uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/front en Challenges and opportunities of the unbanked and under-banked https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/carl-packman/challenges-and-opportunities-of-unbanked-and-under-banked <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Talking about access to appropriate and affordable finance is one thing but what happens when people reject those banks? What happens if some consumers never feel banks can provide for them?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/banmk554.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/banmk554.jpg" 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'>Flickr/yaili. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It is hardly controversial to say that banks do not always serve the best interests of everyone, particularly those on low incomes. In fact, even some of those working in the financial services industry would agree that there are unmet needs which an effective industry should be addressing. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the body that regulates the financial services industry, highlighted this recently in an <a href="https://www.fca.org.uk/news/occasional-paper-no-17">occasional paper</a>, confirming that access to mainstream banking is still a major problem looking for a solution. </p> <p>The paper cites research from the Centre for Household Assets and Savings Management <a href="http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/social-policy/chasm/index.aspx">(CHASM)</a> at the University of Birmingham which states that around 1.87m people have absolutely no access to a bank account. Proportionally, younger people are more likely to be affected: 8 per cent of 18-19 year olds have no access to a bank account, and nor do 4 per cent of 20-24 year olds, or 3 per cent of those aged 25-29. </p> <p>While these figures look at the numbers of unbanked people in the UK, they don’t account for those who are defined ‘under-banked’, who compose an even larger number: the 8m people who may have a bank account but don’t actively use it, either because they feel more comfortable primarily within the cash economy or because their account feels “off limits” due to debts owed to the bank which will swallow any income through the bank’s right to “set off”. And then there’s those who have no access to services over and above the transactional, such as an overdraft facility, so supplement their mainstream banking facilities with alternative services, such as payday loans and other forms of credit. </p> <p>For some researchers looking at the financial services industry, the fact that so many people are without a bank account is a measure of their financial vulnerability. This is particularly the case because of the large quantities of research that purports to show a correlation between poor financial wellbeing and being outside of the mainstream financial services system (for instance, it has been <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/about/comein/PewDec11x.pdf">reported</a> that those who are defined as working poor and have a bank account are more likely to be saving money). </p> <p>But less research has been carried out to explore the actual lives of those who are unbanked or under-banked. There is a particularly noticeable absence of research that looks at people who are “unbanked by choice” (i.e. those who exit, or refuse to engage with mainstream financial services, on the grounds of a choice, perhaps to do with the feeling that banks don’t serve their interests or because consumers feel there is a cultural mismatch between their needs and the services). </p> <p>In the US, Pew Research Center carried out <a href="https://www.fdic.gov/about/comein/Pew.pdf">a study</a> in Los Angeles that categorised people who don’t fall into a “traditional” group for those who have access to a bank account. They put low income households into four distinct categories:</p> <ul><li>- Banked Only: households with at least one bank account that use banks for all financial services and transactions. </li><li>- Cross-Over: households with at least one bank account that regularly use non-bank providers for some financial services or transactions.</li><li>- Alternative Financial Services Only: households that do not have a bank account and rely on non-bank alternative financial service providers for financial services or transactions. </li><li>- Cash Economy: households that do not have a bank account and conduct all their financial dealings in cash.</li></ul> <p>Pew found that their survey participants said banks have more convenient locations, lower prices and better customer service than alternative financial service providers (cheque cashers, payday lenders etc.) but used those providers anyway. Location, price and customer service, it seems, are not always the most important considerations for under-banked consumers.</p> <p>In my own research I have reached similar findings. During a recent fieldwork, many of the people I spoke to saw no point in using a bank account to manage their finances. They felt they were better served elsewhere. As one person told me point blank: “I don’t like banks”. </p> <p>This provides a real challenge to policymakers and banks themselves. Talking about access to appropriate and affordable finance is one thing when assuming the onus is upon the banks to be better; but what happens when people reject those banks? How “better” can banks be at offering consumers products that they need?</p> <p>Basic bank accounts, put into effect by UK banks as well as falling under the EU payment accounts directive (PAD), are a much-needed intervention for reducing the barriers to access for those who have previously suffered from having no choice (particularly with the subsequent risk of paying the poverty premium on products such as consumer credit), but the lived experiences of those who actively exclude themselves has been less reported on. </p> <p>On the other hand, there are those that are excluded from banks without a choice. Research carried by Toynbee Hall has <a href="http://transact.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=2212&amp;itemtype=document">found that the main reasons</a> for why some people find themselves excluded, aside from self-exclusion are: capability exclusion (language); price and product exclusion (additional services like insurance or savings are too expensive to bear); ID &amp; verification exclusion; geographical exclusion (some 40 per cent of bank and building society branches have closed down since 1989); marketing exclusion; and values exclusion (such as religious values).</p> <p>The really tricky questions for us, as researchers and those interested in financial inclusion, are the following: what happens if some consumers never feel banks can provide for them? Also, what happens if banks always exclude a particular type of consumer? How can we best serve those who are financially capable, and yet defined excluded or self-excluded?</p> <p>These are questions for the future. What we do know now is that those people who are excluded need options; for those consumers who are excluded from mainstream services options can feel rather limited. Often the only options available are the ones we know are the most expensive: high cost credit. </p> <p>An interesting option is the introduction of Responsible Banking Ordinances (RBOs) in some US cities, from Los Angeles and Minneapolis to San Diego and Seattle. RBOs have their root in the Community Reinvestment Act: they assess the lending environment in a particular community, identify unmet need (i.e. financial exclusion) and make specific demands on depository banks regarding credit provision.</p> <p>A main component of the RBO is transparency: mainstream financial institutions are obliged to release information on residential lending information, small business lending, community development loans and investments, consumer loan data, branch closing policy and information regarding the number of minorities, females and city residents employed by the depository as loan officers/senior staff.</p> <p>A unique part of the RBO is the composition of a board. In addition to having representatives of local depository banks, they are obliged to have a lay member of the community as an independent observer. This brings a whole new dimension to shaping community investment plans and makes banks working in the area accountable to more than just internal shareholders. </p> <p>The Treasury is already publishing local lending data, but critics have pointed out how uneasy it is for alternative providers to use this to identify unmet need. The publication of such data needs to be consistent and include every lending organisation in a local area. This way, ethical providers can finesse their product range to the benefit of those currently outside of the mainstream.</p> <p>Essentially what a Responsible Banking Ordinance can do is make community investment and lending decisions more public and deliberative, particularly among those for whom investment decisions most affect.</p> <p>It can also ensure that lending organisations identify the unwillingly unbanked from the ‘unbanked by choice’. Financial services providers can plan around the needs of those people who fall outside of the ‘prime borrower’ category and barriers to access can be reduced even further. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><br /><strong><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></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/austerity-media/ann-pettifor/economic-change-will-not-happen-until-left-understands-money">Economic change will not happen until the left understands money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt">Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back">From austerity to indebtedness and back </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Carl Packman Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:25:22 +0000 Carl Packman 104368 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Using technology to inject the demos back into democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/roslyn-fuller/using-technology-to-inject-demos-back-into-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Online deliberation allows us to take a leap towards much deeper democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/675px-TyreAlMinaAgora.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/675px-TyreAlMinaAgora.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Agora at Tyre, Heretiq, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>The recent Brexit referendum revealed a deep societal rift about what the word ‘democracy’ means. To some, the term ‘democracy’ is inseparable from the idea of majoritarian rule, and is viewed as the revolutionary triumph of the downtrodden over a corrupt aristocracy meant to deliver freedom, equality, and a system of personal advancement based on merit and graft instead of birth and wealth. But to a surprising number of others, democracy would appear to be conceived more as an elaborate debating society, where points are politely exchanged on the issues of the day before everyone concurs in doing ‘the only decent thing’. On the rare occasions when the <em>hoi polloi</em> are given the opportunity to make a decision, as happened during Brexit, their betters should feel no compunctions in over-riding it, should it prove convenient to do so. </p> <p>This ‘debating society’ conception of democracy surfaced in a multitude of articles written post-Brexit, e.g. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/stop-brexit-mp-vote-referendum-members-parliament-act-europe">here</a>, <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/06/24/britain-democratic-failure/Mx888Cle7t6OUyuWyX8n2M/story.html">here</a>, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/06/28/regarding-brexit-democracy-and-elitism/">here</a> and <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-eu-referendum-result-latest-news-democracy-vote-consequences-a7105481.html">here</a>. Such perceptions of democracy as the mere art of noble statecraft tend to portray the common folk as ignorant dupes, incapable of assessing their own best interests and dangerously irresponsible, all too prone to shrieking ‘Give me freedom or give me death!’ in front of blood-stained guillotines, or – at the other end of the spectrum – marching in jackboots by torchlight. The debating society democrats are, by contrast, self-portrayed as intelligent, courageous and above all righteous in their willingness to save the people from themselves, or at least from making any decisions that could negatively impact a balanced stock portfolio. Debating society or bloodthirsty chaos – these are the alleged choices. </p><p>But the truth is that champagne-flute clinking ‘civilized debate’ and the classic peasant revolt are but two sides to one coin. Exclude people from having a hand in their political destiny for too long, ignore their repeated polite warnings that they’re unhappy with the decisions their self-anointed superiors are ostensibly making for their own good, and eventually their anger and frustration will boil over. The relationship is not one of alternatives, but rather of cause and effect. </p> <p>And for evidence that the people <em>are</em> excluded from politics under current ‘democratic’ practices, one need look no further than the fact that the Conservative party currently wields 100% of political power in the United Kingdom with less than 37% of the vote. Such skewed election results are the norm rather than the exception – Tony Blair’s Labour ruled even more absolutely with much the same level of popular support. And ‘ruled’ is indeed the appropriate term, because between elections, there are few ways in which the general population can participate in politics. Referenda are non-binding and, due to their extreme infrequency, tend to be dominated by moneyed interests, petitions are merely an advanced form of groveling, and protest an exercise in letting off steam. No matter how often or passionately people protested the Iraq War, for example, they did not suddenly acquire command of the United Kingdom’s armed forces with the authority to direct their activities. Consequently, the war happened.&nbsp; </p><p>As this demonstrates, possibilities to ‘take action’ under our current system may exist, but they are rarely effective. Debating-society democracy leaves the majority of people increasingly conscious of the fact that, while they may be able to express their opinions, there is no mechanism in place for translating those opinions into action. It has long been understood that it is the duty of politicians to <em>listen</em> to these expressions and act upon them, but there is nothing in our political system that actually ensures that this happens at any point, much less in a timely fashion. It depends entirely on politicians voluntarily doing their duty; when they don’t things go pear-shaped. Fast.</p> <p>If we want to correct this, we need to incorporate a legitimate and visible connection between citizens expressing their political preferences and concrete actions taken. Such a mechanism would need to involve citizens in decision-making on a continual basis, so as to allow issues to be dealt with before the tension builds. With millions of citizens in the United Kingdom, it is impossible to imagine how this could be done offline, but such a system of rolling participation could be implemented online. After all, <a href="https://e-estonia.com/component/i-voting/">Estonians</a> have being using internet voting in elections since 2005 with parts of <a href="http://www.internetvotingproject.com/learn/">Canada</a> and <a href="https://www.ch.ch/en/elections2015/electronic-voting/electronic-voting-in-switzerland/">Switzerland</a> following suit.</p> <p>More sophisticated online tools (see eg. <a href="https://placeavote.com/#!/">here</a>, <a href="http://www.ethelodecisions.com">here</a>, and <a href="http://democracyos.org">here</a>) allow citizens to vote not just in elections, but directly on specific issues, such as rent control, financial regulation, or fracking. Frequent issue-specific voting means that it is less likely for the accompanying debate to become conflated across issues, and commenting functions can allow citizens to directly engage with each other, introducing a deliberative aspect to decision-making across disparate sub-groups that is currently utterly lacking in both referenda and elections. Most importantly, online voting on specific issues allows for transparency, removing much of the guesswork from politics, and making it difficult for representatives to dismiss voters’ expressed will. The grey space between expression and action disappears.</p> <p>If we want to reset democracy, we need to put the demos – the people, that is – back in the middle of the process, and this is precisely what technology allows us to do.</p> <p>Despite oft-repeated fears of the dangers of ‘online participation’, the facts indicate that we are ready for this transition. </p> <p>When <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/the-dark-side-of-guardian-comments">The Guardian</a> analysed over 70 million comments, posted on its site over 10 years, it discovered that only 2% of them had been blocked by moderators, including comments blocked for being off-topic rather than for containing offensive content. Actual threats were described as ‘extremely rare’ while ‘[h]ate speech as defined by law was rarely seen on Guardian comment threads’. Similarly, a <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/">Pew study</a> in the United States revealed that 27% of internet users had been called an offensive name online while 6% had experienced online sexual harassment. Compare this to the 24% of women who experience sexual harassment in the <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Remus_Ilies/publication/227604263_REPORTED_INCIDENCE_RATES_OF_WORKRELATED_SEXUAL_HARASSMENT_IN_THE_UNITED_STATES_USING_METAANALYSIS_TO_EXPLAIN_REPORTED_RATE_DISPARITIES/links/09e41513cb1365a57e000000.pdf">workplace</a> and what must surely be the 100% of people who have, at some point, been called an offensive name offline. Obviously any level of harassment is unacceptable, but this data does call a narrative of an unruly online environment that is intrinsically more abusive than the offline world into question. Thus, while it would certainly be necessary to set parameters on the deliberative aspect of online decision-making, there is no reason to believe that this would prove an insurmountable task.</p> <p>When things are out in the open and people are regularly consulted in a manner that clearly leads to results, contentious situations tend to be more easily defused, mistakes more easily spotted and rectified, and debate more easily centred on the issue at hand. It is when people’s wishes are suppressed for long periods of time, that politics begins to get chaotic. The debating society version of democracy we have been championing for so long is not an alternative to, but rather a cause of, social unrest. Giving people a transparent stake in decision-making, as technology now allows us to do, is the best, and perhaps the only, way to effectively reset democracy in a peaceful manner. </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/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Roslyn Fuller Thu, 28 Jul 2016 12:17:35 +0000 Roslyn Fuller 104364 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's time to disband the 'Tribe of the 48%' https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunder-katwala/its-time-to-disband-tribe-of-48 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; color: #222222;"><span style="font-size: 12.8px; line-height: normal;">We cannot ground an effective political movement on the 48% who voted Remain. Instead, we must look for solutions to the political divisions that created this tribe.</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/thing.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/thing.jpg" alt="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Photo: Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All Rights Reserved.</span></span></span>Britain’s surprise vote to leave the EU, with Leave’s narrow but decisive win by a margin of over a million votes, led to a surprising outpouring of emotion on the Remain side of the referendum.&nbsp;It was surprising because there had been precious little emotion over the previous weeks of a campaign, which had been entirely focused on the pocketbook economic risks of leaving the EU. Indeed, there had been precious little emotion across the previous four decades of British engagement in the European club, largely seen as a transactional economic relationship, joining a common market without ever being entirely comfortable with the political idea of 'ever closer union' that animated the founders of the European project.&nbsp;<br /><br />Yet, in the days after the referendum, the banner was raised of a new&nbsp;tribe - the&nbsp;48% &nbsp;- with Facebook appeals to sign petitions or attend rallies and even a new “Newspaper for the 48%”. The 48% knew what they wanted: that Britain shouldn’t leave the European Union even if a majority of the country had voted that we should.</p><p>There appeared to be no shortage of ideas about how Brexit could be stopped – but none that looks at all viable. The idea of blocking the referendum in the courts lacks any sound legal basis in Britain’s uncodified constitutional system. The idea of a parliamentary rejection of Brexit is even more tone-deaf to how the public think about democratic legitimacy. Indeed, there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite who simply cannot accept the result of a democratic vote.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite&nbsp;</span>A good democratic argument can be put that a general election should take place before the UK has formally completed its departure from the European Union. But those who see this is a route to reverse Brexit seriously underestimate just how difficult it would be to elect a government on a pro-EU ticket. More than seven out of ten Parliamentary constituencies had a Leave majority.&nbsp;&nbsp;The current political turmoil within the main opposition party makes it difficult to see when the British public will next be offered any viable alternative to a Conservative government. Those who want to make the principled case for EU membership have every democratic right to keep making the argument, but they are unlikely to prevail.</p><p>From the inside, those involved saw the 48% as a vibrant new social and political movement. From outside, the shocked response looked more like the early stages of the grieving process – denial and anger after the lost vote. A new British Future report published today, ‘<a href="http://www.britishfuture.org/articles/news/disbanding-the-tribes/" target="_blank"><em>Disbanding the Tribes</em></a>,’ suggests that there are strong arguments for seeing that grieving cycle through the next stages – depression and bargaining through to acceptance – difficult though this would be for those most committed to a Remain vote.</p><p>There are important gains if they do. Those who backed Remain face a choice between trying to reverse the referendum result to prevent Brexit - and almost certainly failing - or seeking to influence the type of Brexit we get. The large, defeated minority would find that they could have significant chances to shape the form that Brexit might take, but that this will depend on their first accepting that it is going to happen.</p><p>Many people will want to engage in the debate about what changes after Brexit could mean for the causes they care about: employment rights and environmental protections; how Britain can play its full role on global issues like defence and international development; and how welcoming we are to those who seek to come here to do business, learn at our universities or work in our economy. Those 48%ers who remain fixated upon proving that we are going to hell in a handcart post-Brexit are unlikely to be part of these conversations. But their voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p>A key progressive dilemma is the tension between two different 48% tribes.&nbsp;48% of voters preferred Remain to Leave in the 2016 referendum. 48% of voters in England also voted in 2015 for parties other than UKIP or the Conservatives. These are not the same 48% – they comprise two different, shifting and temporary alliances.<br /><br />Of the 16 million voters in the Remain 48%, around 4.5 million voted Conservative in 2015.&nbsp; Calling for a ‘progressive alliance,’ made up of a united left-liberal-Green flank, to mobilise the 48% around a plan to remove the Conservatives from office is not likely to be the most effective appeal.&nbsp; Of the 15 million who voted for ‘progressive parties’ in May 2015, around a third went on to vote for Leave in the referendum, across SNP. Liberal Democrat and Green voters, as well as from Labour.&nbsp;&nbsp;So the idea of a political realignment, founded on the referendum result, may be more problematic than its proponents might think. Many of the voters to whom it would hope to appeal might not want to come to the party. In fact, that crossover vote of ‘Remain progressives’ amounts to just a third of the electorate – who themselves hold mixed views on the priority or urgency of the European Union.<br /><br />For some, it won't matter that the 48% doesn't exist, or may only be half of its purported size. Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats has spotted the gap in the market for a "Cosmopolitan UKIP", a liberal and urban mirror party to Nigel Farage's populist insurgency, responding to defeat by stealing the slogan "give us our country back". When Farron says "we are the 48%", he may well mean "we were the 8% in May 2015 and we would love to be the 16% next time that Britain goes to the polls".&nbsp;<br /><br />Those may be good Liberal Democrat party tactics. A similar approach may sometimes help to build a broader liberal base for progressive campaigns too. But liberal causes should take care to&nbsp; not become defined and confined by being part of a minority tribe. Those of us who want to defend values of tolerance and internationalism should want to succeed with majority support too. After Brexit, it will be important to entrench social values in British society, and show that a vote to leave the European Union in 2016 certainly does not entail turning the clock back to the country that we were before 1972. There is no reason why the progress that Britain has made on equal opportunities for women in society, on gay rights and on the reduction of racism in our society over those decades should not be sustained outside the European Union.<br /><br />One of the first big political decisions involved in getting Brexit right has been how we treat the 3 million EU citizens currently living in Britain. This is not an issue that sets the 16 million against the 17 million: 84% of the public are happy to say to Europeans in Britain: ‘this is your home and you continue to be welcome here’. Voters across the Leave-Remain divide can show that they are united against a toxic, racist and deluded minority who believe that the referendum vote gives them a licence for prejudice, hate speech and street racism. Yet neither the 48% nor the 52% can do this alone: we need to work together.</p><p>Some political issues are central to the contest between political parties at elections. Others are uncontested and are not at stake as the political pendulum swings – they form the foundations underpinning equal citizenship in our democratic society. If we want that to be the case for our shared support for equality and our opposition to racism, prejudice and discrimination, then it is essential to maintain broad and sustained majority support for them.</p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">This September, the issue of refugee protection will also return to the agenda, with UN and US summits, and the first anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi; the Syrian child whose body was famously photographed washed up on a Turkish beach. Our tradition of protecting refugees long pre-dates Britain’s membership of the EEC and will outlast our membership of the EU too. It is a source of pride for seven out of ten Britons. This autumn, it needs to be clear that the invitation to uphold that tradition is not going out to just one side of the referendum: everybody should feel invited to come together and stand up for Britain being a country proud to welcome refugees.<em><br /></em></p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">The 48% does contain most of Britain's graduates, but few of those who left school with no educational qualifications.&nbsp;It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest, given that the task in the referendum was to secure majority consent in a society where we have a universal adult franchise, not one restricted to university graduates.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest</p><p>The referendum illuminates the long-term, growing divergence between the politics of social justice and those of identity and belonging – and the need for much broader geographical and cross-class reach of those pursuing progressive coalitions.&nbsp;&nbsp;There will be no successful defence of liberal ‘open society’ values without engaging a much broader coalition than is achieved by the polarising frame of ‘open versus closed’, which pits the confident, liberal minority against the nativist, left-behind minority - but which also leaves most of the public unpersuaded by either camp.</p><p>A more successful strategy will require liberals to engage with both the gains&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;the pressures of ‘openness’; to be able to respond constructively to legitimate concerns about the impacts of immigration on public services, jobs and culture; and to engage with the values and interests of blue-collar and non-graduate audiences. If we are to secure majority consent for the values of an open and fair society, we need to do so together and ensure that it works fairly for everyone.</p><p>Even on a disagreement this big, we – Leave and Remain, old and young, graduate and non-graduate, metropolitan and provincial&nbsp;&nbsp;- can still find much common ground. "Build bridges, not walls" has&nbsp;long been a slogan of internationalists. But preserving and strengthening the 48% and 52% tribes will not build a bridge, it will build a wall. It is time to tear it down.</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/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Sunder Katwala Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:17:52 +0000 Sunder Katwala 104360 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Embracing Complexity: towards fairness, sustainability and happiness https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/jean-boulton/embracing-complexity-towards-fairness-sustainability-and-happiness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Complexity suggests a different approach to engaging with the world – a middle ground between control and laissez-faire.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/comp.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/comp.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'>Flickr/taufuuu. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>We’ve chosen the wrong science to understand the social world. </p> <p>On the one hand, there is an increasing focus for public sector organizations on defining detailed rules, standardizing methods, evidencing and measuring outcomes. The intention is to make the hospital or school work as an efficient, optimized, well-oiled machine. The belief is that if we tell people <em>exactly </em>what to do and check they do it <em>exactly</em>, then standards and efficiency will improve. </p> <p>On the other hand, when it comes to commerce and the private sector, there is almost the opposite – increasing deregulation and laissez-faire driven by a strong belief in the invisible hand of the market and in the power of competition to lead to optimal outcomes. The economic world is still largely modelled as if it worked predictably and controllably, moving inexorably towards equilibrium. </p> <p>What is remarkable is that these beliefs seem to harden and become ever-more entrenched despite the repeating crises facing our economies, ecologies, and societies. They persist in spite of the stark and often completely unexpected social eruptions and political crises that dominate the news. They persist even in the light of increasing evidence that policies are failing. For example, the UK - despite continuing focus on ‘machine thinking’ (defining detailed teaching methods and lesson plans, detailed measuring of performance of schools, teachers and pupils) – is near the bottom of 24 countries in relation to <a href="http://www.oecd.org/skills/">literacy and numeracy</a>. And, despite neo-liberal free market policies and the promise of ‘trickle down’, inequality continues to rise; the UK is 28th out of 34 OECD countries in relation to <a href="http://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.htm">income inequality</a> and<strong> </strong>bottom of 37&nbsp;countries in relation to difference in <a href="http://www.unicef.org.uk/Media-centre/Press-releases/UK-risks-leaving-poorest-children-behind/">healthy eating between rich and poor children</a>. If ever there was a need for fresh thinking, we are seeing it now. Yet most of the solutions that are attempted consist in propping up the status quo, doing more of the same, rather than thinking afresh and questioning underlying assumptions. </p> <p>What is less obvious perhaps, is that each policy stance gains its legitimacy from theories of physics – Newtonian, machine thinking for the management of the public sector and equilibrium thermodynamics for economists. The question of the validity of attributing such scientific theories to the social world has long been questioned. In a world that is increasingly complex, turbulent and global, we need to seek new paradigms and perspectives. </p> <p>Complexity science is the science of open systems; open systems, such as organizations or economies, interact and are affected by the wider world. Indeed, their essential qualities emerge as a result of interacting with the world around them. Traditional physics theories, in contrast, gain their traction through acting as if systems are closed and self-contained. The physics of open systems shows how, like in evolution, new forms can emerge. Complex systems display the following behaviours:</p> <p><em>Systemic: </em>the different aspects of the system interact <em>systemically </em>and<em> synergistically – </em>that is, we cannot understand outcomes by reducing things to independent building blocks as we could in analysing a machine. It is the mutually reinforcing or antagonistic interactions between differing aspects that contribute to outcomes. </p> <p><em>Path dependent: </em>the detail matters; each situation is unique and depends on history and on the particular nature of the context – its geography, the importance of particular people and events, and the order in which things happen.</p> <p><em>Episodic: </em>change is not smooth and linear, but happens in ‘fits and starts’; sometimes there is little to see for our efforts, at other times, things change rapidly and/or radically.</p> <p><em>Emergent: </em>when things ‘tip’ into new eras new features emerge which could not have been predicted.</p> <p>Complexity suggests a different approach to engaging with the world – a middle ground between control and laissez-faire. It is interesting to note that one thing in which the UK scores <a href="https://www.eiuperspectives.economist.com/healthcare/2015-quality-death-index">highly is its hospices</a>, which are the most highly rated hospices out of 80 countries. Hospices, generally, are held strongly within communities; they can respond to the particularities of the local context – its particular social and cultural make up – and provide customised services and approaches that harmonise with local needs and take account of the wishes and needs of individuals and their families. Such an approach – contextualised, adaptive, connected to the wider context and yet held within principles and intentions of care – is very in tune with the implications of ‘embracing’ the implications of complexity theory. If we see the world as ‘complex’ – that is systemic, path dependent, episodic and emergent – how does this challenge economic policy?</p> <p>First, the emphasis on the essential interdependence of what is there puts paid to any notion of Economic Man or to an economics independent of political, social and environmental concerns. It points to the need for both-and rather than either-or thinking. In either-or thinking, it seems that short-term economic arguments almost invariably win. Tousling explicitly with the long-term view <em>together </em>with more immediate concerns, thinking through social and environmental outcomes <em>together </em>with economic and political concerns, can lead to more effective ‘win-win’ solutions. The ‘method’ mirrors the systemic nature of the ‘medium’. </p> <p>Second, complexity theory, with its recognition of positive feedback loops (increasing returns) and its rejection of assumptions of equilibrium, shows that ‘free markets’ almost inevitably widen inequality, and ‘lock in’ power in the hands of the winners. The powerless, the environment and the longer term are doomed to be ‘market failures’. As many are pointing out, free markets are only ‘free’ for the elite. </p> <p>Complexity theory underlines that there needs to be a counter to this inevitable slide into inequality – forms of regulation, governance and protection. How to do this on an increasingly global stage with an increasingly globalised private sector is not a straightforward question. How can social movements and pro-citizen institutions such as NGOs and labour and human rights organisations play a stronger pro-citizen role? How can the state provide a legal and fiscal and regulatory framework that emphasises fairness and equality? Should essential services – education, public transport, utilities, health and social care – be strengthened and protected? If the rich ceased to get so much richer, if ‘rents’ from essential public services remained in public hands, would we need to subject the poor to policies of austerity?&nbsp; </p> <p>If our society is a complex system, then the ‘ingredients’ we put into it are the raw materials from which the future is shaped. Each unique wave on the ocean is created by the coming together of the swell (resulting sometimes from storms that happened days before and thousands of miles away), the tide, and the smaller waves and ripples resulting from by the wind and by passing ships. In the same way, in the social world, each action and intention and decision plays its part in co-creating what emerges and what becomes embedded. If the future is not predictable, then we can never be certain where our actions and decisions will lead. To quote Aldous Huxley: ‘But the nature of the universe is such that the ends never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end.’ So, if we wish to create the conditions for equality, fairness and sustainability, then we will need to act in accordance with such values – both as socio-political economists and as citizens. </p> <p>Complexity theory supports subsidiarity. Be as small as you can... but not smaller. Being able to respond to local situations systemically, within shared (and woven) values and intentions, can often take advantage of local resources, and local enthusiasms and achieve more with less and in a way that is sensitive to the particularities of context. It can allow customisation, adaptation, and direct response to what emerges, and support systemic, joined up actions and decision-making. It can restore social meaning and belonging and happiness. But, such empowerment of local communities and local government cannot plan national transport infrastructure or negotiate human rights laws or trade agreements. This notion of ‘appropriate scale’ of ‘nested systems’ is very much part of complexity thinking.</p> <p>What is easy to miss is that ‘embracing complexity’ can actually make things easier, simpler, and more straightforward. If the world is complex, then acting congruently with that complexity can be simpler and more effective than trying to control a machine that does not exist. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><br /><strong><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></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/austerity-media/ann-pettifor/economic-change-will-not-happen-until-left-understands-money">Economic change will not happen until the left understands money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt">Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back">From austerity to indebtedness and back </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Jean Boulton Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:54:25 +0000 Jean Boulton 104336 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Labour can only win with Jeremy Corbyn https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/aaron-bastani/labour-can-only-win-with-jeremy-corbyn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour's long decline can only be ended by an insurgent movement. And Corbyn is the candidate of that movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Take note Labour: this is how you win an election. Jeremy Corbyn phone bank filling up 6 entire rooms <a href="http://t.co/B18RV06jBc">pic.twitter.com/B18RV06jBc</a></p>— Charles B. Anthony (@CharlesBAnthony) <a href="https://twitter.com/CharlesBAnthony/status/634061557991874560">August 19, 2015</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>Jeremy Corbyn is no ordinary politician. For his supporters that is his unique selling point, for his critics a terminal flaw. The former claim his leadership can offer a break with the current system, the latter that he is unable to even compete within the confines of the present one. What both sides do agree on is that Corbyn doesn’t look, or sound, like a prime minister. Were some future Hollywood blockbuster to include a British PM, it could foreseeably be David Cameron or Teresa May. ‘JC’? Well, that’s a little harder to imagine.&nbsp; </p><p>And it is that difficulty which has meant Corbyn’s tenure as leader of his party is now associated, among his detractors at least, with a single word: electability. For them, and this is a default presumption among liberal-left opinion (broadly the only kind permitted in the mainstream): Labour will never form a government – whether majority, minority or in coalition – with the member for Islington North in the top job.</p> <p>During last summer’s leadership race, when the proposition of prime minister Corbyn was more abstract than real, the problem was his politics. That’s why, when he won, the membership was blamed as much as the man himself. The base, we were told, had lazily chosen its comfort zone and a return to the 1980s over the challenges of government. For Corbyn read Michael Foot. The next general election? A repeat of 1983.</p> <p>And yet claims of Corbyn’s policies being out of kilter with the public have fallen away, particularly since Brexit. When former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb made a tilt for the Tory leadership recently – winning thirty four nominations in the first round – he did so on the promise of a £100 billion stimulus to the economy, in the process arguing for greater economic interventionism than Ed Miliband and the majority of the parliamentary Labour party. A fortnight later, and it seems almost certain that Theresa May’s government, given the likely recession Brexit will cause, will now pursue a program of fiscal and/or monetary stimulus over the coming months. The promise to eliminate the deficit by 2020, the bedrock of the Osborne/Cameron years, was quietly discarded on a cold and rainy weekday when most lobby journalists were only capable of asking – or tweeting – whether Labour’s leader would resign. The biggest story since Brexit? That the <i>raison d’etre</i> of Cameron’s two governments <a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0ICuznAklM">was effectively bullshit</a>. Not that you would know it from reading the dailies. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-28118807.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-28118807.jpg" alt="Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The economic debate has moved with impressive speed. Theresa May will have to significantly break Osborne’s budget forecasts to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jul/17/brexit-means-big-government-hard-truth-leave-voters">implement an industrial strategy worthy of the name</a>. That reality is why Owen Smith recently included a £200 billion stimulus as part of his leadership offer, something utterly unthinkable to Corbyn’s rivals last summer – and almost certainly Smith himself.</p> <p>So the politics has changed, and it’s clear that with deficit elimination gone, and deficit reduction of little importance, Corbyn’s politics – interventionist, radical, socialist – have a real opportunity to challenge the mainstream. It’s probably unsurprising, then, that the criticisms now levelled against him aren’t about his policies – their time has almost certainly come – but his competence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now let’s be fair to Corbyn’s critics. The MP for Islington North is not ‘slick’ (although he appears all the more resilient for it). What is more, he certainly never viewed himself before last summer as a potential Labour leader. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the team assembled less than a year ago initially struggled, although it has improved tremendously in recent months. The Labour left simply didn’t have the resources or pool of experienced people on which to draw to prepare for potential government. After all, their function in the party was more ornamental than real for the best part of three decades.</p> <p>Big mistakes were also made in regard to the shadow cabinet, foremost among them trying to include MPs who wanted Corbyn to fail from the very beginning, something few leaders would survive. More than incompetence, Corbyn’s original sin was generosity. Lisa Nandy, a standard bearer of the parliamentary party’s ‘soft left’, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jul/17/brexit-means-big-government-hard-truth-leave-voters">recently spoke</a> of how the right and the left of the party were at war with one another. That simply isn’t true, at least not at the beginning. From day one Corbyn tried to assemble a broad cabinet. His reward? Political inertia, punishment, and almost ritualised humiliation, of which the ‘Chicken coup’ is only the most recent chapter.</p> <p>In addition to various problems of personnel, ill-preparation and misplaced kindness, politics at the top is always a messy affair. The decade of the Blair-Brown supremacy was marked by ceaseless conflict within Labour’s front ranks. You only need to read anything by Andrew Rawnsley to know as much. The same was true in the final Thatcher years and nearly all of John Major’s premiership. Despite the easy ride he got from the British media, David Cameron’s position during the Andy Coulson revelations was more fragile than seemed apparent. In retrospect what made the coalition all the more stable was that the constant sniping&nbsp;– a perennial feature of statecraft – could be put down to two parties having to govern together. Just a year after he delivered the Tories their first majority since 1992, a historic achievement, David Cameron resigned – his legacy as poor as any of his predecessors since the Second World War. He would almost certainly still inhabit Number Ten had there been a second coalition government.&nbsp;</p><p>So politics at the top is cut-throat. All the more so in an age of social media. All the more so when many of your own colleagues want you to fail from the start. All the more so w<a target="_blank" href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-media-bias-labour-mainstream-press-lse-study-misrepresentation-we-cant-ignore-bias-a7144381.html">hen the mainstream media treats you with a contempt, from the off, that has been reserved for no other politician in modern Britain</a>. That, taken with the fact that the radical left was far from prepared to seize the initiative, and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership looks all the more impressive.</p> <p>What is more, and it is important to remember this, Corbyn does have considerable victories to his name including by-election wins, a massively growing membership (Labour are now bigger than at any point since the Second World War), and major u-turns from the government – particularly around welfare reform. More than all those however, which were accompanied by middling election results in May, Corbyn’s ten months as leader has significantly framed the space that Theresa May’s government is about to step into. The Overton Window has moved. The question is how far it is yet to go.</p> <h2><b>The devil is in the details</b></h2> <p>Yet it’s also clear that there is much that Corbyn can personally improve on. Self-improvement gurus often say that the solution to a big problem is the smallest tweak consistently applied over time. Similarly, the attitude of England’s rugby union team in the early 2000s was improving one hundred things by one percent. Constantly. In regard to issues of competency and daily media management that is my view with Corbyn: what is needed is an attitude of constant iterative improvement. The leadership is most certainly improving, and the team around Corbyn is now much stronger than before. Is there a desire for this? After the last month I really believe there is.&nbsp; </p><p>But as important as the belief that Corbyn is improving&nbsp;– and that issues of media management can be further rectified – his potential challengers have shown themselves to be utterly shambolic in the last few weeks. Even their supporters, in their heart of hearts, can’t think they have the answers.&nbsp;</p> <p>The genesis of what became the Chicken Coup was devious, manipulative and short-sighted. Corbyn’s foes wanted him to resign without standing a challenger; then they wanted to keep him off the ballot altogether; then the rules for those able to vote were, quite frankly, gerry-mandered (that didn’t stop nearly 185,000 joining as registered supporters). Angela Eagle, originally put up to run by the likes of Hilary Benn (much of Eagle’s campaign team were ex-Benn staffers) pulled out last Tuesday to give Owen Smith a free run. Her actions have angered her local party in Wallasey who, having passed a motion of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn a few weeks ago, have now been suspended. It seems likely they would have passed a motion of no confidence in Eagle.</p> <p>Before its timely expiration, Eagle’s candidacy was an exercise in farce. Its poor launch was preceded by two weeks of collective dithering – calling on Corbyn to resign while failing to make the next move. When the launch did finally happen, the essentials were lacking. The defining moment for that came when Eagle invited specific journalists to ask questions of her who weren’t even present in the room. For a candidate criticising Corbyn’s competence it was calamitous to watch.&nbsp; </p><p>What is more, Eagle – originally intended as a unity candidate by the right of the party who initiated the coup – was a politically strange choice. She had voted for war in Iraq and against an investigation, doubly problematic given events kicked off a fortnight before the release of the Chilcot Report. In terms of her position and voting record on austerity, Eagle was no different to the rivals Corbyn had stunningly defeated the previous summer.</p> <p>So when the former cabinet minister stood aside on Tuesday, former Pfizer lobbyist Owen Smith became the last hope for those who wanted a new leader. And yet, as with Eagle, basic issues were obvious from the off. Smith, who has seemingly found a vein of political radicalism in his soul after five years of lobbying in the pharmaceutical industry, has clearly moved left to appeal to a very different party membership to even a few years ago. Nevertheless, his views on PFI, privatisation in the NHS and, only last year, reducing welfare spending, is plainly at odds with what the membership wants. Smith – we now know – is also prone to gaffes, making two major ones in the first few days of his leadership bid.</p> <h2><b>Social Democracy is in crisis: Owen Smith is no answer</b></h2> <p>But more than the individual flaws of any specific candidate, what is most concerning with Smith (who is now trying to pitch himself as a more electable left-winger) is that the politics he champions, and the direction he would like to take the party in – along with the likes of Ed Miliband – has no winning model in Europe. Centre-left politics – across the continent – is mired in defeat and inertia. Whether it be the SDP polling at 25% in Germany, the PSOE winning 22% in the recent Spanish General Election, or French president Francois Hollande polling at 13%, there are no real bright spots. The only arguable exception is Italy’s <i>Partito Democratico</i>, led by Matteo Renzi. Yet even there Renzi is PM having never contested a general election, and his predecessor but one – Pierluigi Bersani – led the Democrats to only 27% in the 2013 election (the coalition they headed won just under 30%). Last month the 5 Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi won the Rome mayoralty from the PD. Even with Europe’s best performing party of the centre-left, the story is one of managed decline.&nbsp;</p> <p>The crisis of social democracy has been a topic of conversation for years. That has been turbo-charged by the fact that the centre-right has benefitted most from the global financial crisis of 2008. Ed Miliband and Labour’s electoral defeat in 2015 was testimony to that, with Labour winning only 9.3 million votes. Perhaps most concerning however, was how Labour lost votes to both their left, and their right. Were Owen Smith to be Labour leader for the next general election I think he would struggle to even get Miliband numbers: Greens would be less likely to switch to Labour, his vague offer of a second referendum on EU membership would almost certainly land UKIP a number of Labour seats in the north, and the Lib Dems, probably regardless of who leads the two major parties, will make a minor comeback.&nbsp; </p><p>Labour’s problems reflect those of both the British establishment and European social democracy, and to my mind Owen Smith isn’t a solution (nor indeed is any individual). While you can point to Corbyn’s low personal approval ratings – for what it’s worth I think any politician’s would be as bad given what he has uniquely faced – the Labour party he wants, and more importantly the one now under construction, arguably does. You see it’s not just about Corbyn, it’s about a party of a million members, grassroots organising and a generational break with a broken centre-left politics adrift across the continent. Labour now needs to invent its future. It has no choice.</p> <h2><b>Understanding Labour’s long decline&nbsp;</b></h2> <p>The obstacles Jeremy Corbyn will now have to surmount in order to become prime minister and oversee precisely that are unprecedented. Some of the parliamentary party will simply refuse to work with him if he wins again. Tom Watson will likely resign as deputy leader after any second Corbyn victory to exert maximum dramatic effect. Senior Labour MPs are seriously talking about <a target="_blank" href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-leadership-election-jeremy-corbyn-s-critics-will-wage-war-of-attrition-to-force-him-out-a7149086.html">annual leadership elections until Corbyn goes</a>. On the bright side any split, which should be avoided at all costs, would likely only include the right of the party – led by the Blairite MPs named and shamed by John Prescott in a recent <i>Sunday Mirror</i>. Most, however, understand that any new party of the centre would face a very inhospitable set of circumstances: the historic social base of the SDP, progressives in metropolitan areas, are now a hotbed of Corbyn support. What is more, there are few examples of successful centrist projects worldwide right now – with the exception of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Canada. What is more, the Labour right clearly lacks a politician of that calibre. If they did, she or he would be standing against Corbyn, not Owen Smith.</p> <p>In addition to the hostility Corbyn Mk. 2 will now face from many of his own MPs, and as many MPs on the soft-left need to be won round in the next few months as possible, the Labour party machine is nowhere near good enough to win a general election. That is true at both local and national levels. Half-a-dozen people have described to me how the party HQ is set up to win an election in 2005 rather than 2020, with problems going a long way back. After all, before Corbyn’s rise last summer, the party hadn’t won a general election since 2005. Even then it lost forty-six seats to Michael Howard’s Tories. Indeed Labour has lost seats at every single general election since 1997, almost two decades ago.</p> <p>In terms of actual votes, Labour lost five million between 1997 and 2010. Ed Miliband’s brand of heavily triangulated, frequently contradicting soft-left politics won back fewer than a million of them last year. For my money that is the ceiling on the party’s vote with his brand of politics and its present organising structure. In other words, Owen Smith.</p> <p>Looking back, the rise of Blair – and his historic election win in 1997 – was as much one of Tory decimation as Labour ascendancy. The mid-1990s were a unique cycle in global capitalism since the early 1970s, with GDP, employment and real wages all rising. The factors behind that – the doubling of the global labour market foremost among them – aren’t going to be repeated again. But alongside the bigger economic picture, the Tories were also in chaos. Winning the 1992 General Election was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Within twelve months the party needed the votes of Ulster Unionists to pass legislation, and Major’s second term was permanently furnished in crisis. No Labour leader, before, since or likely ever again, will be offered that kind of opportunity. The dynamics behind 1997, as much about Tory collapse as Labour supremacy, effectively carried on for a decade, with Labour’s vote steadily decreasing but the Tories incapable of taking advantage. Thus even at its zenith, the Labour machine was a never particularly impressive one. Those on the Labour right who talk of imitating the US Democrats have shown neither the skill nor foresight over the last two decades to come good on their lofty ambitions. Given they have controlled much of the party’s formal infrastructure during that period, especially at Victoria Street, it’s fair to say it isn’t going to happen.</p> <h2><b>A different kind of leadership; a member-based party</b></h2> <p>Jeremy Corbyn is not a generic political leader. But perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as some think. Twenty-First Century leadership takes many forms with it not only being about attracting supporters – but more importantly – creating more leaders too.&nbsp;</p> <p>While he will never look like a Hollywood impersonation of a PM, what Corbyn can do&nbsp;– and is doing – is give rise to a movement. As Paul Mason says, he is a placeholder. That phrase needs to be more than rhetoric however, it must inform an organising strategy by which Labour comes to have more than a million members and can feasibly form a government after the next general election.</p> <p>But before explaining how that happens, it’s important to clarify why Labour’s growing membership is such a game changer. Well, the Conservative party dominated British politics for much of the 20th Century because they had significant resources that others did not: three million members (yes, really); influence among opinion-makers and the mainstream media; and wealthy supporters. Labour’s greatest hour came in 1945 when, to the astonishment of many, Winston Churchill was replaced by Clement Atlee. The basis of that was a popular movement, a uniquely changed political context and a vision for a different kind of country. Labour only wins as a movement.</p> <p>As I hope to have made clear, the major exception to that – 1997-2005 – was as much a story of Tory decline as Labour success. What is more, that project was in decline almost immediately after its high point. The Conservative leaders of the early 21st Century, William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith, even Michael Howard, were at the time harder to imagine as prime minister than Jeremy Corbyn is now. That was without kamikaze elements within their own party and the collective force of the entire mainstream media arrayed against them.</p> <p>So if the Tories (almost always) win because they have more money and media influence – the members have long since gone – what does Labour have? During Labour’s great exception at the end of the twentieth century, the view was they had to ‘spin’ better than the Tories while converging with them in key policy areas, particularly wages, housing and industrial policy (i.e. not having one). That led, in the long-term, to the decline I’ve already identified: the party’s working class heartland being taken for granted to win swing voters in marginals elsewhere. That strategy is now a busted flush, not least because Scotland has now gone and those industrial and former mining areas no longer look quite so impregnable. Over the same period the party neglected member-based democracy, local organisation and effective ground campaigning.</p> <p>Rather than spin, or a hotline to Rebekah Brooks or Paul Dacre, the biggest resource the Labour party can now possibly have is its membership. That membership can, potentially, serve to do several things. Firstly, it provides the party with a much sturdier financial base (the party, rather than rely on wealthy backers, would have been long bankrupt without affiliated trade unions and loans); it creates a large base of advocates who can informally persuade their own social networks and formally campaign among strangers; and, with social media, it creates a huge network for the self-broadcasting of Labour’s ideas, policies and events. None of this is inevitable with the rise of a mass membership, and appropriate organisational choices have to be made, but it is a pre-condition for it. Again, I believe none of this happens with Owen Smith as leader.&nbsp; </p><p>My contribution here is this: among that million plus membership, the party will need 100,000 change advocates to make significant inroads. These are people who are trained to campaign in local areas as well as reaching out and getting even more people to join the party. While Momentum could oversee such an undertaking, it may well require a well-resourced and committed organisation, equivalent perhaps to the American <a target="_blank" href="http://wire.novaramedia.com/2013/07/burn-up-not-out-four-suggested-projects/">New Organising Institute</a> (albeit with adaptations for the British context). These 100,000 activists would be a major part in winning any ground campaign against the Tories and building even wider circles of local support on a constituency-by-constituency basis, starting in marginals. Were the future selection of parliamentary candidates to be undertaken through local primaries, something I inclined towards, registered supporters would also be able to participate.</p> <p>The electorate should thus be seen as an ever larger set of concentric circles: at the heart are these change advocates, then members, then registered supporters, then Labour voters, then potential Labour voters. If organised properly this would be a very competitive force during elections. As much as persuading strangers, activists would be mobilising pre-existing affinity groups of friends, families and colleagues to not only vote for candidates, but campaign for them as well. Additionally they would interface with extant efforts around things like food banks as well as beginning initaitives like literacy groups and breakfast clubs. How would this be funded? The party would build something that integrated <a target="_blank" href="http://www.apple.com/">Act Blue</a> and JustGiving to enable dis-intermediated financing of these projects by members as well as the general public. That Labour was able to raise £4.5 million in just 48 hours in the recent registration of supporters, is testimony to the good will and resources out there. Charitable giving in the United Kingdom is significant, that culture should be channeled within any modern mass-membership party that aims at systemic change.</p> <p>As much as building the party membership, and crafting it into a force capable of persuading the general public and even engaging in social reproduction, any campaign that sees Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 will have to exhibit features of a movement assemblage rather than a political party. That assemblage will engage in personalised campaign practices.&nbsp; </p><p>Now I know what you are thinking – an assemblage? Personalisation?</p> <p>Until very recently general election campaigns have been hybrids of professionalised party efforts which incorporate large numbers of volunteers. The volunteer efforts were almost entirely for offline&nbsp;‘ground’ campaigning, while professionalised elements included public relations, media and fundraising. That has dramatically changed in recent years through the emergence of social media and crowdfunding. Additionally, the last decade has seen a move to ‘personalised political communication’, especially in the United States. This kind of campaigning places an emphasis on ‘ground war’ practices such as door-to-door canvassing and phone banking, both pursued with the help of allied groups, volunteers, and paid part-time employees. This kind of communication is ‘personalised’ in the sense that people, and not television or websites, serve as the primary media for messages (Kleis Nielsen 2013). All of which means that media and mobilisation functions are now fusing into one another. In the English context, one saw this for the first time in Corbyn’s campaign last summer – especially in phonebanking efforts that <a target="_blank" href="http://www.apple.com/">deployed the ‘Canvassing’ app</a>&nbsp;– the Corbyn campaign found scale through the personal media networks and efforts of tens of thousands of advocates – and how this interacted with legacy media – rather than simply the old ‘one-to-many’ channels. This explains, to a significant extent, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/23/labour-leadership-jeremy-corbyn-more-double-support-owen-smith">how Corbyn can currently enjoy a 32% lead over Smith among the membership</a> despite little to no support from the mainstream media. </p><p>Survey research demonstrates that tens of millions of citizens are contacted in person or by phone by parties and candidates each cycle in the US, and experimental research in political science suggests that it works (Kleis Nielsen 2013). Corbyn’s first campaign for Labour leader brought that model to the UK – and his second one will likely improve on it.</p> <p>So the first aspect of Labour as a campaigning assemblage is to acknowledge this model of campaigning, its relative absence in the UK, its potential effectiveness, and use its large, growing membership accordingly. Again, I don’t think anyone believes this happens with Smith. Without such an approach, at least until Labour wins the wholesale backing of the print media and the financing of oligarchs, Labour simply have no other route to power.</p> <p>But as well as channeling this new kind of personalised campaigning through an ever-larger membership, Labour also needs to embody both collective, and connective logics of action.&nbsp;</p> <p>In their recent, groundbreaking work, Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg distinguish between the traditional logic of collective action that has been accepted within much of the social sciences for decades, and observably different logics of connective action which have recently emerged in the digital environment. As a result they offer a three-fold typology of large-scale action networks, with one representing the brokered networks characterised by the logic of collective action (Olson 1965) and the other two exhibiting the newer logics of connective action. These are as follows:&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 13.41.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 13.41.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Traditionally most formal political efforts – from voter registration campaigns, to protests and elections – have relied on the first kind of action. That necessitated hierarchy, incentives for participants to not free-ride (often paid jobs or status) and a highly centralised operation. Fundamentally, it presumes higher costs for information than is, in reality, now the case. So while one might think of politics, until recently, as being about top-down, organisationally brokered collective action, it isn’t. In the recent referendum on membership of the European Union, the ‘Leave’ campaign more closely resembled organisationally-enabled connective action than ‘Remain’. We also saw it in the nomination campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the United States. While Clinton, with a more classically vertical campaign did ultimately prevail, Sanders picked up an astonishing thirteen million votes. The reality is that in the contemporary media environment the choice isn’t between hierarchy and networks but between more collective or connective strategies. Both require organisation and leadership, just different kinds. Because of a relative lack of resources my view is that Labour can never compete through collective action strategies, hence the importance of the Corbyn project, member-based democracy and organisational renewal.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Sanders5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Sanders5.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'>Bernie Sanders supporters, image: the Bernie Sanders campaign.</span></span></span></p><p>The major reason why Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership so convincingly last year was because elements of all three logics were evident in his campaign. His triumph was powered by old-fashioned politics – such as winning trade union support – but also by a groundswell of grassroots support which managed to achieve tangible things: remote phonebanking, events organising, social media campaigning and, most importantly, getting new members to join. Much of how this was achieved was through crowd and organisationally-enabled connective action which fosters much higher levels of personalised communication. That was expedited through organisational forms, both formal and informal, that one would not typically associate with British electoral politics. </p><p>Had Corbyn’s campaign tried to win through old-school collective action they would have lost, quite simply because they lacked the resources - primarily money and media exposure - of the other candidates. Its important to remember that while Corbyn may be naturally open to this kind of approach, one where formal efforts easily interface with what feels like a social movement and an amorphous body of support, his campaign also had high incentives to adopt it, or at least be comfortable with it.</p> <p>Sadly, once Corbyn did win, that approach was dispensed with. There was the general presumption, ultimately misguided, that such efforts could be easily channeled into the Labour party. But modern action – at its most powerful – doesn’t work like that. For Corbyn’s Labour to be highly competitive there needs to be the recognition that both collective and connective action logics are necessary, and that these will be mobilised across a range of actors which enjoy distinct organisational features. That means a great deal of autonomy to local activists to organise with an emphasis on personalised communication; strong levels of access to media that is beyond the mainstream; content created by Labour, Corbyn’s office and others that is not aimed at their supporters but is, instead, intended to be re-broadcast by them; and a general approach that seeks to choreograph events rather than lead them. It requires more than simply telling supporters it is their movement, but to build things so they experience and produce it as their movement, daily.</p> <p>Much of this may sound like new management speak, but these were the precise organisational dynamics which saw Corbyn win last summer, as documented by digital campaigner <a target="_blank" href="https://theworldturnedupsidedownne.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/jezwecan-the-jeremy-corbyn-social-media-campaign/">Ben Sellers</a>. Such an approach will not only mean Labour exerts more media influence, but will also mean higher levels of mobilisation (such as door-knocking, leafletting and ‘get out the vote’ campaigns) and more resources (not only through membership subs but also crowdfunding efforts). Again, none of this seems to be on offer with an Owen Smith leadership. Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps surprisingly, appears to offer the only path to a Twenty-First Century party in Britain. </p> <p>In the following months, in the knowledge that personalised communication, campaigning assemblages and connective as well as collective action are all integral to a successful Labour ‘machine’ (one that actually goes beyond the party) I would suggest that several things begin to happen.</p> <p>Firstly there needs to be a discussion about the ecology which would exert media influence and mobilise activists. In regard to the former the leading channels the Corbyn leadership wants to operate through need to be identified, particularly with television (beyond current affairs shows) and new media. Additionally, influencers need to identified. I’m circumspect as to how much they can change minds – after all, David Beckham’s intervention on Brexit went down like a lead balloon – but they undoubtedly extend reach, especially with specific, targeted demographics. This is especially important in regard to the coalition of voters that Corbyn’s Labour must now build. In regard to mobilisation, I would imagine something equivalent to the NOI should be set up. It would offer not only training, skills and experience for 100,000 organisers, but certification too. These organisers would advocate the new politics, but also add new members. They would also be the basis by which party activists begin to engage in local community organising beyond electoralism. As mentioned, in terms of funding those projects the party needs its own equivalent of Act Blue to fund local campaigns and initiatives. The problem, with a national membership of over half-a-million, is not raising resources, but effectively channeling them to where they are most needed. If Labour HQ is too short-sighted to create these two institutions, others should. They will be crucial in the assemblage that makes Labour a serious electoral force.</p> <h2><b>Labour needs to identify and build its coalition of voters</b></h2> <p>Alongside creating the right ecology through which it can flourish as both a campaigning movement and electoral force, Labour needs to understand the coalition it must build to win. Again, I think that Corbyn – and more importantly the changed Labour party he will lead – offers much more promise here than Owen Smith.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Labour must remain rooted in the trade union movement, one thing it can learn from the US Democratic party is how to build a social majority which beats ‘Middle England’. In both 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama won the White House despite being relatively unpopular with what is presented as the deciding force in politics: white men. While Britain does not have the same ethnic composition as the US, Jeremy Corbyn&nbsp;– or indeed any potential Labour prime minister – will have to do something pretty similar. Obama’s ‘coalition’ was women, the young, and BME voters. In terms of who joined Labour during and immediately after Corbyn’s campaign last summer, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2015/10/05/aaron-bastani/labours-new-members/">something similar happened with the party’s 150,000 new members</a>, with joiners tending to be younger and female. </p><p>Labour actually won the last election among under-45s. A primary task for Corbyn, then, would be to generate a considerable increase in turnout among that demographic, as in fact <a target="_blank" href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/09/young-people-referendum-turnout-brexit-twice-as-high">happened in the recent referendum on membership of the European Union</a>. This is low hanging fruit, and should be a central aspect of Labour’s electoral strategy.</p> <p>In fact Labour needs a considerable increase in overall turnout just to stay where they are after boundary changes. Again, I don’t think Smith can do that. The difference between Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 was a 7% increase in turnout for the latter. Labour now needs a similar trend in England and Wales just to stay competitive.&nbsp; </p><p>In addition to more people powering a higher turnout, particularly among the young, Labour also needs to win a majority among women and BME voters. Nowadays women are more likely to vote Labour then men – although in last year’s general election <span style="text-decoration: underline;">it appears almost certain that most women voted Tory</span>. Labour did however have a big advantage among women under 50, enjoying a six-point lead. Along with increasing turnout among that vote – far more likely to vote Labour anyway – Corbyn also needs to win a majority of women next time round. Against a second woman as Tory prime minister – Theresa May – that would appear difficult, but anti-austerity policies, as well as big offers on pay discrimination, social housing and care (adult, child and for those with disabilities) would be very popular. As already mentioned, a national base of activists – mobilising around issues of social reproduction – would be a major difference here.</p> <p>Corbyn’s Labour will also need to win the BME vote, something Labour historically does anyway. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3575/How-Britain-voted-in-2015.aspx">In 2015 Labour won 65% of BME votes</a>, an increase of 5% on five years earlier. Again, as with younger voters the aim must be to get far more of this demographic to not only vote but to actively campaign for Labour. That will go hand-in-hand with Labour becoming an effective organisation for anti-racist activism in the years ahead – something crucially necessary given the growth of xenophobia and racist violence in the aftermath of Brexit. Can Smith do that? It’s unlikely given his <a target="_blank" href="http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2016/07/26/owen-smith-there-are-too-many-immigrants-in-parts-of-britain"><b>comments on immigration</b></a> in his recent Newsnight interview.</p> <p>But along with Obama’s coalition, the big ask for Corbyn is how you win such a ‘social majority’ while maintaining the party’s historic heartlands in former mining and industrial areas. On a range of issues, from Europe to migration, such areas express diverging attitudes with Labour’s metropolitan core. If just this balancing act can be achieved, in the process seeing away the challenge of UKIP, Corbyn would enjoy a much more successful general election than Ed Miliband a year ago. With Owen Smith, given his lobbyist history, his offer of a second EU referendum and his pro-austerity policies, something similar seems unlikely. For me, Labour wins those areas, and handsomely, with a big offer on industrial strategy, jobs, housing and a new kind of economy. This will go hand-in-hand with critiquing a failing model of globalisation, but insisting the solutions are economic and around issues of labour reform, rather than immigration. There can be no doubt about it, this will take years, but it is absolutely crucial.&nbsp;</p><p>So in terms of who is more likely to win, or even compete, at a general election between Corbyn and Smith I would suggest Smith can’t build the necessary coalition that Corbyn can. Yes, Smith might look a lot more appetising to southern swing voters, but when you zoom out, that is less important than it looks.</p> <p>What is more, Corbyn offers Labour a path to reinvention. The centre-left is dying across Europe, and I’d suggest Owen Smith would take Labour in a similar direction. Can Corbyn become the next prime minister? It’s possible, but it depends both on the growing movement that now surrounds him and how his leadership interacts with it. Most importantly, his leadership can feasibly change Labour, at both a local and national level, into a party fit for the modern era. As important as&nbsp;winning elections and modernising the Labour party, is how a mass, active membership can not only re-define party politics, but Britain. We need change in Westminster but also across civil society. Only Corbyn offers that.</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/john-heathcliff/post-factual-labour-leadership-election">The post-factual Labour leadership election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like">Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Aaron Bastani Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:34:58 +0000 Aaron Bastani 104333 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Contestation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-davis/contestation-between-anti-zionism-and-antisemitism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Only when we refute the monolithic interpretation of Zionist theory and practice can we approach an understanding of the contested relationship between anti-zionism and antisemitism.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Israel_-_Boycott,_divest,_sanction.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Israel_-_Boycott,_divest,_sanction.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Israel - BDS. Flickr/ Takver. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is a vexed and controversial question. My starting point is to elucidate an understanding of the meaning of Zionism; a term and a political concept which is rarely defined and frequently misunderstood. This is hardly surprising given that today in the 21st century, Zionism/ist is construed as an insult by some and is often equated with apartheid and even worse, Nazism. My understanding of Zionism seeks neither to exonerate, praise nor condemn. Rather we must seek to comprehend the Zionist movement and concomitant ideology in its historical, material and constantly evolving context.</p> <h2><strong>A form of nationalism</strong></h2> <p>Put simply Zionism is a form of nationalism which developed under two sets of linked influences in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and beyond. The first was the European nationalist movements which led to the formation of such nation states as Germany and Italy in the 1870’s and the nationalist inspired impulses in many other countries. The second spur to Zionism was the ubiquitous antisemitism experienced by Jews in most of the countries in which they were domiciled. Such antisemitism was nothing new it had existed for centuries, but the prevalence of state supported nationalist ideologies influencing indigenous populations in the direction of patriotic flag waving fervour (what the late historian E.J.Hobsbawm called ‘the invention of tradition’), led to a renewal of the hatred of the ‘outsider’ (Jews) in a virulent form in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was in these linked contexts that a form of Jewish nationalism emerged - Zionism. </p> <p>Later, of course, German Nazism expressed the ultimate form of antisemitism - culminating in the Holocaust in which upwards of six million Jews were murdered in the most brutal and shocking circumstances. It should be noted, however, that antisemitism was not confined to Europe; it emerged later in the Middle East and resulted in the mass expulsion of Jews from such countries as Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and others in the 1950’s and 1960’s. </p> <p>From the very beginning during the nineteenth century there were many currents within Zionism, although initially Theodore Herzl’s version was the dominant one. Herzl was not the first to propound a form of secular, as opposed to religious, Zionism. This began with the writings of Moses Hess in the 1860’s, an associate of Karl Marx. (Hess was the Paris correspondent of the ‘Rheinische Zeitung’, the paper edited by Marx). Much later Ber Borochov developed a Marxist theory of Zionism as expressed in his book ‘The National Question and the Class Struggle’ (1905). He was one of the founders of Labour Zionism - Poale Zion; an organisation which attracted many Jewish socialists, including David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel when it was founded in 1948. Borochov and Poale Zion advocated a harmonious relationship between Jew and Arab in Palestine although Borochov himself did not live to see the creation of Israel since he died in 1917. Borochov’s vision was that Jews and Arabs would form a working class in Palestine and would be united in the struggle for a socialist state which would inevitably reflect their class interest. [There was a significant current of secular socialist Jewry in the Russian Empire, notably the General Jewish Labour Bund (in its preferred Yiddish title, Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund), formed in 1897, which resolutely opposed Zionism.] Nonetheless, many Jews emigrated to Palestine to escape pogroms and persecution in the early twentieth century before the formation of the state of Israel. These early Jewish settlers, the Yishuv, sometimes, although by no means always, co-existed relatively peacefully with the indigenous Arab population.</p> <h2><strong>Jabotinsky</strong></h2> <p>However, this leftist secular Zionism is not the whole story. Zionism in its early days also contained a right wing extreme nationalist current. The leader of this strain was Ze’ev Jabotinsky whose organisation, Betar, a youth movement, was formed in 1923 His ‘adult’ organisation, Hatzohar, formed in 1925, was right wing enough to initially support Mussolini. Jabotinsky advocated ‘territorial maximalism’ in Palestine. Such a policy sought Arab defeat and dispossession, rejecting any notion of peaceful co-existence. This ideology is now the dominant one in Israel today and is expressed by Likud, the political party headed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Likud’s predecessor, Herut, was formed in 1948 by Menachem Begin shortly after Israeli independence. Thus, in short, the Zionist movement was fractured from its early days and remains so until the present time. The Poale Zion movement also split into left and right factions; the former represented by Mapai and later the Israeli labour Party and the latter represented by Mapam (later Meretz). Mapai and Mapam dominated the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) in the early years of statehood. </p> <p>The purpose of this narrative about the origins and evolution of Zionism is to counter the widely held belief that it was a monolithic movement with a settled ideology. The only constant that emerges from the foregoing is that of Zionism as a form of Jewish nationalism which, like almost every nationalist iteration that has emerged in world history, has a left, a right and a ‘moderate/diplomatic’ variant. The latter two variants always seek accommodation with the dominant capitalist status quo. This has certainly happened in Israel where the Jabotinsky ‘revisionist’ (a self-named title) version presenting as right wing nationalist Zionism has been resurrected in the form of Herut and now Likud. </p> <h2><strong>Oppositional voices</strong></h2> <p>It is this form of right wing Zionist nationalism that has justly given rise to sharp and correct criticism of current Israeli government policy. Such criticism is to be found in Israel itself even among those who would call themselves Zionists. Many examples could be cited, the most recent of which was the resignation, circumventing his inevitable sacking, of Moshe Ya’alon, the former Israeli defence minister in May 2016. He could no longer tolerate government policies and was openly critical of them. (Ya’alon was replaced by Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beitenu, represent an even more extreme right wing variant of Likud). Ya’alon has now announced (at the Herzliya Conference, June 2016) that he intends to stand as Prime Minister in opposition to Netanyahu. Major General Yair Golan, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) deputy Chief of Staff, was sharply criticized by Netanyahu for the damning comments the former made on Holocaust Memorial Day, May 2016, relating to the policies of the current Likud government and the conduct of some elements within the IDF itself. Ya’alon said:</p> <blockquote><p>"If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016."</p></blockquote> <p>These, of course, are not the only oppositional voices among Israelis. Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) and Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) are long standing proponents of alternative peaceful, non-expansionist policies as are many other Israeli human rights organisations. The growing number of ‘refuseniks’, young women and men who, on moral grounds, reject army call-up, serve as a brave reminder of protest in ‘the belly of the beast’. The assassination of the Labour Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right wing Jewish extremist, Yigal Amir in 1995 presented a sharp prompt, if one was needed, of the fractured nature of Zionist politics in Israel. The assassination took place very publicly at a rally in Tel Aviv attended by some 100,000 supporters of the peace process. For the right Rabin’s ‘crime’ was that he dared to engage in dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); something that Likud has steadfastly refused to do time and again, declaring that this organisation, the PLO, is not a ‘partner for peace’. The assassin, Amir, expressed it succinctly when he said that Rabin wanted to ‘give our country to the Arabs’ - a view apparently shared by Likud.</p> <p>It is only when we refute the monolithic interpretation of Zionist theory and practice that we can approach an understanding of the contested relationship between anti-zionism and antisemitism. Without such a nuanced interpretation we will inevitably fall into the ubiquitous trap of assuming that the narrative of contemporary anti-zionists is correct. This is the narrative which equates an ahistorical and undifferentiated view of Zionism with racism, apartheid and even genocidal fascism. Thus, without seeking to ignore the horrific policies of contemporary right wing Zionism, my argument seeks to differentiate this from other variants. Rather it is an attempt to understand that the form of Jewish nationalism (Zionism) which inspired the Yishuv and later the State of Israel was an understandable reaction to antisemitism and the Holocaust. This does not mean that Jewish settlement was problem free, nor that it was conducted without detriment to the Arab population – far from it as the 1967 Six Day War clearly showed. </p> <h2><strong>Non-Jewish Israelis and the failed peace process</strong></h2> <p>But even before this, the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 as a Jewish state created and continues to create huge problems for its non-Jewish inhabitants. Although there was a relatively peaceful situation in Israel for the first ten years of existence, Ben-Gurion, nonetheless, always viewed the Arab population within Israel as a potentially destabilising threat. Thus it was (and is) that despite the fact that the Declaration of Independence guarantees juridical, political and social equality to all its citizens, Palestinian Arabs living within Israel have been deprived of much of their land, many of their homes and are generally treated as second class citizens. This situation was greatly exacerbated following the 1967 war when Israel expanded its borders into the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Palestine Liberation Organisation, formed in 1964, was and remains an expression of Palestinian dissatisfaction with the expansionist and inegalitarian policies of Israel. Apart from numerous attacks and incursions within Israel, it launched the first Palestinian uprising or Intifada in 1987 and the second in 2000. </p> <p>However, it is not my intention to recount a history of the twists and turns of Israeli expansionist politics, much less to analyse the failed peace process and its place within international statecraft, although we should note here the tragic failure of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995. The only lasting significance of Oslo was the creation of and acceptance by Israel of the Palestinian Authority and, importantly, the PLO’s recognition of the State of Israel. The latter is something which Hamas and Hezbollah have steadfastly refused to do. Rather we must return to the central question posed in this essay; namely the contested relationship between anti-zionism and antisemitism. </p> <h2><strong>Justified and unjustified opposition to Zionism</strong></h2> <p>Whilst attempting a non-monolithic and nuanced interpretation of Zionism, I have not sought to exonerate either its moderate or its right wing variants. In fact, some might wonder whether the foregoing critique of Zionist practice by successive Israeli governments, renders the central question I have not yet answered, redundant. So far it would seem that opposing the Zionist project is entirely justified and thus certainly not anti-semitic. In 1975 United Nations resolution 3379 denounced Zionism as ‘a form of racism and racial discrimination’. This resolution was revoked in 1991. </p> <p>Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, many critics still espouse the UN resolution 3379 and go even further than that. However, this is where I part company with such critics who stubbornly fail to distinguish the historical evolution of Zionist ideology from the more unacceptable aspects of its lived form. In short, anti-zionism is not the same as critical Zionism or even non-Zionism.</p> <p>As a form of nationalism, Zionism, like all forms of nationalism, bears responsibility for the intolerant treatment meted out to those who it excludes from its national/ethnic definition even if they are the original inhabitants of the country in which incomers seek to settle. This is apparent when we look at the white settlement of what is now the US; accomplished as it was by the displacement of native Americans and the enslavement of Black Americans followed by the subsequent racist atrocities committed against them. A similar pattern can be discerned in the case of the settlement of the white commonwealth where Maoris and Aborigines, the indigenous populations of New Zealand and Australia were displaced by force. No-one today argues that despite the crimes committed against their native populations, the countries now called the US, Australia and New Zealand should cease to exist. In this sense Israel is once again singled out for special treatment as we shall see. There are many historic and current examples of such nationalist/nation building malpractice. Witness the effects of nationalist rhetoric when the nationalist ‘cause’ is invoked against migrant incomers. And this is to say nothing of imperialism and neo-colonialism - all carried out waving the national flag and spuriously defending and protecting the so-called national interest of the conqueror. Such imperialism created countries artificially in the material interests of the conquerors. This was especially true in the Middle East and Africa where boundaries between states were often drawn with a ruler on a map and with no regard to the indigenous peoples.</p> <p>Of course, this is not the only way in which nationalism manifested itself. The demand after World War 1 for the right of nations to self-determination was enshrined in the Versailles Settlement in an attempt to dismember the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and German Reich. (The Treaty of Brest Litovsk had already dealt a blow to the former Russian Empire). Jewish nationalism or Zionism can be seen in this historical context of self-determination. It is also the case that hitherto conquered peoples in countries colonised by European imperialists formed National Liberation movements in order to rebel against their colonial masters and free their countries from white rule. By the mid-twentieth century many of these liberation movements had been successful politically, although not necessarily economically as neo-colonialism spread its tentacles over Africa and Asia. Within Israel the PLO must be viewed as a similar liberation struggle intent on creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel - a two state solution which left wing Zionists and progressive Jews in the diaspora are anxious to champion. </p> <p>This is in sharp contrast to the PLO’s main rival Hamas. The Covenant of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel (in the preamble). It calls for the creation of a Moslem state ‘over every inch of Palestine’ (article 6). Article 13 rejects outright any possibility of a negotiated peace asserting that no solution to the Zionist problem is possible except by Jihad. Furthermore, the Covenant is explicitly anti-semitic espousing overtly a version of the (forged and profoundly anti-semitic diatribe), <em>Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em> (article 22). </p> <h2><strong>Hamas</strong></h2> <p>Now we are approaching an answer to the original question. Hamas has, by implication, answered it for us. For Hamas, as for many of today’s anti-zionists, their objection is not merely to a version of Zionism, it is much more fundamental. They are opposed to the creation and continued existence of the State of Israel. </p> <p>They call into question the legitimacy of Israel as a colonising-settler state. For them a ‘one state solution’ as advocated by Hamas would mean, if not ridding Palestine of the Jews, then at the very least, abolishing any notion of a Jewish state. Western adherents to this position, whether or not they support the Hamas Covenant in full (and hopefully most would presumably baulk at giving credence to the <em>Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em>), seek to justify their anti-zionist stance by a blanket depiction of Zionism and Israel as a racist, apartheid or fascist state. </p> <p>Such a policy ignores Likud’s own move to an alternative one-state solution, a political transition &nbsp;recently exposed, surprisingly enough, by former prime minister, Ehud Barak at Herzliya (June 2016) who warned that Netanyahu’s agenda was in essence the creation of a Jewish state not just in Israel, as at present, but over all of the occupied territories. Thus the stance of western anti-zionists not only fails to counter the danger of the extreme right in Israel, but also refuses to distinguish Israeli state policy from the people inhabiting Israel many of whom, Zionists included, are implacably opposed to the government and its settlement policy. </p> <p>This failure to make a distinction between government and people leads such anti-zionists in a blinkered and almost despairing fashion to a similar direction to that of Hamas; that is, opposition to the continued existence of the Israeli State. This is the inevitable conclusion they must draw from their questioning of the fundamental legitimacy of the existence of Israel. </p> <h2><strong>BDS</strong></h2> <p>Hence this is the point at which anti-zionism very definitely is in danger of morphing into antisemitism. It has led to campaigns to demonise and isolate Israel as a pariah state incorporating such demands as an academic boycott of Israeli universities and to the more general call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS). The latter demand, BDS, is in itself not anti-semitic, although considering that it is a global campaign directed solely against Israel, one is forced to question why the other many countries with utterly appalling human rights records are not singled out for similar treatment. It would, in the case of Israel, have been strategically more appropriate to have targeted the BDS campaign to institutions and goods situated or produced in the occupied territories. In addition BDS should concentrate on prioritising the boycott of weaponry imported to Israel and all other materials used to maintain or construct walls, barriers and guard posts to separate and prevent the free movement of Palestinians living in the illegally occupied territories. Conversely, the call for an academic boycott of (only) Israeli universities can definitely be construed as anti-semitic. It fails to distinguish between civil society and the state and in so doing it is thus boycotting only Jewish academics. This is a very misguided strategy given that many (certainly not all) Israeli academics are opponents of the occupation. In the case of the academic boycott, Ariel University, built on the West Bank should have been the sole and legitimate focus of the boycott campaign. </p> <h2><strong>Other conclusions</strong></h2> <p>Opposition to Zionism on its own does not on its own equate to antisemitism. After all, many Jews are not Zionists especially some Charedim (ultra-orthodox Jews) and as we have seen historically, the Bund. However, we would be burying our heads in the sand if we did not recognise that there is currently a strain of anti-zionism which has moved into mainstream discourse and in so doing has managed to normalise hostility to Israel as a country and a people, rather than straightforward opposition to its various governments. It is this strain of anti-zionism which, whilst not necessarily motivated by antisemitism, (although it sometimes is), which, as I have tried to show, can and often does lead to antisemitism. Shami Chakrabarti’s Inquiry into antisemitism in the UK's Labour Party was published on June 20, 2016. Interestingly Chakrabarti, in her section on ‘Zionism and Zionists’, makes the following observation:</p> <blockquote><p>‘Crucially, I have heard testimony and heard for myself first-hand, the way in which the word “Zionist” has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for “Jew”, even in relation to some people with no stated position or even a critical position on the historic formation or development of modern Israel………My advice to critics of the Israeli State and/or Government is to use the term “Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse’ (p.12)</p></blockquote> <p>However, whatever our attitude to Zionism, it is now of paramount importance to support the demand for a Palestinian state alongside that of Israel. This demands negotiating a peace settlement with the PLO, dismantling the Wall, withdrawing from the Occupied Territories and ensuring that Arabs living within Israel are treated equally politically and economically. There is much else besides, but it must be the case that in order to win a viable two state solution alliances will have to be made with Israeli citizens who agree with this perspective. Without this there can be no political base for a two state solution on the terms set by the PLO.&nbsp; </p> <p>And currently, it must be stressed, the base for such an alliance appears to be emerging.&nbsp; The last election saw a very close result. The Zionist Union, note the name, ran on a peace programme against Likud and came second.&nbsp; A range of other peace parties also did well and Likud only managed to form a government with great difficulty.</p> <p>It is this extreme right wing Israeli government that must be overthrown and those countries who back it exposed. The possibility of achieving this will be assisted if we jettison the kind of anti-zionism, as outlined in the foregoing, which rejects the people of Israel and also, as a consequence, a two-state solution.</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/james-mcash/left-wing-anti-semitism-what-is-it-and-what-is-to-be-done">Left wing anti-Semitism: what is it, and what is to be done?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/brian-klug/anti-semitism-and-jewish-future-in-europe">Anti-Semitism and the Jewish future in Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/why-i-am-antizionist-jew">Why I am an anti-Zionist Jew</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/hilary-aked/undeniable-overlap-right-wing-zionism-and-islamophobia"> The undeniable overlap: right-wing Zionism and Islamophobia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mirrorracisms/keith-kahn-harris/internal-external-factors-intra-jewish-conflict-israel-and-antisemitism">Internal and external factors in intra-Jewish conflict over Israel and antisemitism</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"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk Palestine EU Israel Mary Davis Wed, 27 Jul 2016 09:11:11 +0000 Mary Davis 104313 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Cameron: How can you mend a broken country? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/piers-purdy/after-cameron-how-can-you-mend-broken-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In seeking a One Party Britain, David Cameron sowed the seeds not for a united nation, but a divided one. A sign that Britain’s ‘Left Behind’ are now beginning to have their voices heard.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/David_Cameron_(cropped).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/David_Cameron_(cropped).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Cameron, Toms Norde, Valsts kanceleja, Wikimedia Commons</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>In Brexit, Britain is Divided</strong></h2> <p>On Friday, June 24, 2016 Britain awoke and was forced to look at itself in the mirror. In its reflection it saw the signs of a society more divided that it had previously felt comfortable to admit. The Brexit result was not just about the rejection of the European Union. It also signalled the British people’s unwillingness to view the world beyond the familiar conception of <em>the nation state</em>, calling into question the country’s social and cultural unity.</p> <p>As a country deeply integrated into the international system, in every sense of the word, British society is caught in the dilemma of how to preserve a national identity, in a context of ever expanding globalisation. Put otherwise, it’s tasked with maintaining its national unity whilst simultaneously managing and encouraging internal differences. This is both a question of social justice – by ensuring broad equality – <em>and </em>nourishing a multi-ethnic society. </p> <p>With the country now entering the uncertainty of the post-Brexit era, it is vital that these two issues are addressed if Britain is to come together as a tolerant, united society. Yet, looking back over the last six years of government, David Cameron’s brand of One Nation conservatism has contributed little to this aim. In fact, it is the very catalyst of the divisions that are staring Britain in the face today. </p> <p>* * *</p> <p>The frequent use of military force abroad, and the invariably linked rise in violent attacks on the innocent in parts of Europe, has certainly inspired a number of societies across the continent to a return to nation-building. However, the widespread rise in <em>nationalism</em> that we are witnessing can be accounted to more than just these security narratives that have come to the forefront of global politics in recent years. For alone, it fails to take into account the social dimension – that is, why society’s <em>Left Behind</em> are drawn to <em>nationalism</em> in their bid to recapture control over a country and identity that they feel has forgotten them.</p> <p>And they are forgotten – because while it is undeniable that much of Britain has benefitted from the country’s presence and ongoing integration into the international system, the <em>haves</em> have reaped more of the rewards than the <em>have nots</em>. After Spain and Greece, <a href="https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk">the UK has the third highest income inequality in Europe</a> – a fact many Brits would be shocked to hear. But what is worse is that this social division is as much visible by class, as it is by geographic location: of course, referring to the notorious North-South divide.</p> <p>Across the world, <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/08/london-problem">the UK is second only to Russia</a> in the dominance of its capital city over the rest of the country. London has achieved this position over years of growth and development. Since 1989, London and the South East’s share of the country’s production (GVA) has risen from 20% to over 38%. Yet, despite the country’s capital being one of the largest transactional markets in the world, the wealth that international integration has attracted has neither ‘trickled down’, nor been shared to ‘help people out of poverty’. This structural transfer of wealth to the capital has condemned many communities across the UK to a life of hand-outs and low-skilled work, as their iconic industries have faded around them.</p> <p>London may well have the international status of a cultural powerhouse, with a vibrant migrant population of over 36%, but it is by no means representative of the country. Since 1951, Britain’s foreign born population has risen from 3.5% to 12% – but this fact is not celebrated in many communities that feel their politicians are looking beyond their own shores, before looking after <em>their own</em>.</p> <p>And despite the promises of a more inclusive society by previous governments, especially those of David Cameron, each one has failed to do enough. We know this, because increasingly the electorate has been looking for alternatives, finding the once peripheral figures of Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage. Now, the popularity of their (albeit contrasting) positions are undeniable.</p> <p>And so it happened that the prime minister gave the electorate their <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_devolution_referendum,_2011">fourth</a> referendum of his premiership, by which point it was clear that the boundaries of debate would be set by the nationalist agenda that was growing within Britain’s divisions. How unsurprising it was, therefore, when the Vote Leave campaign provided an uncanny impersonation of one of their founding fathers, the notorious anti-marketeer Enoch Powell. With acute precision, they irresponsibly exploited social anxieties, normalising their xenophobic rhetoric. </p> <p>To their thanks, Britain not only woke up to Brexit, but also <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-hate-crime-racism-reports-eu-referendum-latest-a7106116.html">a spike in hate crime across the country</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Cameron failed to create One Nation</strong></h2> <p>An apostle of Disraeli’s One Nation conservatism, David Cameron entered No. 10 Downing Street having promised to ‘govern for all’. It was a popular brand of rhetoric, remaining at the forefront of his addresses even into his second term. While as a theme it was used to emphasise his Unionist credentials (the Scottish claim for independence an additional divide to consider), it was also a bid to make inroads into the electorate of a Labour party that was becoming increasingly fractured. And in seeking a <em>One Party</em> Britain, David Cameron sowed the seeds not for a united nation, but a divided one.</p> <p>Despite ensuring future electoral success for the Conservatives, David Cameron’s premiership saw the UK’s <a href="http://visual.ons.gov.uk/how-employee-numbers-have-changed-in-the-north-since-2009/">North-South economic divide strengthen</a>; a rise in the number of ‘high earners’ in an era of heavy austerity and an overall economic recovery plan that favoured many, but <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/bank-of-england-chief-economist-met-some-poor-people-2016-7">forgot the bottom two-fifths of the population</a>. Britain’s <a href="http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2015/05/wealth-inequality-is-even-more-extreme-than-income-inequality/">wealth distribution</a> is more unequal than in 2010, and the country’s <em>Left Behind</em> have not seen the social justice of the One Nation they were promised. </p> <p>This has led to an alternative, more harmful conception of the One Nation. In 2011, the prime minister launched an assault on ‘the failures of state multiculturalism’. He was referring to a policy approach that maintains a pluralistic conception of citizenship, protecting the social and political rights of discrete ethnic groups, and thus institutionalising <em>difference </em>within a single nation. His move away from the dominance of <em>multiculturalist</em> thought was a much needed one – such policies only serve to institutionalise sensitive differences. It should also be recognised, however, that it was also a means of appeasing the growing nationalistic elements of society – complaints of unfair preferential rights for minority groups and excessive political correctness were growing louder – and therefore, it began the legitimisation to the darker parts of British society.</p> <p>Soon after his first electoral success, Cameron introduced the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85299/equality-strategy.pdf">Government’s 2010 Equality Strategy</a> - the cross-party committee for which was chaired by Teresa May. It promised to do away with the ‘social engineering’ of tick boxes, instead opting to ‘[recognise] that we are a group of 62 million people’. This sounded very appealing: both simple and of common sense, and that was its charm. Or it would have be, if it weren’t accompanied by policies that took a bold step towards the French model of <em>civic-assimilation</em>, such as the ‘Life in the UK Test’ for immigrants intending to stay in the UK. As we are regrettably learning, this alternate approach is as equally <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/multiculturalism-assimilation-britain-france">ill-equipped in ensuring a healthy, vibrant multi-ethnic society</a> as the multiculturalist approach, as Kenan Malik writes.</p> <p>Simultaneously enshrining ‘equal rights’ and ‘the right to be different’ is the Catch 22 of the multi-ethnic society. However, Cameron’s One Nation conservatism was more of a political tool than a substantive framework for uniting the nation. During his six years as prime minister, he not only managed to widen the gap between the <em>haves </em>and the <em>have nots</em>, but critically he prepared the platform for a Vote Leave campaign that would use British nationalism as its primary weapon.</p> <h2><strong>May must be cautious when calling for One Nation</strong></h2> <p>David Cameron has left office with a rather uninspiring mixed bag of successes and failures. In his wake, Teresa May has seemingly picked up the baton by promising to lead <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2016/jul/13/theresa-mays-speech-what-she-said-and-what-she-meant">in the spirit of her predecessor’s ‘one nation government’</a>. However, she should be wary of the effect that such rhetoric can have, if not accompanied by genuine political will to address the glaring socio-economic divides in Britain.</p> <p>Aside from ensuring that the UK retains a seat at the table of Europe, May must continue to promote international engagement and inter-dependence beyond the Anglosphere. Every country’s future should now lie in a constructive, outward-looking approach to both external <em>and</em> internal politics, as opposed to exercising the comforting, but archaic appeals of nationalism. Most importantly, however, beyond Brexit, she must ensure that Britain feels united; not under a flag, language or birth right, but as part of a just and tolerant society. </p> <p id="docs-internal-guid-59b4805d-21f4-1885-5b32-4c9b0307fee7" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>This article is part of our Reset series. Chip in </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here</span></a><span> to help fund the conversation about how to change Britain for good.</span></strong></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/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Piers Purdy Tue, 26 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Piers Purdy 104245 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'The unacceptable face of capitalism'? What the collapse of BHS shows us about the UK economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-tombs/unacceptable-face-of-capitalism-what-collapse-of-bhs-shows-us-about-uk-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a deregulated financial market, Sir Philip Green's plundering of BHS is the rule, not the exception.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-28158649.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="BHS staff carry discounted goods from the company&#039;s head office. Picture by: Nick Ansell / PA Wire/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-28158649.jpg" alt="BHS staff carry discounted goods from the Marylebone head office. Picture by: Nick Ansell / PA Wire/Press Association Images" title="BHS staff carry discounted goods from the company&#039;s head office. Picture by: Nick Ansell / PA Wire/Press Association Images" width="460" height="365" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BHS staff carry discounted goods from the company's head office. Picture by: Nick Ansell / PA Wire/Press Association Images</span></span></span>In the wake of revelations about his role in the collapse of BHS, Sir Phillip Green has been condemned as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.&nbsp;Trotting out this phrase as part of the “damning” House of Commons Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/54/54.pdf" target="_blank">report</a><span>&nbsp;on the collapse may make for good headlines. But it does nothing to further reforms towards any more effective system for controlling the behemoths of corporate capitalism. &nbsp;</span></p><p>While the headline versions of the report make much of Sir Philip Green’s “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/philip-green-responsible-tragedy-systematic-plunder-bhs-collapse-mps-a7154341.html" target="_blank">systematic plunder</a>” of the company, a closer reading reveals a systematically flawed system of regulation. This system remains untouched by the financial crisis of 2007, still under attack as a burden on business, and likely to be further weakened as the realities of post-Brexit become increasingly apparent.</p><p>The report – or at least its popular reception – is a classic instance of individualising corporate offending. Sir Phillip Green, and to a lesser extent Dominic Chappell, are the contemporary equivalents of the ‘<a href="http://sunheadlines.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/11th-february-2009-scumbag-millionaires.html" target="_blank">Scumbag Millionaires</a>’ of the 2007 financial crisis.&nbsp; The Sun ran this moniker as a headline across a front page showing Fred Goodwin, Stephen Hester, Andy Hornby and Tom McKillop as they sat before the UK Treasury Select Committee hearings of 2009 into the banking crisis.</p><p>A key aspect of the debate surrounding the demise of BHS and the systematic plundering of its finances - including its pension fund - is whether Green will be stripped of his knighthood. This question is intimately linked to whether or not he will fulfil what the report calls his “moral duty” and make a large cash payment to the pension fund. In this latter call, the resort to the language of 'moral duty' is an indictment of the state of law and regulation of corporate activity, both in terms of the corporate person (by definition&nbsp;<a href="http://www.socialistproject.org/author/swdw/" target="_blank">an a-moral, legally constructed entity</a>) and its directors, senior managers and shareholders. Indeed, the report is less than sanguine about the abilities of the pension regulator to secure restitution for the 22,000 pension holders who have been the victims of what is no more nor less than theft and fraud – an all too typical scenario in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/Better%20regulation%20briefing%2C%20April%202016_0.pdf" target="_blank">deregulated, neo-liberal version of capitalism that has long dominated the UK political consensus</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In fact, the incident sheds light on other perfectly routine ways of doing business in the UK.&nbsp;</p><p>The committee’s report and the ensuing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/24/sir-philip-green-branded-unacceptable-face-of-capitalism-by-mps/" target="_blank">media response</a>&nbsp;seems somehow to represent the whole affair&nbsp;as aberrant and a-typical; hence the epithet "the unacceptable face of capitalism". In fact, the incident sheds light on other perfectly routine ways of doing business in the UK. One of these is the normal practice of squirreling funds offshore into tax havens – something Green achieved through his wife’s ownership of Taveta Ltd. The&nbsp;<a href="https://panamapapers.icij.org/" target="_blank">Panama Papers</a>&nbsp;revealed, as if such revelations were necessary, that this kind of practise is simply one element of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31147276" target="_blank">industrial scale</a>&nbsp;personal and corporate tax avoidance. And in this business of ‘aggressive tax planning’ -- an anaesthetising term if ever there were one -- the UK is a world leader, with Cameron and Osborne having long sought to protect its financial sevices industry from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c147ea8c-5700-11e5-a28b-50226830d644.html#axzz4FPcOPRHJ" target="_blank">over-burdening EU legislation</a>.</p><p>This affair also tells us something about the craven attitude of UK media and political elites to leading business figures. Until very recently, Sir Philip Green had been lauded as an archetypal entrepreneur, the turnaround kind, the businessman who could not only speak for the best that is competitive capitalism but in fact was fit to advise government: this is the same Phillip Green who was called upon by the coalition government in 2010 to advise on cost savings at it prepared for its ‘emergency budget’. At the time, minister Francis Maude said of Green that "<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10961240" target="_blank">He's shown how he can turn around big complex businesses. Government is a huge complex organisation, and while it's not the same as a business, a lot of the same disciplines are needed</a>."</p><p>This is simply one instance of the craven attitude that successive governments, since the days of New Labour at least, have displayed towards entrepreneurs. It was Gordon Brown who, on becoming Prime Minister in 2007, called for a "government of all the talents', inviting a series of unlikely characters to take up non-elected, advisory posts. One notable such appointment was (Lord) Digby-Jones, former head of the&nbsp;Confederation of British Industry,&nbsp;&nbsp;an&nbsp;employers' organisation. On resigning his post as trade minister in 2009&nbsp; Digby-Jones argued that “top businessmen” – and not&nbsp; “incompetent politicians” - should run major Government departments: “<a href="https://c/Users/STEVET/Desktop/Health,%20education,%20business,%20transport,%20defence%20and%20security%20are%20too%20important%20to%20be%20left%20any%20longer%20to%20enthusiastic%20amateurs%20and%20their%20honest%20and%20hard-working%20but%20risk-averse%20civil%20servants" target="_blank">Health, education, business, transport, defence and security are too important to be left any longer to enthusiastic amateurs and their honest and hard-working but risk-averse civil servants</a>.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This whole shabby episode reveals much about the systematic and ongoing failings of a patchwork regulatory system</p><p>Finally, this whole shabby episode reveals much about the systematic and ongoing failings of a patchwork regulatory system. None of the regulators involved - Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Financial Reporting Council, the Pensions Regulator, the Insolvency Service and the Serious Fraud Office – come out of this tale with their already-hardly-stellar reputations enhanced. And for all the talk of regulatory reform, improved systems of corporate governance, greater transparency for private business – all of which grace the pages of this 60 page report – little is likely to transpire in any of these areas. We’ve been here before, many times, not least in the series of Governmental inquiries which followed the 2007 financial crisis, which in sum resulted to virtually no meaningful regulatory reform. Perhaps the most lauded were the proposals in the Vickers Report, that a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/sep/12/vickers-report-key-points" target="_blank">ring-fence</a>&nbsp;to be erected between investment and retail banking.</p><p>Subsequently even Andrew Tyrie -- the Conservative chairman of the Treasury Select Committee -- said of the proposed UK fencing that it is “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10167457/Andrew-Tyrie-bank-reform-legislation-so-weak-as-to-be-virtually-useless.html" target="_blank">so weak as to be virtually useless</a>”. A handy catch-all verdict on the state of business regulation in the UK. This is the story of BHS, of 11,000 jobs lost, of 22,000 pension holders impoverished. It’s a story not of rogue, vilified, condemned individuals. It’s the story of an economic system based on structural irresponsibility, a supine political and media elite, and a regulatory system unable to mitigate capitalism’s inherently destructive effects.</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/kate-tepper/ttip-and-common-regulatory-standards"> TTIP and common regulatory standards</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/email/how-should-the-economy-be-regulated">How should the economy be regulated?</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Steve Tombs Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:30:02 +0000 Steve Tombs 104289 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An industrial strategy for energy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/chris-goodall/industrial-strategy-for-energy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain should abandon Hinkley Point and invest in storage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Hinkley_Point_Nuclear_Power_Station_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Hinkley_Point_Nuclear_Power_Station_0.jpg" 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'>Hinkley Point nuclear power station. By Di Richard Baker.</span></span></span></p><p>In early July, French parliamentarians produced a report on EdF, the largely state-owned electricity company that wants to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. The legislators concluded that the Hinkley project ‘is probably the last opportunity for EdF to restore the reputation of the French nuclear industry internationally and gain new business in a highly competitive market’. The implication was clear; Hinkley is a central part of the national industrial strategy of France. </p> <p>The nuclear power station will proceed not because it is good for Britain or its electricity users but because the French state thinks that maintaining the capacity to export nuclear power stations is a paramount objective. And, by the way, France itself is closing down the nuclear plants on its own soil as fast as it can, with no intention of replacing them. Instead it is driving forward with solar and wind. </p> <p>A few days after the French parliamentary report, the UK’s National Audit Office brought out its own report on nuclear power. Among its conclusions was a calculation that Hinkley will receive subsidies of about £30bn in the first thirty five years of its life. This figure is the difference between the open-market price of electricity and the much higher figure paid to EdF for the electricity produced by the proposed new power station. Directly and indirectly through higher prices of goods and services, the average UK household will pay about £32 a year for more than three decades for the privilege of supporting the French industrial strategy.</p> <p>In fact, the NAO figures are probably too optimistic. It assumed wholesale electricity prices of around £60 per megawatt hour. Based on today’s trades, the electricity market thinks differently. Wholesale prices for 2018 - the best guide we have to the future – are around £41, or less than 70% of the NAO’s figure. If the cost of wholesale electricity remains at this level, Hinkley won’t cost UK households £30bn but the rather larger figure of £47bn.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If the cost of wholesale electricity remains at this level, Hinkley won’t cost UK households £30bn but the rather larger figure of £47bn.</p> <p>Estimates for the underlying price of putting nuclear power on the grid continue to rise sharply. Nuclear power stations being built around the world today are almost all very much more costly than predicted and are taking several years longer to build than promised. The most troublesome new plant – at Olkiluoto in Finland – is now slated to start generating in late 2018, about eight years late. The cost overruns have near-bankrupted the developer, which is now fighting legal battles over $5bn of claims and counter-claims in international arbitration. Olkiluoto is built to the same design as Hinkley, suggesting that the French unions and EdF middle managers that are so opposed to the UK power station have considerable logic behind them. </p> <p>The NAO acknowledges the cost inflation of nuclear power around the world and also notes that solar and wind require lower subsidies. One chart in its report shows this point clearly. By 2025, the earliest conceivable date by which Hinkley could be providing electricity, the NAO sees solar costing £60 a megawatt hour (about 65% of nuclear’s cost) with onshore wind at a similar figure. In other words, the subsidy needed by solar is expected to be little more than a third of that required by EdF. </p> <p>What’s also clear is that while nuclear power is tending to get more expensive, wind and solar get cheaper and cheaper every year. Even experts find it difficult to keep up with the speed of the change. In 2010, the government’s energy department said that solar would cost £180 a megawatt hour in 2025. The most recent estimates, less than six years later, are no more than a third of this level. And, by the way, this failure to predict the steepness of decline in the costs of solar power is characteristic of all governmental and research institute forecasts around the world. The likelihood is that by 2025 solar will actually need no subsidies at all, even in the gloomier parts of the UK. </p> <p>Nobody really disputes any of this. Even the NAO acknowledges that the only remaining argument in favour of the ‘cathedral within a cathedral’ at Hinkley is that nuclear gives the UK what is known as baseload power.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> This comment mirrors an assessment by the new UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who described security of energy supply as an ‘absolute prerequisite’ in a BBC interview on 14 July, although he added he had not seen the new cost figures from the NAO and hopefully gave himself some space to reconsider. A well-functioning nuclear power station will provide a stable and consistent output for every hour of the year. It cannot be turned up and down as power needs vary during the year. Mr Hammond sees this an an advantage but as renewable sources grow in importance, the opposite is likely to be true. Modern economies actually don’t want baseload at all; we need electricity sources that ramp up and down to complement highly variable amounts of wind, solar and other renewables. Inflexible nuclear power is the worst possible fit with increasingly cheap but intermittent – although predictable – sources of low-carbon energy.&nbsp; </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Inflexible nuclear power is the worst possible fit with increasingly cheap but intermittent – although predictable – sources of low-carbon energy.</p><p>By 2025 the UK will probably have at least 18 gigawatts of offshore wind and perhaps 12 gigawatts of onshore wind. My guess is that we might see at least 25 gigawatts of solar power, and it could be much more if photovoltaic technologies continue to surprise us with rapid declines in price. (We already have about 12 gigawatts, mostly added in the last two years). The scope for continued improvement in the cost and performance of solar is substantial.</p> <p>Total demand for electricity falls as low as 19 gigawatts in summer compared to the 55 gigawatts of renewables. So there will be many occasions when the UK has too much power and nuclear power will be unnecessary. On other occasions, such as still December evenings, demand will be 50 gigawatts or so and solar and wind will be producing a fraction of the amount required. The 3 gigawatts at Hinkley will be helpful but insufficient.</p> <p>Here then is the challenge facing Greg Clark, the new minister in charge of both energy and ‘industrial strategy’. How does the UK avoid becoming the testbed for France’s horrendously expensive nuclear technologies and the proving ground for EdF, its national champion? What technologies will come to the fore that allow the world to switch principally to cheap solar power, by far the most abundant source of renewable energy? In what technologies can the UK develop knowledge and skills that both provide us both with the reliable power that Philip Hammond stressed is needed but also give us goods to make and to export? </p> <p>Batteries aren’t the answer for us. Although the energy storing potential of lithium ion cells is substantial, they will never get northern latitude countries like the UK through the winter. We have little sun and sometimes the wind doesn’t blow for weeks at a time. Batteries won’t hold enough electricity. And, second, the car makers and the Asian industrial companies that make their batteries have that market already cornered. The UK would be wasting its money on R+D in this area. </p> <p>The real opportunity is finding ways of storing large amounts of energy for months at a time. This is where the need is greatest, and the possible return most obvious. More precisely, what we require are technologies that take the increasing amounts of surplus power from sun or wind and turn this energy into storable fuels. In The Switch, a book just out from Profile Books, I explore the best ways of converting cheap electricity from renewables into natural gas and into liquid fuels similar to petrol or diesel so provide huge buffers of energy storage.</p> <p>This sounds like alchemy. It is not. Surplus electricity can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen can then be merged by microbes to make more complex molecules, such as methane. Methane is the main constituent of natural gas, so it can be simply stored in the existing gas network. Other microbes take carbon and hydrogen molecules and turn them into liquids that can be kept in the oil storage networks. </p> <p>Many companies around the world are trying to commercialise zero-carbon gas and green fuels as natural complements to solar and wind. This is where Greg Clark’s new industrial strategy could really make a difference. A few percent of the £30bn+ subsidy for Hinkley devoted to conversion technologies that can take cheap electricity and use it to store energy in gas or liquids could help build British companies that could expand around the world. The UK’s ability in applied biochemistry is acknowledged and the country could become the global research and manufacturing centre. We missed the early opportunity to develop a large onshore wind industry and gave the market to Denmark twenty years ago. Brexit threatens to have the same impact on offshore wind fabrication here. Greg Clark has the chance to support an even larger industry developing chemical transformation technologies for seasonal storage. Let’s not miss this opportunity. </p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> This phrase was used in a public lecture by Cambridge University’s Tony Roulstone, a nuclear engineer who trains postgraduates.</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/david-lowry/new-challenge-for-uks-nuclear-debate">The new challenge for the UK&#039;s nuclear debate</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Chris Goodall Tue, 26 Jul 2016 10:34:26 +0000 Chris Goodall 104276 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Economic change will not happen until the left understands money https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/ann-pettifor/economic-change-will-not-happen-until-left-understands-money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Developing a sound analysis of the causes of the financial crisis, and of solutions to the crisis is essential to attracting widespread public support for a transformation of the economy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/austt.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/austt.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'>Flickr/badsci. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>The global financial crisis never ended. It is ongoing in the Eurozone and now has as its epicenter in China and other emerging markets, including Brazil and South Africa. Across the world demand for finance, labour, goods and services has weakened, most notably in the United States where mainstream economists were taken aback by a recent very poor <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-idUSKCN0YO1I8">Jobs Report</a>. Weak demand is leading to more part-time employment in the US and causing the build-up of gluts in goods and services, especially in China. For while China saved the global economy after the crisis by launching a $609 billion infrastructure-led investment after 2009, the country is now the victim of western policies for <em>shrinking </em>demand – i.e. ‘austerity’. </p> <p>The fact is that as western economies try to recover, they are sunk again by a mountain of private debt whose repayment is made less likely by austerity policies. These are policies with the ideological aim of “shrinking the state” but which, in the process contract both public and private sector investment, employment and incomes. </p> <p>The consequence of weak demand built on a mountain of debt is deflation: a generalized fall in prices and wages. Most economists, especially those in thrall to the finance sector, have an obsession with, and an aversion to inflation. The reason is that inflation erodes the value of debt. Deflation does the very opposite: it inflates the value of debt. Creditors are not disturbed by deflation, as it effortlessly, and silently increases the value of their most valuable asset: debt. So we must not be surprised when mainstream economists dismiss deflation as nothing to worry about, as its just “consumers delaying purchases”. </p> <p>Economists were taken aback by the US Jobs Report because mainstream economic theory is based on flawed foundations and a flawed understanding of the nature of money, banking and debt. These are ideas that are living proof of Keynes’s point that “starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in Bedlham.”</p> <p>It is for that reason that the Left really must get its act together and develop a sound understanding of the nature of money and credit, and of the operations of the private finance sector. Above all, civil society must wake up to the threat that deflation poses to millions of people with debts whose value rises inexorably, even while their real incomes are falling. </p> <p>So a major priority for progressive forces is to correctly analyse economic forces, and to develop sound alternatives to the current system. There can be no point to ‘reframing the debate’ or ‘developing a common agenda’ on the basis of flawed analyses. That way lies Bedlam.&nbsp; </p> <p>Fully a decade after the global financial crisis erupted, there are still sections of the Left that support ‘balanced government budgets’ at all times including during private sector slumps. There are some that support borrowing for investment, but oppose borrowing for current government spending on essential services (the NHS, education etc.) – including during crises. These people are doing the work of the Right – reinforcing the framing and messaging of orthodox, right-wing economists and politicians. No wonder their voices are drowned out by the more coherent Right. </p> <p>The Left will never move forward if it supports Friedrich Hayek’s and Milton Friedman’s flawed monetary theories – and yet many on the ‘progressive’ end of social movements do just that. </p> <p>Developing a sound analysis of the causes of the financial crisis, and of solutions to the crisis, is essential to attracting widespread public support for a transformation of the economy. I call this process ‘cutting the diamond’. Diamond cutters will take two years to examine a diamond before deciding on the cut that will provide a ‘true’ reflection of the diamond’s inherent qualities and many facets. </p> <p>That is the work that must be done before progressive forces can gain credibility with the public – who are not slow to grasp the difference between a case that is ‘true’, and one whose arguments and analyses are flawed. It is hard work, but it must be done if widespread public support is to be mobilized. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><strong><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></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/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt">Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back">From austerity to indebtedness and back </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/pete-bennett-julian-mcdougall/hard-times-today-popular-culture-and-austerity-myth">Hard Times today: popular culture and the austerity myth </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Ann Pettifor Tue, 26 Jul 2016 09:29:10 +0000 Ann Pettifor 104271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The post-factual Labour leadership election https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/john-heathcliff/post-factual-labour-leadership-election <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activism around the Labour leadership election has been too quick to abandon the truth.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.20.11.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.20.11.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Owen Smith. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p>On 14th July, ‘The Canary’, a crowd-funded news website, <a href="http://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/14/breaking-labour-trawling-social-media-stop-voting-leadership-election/">published an article</a> entitled “BREAKING: Labour are trawling your social media to stop you voting in the leadership election”. The piece claimed that Labour’s Procedures Committee “have reportedly announced that anyone who uses the words ‘traitor’, ‘scab’ or ‘scum’ in relation to another member of the party, will automatically be barred from having a vote in the leadership election”. The writer asserted that the party was seeking to exclude up to “50,000” members through this mechanism, and concluded by calling the move “Stalinist”. I am sure that for many members new and old, who had encountered the Labour Compliance Unit’s energetic attempt last year to bar those who did not share “Labour values” from voting, this article confirmed their suspicions. Thousands of them shared it on social media. </p> <p>There was just one problem: it wasn’t exactly true.</p> <p>The only evidence offered by The Canary was an uncited text image, which was <a href="https://twitter.com/LabourEoin/status/753633759971446785">originally posted by Dr Eoin Clarke on Twitter</a>. Eoin Clarke himself cited no evidence for the claim, <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/labour-may-block-supporter-applications-vote-if-called-mp-scum-or-traitor">and the Labour press office has not confirmed</a> the existence of any such guidelines (though they haven’t denied them). A Morning Star reporter <a href="https://twitter.com/conradlandin/status/753545549404639232">shared what were apparently leaked guidelines</a> for how the NEC should treat voter registration applications, which did indeed include a line stating that “traitor, scum or scab” would be considered terms of abuse. But the guidelines only applied to those applying to be <em>registered supporters</em>, and if the guidelines were breached, the consequence was that the application would be referred to the NEC – there was no “automatic” ban for “everyone” who used such terms, as originally claimed, and it categorically did <em>not</em> apply to existing members. Other reasons given for disqualifying registered supporters included banning them if they have made “statements of a racist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and discriminatory nature”. Hardly the stuff of Stalinist purges.</p> <p>I relate this particular story, which in itself might just be an example of bad journalism on the part of an independent media outlet, to emphasise what I believe is already becoming a problem with the 2016 Labour Leadership Election in the age of social media. Factual debate, honest examination of candidates’ records and fair criticism has, in my view, been substituted on the Corbyn-supporting side for a post-factual defence of Jeremy Corbyn and denigration of his opponents. </p> <p>The best examples of this are the <a href="https://twitter.com/J_VoiceUK/status/755448076953915392">many</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/PCS_GONW_Branch/status/755732595359506432">social</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ScripterParkes/status/755536436057796608">media</a> images claiming that Owen Smith, Corbyn’s opponent for the leadership, is pro-austerity. It is true that Smith has questions to answer about why he abstained on the 2015 Welfare Bill, as well as his job as a PR person for pharmaceutical company Pfizer. But rather than undertake criticism on this aspect, many Corbyn supporters seem to be zeroing on an interview Smith gave to Andrew Marr last weekend. In one exchange, Smith said “I personally am going to argue that austerity is right, but that we need a plan for prosperity”. Angela Eagle, who was sitting next to him, then added: “We agree on anti-austerity, I just think it’s time for a woman”. Given Smith’s numerous statements on his <a href="https://twitter.com/OwenSmith_MP/status/754651556000202753">opposition to austerity</a>, his promise to spend £200bn on rebuilding Britain’s infrastructure and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Zed7zaVzI">his defence of disability benefits</a> as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, I think it is fair to say that Smith made a gaffe – he misspoke, either forgetting to add a “not” or saying “right” rather than “wrong”. The Corbyn-supporting Canary, however, <a href="http://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/20/labour-leadership-candidate-owen-smith-opens-contest-disgraceful-smear-corbyn/">repeated</a> this rumour without context, <a href="https://twitter.com/search?vertical=default&amp;q=owen%20smith%20austerity%20is%20right&amp;src=typd">as did hundreds of Corbyn supporters on Twitter</a>. </p> <p>The constant repetition of this phrase, stripped of its context as a gaffe and ignoring his actual political views, has frustrating echoes of the Republican Party’s 2012 campaign against Barack Obama. In that year, the GOP took a poorly worded phrase from an Obama speech, “if you’ve got a business -you didn’t build that” and hammered him endlessly on it, even making it the theme of their convention. It didn’t matter that Obama had said in full: </p><blockquote><p>“<span class="_5yl5"><span>It didn’t matter that Obama had said in full: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business – you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen”. All that mattered was that they could take it out of context to attack him.</span></span>”. All that mattered was that they could take it out of context to attack him.</p></blockquote> <p>Taking things out of context is not the only thing that seems to be popular in the new post-factual politics, however. The pro-Corbyn “Red Labour” page, which is followed by 28,000 people, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RedLabour2016/posts/311599412510177">shared a Facebook post</a> which asserted that Owen Smith was a leader of the coup; that he courted the arms industry; that he “actively pushed for privatisation of NHS services” when working for Pfizer; that he will introduce an American-style health service if he wins; and that he wants to split the Labour Party and will not serve in Corbyn’s cabinet if elected. No evidence was offered for these assertions, and many of them are in direct contradiction to Smith’s own beliefs, record and statements. The only source given was “someone within the Blarite Labour camp”. Yet a Facebook page credited with kickstarting Corbyn’s 2015 social media campaign uncritically shared it to their 28,000 highly engaged left-wing followers. Craig Murray, a former SNP supporter who was rejected as an SNP parliamentary candidate, <a href="https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.craigmurray.org.uk%2Farchives%2F2016%2F07%2Fentirely-fake-owen-smith%2F&amp;h=lAQGT_QKK">wrote an article calling Owen Smith a fake</a> in which he asserted that Smith supported privatisation and academies, even though Smith has <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24797/owen_smith/pontypridd/votes">voted against both</a> and has said he believes in a "100% publicly owned NHS". Yet Murray’s article so far has been shared by 13,000 people.</p> <p>I am not saying that there aren’t genuine criticisms of both those involved in the rebellion against Corbyn, or of Owen Smith. Smith backed the benefit cap when he was Work and Pensions Secretary, abstained on the Welfare Bill in 2015 and voted in favour of Trident. <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwijpoPC7oLOAhUL2xoKHReIBIoQFgglMAM&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.independent.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk%2Fpolitics%2Fowen-smith-labour-leadership-election-angela-eagle-jeremy-corbyn-candidates-vote-a7143221.html&amp;usg=AFQjCNFKse0n2TB4BUuHAgE5M07FdIrQhw&amp;sig2=wCfDZKbf5h3HPo_0QA8jkw">His recent interview</a>, in which he agreed with a reporter’s assertion that he was “normal” is something he needs to explain and (in my view) apologise for. These are all facts and fair criticisms of a man who, whatever he argues, is not as left-wing as Jeremy Corbyn. It is also fair to argue that the rebels in the Parliamentary Labour Party launched their rebellion at the worst possible time – and that the act of it has done damage to Labour at a time of national crisis. I would agree on that front, and I am not an uncritical supporter of either Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith (indeed, I hope that nobody would uncritically support any politician, especially not a party Leader). But I am someone who aspires for our party to have debates and elections based on facts and genuine policy differences, not assertions and theories which have little to nothing to back them up.</p> <p>In my view, the fact that we are having a leadership election in 2016 in which both candidates are anti-austerity; in which both support re-nationalising the railways; in which both pledge government investment in the economy; and in which both talk passionately about reducing inequality – this is incredible. 6 years ago I watched as David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham debated how much we should cut public spending (with Dianne Abbott providing the only voice of opposition). Now I am watching as both our candidates debate how left-wing our party should be. This leadership election is happening, whether we wanted it or not, and I think we need to have a sense of perspective on how far Labour has shifted to the left – and how big a role the anti-austerity movements of the past 6 years have played in that shift. </p> <p>Regardless of who wins in September, Labour needs to come together as a coalition and take the fight to the Conservatives. If we can conduct this campaign with respect, fairness and on the basis of genuine policy debates and facts, that will be much more possible than if we do not. </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/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like">Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk John Heathcliff Tue, 26 Jul 2016 09:25:02 +0000 John Heathcliff 104269 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Brexit: the received ideas of racism and nationalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/simon-hardy/after-brexit-received-ideas-of-racism-and-nationalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's time to challenge 'common sense' on immigration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/swan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/swan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Received wisdom tells us that a swan can break your arm. Image, Pjt56, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Writing in the 1870s, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote a series of short satirical pieces, published as the Dictionary of Received Ideas, in which he mocks the conventional everyday wisdom that many French people believed but had no proof of. He called these Received Ideas because almost everyone believed them, but no one could quite say where they first heard them any many had no actual direct experience of them. He brilliantly exposed the ridiculous fads and trite sayings that were common across French Society. </p><p>In Britain there are similar ‘received ideas’; whenever anyone mentions a swan someone will say “be careful they can break your arm!” How many actual arms have been broken by swans is unclear. Other examples are familiar — it is common practice to call British émigrés ex-pats (particularly the ones living in Spain), though no one knows why any more.</p> <p>A major theme of the dictionary was an attack on inherited prejudice and misinformation. Today in the aftermath of the EU referendum campaign and its results, we can see the terrible consequences of similar problems in our own society. What swung the referendum vote was the received ideas in Britain that fester among many people; the ways of explaining their poverty, the ways of making sense of the decline of their communities. That immigrants “take all our jobs” or “lower wages” are routinely spoken of in workplaces, in pubs, living rooms, political meetings up and down the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>What makes them dangerous is that they are common sense ideas — the economy has a certain number of jobs to go around, so more people means less jobs for the rest. Likewise it is common knowledge that foreigners are willing to work for less money (also that they are harder working, more industrious, more obedient), so that must also have an impact on ‘native’ wages.&nbsp;It is these 'common sense' views that are the Achilles heel of all attempts to build a progressive movement in this country.</p> <p>These received ideas are regularly expounded in the mainstream press. Tabloid papers on a daily basis use these arguments as if they were simply unarguable, uncontroversially obvious to everyone.</p> <p>The bitter fruits of these views that circulate around our society (indeed nearly all societies) were tasted during the referendum campaign, when Vote Leave tapped into the bubbling discontent, the poisonous sense of alienation, of anger to create a climate of fear that surged them ahead in the polls. When Nigel Farage unveiled his infamous Breaking Point poster, the Sun’s response was instructive. Their editorial criticised the racism implicit in the poster, but concluded that opposition to immigration was not wrong, only that the Sun’s position was based on the simple problem of numbers. The far right racists make immigration an issue of “culture” and this sometimes seeps into the right wing press, but largely the primary line of attack for racists is the maths angle. There are just too many people. In a subsequent poll 28% thought that the posters were ‘fair’.</p> <p>The 3.8 million people that voted for UKIP in the 2015 election are primarily motivated by concerns around immigration. As are most Tories. Many Labour voters think the same, though they still vote Labour out of class loyalty. The fascist movement, small and divided it may be (though as the assassination of Jo Cox shows, they are willing to commit horrific acts in the name of their cause) are more than happy to ride the wave of mainstream thinking about immigration, for them it is the gift that keeps on giving.</p> <p>And we mustn’t forget that the Remain Vote was itself predicted on implementing the Cameron ‘new deal’ with the EU, the key points of which all obsessed over the question of migrants access to benefits. The deal that Cameron wrung out of the EU to sell to the British people sought to discriminate against newly arrived EU migrants to placate the nationalist vote back home. The key argument from the Leave campaign was that this discrimination does not go far enough, only a complete ending of so-called open borders offered a solution.</p> <p><strong>Giving ground…</strong></p> <p>If we want to build a more socially just society then not just tackling but undoing and reversing the dominant — indeed hegemonic — received ideas around immigration is absolutely essential. Simply put, if we don’t win the argument then it will be almost impossible to build on other more progressive issues. UKIP shows the contradiction — many of their voters describe themselves <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/16/ukip-divided-left-right-cut-labour-support">as ‘left wing’</a>, they are pro NHS, they want a greater distribution of the national wealth to workers, they believe that there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor and that big business and managers are ripping off working people.&nbsp;This is a constituent base for the left — but with one problem, they have been convinced that the primary mechanism used to keep them down is ‘uncontrolled immigration’. They both blame the bosses for their situation and foreign workers. In that contradiction UKIP eat away at the Labour voting base, consolidating a right wing politics that is attracting a huge following — because it seems like ‘common sense’.</p> <p>And the problem is that these views are now so dominant that the opportunist Labour MPs — terrified of losing votes — have bent the knee to the false god of ‘tackling immigration’. Gordon Brown’s intervention into the referendum was to put the blame on Albanian immigrants. Other MPs followed suit in the following days, admitting that even if Britain voted to remain the government should renegotiate the open borders of the EU. This isn’t surprising, Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers slogan preceded a worrying trend in strikes by industrial workers against EU workers, dividing the workforce along national lines. Unions have generally been timid about tackling these lies — in the referendum, scandalously, UNISON’s leaflet on the EU question didn’t mention immigration once, limiting itself to concerns around workers’ rights — implying the British trade unions would be so helpless without the EU that we would be all back in the poor house. Thanks UNISON.</p> <p>So when Gramsci made the distinction between common sense (widely held ideas) and good sense (right ideas), it is time for us to focus on a good sense campaign that reaches out into UKIP heartland communities to defeat these received ideas of racism and nationalism and win people back to a progressive, left wing view.</p> <p><strong>The campaign we need</strong></p> <p>What might such a campaign look like? It would probably be mostly led by the left, but it would have to rely on the mass organisations of the trade unions and the Labour party. Only they can get the millions of leaflets and pamphlets out there, hold the kind of mass meetings that would attract hundreds of people. Only they can tackle the daily hate spewed out by the mainstream press and convince people that the right wing propaganda is biased.</p> <p>The myth busting UNITE leaflet on EU migrants rights is a good start. But we need to go further — we have to put the argument out there that the commonly held views that foreign workers drive down wages or take jobs is simply untrue. It is based on a false economic premise that the economy is somehow static with a fixed number of jobs. Since this contradicts reality so strongly, it is an argument that can be refuted relatively easily.</p> <p>No credible study yet published has shown any correlation between immigrant labour and a reduction in jobs or a reduction in wages. By May 2016, 6.8% of the British workforce were from the EU, yet studies done by&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/r/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fcep.lse.ac.uk%2Fpubs%2Fdownload%2Fbrexit05.pdf" target="_blank">the LSE</a>&nbsp;and the <a href="https://medium.com/r/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk%2Fbriefings%2Flabour-market-effects-immigration" target="_blank">Migration Observatory at Oxford University</a>&nbsp;have found no significant effect on jobs for ‘native born’ British workers. The Good Sense reply to common sense thinking is that more people creates more jobs, since you need more homes, schools, shops and so on.</p> <p>And although there has been a historic drop in the level of wages in the last few years, it does not correlate to levels of immigration. EU immigrants were coming to Britain during the boom years in the 2000s and wages rose. The LSE study concludes that the drop in wages was caused by the Great Recession after the financial crash of 2008.</p> <p>Other studies have found that there is either an increase in wages during times of immigration or a small decrease — the conclusion can only be that the effects are so minimal that it is impossible to say that always and everywhere immigration reduces wages. For instance; “Dustmann, Frattini and Preston (2008) find that an increase in the number of migrants corresponding to one percent of the UK-born working-age population resulted in an increase in average wages of 0.2 to 0.3 percent. Another study, for the period 2000–2007, found that a one percentage point increase in the share of migrants in the UK’s working-age population lowers the average wage by 0.3 percent (Reed and Latorre 2009). These studies, which relate to different time periods, thus reach opposing conclusions but they agree that the effects of immigration on averages wages are relatively small.” [<a href="https://medium.com/r/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk%2Fbriefings%2Flabour-market-effects-immigration" target="_blank">source</a>]</p> <p>A&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/r/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bankofengland.co.uk%2Fresearch%2FDocuments%2Fworkingpapers%2F2015%2Fswp574.pdf" target="_blank">study by the Bank of England</a>&nbsp;published in early 2016 concluded that in a few sectors (low skilled service and construction) immigration may have contributed to a decline in wages of around 1.8% overall, but it was almost impossible to tell if that was caused primarily by immigration or by a whole host of other factors, including the rate of inflation. Again, the good sense response is to say “Join a trade union and level everyone up to the same wages and conditions.” A minimum wage of £10 and hour and the return of the closed shop would halt any potential undermining of wages in the future.</p> <p>But tackling these arguments alone will not be enough. They cannot be confined to the Guardian or the rearguard actions of a few progressive NGOs. Unless the trade unions and Labour are bolder in their positive vision of the future the sense of unease or outright betrayal that many feel in the ‘abandoned’ post-industrial towns across Britain will not go away, leaving people vulnerable to the predators of the right. A Britain with stronger trade unions, well paid jobs, more time off work, better city planning and decent, cheap homes is one that can inspire millions. We just have to convince people that it doesn’t have to be built on the broken backs of immigrant workers.</p> <p>Crucially, that means not just fighting to protect the rights of migrants who are already here, but to secure the same rights as were enjoyed pre-Brexit. How that plays out will be a complicated political issue but should be taken as a principle in the fight over the exit negotiations.</p> <p>Whatever the future holds in an increasingly uncertain time, the anti-immigrant racism in the British working class will be an Achilles heel that frustrates attempts to create social justice and could fatally undermine a left Labour leadership. The time has come to build a movement — not a front or an <em>ad hoc</em> alliance — a genuine movement that reaches into every home and workplace and exposes the received ideas for the nonsense that they are.</p> <p id="docs-internal-guid-59b4805d-21f9-552a-566e-f8710931e7ea" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>This article is part of our Reset series. Chip in </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here</span></a><span> to help fund the conversation about how to change Britain for good.</span></strong></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/alex-scrivener/we-must-fight-leave-side-s-lies-on-migration-not-support-them">We must fight the ‘leave’ side’s lies on migration, not support them</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Simon Hardy Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:01:34 +0000 Simon Hardy 104093 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Ministry of Fear https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/rob-poole/ministry-of-fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Holiday pleasures can't quite shake the sense of background dread at the state of the world - and the state of the NHS. But there is clearly appetite for resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/jeremyhunticecream.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/jeremyhunticecream.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Jeremy Hunt, kept on as Health Secretary by new Prime Minister Theresa May.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>As I arrived in&nbsp;Southwold for the annual family gathering, I was puzzled by a plethora of red, white and blue bunting. Was it, I wondered, a touching gesture of solidarity with Nice (it was the day after the Bastille Day massacre)? Or was it, perhaps, an unusually extravagant celebration of Brexit, in a region heavily dependent on fishing and pretty antagonistic to the European project from the outset? Eventually I was told that the Town Council had originally purchased the bunting for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, and brought it back into service for her 90</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;Birthday.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>My grandmother grew up close to Southwold and I have extended family there (including, by marriage, a Conservative Mayor of the 1970s, whom I tend not to mention very often). My parents moved there in retirement. I have visited every year (bar one, which I regretted) since 1964. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Southwold is a Sunday feature cliché, crammed with journalists, celebrities, doctors and senior academics enjoying the classic English seaside holiday at exorbitant expense in pastel shaded beach huts. I do not care. It represents continuity in my life. It is a beautiful place and I love being there.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>This year, amid early morning swims (not me, naturally), barbecues and cross-genre musical jams in the back garden, something felt wrong. New atrocities and fresh bad news kept stoking a background dread that jarred with pints of Adnams in the sunshine and crabbing at the harbour. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>It was exactly the mood evoked by the first chapter of&nbsp;<em><span><a href="http://allreaders.com/book-review-summary/the-ministry-of-fear-28173" target="_blank"><span>Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear</span></a>.</span></em> At the start of Greene’s book, Arthur Rowe goes to a charity fête in the middle of the London Blitz. A fortune teller tips him off to win the Guess-The-Weight-Of-The-Cake competition. Then someone tries to kill him. It is a mixture of surreal threat and the reassuringly familiar. About thirty family and friends were involved in our seaside holiday, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The awful state of the world probably heightened the pleasure of being together, rather than spoiling it. Nonetheless, the dread was definitely there.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>I got talking to a woman who was serving me in a shop. She was a recently retired mental health worker. She talked with great enthusiasm about working in mental health services for decades. I mentioned the problems in the local NHS mental health trust, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. The organisation was placed under special measures over a year ago, after a <em><span><a href="http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/chief-inspector-hospitals-recommends-norfolk-and-suffolk-nhs-foundation-trust-should-be" target="_blank"><span>damning report by the Care Quality Commission</span></a></span></em>. This followed several years of&nbsp;<em><span><a href="http://norfolksuffolkmentalhealthcrisis.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span>campaigning by staff and patients.</span></a>&nbsp;</span></em>The campaign continues, because cuts have continued under special measures. While I was in Southwold the Trust announced&nbsp;<em><span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-36826773" target="_blank"><span>a 3% reduction of staff&nbsp;</span></a></span></em>in the latest attempt to balance the books. Cost savings have been previously achieved by re-grading the staff. The woman I spoke to had been re-graded twice, down two pay bands. From a financial point of view, she had no option but to retire as soon as she could. She welled up a little as she talked about her patients. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is a disaster to lose experienced staff in the face of a recruitment crisis, but the Government appears oblivious. Existing problems in mental health nurse recruitment are about to be exacerbated by the removal of nursing bursaries. The right-wing coup in the Parliamentary Tory Party has left an inept, rigid and functionally unintelligent Secretary of State for Health in post. It is unlikely that the new Cabinet will be any better disposed to the NHS than the old one was.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>After&nbsp;<em><span><a href="http://robgpoole.co.uk/chaos-and-lies/" target="_blank"><span>my last blog</span></a></span></em>&nbsp;I was reproached by Dr Stephen Hunter (whom I greatly respect) for being hyperbolic. I have reflected on this, and I do not agree. These are serious times. Just like in The Ministry of Fear, everything looks normal, but it is not. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Confidence has collapsed and the economy is shrinking, but it does not show yet. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Norfolk and Suffolk are just an example. They are not the only NHS mental health provider that is in special measures.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36858852" target="_blank"><em><span>Here is Hugh Pym’s moderately worded BBC article</span></em><span>&nbsp;</span></a>from a few days ago about the state of NHS finances. It looks like worse services and more cuts are coming in England. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>This is not inevitable. We should not just wring our hands about it. We need to speak up and, where we can, take action. I am not convinced that joining Paddy Ashdown’s liberal revivalist MoreUnited will do the trick.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The Labour Party is unlikely to be of much help in resisting the austerity-plus-Brexit policies to come. They are consumed by a conflict where the membership wants left-wing policies (combined with an attempt to win the electorate over to their ideas), and the Parliamentary Labour Party wants power so that it can do things (or at least keep their seats). The contradiction between policies and power is not new, but it will probably split the Labour Party this time. As a non-member, I think that in the long run a split will probably be a good thing. Unfortunately, in the mean time the entire Parliamentary Labour Party is far too busy plotting to do its job. For now, they are out of the game.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The struggle to preserve the NHS in general, and mental health services in particular, has to happen away from Parliament, where the impact of cuts is scarcely felt in any case. It is closely linked to the unresolved junior doctors’ dispute, particularly their resistance to the nonsensical and un-implementable ‘seven day service’. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Unprecedented problems require unprecedented responses. Maybe we should listen to&nbsp;<em><span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-HQR2-s1J4" target="_blank"><span>the advice of Brother D</span></a></span></em>&nbsp;in 1980: “agitate, educate and organise”. The slogan is dated, but Brexit, the junior doctors’ dispute and a huge increase in Labour Party membership tells us that there is an appetite for resistance out there. It does not have to be fighting in the streets. A bit of unity independent of political parties has to be a better option than passively watching another four years of destruction of public services unfold.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><em>This piece is cross-posted from <a href="http://robgpoole.co.uk/">Khruschev's Shoe</a>.</em></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="/ournhs/carl-walker/four-reasons-nick-clegg-is-no-mental-health-saviour">Four reasons Nick Clegg is no mental health saviour</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/dominic-pimenta/other-referendum-underway-that-really-could-decide-future-of-nhs">The OTHER referendum - that really could decide the future of the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/it-may-not-look-like-it-but-jeremy-hunt-does-have-plan-for-nhs-0">It may not look like it, but Jeremy Hunt DOES have a plan for the NHS...</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Rob Poole Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:30:37 +0000 Rob Poole 104234 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lotte-ls/rough-handling-and-restraint-UK-forced-removals-still-nasty-business <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A support group gathers disturbing testimony from people deported by commercial contractors.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TASCORPROMO.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tascor promotional material</span></span></span></p><p>Eight private security guards restrained and physically forced a fearful man onto a recent Home Office removal flight at Stansted Airport, a fellow passenger has reported.</p> <p>The charter flight on Titan Airways departed Stansted for Nigeria and Ghana on May 24. It was staffed for the UK Home Office by the private security company Tascor, a subsidiary of Capita, <a href="http://www.tascor.co.uk/what-we-do/immigration-and-border/">who claim to achieve</a>&nbsp;the “safe and secure escorting and removal of more than 18,000 individuals from the UK each year”. </p> <p><a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org">The Unity Centre</a> in Glasgow, a voluntary group that offers support to people seeking asylum and anyone affected by border controls, has taken witness statements from three men who expressed concerns about the treatment meted out to the restrained detainee we’ll call Jack. The three witnesses were forcibly removed from the UK alongside Jack.</p> <h2>Propelled onto the plane </h2> <p>Speaking over the phone from Accra, Witness A told us he was sitting behind Jack on the coach journey from Colnbrook detention centre in Middlesex to Stansted Airport. He said that Jack complained of back and leg pain during the 65 mile journey. When the coach reached Stansted, and the guards prepared to board the plane, he said that Jack knelt down and “just let himself go”, falling to the ground.</p> <p>The witness claimed that Jack showed no aggression as he told Tascor guards that he didn’t want to go, and that his life would be in danger if he got onto the plane. He continued to tell staff this as he passively resisted being removed from the ground.&nbsp; </p> <p>Then, approximately eight Tascor guards held the man, pulling him up from the floor and holding him in an “L” position, propelling him up the stairs and onto the plane, said Witness B. Jack’s escort “buddy” —&nbsp;the guard assigned to him —&nbsp;asked the supervisor “if it was okay if they bind him”, to which the supervisor agreed.</p><p>Via email from Lagos, Witness C told us of prison-like conditions and humiliating scrutiny. He said: “Anyone finding themselves in that situation… having someone sit next to you, taking notes on your behaviour patterns, if you’ve eaten, if you’ve drank water, if you’ve been to the loo — I mean, no one wants to be in that situation.”</p> <p>He continued: “It’s not a nice experience for anybody. Imagine —&nbsp;even when you’re getting on the plane, they hold you, there’s one person holding you on the left, one person holding you on the right, and then takes you up the plane.”</p> <p>Witness B told us that detainees were vastly outnumbered by Tascor guards.</p><h2>A nasty business&nbsp;</h2><p>In 2013, Tascor guards were accused of a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21384435">brutal assault</a> on Marius Betondi, a Cameroonian man who was seeking asylum.</p> <p>Dr Charmian Goldwyn, a doctor instructed by the UK charity Medical Justice, examined Betondi, noting that the “number, pattern and distribution of injuries is in my opinion typical of their attribution to deliberate blows to the face caused during a recent assault”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/betondi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/betondi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="224" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marius Betondi</span></span></span></p> <p>But, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21384435">BBC report</a>ed: “immigration sources said Mr Betondi had caused the injuries himself”.</p> <p><span>Tascor is part of the Capita outsourcing group, who took over the Home Office contract from Reliance Secure Task Management in 2012. The contract had passed to Reliance from G4S in April 2011, six months after the death of Jimmy Mubenga during an attempted removal.</span></p> <p>Mubenga, a healthy 46 year old and father of five children, died after being restrained by three G4S guards on a British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport in October 2010.</p> <p>In July 2013 an inquest jury found that he had been “unlawfully killed”. Three G4S guards were acquitted of manslaughter in December 2014. Racist texts found on the mobile phones of two of the guards were read out to the inquest jury, but the racist texts and the fact of the unlawful killing verdict were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">withheld from the jury in the criminal trial</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MUBENGA_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jimmy Mubenga</span></span></span></p><p>The coroner in the case of Jimmy Mubenga published a report on the case (known as a&nbsp;<a href="http://iapdeathsincustody.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Rule-43-Report-Jimmy-Mubenga.pdf">‘Rule 43’ report</a>&nbsp;or a 'Prevention of future deaths' report). The coroner, Karon Monaghan QC, noted that employees moved from one contractor to another as the contract changed hands. She cited the racist texts as evidence of a “pervasive racism” at G4S, and she wrote: “There was other evidence . . . of an unhealthy culture in G4S, and then Reliance, and it is difficult to see why that would have changed now that Tascor holds the contract, for the reasons just given.”</p> <p>She went on: “Evidence before the Inquest suggested problems with culture and behaviour more widely manifested by, as it was reported by one witness,<em> ‘loutish, laddish behaviour... Inappropriate language, and peer pressure. Don’t necessarily celebrate difference. Don’t personalise the detainee...’</em>”.</p> <p>The coroner continued, “The same witness reported evidence that Reliance was not a company where women, ethnic minorities and those of diverse religions felt comfortable. It seems unlikely that endemic racism would not impact at all on service provision.”</p> <h2>‘Just doing our job’</h2> <p>One man deported to Nigeria earlier this year told The Unity Centre, via phone from Lagos, that three Tascor guards escorted him onto a commercial Virgin Atlantic flight, before other passengers boarded. </p> <p>Terry (not his real name) told The Unity Centre that he did not physically resist removal, but made it clear to the guards and other passengers that he was being removed against his will from the UK, where he has a partner and young child. </p> <p>Terry told us that in response to his shouts that he had a human rights court case pending, Tascor escorts applied forceful pressure to his joints —to his wrists, left knee and left thumb. This continued at the back of the plane until the flight took off, when Terry says he gave up shouting.</p> <p>No passenger took action or offered support. For the duration of the flight Terry was restrained around his waist and wrists. He said that during the flight Tascor guards began “casually chatting” with him, telling him their jobs were “simply to effect deportation”.</p> <p>Terry says he left the plane in Nigeria in serious pain: his wrists were swollen and he walked with a limp. He says he took more than two weeks to recover and had no money to see a doctor.</p> <h2>Reasonable, necessary and proportionate?</h2> <p>I asked Tascor and the Home Office for comment on the standard use of physical force and restraints by guards during deportations, and specifically in relation to the events on the charter flight of May 24.</p> <p>The Home Office responded: “Those with no right to be in the UK should return home. We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, Immigration Enforcement will seek to enforce their departure.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/plane bus_0.jpg" alt="" title="Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013 (James Bridle booktwo.org)</span></span></span></p><p> The Home Office statement continued: “Where detainees refuse to comply, we regrettably may have to use force to ensure they leave the UK. Any use of force must be reasonable, necessary and proportionate and there is a heavy emphasis on using it as a matter of last resort, and for the shortest possible time. The use of restraint is closely monitored and we operate a comprehensive complaints system if detainees feel that they have not been treated in accordance with our standards. The decision to use handcuffs is only ever made on the basis of a full individual risk assessment.”</p> <p>Tascor responded that it would be inappropriate for them to comment beyond the statement provided by the Home Office.</p> <h2>The next flight</h2> <p>In accordance with the Home Office’s bimonthly schedule regarding “Operation Majestic”, a mass deportation charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana is set for Tuesday 26 July.</p> <p>Under the new Immigration Act 2016 and expansion of the Home Office’s ‘Deport Now, Appeal Later’ policy, many people given removal directions for July 26 have been denied a right of appeal in the UK. </p> <p>In order to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights, out-of-country appeals must be treated as if the appellant has remained in the UK. In practice, potential appellants face multiple barriers to justice. These include a lack of willing lawyers, the difficultly of lodging an appeal within the 28-day time limit, financial hardship, and the all-encompassing struggle to readjust and survive post-deportation. </p> <p>In the past few months The Unity Centre has been in contact with people unable to pursue an out-of-country appeal due to the precarity and risk first identified in their asylum or human rights claim whilst in the UK.</p> <p>A new organisation called Roots to Return is being set up to support those who wish to pursue their out-of-country appeal “right” and to support families remaining in the UK. If you would like to find out more, you can email:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:rootstoreturn@gmail.com">rootstoreturn@gmail.com</a></p> <p>For more information and ways to get involved with resisting the charter flight on July 26, get in touch: <a href="mailto:unitycentremedia@gmail.com">unitycentremedia@gmail.com</a> </p> <h2>Support in Nigeria</h2> <p><a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">A group of people</a> who have been removed to Nigeria against their will by the UK Home Office are offering support and solidarity to people who are also forcibly removed to Nigeria. They want to help to pick people up from the airport, contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, document people’s stories to raise awareness of the injustice and violence of deportations, and challenge removals where possible.</p> <p>You can read more about the group and donate to their crowdfunder <a href="https://www.youcaring.com/deportations-from-the-uk-600534">here</a>. The money raised will go towards costs for travelling to and from the airport people, phone credit and phones for people to contact any friends or family they may still have in Nigeria, food, emergency accommodation, emergency transport, and resources for recording peoples stories.</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/shinealight/lotte-ls/ghosted-away-uk-s-secret-removal-flights-examined">Ghosted away: UK’s secret removal flights examined</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/people-tied-up-like-animals-on-uk-deportation-flights">People tied up ‘like animals’ on UK deportation flights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/frail-84-year-old-subjected-to-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-prison-omb">Frail 84 year old subjected to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’, prison ombudsman says</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ourkingdom/phil-miller/dozens-of-fathers-among-migrants-forcibly-deported-on-uk-ghost-flight-tonight">Dozens of fathers among migrants to be forcibly deported tonight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller/woman-stands-naked-on-airport-runway-takes-overdose">Woman stands naked on airport runway, takes overdose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller/security-industry-provides-medics-for-uk-deportation-flights">Security industry provides medics for UK deportation flights</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Lotte Ls Sat, 23 Jul 2016 17:50:20 +0000 Lotte Ls 104208 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s reset our future https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The starting pistol for openDemocracy's new series on how to refound politics in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 15.35.06.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 15.35.06.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="233" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p> <p>You may wonder about life in Britain since the EU referendum. For a start, how come we have a new prime minister without a single vote being cast in the country, or even by the Conservative party membership? And how is it that one of the first acts of that prime minister was to shut the climate change department, just as Atlantic ice levels – a key measurement of global warming – hit a record low? You may also wonder why Britain is on course to leave the European Union, why it was possible for so many lies and half-truths to dominate the campaign; or why there’s no influential voice at the centre of British politics to represent the millions who wanted to remain, or indeed the under 35s who voted by a clear majority against Brexit. Or why there is no influential voice to represent the people who voted leave. You may wonder – or even despair – at the loss of acceptance and fair-mindedness in our country, at the upsurge of racism and hate crimes, and the sharp divisions between North and South and between England and the rest of the United Kingdom. </p><p>Indeed, you may wonder what has become of us and of our democracy. </p> <p><strong>Let’s reset -</strong></p> <p>- our relationship with Europe, so that a dishonest campaign does not stand as the defining moment in our relations with our European neighbours
.</p> <p>- our democracy, so that voters have proper representation in parliament.
</p> <p>- our attitudes to the increasing social and economic inequalities entrenched under the last three governments so they can be reversed
</p> <p>- our climate change policies so that they are forever at the heart of British culture and government.</p> <p>- the relationship between the different parts of the United Kingdom
</p> <p>- the British constitution so it’s written down and we all have a say in shaping it</p> <p><strong>Let’s reset our future</strong></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Henry Porter Sat, 23 Jul 2016 07:00:00 +0000 Henry Porter 104194 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Finding the path forwards https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political systems of the United(ish) Kingdom are irredeemably broken. Join the conversation about why &amp; how to replace them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 20.01.40_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 20.01.40_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image: http://pcwallart.com/image-post/181679-winding-path-graphic-wallpaper-1.jpg.html</span></span></span></p><p>It has never been so clear that Britain’s political institutions are broken. Huge numbers voted Leave because they could smell the system’s rot, and chose the one change they were offered. For those of us who wanted to Remain in the EU, the fact of leaving is surely evidence enough that something isn’t working.</p> <p>Some see the crisis as new in form; the rise of an internet driven post-truth politics or the inevitable consequence of an increasing sense of anger at a faltering economy. Some see it as a symptom of widening inequality. Some say it’s the result of rapid globalisation.&nbsp; </p><p>For others, the simplest explanations are the best: a decades long campaign against the EU made the idea that we ought to leave “common sense”; whilst capitulation to the notion that migration is driving down wages and living standards ensured a vote to leave a free-movement union was inevitable and a political willingness to accept soft racism made moves to firm it up all too easy. </p> <p>For others still, the EU is ultimately an anti-democratic neo-liberal club, acting for corporate power, enforcing privatisation and crushing countries in southern Europe in the name of northern banks. Or it’s a top-down 1960s institution in a bottom-up networked world. </p> <p>There are further explanations too: I sometimes suspect that future historians will see the European referendum in 2016 as another crease in the unfolding story of Britain’s imperial decline: a tale which began almost exactly 100 years earlier with Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising; that the British state, built to run a vast Victorian empire, is unable to cope in the modern world. </p> <p>In his book here on openDemocracy, Anthony Barnett <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/it-s-england-s-brexit">highlighted that</a> rising English nationalism has been given no other way to express itself and that the centripetal forces acting on the UK’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/let-s-take-control-brexit-and-sovereignty-brexit">unwritten constitution</a> were always going to tear it apart. </p> <p>Of course, each of these accounts of why we are here has some truth to it, and there are many more still: if nothing else, the referendum drew back the curtain on the state of the nation, and revealed a tangled mess. And the Why matters. Because unless we understand ourselves, we cannot change. </p> <p>But there is another question too, perhaps even more important: a <em>What</em>. Specifically, as ever, what the hell is to be done? For some, the answer is economic: heal the rifts of unequal wealth tearing our country apart. Which poses a further question: How? We’ll try to address that economic question in a forthcoming series here on openDemocracyUK <em>– New thinking for the British economy</em>. </p> <p>For others, though, this is a constitutional crisis and the answers are constitutional: rewrite the rules of democracy in the UK; address the vast iniquities in political power. Perhaps allow Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave in order to remain in the EU? Let England and Wales flourish into modern multicultural democracies. </p> <p>Or maybe the answer is written in culture; perhaps the problem is software, not hardware. Maybe we need to educate and entertain, to engage confidently in a free battle of ideas. </p> <p>My attitude is that without considering the economic, the constitutional, the cultural, and the environmental, no conclusion is ever complete.</p> <p>Whatever the answers, though, we need to talk, openly, until we find them. openDemocracyUK was launched six years ago, as OurKingdom, to discuss just these questions. But they seem more urgent than ever. And so today, under the banner ‘Reset’, we are launching a new conversation. The starting pistol is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">fired by Henry Porter</a>, a long term friend with whom we collaborated on<a href="http://www.modernliberty.net/" target="_blank"> The Convention on Modern Liberty</a>&nbsp;in 2009. Crucially, his demand for change reminds us of the fierce urgency presented by the ticking clock of climate change.</p> <p>We are seeking thoughts about the present crisis, responses, provocations, disagreements, rough sketches of ideas and fully considered programmes. Whether essays, videos, podcasts, cartoons, comments below the pieces we publish or whatever form you prefer, if you yearn for a more democratic, open and just country, please do take part in this discussion about how we got here and where to go next.</p> <p>Usually, when we ask for such things, those with most social privilege are first to rush forwards, confident in their ideas, whilst women, black people, working class people, disabled people and others whom society hasn’t pumped with self-assurance hold back. But if we are to understand and address these interwoven crises, we need to hear from everyone, so please, be assured, we want your thoughts. </p> <p>Likewise, we’re launching this as a collaboration between Compass and openDemocracy. But we want to work with and share this project and its potential with as many organisations and networks as possible, from affiliation to direct support to cross-posting. Rather than put it on hold until we had done so, we are launching now and will be actively approaching at the same time, please don’t wait to be approached, join us in any way if you broadly agree, or suggest others you’d like to be involved.</p> <p>Alternatively, feel free to sit back and follow the conversation. We hope, if nothing else, that it sheds a little light on the path forwards. </p> <p> If you’d like to contribute, do drop me an email – adam.ramsay@opendemocracy.net</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/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Adam Ramsay Sat, 23 Jul 2016 07:00:00 +0000 Adam Ramsay 104203 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland and Europe, Iris Murdoch and Antonio Gramsci: an interview with Tom Nairn https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/scott-hames-tom-nairn-will-storrar/scotland-and-europe-iris-murdoch-and-antonio-gramsci-interview <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From <em>The left against Europe</em> to <em>The break up of Britain</em>, Tom Nairn's essays have been far-sighted and era-defining for half a century. Here, we publish the first recorded interview on his intellectual history. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/nairn.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/nairn.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="409" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tom Nairn, as painted by Sandy Moffat for Democratic Left Scotland</span></span></span></p><p>Tom Nairn’s influence on our understanding of nationalism is widely recognised. What is too little known is the intellectual journey that led him to be one of the few thinkers on the left to take nationalism seriously as the modern Janus, a progressive as well as regressive force. In this interview, conducted in April 2015, Nairn charts the unplanned course of his thinking from art school to aesthetics, philosophy to politics, nationalism studies to the study of globalisation, Benedetto Croce to Iris Murdoch, Antonio Gramsci to Hamish Henderson, Perry Anderson to the <em>New Left Review</em>. Such interests and friendships took him from Pisa to Hornsey, Amsterdam to Melbourne; yet always circling back north again. His wanderings across Europe and the globe have enabled him to see Scotland like no other observer, offering home thoughts from abroad in his inimitable prose. </p><p> WS <span><a href="http://www.ctinquiry.org/about/bio_william-storrar">Will Storrar</a></span>, Visiting Professor, Glasgow Caledonian University, and organiser of the Bus Party, a touring group of artists led by Neal Ascherson, fostering civic dialogue during the Scottish independence referendum 2014</p> <p> SH <span><a href="https://stir.academia.edu/ScottHames">Scott Hames</a></span>, lecturer in contemporary Scottish Literature, University of Stirling</p> <p> <em>Will Storrar: I want to start Tom with a few autobiographical questions I've always wanted to ask. You were a teenager at the time of the 1945 General Election. What impression did the Labour victory make on you?</em></p> <p> I was too young to have views on the big shift, so what I recall chiefly was the amazement of parents and that kind of thing. The general change of atmosphere – new start, new beginning, it’ll all be different from now on, and so on. That’s what I recall chiefly, though I didn’t know at the time what to think of it.</p> <p> <em>WS. By the time you went to university was it a politically lively time, in terms of politics, political clubs?</em></p> <p> Not desperately so; it was the Fifties. It was a period of general stagnation I suppose, in retrospect, though people didn’t feel that at the time. It wasn’t until the 1960s really,<em> </em>by which time I had been to Edinburgh College of Art [and Edinburgh University] that I was alerted to a whole new range of ideas – which in those days were very heavily influenced by one Iris Murdoch. (<em>laughs)</em> When I went from Edinburgh’s Department of Philosophy down to Oxford I said I was interested in the philosophy of aesthetics, and at that time the emperor of aesthetics was the Italian Benedetto Croce. And there was no one at Oxford who had much notion of his work, except Iris. So I was just put under her wing and things went on from there. And from there I just become more interested in philosophy generally, including finally political thought, political science and that sort of thing. But Iris was an invaluable intermediary in that sense. Not only was she the only person that knew anything about Croce and aesthetics, but she also had connections with the political science community, so I was very fortunate in that sense. The one obsession led on to others quite naturally in those conditions.</p> <p> <em>WS. But in the chain of interests you went from art to aesthetics to philosophy and only then to political philosophy.</em></p> <p> Yes, art to aesthetics to general philosophy, and eventually of course was carried along on the stronger currents in that direction, to other people at Oxford. But Iris was a person who also enabled that, I mean in the sense that she knew everyone in those faculties and she could steer you in the appropriate direction: ‘You must see so and so, and talk to such and such.’ I remain very grateful for that kind of guidance. </p> <p> <em>WS. When did you first start reading Marx seriously?</em></p> <p> Earlier, at the University of Edinburgh. I mean not through aesthetics or anything like that but just through people I encountered in other departments. Michael Hinton, for example, in the department of philosophy in Edinburgh at that time, pointed me in the direction of people who he thought I would find interesting, and of course the interest was there and finally overwhelmed me away from art and aesthetics.</p> <p> <em>WS. Then you went on to teach philosophy, first at Birmingham then the Hornsey School of Art.</em></p> <p> That’s right, my interest in philosophical aesthetics took me to Hornsey, in London, where they nourished the ambition of being more than just a sort of ordinary art school. They wanted to become a kind of university-level art school. So they needed people who knew a bit more about higher things.</p> <p> <em>WS. Was it at that time you met people like Perry Anderson and the New Left circle?</em></p> <p> I came into contact with <em>New Left Review </em>at about the same time, and it gave me a new general direction in the sense of trying to relate what I’d learnt up to that point, to wider and deeper historical currents, and that was very valuable. It happened to be Marxism, in the case of <em>New Left Review</em> (<em>laughs</em>) but I benefited from it and of course after a while came to write less about art and aesthetics.</p> <p> <em>WS. Was it at this</em> <em>time you also encountered Gramsci and took an interest in his thought?</em></p> <p> Yes that’s right. I went to Italy originally because of the aesthetic connection. It was Benedetto Croce who made me go to Italy initially, but it was Antonio Gramsci who took me by the throat once I was there, and I became a <em>Gramsciano</em> at the University of Pisa. </p> <p> <em>WS. Had you encountered Hamish Henderson at that time? Had Hamish talked to you about Gramsci?</em></p> <p> No, I did later when I’d been to Pisa, came back to Edinburgh and encountered Hamish, who was an Italianist of course, an established historical Italianist. He lived along the street from me and I used to see him every day. He walked in front of our living room window, and I’d shout ‘Hi, Hamish how are ye?’ And I got a broader view of philosophy and aesthetics from him because he enabled the connection between Italy and broader metaphysical and philosophical ideas. </p> <p> <em>WS. But you encountered Gramsci first yourself?</em></p> <p> Yes.</p> <p> <em>WS. I have a memory of sitting in the National Library in Edinburgh reading your translation of a biography of Gramsci?</em></p> <p> Yes, that was quite an important thing actually, Giuseppe Fiori's<em> Antonio Gramsci, life of a revolutionary</em>.</p> <p> <em>WS. I’ve a memory you said somewhere you felt more yourself speaking and writing in Italian than English.</em></p> <p> That was a kind of overstatement, needless to say, which resulted from immersion over a number of years, primarily in Italian philosophy and aesthetics. You can learn to think in another language if you’re immersed enough, and in those days there wasn’t so much to read in English about all these things, so I was fortunate in that sense. </p> <p> <em>WS. Was that partly your route to your openness to the idea of a united Europe at a time when the rest of your colleagues on the left were hostile to that notion?</em></p> <p> Yes, it was much more popular in Italy of course than in Great Britain in that time, and in particular on the left. <em>Multilingua</em> was a big thing in Italy and people in the Communist party also subscribed strongly to that direction of thought, so it put one on a limb in one sense, but on the other a limb that was intellectually fruitful, and it led me to read and imagine things that otherwise would have been difficult in the sectarian atmosphere that still prevailed in Scotland, or England, at that time. If you were a Marxist you were a Stalinist or a Trotskyist, but I was insulated against that by my Italian experience, and recognition that there was a much wider intellectual, cultural atmosphere that one could go on breathing.</p> <p> <em>WS. I’m going to hand over to Scott in a moment, but I want to ask, was the invitation from Karl Miller to write ‘Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism’ what prompted you to bring this different kind of Marxist formation – European and Italian – to bear on the Scottish question?</em></p> <p> Oh yes, that was absolutely what it was. It was an attempt to bring new cultural resources to bear on an ancient affliction, as it were (<em>laughs</em>), which brought two parts of my mind together in a sense, so I was very grateful. Karl and Jane Miller facilitated this quite straightforwardly through the <em>London Review of Books</em>.</p> <p> <em>WS. Was the Scottish question always there in a subterranean way?</em></p> <p> Oh yes of course, you don’t get rid of things like that.</p> <p> <em>Scott Hames: When I think of the ‘New Left’ I often think of a section of British Marxism finding its way toward culture and aesthetics via European thinkers, and you seem to have taken the opposite route – from aesthetics to Marxism via Italians.</em></p> <p> Yes, it was a completely different origin and direction in my own case, but of course the influence of the <em>New Left Review</em> is also unmistakable. In that period it was the most cultured, cultivated version of Marxist philosophy that was around, so I naturally found my way into it, and eventually onto the board (<em>laughs</em>). </p> <p> <em>SH. Was there much interest in nationalism and the politics of nationhood within the ‘New Left’ at that time?</em></p> <p> In one sense too much, because of course the founders were from Ireland. I mean they were Anglo-Irish, unmistakably – English in Dublin and Irish in London. And very open to new ideas from continental Marxism, so it was quite a natural meeting of minds in that sense.</p> <p> <em>SH. In those circles did you encounter much resistance to treating nationalism as a central focus and issue?</em></p> <p> Oh yes, this was normal of course, but much less pronounced in <em>New Left Review</em> circles than in the general intellectual climate of the Labour party, the Communist party, the Trotskyists and so on. But that was just good luck really. I mean much of the genesis of the <em>NLR</em> came in that way from half-foreign sources, which meant that they were just more open to ideas and to dissident ideas, because of the Irish background.</p> <p> <em>WS. But Perry Anderson was interested obviously in these questions.</em></p> <p> Oh yes, he was a key figure at that time, and remains very important in all sorts of ways, and it was through knowing him and his circle in London Soho at that time, and the <em>New Left Review</em> group, that I was able to make the transition to a different set of ideas.</p> <p> <em>SH. Could you maybe speak about how those political currents, especially of the late sixties, related to what was happening in Scotland, and the rise of the SNP in the seventies?</em></p> <p> It was something which I was conscious of having to fight for, and to give what I could of a Scottish point of view, or accent, to all that. And on the <em>NLR</em> board they were always too worried about Ireland. But at the same time too generally open in their mentality to refuse contributions which tried to look at the same questions in terms of Great Britain, Scotland and Wales and so on. So again I was fortunate in that way, these perspectives weren’t automatically banned. </p> <p> <em>SH. There’s quite a lot of scepticism on the left about what’s happening in Scotland in that period. There’s not a lot of enthusiasm for it.</em></p> <p> Oh yes, but again I lived through that and on the whole learnt more from it than I surrendered, and that was just as well.</p> <p> <em>WS. </em>The Break-Up of Britain<em> came out of a series of articles for the </em>New Left Review<em>. Did you at a certain point think there’s a book here, or did people say to you, ‘Tom, you’ve got to pull all these together’, and the whole is larger than the parts in terms of your arguments?</em></p> <p> Oh yes, people constantly said things like that, and eventually I gave in. (<em>laughs</em>)</p> <p> <em>WS. I remember reading that in the late seventies. For me it was the first book I read about Scotland that put Scotland in a European context, and in terms of wider intellectual and economic currents, in a very fresh and original way. And I think the book did that for many of my generation; say born in the fifties or into the sixties, and growing up in the seventies. It was just a different interpretation of Scotland compared with others. </em> </p> <p> Yes, there was a dimensional estrangement which in fact derived from Italy essentially. Not literally but which made it more natural to look for a wider view and a different perspective on what was going on. But as you know the London intellectual milieu at that period was too abstractly Marxist. It didn’t have enough localism or colour in it, so in that sense I remained partly at a distance from it. </p> <p> <em>SH. But with contacts such as Hamish Henderson you couldn’t have been too far from the kind of cultural developments of the time back in Scotland.</em></p> <p> Oh yes, I was very fortunate to live round the corner.</p> <p> <em>SH. (laughs) If there was one person in Edinburgh worth knowing!</em></p> <p> Hamish was one of the few people who, as you say, lived in both worlds, and never missed his <em>New Left Review</em>, but also preferred talking in Italian about the contents, which we used to do in the Meadows, walking up and down Middle Meadow Walk. </p> <p> <em>WS. But in the background, in terms of Scotland and culture, and Scottish identity, there was still MacDiarmid as a presence. Did that impinge on you at all?</em></p> <p> Oh yes, I found my way to it relatively easy, in fact more easily than most people on the left at that time, because of the degree of estrangement. Which worked to some degree in time as well as cultural space, and again in that respect knowing Hamish was very important. I remember going to visit MacDiarmid, in the cottage in the Borders, and discussing it with Hamish. The luck of being in the right place at the right time.</p> <p> <em>SH. It almost sounds as though your point of contact with MacDiarmid, as with Henderson, was as a European Marxist rather than a Scottish Nationalist.</em></p> <p> Yes, that’s undoubtedly true. But at the same time it also helped, it was a standpoint that also insulated one from both the anti-nationalism of so many left people at that time and from bizarre forms of Trotskyism and all that. I mean I was kept in what might appear as an odd or even unique position, but on the other hand it was fortunate because I could bring different things together, and progress them in my own terms.</p> <p> <em>WS. At that time too you had journals appearing like </em>Scottish International<em>. Did you have a sense, re-engaging with Scotland, that there was something happening culturally and intellectually here?</em></p> <p> Oh yes, I was very enthusiastic at that time and also through people like Bob Tait, who I also got to know quite well before he moved from Edinburgh. So I was able to some degree to bring together the rediscovered home environment, as it were, and the world of theory and philosophy.</p> <p> <em>SH. Would you say the intellectual development you’ve described so far gave you a particular point of view on what developed around the 1979 referendum? Having this much larger frame of reference, drawing on European Marxism, did that make developments in Scotland in the late seventies look any different?</em></p> <p> It must have done, of course. And that’s why I’m very glad that I didn’t lose touch in that sense, and become a devoted cantankerous unionist like so many others. But again the form of estrangement that I’d gone through prevented me from doing that. I was already too aware of other examples, of unlikely places that made it into the forefront, and was rash enough to hope that Scots could do something similar and I’m still trying to solve the problem really.</p> <p> <em>SH. One of your most lasting critical ideas, especially from that period in the late seventies, is your critique of the UK state – of Ukania and that whole constitutional tradition, sometimes viewed as irredeemably archaic, risibly feudal, and so on. One could argue that the UK constitution has changed quite a bit in the interim period. Has your critique of it changed?</em></p> <p> I’m not sure really. I mean I still think that the analysis was justified but if you move back into the present you’re still confronted with the old structure. Strong elements of it, some of the top floors have vanished but there’s still plenty of it around, and around in the form of England, really. Any fool can dream up a confederation of Britain and Ireland, you know, a ‘loose confederation’ of allied countries with or without a token monarchy – it doesn’t really matter. But all such ambitions have to accommodate the eighty percent, which is the English, and so until that shifts a bit and changes there’s not much hope of general advance. Which forces you back into a form of nationalism. I mean there’s no getting away from it, nationalism is one thing, nationality politics are another. And national<em>ism</em> is fading out all over the place, but nationality politics is growing in importance. </p> <p> The opportunity which the Scots, the Welsh, even to some extent Belfast and the north of Ireland have is <em>not</em> being at the tail end of the main tidal inflow of nationalism, but being at the start of a new tide of nationality politics minus the <em>–ism,</em> really, and devoted to the idea of global conditions where nationality remains – and remains essential to the whole structure, but does so without the impediments of the whole age of warfare and imperialism and so on in which, inevitably, it was first produced. And I think that we’re only just discovering now what the new conditions of globalisation are going to mean. This may be a great good fortune. It may mean that development is possible on the front of nationality politics, quite differently from the earlier versions, and that’s the object of my labours these days (<em>laughs</em>). Trying to make a plausible theory out of this.</p> <p> <em>SH. This recent collection of your writings </em>(Old Nations, Auld Enemies, New Times, edited by Jamie Maxwell and Pete Ramand)<em> reminds us that federalism has been mooted as a solution to the UK’s various crises for a long time, and there’s a kind of revived fashion for that today. It seems like the last best hope for the Union might be some kind of confederalism. But suppose you were today a convinced campaigner for the Union: what do you think your strategy might be?</em></p> <p> Keeping it as it is.</p> <p> <em>SH. Leave things as they are.</em></p> <p> Yes. The problem is, any fool could think up a plausible kind of confederal scheme for the British-Irish whatever it is, crowned or not by the monarchy. But as long as England remains what<em> it</em> has inevitably been, namely four-fifths of the population, there’s no possibility of that. I mean the Scots, the Welsh, and even the Ulstermen can form a grouping of that kind without too much effort, but it’s different in England. That’s why there is no English assembly or plausible simulacrum of one. The question is raised often enough but it tends to be shrugged off by those in power, and most people in England itself, in my experience, are just not concerned enough, you know, ‘things are fine as they are, what do we want to do all this for?’ In these conditions confederation is permanently blocked. What option is there except nationalism round the periphery of the archipelago? There we are, and as yet I can see no easy answer to this blockage. </p> <p> <em>SH. We’re now in the midst of a [2015] General Election campaign unusually fixated by these issues. There was an article in the </em>Financial Times<em> suggesting that for the first time the impetus for Scottish independence might come from English politics – especially on the right, voices saying ‘we won’t maintain the Union at any price.’ A push from England rather than the Scots pulling away. </em> </p> <p> Oh yes, well that unfortunately does look like the only, if somewhat foggy, hope (<em>laughs</em>). They’ll have to go that way because there’s no alternative. But that in turn is another argument for peripheral independence. I mean anyone can see that, shut out in that way, we have to do our own thing. And we do seem to be doing it (<em>laughs</em>). Albeit in jumps, fits and starts, it is happening. That will in turn force a larger section of Little English opinion to contemplate, ‘Well I suppose, yes, we’ll have to elect some god-damned assembly’ <em>(laughs), </em>you know, meeting somewhere, preferably in York.’ But again there’s no escape from Westminster really. That’s the way England is, it’ll have to be ‘London &amp; Home Counties’ registered. But the only way that we can force that on is by doing our own thing. There’s no use grumbling about narrow nationalism, the narrowness is not inherent in nationality politics, but is forced on us by the circumstances of an un-reformable old power. </p> <p> <em>SH. And you still think it’s un-reformable? </em> </p> <p> No, of course it isn’t un-reformable, but I don’t think reform will be a short run or self-propelling thing, or at least it doesn’t look like that at the moment. It will probably require some impetus from the periphery really, which will finally need to decide there’s no alternative. And once this pragmatic element takes over, of course they’ll have, in about six weeks, an assembly running in Oxford or wherever, doesn’t matter, and get used to it and before long think that they invented it! <em>(laughs)</em></p> <p> <em>SH. One thing I’m fascinated by in trying to grasp Scottish developments of the past few decades is the difficulty of connecting what seem like separate strands of all this. So on one hand we have this extraordinarily serendipitous and highly erudite world of intellectuals, writers, Marxist Italianists, who have driven the intellectual debate in Scottish politics, certainly from the pro-Independence standpoint. And then, almost from a different layer of the sediment, you have the electoral pressures and party political machinations that produced devolution. And then perhaps at another level still, you have the social mobilisation that we’re seeing now – a genuine populist nationalism. And I often struggle to find the points of intersection.</em></p> <p> It is difficult to find them, and they’ll presumably emerge in their own good time really. But on the other hand I don’t feel any doubt that it will happen. It may require twenty or thirty years to actually bring about, but there is nothing else we can do. The peripheral powers, intelligentsias and so on, can only really affect the four-fifths British majority by, as I’ve said before, doing our own thing. And living through the derision and mockery and denunciation and all the rest of it. You know, ‘<em>Narrow, narrow nationalism!’ (laughs)</em></p> <p> It’s vital to remember the confusion about the so-called ‘Cold War’ here. The old assumption had been that this was prolonged anticipation of a Third World War; but actually it <em>was </em>that war itself, mercifully without resort to the deadly newer weapons of destruction. These became instead the resort of science-fiction writers. And what did emerge was a post-war realm, something like authentic ‘internationalism’ or globality. This realm now seems to be taken for granted, and part of my own, personal good fortune is to have lived on until the ‘-ism’ has disappeared, in the sense of being taken for granted. For the Scots and the Welsh this is also extremely fortunate: we took so long about re-asserting ourselves that the ancient determinants of politicised nationhood quietly disappeared. We find ourselves in a world of established diversity and variety, from which the necessity of armed struggle to ‘be ourselves’ has greatly diminished. There are still far more ‘nationalities’ than national states, with plenty of space for the latter to expand beyond the two hundred or so ‘recognized’ ones. The Greater-than-Thou States have broken up, or down, and there seems little chance of re-assertion: ‘globality’ appears to have demolished the need for them. Of course the globe still has fossils-a-plenty lying around, but also a stronger acknowledgment of what they are.<em> </em>Presumably nationhood can continue and multiply, and intensify, without much of the apparatus of fossildom? Let’s hope the assumption is justified!</p> <p> <em>WS.</em> <em>Indeed. Tom, thank you for giving what Scott and I are astonished to discover is the first recorded interview on your intellectual history. And our warm thanks to Sarah Bromage from the Scottish Political Archive for making this coup possible.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p> <p> <em>This is an abridged version of the interview, which will appear in full in the November 2016 issue of <span><a href="http://www.euppublishing.com/loi/scot">Scottish Affairs</a></span>. Our thanks to Professor Nairn and to Sarah Bromage of the <span><a href="http://www.scottishpoliticalarchive.org.uk/wb/">Scottish Political Archive</a></span> at the University of Stirling, our hosts at a symposium on the ‘Bus Party’ referendum campaigns of 1997 and 2014.</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="/ourkingdom/tom-nairn/old-nation-new-age">Old nation, new age</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-nairn/nations-blueprint-introduction-to-case-for-left-wing-nationalism">A nation&#039;s blueprint? Introduction to &quot;The case for left wing nationalism&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-nairn/fate-of-first-born-english-nationalism-and-euroscepticism">Fate of the First Born? English nationalism and Euroscepticism </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Will Storrar Tom Nairn Scott Hames Sat, 23 Jul 2016 06:00:00 +0000 Will Storrar, Tom Nairn and Scott Hames 104193 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May's dangerous record on immigration https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May's time as home secretary was marked by the further marginalisation of immigrants in this society. In a diverse nation, it's worrying that such a person becomes prime minister.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/theresa may .jpg" alt="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" title="Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May at the Asian Business Awards. Photo: Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images</span></span></span><span>I would like to be able to celebrate Theresa May’s departure from the Home Office. Unfortunately, she is now prime minister. What does this mean for the country? There may be no real link between her time as home secretary and her time as prime minister. After all, as prime minister she will be dealing with a range of people and policy areas that she did not deal with as home secretary. And one of her main policy areas as home secretary – immigration – may now undergo fundamental change in light of the recent referendum result. But I fear that there will be a link. Looking at her time as Home secretary, a consistent image emerges: a&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2002/oct/08/uk.conservatives2002" target="_blank">nasty</a><span>&nbsp;image.</span></p><p><span></span></p><p>Of course, many will say that if an immigration lawyer is unhappy with the home secretary, that is probably a good thing – it means that immigration is 'under control'. In fact, as we know, immigration is not 'under control' in any conventional sense: net migration is at an all-time high. But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">But my frustration with the former home secretary is not about numbers, whether high or low. It is about an immigration system that is more and more about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shinealight/usman-sheikh/so-many-reasons-why-turning-landlords-into-immigration-officials" target="_blank">exploitation</a>&nbsp;and cruelty.</p><p>This matters in a prime minister. After all, you can judge a country by how it treats foreigners. But moreover, it engenders an atmosphere of fear and mistrust between those who were born in this country, and those who make it their home. We are an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself" target="_blank">increasingly diverse</a>&nbsp;country with growing interactions between natives and foreigners, whether in the family, at work or in education. It would be nice if we could be a little more comfortable with ourselves – a little more at ease in our mixed skins. Unfortunately, there is little sign of this with our new Prime minister.<span></span><span></span></p><p>In the highly emotive area of family migration, her reforms have brought misery to many. She introduced a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/21/families-challenge-minimum-income-visa-rules-supreme-court-non-eu-partner" target="_blank">minimum income requirement</a>&nbsp;for people who want to bring their non-European partners to the UK. This has led to many divided families, forced to try to maintain ties through Skype. It is currently under appeal at the Supreme Court and the Court’s decision may provide an interesting perspective from which to judge the Prime minister’s record as Home secretary. She made it all but impossible for people to bring their non-European&nbsp;<a href="http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/high-court-challenge-of-adr-rules.html" target="_blank">elderly relatives</a>&nbsp;to the UK, a change which is also currently under appeal. In work and study, she has tried to move from long term to short term migration. Skilled workers must generally earn&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/mar/12/eu-workers-deported-earning-less-35000-employees-americans-australians" target="_blank">£35,000</a>&nbsp;to settle here. It is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/05/theresa-may-student-immigration-james-dyson" target="_blank">harder</a>&nbsp;for students to stay in the UK to work after they finish their studies. Whether or not you agree with this move, this constant coming and going of people must make integration more difficult.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Throughout, this has given the impression of a country more interested in money than love or social cohesion. This has surely been confirmed by the prime minister’s much trumpeted decision to “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-rolls-out-the-red-carpet-for-entrepeneurs-and-investors" target="_blank">roll out the red carpet</a>” to wealthy migrants early in her time at the Home Office. She introduced accelerated settlement for those willing to invest large sums of money in the UK. Unlike those in most other immigration categories, these investors do not need to (deign to) speak English. This category has come under significant&nbsp;<a href="http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/gold-rush-investment-visas-and-corrupt-capital-flows-into-the-uk/" target="_blank">criticism</a>&nbsp;for enabling wealthy foreign criminals to launder the proceeds of crime. Recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/wealthy-foreigners-shy-away-from-uk-as-investment-threshold-hits-2m" target="_blank">evidence</a>&nbsp;suggests that the red carpet treatment is failing: the numbers of applications has fallen sharply.<span></span><span></span></p><p>By contrast, the prime minister sought to secure her image as a tough home secretary for other, poorer criminals. In perhaps the most famous case, she was ultimately able to secure the return of Abu Qatada to Jordan. She had –<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/18/uk-european-court-ruling-sends-mixed-message-torture" target="_blank">controversially</a>&nbsp;– obtained assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence based on torture in his trial. However, earlier in the legal dispute, her lawyers appeared to have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9214125/Theresa-May-refuses-to-confirm-if-Home-Office-checked-Abu-Qatada-deadline-with-European-Court.html" target="_blank">miscalculated</a>&nbsp;the deadline for him to lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights. Also, ultimately he returned to Jordan&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10048558/Abu-Qatada-says-he-will-leave-Britain-and-it-could-be-within-months.html" target="_blank">voluntarily</a>. And in the end, he was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/11/abu-qatada-trial-showed-uk/jordan-torture-treaty-worthless" target="_blank">acquitted</a>&nbsp;in his trial in Jordan. So the Abu Qatada case is hardly a positive story for our new Prime minister.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive.</p><p>As home secretary, she extended her battle to other poor migrants. She set welfare payments to asylum seekers at levels that were simply vindictive. The High Court&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1151_judicial_review_finds_home_secretary_acted_unlawfully_in_treatment_of_asylum_seekers" target="_blank">ruled</a>&nbsp;that she had acted unlawfully, but after reviewing the levels, she simply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/media_centre/our_news/1248_home_office_announces_asylum_support_rates_will_remain_unchanged_following_review_despite_legal_challenge" target="_blank">maintained</a>&nbsp;them. She fought a&nbsp;<a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge" target="_blank">lengthy legal battle</a>&nbsp;to defend the Government’s system for the detention of asylum seekers until the criticisms from many different parts of the judiciary simply became too strong. She recently tried to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-is-dead" target="_blank">revive</a>&nbsp;the system, but – for now – it seems that this will not happen. She was responsible for the mass removal of students after a Panorama investigation into student visa fraud. The immigration Tribunal recently strongly criticised the evidence on the basis of which many of these students were removed. There were suggestions that there would be a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-faces-parliamentary-investigation-over-flimsy-basis-for-student-deportations-a6948796.html" target="_blank">Parliamentary investigation</a>&nbsp;into this. If this happens, again, this would provide an interesting perspective on the prime minister’s time as home secretary.<span></span><span></span></p><p>Perhaps her greatest claim for praise from those seeking to help migrants would be her work on modern day slavery. She rightly described this as a scourge, “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10470717/Theresa-May-Slaves-may-work-in-your-nail-bar-too.html" target="_blank">hiding in plain sight</a>” in our country. But I for one am not entirely convinced. I worry that the focus on this group of migrants comes from a desire to find objects of pity. This reinforces our sense of virtue, while denying the migrants all agency. There is also generally no straightforward route to settlement for migrants in this category. So our objects of pity do not have the opportunity to stick around long enough to make us question our naïve distinctions.<span></span><span></span></p><p>The clearest recent indication of her as prime minister came in her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-s-speech-to-the-conservative-party-conference-in-full-a6681901.html" target="_blank">speech</a>&nbsp;to the Conservative Party conference last year. Quite apart from being extremely negative, it was also criticised for being “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11913927/Theresa-Mays-immigration-speech-is-dangerous-and-factually-wrong.html" target="_blank">dangerous and factually wrong</a>”. She was denounced as simply “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/immigration-theresa-may-just-turned-into-a-nasty-tory-it-aint-pretty/" target="_blank">nasty</a>”. With such a person as prime minister, I worry for our diverse nation.<span></span><span></span></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="/beyondslavery/alina-m-ller/immigration-bill-government-side-steps-calls-for-humanitarian-balance">Immigration Bill: government side-steps calls for humanitarian balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">Immigration detention: &quot;expensive, ineffective and unjust&quot;</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Usman Sheikh Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Usman Sheikh 104174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Inequality: the nexus of wealth and debt https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/frances-coppola/inequality-nexus-of-wealth-and-debt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we are to create a more equal world, and reduce the risk of financial meltdown, we need to cure ourselves not only of our love of debt, but of our love of wealth. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt67.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt67.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'>Flickr/Friends of the Earth International. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Debt. We love debt. Money is created by issuing debt. Our monetary system is debt-based. And because we measure economic growth in monetary terms, growth comes from debt. There is a direct relationship between rising debt, rising money supply and rising GDP. To reduce the burden of debt, and stop it building up again, would mean curing ourselves of our love of debt. And that has enormous social and political implications. It is by no means cost-free. </p> <p>Globally, debt has increased since the 2008 financial crisis. Much of this is in developing countries – in corporations and governments. China’s debt burden, both public and private, is already huge and still growing. Will its bubble burst? What would be the consequences? We don’t know. But other developing countries also have large debt burdens, especially in corporations. The extent of developing-country debt, both government and corporate, is becoming a matter of considerable concern <a href="http://jubileedebt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-new-debt-trap_07.15.pdf">to economists and policymakers</a>.</p> <p>In developed countries, household debt remains a huge problem. In some countries, households are still deleveraging, preferring to pay off debt rather than spend. This puts a dampener on economic growth. </p> <p>In other countries, households have repaired their balance sheets, but are now reluctant to borrow. Though the lack of lending is not entirely due to households: in some countries, lending standards are now so tight that many households and smaller businesses can’t borrow at all. </p> <p>But there are some countries where households are borrowing wildly. In Sweden, debt secured on property is rising rapidly, fuelled by very low interest rates. Economic projections from the OBR forecast similar borrowing increases for UK households, though as yet there is little sign that UK households are <a href="http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/efo/economic-fiscal-outlook-march-2016/">willing or able to comply</a>. But if they do not, the UK’s economic performance will disappoint.&nbsp; </p> <p>High and rising household debt backed by property creates financial instability. So does high and rising corporate and government debt, especially in foreign currencies. By encouraging borrowing against property and across borders, we may gain a little more economic growth – but at what price?</p> <p>Increasing the global debt burden in pursuit of economic growth will inevitably lead to another financial crisis somewhere in the world. It is not sustainable. But despite the risk that rising debt poses, those who wield power in our current political and social systems have no real interest in reducing the global debt burden. </p> <p>This is because the other side of debt is wealth. And we love wealth. <span class="mag-quote-right">the other side of debt is wealth. And we love wealth.</span> </p> <p>Increasing wealth requires that a large (and growing) part of the world’s population is indebted. When one population reaches debt saturation point – they cannot or will not take on any more – those who want to create financial wealth move on to another, less indebted population. Rising debt for many, rising wealth for a few. Rising inequality. Globalisation reduced inequality between countries, but not within them. Within countries, inequality both of wealth and income is rising. And recent research shows that widening inequality harms <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf">both growth and prosperity.</a></p> <p>If we are to create a more equal world, and reduce the risk of financial meltdown, we need to cure ourselves not only of our love of debt, but of our love of wealth. </p> <p><strong>Wealth concentration and dispersion</strong></p> <p>At a recent conference in Iceland, Harvard economist Carmen Reinhart called for a globally coordinated write-down of debt – a debt jubilee. She reminded us that the great economist John Maynard Keynes had called for such a <a href="http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Keynes/kynsCP.html">write-down after World War I</a>. But it took until 1934 for the debt bonfire to take place. And by that time, the world was already well down the road to World War II. </p> <p>Debt jubilee seems an attractive idea. Why not just write off all the debts, wipe the slate clean and start again? </p> <p>The problem is the fear of loss. If you write off debt, you also write off the associated wealth. And people who own wealth are very afraid indeed of losing it. </p> <p>“So what?” I hear you say. “Soak them. They have more than they will ever need”. </p> <p>This is a fair point. As inequality rises, wealth concentrates in the hands of a few. The global 1% control a large part of the world’s wealth. </p> <p>But the very rich hold the balance of power. While this remains the case, debt jubilee is politically out of the question. </p> <p>And even if the very rich could be soaked, there is a bigger problem. The rise of the middle class means that a majority now own some wealth. And they will not easily give it up.</p> <p>Middle class wealth owners fear loss far more than the very rich. And with reason. For them, a fall of – say – 30% in the value of their house is a considerable hit to their net worth, as argued by Atif Mian &amp; Amir Sufi in their book <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo20832545.html">House of Debt</a>. It can completely wreck their plans. They may find themselves unable to sell if the value of the house is less than the mortgage. And if they were expecting in future to sell their house, move somewhere smaller and use the proceeds to supplement their pension, they may end up materially poorer in retirement. Similarly, if pensions and savings fail to deliver the returns they expect, they can end up poverty-stricken in old age. Understandably, they fear this fate. </p> <p>In general, older people tend to have assets, younger people tend to have debt. The assets of the old are the debt of the young. This is pretty obvious if you look at pensions, which are largely invested in corporate or government debt, the returns from which are paid from the earned incomes of working people. It is perhaps less obvious in relation to property: but rising house prices mean younger people have to take on much higher mortgages than their parents. </p> <p>It would be a mistake to see this as an intergenerational problem, though. It is actually a class problem. The asset-less have no assets to pass on. Their children inherit nothing, and in turn pass on nothing. In contrast, the children of the asset-rich inherit wealth they have not earned, and in turn pass that on to their children. The divide between those who have wealth and those who do not is set at birth and remains for life. If wealth holders were a tiny proportion of the population, then democratic pressure might be enough to end this injustice. But now they are a majority, democratic pressure reinforces it. </p> <p>Since the financial crisis, the UK government – &nbsp;fearful of the voting power of older people – &nbsp;has propped up property prices, increased state pensions to unaffordable levels, pumped up equity and bond prices, and offered savings vehicles at above-market rates to pensioners. All of these giveaways to well-off older people have been paid for by younger people, in the form of larger mortgages (or inability to buy a house at all), stagnant incomes and benefit cuts. </p> <p>But they solve nothing. They fail to address growing wealth inequality or the rising debt burden. They lock the younger &amp; poorer into debt bondage. And when the elderly middle-class can pass their wealth on to their children with little or no penalty, debt bondage extends down the generations. </p> <p><strong>Fixing inequality</strong></p> <p>If we are serious about reducing wealth inequality, we could think about very high taxes on top incomes, and perhaps <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674430006">wealth taxes</a>. And if we are serious about reducing income inequality – from which wealth inequality ultimately stems – we could think about a universal basic income coupled with a land value tax and a <a href="https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/basic-income">progressive income tax system</a>. If we want to break the cycle of wealth inequality down the generations, we could impose very high inheritance taxes, perhaps as much as 100%, on unproductive assets such as residential property. And if we really want to end the dominance of debt in our monetary system, perhaps we should be looking at forms of money that are <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2012/wp12202.pdf">not backed by debt</a>. </p> <p>These are radical ideas. They will inevitably be fiercely resisted by those with high incomes and significant wealth. </p> <p>However, reducing inequality by redistributing wealth and income can only go so far. It is human nature to aspire to a higher income and more wealth: if there is no possibility of achieving either, why would anyone bother to take risks? Risk-taking is the foundation of economic prosperity. If no-one will take risk, there can be no returns. So although research shows that <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2014/sdn1402.pdf">redistribution mitigates inequality</a>, we don’t want to completely eliminate wealth and income differentials. We want to leave open the possibility of benefiting from taking risks. That’s how our economy grows. </p> <p>What we don’t want to do is pay the sort of returns on unproductive “safe” investments such as property that should only be available to those willing to take risk. </p> <p>The desire to save is human nature. We “put by” funds to support us when we can’t work, or when there are exceptional expenses. Most of us see these savings as sacrosanct: we do not want to accept the risk of loss. Indeed, we cannot afford to. For most of us, losses on savings can never be recovered. </p> <p>Increasingly, people have come to rely on property as their main “safe asset”. But property is not a “safe asset”. A house is first and foremost a place to live. It should not be a primary store of value. But that is what it has become. </p> <p>The value of housing needs to be allowed to fall to an affordable level. One way of achieving this less painfully than abruptly removing all support for the housing market and causing a price crash would be to tax away all gains due to house price rises. A land value tax would achieve this, or capital gains taxes on primary residences. </p> <p>To replace the illegitimate use of housing as a store of value, government should provide safe assets for long-term saving. Government debt is the best and safest asset for its own citizens. When the proceeds of government debt issuance are invested in infrastructure, innovation and skills development that create a thriving economy for the future, it is far more productive than property. And when it is properly backed by a trustworthy central bank, it delivers complete safety. A credible central bank working in partnership with a responsible fiscal authority can always set the price of its own debt. We do not have to be beholden to markets. </p> <p>It is the duty of government to ensure that everyone has the basic means to live. It is also the duty of government to keep wealth and income inequality within bounds. And it is the duty of government to enable people to save safely, without fear of loss, while simultaneously supporting the risk-taking that is the source of economic prosperity. Successive governments have stepped away from these responsibilities. It is time to hold government to account for them. For only by removing the fear of loss can we hope to cure our love of wealth, and of the debt that creates it. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><br /><strong><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></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/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back">From austerity to indebtedness and back </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/pete-bennett-julian-mcdougall/hard-times-today-popular-culture-and-austerity-myth">Hard Times today: popular culture and the austerity myth </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/sara-de-benedictis-rosalind-gill/austerity-neoliberalism-new-discursive-formation">Austerity Neoliberalism: a new discursive formation</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Frances Coppola Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:40:33 +0000 Frances Coppola 104186 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the British monarchy last forever? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jp-o-malley/british-monarchy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Increasing awareness of the shady dealings of the monarchy - and the institutions that protect it - are leading to a growing republican movement in the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-28107215.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-28107215.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'>Queen Elizabeth's Swan Uppers perform their annual count of the Queen's swans on the Thames River. PAimages/Leonora Beck. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>On 21 April, the day she celebrated her ninetieth birthday party, Queen Elizabeth clocked up a total of 23,451 days on the throne. In September 2015 the Queen had already made history: becoming the longest reigning British monarch in a 1000 years. Previously, the record of 63 years was set by her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.</span></p> <p>Recent polls show that 76 percent of Britons <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3720/Monarchy-popular-as-ever-ahead-of-Queens-90th-Birthday-celebrations.aspx">believe</a> having a hereditary power as the head of state is a good idea. That figure is up from 65 percent in 2005. On the surface, then, it would appear that support for the monarchy in Britain is at an all time high. </p> <p>However, there is an anti-royalist brigade — which consists of prominent academics, MPs, former government ministers, historians, and dedicated Republicans —who believe that support for the monarchy is built on foundations of sand.</p> <p>Moreover, those voicing their opposition to the monarchy say beneath the pomp and ceremony, glamour, and deep sense of tradition, is an outdated, archaic institution, which is extremely secretive, undemocratic, and very costly to the British taxpayer.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dennis Skinner, a veteran left wing Labour MP— who has served in Westminster for Bolsover since 1970—&nbsp; said he was against the “principle of hereditary power.”</p> <p>“I believe in democracy,” Skinner explained, “and those who are at the helm of power should have to face elections,” he added.</p><p><span>Skinner said the <a href="https://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/privy-council/">Privy Council</a>&nbsp;</span><span>along with the House of Lords,” was part of the pyramid that props up the British monarchy.”</span></p> <p>The Privy Council is one of the oldest surviving governmental institutions in the world.</p> <p>Its members include all present and past members of cabinet, a few members of the royal family, some archbishops from the Church of England, as well as a number of senior judges from across the British commonwealth.</p> <p>All cabinet members become privy councillors, and their oath of secrecy underpins collective cabinet responsibility.</p> <p>The Privy Council ensures that, officially, the British Monarchy is outside of party politics. However, the confusing split between ancient form and modern practice, allows the monarchy to cling onto hard power within the broader system of government in a Constitutional Monarchy.</p> <p>David Rogers, author of <em>By Royal Appointment: Tales from the Privy Council- the Unknown Arm of Government</em>&nbsp;explained why: “It's important to remember that it's the Monarch's Privy Council, and not Parliament's,” said Rogers.</p> <p>“The monarchy can make whatever rules they want to,” Rogers added.</p> <p>Norman Baker, a former Liberal Democrat MP— who served as Minister of State for the Home Office, in the last coalition government— described the Privy Council as both “undemocratic and outdated.”</p> <p>“As someone who is [currently] a member of the Privy Council,” said Baker “I believe the powers which exist for the Privy Council should be transferred to Parliament.” &nbsp;</p> <p>If certain members of the Privy Council itself don't fully understand its functions, or believe in its role, might this then suggest its secretive nature serves no purpose, other than protecting the unquestionable-absolutist-power that the monarchy actually represents?</p> <p>“This is part of a much wider question about secrecy in government,” said Rogers.</p> <p>“The Privy Council embodies not so much secrecy, but confidentiality,” Rogers added.</p> <p>Rogers said because Britain doesn't have a written constitution, practices within the Privy Council are “tremendously difficult [to understand].”</p> <p>The subtle arm of government constantly lurking underneath the British monarchy is purposely designed with multiple layers of bureaucracy: so that confusion muddles the democratic process.</p> <p>Thus ensuring that ongoing protest, and a constant questioning of the power structures it represents, are always kept to a minimum.</p> <p>Last year, Karina Urbach, a prominent royalist historian, <a href="http://www.timesofisrael.com/british-archives-hiding-royal-familys-rife-anti-semitism-in-1930s-says-historian/">whom I interviewed</a> for <em>The Times of Israel&nbsp;</em>explained how the <a href="https://www.royal.uk/royal-archives">Royal Archives</a> became extremely hostile to her when she began writing a book exploring the British monarchy’s dealings with Nazi Germany during the 1930s.</p> <p>Urbach, who has also <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queen-Victoria-Karina-Urbach/dp/3406587887">written a book</a> on Queen Victoria said she was ostracised by the Royal Archives for demanding access to papers relating to royal correspondence for the interwar years, which have a strict embargo.</p> <p>“The Royal Archives claim that they are a private archive: of course they are not,” Urbach explained.</p> <p>“The British public are entitled to have access to this correspondence because it’s their history.”</p> <p>“The [monarchy] pretends to be an open [institution] but they are not giving us the real historical material,” Urbach added.</p> <p>Studying the paper trail of the Royal Family is difficult. Mainly because so much information about them is kept secret, or skewed in ambiguity. </p> <p>Take, for instance, how the Royal Family is financed</p> <p>Back in 1992, in a book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Royal-Fortune-Tax-Money-Monarchy/dp/0747510989/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1466612809&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Royal+Fortune%3A+Money+and+the+Monarchy%2C">entitled</a> <em>Royal Fortune: Tax, Money and the Monarchy</em><em>&nbsp;</em>Philip Hall claimed that Queen Elizabeth— at that time— was the wealthiest person in England, and the fourth richest individual in the world.</p> <p>Hall described the House of Windsor, in his book, as a “wealth creating machine”.&nbsp; </p> <p>The author also claimed that it's almost impossible to calculate the final extent of the monarchy's total assets, because it refuses to allow any serious investigation into its wealth.</p> <p>Today, Norman Baker agrees. The former MP and minister said it was disturbing that the Royal Family is excluded from the Freedom of Information Act: passed 16 years ago by Parliament it created a public right of access to information held by public authorities in Britain.</p> <p>“[The Royal Family] because they are acting in a public capacity, should be subject to Freedom of Information, just like other [public servants] are,” said Baker.</p> <p>Since 1993, the Royal Household has published an annual finance report: this claims to display—in full— the cost of the monarchy to the British taxpayer. Presently, the official figure stands at £40 million per year.</p> <p>However, the organisation <a href="https://republic.org.uk/what-we-do">Republic</a>&nbsp;<span>disputes this: estimating the royals to cost the British taxpayer £334 million per year.</span></p> <p>So, how is the monarchy actually funded?</p> <p>From 1760, up until 2011, the Royal Household was funded by what was&nbsp; known as a <em>Civil List</em> payment: this was an annual grant that covered expenses associated with the Sovereign performing their official duties to the British Monarchy.</p> <p>All of these costs, however, have since been rolled into one single annual payment called <em>the Sovereign Grant:</em> this was introduced by the coalition government in 2011 and was the biggest legislation reform to the finances of the British Royal Family since the inception of the Civil List in 1760.</p> <p>The Sovereign Grant consolidated what were previously four separate funding sources of the monarchy into one single payment.&nbsp;</p> <p>Norman Baker believes the Sovereign Grant is “less transparent than the Civil List” and called it “a deeply regressive move.”</p> <p>Baker's main concern is that the Sovereign Grant links the Royal Family to the Crown Estate: a land and property portfolio managed on behalf off the British government whose surplus revenue is paid annually to the British Treasury.</p> <p>Officially, the Crown Estate is neither government property, nor part of the monarch's private estate. The Crown Estate is one of the largest property owners in the United Kingdom. With a property portfolio worth £8.1 billion, it has significant ownership of property all over Britain— most prominently in central London— including nearly all of Regents' Street.</p> <p>“There is no connection between the Royal Family and The Crown Estate,” said Baker.</p> <p>“It has been separated since 1760. But the Royal family has been trying get the link re-established for a long time,”he added.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, much to my horror, the government I was a part of, re-established that link with the passing of The Sovereign Grant Act,” said Baker.</p> <p>Baker claims that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was the chief orchestrator in the move to renegotiate how the Royal's finances were paid by the Treasury. &nbsp;</p> <p>Graham Smyth, CEO of Republic, said that the Sovereign Grant is “an absolute scandal and an atrocious way of funding any public institution.”</p> <p>“Public spending should always be done through a proper process of budgeting,” claimed Smyth.</p> <p>Smyth&nbsp; said the Crown Estate did not belong to the Royals.</p> <p>”They have no claim on the money,” Smyth insisted.&nbsp; “But [the British government] just keep giving them 15 percent of it every year,” he added.</p> <p>Under The Sovereign Grant Act, this 15 percent is to be reviewed every five years by the Royal Trustees: presently they&nbsp; are the Prime Minister, <em>Theresa May,</em> the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, , and the keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Alan Reid.</p> <p>Smyth's<em> </em>most robust criticism of the Sovereign Grant is that it only accounts for a small portion of the total cost of running the monarchy.</p> <p>Extra hidden costs, claims Smyth — such as the cost of security for civic and public engagements, for instance— are paid by local councils and local institutions.</p> <p>“When the Royals turn up in someone's town or school, people don't realize they're being landed with a very large bill,” said Smyth.</p> <p>Presently, Republicans in Britain amount to just 17 percent of the population.</p> <p>But Smyth believes there is a wide spread indifference, and apathy, to the monarchy on the whole.</p> <p>The Queen's current popularity is based on “familiarity rather than ideology,” said Smyth.</p> <p>Anna Whitelock, a Reader in Early Modern History at Royal Holloway, University of London, also shares this view.</p> <p>Whitelock claims that because there hasn't been a coronation for over sixty years, the British public haven't had a proper occasion to question what the monarchy actually represents: in terms of its tradition, its symbolic meaning, and, ultimately, its power.&nbsp; </p> <p>“Believing the monarchy will just carry on with the same level of support after the current Queen dies, is incredibly naïve,” said Whitelock</p> <p>Moreover, both Whitelock and Smyth believe that if Prince Charles becomes King in the near future, he will refuse to remain politically neutral, or stay outside of party politics. &nbsp;</p> <p>While support for the retention of the monarchy is currently high, Smyth said it was incredibly shallow; and, that like all political issues in Britain, until people actually start discussing this topic regularly in public, the status quo always has significant advantage.</p> <p>Even those who vehemently support the monarchy claim The House of <em>Windsor</em> cannot remain perpetually in power. </p> <p>Dr Andrzej Olechnowicz, a professor of Modern British History at Durham University— and a royalist— said the future of the monarchy is far from certain.</p> <p>“If you ask people: will there be a monarchy in 50 years time? the numbers who say yes are very small,” said Olechnowicz.</p> <p>“There is a belief out there that it cannot go on forever,” he added.&nbsp;&nbsp;</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK JP O' Malley Thu, 21 Jul 2016 18:24:53 +0000 JP O' Malley 104155 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sovereignty and responsibility after Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/charles-turner/after-brexit-trouble-with-article-50 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Triggering Article 50 to leave the European Union would pave the way for a hugely undemocratic series of negotiations. Legislators must intervene, taking responsibility for this&nbsp;murky, constitutionally unprecedented situation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/European Commission.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The European Commission. Photo: Richard White/ Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/European Commission.jpg" alt="The European Commission. Photo: Richard White/ Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="The European Commission. Photo: Richard White/ Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The European Commission. Photo: Richard White/ Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Three weeks on from the UK’s EU referendum, and not much is resolved.&nbsp;&nbsp;The people, having spoken, continue to speak.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those who voted to remain continue to campaign, harbouring hopes that the government will not trigger article 50, or that if they do, the EU’s collective bargaining position will prove so intransigent that we will be forced to give up, and return to where we once belonged.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those who voted to leave fear the same thing, and have started posting images on social media showing four women in full burqas with the caption ‘Theresa May’s new cabinet’.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those who voted to remain fear that the UK is destined for a future of penury and irrelevance, of lost contacts and diminished opportunities for all but the very rich.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those who voted to leave hope that the UK can leave the moribund EU behind and forge a new path in ‘<a href="http://www.digbylordjones.com/why-i-am-voting-to-leave-the-eu.html ">the Asian 21st century</a>’&nbsp;<span>while keeping foreigners out. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p>This sense that the fight must go on is doubtless a reflection of the closeness of the result, the intuitive sense that ‘brexit means brexit’ is even more hollow than ‘out means out’ when almost half the population – probably more now – wants to remain.&nbsp;&nbsp;Some have concluded from this that the referendum was a flawed exercise from the start, partly because the referendum act of 2015 left open the question of what parliament was supposed to do with the result. This was partly because, so they say, the intention was less to establish the will of the people than to lance a boil in the conservative party.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Though used to foggy mornings, President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker could see the latter point clearly enough.&nbsp;&nbsp;What he could not have seen is that Cameron’s ploy has worked rather well.&nbsp;His personal failure, compensated for by his Notting Hill town house, has been the conservative party’s gain. His demob-happy performance at his last prime minister’s question time stands in testament to the fact that the vote to leave has given the party a period of stability. For the time being, its eurosceptic and europhobic wings will be flapping in harmony.&nbsp;&nbsp;For as William Hague rightly put it, ‘there aren’t any other people’ in the conservative party.&nbsp;&nbsp;Had the vote been to remain, though, anything could have happened, including mass defections to UKIP in anticipation of 2020.&nbsp;&nbsp;At any rate, the europhobes – in parliament and on the streets of our dilapidated market towns - would have spent the next three years making a lot of trouble.&nbsp;The vote to leave, by contrast, has reduced the remainers in the House of Commons, and not just on the Tory benches, to near silence.&nbsp;Not only do they seem intent on treating the referendum result as the instruction it cannot be; only a handful, led by that well-known custodian of the British constitution, David Lammy, seem to believe that Article 50 - the provision that governs the process by which EU members states can negotiate their exit -<span>&nbsp;cannot be triggered without an act of parliament.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The vote to leave has given the Conservative party a period of stability. For the time being, its eurosceptic and europhobic wings will be flapping in harmony.&nbsp;</span></p><p>This attitude of our legislators is far more disturbing and dangerous than the anti-intellectual pandering of the campaign, and as worrying in the long term as the violence and intimidation now being directed at people who may or may not be foreign.&nbsp;We remainers didn’t expect anything better from the British press, and little more from the BBC, and we warned repeatedly about the consequences of xenophobia. Perhaps naively though, we expected our legislators to uphold the sovereignty of parliament and at least treat the closeness of the result as an occasion for reflection, in the House of Commons itself, on the relationship between simple and super majorities, on the mood of the UK as a whole, on the way the vote has split us down the middle and what to do about it.&nbsp;Instead of this, pro-remain MPs in pro-leave constituencies, desperate to keep their seats, look over their shoulders and keep quiet, while pro-remain Tories in pro-remain constituencies give us the cold shoulder.&nbsp;&nbsp;Rather than do their duty and be guided by the national interest, MPs are putting personal ambition and party unity – or in Labour’s case, party disunity – first.&nbsp;The exceptions are a few mavericks like Ken Clarke (not standing at the next general election), some principled Labour and Lib Dems, and the Scottish Nationalists, for whom England and Wales can go to hell in a handcart as long as their own goals are achieved.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Rather than do their duty and be guided by the national interest, MPs are putting personal ambition and party unity – or in Labour’s case, party disunity – first.</span></p><p>The attitude of lawyers and constitutional historians is rather different; the consensus of considered and carefully argued opinion seems to be that, even if the legality of triggering article 50 by crown prerogative was secure, its legitimacy would be doubtful. A change, very possibly a substantial diminution of the rights of UK citizens, which they currently enjoy by virtue of our membership of the European Union, would be subject not to any act of parliament, but to negotiation and bargaining by members of the executive along with unelected officials.&nbsp;The result of that bargaining would be a brexit deal presented to the British people as a&nbsp;<em>fait accompli</em>: as the Lisbon treaty makes clear, only European parliament and council may ratify it. &nbsp;</p><p>News of the UK’s new cabinet has diverted attention away from the fact that we are in the midst of a constitutional and existential crisis.&nbsp;&nbsp;It is now time for MPs to shape up, and if they don’t, for the head of state, the monarch herself, to whom they took an oath of loyalty, to make a statement.&nbsp;If MPs don’t&nbsp;reassert the sovereignty of parliament, and if the Queen remains silent, David Davis and his mates may decide that my Polish and German friends will have to leave the UK.&nbsp;That would reduce the number of countries in which they can live and work freely from 28 to 27; meanwhile, because any agreement to restrict free movement will be reciprocal, UK citizens&nbsp;&nbsp;may have that number reduced from 28 to 1. Brian Barry once said that, "in an ideal world, everyone would be free to stay where they are".&nbsp;&nbsp;We don’t yet live in that world, and I am not sure that the brexiteers’ plans for splendid isolation, now to be pursued without parliamentary scrutiny, are designed to bring it closer. &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="/can-europe-make-it/alex-goodman/post-exit-britain-democracy-or-autocracy">Post-exit Britain: democracy or autocracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/james-gordon-finlayson/my-350-on-brexit-first-time-as-farce">My 350 on BREXIT: First time as farce</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/kirsty-hughes/giving-up-control-where-are-we-and-what-next">Giving up control: where are we and what next?</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Charles Turner Thu, 21 Jul 2016 13:00:40 +0000 Charles Turner 104109 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From austerity to indebtedness and back https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/andreas-antoniades/from-austerity-to-indebtedness-and-back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Austerity can only be a temporary fix that does not touch upon the causes of the problem. Whatever the belt-tightening, debt will keep growing, crisis after crisis.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt6.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'>Flickr/StockMonkeys.com. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Austerity emerged (yet again) as a powerful <em>ordering</em> device in the unstable sociopolitical environment of the global economic crisis. Its effectiveness as an ordering device has been based on its commonsensical nature. The narrative of austerity offers a clear explanation about what went wrong (living beyond our means) and what needs to be done (government spending cuts to address the crisis generated by us living beyond our means). It is all about excess and payback. </p> <p>One research strategy to unpack austerity’s narrative is to tackle it head on. Either by analysing where the economic crisis came from (i.e. how private sector liabilities were transformed into public debt) or by examining austerity policies’ dismal historical record in exacerbating poverty, and wealth and income inequalities, as documented by Mark Blyth in his book <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/austerity-9780199389445?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">Austerity: A History of a Dangerous Idea</a>. In this brief piece, I am following a different strategy. I highlight the <em>excess</em> targeted by the austerity narrative, and examine why and how it was generated in the first place. In doing so, I hope to illustrate that this excess does not signify a deviation or an exemption from the ‘normal’ mode of operation of our socioeconomic system. Rather this excess constitutes a defining element and precondition for the functioning of our economies and societies. In this context, austerity can only be a temporary fix (a redistribution mechanisms) that does not touch upon the causes of the problem. Therefore, no matter how hard and how often belts will be tightened, the problem of excess, or to use more concrete language, the problem of debt, will keep coming stronger and stronger, crisis after crisis.</p> <p>Leaving aside theories on what generates debt and indebtedness, it is well-documented that the rise of financial capitalism from the mid-1980s onwards marks a period in the history of global economy where we have seen a steady decline of labour’s contribution to GDP, or to put it more generally, a decline of households’ income especially in the most financialised economies. How was this problem (of diminishing aggregate demand) addressed? Through credit expansion. So long as ‘real money’ was not available in the quantities needed to sustain the living standards and needed consumption needs of our consumer societies, plastic/virtual money emerged to keep the existing socioeconomic system afloat. Whether this was a spontaneous response or a calculated and managed development is beside the point here. What is important is that through these processes credit/debt became the <em>new money</em>, the main ‘new currency’. What were the implications of this change? The lives of large parts of the global population were monetised and entered a new economic regime of governance dominated by creditor-debtor relationships. Also, during this period global debt levels (public and private) and inequality got out of control.</p> <p>If the raising of debt as ‘new money’ constitutes a systemic transformation, rather than an act of irresponsibility and profligacy by borrowers and lenders, then two important questions need to be asked: what has been driving this transformation and where has debt as ‘new money’ come from? Here we need to bring into the picture the issue of economic growth. Critical economic authors usually cast the relationship between debt and growth in the following terms. Increasing levels of debt necessitate increased rates of growth to reduce these debt levels (for debt is calculated as a percentage of GDP). But increasing growth rates leads to higher credit and debt levels, which necessitate yet again faster growth, a vicious cycle that leads to economic collapse. This analysis is of course correct. But it would be a mistake to reduce the thirst for growth to the ‘debt drive’ of the modern economies. It seems to me that along with the ‘debt drive’ that dominates our financialised economies, there is also, independent of debt, a ‘growth drive’. Our numbers/statistics, our political and economic institutions, our minds and predispositions, our debt sustainability models are fixed on growth as the main measure of economic sustainability and success. This old problem with our obsession with growth is as relevant today as ever, and so long as the ‘growth drive’ governs unchallenged in our societies and mindsets, it will be really difficult to escape the current ‘debt trap’. </p> <p>Yet, an important set of question remains. How has all this new money been created and at what cost? Were there any credible alternatives? These questions lead us to the phenomenon of the privatisation of ‘money creation’ that gradually came to dominate advanced economies from the 1980s onwards and which spread internationally through structural adjustment programmes. The numbers are staggering here too. For instance, approximately 97% of the money currently in circulation in the UK is credit money that has been created by private banks, rather than the Bank of England. And the way in which this money has been created is by lending to households and corporations (i.e. by debt creation). Or to give another means of comparison, in the US the amount of interest paid by US citizens each year since 1978 has exceeded the amount of money paid by <a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781784993269/">citizens in federal taxes</a>.&nbsp;Therefore, we cannot understand and deal with how our debt societies function without understanding and dealing with the way in which money is created today (for recent insightful research see <a href="http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf">BoE</a> and <a href="http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/where-does-money-come-from">NEF</a>).</p> <p>The austerity narrative erases all these systemic transformations – the rise of debt as last resort new money, the growth fixation as a key systemic driver for debt generation, and the privatisation of money creation as the key mechanism through which these transformations were materialised – and rather focuses on debt creation as an abnormality and a one-off problem. This is despite the fact that all evidence points to the opposite direction. For example, in the US, all categories of household debt are already back on the rise, while student loan debt has become the largest category of household debt after mortgages (total outstanding student loan debt was $1.26 trillion in <a href="https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/hhdc.html">the first quarter of 2016</a>). Similarly, in the UK the household debt-to-income ratio has started to rise again, and household debt is projected to exceed 160% of household disposable income by the end of 2020, thus approaching its 2007/2008 highs (see page 70 of the <a href="http://cdn.budgetresponsibility.org.uk/March2016EFO.pdf">latest OBS</a>). Furthermore, according to a <a href="http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/degrees-of-debt/">2016 Sutton Trust report</a>, students in England are now more indebted in comparison to their US counterparts after graduation, facing debts of over £44,000 at graduation compared to £29,000 for graduates of US private for-profit universities. And at a global level debt has increased by $57 trillion since 2007 and no major economy has decreased its total debt to GDP ratio, as pointed out by the <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/debt-and-not-much-deleveraging">2015 McKinsey Global Institute report</a>.</p> <p>This brings us to our last point/question. How can we change our debt based socioeconomic system? How can we undo life in debt? If the above analysis is (at least partly) correct then intervention needs to take place in at, at least, two areas. The first one is the area of the ‘growth drive’. The second is ‘money creation’. Of course challenges and changes in these areas require challenges and changes in the broader valorisation and knowledge/epistemic systems on which these areas are based. </p> <p>Moving from a growth-driven model of political economy to a different model is not easy and will take time (unless mediated by a socio-environmental catastrophe). But small steps can generate large-scale ruptures and changes. For instance, reassessing what we count as growth and GDP is paramount. Changes have been happening in this regard. At the end of 2014, ONS included in the UK GDP two new ‘items’: money made by illegal drugs (approx. £6.7 billion) and prostitution (approx. £4.3 billion). The question then arises, is this the best we can do in redefining GDP? We certainly need to keep pushing for bringing ‘what counts as GDP’ closer to ‘what counts to us’, what we value as a society. In this context the introduction by ONS of a new survey and statistical series that aim to capture aspects of the ‘<a href="http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/2016#main-points">quality of life’ beyond GDP</a> is a positive step. But again much more need to be done both in terms of methodology and in ways of mainstreaming alternative measurements. As feminist economists have long argued, changes in what we count as GDP and how we measure well-being are not about numbers but about defining and designing appropriate socioeconomic strategies for a better future. </p> <p>The second area of intervention refers to the existing regime of ‘money creation’. The existing system of privatised money creation has produced immense instability; after being bailed out by taxpayers, it has taken the banks that were ‘too big to fail’ in 2008 and made them bigger and has led to socially destabilising inequality. Thus, unless we start discussing and redesigning the principles of our monetary system, the causes of indebtedness of our financialised societies cannot be effectively addressed. </p> <p>To conclude, thinking that the debt conundrum of our societies can be addressed through austerity is naïve and dangerous. Austerity exacerbates the problem of indebtedness, without addressing any of its root causes. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</em></p><p><strong><br /><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</em></strong></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/austerity-media/pete-bennett-julian-mcdougall/hard-times-today-popular-culture-and-austerity-myth">Hard Times today: popular culture and the austerity myth </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/sara-de-benedictis-rosalind-gill/austerity-neoliberalism-new-discursive-formation">Austerity Neoliberalism: a new discursive formation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/ruth-cain/bringing-up-neoliberal-baby-post-austerity-anxieties-about-social-repro">Bringing up neoliberal baby: post-austerity anxieties about (social) reproduction</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Andreas Antoniades Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:08:12 +0000 Andreas Antoniades 104159 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit and the rise of populism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/grahame-thompson/populism-biggest-winner-from-uk-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Populist nationalisms are replacing social democracy and Christian democracy across Europe. But we cannot, and should not, attempt to resuscitate these&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">traditional models of governance.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/podemos.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in the Spanish parliament. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/podemos.jpg" alt="Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in the Spanish parliament. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve" title="Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in the Spanish parliament. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in the Spanish parliament. Photo: Francisco Seco / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span>Surely the biggest political winner from the UK Referendum must be ‘populism’ in its various forms. It is firmly entrenched in the UK, across Europe and in the USA. So it is important to come to terms with what populism means. Within post-Second World War Europe, the two principal political movements that drove both domestic politics and international cooperative moves were social democracy and christian democracy. These two political movements supported liberal internationalism on the one hand, and European integration on the other. But both are in decline if not finished. Social democracy hangs on in a residual form in some Scandinavian countries, while the remnants of christian democracy can be found in Germany, Holland and to some extent Italy. Social democracy requires a strong trade union movement and accommodating Keynesian macroeconomic policies to support it,&nbsp;but both of these institutions have crumbled. Any project to try to revive social democracy is thus doomed: it cannot be re-invented under contemporary conditions or their foreseeable futures. Progressives and the Left must recognise this fact. One sad aspect of the UK political scene is the way the so called ‘Labour heartlands’ of the Scottish central lowlands, the Welsh Valleys and the Northern post-industrial districts are still referred to as such and considered the ground for a social democratic revival. But these have vanished: they are now firmly in the grip of either nationalistic projects or UKIP type overtures. They cannot be won back to social democracy (or the Labour party, one suspects).</p><p>What is replacing the twin paradigms of social democracy and christian democracy? Populist nationalisms<em>&nbsp;</em>are in ascendency across Europe, and in danger of completely eclipsing them. And these are popular nationalisms of the left as well as of the right variety. Left populism’s legacy in Latin America is one of economic disorder and democratic decline – which bodes ill for its future in southern Europe. The classic political technique of populism in&nbsp;<em>plebiscitary nationalism</em>: an example of which we have just witnessed in the UK. Thus as populist nationalisms spread we are likely to see many more calls for referenda (as currently with Scotland). This is often accompanied by proclamationism, as edicts are widely dispatched and leaders sycophantically praised as saviours.</p><p><span><span class="mag-quote-center">Both right populism (e.g., UKIP in Britain, FN in France) and left populism (e.g. Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece) stress the distrust of ‘elites’. Elites are the enemy.</span>Both right populism (e.g. UKIP in Britain, FN in France) and left populism (e.g., Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece) stress the distrust of ‘elites’ (the ‘Westminster elite’, the ‘Brussels Bureaucrats’). Elites are the enemy. The populous or multitude is afforded a homogeneity (‘us’) and set against an equally homogeneous but corrupt elite (‘them’). And sometimes this ‘them’ are foreigner/immigrants. But there are no differences or fractures amongst the people, the elite or the immigrants. Recent events in the UK have demonstrated the elite was fractured: business was split over the referendum, as was the political class, as was the media, as was the City financial community. There were similarly vast differences in attitudes amongst the voting populace. This does not distract populism from its customary insistence on an underlying unity.</span></p><p>Left populism stresses ‘solidarity’ with other groups and peoples, whereas right populism is thoroughly ‘nationally exclusive’ if not xenophobic. And of course there are differences in the national configurations of populism: early US populism was mainly (and perhaps still is) anti-trust and anti-monopoly. Even Donald Trump riles against these. Continental European populisms were corporatist and fascistic in origin and sentiment.</p><p>I draw attention to the common features of populism to stress that fundamentally populisms share an underlying ideological unity, despite the differences in origin and between contemporary left and right versions. I suggest this underlying unity is a dangerous one, that it should be recognised for what it is, and that continuing illusions about the virtues of ‘left populism’ amongst progressive intellectual liberals needs to be combatted. But with what?</p><p>There is no easy response to this question. However it must involve a recommitment to&nbsp;<em>pluralism</em>. That we live in a pluralistic society is surely beyond doubt – there is no necessary unity amongst either the ‘neoliberal financial-political elite’ or the ‘popular masses’. The differences amongst these groups can be exploited for a progressive purpose, alliances across traditional divides fostered and new civic institutions built – from both the bottom up&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;the top down (exclusivity given for either of these routes will only weaken the task). Political pluralism is not the same as either ‘individualist Liberalism’ or ‘collectivist Socialism’ in their various guises though it overlaps with them. It needs to invoke a new commitment to ‘associative democracy’, fostered by the early British Pluralists in the 1920s, and championed more recently by the late Paul Hirst. Any detour into full blown populisms will spell a disaster across Europe and beyond. Any attempt to revive social or christian democracy will only lead to a nostalgic longing for a past that is impossible to recreate.</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/antonis-galanopoulos/interview-with-cas-mudde-populism-and-liberal-democracy-is-greece-exception-or-"> Populism and liberal democracy: is Greece the exception or the future of Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/brexit-and-rise-of-far-right">Brexit and the rise of the far right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/populism-and-left-does-ukip-matter-can-democracy-be-saved">Populism and the left: does UKIP matter? Can democracy be saved?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/crist-bal-rovira-kaltwasser-kirk-hawkins/explaining-populism">Populism - the eternal ideology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/node/1308">Paul Hirst: legacies and futures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/paul-hirst/renewing-democracy-through-associations">Renewing democracy through associations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rosemary-bechler/dangers-of-illiberalism-call-for-pluralist-state">The dangers of illiberalism call for a pluralist state</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grahame Thompson Thu, 21 Jul 2016 09:30:55 +0000 Grahame Thompson 104104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hard Times today: popular culture and the austerity myth https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/pete-bennett-julian-mcdougall/hard-times-today-popular-culture-and-austerity-myth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The myth of ‘austerity’ is our alibi, a myth so persuasive that it has given its name across the western industrialised nations to the very age in which we live. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/debt.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="178" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>“Where are the red-eyed dreamers and clenched fist fighters?</em></p> <p><em>Didn’t they swear when these walls fell a citadel would rise?</em></p> <p><em>They’ve turned to schemers, all, and underwriters</em></p> <p><em>Leaning on the parapets to tell the same old lies.”</em></p> <p>(Nick Burbridge, After the Deluge)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his seminal collection of cultural readings, <a href="https://soundenvironments.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/roland-barthes-mythologies.pdf"><em>Mythologies</em></a>, Roland Barthes turned his attention to a quintessential twentieth century myth embodied in <a href="https://consciousnessandliteraryexperiment.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/art-and-neuroscience-and-barthes-brain-of-einstein/">‘The Brain of Einstein’</a>. This appropriation of the brain of the great genius as “a mythical object” is, for Barthes, paradoxical since “the greatest intelligence of all provides an image of the most up-to-date machine, the man who is too powerful is removed from psychology, and introduced into a world of robots”.&nbsp; As Barthes points out, Einstein “is commonly signified by his brain, which is like an object for anthologies, a true museum exhibit”. </p> <p>Of course Barthes’ commentary is not free from sarcasm, which he suggested, in the contradiction of our times, may well be “the condition of truth”. “What this machine of genius was supposed to produce was equations”, he claims, so that “[t]hrough the mythology of Einstein, the world blissfully regained the image of knowledge reduced to a formula”. </p> <p>It was hard not to think, with a fair degree of spleen of this ‘single secret’ when in the teeth of the Brexit vote, BBC’s <em>Newsnight</em> dragged out (or tuned into) the representation <em>par excellence</em> of the austerity myth: the <a href="http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk/">National Debt Clock</a>. With its ever moving display (£5,170 per second is being added) it felt like counting down the end of the world rather than staring unflinchingly into what Barthes dubbed the ‘falsely obvious’. Mark Fisher’s <a href="http://www.zero-books.net/books/capitalist-realism">‘capitalist realism’</a> hypothesis includes the notion that, for many, the end of the world is more conceivable than the end of capitalism, an observation made also by<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw8LPn4irao"> Zizek</a>. The ‘truly obvious’ question, though, is as Neil Badmington put it in the preface to our <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Popular-Culture-and-the-Austerity-Myth-Hard-Times-Today/Bennett-McDougall/p/book/9781138942943">collection</a> referring to Barthes’ phrase: “What kind of ‘ideological abuse’ lies behind the naturalized call for austere existence?”&nbsp; </p> <p>This is, in a sense, where our work started; discovering the politically defining concept of the moment returned to us as “depoliticised speech”.&nbsp; Our concern was for the myth of ‘austerity’, a myth so persuasive that it has given its name across the Western industrialised nations to the very age in which we live, a period that began with the global economic crisis of 2008.&nbsp; ‘Austerity’ is no longer controversial, not even the current issue, save for a few academic economists: rather it is a given. We may deplore the suffering involved but how we got here is taken for granted. We must continue to take our unpalatable medicine without questioning how we came by the infection. Our invitation was for interested parties to explore the ways in which popular culture gives expression to austerity; how are its effects conveyed; how do texts reproduce and expose its mythic qualities. Also to consider the impact and influence of austerity across media and textual categories from political media discourse, music, videogames, social media, film, television, journalism, folk art, food, protest movements, slow media and the practices of austerity in everyday life. It was designed to secure a response to Deleuze and Guattari’s <a href="http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/viewFile/384/407">provocation</a> that “We do not lack communication.&nbsp; On the contrary we have too much of it.&nbsp; We lack creation.&nbsp; We lack resistance to the present.” </p> <p>More specifically ‘austerity’ invokes times that are inevitably ‘hard’ thus co-opting the past more specifically as our title suggests: ‘hard times’, like <em>Hard Times</em>, have seemingly always been with us. In fact, Dickens’ 1854 ‘bout’ of serialised popular fiction, written to revive a weekly periodical, provides a useful starting point for our celebrations of popular cultural resistance since his is a satirical and critical response to a powerful early model of austerity. It is largely forgotten that the full title of Dickens’ shortest novel is <em>Hard Times - For These Times</em>, further reinforcing a situated historical critique rather than simple unavoidable facts. Dickens is also explicit about the way we should respond to the brute facticity of this world and that is with ‘fancy’, the faculty of imagination which the novel embodies and demonstrates.</p> <p>As Stuart Hall <a href="http://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/51cb7995c5ae4">pointed out</a>, “popular culture is one of the sites where the struggle for and against the powerful is engaged”. Hall’s point about “the struggle for and against” is still an important one but the period since his intervention has seen fundamental changes to the essential relationships between, for example, popular culture and media and audiences and producers – popular culture <a href="https://www.routledge.com/After-the-Media-Culture-and-Identity-in-the-21st-Century/Bennett-Kendall-McDougall/p/book/9780415586832">‘after the media’</a>, even. What’s at stake here is the significance of popular culture as an arena for debating the ideological implications of austerity in the ‘new Hard Times’ of ever-reforming and increasingly essentialized and narrowing neo-liberal arrangements. </p> <p>Part of Banksy’s ambition for his 2015 beachside art event <a href="http://dismaland.co.uk/interview/"><em>Dismaland</em></a> was to be a "family attraction that acknowledges inequality and impending catastrophe" and also "a theme park whose big theme is 'theme parks should have bigger themes'". Here, as elsewhere in the work of our contributors is work that is <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-34364808">“audacious in its message and production”, </a>&nbsp;indeed the ‘author’ of the payday loans piece (a “pocket money loans” shop offering money to children at an interest rate of 5,000%) <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/aug/20/banksy-dismaland-amusements-anarchism-weston-super-mare">quipped</a> that “It is just amazing having this much sarcasm in one place.”</p> <p>Of course, sarcasm is only one flavour in our “unrestrained semioclasm”. To cite just a few examples, Gargi Bhattachary situates myths of austerity in the fabrics of everyday life while Alistair MacTaggart reads lyrical reflections on austerity in popular music. ‘Jolly Fucker’ reads sleight-of-argument merchant Nigel Farage - now you see him, now you don’t - through the cracked lens of <a href="http://www.invisiblebritain.com/">Sleaford Mods</a>. </p> <p>A more conventional form of activism is explored in the work on US protest camps of <a href="http://annafeigenbaum.com/">Anna Feigenbaum</a>&nbsp; and Fabian Frenzel while Donatella Della Ratta challenges the simplistic ‘2.0’ rhetoric of ‘armchair journalism’ when dealing with Arab uprisings. Antonio Lopez and Peter Sarram extend the argument to <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/an-occupied-cinema-in-rome">cinema occupations in Rome</a> as acts of cultural communing.&nbsp; In a different key Wayne O’Brien deals with videogame criminality in this ‘age of austerity’. <em>Benefits Street </em>is given a close reading as ‘naked ideology’ – see here Fraser Nelson’s treatment of our <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10579987/Benefits-Street-the-real-scandal.html">‘dirty little secret’</a>. </p> <p>Jacques Ranciere <a href="http://www.critical-theory.com/who-the-fuck-is-jacques-ranciere/">has written</a> that “politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it” but also, darkly “around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Austerity is explicitly a profoundly ethical strategy, offering everyone the opportunity to ‘do the right thing’ even if that is merely suffering the apparent vagaries of ‘the markets’. Pain is part of the hard sell and adaptation is inevitable, whether that means downsizing your accommodation or your ambition. At one level this could be understood as a form of rough-edged social cohesion, the rallying in adversity of a ‘big’ society. It also reaches out to revive or co-opt a ‘spirit’ which in other forms and times of adversity saw us through, for example, when we were ‘putting on the Blitz’. However most tellingly at a moment when the excesses of bankers seem to have been ‘visited’ in every sense on those worst effected, is Barthes’s reminder that principally myth acts as an alibi. This seems key to understanding an ‘austerity’ that we all must share, though very few of us might be seen to be responsible for ushering it in. This is the crux of our argument and the ultimate rationale for our responses to it.</p> <p>And importantly, the project takes a feminist impulse, as Helen Davies and Claire O’Callaghan summise in their afterword. Initially, postfeminism in popular culture might seem incompatible with an era of recession. For <a href="https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/the-aftermath-of-feminism/book211463">Angela McRobbie</a> and for <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/interrogating-postfeminism">Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra,</a> postfeminism is typified by an investment in conspicuous consumption, commodification, class privilege and earning power. How could Carrie Bradshaw, heroine of <em>Sex in the City</em>, maintain her ‘independent’, ‘empowered’ lifestyle without plenty of credit, we might ask?</p> <p>By the way, that national Debt clock’s still ticking, offering an unimaginable large number: £1.7 trillion (or £27,710 per person) – no wonder we all need to tighten our belts. That, of course, is just one way to look at it. Another is to think how much we found, when ‘needed’, to bail out the banks: £1.3 trillion! When it comes to a decision about whether to protect the banks or pay off the debt, it seems that the government has made its choice quite clear.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Part of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/austerity-media">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</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/austerity-media/sara-de-benedictis-rosalind-gill/austerity-neoliberalism-new-discursive-formation">Austerity Neoliberalism: a new discursive formation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/johnna-montgomerie/beyond-zombie-economy">Beyond the Zombie Economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/david-bates/austerity-and-benefits-street-in-stockton-on-tees">Austerity and &#039;Benefits Street&#039; in Stockton-on-Tees</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Julian McDougall Pete Bennett Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:33:22 +0000 Julian McDougall and Pete Bennett 104087 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Solidarity forever? Why Labour shouldn't split https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/ben-margulies/solidarity-forever-why-labour-shouldnt-split <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A split would prove disastrous for the Labour party, and for the hopes of its supporters.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/jez shaking hands.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jeremy Corbyn alongside fellow leadership candidates, 2015. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Ri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/jez shaking hands.jpg" alt="Jeremy Corbyn alongside fellow leadership candidates, 2015. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Ri" title="Jeremy Corbyn alongside fellow leadership candidates, 2015. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Ri" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn alongside fellow leadership candidates, 2015. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Rights Reserved</span></span></span>There are a few inescapable cliché phrases in British English. 'At the end of the day' may be the most depressingly frequent, but 'Labour Party in chaos' follows close behind. Last year, Jeremy Corbyn made an entirely unheralded transformation from long-serving fringe backbencher to the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_2015">overwhelmingly elected leader of his party</a>. In the last two weeks, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP - that is, Labour’s members of the House of Commons), has sought tirelesly to transform him back into a backbencher. First, Corbyn’s shadow cabinet members&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/26/labour-shadow-cabinet-resignations-jeremy-corbyn-who-has-gone">abandoned him</a>&nbsp;en masse; then the PLP&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36647458">passed a vote of no confidence</a>&nbsp;in him, 172-40. Then they&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/05/jeremy-corbyns-future-to-be-decided-at-crunch-talks-with-unions/">awaited union-brokered talks</a>&nbsp;aimed at Corbyn’s removal. Finally, two of them,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36756975">Angela Eagle</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/13/owen-smith-to-offer-referendum-on-brexit-deal-if-elected-labour-leader">Owen Smith</a>, challenged Corbyn to a new leadership election.</p><p>The battle between Corbyn and his followers represents,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/middle-class-university-graduates-will-decide-future-labour-party">if not a class cleavage</a>, then certainly a deep split in political philosophy. Corbyn’s backers are anti-austerity activists who are, in their commitment to a mixed and regulated economy, classically social democratic. The PLP, on the other hand, reflects the legacy of the neoliberal New Labour project, obsessed with projecting economic credibility (that is, fiscal conservatism) and an electoral strategy aimed mainly at the middle classes. They seek Labour’s future among different voters. Corbyn’s opponents in 2016, as in 2015, worry about the voters Labour lost to the Conservatives, UKIP and the Lib Dems under Miliband (<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/22/election-2015-who-voted-for-whom-labour-conservatives-turnout">about 19 percent of their 2010 vote</a>). Corbyn’s camp, presumably, seeks its future among those lost to the Greens and SNP (about a tenth of the 2010 vote), or among&nbsp;<a href="http://www.if.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/How-did-young-people-vote-at-the-2015-general-election.pdf">young voters</a>, or non-voters. It's worth noting here that Labour actually increased their overall vote share in 2015, but only 72 percent of its 2010 voters stayed loyal.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The dispute reflects Labour’s increasing inability to define political legitimacy within the party.</p><p>The dispute also reflects Labour’s increasing inability to define political legitimacy within the party. In some ways, Labour’s problems reflect&nbsp;<a href="http://scholar.harvard.edu/levitsky/files/1.1linz.pdf">“the perils of presidentialism”</a>:&nbsp;Corbyn is like a president with a direct mandate from the people, facing a PLP with its own mandate derived from a legislative election. In classic examples, a president and a legislature come from roughly the same electorates. In Labour’s case, however, Corbyn and the PLP each represents a different pool of voters. On the one hand, the Labour membership&nbsp;<a href="https://constitution-unit.com/2016/07/05/rules-matter-why-the-current-labour-crisis-is-not-only-about-ideology/">is to the left</a>&nbsp;of its voters and MPs, meaning that the PLP can challenge the representativeness of Corbyn’s mandate and his fitness to lead an electoral party. On the other, the membership can look up Katz and Mair’s “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartel_party_theory">cartel party theory</a>” and Populism for Dummies, and damn the PLP as a pack of careerists with no connection to voters.</p><p>Is this a great enough divide to prompt a split? Commentators&nbsp;<a href="https://constitution-unit.com/2016/06/29/what-if-labour-splits/">are already</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/13/labour-split-owen-smith-angela-eagle-jeremy-corbyn">considering</a>&nbsp;the question. Should Corbyn win, the PLP, they say, might rebel and form its own party, mirroring&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Democratic_Party_(UK)">the defection of the Social Democrats</a>&nbsp;(SDP) in 1981. Some&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/anti-corbyn-labour-mps-plan-breakaway-group-in-parliament">even reportedly</a>&nbsp;investigated whether a breakaway parliamentary party could assume the Labour Party’s name.</p><p>Could that work? I seriously doubt it. For starters, the SDP didn’t exactly flourish on its own, and that split followed an election where&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election%2C_1979">Labour won 37 percent of the vote</a>, rather than 30.5 percent. The simple fact is that the two camps are jostling over too small a share to support two rival parties. Like many social democratic parties, Labour has seen its working-class base steadily erode; it has lost nearly a quarter of its support from the DE social groups between 2005 and 2015,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jontrickett.org.uk/labour_s_missing_millions_part_2">according to an analysis</a>&nbsp;by Labour MP Jon Trickett. This chimes with wider findings about social democratic parties in Europe; according to Gingrich and Häusermann (2015),&nbsp;<a href="http://esp.sagepub.com/content/25/1/50.full.pdf+html">the majority of left-wing voters</a>&nbsp;in Europe are now middle-class (and often public-sector employees), rather than working class. Labour’s membership is now&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/middle-class-university-graduates-will-decide-future-labour-party">strongly middle class</a>&nbsp;– 57 percent are university graduates, and three in four belong to classes ABC1. That said,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/DownloadPublication/1285_MediaCT_thoughtpiece_Social_Grade_July09_V3_WEB.pdf">these classes are growing</a>, since C1 tends to cover service-sector workers – they were 34 percent of the population in 1968, but 56 percent in 2008. I once argued that Corbyn&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ben-margulies/why-is-corbyn-campaign-%E2%80%9Cgesture-politics%E2%80%9D">could reach out</a>&nbsp;to non-voters and the socially excluded, but this clearly has not happened; indeed, his failure to get those voters out to vote Remain provided the justification for the post-referendum leadership challenge.</p><p>On top of that, Labour is suffering losses geographically. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LfIpW6f0l8">Great Sept of Baelor</a>&nbsp;is in better shape than Scottish Labour at the moment. Welsh Labour is faring better, but it is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2016-05-06/first-ukip-members-voted-into-welsh-assembly-as-labour-dominate/">facing strong challenges</a>&nbsp;from Plaid Cymru on the left and UKIP on the right.&nbsp;<span>What that means is that Labour’s existing base may be too small to support two parties in a first-past-the-post electoral system. Let’s play out the scenarios. Suppose the PLP does decide to abandon Corbyn and the institutional Labour Party and form a new SDP. That party will lose most of the membership and all the money and institutional architecture of the existing Labour Party. It may lose Scottish and Welsh Labour as well; Welsh Labour has always been to the left of the national party, and Scottish Labour&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/02/labour-pushes-1p-tax-rise-in-scotland">ran on</a><span>&nbsp;a fairly left-wing platform in the Scottish elections.</span></p><p>What platform would the PLP/SDP run on? If it really opposes Corbyn, and needs to differentiate itself from him, it would have to run on being “progressive,” but “fiscally responsible” – that is, it would have to be New Labour. Essentially, they would be offering themselves as a better and fairer class of neoliberal technocrats than the Conservatives. The problem is that the Conservatives can almost always claim to be better at managing the economy in neoliberal terms than Labour can. Furthermore, the Tories are just as capable of introducing modest progressive reforms as Labour, such as Osborne’s “national living wage” or Theresa May’s promises&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/07/progressives-guide-theresa-may">this week to combat inequality of many types</a>. The PLP/SDP would, like Labour in the 1990s, simply have to wait until the Conservatives proved themselves incompetent, and then hope for a victory.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Indeed, the only hope for this sort of project might be if it cast itself as the anti-Brexit party and appealed to the young and middle classes on that basis.&nbsp;</span></p><p>&nbsp;PLP members might respond that the Conservatives&nbsp;<em>have&nbsp;</em>proved themselves incompetent with the Brexit referendum and its aftermath. Indeed, the only hope for this sort of project might be if it cast itself as the anti-Brexit party and appealed to the young and middle classes on that basis. That might work in the short term, though it poses a short-term tactical dilemma of whether to unite or work with the Liberal Democrats, an association some would consider toxic. But once the EU issue was settled one way or the other, we come back to the same problem; Labour would be a mildly neoliberal party, unable to deliver material benefits to the excluded who voted for Brexit, and even many of the young, frustrated middle-class voters who can’t find economic security – a large portion of those ABC1s. The party would quickly face the same decline that its post-Blair ancestor did.</p><p>What about a split from Corbyn’s end? Well, as Bale’s study makes clear, Corbyn’s mass movement has not turned out to be very representative of the wider public, though it is middle-class majority makes it similar to other left-wing parties in Europe. It would not be aiming for middle-class voters in marginal seats. The most likely model would be the Spanish Podemos, which is also an anti-austerity party, and one which emerged from grassroots mobilizations (the&nbsp;<em>indignados&nbsp;</em>movement). For the June 2016 election, it formed an alliance with the United Left (they ran conjointly as&nbsp;<em>Podemos Unidos</em>), which includes the Communist Party and other institutionalized Marxist groupings, somewhat like the hard left in Labour. Moreover,&nbsp;<a href="http://psx.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/06/15/0032321716647400.full.pdf+html?hwshib2=authn%3A1468677303%3A20160715%253Ac30d2102-03b2-4e45-bee1-2a409b04bf38%3A0%3A0%3A0%3AdbD7YZQ1FMYELx%2Fd9KG5yg%3D%3D">recent research suggests</a>&nbsp;(Ramiro and Gomez 2016) that Podemos appeals to highly educated voters who are frustrated with their job prospects, not unlike the angry youth that Rhiannon Cosslett&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/whos-backing-jeremy-corbyn-young">encountered</a>&nbsp;in her&nbsp;<em>New Statesman&nbsp;</em>article on Corbyn last year.</p><p>However, there are a few issues arising from trying to pursue a Podemos-style electoral project. Firstly, Spain has a proportionally representative system, if not a particularly fair one, making it easier for parties to translate popular support into parliamentary seats. Secondly, Podemos Unidos&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_general_election,_2016">only won about 21 percent of the vote</a>. Thirdly, Spain,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ine.es/dyngs/INEbase/es/operacion.htm?c=Estadistica_C&amp;cid=1254736176918&amp;menu=ultiDatos&amp;idp=1254735976595">with its 21 percent unemployment rate</a>,&nbsp;has a lot more angry unemployed young people than Britain. The upshot of the 2016 poll in Spain was that two left-wing parties shared about 44 percent of the vote, and the conservative party won a plurality, and is as such most likely to form a government.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Neither faction of the party seems to have the slightest clue how to rally the “left-behind” working-class voters often cited as the main impetus for Britain’s secession from the European Union.</p><p>Finally, neither faction of the party seems to have the slightest clue how to rally the “left-behind” working-class voters often cited as the main impetus for Britain’s secession from the European Union. Corbyn has made no headway with them; the Blair-Brown legacy includes both the PLP that’s rebelling against Corbyn and the very leaving behind these voters resent. Many of these voters are socially conservative as well as economically disadvantaged; neither the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/middle-class-university-graduates-will-decide-future-labour-party">Labour membership&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;nor the PLP (which supplied the majority of votes for legalizing gay marriage) is likely to be able to breach that gap.</p><p>Together or apart, Labour faces tremendous problems. Its historic base is eroding; it faces more challengers (from left and right) than its Conservative opponents; the electoral boundaries now militate against it; and the party seems desperately short of good political leadership. But neither of its warring camps have much hope of overcoming these problems on their own. Labour may have no choice but to embrace solidarity.</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="/paul-rogers/what-labour-should-do-now">What Labour should do now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/dan-hind/choice-before-labour-party">The choice before the Labour party</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ben Margulies Wed, 20 Jul 2016 12:29:17 +0000 Ben Margulies 104105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Performing beyond the gendered zombie economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/austerity-media/melissa-fisher/performing-beyond-gendered-zombie-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Contemporary performance can provide a way of understanding as well as re-imagining what inclusive economies look like, particularly during crises. Performances of the economy are critical in urgent times.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/ladd.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/ladd.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In March 2010, the Women’s Campaign Fund (WCF), the only non-partisan venture capitalist organization supporting women leaders in the United States at all levels of office, premiered <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO9nPq1r5iA"><em>Voices from the Ladder</em></a> at Christie’s, the art auction house in Manhattan. Dressed in colorful jackets and black slacks, approximately a dozen high-ranking women positioned themselves at the tops of ladders as part of a performance piece demonstrating women’s unequal representation in government. The WCF was, in part, trying to make a statement that putting more women into office would save the nation from the recession<em>; </em>the audience of mostly political and financial female elites applauded enthusiastically. The performance tapped into <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/Wall-Street-Women/">gendered debates about the origins and solutions to the 2008 financial crisis.</a> Like other accounts disseminated through different types of media circulating at the time, it articulated a divide between masculine, greedy, risk-taking financial behavior that fostered the zombie economy and caused the crisis, and a more feminine, risk-averse, conservative approach that would fix the crisis<strong>.</strong></p> <p>Six years later, in May 2016, radical choreographer Elizabeth Streb spoke at the New York University’s Women’s Leadership Forum on <em>How to Become an Extreme Action Heroine</em>. Clad in her signature dark men’s suit and boots, she regaled us with stories and images of herself and her dancers performing on the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zS2_gydyf8">London Eye during the 2012 Olympics</a> “at night, after the economy closes” so that people could watch. Throughout her talk Streb asked us to re-think the meaning of risk-taking and to find a new language for taking action. She asked: “Can risk ever be planned? … Isn’t risk something that doesn’t occur to you ever to do?” She pushed us to think about how bodies, including our own, move through the world and generate new ways of being - and I argue, how bodies thus enact gender, risk, and the economy.</p> <p>A sea of representations and performances about gender and the economy – including those enacted at professional women’s meetings – permeate our world. My aim in this piece is to consider how such contemporary performance provides a way of understanding as well as re-imagining what inclusive economies look like, particularly during crises. Here performance refers to staged productions. It includes the growing trend, since the nineties, of <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/br/book/9781137027283">performers engaging audiences <em>socially</em></a><em> – </em>by inviting audiences to interact with them and their work spatially and sometimes through outright participation and it often entails site-specific performance <em>– </em>work created in response to a particular place or site such as a city building, and inspired by that sites history or current use<strong>. </strong></p> <p>Financial crises are complex social and cultural phenomena requiring processes of mediation. Indeed, given the obscure nature of finance, performances of the economy are critical in urgent times. It matters whether we understand the 2008 financial crisis as a problem of the system, or as a result of the masculine risk taking behavior of bankers and traders. Recognizing that certain gendered performances about solutions to the crisis dominate, like risk-averse female leaders standing at the helm of actual and metaphorical <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/j.1548-744X.2010.01042.x/abstract">corporate ladders</a>, is also crucial. </p> <p>Understanding there are powerful hegemonies in place, in which certain cultural performances about gender and the economy dominate and which are aligned with the dominant culture of the society is important. But it is also critical to recognize, as <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/marxism-and-literature-9780198760610?cc=ch&amp;lang=en&amp;">Raymond Williams</a> has classically argued, that no hegemony remains uncontested, and there are emergent cultural forces that challenge the existing “dominant” arrangement<strong>. </strong>This then is the relationship between the WCF’s “Voices” piece and Streb’s extreme action heroine talk. While “Voices” challenges sexism in government, it nevertheless performs a key message of neoliberal feminism: the idea that elite, predominantly white females will save the global economy given their risk-averse or risk-aware orientation. Streb’s extreme action heroes and heroines, composed of diverse races, genders, and sexualities, engaged in experimenting with new forms of risk taking off of buildings, challenging the existing dominant arrangement between gender, risk, race and leadership. </p> <p>There is a long history of performance art in the United States, but most of it, until relatively recently, took place in small, marginal, alternative locations like warehouses in major cities like NYC. What is different about performance art since the 1990s is that some performers, like Streb, have also moved into more well-known places, like the London Eye, playing for more mainstream publics. It would be too much to say that Streb and her dancers performing as extreme action heroes and heroines poses a serious challenge to the global cultural economy and neoliberal feminism. But I would argue that performances created by Streb and some of her contemporaries are beginning to make themselves felt as alternatives in the mainstream. </p> <p>We can interpret Streb’s career, performance making, and politics in relation to shifts in the cities in which she lives and works, namely NYC and more recently London<strong>. </strong>Both global cities are positioned within increasingly volatile, financialized circuits of capital accumulation. The expanding landscapes of their glass towers serve as everyday reminders of their vast wealth. As <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Condition-Postmodernity-Enquiry-Origins-Cultural/dp/0631162941">David Harvey</a> argues, money “creates an enormous capacity to concentrate social power in space, for … it can be accumulated at a particular place without restraint. And these immense concentrations of social power can be put to work to realize massive transformations of nature, the construction of the built environment.” The most powerful group on Wall Street and the City of London – white professional-managerial men – use their money and power in part to impose their views on the urban landscape of finance. Through their daily and long term interactions – shouting on trading floors, making decisions in executive board rooms, drinking in pubs after the market closes – they <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo4094663.html">build a male dominated atmosphere of meaning and power in the spaces of finance</a>. In order to contest the male-dominated system, people actively engage in performative practices. The WCF “Voices” women discursively claim their place in finance or government and their positions as leaders-saviors of the system. Streb’s heroes and heroines engage in extreme action, throwing themselves off of key urban sites to purposely disrupt the everyday movement, hierarchical structure and flow of the city, the marketplace, and its inhabitants. </p> <p>Capitalist cities, like NYC and London, are not only sites for strategies of capital accumulation; currently they also serve as spaces for envisioning, and indeed, mobilizing towards alternatives to capitalism as well as neoliberal feminism. Streb, her heroes and heroines, and their performances queer urban and economic space. They challenge the heteronormative relationship between gender and risk-taking in everyday life. Indeed, Streb sees living outside the hetero social script as a primary influence on her creativity as a choreographer: she is adamant that <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/lesbian-choreographers-redefine-motion-6410327">a straight woman wouldn't make the kind of no-holds-barred work she creates</a>. "The whole nature of how you ordain your life as a lesbian is just organically, physically different," she says.</p> <p>During the past decade, NYC has witnessed a proliferation in the creation of alternative and solidarity economies. These have taken the form of <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14747731.2016.1156322#.V1atQI9OJN4">worker and other kinds of cooperatives</a><strong>. </strong>Solidarity economy practices utilize values of justice, democracy, cooperation, and mutualism to meet community needs. Indeed, Laura Flanders, Streb’s partner, and founder of Grit TV which serves as an online channel for rethinking economics and politics, has made a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G1-SYMatNc">documentary to bring attention to worker cooperatives</a>. Looking at the ways in which Streb and Flanders influence each-other’s work and cultural politics is beyond the scope of this article. However, it does seems to me that Streb’s risky movement, which often relies upon serious collaboration between performers, embodies some solidarity economy values. </p> <p>Well-framed, well-crafted, and often repeated, the gendered story about the crisis and its solution continue to shape how many think about and talk about the economy. New performances, in alternative media and spaces, can work to disrupt these stories. Streb and her dancers are performing new narratives. They push us to think about the ways in which hegemonic performances – and ways of thinking – about gender and the economy are circulating in our midst. And, for those of us not fully willing (or able) to propel ourselves off buildings, their wild movement can inspire us to find our voices and bodies to take risks and make change.</p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;perc.org.uk</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/austerity-media/ruth-cain/bringing-up-neoliberal-baby-post-austerity-anxieties-about-social-repro">Bringing up neoliberal baby: post-austerity anxieties about (social) reproduction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/mar-jos-g-mez-fuentes-laura-castillo-mateu/spain-no-country-for-old-men-politics">Spain: no country for old-men-politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/sara-de-benedictis-rosalind-gill/austerity-neoliberalism-new-discursive-formation">Austerity Neoliberalism: a new discursive formation</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Media activism and anti austerity Melissa Fisher Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:08:19 +0000 Melissa Fisher 104094 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Divide and conquer? The politics of the generation gap https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/keir-milburn/divide-and-conquer-politics-of-generation-gap <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If the intergenerational divide is allowed to become a full-blown culture war, only the Right will profit. In the face of this, we must re-think how the latest generation organises itself as a political force.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/sanders.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young supporters at a Bernie Sanders rally. Photo: Stephen Brashear / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/sanders.jpg" alt="Young supporters at a Bernie Sanders rally. Photo: Stephen Brashear / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Young supporters at a Bernie Sanders rally. Photo: Stephen Brashear / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young supporters at a Bernie Sanders rally. Photo: Stephen Brashear / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The ability to define the problems around which politics revolves is a vital means of exercising power. Not only does it set the terms of discussion, it also reconfigures existing divisions and alliances. The Brexit referendum is a classic example. It presented EU membership as the most important political issue of our time - yet the decision to hold it was entirely contingent. The public weren’t clamouring for a vote on the topic. EU membership was ranked the 9th most important issue in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30980022">opinion polls</a>&nbsp;last year. Cameron decided on a referendum to try and settle Conservative Party factional strife. He assumed Remain would win comfortably, but soon lost control over the narrative. He became trapped by the relentless thirty-year campaign of racist and Eurosceptic media messaging from which he’d previously benefited. Slogans such as “take back control”, allowed the Leave campaign to frame the issue, setting up a chain of equivalence between the EU, immigration, low wages and declining public services. As attention was focussed ever more narrowly upon this line of argument even Remain voters embraced its terms. Post-referendum anti-Brexit protests have shown many young people equating the EU with cultural diversity and freedom of movement. The thousands of dead migrants in the Mediterranean have slipped further out of view. In this article I want to think further about how the referendum might be reconfiguring existing generational divisions. I think <span class="mag-quote-right">Understanding how political generations are produced and shaped will be key to the emerging Left response</span>understanding how political generations are produced and shaped will be key to the emerging Left response.</p><p>The divergence of voting patterns between age cohorts has already been well noted. One opinion poll indicated 75% of 18 to 24 year olds voted for remain, while only 38% of 50 to 64 year-olds did the same. Despite early reports that Brexit was the fault of feckless young people’s failure to vote it now looks like the turn out of 18 – 24 year-olds was 64% rather than the 36% originally cited.&nbsp;Headlines such as “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/garethprice/brexit-screwed-by-the-old_b_10788170.html">Brexit: The Boomer’s Final Betrayal</a>” feed into a longer narrative of older generations pulling up the ladder, removing the rights and freedoms they themselves have enjoyed. Overall, voting patterns make it clear that the longer you had to live with the effects of Brexit, the less likely you were to vote for it.&nbsp;Around the world, the declining economic prospects of younger generations have been the wellspring for resurgent Left projects. Podemos in Spain and Bernie Sander’s campaign in the US provide two examples of this. In the UK, however, there is a real danger that the way the referendum was framed &nbsp;recompose a generational divide based on divergent economic interests into a generational culture war. Such a war would suit&nbsp;only the interests of the Right.</p><p>We can begin to understand this if we position Brexit within an ongoing crisis. In 2008 we saw the collapse of neoliberalism’s economic settlement. Now we are experiencing the collapse of the political settlement that went along with it. In a perceptive referendum&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/alan-finlayson/who-won-referendum">post-mortem</a><span class="mag-quote-left">Both cohorts need a new economic settlement.</span>,&nbsp;Alan Finlayson identifies neoliberal globalisation as the obscured driver of both sides of the Brexit vote. He distinguishes between globalisation’s economic and cultural effects using this to draw up a grid of four groups in the UK with differing attitudes to these impacts. Out of these there are two cohorts that are central to the hopes of the Left. The first consists of those unhappy with the economic effects of globalisation but happy and embedded within the cultural diversity it brings. Think young metropolitans with precarious working and living conditions. The second cohort are those who have also suffered economically from neoliberal globalisation and who also find its cultural effects uncomfortable. Think older voters from the Britain's de-industrialised smaller towns. Both cohorts need a new economic settlement, and this should be the basis of an alliance between them. But the referendum has turned their heads in different directions. A significant proportion of Labour’s deindustrialised heartlands voted Leave alongside a third cohort, who have done well from globalisation economically but feel nostalgic for a fantasy version of our Imperial past; basically the Tory shires. This new alliance must be kept from solidifying. The other task, however, is preventing something hinted at in the pro-EU protests; city based youth aligning with the much smaller urban cohort who are happy with both neoliberalism’s economic and cultural effects. A generational analysis is useful for picking this mess apart but only if we think more deeply about how a political generation forms.</p><p>Sociological discussion of this problem traces back to Karl Mannheim’s idea that generations form through shared experience of traumatic events. Young people are particularly susceptible to the impact of such events, having little previous experience within which to locate them. For Mannheim, generational distinctions only become important when episodes of rapid change produce a ‘structure of feeling’ amongst young people at odds with the one that’s dominant.&nbsp;The crisis of 2008 fits the bill. By removing hope of economic improvement it crystalised a much longer divergence of economic outlooks across age cohorts. Unlike previous generation gaps, this one is not primarily an effect of demographic changes. It is, rather, a side effect of a neoliberal settlement in which conditions of work and social reproduction have worsened over time. As such they have affected later cohorts more severely. Generational tension is not a traditional focus for the Left. But under contemporary conditions&nbsp;<span>age is one of the modalities in which class is lived.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">Age is one of the modalities in which class is lived</span></p><p>We can usefully tease apart two different kinds of events, whose traumas create two different types of generations. The first type consists of events that are perceived by those involved to have been created by external forces. The crisis of 2008 is a good example. It was a world changing event that felt as though it was created by forces beyond human control. As such it dramatically altered young people’s life changes and produced a very large, loosely connected and politically ambiguous generation. The second type of event consists of those which feel like they’ve been actively constructed by their participants. The protests and movements of 2011 are a good example. The political generation that formed out of them is much tighter and more coherent than the one produced by 2008. We might think of these as respectively a ‘generation in itself’ and a ‘generation for itself’.</p><p>In some countries, such as Spain, the generation of 2011 was large enough to create a new political common sense that is vying for dominance in the sphere of formal politics. In the UK the long 2011, which ran from the 2010 student movement, through Occupy, to the August riots, formed a much smaller generation but one which has stayed highly internally networked. It has also maintained a remarkably consistent political attitude and outlook despite ostensibly changing political positions over the last five years. This generation was born within explosive extra-parliamentary movements yet despite these beginnings they have mirrored their sister generations in other countries and recently engaged with electoral politics, joining the Labour party en masse to support Jeremy Corbyn. The second wave of this sign up took place post-referendum and I was astonished by the unanimity with which the generation acted. This generational cohesion has baffled those outside it leading to hysterical accusations of a Corbyn personality cult.&nbsp;Of course, if you believe that leadership is a purely a matter of charisma then Corbyn is going to be a mystery. He acts as a figurehead to hundreds of thousands of young people despite lacking the ‘right’ personality. In order to maintain your analytical framework despite this contradictory evidence you need to reach for terms of magical thinking such as accusations of ‘cultism’.&nbsp;This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the defining characteristic of the 2011 generation are a commitment to participative politics as well as a pragmatic openness to strategic action. Something that has evaded previous generations of the Left in the UK.</p><p>I always thought that the 2011 generation - understood as an engaged political force - was around 250,000 strong. Recent events make me think its reach is much larger. There have been several attempts, primarily in the Murdoch press, to get anti-Corbynites to join Labour and vote for right-wing candidates. I’m convinced they will fail. They are appealing to an inchoate mass that does not share a collectively self-produced political orientation. Reading a request for action in a newspaper is much less persuasive than the viral pull of seeing one after another of your peers declaring that they’ve just joined Labour. Indeed, it’s this networked coherence that makes a political generation a potentially powerful pole of attraction. So far I have seen how the 2011 generation have hoovered up the generations of social movement veterans that preceded them. The scale of the recent increase in Labour Party membership indicates that their ideas and attitudes have begun to spread. If we are to escape the nascent generational culture war, however, the political generation of 2011 need to find a way to galvanise the larger generation of 2008.</p><p>The turn towards the Labour Party is an attempt to do just this but its success is far from certain. Indeed, some of the dangers associated with this move were revealed by the Spanish election results on the Sunday after Brexit. Unidos Podemos, the electoral alliance of the radical Left, were expected to come second, beating the PSOE (socialist party) and perhaps becoming the dominant force in a governing Left coalition. In the end they fell short. Some have speculated that the chaos of Brexit scared the Spanish electorate but those&nbsp;<a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/panish-elections-2016-has-the-podemos-strategy-run-into-its-limitations/">closer to the action</a>&nbsp;blame a growing separation between the structures of Podemos and the ‘bottom up’ politics of their 2011 generation, formed in the huge 15M movement of that year. There is a real paradox at the heart of post-crisis Left politics. An electoral turn tends to drain energy from social movements but without active movements the Left loses the ability to set the terrain to their advantage. Electoral politics is based on engagement with the State and the media, both of which require hierarchical structures that pull against the participative spirit of 2011. But the Left lacks either institutional power or a compliant media so it must rely on extra-parliamentary social movements to produce and frame the problems upon which politics focuses. For an example of how that might work think of what UK Uncut did for the issue of tax evasion.</p><p>When examined in this wider historical and geographical context, it becomes apparent that&nbsp;the generation of 2011 is pursuing an international experiment in how to effect change under contemporary conditions<span class="mag-quote-left">The 2011 generation is pursuing an international experiment in how to effect change</span>. In the explosive phase of 2011, we discovered a lot about what extra-parliamentary movements could and couldn’t achieve, with the State’s ability to disrupt movements becoming an increasingly evident problem. The subsequent electoral turn had also been discovering its limits, with electoral parties in and out of government stumbling upon the multiple barriers neoliberal elites have erected to keep them from power. If we are to overcome these limits we will need a new organisational ecology on the Left, with different organisations fulfilling different functions while moving in a common direction. Yet this new ecology will only be a symbiotic one if we prepare the ground for it now. The needs of electoral politics, for instance, cannot be allowed to subordinate the needs of other actors. Democratising institutional structures is one avenue for this but we also need extra-parliamentary actors who are autonomous from electoral parties but able to act in sympathy with them. It’s a division of labour that could help extend the hegemony of the 2011 generation over metropolitan youth but it will also be essential in the more difficult task of bridging the cultural gap with the older cohort from the de-industrialised towns. A new economic offer will be key to that but I’m not convinced the proposition of an electoral program will be convincing on it’s own. Institutional politics must also create space for movements to address those problems directly and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.weareplanc.org/blog/on-social-strikes-and-directional-demands/">exercise the leverage</a>&nbsp;that’s absent from the electoral sphere. It’s a strategy that has much still to be worked out but not only do I think it necessary but I also think it captures the direction of travel of the most active cohort of our times, the political generation of 2011</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/mayssoun-sukarieh-stuart-tannock/youth-ruse-mobilizing-concern-for-younger-generation">The youth ruse: mobilizing concern for the younger generation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/thomas-gockelen-kozlowski/just-think-what-my-generation-could-achieve-working-across-our-continen">Just think what my generation could achieve working across our continent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/benjamin-ramm/if-left-wants-to-win-again-it-must-learn-art-of-storytelling">If the Left wants to win again, it must learn the art of storytelling</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Keir Milburn Wed, 20 Jul 2016 10:41:57 +0000 Keir Milburn 104092 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The choice before the Labour party https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/dan-hind/choice-before-labour-party <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does Labour wish to fight for a better deal within the system, or change the system?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/R._H._Tawney.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/R._H._Tawney.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By R._H._Tawney.jpg: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Sciencederivative work: nagualdesign (talk) - This file was derived from R. H. Tawney.jpg:, Public Domain</span></span></span></p> <p>In 1932 R.H. Tawney set out to describe the choice before Labour. The party was in a shambles. A minority government led by Ramsay Macdonald had collapsed under the impact of the slump in 1931. Macdonald now led a national government that included Liberals and Conservatives as well as ‘National Labour’ Members of Parliament. The Labour party itself was reduced from 287 MPs in 1929 to only 46. It was an electoral catastrophe from which Labour would not recover until 1945.</p> <p>Tawney argued that the Labour party had to decide what it was for. It could either set out to secure material improvements for its supporters within the overarching framework of a capitalist system or it could set out to create a new system altogether:</p> <blockquote><p><em>The Labour party can either be a political agent, pressing in Parliament the claims of different groups of wage-earners; or it can be an instrument for the establishment of a Socialist Commonwealth, which alone, on its own principles, would meet those claims effectively, but would not meet them at once.</em></p></blockquote> <p>Underlying this question for the party was a question for the country as a whole, the fundamental and perennial question, ‘who is to be master?’ Is society to be dominated by a few hundred thousand bankers, industrialists and landowners? Or will the whole nation come to comprehend and control its economic policy and ‘distribute the product of its labours in accordance with some generally recognised principles of justice?’</p> <p>If the Labour party chose the latter course it would have to formulate ‘a Labour policy which is relevant and up-to-date’ – in other words it would have to give technical substance to the notion of a Socialist Commonwealth. But it would also have to make a sober assessment of the opposition that its programme would provoke and then explain its aims ‘with complete openness and candour’:</p> <blockquote><p><em>It cannot avoid the struggle, except by compromising its principles; it must, therefore, prepare for it. In order to prepare for it, it must create in advance a temper and mentality of a kind to carry it through, not one crisis, but a series of crises, to which the Zinovieff letter and the Press campaign of 1931 will prove, it is to be expected, to have been mere skirmishes of outposts. Onions can be eaten leaf by leaf, but you cannot skin a tiger paw by paw; vivisection is its trade and it does the skinning first. If the Labour Party is to tackle its job with some hope of success it must mobilise behind it a body of conviction as resolute and informed as the opposition in front of it.</em></p></blockquote> <p>The choice facing the Labour party in the current leadership election is not so very different from the choice facing it in the 1930s. Does it aim to secure concessions for its supporters from those who remain the masters? Or does it formulate a ‘relevant and up-to-date’ conception of a Socialist Commonwealth and pursue it as ‘the organ of a peaceful revolution’? </p> <p>Those who wish the party to function as a vehicle for securing improvements within the existing order will have to give some account as to why they should be preferred over the capitalists, who at least understand the system and, in the naïve assessment of an unreformed public opinion, can be expected to keep it running reasonably effectively. They presumably wish the Labour party to function as a loyal opposition and to step in occasionally and govern along lines acceptable to the masters – an exception to rule by the propertied that proves their rule. </p> <p>This is a seductive vision for many Labour party MPs. It means they can take up the cause of the little people in parliament and on television with tears in their eyes and a catch in their throats. They can oppose Conservative policies and denounce their unnecessary cruelty without having to worry about the necessary cruelty of our current system. Perhaps their sincerity and benevolence, set alongside the perfidy and unsavoury personal habits of the Conservatives, will eventually recommend them to the electorate. In the mean time they can compete for profile and reputation in the same circuits of political speech and commentary. Are they convincing parliamentary performers? Do they have what it takes to modernise the party and restore its appeal to floating voters in marginal constituencies? Does Andrew Neil think they have what it takes?</p> <p>Those who want to secure this peaceful revolution, on the other hand, had better pay close attention to Tawney’s advice. The Socialist Commonwealth he envisaged used the visible institutions of the existing state to reduce social and economic inequality. War-time planning provided the model for post-war reconstruction. Its successor will have to learn from the shortcomings of this model as well as from its achievements and make the state itself into a commonly held resource. British socialism will have to take the constitution seriously.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center"><span>&nbsp;British socialism will have to take the constitution seriously.</span></p> <p>It is not enough to want this Socialist Commonwealth. It is not even enough to convert this desire into an up-to-date programme for government, daunting though the task is. You must make a sober assessment of the forces that will resist this programme and take the necessary steps to overcome them. The party will have to build a communications infrastructure that knits together a new political consensus in the way that unionised factories and barracks littered with Penguin Specials did in the 30s and 40s.</p> <p>Yes, this will include social media accounts. But it will also require a great effort of production, explanation and debate; a publishing project stretching across print and digital media that is also a process of mutual enlightenment and a worked example of collective self-government. The common sense that confirmed the rule of the bankers, industrialists and landlords died in 2007-8. But, absent the open and candid elaboration of an alternative, that shambling mass of violent morality tales will not lie down.</p> <p>So, by all means, make Labour into a party of peaceful revolution. But if you do you must grasp the implications with both hands. Yes, oppose austerity. But also describe a Britain where bankers, industrialists and landowners are no longer the masters. What would it mean to rule ourselves? What powers and instruments do we need? Answer those questions convincingly, and in a way that the great majority can hear, and you are on the way to your Socialist Commonwealth.</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/labouring-on-its-time-to-leap">Labouring on? It&#039;s time to leap</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Dan Hind Tue, 19 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Dan Hind 104029 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the BBC can create a better digital public sphere https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/becky-hogge/how-bbc-can-create-better-digital-public-sphere <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; line-height: 22px;">The BBC’s remit is not just broadcast. It has the power to improve our experiences online, and to realise the digital public sphere we want.</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-26307331.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-26307331.jpg" alt="" title="Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When it transpired in May this year that the BBC would remove its database of recipes from the web in response to the Government’s accusation that such online endeavours represent “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/05/osborne-accuses-bbc-of-imperial-ambitions-and-calls-for-savings">imperial ambition</a>”, the country was up in arms. Petitions were launched. Celebrity chefs were asked to respond. I was struck with sadness by how low our ambitions had sunk. Because twelve years ago we’d thought the BBC could do what it does now with cake recipes with <em>everything it has ever made</em>. </p> <p>The BBC is a unique institution, a beautiful example of collective investment in the public sphere, and that is why so many people love it. It’s also why twelve years ago, when the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2004/sep/20/mondaymediasection.bbc">BBC announced its ambition</a> to put much of its archive online, published (like much of the content on this website) under a Creative Commons licence that allows people to watch, re-appropriate and republish it freely, that idea made so much sense. The Creative Archive, as it was then known, died a death at the altar of rights ownership – sacrificed in part to the BBC’s awareness of its dominant position in the market and its role in stimulating the independent television industry. Instead we got the iPlayer: a fantastic project that nonetheless, when set against the potential of the BBC to enrich and define the digital public sphere, begins to look slightly pathetic.</p> <p>Writing on Medium this May, Lloyd Shepherd, who had worked on the recipes database during a brief stint at the BBC, <a href="https://medium.com/@lloydshep/recipe-for-disaster-24acde3f273a#.mjmudw1x2">complained</a>:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“The BBC could have a powerful public sphere strategy — a big public discussion about how the networked digital world needs a public space in the same way as telly and radio did, and how it is the BBC’s role to do that. But it won’t make the case for it…” </p><p>At first glance, treating the digital public sphere the same way we treat radio and TV seems wrong. Unlike radio and TV, which are broadcast on a limited resource – called “spectrum” – the internet is unbounded, limitless. The web pioneers of the nineties and early 2000s believed the internet would usher in an age of radical plurality. Give everyone a voice, a machine to encode it and a network of limitless bandwidth over which to transmit it, they said, and you’d get a public sphere so rich it would make Jürgen Habermas blush. But the digital public sphere we have today is a long way off from that vision, because it turns out that a really good way to make money online is by teaching computers how to entertain people with their own prejudices, and then selling their eyeballs to the highest bidder.</p> <p>Commercial online endeavours build what Tim O’Reilly in 2004 called “<a href="http://archive.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html">architectures of participation</a>”: websites and platforms that transform the contributions of each user into more than the sum of their parts, through structured databases and machine-learning. But these all too soon become architectures of control, as we find ourselves locked in to platforms like Facebook and YouTube, stranded in silos designed to parcel us off to advertisers. </p> <h2>The online echo chamber</h2> <p>In his 2011 book, <em>The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you</em>, Eli Pariser portrays today’s online environment as a place where technology corporations and the advertisers they serve use algorithms to define the news you see based on your salary, education and – crucially – your social milieu. The internet has ushered in an age of “me media” which consists of echo chambers. And the problem with these echo chambers is that when they come into contact with one another, conflict ensues. This is not good news for the public sphere.</p> <p>If commercial interests create a digital public sphere that simply consists of separate communities that cannot meaningfully engage with one another, then we need non-commercial interests to counter that. We need market intervention. In short, we need to begin imagining the digital public sphere we want and working out how we might shape it. James Bennett's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/100ideasforthebbc/blog/2015/09/14/create-public-service-algorithms/">thinking on public service algorithms</a> is just one idea to consider.</p> <h2>Achieving the digital public sphere we want </h2><p class="mag-quote-left">The BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast.</p> <p>Right now, government intervention in the online space falls into two categories. The first is bandwidth, evidenced by the Government’s ambitions to introduce a universal service obligation (USO) for broadband. This will be the first time a USO has been imposed on a historically commercial service – electricity, gas, post and telephone networks all have histories of public ownership. The second is protection from harmful or illicit content, embodied in various legislative and non-legislative (voluntary) schemes imposed on internet service providers. &nbsp;</p> <p>This regulatory picture reveals how comfortable those in power are protecting the internet as a wholly profit-led information space. Indeed, digital rights campaigners, myself included, are guilty of aiding and abetting the complacency as they justifiably resist “freedom from” intervention (disconnection for copyright infringers, family-friendly filters) while remaining silent on the need for positive intervention in the digital public sphere. For a start, we should be making a lot more fuss over the Government’s proposals to remove from the BBC’s new Charter its sixth purpose, “to develop emerging communications technologies and services”. </p> <p>It is the sixth purpose that currently protects the BBC’s ventures into online services, experimentation that has been ongoing for almost two decades. The BBC’s online endeavours have always been contentious: at the beginning because they only benefitted the small percentage of licence fee payers who had got themselves online; later because they were accused of taking business away from commercial online content providers. But enabling the BBC to continue experimenting online is more vital than ever.</p> <p>We are only just starting to see how digital technology is changing the contours of the public sphere. We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online. What we may glimpse today without fully understanding is how information economics will dictate our discovery of and engagement with that media. Removing the sixth purpose now prevents the BBC from taking a more active role in this future and crafting it for the good of all.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online.</p> <h2>&nbsp;What role for the BBC? </h2> <p>&nbsp;There are roles here both for the BBC and for its new regulator, OfCom. OfCom should deploy its internationally-recognised expertise and research resources to begin enriching our understanding of the digital public sphere, and the role it plays in our democracy. And the BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast, by systematising and privileging its continued experimentation online. To do this, both institutions need to get a little braver than they have been to date about the need for intervention in this space.</p><p>Public service media is market intervention, and that’s fine. Labelling the BBC’s ambitions online “imperial” is disingenuous, because it conflates markets with democracies. Democracies need strong public spheres, and information markets, both online and off, may not deliver strong public spheres. Living in information echo chambers makes us not only more commercially exploitable but also more politically exploitable. Now more than ever, we need media to challenge our prejudices, not media to entrench them. </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="/ourbeeb/jon-alexander/bbc-30-will-not-be-broadcaster">BBC 3.0 will not be a broadcaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/sam-caleb/bbc-beta-%E2%80%93-any-better">BBC beta – Any better?</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"> Culture </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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Culture Internet democracy & power media & the net Digital Commons BBC Internet democratic media Debate A post-broadcast BBC Becky Hogge Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:23:03 +0000 Becky Hogge 104065 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If the Left wants to win again, it must learn the art of storytelling https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/benjamin-ramm/if-left-wants-to-win-again-it-must-learn-art-of-storytelling <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In post-truth Brexit Britain, politics has become a storytelling competition. The Left must respond with a vision of solidarity and liberation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/560741/storytelling affects the brain this way_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Infographic by the One Spot. (Fair use)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560741/storytelling affects the brain this way_0.png" alt="An infographic illustrating the cognitive power of storytelling." title="Infographic by the One Spot. (Fair use)" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Infographic by the One Spot. (Fair use)</span></span></span>‘Take Back Control’ – it was the slogan wot won it. Those three words offered everything and promised nothing. They appealed to the desire for dignity and autonomy, but allowed voters to project their own grievances and remedies. The slogan appealed to the precariat as powerfully as it did to the aristocracy, because it suggested that order could be (re)established in an age of dizzying instability. In response to this vision of emancipation – however dishonest and deceitful – the Remain campaign offered an arid set of data, based on the mean-spirited calculation that people ultimately only care about money. There was one spark of inspiration: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPX9MLALjAE">‘Lead not Leave’</a>, which promised a post-imperial nation, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/benjamin-ramm/long-shadow-of-empire-has-cast-pall-over-eu-referendum" target="_blank">still grieving for its Empire</a>, the influence that it craves. But Remain sidelined the messenger, Gordon Brown, for fear of his <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gillian-duffy-changed-course-election-8232751">unpopularity</a> over immigration.</p> <p>Why is a story so important? <a href="http://blog.ted.com/what-happens-in-the-brain-when-we-hear-stories-uri-hasson-at-ted2016/">Recent neuroscientific research</a> illustrates what the ancient poets knew: that&nbsp;our comprehension and retention of information is enhanced when it is presented in a narrative. UKIP donor Arron Banks’ infamous quote about the Leave campaign’s “American-style approach” (“Facts don’t work…You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success”) <span>actually frames it incorrectly</span><span>: rather than </span><em>facts vs story</em><span>, facts have power </span><em>only as part of a story</em><span>. To adapt the adage of the other Clinton: </span><em>It’s the story, stupid!</em></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp; Stories don’t stand alone: they compete with one another.&nbsp;</span>Stories don’t stand alone: they compete with one another (hope vs fear; change vs status quo). For the social democratic Left, and for the Remain campaign in particular, this has led to a defence of the status quo – an unsustainable position in an unpredictable global climate. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, social democrats were both averse and unable to develop a new narrative, instead embracing technocracy, embodied by the European Union. The shortcomings of this approach were demonstrated by the political fallout of the 2008 financial crash.&nbsp;Although the market meltdown and the stunted recovery exposed the New Right’s economics – a failure of de-regulation and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/ng-interactive/2015/apr/29/the-austerity-delusion">austerity</a> – in subsequent elections almost every centre-left party in Europe was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/19/denmark-centre-left-identity-politics-nation-state-populist-right">defeated</a> at the ballot box. The Right has been able to draw on simple but powerful analogies that are persuasive despite being economically illiterate&nbsp;(e.g. the national budget as the household budget). By contrast, social democratic technocratic concepts such as ‘predistribution’ have had little appeal and no imprint on the public imagination.</p> <p>Ahead of the Democratic National Convention next week, it’s worth listening to Mario Cuomo’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOdIqKsv624" target="_blank">Tale of Two Cities</a>, a visionary speech delivered at the high watermark of Reaganism. The speech offers both a profound early critique of neoliberalism (it resonates strikingly in 2016) and a counter-narrative to its logic (“Democrats believe we must be the family of America, recognising that at the heart of the matter, we are bound one to another”). It gives a glimpse of how progressives can&nbsp;<span>foster a collective consciousness and&nbsp;</span><span>fashion a story that challenges the governing narrative (‘a shining city’). Although Obama has proven to be&nbsp;</span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/todd-gitlin-benjamin-ramm/todd-gitlin-there-was-always-constructive-ambiguity-about-obama">a transactional rather than a transformational president</a><span>, his candidacy resonated strongly because his story reflected and enlarged America’s sense of itself. For Democrats in 2016, the need for a narrative encompasses a yearning for racial harmony in a time of radical polarisation. The whiteness of Bernie Sanders’ campaign cost him dearly, but Hillary Clinton’s candidacy of continuity is out of sync with the desire for change.</span></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;Theresa May’s abolition of the Department of Energy &amp; Climate Change is a decision even more suicidal than the Brexit vote.</span>Fortunately, there is a narrative large enough to encompass the Left’s ambition, and compelling enough to unify and mobilise its diverse supporters. It is not just the Left that faces extinction – global warming is an existential threat to us all. Despite growing public consciousness about the issue, it has been starved of media coverage since the financial crash, and excluded from public discussion about how best to rebuild the economy. This process culminated with Prime Minister Theresa May’s abolition of the Department of Energy &amp; Climate Change during the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/17/2016-set-to-be-hottest-year-on-record-globally">hottest year on record</a> – a decision even more suicidal than the Brexit vote. Let’s be clear: the survival of the human species is not&nbsp;<em>an</em>&nbsp;issue – it’s&nbsp;<em>the&nbsp;</em>issue.</p> <p>So what’s the story? It’s a tale of coercion, and the transformation to liberation. Man has exploited man, and man has exploited earth – with catastrophic consequences. Against this exploitation of the many by the few, the Left exists to fight for the commons: for shared public services and public spaces, against the privatisation of land and labour; for a democratic and transparent media, to illuminate rather than obfuscate; for a transnational politics of solidarity, which acknowledges the limits of national borders in an era of globalized capital; for clean, sustainable energy, harnessing the earth (solar, wind) instead of mutilating it (fracking, <a href="http://stopopencast.org.uk/index.html%3Fpage_id=182.html" target="_blank">opencast coal mining</a>). Already the UK is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/18/un-criticises-uk-and-german-for-betraying-the-spirit-of-the-paris-climate-deal?CMP=share_btn_tw">failing to fulfil</a> its obligations under the Paris climate agreement.</p> <p>Why is this green agenda so vital for the Left in 2016? Because the only way progressives can win again is through a broad&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMHuysv5a4E" target="_blank">electoral alliance</a>&nbsp;bound together by a core concern. It will not be easy to convince long-time members of Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the nationalists to unite tactically behind a candidate from another party – tribalism is at the core of British politics, and the cause of much of what is rotten. (Even prior to the 2010 coalition deal between the Tories and Lib Dems, there was toxic animosity between Lib Dem and Labour activists, particularly in three-way marginals). If an agreement is reached, the logistics will be tricky – but faced with the threat of a resurgent UKIP (likely led by Steven Woolfe) and the prospect of another term of Tory <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">authoritarianism</a>, the choice is clear. In post-Brexit Britain, the forces of reaction are in the ascendency, threatening people and planet. There’s no more inspiring story than a fight – quite literally – to save the world.</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="/transformation/joanna-wheeler/unlocking-transformative-potential-of-storytelling">Unlocking the transformative potential of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/simon-hodges/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-storytelling-for-social-change">What’s so special about storytelling for social change?</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> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Transformation Democracy and government Brexit2016 Benjamin Ramm Tue, 19 Jul 2016 10:17:39 +0000 Benjamin Ramm 104059 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Politics against democracy: tracing the roots of Brexit. https://www.opendemocracy.net/trevor-smith/politics-against-democracy-tracing-roots-of-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit cannot simply be attributed to contemporary alienation. We must examine the referendum result in the context of a long history of anti-democratic trends in UK governance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/milton friendmn.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Economist Milton Friedman leaves a meeting at Downing Street, 1980. Photo: / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Rights Res"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/milton friendmn.jpg" alt="Economist Milton Friedman leaves a meeting at Downing Street, 1980. Photo: / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Rights Res" title="Economist Milton Friedman leaves a meeting at Downing Street, 1980. Photo: / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Rights Res" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Economist Milton Friedman leaves a meeting at Downing Street, 1980. Photo: / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All Rights Reserved</span></span></span></p><p>After the EU Referendum vote for Brexit, change in UK politics is moving so fast that daily newspapers are out of date before they are published while the weekly magazines are just recording recent history. Hourly radio news bulletins and social media are the only channels that can cope with the new frenetic situation that “an hour in politics is a long time.”</p> <p>It would be a foolhardy enterprise, therefore, to write an essay on this fast-evolving scene on the implications of the Brexit result. A few rather anodyne scenarios may be sketched out, but all they would do is add to the extensive jumble of journalistic speculations on offer. These speculations invariably identify the main influences behind Brexit as growing inequality, regional differences, educational disparity, inter-generational division as well as ethnic factors and alarm at the prospect of mass immigration. They are identified as principle reasons for the increasing public disaffection with politics, seen to be mostly composed of an aloof elite preoccupied with themselves rather than the needs felt by the electorate. Hence, the ‘protest vote’ triumphed in the referendum. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that almost all of these commentaries suffer from analysing only the very recent political past of developments in the UK. Though almost all take a glance at how Harold Wilson orchestrated the referendum to join the EEC in 1975, their diagnoses of this disaffection tend to go no further back than looking at the legacy bequeathed by the Thatcher and Major years at best. The fact, however, is that <span class="mag-quote-right">the seeds of the present state lie much further back in history</span>the seeds of the present state lie much further back in history.&nbsp;</p> <p>Advancing alienation, and the political volatility it incites, has its roots in the suspension of party politics during Churchill’s wartime Coalition. This was a necessary move, given the overwhelming need to concentrate our efforts on defeating the Nazi war machine. But with the coming of peace, the effects of this political settlement lingered on to the detriment of parliamentary democracy and its essential correlate – authentic political discourse.</p> <p>The Attlee government’s policy programme consisted largely of consolidating the Welfare State, prefigured by the Beveridge Report in later stages of the Churchill Coalition. The advent of the Cold War necessitated the maintenance of the North Atlantic military alliance. The nationalisation of basic industries, though disputed by the Tories at the time, was maintained by them when they were returned to office in 1951. This resulted in the development of the Keynesian-type consensus termed ‘Butskellism’ that endured for more than a decade. This in turn was succeeded by the new economic planning consensus that was adopted and sustained by the two Harolds – Macmillan and Wilson – and Edward Heath, despite his ‘Selsdon Man’ momentary wobble that was swiftly jettisoned by him when he became prime minister.</p> <p>The accession to power of Margaret Thatcher is often regarded as an historic break with the successive consensuses of the post-war era, with her wholesale privatisation of state industries. She insisted on TINA – ‘There is No Alternative’ which, in its way, had the similar but greater anti-democratic effects as had ‘consensus’ – namely the suppression of much of political argument and debate. The Friedmanite neo-liberalism that underscored her policies, including privatisation, brooked no argument. Thatcherism was continued by both the Major and Blair administrations. However, privatisation did not usher in a regime of free market competition, as Friedrich Hayek would have advocated. Rather,&nbsp;the policy entrenched a system of ‘monopoly capitalism’<span class="mag-quote-left">the policy entrenched a system of ‘monopoly capitalism’</span> of the kind that Karl Marx had predicted.</p> <p>The cartels, thus created, would be largely immune to the discipline of market forces. But they could not be allowed to run entirely free as the fancy took them. In the event, a new, vast industry of regulatory agencies was created, ostensibly to monitor and occasionally discipline these new corporate monoliths. These added greatly to the quangos and other non-governmental bodies that had mushroomed in the second half of the twentieth century and which, despite successive governments’ promises to cull their numbers, continue to grow apace. </p> <p>Their origins go back a long way, to the creation of the ‘Brethren of Trinity House’: an organisation founded to supervise the maintenance of lighthouses dotted around the coast.&nbsp; The intention of such organisations is to remove from government ministers the responsibility for surpervising the provision of necessary services. This responsibility is tasked instead to ‘independent’ boards, policy tsars, task forces and other such bodies, reporting either to ministers or in some cases to parliament. Ministers were thus distanced from such supervision, and could not be questioned on the day-to-day workings of these authorities – which earlier had included the public corporations created by Attlee to oversee the nationalised industries. This further curtailed open political discourse, as politicians divested themselves from oversight of and responsibility for the public sector.</p> <p>The UK polity that emerged over the post-war years was the result of two confluent forces: ‘tentacular government’ (as described by Preston King) and ‘anti-politics’. Tentacular Government sees the growth of regulatory agencies and privatisation schemes, spawned to essentially “outsource” what hitherto were government activities. The nineteenth century advocates of the ‘night watchman state’ always insisted that the defence of the realm, foreign affairs, and the broad principles defining the economy should be the monopolistic preserve of national government. That dictum has been long since cast aside. Westminster and Whitehall have ceded vast areas of security to private contractors as can be seen in the running of prisons at home and the provision of security guards in war zones abroad. Similarly multi-national corporations have usurped the economic public agenda. In his presidential valedictory address to the American people, General Dwight D Eisenhower presciently warned of the rise of “the military-industrial complex” that would endanger the democratic process of policy-making. As events have proved, he underestimated the situation. Undue corporate influence now affects most areas of activity; the problem is not confined to defence.&nbsp;<span><span class="mag-quote-right">The tentacular state is essentially extra-constitutional</span>The tentacular state is essentially extra-constitutional, being largely beyond the purview of parliamentary, and therefore public, scrutiny.</span></p> <p>The associated forces of anti-politics work in the same direction. One aspect of this is to be seen in the hollowing-out of the senior civil service, transferring much of its work to out-sourced management consultants. A major result of this was the destruction of departmental ‘memories’ and skills that had traditionally proved an important resource for policy-making. This is now highlighted by the acknowledgement that too few Whitehall staff have the requisite skills and experience to handle the forthcoming Brexit negotiations with Brussels. Transient technocrats, contracted on short-term bases, are poor substitutes for so formidable an operation. The relentless promotion of private business methods and values was a very strong element of Thatcherism, but it was enthusiastically embraced, more fully articulated and promoted by both Blair and Cameron. The operational precept was adopted that politics should be conducted along the lines of business. A striking example of this was to be seen in the appointment of outside non-executive directors to all Whitehall departments. Public administration and civic values were discounted in favour of the pursuit of private sector ideas and practices to which David Marquand has constantly drawn attention. It is taken as axiomatic that “private” is equated with good and “pubic” with bad – and this, quite amazingly, at a time when corporate greed and corruption was endemic in the business world. Thus, rampant managerialism has become the operational principle for much of Whitehall that, in turn, spawned a technocratic caste of mind that is inimical to parliamentary representative democracy.&nbsp;<span>Technocracy, by its very nature, starts by seeking to impose a pre-conceived and contrived consensus in the determination of policy outcomes. As such, it is the antithesis of democracy which seeks to achieve policy consensus as the end result of open and transparent debate.</span></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-left">The combined forces of tentacular government and anti-politics ...nourished a simmering discontent.</span>The combined forces of tentacular government and anti-politics seriously discouraged, constrained and at times even suppressed the exercise of public debate which is the hallmark of parliamentary democracy. It nourished a simmering discontent, and it was this as much as anything else that led to the populist eruption that culminated in the explosive decision to opt for Brexit. Most unfortunately, the referendum seemed to be treated by the electorate more as a by-election, which could be a vehicle for a large protest vote against the government without risking toppling it. But it wasn’t confined to a backwater constituency; it had massive repercussions. Although catalytic in its effect, it was a symptom – albeit a major one – of an anti-political tendency that had been brewing for a long time.</p> <p>It was a consequence of the inability of Westminster to tackle some vital questions that contributed to increasing widespread public disaffection. Demands for greater devolution, including complete independence – for Scotland from the rest of the UK, and the UK from the rest of the EU – were advanced. A paralysed and sclerotic Westminster opted to refer these issues to the citizenry to resolve by means of referenda. Scotland declined the offer – at least for the time being – but the UK accepted secession from the EU.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>After the referendum, the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte succinctly summed up the resulting condition of the UK as being economically, politically and constitutionally broken. It is a crisis enormous proportions. Indeed, our situation is not dissimilar to that which prevailed in the inter-war German Weimer Republic – and we know where that led. </p> <p>At least three responses have been advanced to remedy the situation. First, there is a general feeling that the right kind of political leadership can return the UK back to a well-ordered civil society and prosperous economy. Secondly, that this should be accompanied by some realignment of the political parties together with a more proportional voting system. And thirdly, that there should be a greater devolution of powers to local bodies. </p> <p>Commendable though these developments would be, very much more is needed by way of policy innovation. Stable democracy will not be maintained without throwing off many of the old paradigms that have led to the present crisis. Not just in Britain, but in western democracies more generally, new approaches must be devised if viable stable democratic government is to survive. To be sure, determined and intelligent leadership is necessary. But by no stretch of the imagination can it be deemed a sufficient condition to ensure a restoration of democratic governance. This will require a good deal of original and lateral thinking to break out from the silo outlooks and related practices that have contributed to the chaotic upheaval we are currently experiencing. To deny this is to guarantee the perpetuation of continuing mayhem.</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="/lorenzo-del-savio-matteo-mameli/antirepresentative-democracy-and-oligarchic-capture"> Anti-representative democracy and oligarchic capture </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-lent/centrists-must-embrace-anti-elitism-or-face-extinction">Centrists must embrace anti-elitism or face extinction.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/chapter-one-thatcher-s-two-headed-bequest">Chapter one: Thatcher’s legacy: the terrible twins of Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kirsty-hughes/after-brexit-referendum-four-political-impacts-to-watch-for">After the Brexit referendum – four political impacts to watch for</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Trevor Smith Mon, 18 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Trevor Smith 104036 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A few unpleasant incidents are being highlighted to undermine a huge, peaceful, democratic movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/momentum.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/momentum.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Corbyn speaking to Momentum members. Image, labourpartymarxists.org.uk</span></span></span></p><p>Democracy is never easy.&nbsp;When people come together to try to change things, to challenge established forms of power, to rectify long-standing inequalities, then&nbsp;they will always meet resistance. They will meet resistance from those with something to lose. They will meet resistance from those who fear change as such. They will meet resistance from those who recoil at any sight of unruliness and unrest.&nbsp; </p><p class="Default">When the stakes are high, voices on both sides will be raised in anger. Those who long for a quiet life will not find it during such times of turmoil. This has always been one of the trump cards played by those in power. They play upon the fears and anxieties of the public in order to hang onto their position. ‘Don’t go out into the streets’ they say – ‘someone might get hurt.’&nbsp; </p><p class="Default">Unfortunately, a great deal of&nbsp; recent commentary on&nbsp; Labour Party debates (particularly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/15/labour-death-spite-bullying-working-class-base">this</a>) stands in precisely this tradition of casual conservatism. A handful of aggressive incidents have been reported endlessly, focused on by commentators who really should know better as if they were the only story. In other cases, incidents have been more or less fabricated entirely by news sources sympathetic to Labour’s right wing.&nbsp;Just this week, the BBC itself has been forced to admit that its reporting of an entirely peaceful, female-led demonstration in Walthamstow a few months ago was <a href="http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/14619781.BBC_admits__significant_inaccuracies__in_coverage_of_Syria_peace_vigil/">grossly misreported</a> along just these lines.</p> <p class="Default">Labour has seen an unprecedented influx of new members over the past 18 months – a surge of democratic interest unparalleled in our nation’s recent history. From this movement, a new organisation has also emerged which has tried to channel some of the energy generated by the campaign for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to positive ends. Those ends are not revolutionary or even particularly radical: <a href="http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/">Momentum</a> is simply trying to give a voice to a body of opinion which has been widespread throughout the country for many years, but has been denied any kind of place in our public life since the early days of New Labour. It is a body of opinion which believes, with good reason, that the embrace of neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy under Blair was a disaster, and that it was enabled by&nbsp;the evisceration of party democracy by a small elite who took control of policy-making, media-messaging, and the selection of parliamentary candidates. It proposes that it would be better for all of us if Labour party members had more say over policy and more say over who represents us in parliament. Beyond this, Momentum seeks to give a voice to the many UK citizens who do not belong to any political party but who believe that the country desperately needs to take a different road from the one it has been travelling since the end of the 1970s: a road which has led to the disenfranchisement of the post-industrial North and the national tragedy of Brexit.&nbsp;Naturally some of those voices, suppressed for so long, sound raucous, aggressive and uncouth.</p> <p class="Default">Of course, to those who take a different political view, this is a threatening development. Everybody would prefer that those&nbsp;who disagree with them politically do not organise, do not hold meetings, do not seek to positions of influence within their organisation. Of course they would. That doesn’t mean that the people doing so are doing anything wrong. That’s just what democracy looks like.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">But the fact that Momentum has successfully established 150 local groups up and down the country, and that its first major public campaign was a simple drive for voter registration, has hardly been reported at all. Instead a tiny number of incidents at Labour events – most of which seem to amount to somebody getting shouted at in a fractious public meeting – have been turned into the whole story of this remarkable new democratic movement.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">Well, any student of political history knows that we have been here before. “Mob”, “rabble”, “ruffians”, “seditionists”: this is what they said about the Chartists, about the suffragists and suffragettes, about the enemies of slavery. People got shouted at in their meetings too. It probably wasn’t always pretty. But it is what democracy looks like.</p> <p class="Default">There is absolutely no justification for any of the personalised hostility that has been directed at individuals, especially women, during these developments. Those responsible have been rightly deplored from all sides. But there is also no justification for the journalistic focus on these incidents to the exclusion of any real account of what Momentum is, who it represents, where it has come from, and what it is doing. I do not condone, and we should all entirely condemn, all and any personalised attacks on those journalists and commentators who have reproduced this narrative. They are just doing what so many people in their position before have done. But they should know that they stand in a fine old tradition of reaction.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">Anyone looking at these developments from a global perspective can see something very clearly.&nbsp; Everywhere we look, people are hoping for change. Around the world they have taken to the streets and the squares, they have formed new parties, they have made new alliances, they have stood up and said ‘enough’. Enough of the yawning gap between rich and poor growing wider every year. Enough of wealthy elites deciding how the rest of us should live. Enough of governments of left and right the world over always doing exactly the same thing: privatising public services, cutting taxes for the rich, letting the poor get poorer.</p> <p class="Default">And now, at last, it is happening here – in a very British way.&nbsp;Many of us may be still&nbsp;surprised that our version of this global uprising is taking its current form. We might have been expecting a new party or a different sort of movement. But this is what is happening here and now. This is our Podemos.&nbsp; For those of us who believe in democracy, the Labour membership surge and the arrival of Momentum amount to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is our chance to carry forward both the hopes and the anger of recent years into a new era of democratic politics and social equality. We can join in with this movement and try to make it better than it already is; or we can stand on the sidelines wringing our hands, because it isn’t exactly the way that we would like it to be. We may wish there were another choice – but wishing will not make it so.</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="/paul-rogers/what-labour-should-do-now">What Labour should do now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/what-hope-for-labour-and-left-election-80s-and-%E2%80%98aspiration%E2%80%99">What hope for Labour and the left? The election, the 80s and ‘aspiration’</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jeremy Gilbert Mon, 18 Jul 2016 16:55:51 +0000 Jeremy Gilbert 104043 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Racism in the NHS: don’t let the unspeakable become acceptable https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/roger-kline/racism-in-nhs-don-t-let-unspeakable-become-acceptable <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The toxic debate leading up to the Brexit vote has sharpened the risk that NHS staff and patients experience racial &amp; xenophobic abuse - and highlighted the problems that are already there. How should those running the NHS respond?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/homerton nurses.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/homerton nurses.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="271" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Homerton NHS Trust</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The sharp recent increase in reported hate crime – the worst rise on record – is linked to the EU Referendum, according to Mark Hamilton, head of the National Police&nbsp;Chiefs’ Council. He </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/hpuk3h3">said</a></span><span> last week “Some people took that as a licence to behave in a racist or other discriminatory way.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The imagery and language on immigration used by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and others has made the unspeakable acceptable. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>This is raises several big challenges for the NHS.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The NHS would collapse overnight without the contribution of EU and Black and minority ethnic workers. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in cloud cuckoo land – including <a>any&nbsp;</a></span><span><span>minister who thinks the immigration status of these staff should be a bargaining chip in EU negotiations.</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There are </span><span>110,000 EU workers in our health and care system. Ten per cent of our doctors, and more than 20,000 NHS nurses, are from another EU country. Well over 200,000 staff in the NHS (a third of doctors and a fifth of nurses and midwives) are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. </span><span>The NHS is the largest employer of Black and Minority Ethnic staff in the UK.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/EU staff nhs_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/EU staff nhs_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="443" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre, NHS Hospital &amp; Community Health Service (HCHS) Workforce Statistics, as at 31 March 2016; and </span><a href="http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/LLN-2016-0039/LLN-2016-0039.pdf">House of Lords Library</a></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But racism in Britain has deep roots. A generation of Irish nurses were poorly treated. The MacPherson Report demonstrated how </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/oscvkap">deeply</a></span><span> race discrimination had become embedded in the culture of public services. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Staff are discriminated against in appointments, in disciplinary action, in bullying, are less well treated when they raise concerns, wait longer to be promoted, and do less well on discretionary pay. The evidence is clear from NHS workforce data and staff survey data consistently show that BME – but until recently, concerns were greeted with </span><span><a href="http://www.mdx.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/50190/The-snowy-white-peaks-of-the-NHS.pdf.pdf">wilful blindness</a></span><span>.</span><span> </span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The NHS has a poor track record in tackling other forms of discrimination, too. Disabled staff and LGBT staff suffer high levels of bullying, for example. Women are still seriously under-represented in more senior posts. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Yet the evidence is now clear that </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/gucvbkr">discrimination, and especially discrimination against BME staff, impacts adversely</a></span><span> on patient experience and care. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Most race discrimination in the NHS is subtle. It is well hidden, or the unintended consequence of stereotypes, bias and a culture where injustice is difficult to challenge. Understanding individual experiences is crucial. Often black and minority ethnic staff bottle up their response because to sharing it is seen as unsafe and threatening – both for them and for those who hold power at team, division, profession and organisational level.</span><span> </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>More overt racism</span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But the</span><span> toxicity of the Referendum campaign has now helped legitimise more overt forms of racism. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Racist graffiti has appeared on NHS premises.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>We’ve heard anecdotally of an increase in patients wanting to only see a white, ‘British’ member of staff.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Patients demanding healthcare from a healthcare worker of a particular ethnicity has been unusual in the NHS. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But it happens. Some 17 years ago one London primary care trust felt it necessary to agree a policy that, should families demand to see a white health visitor or district nurse on a home visit as some had, then that request would be refused, and advice and care would then only be available from a Health Centre where that request would be refused again. Two years ago, Dr Nadeem Moghal </span><span><a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g265"><span>described</span></a></span><span> how the parents of a child in a hospital where he used to work refused to have any doctors caring for their child who were other than white. He said: <em>“the clinical director concluded that because of the nature of the disease and the clinical need of the patient, the parents request would be enabled”</em>. In other words, the hospital would uphold the parents' request. And until a board level inquiry reversed the decision, which the parents eventually agree to abide by, care was organised so that only a white British doctor attended to the child. </span><span>His </span><span><a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g265"><span>article</span></a></span><span> rightly referred to </span><span>Macpherson’s definition of institutional racism </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><span>"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people."</span></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Days after the Referendum result, a Leicester </span><span>Musculoskeletal Radiologist Dr Ali Abbasi ‏tweeted <em>“@drmaliabbasi </em></span><em><span>Last night a Sikh radiographer colleague of mine was told by a patient "shouldn't you be on a plane back to Pakistan? we voted you out</span></em><span>”.</span><em><span>&nbsp;</span></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Sometimes these issues are not easy to tackle. When my dad’s care home called us some years ago to say he had racially insulted a member of staff we were astonished. He was a life-long opponent of discrimination in all its forms. His dementia had first caused him to start swearing, something he had never done in his entire life, and then this. We spoke at length with dad, and repeatedly, explained it was not acceptable and must stop. It did. To this day I still cannot understand what happened. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Sometimes the racism is overt and violent. </span><span>Last year a patient who subjected two healthcare assistants to racial and homophobic abuse was fined, after a </span><span><a href="http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/4875.aspx"><span>prosecution</span></a></span><span> brought by NHS Protect’s Legal Protection Unit (LPU), after the police stated that they were unwilling to take further action. (The LPU advises health bodies on a wide range of sanctions that can be taken against those who assault, harass and abuse NHS workers). <em><span>&nbsp;</span></em></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In 2013, recorded racist verbal and physical attacks against those working in the NHS were on the rise, according to a Freedom of Information request by </span><span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25368332"><span><span>BBC radio 5 Live</span></span></a></span><span><span>.</span></span><span> Their investigation found that; the number of such attacks in the NHS had risen 65% since 2008 with a total of 567 racist incidents, though I suspect there may be significant under reporting.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The large-scale 2015 NHS staff survey (and previous years’ surveys are similar) <a href="http://tinyurl.com/jhpyf33">shows</a> that White and BME staff were equally likely to experience</span><span> harassment, bullying or abuse from <em>patients, relatives or the public</em> in last 12 months, but BME staff were more likely (25%) to report experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from <em>staff</em> in the previous 12 months compared to white staff (22%). </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>BME staff were more likely (14%) to experience physical violence from patients, relatives or the public in last 12 months than White staff (12%) and more likely (3%) to report </span><span>experiencing physical violence from staff in last 12 months than white staff (1%). </span><em><span>&nbsp;</span></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The survey figures show that in fact BME staff are more likely to experience harassment, abuse, bullying and violence from fellow <em>staff</em> than they are from the public. And <em>any</em> bullying of staff impacts on patient care, making effective teamwork hard and making staff more reluctant to raise concerns or admit mistakes.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The risk of the post EU Referendum toxicity is that discrimination may rise despite the fact that NHS employers, on the whole, were quick to react to Brexit, understanding the risk of alienating their workforces. </span><strong><span>&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span>Some suggestions</span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The ringing of bells by the Leave campaign and the wringing of hands by the Remain supporters does nothing to prevent the potential undermining of EU and BME staff within the NHS. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since 2015 the mandatory Workforce Race Equality Standard has produced data that </span><span>validates the belief of injustice and the pain <em>already</em> experienced by many BME staff. And the Standard has</span><span> </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/hkvl55a">obliged</a></span><span> (or helped) organisations to hold a mirror to themselves and requires organisation to improve the treatment of their BME staff.</span><strong><span> </span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>So here are a few suggestions for anyone in managerial, governance or leadership roles in the NHS. Good trusts have already actioned some of these points.</span></p><ol><li><span>All staff should be informed about the evidence of the positive contribution that EU and BME staff make to the NHS. All managers should be informed and confident to tackle the issue, and trade unions must be involved. A good start would be </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/zke4p8q"><span>this</span></a></span><span> excellent blog on EU staff.</span></li><li><span>Create a safe space for discussion but not for tolerating racism.</span><span> </span><span>Allow staff to raise difficult issues and ask questions troubling them, in a way that effectively challenges prejudice. &nbsp;</span><span>Leaders should meet EU staff and BME staff directly affected, as the best ones already have, to listen to their concerns and their ideas for responding to this challenge – and offer practical support.</span></li><li><span>Underline the principle of zero tolerance for racist </span><em>behaviour</em><span> of any kind, whether from patients or staff. This may not always be easy - for example where unwell patients are abusive – but think through how to respond in line with the principle of zero tolerance, including whether patients can choose to be treated by white staff.</span></li><li><span>Strongly encourage staff to formally report all instances of bullying, abuse, harassment or violence (from whatever source) as a health and safety incident (for example, using Datix) as well as through the HR department. Make clear that anyone seeking to prevent such reporting, or retaliating when staff do, will face disciplinary charges. Managers must model the behaviour they expect of others.</span></li><li><span>Be proactive. Use staff survey data to identify hot spots of bullying, violence, and discrimination working with unions and staff networks to intervene proactively. Undertake full (not just sample) surveys to better understand such patterns.</span></li><li><span>Bear in mind that there is extensive evidence of the less positive experiences of BME patients (and indeed other minority groups such as LGBT patients) and the NHS needs to ensure that is not worsened by the current climate too.</span></li><li><span>Learn how the best organisations how they are tackling these issues – staff survey data will give a clue but beware tick box approaches focused solely on policies, procedures and training. Ensure there is a dedicated member of staff, working with unions and staff networks, who concerned staff can contact. Take advice from NHS Protect when necessary.</span></li><li><span>Check out current </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/zg7e8e6"><span>advice</span></a></span><span> to employers on what else they can do to support staff from the EU.</span></li><li><span>Recognise that the current environment makes it even more important to engage fully with the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard whose principles of fair treatment for all can be easily applied to EU staff. Tackling discrimination against BME (and EU) staff requires a determined effort to change workplace culture – something that will benefit all staff and all patients.</span></li><li><span>Support calls for adequate funding for the NHS. An underfunded NHS, with growing queues for care and treatment, encourages some to blame “foreign” NHS users even if the contribution of “foreigners” to the NHS both as staff and as taxpayers </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/mj43qb5"><span>outweighs</span></a></span><span> their so-called “burden”. </span><strong><span>&nbsp;</span></strong></li></ol><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The legacy of hostility to immigrants, and lies about NHS funding, which helped deliver the vote to Leave the EU can be turned around. Don Berwick rightly </span><span><a href="http://tinyurl.com/q6a7zkh"><span>said</span></a></span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><span>“</span></em><em><span>At its core, the NHS remains a world-leading example of commitment to health and health care as a human right – the endeavour of a whole society to ensure that all people in their time of need are supported, cared for, and healed.” </span></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The collective effort of a hundred and more different nationalities within the NHS to care for our population is a living riposte to xenophobia. The NHS demonstrates, more clearly than anything else can, the positive contribution that staff – from all nationalities and all backgrounds - make to the national good.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><div><div><div id="_com_1" class="msocomtxt"> </div> </div> </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="/ournhs/christine-mcnea/post-brexit-trade-unions-must-fight-to-protect-nhs-workers-including-those-fr">Post Brexit, trade unions must fight to protect NHS workers including those from the EU</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/ruth-atkinson/brexit-and-nhs-we-need-to-fight-racist-discourse">Brexit and the NHS - why we all must fight the racist discourse</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Roger Kline Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:00:42 +0000 Roger Kline 104026 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rise and fall of Oliver Letwin: a private life of public power https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/freddy-foks/rise-and-fall-of-oliver-letwin-private-life-of-public-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves>false</w:TrackMoves> <w:TrackFormatting ></w> <w:PunctuationKerning ></w> <w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing> <w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing> <w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery> <w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas ></w> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables ></w> <w:DontGrowAutofit ></w> <w:DontAutofitConstrainedTables ></w> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx ></w> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="276"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} --> <!--[endif] --> <!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment--></p><p>As Oliver Letwin, chief architect of Cameron’s Conservatism, falls by the wayside, the Tories have put Labour supporters where they always wanted: shouting up at them from the streets below.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/letwin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Letwin at a westminster policy hearing, 2006. Photo: cooperniall. Flickr. Creative Commons. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/letwin.jpg" alt="Letwin at a westminster policy hearing, 2006. Photo: cooperniall. Flickr. Creative Commons. " title="Letwin at a westminster policy hearing, 2006. Photo: cooperniall. Flickr. Creative Commons. " width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Letwin at a westminster policy hearing, 2006. Photo: cooperniall. Flickr. Creative Commons. </span></span></span>The rise and fall of Oliver Letwin reveals what has changed, and precisely what has stayed the same, in British politics since June 23. Theresa May’s decision to boot Letwin out as the head of the EU Policy Unit and bring David Davis in dramatizes the <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2016/07/14/everything-you-need-to-know-about-theresa-may-s-brexit">high-wire stakes</a> of post-Brexit negotiations. While Corbynites <a href="https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/corbyn-the-summer-of-hierarchical-things-ab1368959b80">punch</a> at parliamentary sovereignty from positions staked out <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/05/political-establishment-momentum-jeremy-corbyn">below it</a>, the government’s Policy Unit serenely sucks its legitimacy from above the Conservative majority in the Commons with very little oversight and only the slimmest of democratic mandates.&nbsp;<span>This should be a cause for alarm to anyone</span><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Heywood">who</a><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Gummer">isn’t</a><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Manzoni">currently</a><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_McLoughlin">sitting</a><span>&nbsp;</span><span>in</span><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_Office">70, Whitehall.</a><span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">This should be a cause for alarm to anyone who isn’t currently sitting in 70, Whitehall.</span></p> <p>Oliver Letwin is the only son of prominent Conservative intellectuals. After a scholarship at Eton he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge and stayed on to do a PhD in philosophy. He joined Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit at No. 10 in 1983. In public domain images he can be seen in tweed jackets above voluminous red corduroys almost always pasted alongside inconsequential constituency news. This lack of public interest is striking considering that Letwin was, until Theresa May’s bonfire of the Cameronites, one of the most important figures in British politics for the past six years. </p> <p>In a <a href="http://standpointmag.co.uk/critique-may-13-at-home-with-the-letwins-salon-charles-moore-bill-letwin-shirley-letwin-oliver-letwin">rare profile</a> in <em>Standpoint</em> the conservative commentator Charles Moore recalls that Letwin’s childhood home was a “truly intellectual” community of conversation. <em>Conversazione </em>included Michael Oakeshott, Irving Kristol, Maurice Cowling and Friedrich von Hayek amongst any number of other conservative heavy hitters. Quick to see off any worries that the Letwins might have been in “secret training for some long march through the institutions”, Oliver’s eventual ascent to head the Cabinet Office was, Moore explains, merely a consequence of a recognition amongst interlocutors at 3, Kent Terrace that “Civilisation mattered a lot”.</p><p>“Civilisation” is a word that Oliver Letwin uses frequently in his writings. When mooting a response to the savaging New Labour had dealt the Conservatives in 1997 he coined the term “Civilised Conservatism”. In a pamphlet published two years later, Letwin argued that Labour’s politics should be fought on the rhetorical field of adjectives and adverbial nouns. “New”, “tough”, “clean”, “open”, “inclusive” were all words Labour commanded. He suggested the following terms to rescue the party of civilisation: “felt”, “experienced”, “understood”, “familiar”, “cherished”, “fundamental”, “sure”, “stable”, “secure”, “sound”, “free”, “right (<em>not</em> rights)”, “British.” “These are,” Letwin explained, “the words principally missing from New Labour's vocabulary.” These words have been the mainstay of Conservative party messaging for the past six years.</p><p>In this 1999 pamphlet Letwin spelled out the main principles of what would become Cameronite Conservatism: an emphasis on homely affect with a commitment to free market economics – rather like a Bake Off version of Thatcherism. Labour had reckoned with the deregulation of global markets in the 1990s, and, in doing so, had won power with an election pitch of populist modernism. But they had a problem with the cultural politics of deregulation. New Labour, Letwin wrote,&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>"leaves us paddling alone on a hi-tech plastic canoe amid a sea of horrors. For those without a solidly constructed home, well made out of durable, traditional materials, the journey into the global marketplace is likely to prove a terrifying experience."</p></blockquote> <p>The Conservatives, on the other hand, possessed the requisite traditions to sail this boundless sea of free-floating currencies:</p> <blockquote><p><span>"It is precisely because Conservatives are the progenitors and friends of the modern free market, rather than being angst-ridden about it, that we can see inherited civilisation and the market, the old and the new, as allies, rather than as opposites."</span></p></blockquote><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span class="mag-quote-left">New Labour were a passing fad</span>New Labour were a passing fad. Their modernist canoe would soon sink as the party’s embrace of globalised finance capital clashed with the experience of their electoral base. In the meantime, the Conservatives should position themselves alongside, ready to pick up the swimmers.</span></p><p>Fast-forward seventeen years and Letwin’s political instincts seem to have been remarkably prescient. The Conservatives’ emphasis on security, right (<em>not</em> rights), and their cast of stable, homely characters (David Cameron, an affectionate, although at times endearingly ‘pumped up’, Dad, George Osborne, the nation’s brainiac uncle, Theresa May, its disciplinarian Mum, along with a family of other figures reassuring us with their ‘long-term economic plan’) has captured Britain’s language of politics.</p><p>Despite its undoubted success, however, Tory civilisation began to yaw and pitch alarmingly in the run up to the referendum. In the last few months a full-throated rhetoric of national belonging surged over the Conservative centre and threatened to sweep it away. In Brexit’s immediate aftermath the Cameronites’ retreat from public view meant that the only one manning the wheel was Oliver Letwin. Letwin, Cameron’s policy whiz, administrative fixer, and prominent Remainer, was left out in the open while the rest of the crew disappeared below decks.</p><p>Former&nbsp;Cabinet Secretary, Andrew Turnbull, gestured at the preposterousness of this state of affairs in a hearing of the Treasury Select Committee. He described Letwin as Cameron’s “consigliere” before going on to explain: “he’s spent the last six years absolutely at the heart of Number 10”. By continuing his job as chief architect of Cameron’s policy agenda, Letwin would be grabbing control of Britain’s future outside Europe, or, to put it slightly differently, would maintain ultimate oversight over No. 10’s policy program, Brexit or no Brexit. Someone who had actually campaigned to leave the EU, Turnbull urged, would be a more appropriate choice to determine the government’s policies.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Letwin </span><a href="http://goo.gl/aZA24l">ducked and weaved</a><span> around questions at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee a few days later. Responding to suggestions from Labour MP Mike Gapes that his actions were an “irrelevant fig leaf” because his policy papers were non-binding, Letwin explained that while it was not his place to “make any recommendations […] We can prepare the basis for the decision making.” In the wake of this rhetorical footwork, articles were rushed off the press suggesting that gaffe-prone Letwin was unprepared for the task – as if unpreparedness is a sign of weakness rather than strength in a time of such political indeterminacy. The curtain of British politics was briefly pulled back, </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/07/toto-brexit-curtain-oliver-letwin">Marina Hyde suggested in the <em>Guardian</em></a><span>, and Letwin, the “Wizard of Brexit”, was revealed as a fool “ever-upwardly-failing”.</span></p> <p><span class="mag-quote-right">The EU Policy Unit has <em>carte blanche </em>in terms of funding, hiring and decision-making.</span>The EU Policy Unit has&nbsp;<em>carte blanche&nbsp;</em>in terms of funding, hiring and decision-making. Prominent Civil Service egghead Oliver Robbins is harmonising policy at 70, Whitehall. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein">Cass Sunstein</a>, a thinker beloved by many in the Cabinet Office for his ideas about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_paternalism">‘nudging’</a> the public in their best interest, would say that the Policy Unit is currently determining the “choice architecture” of post-Brexit politics. There are signs that a ‘Brexit Ministry’ will soon be constructed. In which case, very soon a fig leaf will be drawn over these exceptional times. Things will calm down in the meantime and we’ll all forget about the alarming state of affairs when it looked, just for a moment, as if Oliver Letwin was the only one running the country.</p><p>Letwin’s low profile led commentators to suggest that he happened, as if by sheer luck, to be <a href="http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/07/oliver-letwin-left-holding-brexit-baby/">“holding the baby”</a> of post-referendum Britain. In fact, he has been the key figure in all of Cameron’s Cabinets since 2010. If a report was written in Whitehall, or a policy was to be implemented in the past six years, there were two men whose desks the paperwork would always pass over: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Heywood">Jeremy Heywood</a>, the Cabinet Secretary, and Oliver Letwin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. A top ex-Foreign Office official recently complained that Letwin had a habit of sticking his oar in to policy decisions that fell far outside his brief in attempts to oversee every aspect of the government’s agenda.</p><p>Perhaps it was because Letwin’s influence was so boring that the Westminster lobby rarely deigned to mention it. When personalities and parties are such fun to write about why discuss the Cabinet Office, especially when it involves such dull-sounding acronyms as the EDS (the yawningly Mandarin ‘Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat’)? Yet the person tasked by Cameron with creating all of Britain’s post-EU “multi-dimensional options papers” was the same man who wrote a book in 1988 called <em>Privatising the World</em> (complete with a gushing foreword by John Redwood). Surely this should have struck someone in the ‘Westminster Bubble’ as significant. As the Labour party tore itself apart, Letwin and Robbins were drawing up all the major legislative “recommendations” for Britain’s future in one of the greatest crises of British parliamentary politics since 1911, and they were doing so without any meaningful opposition and with very little by way of a democratic mandate. “What fun,” cried the hacks, “Don’t you remember the time that a burglar broke in to his house at 3 a.m. after asking to use his loo? Isn’t he the guy who dropped sensitive documents into bins in St. James’s Park? What a moron. Wizard!"</p><p>It is more than likely that all of the many dimensions of <span class="mag-quote-left">the Policy Unit’s papers will continue to be marked by Letwin’s strident neoliberalism</span>the Policy Unit’s papers will continue to be marked by Letwin’s strident neoliberalism, soon to be amplified by all those <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7ccfd858-41e0-11e6-b22f-79eb4891c97d.html">private-sector contractors</a> ushered in to help negotiate the nation’s trade deals – goodbye NHS! Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn is cheerily clinging on at the head of the Labour party, reasoning that votes from his party in last year’s leadership contest <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2016/06/jeremy-corbyn-not-standing-down-172-labour-mps-cannot-drown-out-democracy">trump MPs’ mandates</a> won in the 2015 general election. Characteristically, the Tories harbour no such illusions about the nature of power in parliament. They ruthlessly destroyed the Brexiters one by one before electing Theresa May in a series of moves that must have left Andrew Turnbull scratching his head.</p><p>As he fades into backbench obscurity, Oliver Letwin can still offer some idea of the current state of play. In a book penned before his rise to power, <em>The Purpose of Politics </em>(1999), he concludes that “politics <em>is</em> civilisation's civilised method of preserving itself.” When “civilisation” is under threat, most often after some seismic international shock, politics becomes “transcendent”. Transcendence means that the distinction between politics and law begins to collapse as the very “rules and practices” of the state “become the <em>object</em> of politics” itself. In times of transcendence the nation ends up “enshrining itself in a state-of-its-own” Determining when to “trigger” transcendent politics is a matter of the most exquisite political judgment. For Letwin, the referendum was enough to pull the trigger. In response, the Cabinet Office became, for a while at least, a state-of-its-own.</p><p>Letwin’s judgment about the transcendent nature of post-referendum politics was not unfounded. As the results rolled in on 24th June it became clear that the nations of the United Kingdom had cast their votes on very different terms. Martin Mcguinness and Nicola Sturgeon were quickest out of the blocks, declaring that the outcome demanded a further set of referendums on Scottish independence and Irish unity. Financial markets seemed to be in free fall and a period of economic and constitutional turbulence stretched out ahead indefinitely. In response, Labour MPs saw their time to oust Corbyn. Politics was crashing towards the centre. Whitehall was in turmoil and the days and weeks that followed would be crucial for shaping any future settlement out of Europe. Reasoning that the Party needed a leader with the full support of MPs they must have reckoned that Corbyn would bow to the <a href="https://medium.com/@matatatatat/the-terrifying-hubris-of-corbynism-6590054a9b57">new political reality</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile the Tories smoothed their tweeds, rearranged a few deckchairs and got down to the business of governing. Rather than enter into a protracted struggle over the party’s leadership, they quickly recognised where power lay. Letwin was out, Davis was in and May, the only prominent Cameronite left, took the helm. What’s more, when their manoeuvrings were over they had managed to put Labour’s supporters exactly where they wanted them: outside any ability to influence anything, arguing amongst themselves, shouting up from the streets below.</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/niki-seth-smith/who-are-conservatives-now-one-nation-debate">Who are the Conservatives now? The One Nation debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/john-e-strafford/decline-and-fall-of-conservative-party">The decline and fall of the Conservative Party</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/clive-peedell/cameron-lied-to-country-says-clive-peedell">&quot;Cameron lied to the country&quot;, says Clive Peedell</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 Freddy Foks Mon, 18 Jul 2016 08:56:24 +0000 Freddy Foks 104023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Those who don't like the referendum result should demand more democracy, not less https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gilbert-ramsay/those-who-dont-like-referendum-result-should-demand-more-democracy-not-less <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's referendum shows the need to deepen democracy, and make it truly deliberative.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 18.12.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 18.12.32.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Irish Citizens' Constitutional Assembly, image ibid</span></span></span></p><p>Like many people who passionately want the UK to remain in the European Union, I have struggled with feelings of denial about the referendum vote. I wish it hadn’t turned out the way it did. I wish I could magic it away. But it is important to recognise that what happened, happened. British people were told that they would get a chance to vote on a perfectly clear question: whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. They were told that the decision would be decided on the basis of a simple majority of the British electorate as a whole, including expatriates, but not including those under the age of eighteen or European Union citizens resident in the UK (who voted in the Scottish referendum). The result was that 52% voted to leave. </p> <p>Since then, wishful thinking about the result, my own included, has been sadly revealing, I think, about the fragility of the democratic commitments of the British intellectual elite, which has managed to exhibit almost every anti-democratic instinct exhibited by elites in fragile and emerging democracies. </p> <p>One immediate reaction has been to try to second guess the electorate, insisting that those who voted Leave didn’t really mean or understand what they voted for, that they were lied to, or that they voted emotionally – merely wishing to punish the government, not thinking through the actual consequences. But the British public aren’t children. They are adults. And even if such claims are true (it is in fact far from clear that the referendum would have a different outcome if it were rerun tomorrow), one of the major prerogatives of adulthood is the right – within the law – to sometimes make ill-informed and irreversible decisions with potentially terrible consequences for oneself and others. In democratic contests, politicians lie, and voters make bad decisions. </p> <p>Another set of criticisms has gone after the way the referendum was set up, or the decision to use a referendum to decide a complex policy issue at all. Perhaps the referendum should indeed have required a 60% threshold to overturn the status quo. Perhaps it should have required a majority in all of Britain’s constituent nations. But that horse has bolted. </p> <p>Others have developed lawyerly arguments that the referendum does not have legal force, calling on either MPs or judges to strike the result down. These arguments may indeed have technical merit. But any such moves would surely be received with the richly deserved contempt of the British public. The damage they would do to the popular trust in British political institutions (such as remains) would be a cure worse than the disease. Moreover, what could more effectively confirm the belief that the EU is an anti-democratic behemoth? </p> <p>A particularly bizarre twist is a sort of inversion of the tendency to look to a strongman leader to protect the elites from the ignorant masses. Before Boris Johnson’s withdrawal from the Tory leadership contest, some remainers who loathed Johnson nonetheless held out a faint hope that, as prime minister, the very qualities of dishonesty, hypocrisy, cowardice, and snobbery they so hated would mean that he would ride to the rescue of the European cause by failing to pick up the poisoned chalice David Cameron had left him, and his betrayal of the Leave movement would shred its political credibility so utterly as to provide the fig leaf of popular support that would be needed to justify this elite coup against 52% of the public, many of whom hated Boris Johnson anyway. </p> <p>All of these arguments are dispiritingly familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity with how democratic politics works in countries such as Thailand, Egypt, or Turkey: as the masses vote into power politicians believed to be disastrous, corrupt, authoritarian or simply downright incompetent, the liberal-minded middle class develop a surprising faith in the very national institutions they might otherwise rail against in political commentary, satirical novels or rap music. </p> <p>This can’t be what we want. The EU referendum did indeed represent democracy at its bluntest and, at least on the part of some of its instigators, at its most cynical. But the way forwards can’t be less democracy. It ought to be more and better democracy: democracy at its most sophisticated, empowering and forward looking. </p> <p>Shortly before passage of the EU referendum bill, two renowned American political scientists, Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin, argued that the UK should institutionalise procedures of deliberative democracy into the referendum process. Deliberative democracy is a concept which aims to overcome the fact that, in conventional democratic votes, citizens are asked to decide on issues about which they know little, do not know to whom they can turn for accurate information, and in any case have limited incentives to expend time and energy on becoming better informed. In the case of the British referendum, Ackerman and Fishkin proposed that the referendum debates should be accompanied by the mass engagement of British citizens, first in small groups, building up to larger assemblies. The groups would be provided with factsheets with content vetted by both sides, and trained facilitators would help the group to develop questions and focus discussions. Another proposal informed by Ackerman and Fishkin’s work was made by Andy Rynham, who called for a one-off bank holiday ‘deliberation day’ for the referendum. </p> <p>Had we followed this advice, things might have gone very differently. Fishkin and Ackerman report that ‘deliberative polling’ conducted along these lines on the question of withdrawal from the EU resulted in increasing support of members of the British public to 60% (although support for joining the Euro remained unchanged). But the point is, it’s not too late to do something similar. Clearly, the referendum vote settled very little beyond the immediate question asked of voters. Leave, we now know, had no plan for what leaving the EU would actually look like. Leave voters were motivated by issues which point towards very different settlements: is it really the people’s will to end freedom of movement, whatever the cost? Was the actual motivation to restore ‘sovereignty’? If so, what does this really mean? Was the real idea just to punish an out of touch political establishment? If so, finding some radical new tools for reconnecting citizens with decision making might be part of the solution in its own right. If there is a real appetite for Scottish independence now, what does that really mean? Is it about a genuinely nationalist desire for self-determination, or is it driven more by the hope that breaking the UK is the drastic preliminary needed to radically reform it? </p> <p>All these complex questions seem to require a form of procedure more powerful and sophisticated than what we are accustomed to. A deliberative approach could mean, for example, setting up a series of jury-style bodies all over the UK, recruited at random but with appropriate representation of the makeup of the population and of its constituent minorities, empowering them to summon expert witnesses, and setting them to spend a year working through all the issues and reporting back. In keeping with the concept of deliberative democracy, it would combine cutting edge insights into political psychology with ideas about the true meaning of democratic governance drawn straight from classical Athens. </p> <p>Notwithstanding understandable European Union demands for an expedited process of disengagement, Britain should seize the opportunity to renew itself as a sovereign, democratic community. The deliberative process for working out what to do next should be broad, deep, subtle and yet designed to produce clarity and closure. It should operate to a well-defined, but not to a rushed timeline. ‘Patriotic’ Brexiters are bandying about slogans about Britain being capable of being ‘the best in the world’. Let’s not just sneer at that. Let’s try to think of a way to actually set a good example.&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/gilbert-ramsay/we-can-only-contemplate-leaving-eu-because-its-miracles-have-become-banal-brexit">We can only contemplate leaving the EU because its miracles have become banal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/sonali-campion/imagining-constitutional-convention-for-uk">Imagining a constitutional convention for the UK</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 Gilbert Ramsay Sat, 16 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Gilbert Ramsay 103969 at https://www.opendemocracy.net