="">pornography on his work</a> computer.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the last year, MPs, parliamentary staff, and activists from across parties have faced allegations of <a href="">inappropriate behaviour,</a> <a href="">bullying</a>, <a href="">sexual assault</a>, and <a href="">rape</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The Financial Times journalist <a href="">Laura Hughes exposed</a> wide-ranging abuses of power at parliament. One parliamentary staff member anonymously told Hughes that a Conservative MP had boasted that he’d had sex with researchers on her desk. Another former staffer told Hughes that she knew of 10 women who had been harassed at parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">With two MPs resigning from ministerial posts (although not their seats), and other MPs and party activists under investigation or facing allegations of misconduct, it had become clear to parliament by the end of 2017 that action needed to be taken to change a culture of widespread bullying and harassment at the heart of British politics.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent of the Westminster abuse scandal was chilling. It’s precisely these people in these corridors of power who make laws about violence against women and workplace sexual harassment. How could these lawmakers be trusted to create fair and just policies to protect people from sexual violence, when some were alleged perpetrators themselves?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">How could these lawmakers be trusted to create fair and just policies to protect people from sexual violence?&nbsp;</p><div><p dir="ltr">Reports of sexual and sexually inappropriate behaviour are not new to the UK’s parliament. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After the 1997 elections, which <a href="">doubled the number of women MPs</a>, researcher Professor Sarah Childs wrote <a href="">a book</a> about them. She quoted a report in The Times newspaper which said they “were subjected to sexual harassment: comments were made about women MPs ‘legs and breasts’ and when women MPs spoke in debates it was reported that Conservative MPs ‘put their hands out in front of them as if they are weighing melons’”.</p><p dir="ltr">But the MeToo movement threw harassment in Westminster under the spotlight, and the growing list of accusations meant that something finally had to change.</p><p dir="ltr">The leader of the House of Commons, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, set up a cross-party working group to investigate sexual misconduct at parliament. <a href="">A separate inquiry into bullying and harassment </a>of staff in parliament was launched by Dame Laura Cox.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2018, Leadsom’s working group <a href="">published its findings</a> which highlighted the lack of an independent grievance and complaints procedures for people working in parliament. This meant, for example, that if a parliamentary researcher were harassed by their MP boss, they were supposed to report it to their “line manager” – that same MP.</p>As one lawyer, Meriel Schindler, put it to Hughes at the <a href="">Financial Times</a>: “it’s almost as if MPs are like unregulated sole traders”.<p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It’s almost as if MPs are like unregulated sole traders”.</p></div><div><p dir="ltr">The working group’s report introduced a new “<a href="">behaviour code</a>” for parliament, underpinned by an independent complaints procedure. It said that implementing this code would require training as well as human resources support, and called for a “cultural change” in parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">The code states that MPs and staff should “respect and value everyone”; that they should “recognise their power, influence or authority and not abuse them” and “think about how your behaviour affects others and strive to understand their perspective”.</p><p dir="ltr">“Bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct are not tolerated”, it insists. “Unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with seriously, independently and with effective sanctions”.</p><p dir="ltr">Importantly, the working group noted that sexual harassment is “qualitatively different from other forms of unacceptable behaviour, including bullying and non-sexual harassment”.</p><p dir="ltr">Confronting this “therefore requires its own set of procedures and personnel”, said its report, which recommended that an Independent Sexual Misconduct Advocate should be contracted to support those reporting harassment.</p><h2>What’s really changed?</h2><p dir="ltr">Can the government be trusted to put its own recommendations into practice? Or does the reinstatement of Elphicke and Griffiths, ahead of a crucial vote the prime minister needed to win, demonstrate that women’s rights are easily brushed aside when politics demand?</p><p dir="ltr">The reinstatement of these MPs isn’t the first example of political manoeuvering amid abuse allegations. Earlier this year, bullying allegations against the speaker of the House of Commons, <a href="">John Bercow</a>, were used as political footballs by his opponents and supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">In an article for the <a href="">Guardian</a>, a Labour MP wrote that many of her fellow parliamentarians “hate John Bercow and wanted rid of him and used the report as their opportunity”. They see victims of harassment as a “toy for them to play with for political and tribal ends”, she said.</p>Meanwhile, those who wanted Bercow to stay called it the “<a href="">wrong time</a>” to change speaker.<p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">They see victims of harassment as a “toy for them to play with for political and tribal ends”.</p><p dir="ltr">Accusations of sexual misconduct have also rocked parliament’s House of Lords. </p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="">November 2017</a>, the Liberal Democrat Peer and human rights lawyer, Lord Lester, was accused of sexual harassment by a women’s rights campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera. The <a href="">House of Lords Commissioner for Standards</a> conducted an investigation, upheld her complaint, and determined that Lester should be suspended for five years.</p><p dir="ltr">However, on 15 November 2018, Lester’s ally Lord Pannick <a href="">voted to block the proposed suspension</a>. Pannick accused the Commissioner of not acting “<a href="">in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness</a>” in her handling of the case.</p><p dir="ltr">In response, a House of Lords committee responsible for members’ privileges and conduct published a damning <a href="">report</a> on 12 December on how Lester’s case had been handled. Among other things, it expressed concern that the debate over Pannick’s amendment risked putting other women off reporting sexual misconduct in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">The report noted how during the debate, Lester’s supporters used their positions to “make wholly inappropriate comments about [Sanghera’s] character and behaviour”. It said: “We are concerned that some of the contributions to the debate will have deterred other victims of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct from coming forward”. </p><p dir="ltr">One of the report’s footnotes adds that the committee’s “attention [was drawn] to the fact that in the <a href="">debate</a> on 15 November, ‘reputation’ was invoked positively 15 times to describe Lord Lester. It was not invoked once to describe the complainant. At the same time, the complainant’s credibility and motivations were questioned”.</p><p dir="ltr">This is important – so often in these cases, while men’s reputations are defended, women are deemed to lack credibility, or accused of having ulterior motivations. This obstructs women’s access to justice and can put women off reporting sexual misconduct or violence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Sanghera <a href="">said</a> that the investigation against Lord Lester had been thorough, and by blocking his suspension the House of Lords “undermined the whole process, and undermined the commissioner and me”. It also “undermined victims”, she added, saying that she wouldn’t advise other women to report cases of harassment if this is how they respond.</p><p dir="ltr">Lester did eventually <a href="">resign</a>, though he maintains his innocence. A <a href="">further debate on 17 December </a>censured him – but as he had already resigned, he cannot face any sanctions in parliament. Meanwhile, Lester’s is not an isolated case. Rather it typifies the problems women face when reporting sexual misconduct against powerful men in government.</p><h2>What’s next?</h2><p dir="ltr">From reinstating MPs ahead of a crucial vote, to treating bullying allegations against Bercow as a political football, the UK parliament has not inspired much confidence in its ability to seriously handle accusations of misconduct and abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">Although two men did resign their ministerial posts following accusations of sexual harassment, they have remained MPs. One wonders what Sir Michael Fallon’s constituents make of his admission that his conduct may have “fallen short” of standards as defence secretary, while apparently deciding that he was still suitable to represent them.</p><p dir="ltr">The case of Lord Lester meanwhile highlights how the way sexual harassment claims are handled may influence whether other women will report cases in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">While it is positive that new complaints procedures are now in place at parliament – thanks in part to the work of feminist campaigners – if women do not believe their allegations will be listened to and respected, then many still won’t come forward.</p><p dir="ltr">Going into 2019, it remains alarming that those responsible for making laws on issues like violence against women and girls seem unable to deal with them in their own workplace.</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sian-norris/excluded-stereotyped-abused-women-uk-politics-today">Excluded, stereotyped and abused: where do women stand in UK politics today? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk Democracy and government Equality International politics World Forum for Democracy 2018 women and power violence against women Sexual violence women's work Sian Norris Sat, 22 Dec 2018 11:04:27 +0000 Sian Norris 121075 at What the ‘Drone Wolf’ tries to teach us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The event at Gatwick airport, surely orchestrated by a resentful philosopher, demystifies the workings of our everyday.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>FILE PHOTO dated 25/2/2017 of a drone and an aircraft. John Stillwell/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>As I am writing, we are entering day 3 of the drone’s occupation of Gatwick Airport in London (or thereabouts). Events surrounding the drone are reported in the live-feeds of several, if not all, major press outlets in Britain; hundreds of flights have been rescheduled or cancelled; the army is called in to ‘take down’ the unmanned object; and patrols are taking place across many other UK airport to prevent a further escalation on a national scale. </p> <p>Brexit is forgotten, even Corbyn’s allegedly misogynistic mumbling no longer matters. A single drone has led an entire country on lockdown to look up at the air, while its government decides to securitise the national airspace. One unmanned aerial vehicle with an unclear purpose. It is the stuff of sardonic albeit suggestive Kafkaesque novels.</p> <p>The event, surely orchestrated by a resentful philosopher of sorts, demystifies the assumed stability and fixity of the workings of our everyday. It exposes the organisational fragility of the aerial infrastructures that we take for granted when getting from point A to B. It teaches us humility against an arrogant faith in the infallibility of imaginary superior technologies that can master nature. (If one drone can challenge the gargantuan force of mass tourism, what chance does geoengineering have against global climate change?). </p> <p>It shows how something so seemingly peripheral and local can challenge the political, economic and legal architectures of the wealthiest of countries. An executive of Gatwick Airport <a href="">explains</a> that “This is an unprecedented issue. This isn’t a Gatwick Airport issue. It’s not even a UK issue. It’s an international issue.” The sad truth is that he might be right.</p> <p>This reality, one that centres on the governance of air, or, rather, the belief therein, has already long been known and felt in places where atmospheric violence is not the exception but the norm. That is to say that what is happening in London is global and deeply disconcerting, legally, geographically, philosophically, but it also must be understood as a local and political event. Context, I mean to say, almost always matters:</p> <p>One drone striking Gatwick; 0 deaths (fortunately)</p> <p>430 minimum confirmed strikes in Pakistan: 2,515-4,026 deaths</p> <p>328 minimum confirmed strikes in Yemen: 1,019-1,383 deaths</p> <p>4,978 minimum confirmed strikes in Afghanistan: 3,916-5,346 deaths</p> <p>125 minimum confirmed strikes in Somalia: 839-1,037 deaths</p> <p>(all data from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, <a href=""></a>)</p> <p>Yes, of course, I wish travellers all the best in getting to their destinations safely and smoothly to be with family, friends and loved ones. In short, to experience life and happiness in a trouble-free fashion. The drone and its pilot, however, also give us, ie. those for whom infrastructure works are enabling, a chance to reflect on the privilege of enjoying safe air in a world where other atmospheres are turning increasingly hostile and lethal.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Conflict International politics Marijn Nieuwenhuis Fri, 21 Dec 2018 14:49:54 +0000 Marijn Nieuwenhuis 121116 at A People’s Vote without a People’s Debate won’t bring about Another Europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter to Another Europe Is Possible on the democratic component fatally lacking from the Brexit process hitherto.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2018-12-21 at 09.35.52.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2018-12-21 at 09.35.52.png" alt="lead lead lead " title="" width="460" height="265" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot:Citizens Assembly on Brexit, Manchester, September 2017.YouTube. Fair Use.</span></span></span></p><p><em>Dear friends of Another Europe Is Possible,</em></p> <p>When some time ago Michael Chessum, registering my skepticism about a second referendum, asked me a very fair next question “So what is DiEM25’s position on Brexit”?  –  we may not have been as clear as we are today. So I’m writing in the hope that my answer may be of interest to you and to those who follow us.</p> <p>Prior to the Brexit referendum,&nbsp;we campaigned together to Remain in Europe to change it: a principled, articulate position which brought together the British Left and progressives throughout Europe, from John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas to Yanis Varoufakis, yourselves and ourselves.</p> <p>The outcome of the Brexit referendum&nbsp;and the dramatic political developments which followed it,&nbsp;have instead created huge divisions among progressives, despite having to face in Britain the transformation of the UK Conservatives into the “Brexit means Brexit” party (a self-serving delusion presiding over a democracy-free zone process) and in the wider world, Trump and the rise of the “national international” (a coalition of dangerously anti-democratic forces).</p> <p>Strategic disagreements are natural in the face of a historical strategic defeat&nbsp;like the referendum outcome, and the tasks of moving forwards under these conditions necessarily much more uphill. But an empowering democratic debate taking into full consideration not only the causes of the defeat, but also the opportunities that arise for a new, and maybe more profound form of political transformation, should bring us together again.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2018-12-21 at 09.33.38.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2018-12-21 at 09.33.38.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="260" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot. Citizens Assembly on Brexit, Manchester, September 2017.</span></span></span>I must applaud your decision to transform Another Europe is possible into a member-led democratic organisation&nbsp;and the timing of your decision. Never before has the task to democratize every level of British politics been more urgent or the challenge to create inclusive dialogue around the country more pressing. So I would like to wish you an excellent launch for this exciting new journey that you are on. </p><p>I need also to congratulate you on your brilliant work to expose the contradictions of Brexit&nbsp;within the British Left. DiEM25 dedicated every sinew we possessed at the time of the referendum to campaigning with you against Brexit but you have been able to transform what was once the fairly complex argument of a vocal fringe (“stay in Europe to change it” or as Yanis Varoufakis used to put it “in the EU against this EU”) into a hegemonising message at the 2018 Labour conference, with the ubiquitous “Love Corbyn, hate Brexit” placards shifting the internal narrative by a visible margin.</p> <p>I also have to concede how important it was for you, Caroline Lucas and many others in the Left to shape from a progressive standpoint the developing debate on the ‘People’s Vote’, focusing on the backstage dealing of the government negotiating strategy and on a progressive critique of what it has so far achieved. You deserve a lot of credit<strong> </strong>for moving<strong> </strong>remainers so far on from the disastrous official remain campaign of 2016.</p> <p>We all believe that the deal negotiated by Theresa May is terrible, in method and motive, in the dangers it poses to workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights and freedom to move and for the damage it can produce to our social model. We all agree that we must work together to exert the maximum pressure towards its defeat, whenever it finally comes to Parliament.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2018-12-21 at 09.37.26_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2018-12-21 at 09.37.26_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="262" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Citizens Assembly, Manchester, September 2017.</span></span></span>But&nbsp;we need to be equally clear about our disagreement&nbsp;at this critical juncture of the roller-coaster that is the Brexit process. For us the mode of delivery of a ‘People’s Vote’ cannot work from a progressive perspective. </p><p>Jeremy Corbyn insists that “a People’s vote is not an option for the present”. We think he is right. To have a meaningful effect a People’s Vote, that is, any referendum on the deal with an option to remain, needs to happen well ahead of 29 March 2019, when the article 50 current deadline is bound to conclude the Brexit saga.</p> <p>Considering the necessary obligations for implementing a referendum, allowing for an electoral campaign of at least one month and before that presumably organising the electoral machine, this should be announced not later than mid-January for the referendum to be held in mid March. But before such an announcement can be made, legislation must be passed both at the House of Commons and at the House of Lords and a referendum bill not yet drafted must be approved in both houses. Unfortunate as it might be, with Parliament shut down for Christmas and in the face of a looming constitutional crisis, is there any possibility that this process could be completed in less than one month?</p> <p>Time of course is of the essence, and not just time to follow the rules which govern our voting system.&nbsp;Democracy is also about taking the time to take complex decisions without a gun to our heads. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2018-12-21 at 09.29.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2018-12-21 at 09.29.53.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Citizens Assembly, Manchester, September 2017. YouTube. </span></span></span>Above all it is about <a href=";v=HSYRBmZRTnY">a meaningful debate,</a> which gives every citizen a chance to gather all the information they need about all the viable major options currently available — <span>at least four at the last count</span>. It requires time for citizens to listen to each other and to persuade each other if they can. And we should give people that time. We have heard a lot about the preparations needed for businesses to adapt and for trade deals to occur, but almost nothing about the time for citizens, leavers and remainers alike to explore ‘the deal’ and all its possible alternatives.&nbsp;We must allow democracy the time it deserves, but time is running out very fast for a proper democratic debate, with more facts and much clearer options. Nor can we trust the government to take the break from Brexit that we need to stand back together, and choose our common future carefully.</p> <p>More than this, a democratic decision concerning the fundamental constitutional questions raised by Brexit, requires citizens not only to choose the best answer to the question, but also to <a href="">shape the debate</a> by framing the questions themselves or, as political theorist and democracy activist Stuart White put it, in 2015:<em>&nbsp;“Democratic theory says that this is a time when ‘We the people’ have a right to settle what happens precisely because what is at stake is a set of very basic questions about how we are ruled.”</em></p> <p>A People’s Debate, properly informed and accessible, inclusive and empowering, must precede a People’s Vote if it is to be a meaningful choice.&nbsp;Neal Lawson and more recently Gordon Brown, recognising the limits of parliamentary decision-making, have called for a “unique consultation”, a multi-faceted process of exchange that “by opening a dialogue across the country and engaging in a constructive, outward-looking conversation about our future” might help us discover “a road back to a more cohesive country, reuniting around shared values and rediscovered common interests” (“<span>To calm the Brexit storm, we must listen to the UK’s views again</span>”, Financial Times,16 November, also <a href="">Gordon Brown on Brexit</a>.)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2018-12-21 at 09.31.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2018-12-21 at 09.31.03.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Citizens Assembly, Manchester, September 2017.</span></span></span>Without a People’s debate, a People’s vote is bound to be a rerun of the referendum binary narrative, hopefully framed in better terms (but how, while the government is run by Theresa May?), whose best possible outcome is to impose on a significant minority the 2016 status quo which was already then untenable to a significant majority. </p><p>Do we really want to offer the British people the choice to restore our old EU membership perhaps even including the detrimental changes that David Cameron negotiated in 2016, in his desperate attempt to win enough votes in June: a draconian form of “free” movement with strong limitations on access to welfare and stronger deportation powers for the UK government? Shouldn’t we be arguing for precisely the opposite line of march so that we can influence in a positive direction the Europe we want to see? Without a proper <a href=";v=HSYRBmZRTnY">People’s Debate</a> on immigration and all the other key issues,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>a People’s Vote will never bring about another Europe.</p> <p>This is why DiEM25 has not signed up to a People’s Vote. We at DiEM25 believe instead that the way forward is to delay and democratise Brexit.</p><p><em>An original version of this article <a href="">was published </a>on Medium on December 6, 2018.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy">Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom&#039;s crisis in democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-two">A People’s Vote won’t heal Brexit divisions – we need a People’s Debate</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas Rosemary Bechler Andrea Pisauro DiEM25 Fri, 21 Dec 2018 09:17:14 +0000 Andrea Pisauro and Rosemary Bechler 121104 at John Cleese stars in animation about the state of British democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>He won't return to the UK from&nbsp;the Caribbean island of Nevis until “we get Proportional Representation”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" src="" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p>Comedy legend John Cleese stars in a new&nbsp;<a href="">animation</a> on some of the things wrong with democracy in the UK. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="">Make Votes Matter</a>&nbsp;worked with him to produce the video which hopes to stimulate debate on one of the ways we can fix it. In it, a Pythonesque cutout of Cleese argues that a change to our voting system is long overdue:</p><p>“The Conservatives and the DUP hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, yet just 43% of votes went to those two parties combined. 57% of us have to put up with a government we didn’t vote for and don’t want. This is what’s known as minority rule.”</p><p>The solution, he adds, lies with introducing a system of Proportional Representation for elections to the House of Commons.</p><p>“Proportional Representation, or “PR”, simply means that seats in the House of Commons would reflect the way we vote. In other words if one party gets 20% of the vote, they get 20% of the seats - and as a consequence it would mean that Britain is governed by a Parliament that reflects its people.”</p><p>Make Votes Matter says that the UK’s First Past the Post voting system means millions of voters are effectively shut out of our democracy thanks to minority rule government. In the 2015 general election the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP received almost a quarter of all votes cast between them, yet ended up sharing just 1.5% of seats.</p><p>Millions more are forced to vote tactically. In 2017, 20-30% of those polled said that they planned to vote tactically for a party who had a better chance of winning than their favourite candidate.</p><p>Let’s hope in the new year we’ll move closer to ditching First Past the Post in favour of a fair and proportionate system where seats match votes.</p><p>Klina Jordan, co-facilitator at Make Votes Matter, said: “Anyone watching the video will empathise with John Cleese when he says that the alienation and mistrust that’s entered into British politics is a consequence of our unrepresentative voting system.</p><p>“He’s absolutely right. British politics has broken down precisely because Parliament doesn’t reflect the people. It’s time we caught up with most developed countries in the world by bringing in Proportional Representation, and we’re delighted to have worked with John and animator Fred Tschepp to make this point.”</p><p>The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers actor moved to the Caribbean island of Nevis in October, saying he would return to the UK, “when we get Proportional Representation”.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Sarah Hudspith Fri, 21 Dec 2018 08:35:42 +0000 Sarah Hudspith 121091 at Britain is the world centre for private military contractors – and it's almost impossible to find out what they're up to <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Welcome to the murky world of mercenaries and floating armouries...&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><em>Additional reporting from Matt Kennard, Timothy Young, Matthew Leger, Susanna Kalaris, Samuel Brownsword, Sean French and Tom Ormson</em></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//**G4S gallantry.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//**G4S gallantry.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail from G4S Gurkha Services marketing brochure and Queen’s Gallantry Medal, as highlighted by Clare Sambrook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, an American man <a href=";utm_term=.4ec681c67c1d">was convicted</a> for killing unarmed civilians whilst on patrol in Iraq. But he wasn’t a member of the US Army. When the incident took place, he was working for the company Blackwater. Last month, the Taliban carried out a lethal suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. But the compound they targeted wasn’t controlled by the army of any nation. It was run by G4S. <a href="">According to the Islamist group</a>, the British company constituted an ‘important base of occupying forces’, from which attacks against the Taliban were planned and mobilised. </p><p>G4S, one of the UK’s biggest private military companies, provides pivotal ‘operational support’ to Britain’s military in Afghanistan and such incidents bring back into focus the extent that private military and security companies are present – and sometimes directly involved – in combat.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the ‘War on Terror’ began in 2001, billions of dollars have been made by men (and it is almost always men) working for private military and security companies (PMSCs) around the world. In the killing zones of Iraq or Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen, such corporations have become central to undertaking roles traditionally reserved for national militaries.</p><p dir="ltr">Britain has led this privatisation of modern warfare. It leads the world in providing armed contractors to ‘hot spots’, be it combating terrorism in the Middle East or fighting pirates off the Horn of Africa. Some of their biggest clients are governments; since 2004, the British state has spent <a href="">approximately £50 million annually</a> on mercenary companies. The total worth of the global private military and security industry has been <a href="">estimated</a> to stand somewhere between £69 billion and £275 billion a year.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of these companies will serve whoever can pay – from wealthy private individuals to faceless corporations. It is easy for them to do so. Despite the size of this mercenary industry, the entire sector is marked by secrecy. Men trained in the arts of subterfuge and counter-intelligence dominate this sphere, and the result is an industry that operates from the shadows.</p><p dir="ltr">What we do know is that many of these mercenary companies, especially ones based in the UK and US, were heavily involved in military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We know their armed personnel can earn as much as £10,000 a month, tax-free. And we know that some private military contractors have been directly implicated in civilian deaths; the employees of Blackwater, now Academi, a US private military corporation, opened fire on Iraqi civilians in September 2007, killing 17 and wounding a further 20. In 2007, employees of Aegis Defence Services, based in London and run by the former Scots Guards officer Lt-Col Tim Spicer, posted footage on the web showing their guards firing their weapons at what <a href="">has been reported</a> as ‘civilians’. The company said the shootings were legal within rules of protocol established by the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The company <a href="">has also been</a> criticised for allegedly employing former child soldiers from Sierra Leone as mercenaries in Iraq, for the simple reason that they were cheaper than their European counterparts. James Ellery, a former director, said the company had a cost-reduction ‘duty’ to recruit from cheaper countries.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, personnel from another UK private military contractor, Protection Vessels International Ltd, were arrested for stashing arms on Eritrean territory without permission and were later charged with sabotage, espionage and terrorism. The company’s apology <a href="">was accepted</a> and, today, it thrives.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no central database of private military and security companies operating from the UK, and no legal requirement to register with a governing body. Only one dataset offers insight: the UK’s Company House provides a code for companies that offer security services. Thousands of small business are listed, offering anything from bouncers to industrial site protection. But within this list, our researchers identified 235 UK-registered military and security companies whose websites offered higher-level security work, usually international and involving armed protection.</p><p dir="ltr">Our researchers found a systemic lack of transparency; a clear willingness to offer use of armed force irrespective of who is doing the hiring; a significant source of employment for ex-Special Forces personnel, often without checks; and, at times, a lack of compliance with international law or norms.</p><h2>Who, where, when, how? British private military and security companies lack transparency</h2><p dir="ltr">One of the most concerning characteristics of the British mercenary industry is a fundamental lack of transparency. One-tenth of companies do not have an operating website. Those that do reveal little. Basic information, such as staff details, what precise services the company offers, the exact geographical reach of operations, or who they might have offered services to in the past, is rare. Most companies’ websites are sparse and purposefully so, often either consisting of a single page with almost no information, or requiring login details.</p><p dir="ltr">Access to Interventions Ltd’s <a href="">website</a>, for instance, is only allowed to “members of the Police, Military or a Government Agency involved with Law Enforcement”. Whilst not illegal, this frustrates attempts to identify what these companies are up to and blocks scrutiny from journalists and researchers.</p><p dir="ltr">While the majority listed their managing director or founder, only one-fifth provide details of other staff. In general (77% of the time), staff members were either not listed at all, or referenced just using their first names or initials. A company such as <a href="">Cobra International Security</a> simply lists its staff as ‘Paul G’, ’John S’ or ’Chris M’, followed by descriptions of their professional backgrounds. Blurred pictures are often used, such as on the websites of <a href="">Patriot Group</a> and <a href="">Excellentia</a>. We asked these companies why they blurred their workers' faces. They declined to answer. None of this is illegal, but it does frustrate research into a controversial industry.</p><p dir="ltr">In several cases, there were mismatches between the names of directors listed on a company’s website and those on Companies House. In other cases, there were doubts as to whether listed directors or senior personnel are actually part of the day-to-day operations of the business. For instance, in the course of this investigation, a member of the team listed on the pages of <a href="">3E international</a> denied working for the company. Her profile was subsequently deleted.</p><p dir="ltr">The industry is marked by a high turnover of companies; businesses are formed and then dissolved a short while later. This practise might be to create companies to provide certain projects, but it adds to the impenetrable nature of this sector, where so much is opaque and seemingly unaccountable. Elsewhere, companies owned by the same director offered completely different services. </p><p>A clear pattern of disguised addresses also appeared from our research. We found three companies (International Security, Security Sure Solutions Ltd and Precedence Global Ltd) registered at the same address that turned out to be a Polish restaurant. When contacted, one of the companies, Precedence Global, admitted that it did not operate from this location and that it was a ‘virtual office’, owing to ‘security concerns.’ Other contractors shared the same addresses as media or housing companies.</p><p>At least 32 companies turned out to be using such ‘virtual offices’, allowing companies, for a fee, to use a ‘prestigious’ address (i.e. a City of London postcode) without actually operating from there. One of the service providers, Capital Office Ltd, used by at least six military and security companies, promotes its services by <a href="">saying</a> virtual addresses ‘can add to the authenticity of your new company because it looks like you have offices within a busy business hub’.</p><p>The trend enables companies to base themselves anywhere in the world but claim that their operations are from the UK, with the implication – perhaps – that this brings a certain ‘British standard’.</p><p dir="ltr">Where these companies are actually operating is, again, opaque. More than two-thirds looked at either failed to mention where they operated or did so in obtuse terms, boasting a ‘global’ or ‘international’ reach. Sometimes they offered their services in ‘hostile environments’, ‘where the client needs us’. At best, they mentioned specific regions, seas or ports. But only 60 companies explicitly mention some of the countries they have been operating in, so overall operational transparency remains limited.</p><p dir="ltr">The pervasive lack of transparency and vague phrasing also means it is impossible to determine what the companies are actually capable of. Often, they claim professionalism without providing specific examples, while descriptions of their work often provide no substance. One company said it provided ‘operational support services’ without specifying the type of support. Another company provided ‘project support by combining local knowledge with our own expertise in… complex environments.’ The most frequent phrase on the more than two hundred websites that Action On Armed Violence scrutinised was ‘bespoke security solutions’: vague enough not to break any laws.</p><p dir="ltr">The websites are written in this strange language that combines military terminology with business-speak. These companies provide discreet services for clients that often want to remain anonymous. This is an industry run by men trained in concealment, secrecy and measured violence – and one that remains impenetrable to anyone who does not show funds to gain access. Industry insiders argue that they need to operate ‘under the radar’ to protect their clients, and not “share (them) with every terrorist, hacker or bad guy on the planet” as one security operative put it. This should not be an excuse to hide from transparency. </p><h2>Putting the gun where the money is: when profit controls where and who to ‘protect’</h2><p dir="ltr">Unsurprisingly, Britain’s private military contractors are driven by economic rather than humanitarian priorities; their operations dictated by where the money is. At its height, there were <a href="">reportedly</a> 80 British military companies operating in Iraq, while some of the biggest companies are said to owe their very existence to the profits garnered in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent years, alongside counter-terrorism operations, anti-piracy campaigns have become a major source of income. This is reflected in marketing materials. Numerous companies explicitly mention working in either the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Guinea, Horn of Africa or Somalia, and directly advertise their anti-piracy capabilities. The anti-piracy industry grew despite <a href="">warnings</a> that increased private military presence at sea displaces the piracy threat and tends to provoke pirates to use increased violence.</p><p dir="ltr">British companies claim to operate in 17 out the 30 countries that the Foreign Office lists as ‘Human Rights Priorities Countries’ (namely: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the DRC, Russia, Colombia, Yemen, Syrian, Myanmar, Iran, Bahrain, Venezuela and South Sudan). What are these companies doing there? What oversight is in place in these operations, especially as in some places the government is itself implicated in gross human rights abuses? And who is paying these companies? We don’t know.</p><p dir="ltr">We do, however, know that the UK government has, in last decade, deployed <a href="">British </a>security companies to at least five of these countries; Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. And we know that civilians have been killed by security companies in some of these countries. Given the lack of accountability and media coverage in these areas we do not know just how many civilians have been killed, and what British companies – if any – were involved. Despite the security companies’ aversion to transparency, and <a href="">evidence that some</a> have engaged in human rights abuses and political destabilisation, the Foreign Office continues to deploy contractors to states where the Foreign Office itself has spoken out against human rights violations. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Outsourcing military operations may save governments money. As Andy Bearpark from the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) <a href="">puts it</a> “certain activities can be done much more cost-effectively by the private sector.” But when private contractors are deployed to areas of high human rights abuse, how rigorously will any overuse or illegal use of force be investigated or prosecuted? </p><h2>‘The revolving door’ – when the line between national armies and PMSCs diminishes</h2><p dir="ltr">Almost two-thirds of companies we looked at (65%), including leading companies such as Constellis, Aegis and Control Risks, explicitly mention that members of their staff or directors have a military background in either the Royal Marines or British Special Forces. </p><p>Britannia Risks Group, a maritime security company, for instance, boasts a strong team with “a combination of former Royal Marines/Academics and Mariners delivering unrivalled client experience.” The actual figure is likely to be higher than 65%, as many may employ former army members without explicitly mentioning it.</p><p dir="ltr">The close ties between the military and the private sector translates into a physical presence. At least nine private military companies are located in Hereford, near the headquarter of the Special Air Service (SAS). The employment of former military personnel is, by many, perceived as an automatic guarantee for good conduct and the former soldiers, who are now pursuing a more lucrative career in the private industry, are seen as ‘heroes’ in the eyes of many.</p><p dir="ltr">There are, however, several issues that this raises. </p><p>The impression of guaranteed professionalism that comes with the hiring of ex-servicemen can lead to a lack of scrutiny in the employment process. In 2009 a former British Army paratrooper shot two G4S colleagues in Iraq. The former soldier had been deployed by G4S, one of the world’s biggest security companies, despite being discharged from the British army and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. G4S later <a href="">admitted</a> “systemic failures in vetting process”. Something similar also happened in 2016, when G4S had to <a href="">explain</a> why they had falsely claimed one of their contractors had passed the mandatory screening to carry a gun. The contractor, Omar Mateen, later carried out the worst mass shootings in recent American history when he killed 49 people at a nightclub in Florida.</p><p dir="ltr">Combat Stress, the veterans’ mental health charity, has <a href="">reported</a> over 2,200 referrals for trauma-related mental health in one year. A paper <a href="">surveying</a> both serving personnel (regular and reserve) and veterans found that the weighted prevalence of common mental health disorders was 27.2%. The risk of suicide in men aged 24 and younger who have left the armed forces <a href="">is about</a> two to three times higher than the risk for the same age group in the general and serving populations. Such veterans can’t be guaranteed mental health support in the private military and security industry. While the appearance might be of a ‘continuation’ of armed service, the reality is different.</p><p dir="ltr">In practice, private military and security contractors operate under less scrutiny than national armed forces. There is concern the British government considers private military contractors an unofficial extension of their work, able to do what the national army cannot. This clearly raises questions relating to accountability and – even – the possibility of privatised ‘black Ops’.</p><h2>Compliance with the law</h2><p dir="ltr">The issue of working within the law stalked this inquiry. Internationally, there has been one attempt to monitor private military and security companies’ levels of compliance with international standards. The International Code of Conduct (ICoC), set up in 2010 under an initiative by the Swiss government. Yet out of the 235 companies, only 15 are members of the ICoC. Only seven percent have a ‘compliance’ section on their websites (out of the 212 functioning sites). More than 90% fail to mention compliance or standards.</p><p dir="ltr">Overall, then, UK-based mercenary companies seem to operate under a system of ‘self-regulation’ and national laws – even when operating in international zones where national laws are often poorly enforced and police forces are stretched paper thin.</p><p dir="ltr">The language used by the companies who do mention compliance measurements is often vague. Some say they ‘aim’ to operate within the law, or that they will comply ‘where possible’. In many cases, it seems as if the clients’ needs are the singular priority. For example, one company claims on a banner on its website that ‘we don’t blink when you want to be secure and safe.’ This is far from illegal, but it does raise the question: how much are human rights considered in that blink of an eye.</p><p>Futhermore, the growing anti-piracy industry has raised a number of issues relating to legal status on international waters. The legal no-man’s land of such seas has <a href="">arguably</a> enabled private military contractors to circumvent national laws, leading them to bring arms illegally into countries – either knowingly or unknowingly – as a trend of ‘<a href="">floating armouries’</a> has evolved. The spectre of an uncontrolled spread of arms without fear of legal consequences certainly haunts such debates.</p><p>Moreover, it’s not clear who might prosecute a private security company &nbsp;that uses force on international waters, such as one – for example – implicated in shooting civilian fishing vessels. We do not know how many armed violence incidents occur with British security companies &nbsp;on the high seas, and how many civilians may have been killed or injured in such firefights.</p><p>Some commentators have claimed that the UK’s private security market has radically reformed itself in recent years, away from the ‘fast and loose’ trading environment of the early days of the War on Terror. They claim that the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers that some companies sign up to provides standards that are kept. But this code of conduct remains voluntary and, despite the protestations of the industry being well-run, our investigation suggests strongly otherwise.</p><p>The Security in Complex Environments Group, an organisation set up to develop standards for British security companies working abroad, is led by director, Brigadier Paul Gibson – former director of counter-terrorism and UK operations. In 2016, <a href="">he told</a> the Guardian Newspaper that ‘You’re always going to have rogue companies in any business sector. If a client is prepared to take a risk by using a private security company that is not regulated, that is a matter for the client. That is absolutely not the way British private security companies are currently operating.’ After looking closely at the industry, we’d beg to differ.</p><h2>Call to action</h2><p dir="ltr">Action on Armed Violence’s investigation of 235 UK-based, internationally operating, private military and security companies has illustrated numerous areas of concern about this often hidden industry, where profit-seeking private entities are trusted with governmental security tasks, while themselves being subject to a perilously weak system of ‘self-regulation’.</p><p dir="ltr">Our research has raised special concerns about the British state’s inclination to outsource government tasks to private contractors, a support that has been indispensable for the private security industry’s growth and profits. Outsourcing military forces does not just undermine states’ claimed monopoly on the legal use of force, but given the lack of scrutiny of private military and security companies, private contractors may enable governments to get tasks done that avoid the scrutiny that comes with national force deployment.</p><p dir="ltr">Even though the foreign office argues that UK-employed private military and security companies are just conducting defensive operations, and hence not qualified as ‘mercenaries’, the lack of transparency that pervades the industry offers little in the way of assurances or reasons to trust this statement. Until Britain’s mercenary industry shows greater transparency and oversight, Action On Armed Violence calls on the British government to take its declared human rights ambitions seriously. It must stop deploying private military and security companies to countries that have major human rights concerns.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/british-security-company-g4s-confirms-that-florida-shooter-is">British security company G4S confirms that Florida shooter is one of their own</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-private-army-of-gurkhas-wins-medals-for-gallantry-in-kabul">G4S private army of Gurkhas wins medals for gallantry in Kabul</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/nice-work-g4s-wins-118-million-guant-namo-contract">Nice work: G4S wins $118 million Guantánamo contract </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-bludgeoned-woman-to-death">G4S guard bludgeoned woman to death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/surveillance-detention-billions-how-labour-s-friends-are-securing-your-wo">Surveillance + detention = £Billions: How Labour’s friends are ‘securing your world’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Mercenaries Elisa Benevilli Laura Bruun Iain Overton Thu, 20 Dec 2018 17:13:38 +0000 Iain Overton, Laura Bruun and Elisa Benevilli 121101 at Doctors leaders call on government to halt NHS migrant charges <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Royal College of Physicians have today joined with other Royal Colleges to call on the government to suspend upfront charging of overseas visitors within the NHS, calling them a "concerning barrier to care".</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// block.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// block.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: NHS maternity unit. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The Royal College of Physicians have today joined with other Royal Colleges to call on the government to suspend NHS upfront charging of overseas visitors. The medical leaders say in a statement issued today that the government policy, introduced in 2015 and 2017 regulations, is a "concerning barrier to care" that is "likely to lead to poorer patient outcomes and contribute to already low morale in our profession." The Colleges raise concerns about the impact on public and individual health, and point particularly to the "detrimental impact" on expectant and new mothers and "cases of children having been denied treatment for various life-threatening conditions".</p> <p>The evidence from fellow health professionals has been mounting since the introduction of the regulations and the message is clear: Upfront charging damages the health of migrants and British citizens alike. From children having their cancer treatment delayed and women suffering preventable birth complications, to the Windrush scandal which saw British citizens of commonwealth descent denied an array of health services, the human cost of these policies is unacceptable. </p> <p>The call from the Royal College of Physicians, supported by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Faculty of Public Health to halt the charges pending a full review, is the latest example of the professional dismay at the unwillingness of the government to engage in evidence-based policy. Working as a junior doctor in London, I experience first-hand the harm caused to patients who have their health care denied and delayed. As I sit comforting the women denied psychological support on the verge of breakdown after years of domestic abuse, I am constantly amazed at the pointless brutality of a system which denies the vulnerable care: as a clinician, and a human, I feel her suffering.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">UCL-Lancet commission</a> on migration and health that was released this month highlights the economic fallout of pursuing exclusionary health policies for migrants. It evidences the net economic benefit of migration for host countries, and debunks common myths of migrants being a ‘drain’ on local services. Indeed, on average migrants experience superior life expectancy than the national average of their host countries. The commission also links poor maternal health outcomes among migrants to barriers created to prevent them from accessing services - a statistic that Britain regrettably contributes to. </p> <p>Patients in a South London hospital have been asked for a deposit before giving birth - as if not having the down payment will stop them going into labour. It does however, as one woman tells me, stop her from attending her antenatal appointments.</p> <p>Analysis of charging of non-EEA patients have demonstrated the unequal impact on women of reproductive age, with numerous reports documenting individual <a href="" target="_blank">pregnant women’s struggles</a>. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) last week released<a href="" target="_blank"> research</a> which <em>again </em>demonstrated women who have been through the asylum system are not accessing antenatal care due to fears of charging. </p> <p>These retrograde policies, of trying to scare patients into not attending hospital appointments under the guise of cost saving, are Theresa May’s hostile environment in action. Women have to choose between the cost of giving birth and the cost of an abortion, financially penalised for an activity which inextricably involves members of both sex. These patterns of out of pocket health care costs impacting women are echoed around the globe, with the World Bank reporting that only 17% of the poorest households have adequate maternal health care compared to 74% of the wealthiest.</p> <p>Why has upfront charging been implemented despite there being no clear economic benefit, and an array of documented patient harm? These policies are politically motivated; an attempt to win votes based on anti-immigration rhetoric, backed by a right wing press that stokes racial tensions.</p> <p>It is not only migrant women’s health that is suffering under the current UK government. Recent analysis of <a href="" target="_blank">life expectancy data in England</a> has shown the alarming increase in health inequalities in the UK. Whilst life expectancy continues to grow for the wealthiest in society, women in the two most deprived deciles have seen a decrease in life expectancy since 2011 (a year after the conservative coalition government came to power). These gender based inequalities are unsurprising, given how<a href="" target="_blank"> austerity has disproportionately impacted the lives of women</a>. As the UN special report on extreme poverty demonstrated, spending cuts have hit women hard, <a href="" target="_blank">exacerbating domestic violence</a>, whilst the policy of universal credit places women at risk of <a href="" target="_blank">economic abuse</a>. With pro-nationalist groups who proudly declare themselves “anti-feminist” (Bolsonaro’s Social Liberty Party in Brazil, Vox in Spain) gaining power around the world, we must remain as vigilant as ever in the fight against gender inequities. </p> <p>The dangerous wave of nationalism that is sweeping across Europe will only serve to drive inequalities deeper. Italy <a href="" target="_blank">last week revoked</a> the work permits of many migrants, overnight forcing them into an undocumented status. The MSF ship <a href="" target="_blank">Aquarius has had to stop sailing</a>, after failing to find a flag to sail under, abandoning thousands to drown in the Mediterranean. This just three years after the body of 3-year old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian child fleeing conflict, washed up on a beach in Greece provoking international outrage. It appears to be a sad case of out of sight, out of mind.</p> <p>The release of these statements should act as a call to action for the medical community and a wake-up call to the government, that their harmful practices will not be tolerated in the NHS. I am proud to be part of a medical community that will stand up in the face of adversity for what we know to be right.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/ed-jones/upfront-nhs-charges-one-year-on-6-reasons-why-they-harm-us-all">Upfront NHS charges one year on - 6 reasons why they harm us all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/feminist-fightback/why-healthcare-for-all-is-feminist-issue">Why healthcare for all is a feminist issue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/rayah-feldman/pregnant-women-bear-brunt-of-government-s-clampdown-on-migrant-nhs-care">Pregnant women bear brunt of government’s clampdown on ‘migrant’ NHS care</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/ex-boss-of-england-s-nhs-blasts-nhs-migrant-policy-as-national-scandal">Ex-boss of England’s NHS blasts NHS migrant policy as a “national scandal”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS UK Joanna Dobbin Thu, 20 Dec 2018 16:34:46 +0000 Joanna Dobbin 121097 at How Scousers see off the fascists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent successful efforts to repel fascist groups draw on a long history of antifascist mobilisation in Liverpool.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// antifa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// antifa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Police separate EDL and antifascist demonstrators at Lime Street station, 2017. Credit: Eleanor Barlow/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>A peaceful but surprisingly large group of people from a range of backgrounds crowded around the entrance to Moorefields train station in Liverpool last month. Warmly dressed against the cold and carrying European and antifascist flags, they were there to stage a counter-demonstration against a planned march of the <a href="">Northwest Frontline Patriots</a> (NFP). A far-right group whose activism revolves around support for EDL-founder Tommy Robinson, pro-Brexit efforts, and claims that migrants are sexually assaulting British children, the NFP had intended to stage a demonstration in support of a strong Brexit. The handful of NFP activists found their way out of the train station blocked by counter-demonstrators and <a href="">went home early</a>. One group of UKIP supporters who had intended to join them <a href="">cancelled their plans</a> when news of the counter-protest spread. The antifascist crowd included Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, and groups such as Hope not Hate, Merseyside Together, and Unite Against Fascism.</p> <p>Antifascists playing Benny Hill music also managed to contain a larger EDL rally at the city’s Lime Street Station <a href="">in June 2017</a>. More violent clashes between antifascists and a far-right group known as the North West Infidels took place in front of Liverpool’s St George’s Hall <a href="">in February 2016</a>, and antifascists throwing water bottles, eggs, and bananas stopped a ‘White Man’s March’ by the neo-Nazi group National Action <a href="">in August 2015</a>. Antifascism is a core element of the city’s Scouse identity, and antifascists such as the mayor, Joe Anderson, are able to draw on this element of local pride in order to mobilize people around calls to ‘protect’ the streets from fascists. </p> <p>Scouse antifascism emerged in the 1930s along with the establishment of the <a href="">British Union of Fascists</a> (BUF). Fascists failed to develop strong support in Liverpool - despite having significant footholds in nearby Southport, Manchester, and Birmingham. When Oswald Mosley tried to hold a rally in Liverpool in December 1937 he ended up in hospital after being hit in the head with a rock. Despite high levels of unemployment during the Great Depression, the BUF’s focus on middle-class muscular masculinity did not appeal to the largely working-class population, and its version of English Protestantism alienated the large numbers of Irish Catholics, Scots, Welsh, Italians, and other religious minorities. Moreover, anti-immigrant violence against Germans, West Indians, and West Africans during and after the First World War had largely died down by the 1930s. The Conservative Party dominated local politics throughout the interwar period, but these decades also witnessed the rise of a much stronger union movement. The <a href="///C:/Users/ipiwa/Downloads/Transport%20and%20General%20Workers&#039;%20Union">Transport and General Workers' Union</a> (TGWU) boasted a significant following in the city, and led by Jack Jones, working-class organizing took on an antifascist flavour that resulted in a number of Socialists and Communists from Liverpool volunteering to fight in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).</p> <p>Far-right groups such as British Aid for the Repatriation of Immigrants and the People’s Progressive Party formed in Liverpool during the 1960s, but were heavily outnumbered in the by-now solidly Labour city. In the 1975 municipal elections, for example, the National Front gained only 3% of the vote in Liverpool and the <a href="">British Movement</a> 2%. At the same time, however, some Everton fans gained a reputation for racism, and graffiti supporting the National Front was common in the area. Widespread racism in Liverpool schools made headlines in the mid-1980s, but this was unconnected to organised fascist groups. Liverpool’s Labour Party was dominated by the Trotskyist Militant group during most of the 1980s, contributing a distinctively left-wing flavour to municipal politics and further solidifying local antifascism. Militant maintained close ties to the Socialist Workers Party, which was the driving force behind the <a href="">Anti-Nazi League</a> at the time, a movement best known for its music festivals, <em>Rock Against Racism</em>. Antifascism continued in Liverpool during the 1990s after its influence declined along with the collapse of the National Front as a serious political party and increased again when support for the British National Party grew during the early twenty-first century.</p> <p>The city’s demographics and political preferences have changed dramatically over the past 85 years, but antifascism has remained strong because it is tied to a municipal identity that proudly asserts its Scouse uniqueness. The fact that Scouse identity celebrates working-class culture contributes to local antifascism in no small measure. Similarly, the sense of ownership that Liverpudlians feel over their city makes it easier for antifascists to convince supporters to take to the streets.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Roland Clark Thu, 20 Dec 2018 12:11:32 +0000 Roland Clark 121088 at Government immigration plans will harm integration and fuel negative perceptions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Proposals for short term visas, separating families, and income caps will worsen rather than assuage public concerns, say Hope not Hate.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Home Secretary Sajid Javid presenting the Immigration White Paper in parliament, 19th December 2018. Credit: House of Commons/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With 100 days to go until Brexit, today’s much-delayed proposal <span><a href="">for immigration after Brexit</a></span> indicates the chaos that lies ahead, with many members of the Government up all night arguing the detail of yesterday’s release.</p> <p>The immigration white paper is critical, given that immigration was a key driver behind the decision to leave the EU. But with many of the details now announced, it presents yet another case of the Government cutting off the country’s nose to spite our collective face. </p> <p>This post-Brexit migration system is not “taking back control”. It is attempting to control the immigration debate. Forcing an unworkable control agenda will in fact increase, not reduce, public concerns about immigration.</p> <p>We ran the <span><a href="">largest ever public consultation on immigration</a></span>, the National Conversation on Immigration, and found that for most people <span><a href="">control, contribution and fairness</a></span> were the most important factors for a post-Brexit immigration system. </p> <p>The vast majority of people do not want a hardline immigration crackdown that will damage the economy and harm communities. They want a system that is <em>controlled</em>, yes – but not by arbitrary numbers. They want a system that means migrants can contribute, but not just according to their pay grade. And they want a system that is fair, to both migrants and receiving communities, not one which hampers integration. </p> <p>This white paper delivers on none of these public demands. Instead, by overpromising and under-delivering, it will fuel perceptions that immigration is even more out of control and will add to broader resentments which <span><a href="">our research shows</a></span> will charge anti-immigrant feeling even more, adding to community tensions. </p> <p>The paper plans erratic reductions on migrant numbers that just can’t be delivered. Excluding the <span><a href="">net migration target</a></span> in the paper is an admittance that numeric targets plucked out of thin air do not work. <span><a href="">Javid’s claim</a></span> that these measures put forward will reduce European Economic Area (EEA) migration by 80% is ridiculous, and hard talk on immigration will not be matched by what people see in their communities. Immigration from outside the EEA has been increasing over recent years, and will increase further under these proposals. </p> <p>The proposals set out in this white paper will ultimately harm the economy, which will also fuels anxiety. Our <span><a href="">Fear, Hope and Loss report </a></span>–&nbsp;which brought together seven years of polling across 43,000 people –&nbsp;shows how economic decline actually pushes up concern about immigration, as standards of living slip and resentment bubbles. These proposals will also lead to significant shortages in sectors that are already in desperate need of workers, adding to the social care and NHS crisis, further inflating public resentment about migrants perceived to be adding to strains on public services. </p> <p>The proposed minimum income threshold of £30,000, even with some flexibility, is unworkable. At present, <span><a href="">76% of EU </a></span>nationals working in Britain earn less than £30,000. This is also above the average UK salary and would have an even bigger regional impact: wages in Southend or Huddersfield <span><a href="">for example</a></span> are half that in London.</p> <p>Regardless, “low pay” is no measure of “low-skilled”, and would eliminate care workers, technicians, and thousands of jobs already facing acute skills shortages. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimated that four in five (79%) of EEA employees working full-time in social care would have been ineligible to work in the UK under the skills and salary thresholds proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), on which many of the white paper proposals are based. Removing a cap on high-skilled workers is good, but this is not how our economy works. We cannot rely on scientists and doctors alone: the economy, and society, needs teaching assistants and fruit pickers and security guards as well.</p> <p>Moreover, this immigration paper’s control agenda will bring about serious integration challenges. <span><a href="">Our research</a></span> has shown that although concerns about immigration have slowed over recent years, partly as many think it will be better controlled after Brexit, <em>integration</em> has grown as an area of public concern, with attitudes towards Muslims in particular hardening. This paper does not offer a “two-way street” for integration, but creates an unwelcoming environment and disincentive to do so. </p> <p>The proposals mean that EEA “low-skilled” migrants will only be able to stay in the UK for a year and will be unable to bring family members with them. We found that 61% of people thought that it was better when migrants commit to stay in Britain that they put down roots and integrate. Some of the biggest concerns we heard in the National Conversation on Immigration were about integration. Short-term visas are an unpopular option: just 16% of people in our ICM poll thought that EU nationals coming to fill low-skilled jobs should only be offered temporary visas lasting a maximum of three years, instead showing preference for longer-term initiatives.</p> <p>One year is not enough time for most new migrants to put down roots, and will deter those with children. Most people want a fair immigration system that keeps families together –&nbsp;the National Conversation found only 29% in our ICM poll wanted to reduce numbers of non-British immediate family members. Given that public concern about immigration flares up in response to arrivals of single young men, putting limits on family migration seems counterintuitive to winning back public trust on migration. </p> <p>The Government had an opportunity here to show leadership on migration and create an immigration system that builds consensus. It is an opportunity they have wasted. The Government is clearly pandering to prejudice and in doing so will only heighten public concern about migration.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Rosie Carter Thu, 20 Dec 2018 11:33:32 +0000 Rosie Carter 121087 at If the government puts soldiers on the streets in a hard Brexit, we must refuse to obey them <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK defence secretary has said the army is on stand by in case of a no deal Brexit. But the armed forces have no business on the streets of Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// of the British Army (United Kingdom) march for a .jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// of the British Army (United Kingdom) march for a .jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British soldiers in Khazakstan, by SSGT Jeffrey Allen, USAF</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Just when you thought that Brexit couldn’t get any more chaotic, up popped Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to assure that he has things under control. He told the Commons that he has 3,500 troops on stand-by to deal with “contingencies” in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Williamson’s comments were welcomed by the sort of people who think that the ultimate solution to any problem is to send in people with guns.</p><p dir="ltr">Gavin Williamson was in the Commons to set out the latest stage of the euphemistically named “Modernising Defence” review, which consists largely of clinging to a militaristic model of security while demanding more money for the armed forces and the arms industry.</p><p dir="ltr">But then he was asked a question by Will Quince, the Tory MP for Colchester. Could the armed forces help out in the event of a no-deal Brexit? Williamson <a href="">said</a>, “What we are doing is putting contingency plans in place, and what we will do is have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness, including regulars and reserves, in order to support any government department on any contingencies they may need.” </p><p>So we have confirmation of thousands of troops being lined up for potential deployment within the UK, and we’re told about it with extreme brevity in a casual answer to a backbencher’s question. In reality, Williamson was probably prepared in advance. Quince was his Parliamentary Private Secretary until he resigned over Theresa May’s Brexit deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Nonetheless, it shows the government’s contempt for the British public that they will announce something so major while giving no details. Downing Street later responded to enquiries with a vague statement about the MoD’s “long-standing and important function in relation to sensible planning for contingencies”. </p><p>For some people, armed forces are the ultimate solution. Needing them implies things are bad, but keeping them on hand suggests things will be OK. Such a mindset seems to involve not only a simplistic trust in violence and coercion, but a staggeringly naive belief that the institutions of the state exist to serve and protect the British people.</p><p dir="ltr">I will never feel safer because of the presence of an organisation whose members are required to obey orders, including orders to kill, without reference to their own conscience. Any such organisation makes me feel considerably less safe. </p><p>The Peace Pledge Union has already <a href="">called on the Defence Secretary</a> to clarify his statement. Could these 3,500 troops be used for social control in the event of civil unrest?</p><p>Both leavers and remainers emphasise their belief in democracy. Democracy is not about controlling people through the barrel of a gun. Sending troops onto the streets is no alternative to listening to people's grievances.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Under British law, troops have no authority over civilians unless martial law is declared</p><p dir="ltr">Under British law, troops have no authority over civilians unless martial law is declared, including no power to carry out arrests.</p><p dir="ltr">So if they appear on the street, let’s assert our freedom from military authority. </p><p>Soldiers who (for example) stand in a road telling us not to walk down it have no legal right to arrest us if we fail to comply. They are not police officers. Their power would rest on our willingness to go along with them. If we value our freedom and our rights, we must not allow the armed forces to have control over civilian society.</p><p dir="ltr">At this point, some will say that I’m exaggerating the threat. Perhaps Williamson is thinking that the troops will be used to deliver food and medicine in the event of a supply crisis? If this is what he means, he needs to say so.</p><p dir="ltr">Why, however, do we need troops to carry out such emergency services? The UK has more <a href="">armed forces personnel</a> than firefighters and paramedics combined. As we need people with the courage and skills to deal well with chaotic and dangerous situations, we should be funding and recruiting for civilian emergency services, not allowing the armed forces to present themselves as our saviours in a crisis.</p><p dir="ltr">In the Commons this week, Williamson called for an extra £340m for the armed forces. This is in addition to the extra £1bn that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, promised in the recent budget. Even before that was announced, the UK government had the <a href="">seventh highest</a> military spending in the world.</p><p dir="ltr">In the last ten years or so, Britain has become more militarised, with a sharp rise in cadet forces, an increase in military visits to schools and the introduction of events such as <a href="">Armed Forces Day</a>. Now we’re expected to treat the deployment of troops within the UK as a minor detail of government plans.</p><p dir="ltr">We must not allow this. We can have a militarised society, or we can have a democratic society. We cannot have both.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-olympic-fiasco-british-soldiers-are-people-pipeline-now">G4S Olympic fiasco: British soldiers are the ‘people pipeline’ now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britains-military-costs-of-failure-symbols-of-vanity">Britain&#039;s military: costs of failure, symbols of vanity </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit army military Symon Hill Wed, 19 Dec 2018 18:28:51 +0000 Symon Hill 121076 at ‘Deserving’ settlement in post-Brexit Britain: challenges posed by the settled status scheme <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's striking that the difference between the proof of continuous residence under the settlement scheme and the EU understanding of “lawful status” has not been more widely debated. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The 3million movement in action. Facebook. Fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>On the morning on which the results of the European Union referendum were announced, Europeans in the UK woke up to a new Britain: the country will ‘take back control’ by leaving the EU and shutting down the freedom of movement of people. It soon became clear that controls would not only be put in place for Europeans who arrived after Brexit but also those already in the country would need to apply for a new discretionary immigration status in order to win the right to remain in the UK and carry on with their lives.&nbsp;</p><p>Less than three months away from exiting the European Union and in anticipation of the Home Office opening registration for the settled status scheme, we examine this new type of residence and its consequences for European citizens in the UK.</p><h2><strong>The new immigration status&nbsp;</strong></h2><p>Settled status is a residence scheme for European citizens in Britain. All European nationals as well as their non-EU family members will need to apply for settled and pre-settled status if they want to continue lawful residence in UK after the transition period expires. When Britain exits the European Union on March 29, 2019, there will be a transition period&nbsp;&nbsp;– from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020 – in which European citizens can still use their full freedom of movement rights as before. They stand to lose many others rights as well, including the&nbsp;<a href="">right to non-discrimination</a>based on nationality and&nbsp;<a href="">voting rights</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>To gain settled status, one will need to apply electronically from a computer or through an app specially developed for this operation. The application has three steps:</p><p>1)&nbsp;Verifying the identity of the person making the application. If the application is made from a smartphone or a tablet via the app then the identity check can be done immediately by scanning the electronic passport (for those who have one) and uploading a picture. If the application is done from a computer and one does not have an electronic passport then the identity document will need to be mailed (by post) to the Home Office.</p><p>2)&nbsp;Demonstrating continuous residence. According to the Home Office definition, continuous residence is “5 years in a row you’ve been in the UK for at least 6 months in any 12 month period” (exceptional circumstances when the 6 months rule does not apply include childbirth, serious illnesses, military service).&nbsp;There are a multitude of documents accepted by Home office to show that one has been a resident in the UK (<a href="">see HO guidance on the matter</a>). The online application has built-in capacity to match National Insurance Numbers (NINO) against HMRC records in real time.&nbsp;</p><p>3)&nbsp; Check of any criminal records. Each applicant will need to pay a fee of £65 (with a card) before submitting the application. Parents or appointed guardians will need to make separate applications for each child and pay an additional fee of £32,5 per child. In terms of outcomes, only three are possible: (i) settled status is granted for individuals who demonstrate their residence for 5 years prior to making the application; (ii) pre-settled status is granted, this is an intermediate status for individuals who have accumulated less than 5 years of continuous residence at the time of making the application and (iii) the application is refused. Once Home Office decides on the application, a notification is sent to the email of the individual with a link to their electronic settled status.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>What does the first Home Office 'pilot' tell us?</strong></h2><p>The application for settlement status was tested in a pilot over the summer of 2018 in a number of selected universities and NHS trusts in the North West, with 1000 participants.The second phase of the scheme starts in November 2018, for which only certain categories of European citizens are eligible: employees of universities, employees of NHS trusts and social carers.&nbsp;</p><p>Family members of these employees will not qualify yet for the scheme and European citizens with dependents are being advised to wait, as the software of the pilot does not allow for linked applications. Five months later and one day after Brexit Day, on March 30, 2019, all European citizens and their non-EU family members in UK become eligible for Settled Status.&nbsp;</p><p>The progressive roll out of the scheme is controversial because it effectively creates privileged access to certain occupational categories – academics, doctors, nurses and social carers – demarcating in this way a group of ‘wanted’ and ‘deserving’ European citizens. However, not even this privileged group, can apply for their&nbsp;<a href="">spouses, children and other dependents or parents</a>until March 30, 2019. All European citizens, HO stresses, have the duty to apply for Settled Status. The scheme is only open until June 30, 2021: after this date, those who will not register for settled status or will be have it refused, will presumably be subject to immigration control under UK immigration law.</p><p>The Home Office&nbsp;<a href="">paints the pilot phase</a>of the settled scheme as a success that has reassured the European community. ‘No application was refused’ and ‘all participants received the expected outcome’ it notes in its recent report. The application is quick, taking no more than an hour, and decisions were handled quickly within the first 10 days from submission. However, the pilot has been tested with model candidates, and workers in the public sector with full and up to date employment records. Their family members or young children did not participate in the scheme.&nbsp;</p><p>Even so, the report carefully notes that only 64% of the applicants received settled status while over a third were granted only pre-settled status. These individuals will need to continue to evidence their situation in the UK before they acquire 5 years of residence. Since the pilot was conducted with such a small group of people (a thousand out of 3.5 million who will need this status) there are serious concerns about the capacity of the Home Office to deal with this volume in a timely and orderly manner.&nbsp;</p><p>A participant in the pilot who wished to remain anonymous said three months later he has not received any decision on his case as the application is lost and that he was asked to reapply.&nbsp;I have been working in the UK since 2009 and am married to a Brit. The Home Office confirmed that their records showed I had applied, though all I was told was ‘that the system is being tested and glitches are possible.’ It is important to note that the final report of the HO did not mention any glitches such as lost applications, whilst more glitches in relation to passport recognition&nbsp;<a href="">have been reported</a>recently by applicants in the second pilot.&nbsp;</p><p>The application for settled status speaks to the vulnerability and uncertainty that is being shared by over three million people in the UK. ‘To some degree, we were already used to the emotional limbo that Brexit has put our lives in. But the registration process has amplified the worry and feeling of powerlessness and voicelessness.’</p><h2><strong>Who, what and where will settled status fail?&nbsp;</strong></h2><p>There are different requirements for individuals to gain settled and pre-settled status as compared to the previous permanent residence for EU citizens. The 38/2004 Directive indeed establishes the full right to freedom of movement on the basis of EU citizenship&nbsp;<em>only for the first 3 months&nbsp;</em>of their stay (during which however they also have no right to social assistance).</p><p>EU citizens’ right to lawful residence for longer periods (and thereby to exercise their free movement rights into any member state other than their own) is indeed conditional upon them demonstrating their status as workers, jobseekers, students, a ‘financially self-sufficient person’ and or a family member of these. According to the ‘Citizens Directive’, EU migrants have a right to reside in other member states if they work or if they are out of work but have sufficient resources&nbsp;<em>not to&nbsp;become&nbsp;</em>an “unreasonable burden on social assistance”, and if covered by sickness insurance.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The notion of “habitual residence” (different from the UK newly proposed one of continuous residence) is not defined under EU law, but national case law over the years has established under which circumstances someone is habitually resident, whereby length and continuity of residence and family links are usually taken into account to ascertain where a citizen’s “centre of interest” lies.&nbsp;</p><p>In this regard the UK has demonstrated a stricter approach than other EU member states, especially in the area of non-contributory benefits, since the system requires that, beside the “habitual residence test” migrants must demonstrate that they have a ‘<a href="">right to reside</a>.” Under the new system, and differently from the notion of lawful residence under EU law where a kind of link with employment and economic self- sufficiency remain, UK requirements to obtain settled status appears to consist only in proof of continuous presence in the territory of the UK, apparently de-linked from work situation. For EU applicants to either settled or pre-settled status, it therefore becomes a question of evidencing physical and continuous presence in the UK, independent from economic self-sufficiency, employment, the necessity to hold health insurance or proof of not having been a ‘burden’.&nbsp;</p><p>This is where we see an element of ambiguity because the kind of evidence that is listed on the Government website rather suggests that a link with the labour market is still required: national insurance number (NINO), P60 or P45; payslips, bank statements, utility bills, annual business accounts, employers contracts or letters confirming employment, letters invoices or certificates form by accredited educational organisations, passport stamps confirming entry at the UK border, tenancy agreements, airlines or train tickets.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>As employment remains the easiest and fastest way to demonstrate ‘continuous residence’ in the UK there is still much confusion about whether workers will have to prove continuous employment (problems with illegal/undocumented working, ancillary, cash-in hand, zero hours contracts type of work). This shows that the government is still failing to provide effective communication about settled status for those with precarious histories. We find it striking that the difference between the proof of continuous residence under the settlement scheme and the EU understanding of “lawful status” has not been more widely advertised in the media and public discourse.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In such a turbulent political climate, where hundreds of thousands including British citizens have demonstrated for a People’s Vote on the deal achieved by the PM, and while we are still waiting for (a very unpredictable) outcome by the Parliament, EU nationals may want to take the time to think more inventively about how people without continuous employment and in vulnerable situations can produce evidence to obtain settled status.&nbsp;</p><p>Pieces of evidence listed by the HO during a local meeting organised with local authorities are for instance: medical appointment letters or letters from schools demonstrating that migrant parents have attended school-family meetings consistently across a period of time. Such helpful examples are still currently missing from the official HO website and it should be the ongoing work of communities and their reps to demand more clarity from the government about what would constitute ‘sufficient evidence’. By contrast,&nbsp;<a href="">in a recent guideline document</a>the HO has specified that personal documents such as personal letter birthday cards would not attest presence, despite the fact that such documents are accepted by judges in immigration courts.</p><p>Another key takeaway from meetings with the HO is regarding&nbsp;<a href="">family re-union rights for ascending and descending relatives</a>(including elderly parents and adult children). European citizens who obtain settled status will be in a position to call on their family members to join them in UK after July 2021. One example that was given is that of a French national who comes to study in UK, and finds work. His parents in 10 years’ time decide to retire to the UK to be close to their daughter. In this case the French national will be able to bring their parents over based on the rights emerging from settled status. But what will happen to those whose relatives have non-EU nationality? And what will happen in the event of a ‘no deal’ to this family re-union right as well as the right to return to the EU country of origin with the non-EU relative or carer? All these issues are still worryingly uncertain (<a href="">see the EU rights clinic blog</a>).</p><p>Vulnerable communities will find it particularly difficult to secure settled status. In the briefing session with the HO attended by the authors, there was a critical intervention from a social worker who raised the example of a vulnerable woman from eastern Europe who has been out of work and was abused by her husband, on whom she is economically dependent. The front desk worker admitted that she had no alternative but to advise this migrant woman to go back to her country, leaving her children with the abusive father, as she was unable to produce any evidence. We report this example as an obviously extreme scenario to show clearly how already marginalised individuals can be failed by the system, their (family) life and the lives of their children potentially destroyed. This case also indicates lack of training for front desk social workers, and the many problems this will create in the future, with the worst consequences for vulnerable migrants and women locked in abusive relationships.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Vulnerable communities &nbsp;</strong></h2><p>The concern with vulnerable communities and their access to settled status is two-fold as it involves both procedural and substantial issues:</p><p>1)&nbsp;At the point of access, people with little or no digital literacy will be more likely to not apply correctly or may fall prey to wrong-doers who charge extra for this service. Similarly, the cost of the application will be difficult to cover for disadvantaged people and large families;&nbsp;</p><p>2)&nbsp;Many Europeans especially from the new member states in the EU would have fragmented employment histories, having worked cash-in-hand and or through self-employment and they lived in shared accommodation in properties that include sublet properties in the private market.&nbsp;It is likely that those with stronger bargaining power (according to their sector and contract of employment) will also be in a better position to obtain their employers’ cover for expenses (as is happening in some universities), but what about those in informal employment/exploitative relations and already highly dependent on their employers?</p><p>3)&nbsp;&nbsp;Furthermore, there is no clarity as to what will happen with children in care and foster children, their rights and those of their (biological) parents, as they are not part of the calculation in the current format of settled status.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>4)&nbsp;Another great unknown is regarding the conditions under which settled status can be lost. These continue to be elusive with certainty only when it comes to terrorism offences leading to loss of settled status. These conditions must be clarified before settled status is issued, so people are aware of them.</p><p>With regard to point (ii) an interesting question has emerged in relation to the opportunity that “others” may apply on your behalf (indeed some employers have the IDs and documents of their workers). As the Home Office said during the meeting with the local authority mentioned above: “we cannot take the finger prints of those who submitted the application”.&nbsp;</p><p>A member of the audience raised the point that some employers may decide to apply for you without your consent. Also, some recruitment agencies may do the same if they want to keep workers on their books. By letting employers and agencies apply on the workers’ behalf, employment dependency can put the worker and his family in a situation of further uncertainty/vulnerability.&nbsp;</p><p>This is yet another example of how immigration controls and the process of “regularisation” may once again ‘filter’ differently more or less desirable migrants, and entrench dependencies in employment relations.</p><h2><strong>Online status only</strong></h2><p>A core problem of settled status continues to be having only an electronic status. Border UK officers, landlords and employers will be able to check ‘immigration’ status by verifying it online. Hostile environment policy has already introduced additional duties for employers, landlords, educational institutions to conduct independent checks of immigration status. The hostile environment not only amplified the number of border guards but it also extended immigration areas to include new actors particularly in the private sector. The&nbsp;<a href="">Windrush affair</a>was a direct consequence of such a hostile environment policy and its racist application.&nbsp;</p><p>Since an electronic immigration status is unique and has no replica anywhere in the world, there are many questions as to how an electronic immigration status will perform in real life situations:&nbsp;</p><p>1)&nbsp; How well does settled status protect the rights it provides to its bearer and family members? Settled status is not solely a residence permit, it is the very source of many rights for European citizens, including those of family reunion after Exit day;&nbsp;</p><p>2)&nbsp;How will private landlords, NHS staff, Border UK officers respond to the new status? What do we know about how settled status will be incorporated into hiring procedures, for example? Will there be guidance to train people how to verify online electronic status?&nbsp;</p><p>Only testing registration to settled status is not sufficient.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href=";fbclid=IwAR0I9IJqO0NoAUtHlWe6IPwkHgAcbcb70ULbIMc_x_54fVCFj-6o4DWiwzQ">comments from the Migration minister</a>to the effect that it is up to employers to check the right of work of EU nationals before the transition period ends has been far from helpful.&nbsp;HO should test how settled status works in practice. Just imagine if, when the NHS was set up, we had only monitored registration in the National Service and not how to protect the good health of the individual, and how this contributes to public health.&nbsp;</p><p>Finally, as the UK leaves the European Union, European citizens will enter British immigration laws becoming what is known as ‘subject to immigration control’. In a country with a proud tradition of rejecting state issued ID documents and where identity can be proved with cards and driver licences for EU and non-EU citizens alike, they would now need to indicate their permits and settled status number to confirm identity. This is a&nbsp;<em>dangerous conflation of identity and immigration check&nbsp;</em>and it institutes a differentiated regime for British nationals from non-citizen residents.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Conclusions: those who ‘deserve’ settlement and (im)mobility</strong></h2><p>To trickle down information on EU nationals’ regularisation under Brexit from the national to the local level and to avoid EU migrants becoming de facto illegalised, is clearly a challenging task. The ongoing anxiety and uncertainty attached to a ‘no deal’ scenario for both UK nationals in the EU and EU people in the UK, goes in the opposite direction from one encouraging applications. Communities and academics can play an important role in ensuring that the right information reaches everyone, especially those most isolated, to voice issues and concerns from the bottom up, and create the right support network that will protect those who fall through the cracks.</p><p>Overall, we are witnessing the ‘hostile environment’ creeping into the new settlement scheme process. Despite reassurances that the settlement scheme is more flexible than the permanent residence one, and the rhetoric that the online application is designed to grant status by default, it still seems that it will be harder for precarious migrants with less-linear pathways to obtain settled or pre-settled status. If detailed guidance on evidence is not provided, precisely those who are more vulnerable risk providing their details to the government only to then see their application rejected.</p><p>Attempting a more optimistic stance in the midst of never ending frustrating limbo, there may be a chance to reverse the rhetoric of the “contributing or deserving migrants” whereby the proof of having used social services and the NHS can be twisted and used strategically to support the case for settled status.&nbsp;</p><p>But can it be, really? Anecdotal evidence rather suggests that migrants without a clear 5 year track, are being advised to sign on as jobseekers and/or of not leaving the country to avoid losing continuity of residence. Or else to postpone visits to their home countries until they have obtained settled status, leading to the old paradox that restrictions to mobility make people actually less keen to move back to their countries.&nbsp;</p><p>The likely outcome is a more divided and anxious migrant population, precarised and immobilised by a system over which they had no chance to be consulted, as with the decision in the first place to leave the EU.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Roxana Barbulescu Gabriella Alberti Wed, 19 Dec 2018 16:40:20 +0000 Gabriella Alberti and Roxana Barbulescu 121072 at Fresh concerns raised over DUP’s secret Brexit donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Caroline Lucas MP calls on UK watchdog to ‘re-open investigation’, after new evidence suggests ‘deeply irresponsible’ initial inquiry</p><div></div> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caroline Lucas with DUP MPs. Image,</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">I’m a journalist. It’s my job to ask questions of powerful people. If I just wrote down their answers, without doing much to check whether they were true, and then reported them as facts, I would soon be unemployed.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet it appears this is what the UK Electoral Commission – the body tasked with protecting the integrity of our elections – has just done during its ‘investigation’ of a controversial, secret Brexit donation.</p><p>Let me explain.</p><p dir="ltr">In April, <a href="">Peter Geoghegan</a> and I went to Belfast. We wanted to find out more about <a href="">a mysterious £435,000 donation</a> to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which had bankrolled lavish pro-Brexit advertising in the final days before the knife-edge EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission is supposed to know where the money came from, and to check that the source is legal. But the donation is covered by an archaic Northern Irish secrecy law, under which they are banned from telling the public the source of the cash.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite this, we’d managed to find some things out. The donation was ten times more than the DUP spent on the previous Northern Irish elections – and almost none of it was spent in Northern Ireland. After pressure from our investigation, the DUP was forced to reveal that the money was funnelled to them via a secretive front group run by a <a href="">Scottish Tory called Richard Cook</a>. This was not a man who had half a million quid hiding under his mattress. So: where did the cash really come from?</p><p dir="ltr">When we arrived in Belfast, we’d already shown that Richard Cook set up a company in 2013 with the former head of <a href="">Saudi intelligence</a> and a man who admitted to us that he was involved in running hundreds of Kalashnikovs to a <a href="">radical Hindu group</a> in West Bengal in 1995. We’d already uncovered that Richard Cook had been <a href="">fined for breaking the law</a> over failing to disclose the source(s) of the DUP’s cash to the Electoral Commision.</p><p dir="ltr">While we were there, the Northern Irish Electoral Commission told us something new. They said they now knew where the money had come from, and that it was legal. This was a bucket of cold water on a story that had started to catch fire.</p><p dir="ltr">But there has always been a part of me that’s been a bit sceptical. What resource had the Commission really put into checking where this cash came from? Had they just asked the DUP and Cook, and believed their answers?</p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after our trip, BBC Spotlight in Northern Ireland <a href="">broadcast their investigation</a> into the same story. They had traced Richard Cook’s businesses to industrial scale fly-tipping in South East Asia and a bizarre deal involving hundreds of tonnes of fictional railway tracks in Ukraine. My scepticism only grew. What had the Commission actually done to check this man’s claims about where he got the cash?</p><p dir="ltr">This week, we got the beginnings of an answer to that question. The Good Law Centre has taken the Electoral Commission to court, arguing that they should reopen the investigation into this donation. As part of the process, the Commission has written to Jolyon Maugham QC, outlining the extent of their investigations so far, and he shared the letter with us. It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative – it’s impossible to be sure the Commission haven’t done things they don’t mention, and some of the language in their letter is vague. But let me give you some samples.</p><p dir="ltr">Describing their investigation of the Democratic Unionist Party, the Commission says that, on 14 September 2016:</p><p dir="ltr">“The DUP told us how long it has been aware of the CRC [the organisation fronted by Richard Cook] and its work, that it had confirmed the CRC was a multi-member organisation and that the CRC responded to letters sent to the address it gave the party. The party confirmed that it was satisfied that the CRC was a permissible donor.”</p><p>But it was never in doubt whether the CRC was a permissible donor, nor whether Richard Cook lives where he says he does. I’ve been to his house, I know he does. The question at the heart of this story is who gave the money to the CRC, and whether they are allowed to donate to political causes.</p><p dir="ltr">The note does address that question too, sort of. It says that, after the CRC initially failed to declare where it had got its cash from, it did then deliver “the notifications that were due”, and that the Commission “verified that the funders of the CRC were permissible sources”.</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the thing. It’s not at all clear that the Commission did anything in this process which didn’t involve asking the DUP and the CRC where this cash came from, and then believing their answer. It seems as though they simply asked the Richard Cook “who gave you this money?” and then, when they got a name, checked that the person named was on the Electoral Register.</p><p dir="ltr">If they used their legal status to demand evidence – bank transfers of cheque stubs, for example – then they don’t say so. The Commission <a href="">has the right</a> to request inspection warrants and require people to attend statutory interviews, where it’s a criminal offence to fail to answer questions. If they used these powers to gather the sort of proof that journalists can’t demand, then they don’t say so in their letter. And you’d have thought, given that this letter is their attempt to argue that the case shouldn’t be re-opened, that they would tell us if they had used these powers.</p><p dir="ltr">The letter also reveals for the first time that the person within the DUP who is said to have checked out the permissibility of the donation is their Brexit campaign manager, Jeffrey Donaldson MP. Yet, in February last year, after the Commission’s supposed investigation, Donaldson even <a href="">told us</a> that he believed (wrongly) that he didn’t need to know where the CRC got the cash. </p><p>The following month, I went to Donaldson’s office and asked him, on camera, whether he knew about Cook’s connection to the former head of Saudi intelligence – information I’d found in half an hour of looking through his business history on the Company’s House website. He admitted that he hadn’t known about that. Here’s our conversation:</p><p>&nbsp; <iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" frameborder="0" src="" height="315" width="560"></iframe> </p><p dir="ltr">I’ve now asked the Electoral Commission whether they had done anything more than asking Cook and the DUP about the donations, and then believing their answers. As ever in this case, their response was hobbled by the law which still bans them from talking about the donation. Their spokesperson said:</p><p dir="ltr">“In relation to donations made to the DUP, as with all our work, we have carried out our compliance and enforcement duties to the highest standards, proactively and with as much transparency as the law allows.</p><p dir="ltr">“We are disappointed that the law continues to restrict us from providing the public with information on donations reported to us before July 2017. Transparency is key to public confidence in the democratic process and this example further underlines the need for transparency rules to be extended to 2014.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, that’s right. In 2014, the government changed the law so that some day, information about all donations to Northern Irish parties from 2014 onwards could be published. It is Theresa May, who just happens to rely on the DUP’s votes to keep her in power, who still <a href="">refuses to allow that information to come out</a>.</p><p>Responding to these latest developments, Caroline Lucas MP has called on the Electoral Commission to “urgently reopen its investigation and use its powers to demand concrete evidence of where these significant donations came from."</p><p dir="ltr">"This is about protecting the integrity of our democracy”, she added: “The Electoral Commission itself has already admitted Leave campaigners broke the law ahead of the 2016 referendum. So for them to simply take the DUP and Constitutional Research Council at their word is deeply irresponsible.”</p><p dir="ltr">My colleagues and I have spent two years <a href="">investigating who bankrolls British politics</a>. We have laws in this country which are supposed to make getting the answers to those questions easy. But the reality is starkly different.</p><p>The government urgently needs to give the Electoral Commission greater resourcing and powers to uphold and enforce the laws of our elections and referendums. Because without full transparency, there is no democracy.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">Did the DUP&#039;s controversial Brexit donors break the law – by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit DUP DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 19 Dec 2018 15:47:45 +0000 Adam Ramsay 121069 at We need a People’s Government, not a People’s Vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A People’s Vote with a Tory Government in occupation would also be a People’s Vote of the right, by the right, and for the right.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking outside the House of Parliament in London, November 15, 2018. Stefan Rousseau/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Over the last few weeks Britain has found itself in a high stakes political drama. Political intrigue, threats and plots have become the watchwords of Westminster as small clusters of MPs scheme in the narrow corridors of power.&nbsp;</p><p>The Conservative European Research Group set the pulses of political commentators alight with Jacob Rees-Mogg appearing before an impromptu press conference last week in scenes reminiscent of Mnangagwu’s Zimbabwean ‘not-a-coup’. Meanwhile, millions of working people have watched on in despair – knowing full well that despite the lofty rhetoric of our political class, they remain as out of touch as they were at the time of the Brexit vote.</p><p>Stepping into this breach are the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’. Rejecting the Dad’s Army pantomime of the ERG, People’s Vote campaigners have laid claim to being the true voice of the British people speaking in the national interest. With an energetic dynamism over 600,000 of them marched earlier this month making their case for a re-run of the referendum and joining it with an appeal to progressive values. A cross-party collection of politicians, celebrities and business people bemoaned the injustice of young people’s futures being decided by an older electorate who would not have to experience the deprivations of the world they hanker after nostalgically. A world which these remainers argue will also completely erase the rights of EU migrants and imperil British Industry.</p><p>But these campaigners may have more in common with the older leave voter than they think. There is no ‘Back to the Future’ option to reset the political clock to June 23, 2016. And the dichotomy they offer is a false one; there is neither a simple dystopia outside of the EU or a simple utopia if we remain within it. One of the central criticisms advanced by Remainers of the first referendum, the lack of a positive narrative about the EU, remains largely unaddressed over two years later. So the best another Remain Campaign can offer is ‘business as usual’, despite this being the very same business that led to the rejection of the European Union in 2016. And while the 2016 referendum result, they could argue, was a case of ignorance, this time around their campaign would clearly show an insensitivity to the views of millions of people that could only serve to further deepen the divisions brought to light by the first people’s vote.</p><h2><strong>Remain and reform?</strong></h2><p>Here Remainers would point to a keener focus on the ‘reform’ aspect of a ‘Remain and Reform’ campaign as something that will distinguish a second campaign from the failures of the first. However, this choice of tactic bumps straight into another of the central criticisms – one often levelled by People’s Vote advocates themselves – of the first referendum. That the binary answers the 2016 referendum offered were unable to capture the complexity of the question it asked.&nbsp;</p><p>Nobody would argue for an unchanged relationship with the EU but what they would want to change is dependent on what political camp they fall into. Trade unionists and those on the left might well want a relaxation of restrictions on EU Rules on State Aid to allow for a proper Industrial Strategy. But this would be anathema to Tory Remainers like Ken Clarke who introduced the ‘internal market’ to the NHS.&nbsp;</p><p>Those in Brexiteer heartlands would want some restrictions on free movement. But this would be opposed by the liberal metropolitan core of the Remain campaign. And then there are the little matters of sovereignty, and the ECJ’s jurisdiction, Pandora’s Boxes all on their own. With such competing impulses for reform it would be impossible to identify the collective intention of millions of individual voters, each with their own preferences.</p><p>Neither would a People’s Vote really protect migrant rights. While May’s reciprocal agreement on a ‘right to stay’ challenges the myth of EU migrants being left without any rights whatsoever even in the worst case scenario of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, the alternative outcomes don’t properly protect them either. As most commentators predict, there would be a significant backlash by Leave voters in the case of a People’s Vote deciding in favour of remain. This backlash would directly target ethnic minorities as a whole as we saw in the aftermath of the first referendum.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Outside of the immediate implications to the physical safety of the UK’s minority communities, the longer-term political repercussions could also be damaging. As seen in the last eight years, the Conservative Party has steadily moved to the right under the challenge of right-wing populism in order to prevent an electoral attack on its right flank. The result of this has been that even while Britain was in the EU, this didn’t stop the Conservatives harming migrant rights by imposing restrictions on the right of EU nationals to claim benefits or imposing unfair restrictions on spousal visas for non-EU migrants.</p><p>Perhaps more acutely, the route offered by People’s Vote proponents would do little to change the causes of the first referendum. Despite acknowledging the failure of neoliberalism as the rising tide that has lifted all the boats in England’s left behind towns, its proponents have paid scant regard to it in their response to the 2016 vote itself.&nbsp;</p><p>In so doing, they have only advanced superficial solutions, dealing with the referendum reductively in terms of our formal relationship to the EU as an institution. This is symptomatic of the same wider alienation across the developed world where modern democratic institutions fail to resonate with the real lives of those that they were created to represent. Labour MPs in Leave-voting constituencies are right to warn of a backlash from the party’s heartlands for this very reason: that while it purports to be a solution it is actually a part of the very problem it tries to solve.&nbsp;</p><p>What people expect from political systems is that they are able to solve their problems. Failing to meet this expectation is a gift to a rising tide of right-wing populism.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Polling deadlock and systemic change</strong></h2><p>As a response to this, some MPs have advocated the idea of a ‘Globalisation Fund’ to deal with the economic roots of Brexit. This is not new. It is a rehashing of Gordon Brown’s Migrant Impacts Fund scrapped by the Tories in 2010 and brought back as the rebranded Controlling Migration Fund in 2016.&nbsp;</p><p>Neither has been able to deal with the economic alienation it seeks to address as the 2016 vote showed and the deadlock in polls on the result of a second referendum have since proven. Some may argue that the dramatic increase in funding – from £100 million to £4.7 billion – must serve as the game changer in this second round. This ‘new deal’ to spend on housing, schools and hospitals however fails to account for the vast sums of money really needed to truly regenerate left-behind communities. The Health Foundation think tank estimates that day-to-day running costs in the NHS alone will rise by nearly £4 billion next year.&nbsp;</p><p>It also pales in comparison to the actual ‘New Deal’ demanded by the Trades Union Congress which would directly tackle the failed economic consensus behind Brexit. This goes to the heart of the issue in the first Brexit referendum – a social divide between those who think the system can simply be managed better and those that want to change the system itself.</p><p>A change which is impossible if the Tory Party remains in power to see Brexit to its conclusion, regardless if it’s a Tory Hard Brexit, a Tory Renegotiation or a Tory Remain. Industries most vulnerable to a hard Brexit would simply revert back to the world of managed decline before the 2016 vote.&nbsp;</p><p>In the automotive sector, a botched Brexit isn’t the only problem faced by companies failed by the absence of any industrial strategy. The refusal of the government to take a more flexible approach to the implementation of diesel taxes has been one example of it being at loggerheads with industry. The liberal economics of People’s Vote proponents like Ken Clarke who disavow state intervention in the economy would only mean that we continue eroding our manufacturing base. We would continue to fail to properly invest in the skills and infrastructure necessary to remain competitive in the high-skilled, advanced manufacturing future embraced by Germany and Japan.&nbsp;</p><p>The alternative is a different government, a Labour government that could pursue a real industrial strategy and replace the failed economic consensus rejected by the 2016 with a new, radical agenda. Alternatives like Labour’s promise to spent £500bn on infrastructure to bring the UK into the twenty-first century and to make us a workshop of the world again. A workshop with Regional Investment Banks that could tackle the skills gap holding us back and a Manifesto for Labour Law that would empower trade unions to take back control – of the wealth working people create.</p><p>Caroline Lucas has called out a Tory Brexit as a ‘project of the right, by the right, for the right’. But a People’s Vote with a Tory Government in occupation would also be a People’s Vote of the right, by the right, and for the right.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-two">A People’s Vote won’t heal Brexit divisions – we need a People’s Debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy">Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom&#039;s crisis in democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/laurie-macfarlane/left-brexit-trilemma">Labour&#039;s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Brexit Asif Mohammed Wed, 19 Dec 2018 14:58:53 +0000 Asif Mohammed 121066 at