uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3031/all cached version 22/10/2018 09:14:11 en Revealed: Met Police ignored Brexit campaign evidence for months https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland Yard claimed it didn’t receive key evidence about Leave campaigns until September. But the evidence was ready from May. They just didn’t bother to collect it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.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'>London Mayor Sadiq Khan was told by the Met that it hadn't "recieved" the documents, when really the police just hadn't bothered to pick them up. Image, Lee, Flickr, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police Service ignored potential criminal evidence gathered by the Electoral Commission on three key pro-Brexit campaign groups for four months, openDemocracy can reveal. </p><p dir="ltr">Responding to widespread public criticism after openDemocracy revealed that the Met has not even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">begun an official investigation</a> into Vote Leave, Arron Banks’s Leave.EU and Darren Grimes’s BeLeave campaign, Scotland Yard this week told London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, that it had only recently “received” the Electoral Commission’s evidence and therefore has had only weeks to assess its importance. </p><p dir="ltr">However, we can reveal that the Met was informed by the Commission in both May and July that evidence was ready to be picked up. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the Brexit timetable was reaching critically important stages, Scotland Yard officers then took till late August before asking the Commission for its files, and took a further three weeks to pick them up. </p><p dir="ltr">In normal London traffic, the distance between Scotland Yard’s Embankment headquarters and the Commission’s office in Bunhill Row in the City is around 15 minutes. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on the Met’s failure to get round to collecting the evidence for months, and their attempts to blame the Electoral Commission, senior Labour MP Jon Trickett said that “if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they should be treated just the same as everyone else”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cynical or incompetence?</h2><p dir="ltr">A Whitehall official with close ties to the Electoral Commission called the Met’s lack of urgency “either staggeringly cynical or organisationally incompetent. And because the law is the job they are trusted with, giving an official explanation that does not stand up to scrutiny, now leaves them [the MPS] with serious questions to answer.”</p><p dir="ltr">When questioned about the police’s inaction by Green Party co-leader Si<span class="st">â</span>n Berry in the London Assembly this week, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said his office had been told by Scotland Yard that a report <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published by openDemocracy last week</a>, which cited “political sensitivities” as a factor in the stalled police investigations, &nbsp;was “inaccurate”. </p><p dir="ltr">However no one at the mayor’s office contacted openDemocracy for any comment, information or correspondence received from the Met. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Our reporting – which was later not challenged by the officer who initially spoke to openDemocracy – revealed that no investigations into three pro-Brexit groups (including the Vote Leave, the official campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) had been started by the Metropolitan Police. The officer said that “political sensitivities” had been considered, and in a subsequent email clarified the issue by stating that “political sensitivities” related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Electoral Commission, investigations into the Leave.EU and Vote Leave campaigns were concluded in reports on May 11 and July 17 respectively. The commission said that in both cases “we immediately referred the responsible person for each organisation to the police. At the same time, we informed the police of the referrals and explained that the evidence was ready to pass to them.” </p><p dir="ltr">The spokesman went on to say “The police asked for our files in late August and collected them within three weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">“You may have further questions about the timetable for requesting the files. These would be a matter for the police to explain.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Evidence waiting</h2><p dir="ltr">Sadiq Khan told the Assembly that Scotland Yard was now considering 2000 pages of evidence, adding that officials from the Crown Prosecution Service were also involved in the exercise. He said that as the matter was “operational” he could not comment further. </p><p dir="ltr">The Commission’s two referrals to Scotland Yard centred on the two main Leave campaigns. The first report, delivered on May 11 focused on Leave.EU. The organisation was fined £70,000 for overspending by at least £77,380. Its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, was referred to the police. The group’s co-founder, Arron Banks, said the electoral watchdog had been engaged in a “ridiculous witch hunt.” He called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><p dir="ltr">The second referral was on July 17 and centred on Vote Leave, the officially designated leave group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. It was fined £61,000 after the commission found “significant evidence” of illegal unreported coordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign run by fashion student, Darren Grimes. The commission identified an overspend of over £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million, with significant funds channelled to BeLeave. </p><p dir="ltr">Among the evidence folio sent to the Met was information on the £675,000 spending by BeLeave with the digital company Aggregate IQ. The commission stated that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson and the former Brexit minister and European Research Group co-leader, Steve Baker MP. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett said: “It’s important to acknowledge that the police have been stretched to breaking point by almost a decade of Conservative cuts. But faith in democracy is too fragile to leave serious questions unanswered for a prolonged period of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“Those involved in this investigation must do everything they can to reassure the public that if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they will be treated in just the same way as everyone else.”</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/14/met-police-damian-collins-no-investigation-leave-campaigners-data-misuse">the Observer last week</a>, the Conservative MP Damian Collins called for an investigation into the Leave campaigns akin to the investigation of the Trump campaign by US special counsel Robert Mueller.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this week, SNP chief whip, Pete Wishart, asked Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">openDemocracy’s article</a>, telling the Commons: “The Vote Leave campaign might just have cheated its way to victory”, yet “the police refuse to investigate, because of what they say are political sensitivities”. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the prime minister said the Electoral Commission’s reports would be reviewed by the government, she reminded the Commons of the result of the referendum, the turnout, and added “it is up this parliament, this government, to deliver on that mandate.” The question came after nearly 80 national politicians signed <a href="http://mollymep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Met_-VoteLeave-15.10.18.pdf">a letter to the Met</a> calling on them to investigate.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile the campaign group Unlock Democracy has launched a petition calling on the Met to launch a formal investigation into the campaigns. So far it had been <a href="https://secure.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/31910/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=blog">signed by nearly 9,000 people</a>. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Arron Banks Leave campaign police Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Sat, 20 Oct 2018 14:08:49 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120188 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Proscribing National Action: has it been effective? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/chris-allen/proscribing-national-action-has-it-been-effective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first British ban on membership of a far right group appears to be working – but the danger is other far right groups are learning to adapt.</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/549093/national action.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/national action.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Police separating National Action and anti-fascist demonstrators, Liverpool 2015. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Shortly after National Action were <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-action-becomes-first-extreme-right-wing-group-to-be-banned-in-uk">proscribed in December 2012</a>, I questioned whether <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-923X.12368">banning the group would be effective</a>. Given the number of arrests and convictions made over the past year or so – the most recent being earlier last month when West Midlands Police <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/national-action-arrests-neo-nazi-terrorism-west-midlands-police-a8523456.html">arrested five people on suspicion of terrorism offences</a> over their suspected membership of the banned group - it would seem that it has.</p> <p>National Action were proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. At the time, Amber Rudd – the then Home Secretary - described <a href="//uol.le.ac.uk/root/staff/home/c/ca270/My%20Documents/WRITING/2018%20CARR/PQ%20Article%20-%20National%20Action%20-%20April%202017.pdf">National Action as “a racist, Antisemitic and homophobic organisation</a> which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology”. Rudd added that “it has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone…” and that it was “…concerned in terrorism”. The ban was the first time in British history that membership of a radical-right group had been outlawed, and meant that it wold become a crime to be a member of National Action, to invite support for the group, to be involved in the organisation of group activities, to wear clothing or insignia linked to it, or to carry its symbols. </p> <p>Prior to its proscription, there was little information about National Action. While groups those such as Britain First and the English Defence League had been courting public and media attention, National Action were mobilising largely under the radar. <a href="https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/research/investigations/briefing-national-action/">Hope Not Hate</a> reported that the group’s members were becoming increasingly provocative, erratic and unpredictable. Expressing a penchant for violence and direct action was also evident, none more so than in its statement on its now defunct website that National Action was <a href="https://theconversation.com/national-action-what-i-discovered-about-the-ideology-of-britains-violent-neo-nazi-youth-movement-83527">“not afraid to swing the bat at the enemy”</a>.</p> <p>Known to be targeting a youth audience – apparent from <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/national-action-arrests-neo-nazi-terrorism-west-midlands-police-a8523456.html">the ages of those recently arrested</a> – National Action was unequivocally traditionalist in its ideology, which included overt expressions of ultra-nationalism, racism, Antisemitism, disablism, homophobia, anti-liberalism and anti-capitalism. Prone to admiring and glorifying Hitler and what it believed were the great achievements of the Third Reich, the group advocated a similar approach here as being necessary to ‘save’ Britain, ‘our’ race and ‘our’ generation. Its ultimate goal was the <a href="https://theconversation.com/national-action-what-i-discovered-about-the-ideology-of-britains-violent-neo-nazi-youth-movement-83527">establishment of a ‘white homeland’ in Britain</a>. </p> <p>Somewhat unsurprisingly, <a href="//uol.le.ac.uk/root/staff/home/c/ca270/My%20Documents/WRITING/2018%20CARR/PQ%20Article%20-%20National%20Action%20-%20April%202017.pdf">National Action denied being an extremist group</a>. Citing the legislation, it argued that to be extremist it would need to use or encourage illegal violence or terrorism to achieve its goals. Arguing that it was radical rather than extreme, it countered by arguing that to achieve its ultimate goal it would need to do so through state power and was thereby committed to working with the state’s institutions, including the police, army and intelligence services. In contrast to these denunciations, earlier this year National Action’s former spokesperson <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44622497">Jack Renshaw pleaded guilty</a> to preparing an act of terrorism by purchasing a machete to kill the Labour Member of Parliament Rosie Cooper. He also admitted making threats to kill Detective Constable Victoria Henderson, who had been investigating him for child grooming and racial hatred offences. </p> <p>One concern is that proscribing such organisations does not stop members from regrouping under a different alias. National Action members have since done so using the aliases of Scottish Dawn, NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action), System Resistance Network (SRN) and Vanguard Britannia. The same weakness ss of proscription as a solution can be seen with Al-Muhajiroun. Banned in 2005, its members continued to regroup and used various aliases including the Saved Sect, Call to Submission, Islam4UK, Islamic Path, London School of Sharia and Need4Khilafah up until 2014. Subsequently Al-Muhajiroun’s members were shown to be <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/radical-islamist-group-al-muhajiroun-linked-to-half-of-british-terror-attacks-in-past-20-years-10128492.html">linked to more than half of all Islamist-inspired terror in the UK</a>. </p> <p>In response, however the police and intelligence services appear to have been somewhat more proactive in their pursuance of those members of National Action that have continued to be active. Given some were known to be increasingly erratic, unpredictable and prone to violence, the successful arrest and conviction of members may be evidence that necessary lessons have been learned. It’s also likely that National Action’s members underestimated the willingness of the police and intelligence services to act on the ban . </p> <p>The result has been a far more effective outcome than I and indeed others anticipated two years ago. My concerns that banning National Action – especially if perceived to be unfair, gerrymandering to the left or appeasing Muslims – might have the potential to either strengthen the radical right or make it more appealing, do not seem to have materialised – not least because there appears to be as little agreement and consensus within the British radical right as ever. In truth, there has been very little public sympathy shown towards National Action from either inside or outside the radical right milieu. Importantly, it could be argued that proscription has sent a very clear message to radical right extremists. Maybe this is why Britain’s radical right is increasingly moving towards more populist ideologies or mobilising behind distractionary and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-the-mainstream-media-should-stop-giving-extreme-views-a-platform-101040">normalising</a> fronts such as <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com/2018/05/16/defending-free-speech-a-new-front-for-resisting-islamification/">defending free speech</a>. </p> <p>So while banning National Action has been far more effective than expected, proscription is only one part of the armoury needed in the fight against the radical right and its divisive ideologies.</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/matthew-collins/state-of-hate-britain%27s-far-right-is-in-crisis">State of hate: Britain&#039;s far right is in crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hsiaohung-pai/english-defence-league-and-new-farright">The English Defence League and the new far-right </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aurelien-mondon-aaron-winter/understanding-mainstreaming-of-far-right">Understanding the mainstreaming of the far right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/fascist-terrorism">We need to talk about fascist terrorism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Chris Allen Fri, 19 Oct 2018 10:28:24 +0000 Chris Allen 120170 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Colonialism can’t be forgotten – it’s still destroying peoples and our planet https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/colonialism-can-t-be-forgotten-it-s-still-destroying-peoples-and-our-pl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From the population decimation of the first colonies to the recent murders of environmental activists in Honduras, the arithmetic of cruelty and destruction is still unfolding.</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/549093/daniel 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/daniel 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Tar sands, Alberta. Credit: Dru Oja Jay/Flickr, CC 2.0.</span></span></span></p><p>The consequences of colonialism and imperialism, in all their forms and across all their epochs, defy our imagination. Unspeakable cruelties were inflicted, their scars and agonies are unspeakable. </p> <p>Colonialism was, and remains, a wholesale destruction of memory. Lands, the sources of identity, stolen. Languages, ripped from mouths. The collective loss to humanity was incalculable, as cultures, ideas, species, habitats, traditions, cosmologies, possibilities, patterns of life, and ways of understanding the world were destroyed. Countless ecological traditions – involving diverse ways of being with nature – were swept away. </p> <p>As formal colonialism came to an end, the process of erasing its crimes from public memory and effacing history began. The forces of forgetting crafted and promulgated mythological narratives of innocent imperial greatness, unblemished by enslavement or genocide. When forced to give away the Congo, King Leopold took to burning all documents associated with his brutal rule. ‘I will give them my Congo, but they have no right to know what I did there,’ Leopold said. His palace’s furnaces burned for eight days (1). </p> <p>There are many such shredded chapters that we will never reconstruct. Every death count, every statistic, every fragment of history, is bitterly incomplete. But the preliminary arithmetic of cruelty is enough to illustrate the sheer magnitude of destruction. </p> <p>So catastrophic and widespread was the decimation of human life in the Americas that nine-tenths of its original population was extinguished through war, epidemic diseases, enslavement, overwork, and famine (2). Most of us have heard the simplistic story of a genocide by germs, where populations were wiped out by diseases to which they had no immunity. But the vulnerability of communities to maladies was not just a product of biological misfortune. Malnutrition, exhaustion, absent sanitation, enslaving missions and overcrowding helped to weaken people’s protection (3). Demographic research has shown, for example, that on Hispaniola, the indigenous population plummeted before any smallpox cases were documented (4).</p> <p>In the last decades of the 19th century, tens of millions of Indians died of famine, while British colonial policy forced the country to export record levels of food. &nbsp;If their bodies were laid head to foot, the corpses would cover the length of England 85 times over (5). The evisceration of the Congo, designed to extract maximum levels of ivory and rubber, killed at least 10 million people – half the country’s population at the time (6). </p> <p>The bounties of colonialism underwrote the wealth of Europe. Seams of silver and gold swelled the coffers of banks and merchants. The fortunes made from metals, slave trading, and plantation commodities, served as direct stimuli to colonial economies, helping to bankroll the Industrial Revolution (7). Consumers in the colonies proved vital to purchasing products and supporting Western European industries (8). By the late 19th century, over half of the British state’s revenue stemmed from its colonies. </p> <p>Colonialism reconfigured the world economy. India’s share of the global economy shrank from 27 per cent to 3 per cent. China’s share shrank from 35 per cent to 7 per cent. Europe’s share exploded from 20 per cent to 60 per cent (9). The tables of development were overturned. In the 18th century, differences in income across the world’s leading civilizations were minimal. It is in fact likely that average living standards in Europe at this time were lower than elsewhere (10). </p> <p>The story of colonialism, sanitized and blotted out from the historical consciousness, needs to be recalled, for many reasons – not the least of them because of our concerns about the climate. Colonialism’s ledger of lavish of destruction – its wholesale removal of ecosystems, and the subjugation of those communities that had nourished them – unleashed major rises in emissions. Between 1835 and 1885, deforestation in the territories of the United States was the largest global contributor to emissions (11). </p> <p>Ultimately, colonialism transformed the speed, scope and scale of ecological destruction. It generated dramatic changes in land and marine ecosystems, and transformed the dynamics of economic growth. Political ecologist Jason Moore argues that ‘the rise of capitalist civilization after 1450, with its audacious strategies of global conquest, endless commodification, and relentless rationalization’, marked ‘a turning point in the history of humanity’s relation with the rest of nature, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture and the first cities’ (12).</p> <p>Across most continents and contexts, the grip and influence of empire impelled an era of major devastation. As environmental historian Joachim Radkau outlines, ‘[i]n the opinion of the vast majority of scholars, a large-scale ecological crisis developed in the 18th century and became acute and obvious in the 19th… In China, as in Europe, one can detect in the 18th century a desire to use natural resources to their limits and to leave no more empty spaces…’ (13).</p> <p>Its legacies endure today in colonial complexes that underlie our visions of nature, and other humans. Economically, its inheritance was the naturalization of a model of intense cost-shifting, which allowed for states to offload resource-consuming industries, and the costs of ecological damage. By the birth of the New World, silver mines and seams in Bohemia and Saxon had been exhausted. European forests were bearing the burden of centuries of exploitation for use in shipbuilding. Around 3,000 oaks were required to build a single warship (14). Iberian shipbuilding, which had eaten through the forests of Catalonia, was transplanted to Cuba and Brazil (15). The construction of British battleships was transferred from London to Bombay shipyards (16). Once the industries had been externalized, resources could be extracted with scant attention paid to the environmental consequences. Japanese policies for example, protected forests in Japan, but exploited them during Japan’s rule of Korea (17).</p> <p>Colonialism also firmly shaped the ways we view conservation and ecology. Colonial efforts to protect nature, particularly popular at the end of the nineteenth century, became further opportunities for colonial control. Inhabitants were removed from areas of ‘pristine nature’ that then became national parks, while lands outside these were devoted to intensive extraction. Ahwahneechee communities were, for example, expelled from the valleys that today make up Yosemite Park in California. </p> <h2>Neocolonialism: the metabolism of misery</h2> <p>During the 19th and 20th centuries, formal colonialism came to an end. Countries were liberated, new flags unfurled, and rewritten constitutions adopted. But although imperial states were forced to relinquish their hold, their legacies prevailed. Centuries of enslavement, despotism, crushed sovereignty, and ecological demolition, had guaranteed a long afterlife to imperial haunting, and its logics of conquest and predation. Many of the new nation states carried on down tracks laid for them by the colonial powers and continued the process of ecological destruction. Under the banners of development, thousands of communities were evicted and displaced in development programmes. </p> <p>In India, between 1947 and 2000, around 24 million Adivasis (indigenous peoples) were displaced by large development projects. The construction of the Narmada Dam displaced over 100,000 people alone. In Brazil, military and non-military governments triggered the wholesale destruction of huge areas of the Amazon rainforest, subsidizing road building, clearing the way for large cattle ranches, and opening up the land for migrants. In Egypt, the regime of Hosni Mubarak transferred control of land to large landowners, evicting hundreds of thousands of farmers were evicted, under the banner of ‘development’. </p> <p>In 1972, following colonial precedents, the Nigerian government outlawed traditional agriculture by fire clearance, a move that would subsequently contributed to devastating famines (18). In addition, the government’s encouragement of new oil projects was described by prominent Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa, as ‘recolonization’ (19).&nbsp; </p> <p>Deforestation took hold across former colonies. Between 1960 and 1980, Indonesia’s timber exports rose 200-fold. Côte d’Ivoire’s timber exports rose from 42,000 tonnes in 1913 to 1.6 million tonnes in the early 1980s; less than a fortieth of the country’s forests remain (20). Between 1900 and the present day, over half the ‘developing world’s’ forests were removed (21).</p> <p>Those resisting these models, were met with severe repression, and extrajudicial violence (22). This metabolism of misery continues to this day, with hundreds of social leaders and community activists killed worldwide every year, for resisting the encroachment of extractive frontiers. Between 2010 and 2017, at least 124 environmental and land activists were murdered in Honduras (23). </p> <p>The frontiers of ecological destruction are constantly expanding, as the global economy’s appetite for new materials staggers on. Between 2003 and 2015, the number of mining projects in Argentina rose from 40 in 2003 to 800 in 2015 (24). A fifth of Peru has been conceded to mining companies (25).</p> <p>Today’s world is a landscape scarred by environmental violence: the monocultural soybean fields of Brazil’s Mato Grosso; the modern gold rushes of Madre de Dios and Zamfara; the vast tar-sands ponds of Canada; the forest-consuming coal mines of Kalimantan; the megadams of the Mekong Delta; the rivers dredged to yield sand; the phosphate mines of Western Sahara; the palm plantations of Tela; the bauxite mines of Guinea; the mesh of pipelines across the Niger Delta; the sugarcane fields of Uttar Pradesh. </p> <p>It is also a world of furnaces: the brick kilns of Peshawar; the smelters of Norilsk; the glass industries of Firozabad; the chemical factories of Dzerzhinsk; the steel mills of Xingtai and Mandi Gobindgarh; the fertilizer plants of Baocun; the tanneries of Hazaribagh and Rawalpindi; the aluminium smelters of Al Jubail; the polluted deltas of Ogoniland; the ship graveyards of Bangladesh; the cancer villages of industrial China. </p> <p>The full impact of colonialism would be revealed in its long-term impacts. It radically transformed landscapes, state relations, philosophies and cultures, leaving as one of its inheritance an intensive and plunderous economic model. In pursuit of resources, countries ran roughshod over limits, and destroyed many of the ecosystems necessary for preventing climate change.</p><p><em>This is the second of two extracts from ‘<a href="https://ethicalshop.org/the-memory-we-could-be-by-daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik-pb.html">The Memory We Could Be</a>’, Daniel’s new book published this Autumn by New Internationalist Books.</em></p> <h2>Notes</h2> <ol><li>Adam Hochschild, <em>King Leopold's Ghost</em>, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999. </li><li>JR McNeill, <em>Mosquito Empires</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p 16.</li><li>Justin McBrian, ‘Accumulating Extinction’, <em>Anthropocene or Capitalocene?</em> PM Press, 2016, pp 116-137.</li><li>Massimo Livi Bacci, <em>Conquest: The Destruction of the American Indios</em>, Polity, 2008. </li><li>Cited in Jason Hickel, 'Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations', <em>Guardian</em>, 27 Nov 2015.</li><li>Adam Hochschild, op cit.</li><li>Jason Hickel, <em>The Divide</em>, William Heinemann, 2017.</li><li>Joseph Inikori, <em>Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2002.</li><li>Angus Maddison, <em>The World Economy</em>, OECD, 2006.</li><li>Mike Davis, ‘The Origin of the Third World’, <em>Antipode</em>, Vol 32, No 1, 2000.</li><li>John L Brooke, <em>Climate Change and the Course of Global History</em>, Cambridge University Press 2014, p 496.</li><li>Jason W Moore, ‘The Capitalocene, Part I’, <em>The Journal of Peasant Studies</em>, Vol 44, No 3, 2017.</li><li>Joachim Radkau, <em>Nature and Power,</em> Cambridge University Press, 2008, p 111.</li><li>Jeremy L Caradonna, <em>Sustainability: A History</em>, Oxford University Press, p 33.</li><li>Jason W Moore, ‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’, <em>Journal of Agrarian Change</em>, Vol 10, No 1, 2010.</li><li>Joachim Radkau, op cit, p 173</li><li>Ibid, p 117.</li><li>Michael J Watts, <em>Silent Violence</em>, University of Georgia Press, 2013.</li><li>Silke Stroh, ‘Towards a Postcolonial Environment?’, <em>Local Natures, Global Responsibilities, </em>Rodopi, 2010, p 197.</li><li>Clive Ponting, <em>A New Green History of the World</em>, Random House, 2007, p 192.</li><li>John H Bodley, <em>Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems</em>, Rowman Altamira, 2012, p 47.</li><li>Such as in the case of the Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala.</li><li>Autumn Spanne, ‘Why is Honduras the world’s deadliest country for environmentalists?’, <em>Guardian</em>, 7 Apr 2016.</li><li>Darío Aranda, ‘Qué hay detrás de la campaña antimapuche’, <em>La Vaca</em>, 27 Nov 2017.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li>Gestión, ‘Concesiones mineras ocupan la quinta parte del territorio del Perú’, 14 Sep 2014, nin.tl/Peru</li></ol><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/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/to-fix-climate-crisis-we-must-acknowledge-our-imperial-past">To fix the climate crisis, we must face up to our imperial past</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik Thu, 18 Oct 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik 120127 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why some cities are ‘rebel cities’ – interview with Yaz Brien about Bristol’s resistance scene https://www.opendemocracy.net/yaz-brien-joost-de-moore/why-some-cities-are-rebel-cities-interview-with-yaz-brien-about-bristol-s-r <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“It’s a movement that shuts shit down but it really isn’t hypermasculine. And I think, in many ways, that is a factor in its sustainability.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements"><img alt="open Movements" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner.jpg" width="460px" /></a><br /><b>The <i><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements">openMovements</a></i> series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.</b></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/500209/image_3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/image_3.png" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mural in Bristol.</span></span></span></p><p>Grassroots activism is widely considered a vital element in society’s shift to becoming more just and ecologically balanced. However, it is clear that in some places, movements are more active than in others. What is it about certain places/cities that makes them more conducive to the emergence and sustainability of environmental activism? </p> <p>To address this question, our research at Keele University for the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) <a href="https://www.cusp.ac.uk/">project</a> compared two British cities: Manchester and Bristol. Both have a long tradition of environmental activism and still provide fertile grounds for the development of grassroots solutions to environmental crises, such as projects around food and energy. </p> <p>But while Manchester has in recent years seen a sharp decline in resistance-oriented environmental activism (protest, civil disobedience, direct action), Bristol has, despite some decline, maintained a more vibrant resistance scene. To understand why activism can develop so differently in two cities with comparable histories and challenges, we spoke to 43 activists in both cities. </p> <p>One of them was Yaz Brien, an experienced Bristol-based activist who, since 2006, has seen activism develop in Bristol through her involvement in groups like No Borders, Rising Tide, Camp for Climate Action, Bristol Queercaf, and the Kebele social centre (now BASE). </p> <p>In late 2017 and early 2018, I travelled to Bristol several times to get a feeling of its famous alternative scene and to interview environmental activists. Unfortunately, I never managed to meet up with Yaz, so we arranged an interview through Skype. I began by explaining that, in order to make sense of the seeming disappearance of environmental resistance in Manchester, we wanted to know about environmental activism in Bristol. </p> <p>Her insightful account of events clearly depicts some of the differences between Bristol and Manchester that we found to be most decisive. Moreover, her account revealed not only the societal pressures that currently make (environmental) activism in the UK that much harder, but also the coping mechanisms and urban qualities most decisive in allowing the Bristolian social movement scene to keep going. </p> <p><b><i>Joost de Moore (JM): &nbsp;</i></b><i>According to many activists we have spoken to, Bristol has remained an important hub for environmental resistance in the UK. Why do you think that is?</i></p> <p><b>Yaz Brien (YB):</b> I sometimes think that Bristol’s reputation of “if anywhere is having it, then Bristol is having it” is bigger than the reality. Some of what you’ve described about Manchester we’ve seen happen here in this city as well. </p> <p>My relationship to being almost daily in struggle shifted a few years ago and I think that was around the same time that a lot of things shifted for people here in Bristol. There’s a direct connection and correlation with the state repression that was happening here in the city, and a lot of us were quite directly affected by that. </p> <p>I haven’t gone into food growing or the land-based movements but a lot of my peers have. The fact that I haven’t is partly located in my identity as a working-class person, a person of colour, queer. That white hippie end of things was never really my interest. My interest was in relating to those bigger, wider structural issues around climate justice, talking about environmental racism for example, not simply talking about how can we do our energy better. </p> <p>These days, I guess I’ve reached an age where you’re an elder, a kind of Anarchist Yellow Pages – a connector of younger folk with older folk. A lot of young newcomers or activists get in touch wanting advice or to bounce ideas. </p> <p><i><b>JM:</b> So, on the one hand, there is a decline in radical action in Bristol just like in Manchester, but on the other hand, there are still exceptions?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> Yeah. For instance, Rising Tide has stayed consistently in the city for many years, continuing to do direct action. They still go and shut shit down like pretty regularly and are really involved in a lot of anti-coal, anti-fracking stuff, walking that line between very accessible movement building and “we will shut down the means of this production.” </p> <p>And it’s really nice that some of those people are also involved in local community projects and food and land projects, but have very much maintained the idea that we have to shut stuff down and talk about what the alternatives are. </p> <p>I sometimes think talking about the alternatives is about how you then deal with the media and how you do mass mobilisation. Normal people need to know that we’re looking at the future and not just saying that what we’ve got right now is bad. We’re building towards something, to inspire people into action. But that’s also why environmental activism can end up becoming quite liberal because people with more liberal ideas become inspired, and then just go down the route of ‘Well, maybe nuclear isn’t so bad after all, you know?’ We’ve seen climate camps where there have been debates with people saying, “Well maybe nuclear is better than coal”. That position doesn’t have a decolonisation angle. People don’t ask, “Where’s the extraction happening that enables us to have uranium?” </p> <p>Still, we’ve seen a struggle around really rare Grade 1 arable land on the outskirts of the city. The &nbsp;council tore it up to put in an extra road for a bus service that isn’t actually going to have any environmentally positive impact on the city. There was an interesting eruption of liberals involved in growing projects and people occupying that space, occupying those trees and doing much more forceful resistance. And I guess that was a beautiful Bristol moment. These two communities are kind of distinct but they will work together for a struggle like this.</p> <p><i><b>JM: </b>So, are groups like Rising Tide still active because people who’ve been involved in it for a long time have managed to sustain their activism, or are they also good at attracting new younger participants?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> It’s a bit of both really. There are definitely people within Rising Tide and within Reclaim the Power who’ve been in this struggle for a really long time. It does test them and it does sometimes have an impact on them. It’s very hard to sustain activism generally, because we’re all still trying to pay our rent and pay our bills at the same time, and you know, the economic situation around us makes it even harder to invest the amount of time and energy that we would want into our actions. But I do think they have also been able to bring new people in and sustain groups. If I look at some of the political and activist groups that have existed in Bristol, they are maybe less dysfunctional than some groups I’ve seen elsewhere. They do communication well. It’s not just lots of very macho men that are involved. It’s a movement that shuts shit down but it really isn’t kind of hypermasculine. And I think, in many ways, that is a factor in its sustainability.</p> <p><i><b>JM:</b> Why do you think sustaining activism in Bristol seems to work better than in some other places?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> Bristol has got a long history and tradition of activism, longer than I’ve been in the city. I’ve been here maybe 12 years now and I knew of Bristol in the late ‘90s as a city that was on my radar because people were doing the kind of politics that I was interested in. </p> <p>So, I think it’s always drawn a disproportionate number of actively engaged people compared to a lot of cities. We have an anarchist social centre here that has been going since the mid to late ‘90s and hasn’t been under the same pressures as in some other cities. The community owns that building, so we have a constant space that we can use to do things. It takes effort to do that, but it has acted over the years as a hub and it is still a hub that attracts people. People go there for Sunday dinner and<b> </b>a community meal and then that’s the kind of space where films and talks and events can happen. </p> <p>In other cities, they’ve not necessarily had those permanent hubs that people would be drawn. Either that or they need to be constantly defended. You know, we’ve never had to pay a lease. We’ve never had to sell alcohol to each other to fund it. We now own the building outright. And so, the energy isn’t being taken away. We’ve got good infrastructure in place and we have good key people who know how that infrastructure works and who’ve also been involved nationally and internationally and have an interest not only in the doing, but in the processes behind that – you know – good facilitation skills, good consensus decision-making skills, good security skills. They’re key. I think infrastructure is really key and that’s also about knowledge, sharing that knowledge, and spaces that things can happen in.</p> <p>Moreover, the city itself is bigger, but the city that a lot of activists dwell in is tiny. Everyone is less than six degrees of separation to everyone. You think you’ve met somebody completely new and then you realise that they’re already connected to you. </p> <p>It’s easy to get around, you can cycle everywhere. So, if something’s happening over here or an event over there, we can get there. And we see each other physically on a day-to-day basis even if we don’t intend to, so there’s a lot of informal spaces where stuff happens. </p> <p>It means that you don’t always have to be at the meeting or go to the event. And I just think there’s something about the physicality of this city, its shape, its size and the fact that it’s a nice city to live in, that creates that energy. </p> <p>I really like Manchester as a city, but it’s big. I grew up in Birmingham. They’re just like heavier, harsher, industrial cities. We can take care of ourselves maybe a little bit better than we would in some places and we can maintain connection informally a lot easier. </p> <p>I feel like I’m out of the game in lots of ways, but I still know everyone and I still know what’s going on, and I still connect people up because there are spaces for that. Your socialising is political here. You just go to the pub and you bump into loads of people and inadvertently shit happens.</p> <p><i><b>JM:</b> Because of this, it seems, Bristol has come to attract a lot of activists from across the UK. Is that a good or a bad thing?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> I used to criticise everyone wanting to come to Bristol because Bristol was de-skilling other parts of the UK. We had infrastructure in place and active groups and a ‘do it’ attitude. And I was always concerned that eventually Bristol would kind of implode, you know – something just gets bigger and stronger and more powerful. Could we even sustain that as a city? And I felt that it was having an impact across the country. I wanted there instead to be these levels of energy and infrastructure and connection and networking happening nationally, so that we networked and supported each other nationally, but that people didn’t just keep showing up here. </p> <p>Now, I think there’s other factors at play that mean that Bristol isn’t doing what it was doing, say, eight years ago. If you compare what’s going on nationally, we probably are still pretty active. But I also see that when the Tories came into government and the policies of austerity really started to hit, that threw up questions that maybe we couldn’t answer. </p> <p>It required a kind of politics and an organisation that maybe we couldn’t rise to, and that left a lot of individual people really questioning, what is it that we’re doing, what is important? We’re definitely seeing around us a city that’s increasingly unaffordable for people to live in. The impact of squatting legislation has really changed this city and meant that younger people wanting to get involved in activism are struggling to do so because, as I mentioned before, we’ve all got bills and rent to pay. So it’s getting harder and harder, especially when we had such a climate of repression as well and state surveillance and infiltration – all of that. It’s a hard life to encourage people to take on.</p> <p><i><b>JM:</b> To the extent that there is still radical activism, are there specific coping mechanisms that make this possible?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> That’s often about the energy of a small group of individuals who can be consistent and who at some point in their lives decided that they’ll really hold on to prioritizing activism. And that includes not settling down into quite heteronormative lifestyles. They might be in relationships and they might even have got married, but they’re not just living in couples. There’s a lot of people still living collectively or in housing co-ops. I think not having children keeps a generation involved in politics. So, it’s about the choices some individuals have made. And environmental and animal-right activism has really long historical traditions that have helped keep that foundation in place.</p> <p>Currently there’s new growth and new roots that are definitely coming through. But we went from having all of the things in place to very little happening. Because when people are first drawn to the city, there’s this excitement and this kind of youth rebellion which is amazing. But people don’t always recognise the hard, boring work that goes on in sustaining community, networks and infrastructure. </p> <p>I used to say to people: “my activism now is like an anarchist infrastructure”. And I think there’s a lot in that, if we’re talking about this overarching theme of sustainability. I tried to set up a local kind of activist trauma support group because there was a lot of fucking trauma going on: when people are in very frontline positions, when you know that you are under surveillance, when you know that you have been infiltrated and probably are still being infiltrated, when you have been hurt by the police or when you haven’t managed your adrenaline comedown after an action that went excitingly well. I see younger folks in Bristol right now who have organised a space in a local community café for activists to come together once a week and talk about how that feels and how that’s impacting on them. So, I can see that the younger folks are really recognising that that’s something really key to the work that we’re all doing.</p> <p><i><b>JM: </b>Given some of the challenges and strengths you’ve described, how do you see the future for activism in Bristol?</i></p> <p><b>YB:</b> I have always been really aware of the role of queers, artists, and anarchists in gentrification. Like we’ll come into spaces, we’ll squat them, we’ll make stuff happen and we make them cool and then they’re marketable. Bristol very much has a brand that it trades off and that brand was developed by the countercultures that exist here, not just politically but through music, the arts and culture. It’s like massively gentrified now. Because we made the city exciting, it made people want to be here. </p> <p>Now, people in a lower socioeconomic bracket are increasingly moving out. The neighbourhood I live in, where the Kebele Social Centre is, will become increasingly hard to use as a space, because people don’t live in this neighbourhood any more. We all used to live within a few streets of each other. The new housing co-ops that were forming to try and create sustainable housing can’t afford to be in this neighbourhood: they’re moving out. </p> <p>So, if people can’t afford to be here, then we’re going to lose that energy. I’ve always wanted there to be other hubs across the country. I thought as a UK movement we would be more sustainable if we could nurture other hubs. And so, I think this city has been a good testing ground. If that energy were to move elsewhere, that wouldn’t be bad for UK politics. I’d just be kind of sad, because I like being in that hub and I like the community that I developed, but that’s just a very personal thing. Still, I think there’s something very particular to here that, if it were gone, would be a loss.</p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"><b> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner" style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;"><b>How to cite:</b></span><br />de Moor J.(2018) Why some cities are ‘rebel cities’ – interview with Yaz Brien about Bristol’s resistance scene Open Democracy / ISA RC-47: Open Movements, 17 October. https://opendemocracy.net/yaz-brien-joost-de-moore/why-some-cities-are-rebel-cities-interview-with-yaz-brien-about-bristol-s-r</div><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements"><img style="width: 460px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner.jpg" /></a> </b></div><p>;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner-small_1.jpg" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements">openMovements</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space">The future of civil society is dependent on space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jon-bloomfield/birmingham-better-city-and-stronger-economy">Birmingham: a better city and a stronger economy</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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics openmovements openMovements Joost de Moor Yaz Brien Wed, 17 Oct 2018 17:20:59 +0000 Yaz Brien and Joost de Moor 120140 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is taking our food policy in the wrong direction https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/brendan-montague/brexit-is-taking-our-food-policy-in-wrong-direction <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">One of the key roles of government is protecting us from ill effects of food that can take years to appear. But Brexit could undermine that.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cows.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cows.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Aberdeen Angus beef cattle. Rights: Scott Bauer/CC Public Domain.</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">The decision around the food that we eat is among the most intensely private that we can make. Children express extremely strong preferences from the earliest ages - and these can last a lifetime. The choice about food has a direct, causal impact on our health. There is growing awareness for example that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/05/is-sugar-worlds-most-popular-drug">refined sugar is addictive</a>, and is <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43662493">contributing to an obesity crisis</a>.</p> <p class="Default">We assume that the food that we buy is not poisonous, even if extravagances are ultimately unhealthy. We expect responsible companies to sell products that are not extremely bad for our children.</p> <p class="Default">But we have a problem. There can be a conflict of interests between the producer of foods and the customer. The producer needs to sell as much food at as low a price as possible. If the ill effects are immediate and significant then customers will notice and most will stop buying the food. But if the effects are less direct and take longer, then this is not so clear. </p> <p class="Default">We therefore want governments to ban hidden ingredients that will cause cancer, or otherwise make us sick. We want to go about our lives with an assurance that our food will not kill us. So who influences government decisions: is it us, or the corporations?</p> <p class="Default">Take the use of growth hormones in the raising of beef for slaughter. The synthesised hormone causes the animal to grow more meat, resulting in higher profits for the company concerned - and more protein going into the human diet. The European Union has considered evidence that some hormones can cause cancer and has therefore <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/meat_hormones_en">banned their use as growth promoters</a>, and also banned meat from other countries where hormones have been used for that reason.</p> <p class="Default">The UK - as a member of the European Union - is protected by the “precautionary principle”. This is an ethic that sits at the very heart of regulation. When rigorously applied, it means that no new chemical can be used until scientific research shows that there is a low level of risk. A different approach prevails in the United States, and elsewhere, where the government must show harm before a substance can be banned.</p> <p class="Default">Even at EU level, there is a shortfall of transparency and democratic processes when a government is making decisions around regulations and bans. And in most cases the secrecy and bureaucracy does not serve the general public - but instead the corporations that can afford legions of lobbyists. </p> <p class="Default">Brexit is, in part, driven by corporates attacking European regulation –</p> <p class="Default">and so these problems can only get worse. Those companies that can develop products that are extremely cheap, sell at a good price, but only have indirect or long-term health impacts will sell more, develop more profits, have more to invest in marketing. Indeed, over time the biggest companies will create complex monopolies that completely control the market - which is why only two or three companies sell almost all the drinks in a supermarket chiller cabinet.</p> <p class="Default">These companies also invest vast amounts in lobbying. They don’t just lobby politicians and bureaucrats in Brussels. They lobby us directly, through advertising, through our newspapers, through ‘two for one’ deals at the check-out. And they also hire people to lobby on their behalf.</p> <p class="Default">There are politicians who appear also to be lobbying us on behalf of industry - and foreign industry at that. Boris Johnson has led the charge against Theresa May and her Chequers plan, ensuring the debate remains between a hard and an extreme Brexit. Boris wants a <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45673214">Canada+</a> trade deal with the United States, an audacious attempt to undermine European regulation all at once, rather than piecemeal.</p> <p class="BodyA">Johnson <a href="http://nam-dev-cdn.awspreprod.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/09/27/boris-johnson-plan-better-brexit/">has attacked the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposal</a> on the basis that “we [would] abandon control of our regulatory framework for goods and agri-foods - especially important in trade negotiations.” As I’ll explore further in my next piece, Johnson seems heavily influenced by Shanker Singham of the Plan A+ paper, which he describes as “excellent”. <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/PLAN-A-final-document.pdf">Shanker Singham</a>, director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs, argues in that report that the EU is widely seen as <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/PLAN-A-final-document.pdf">“protectionist” and “in violation of WTO rules”</a> for its stance on hormone-treated beef. Singham suggests the UK must not “remained tied to the EU regulatory system” but instead “meet CPTPP [the trading block of which Australia is a member] approaches to good regulatory practice”.</p> <p class="Default">This is manna from heaven for the meat and livestock industry in the United States and also in Australia – both countries where the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-trade-meat-banned-eu-australia-beef-liam-fox-dit-friends-of-the-earth-a8475006.html">use of hormones to promote livestock growth and increase yield is profligate</a>. </p> <p class="Default">This summer Private Eye reported that <a href="https://iea.org.uk/trustees/">one of the IEA’s trustee</a>s, Michael Hintze, is “one of Australia’s biggest landholders and a major investor in Australian farming, including beef cattle”. </p> <p class="Default">The tobacco industry has for years been attacking the European Union for introducing the precautionary principle. It introduced instead the business case, where even the deaths of its own customers must be balanced against the profits of the company - and the jobs it can provide to the host country. Tobacco has moved on - selling cigarettes to children in the poorest countries in the world. But American agriculturalists want to sell their hormone beef.</p> <p class="Default">This is one side of Brexit. The deliberate attempt by multinational companies from outside the European Union to break the protective regulation of the mega-state. This is what it means to take back control. We are now free. Free not to eat hormone treated beef. The aim is to break the EU regulatory framework, and flood Britain - and then continental Europe - with imported hormone beef.</p> <p class="Default">But there is another side to Brexit. We, as a nation, could chose a government that does not allow corporations to sell us toxic chemicals disguised as food. A government that provides better regulatory protection for our families than the European Union.</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="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/guy-shrubsole/meet-think-tank-shaping-future-of-britains-food-and-countryside">Meet the think tank shaping the future of Britain&#039;s food and countryside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/tomas-remiarz/brexit-food-and-land-ownership-its-time-for-new-direction">Brexit, food and land ownership - it&#039;s time for a new direction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/politics-of-food-what-to-look-out-for-in-2018">The politics of food: What to look out for in 2018</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government food regulation Brexit Brendan Montague Tue, 16 Oct 2018 15:23:05 +0000 Brendan Montague 120126 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And they don’t like it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><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 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Five Met police officers restraining and pepper spraying a black man in London this month. Image, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Back in July, I rang the Met. Britain’s elections watchdog had just <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">referred another major Leave campaign</a> to the cops, for suspected crimes committed during the knife-edge Brexit campaign. This was the second referral in three months (the first related to Arron Banks's controversial pro-Brexit outfit, Leave.EU). I assumed the Metropolitan Police had done nothing about either case. After all, if Britain’s police forces took the crimes of rich white people seriously, London wouldn’t be the <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/economics-and-finance/london-the-money-laundering-capital-of-the-world">world centre for money laundering</a>. But it’s always important to check your assumptions.</p><p dir="ltr">When the police finally got back to me, they confirmed my suspicions. They hadn’t opened an investigation into any of the cases referred to them by the Electoral Commission. I mentioned this in<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken"> a broader story</a> about regulators (noting “you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process”). And then I popped a reminder in my diary for a fairly random date a few months thence, saying “check whether Met still haven’t opened investigation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published the result</a> of that diary entry. No, the Met still hadn’t opened an official investigation, citing “political sensitivities”. When I tweeted the piece, it was carried across the internet on a wave of<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/17/fbpe-what-is-pro-eu-hashtag-spreading-across-social-media"> FBPE</a> fury. Some said they were angry, but not surprised. But the reaction from most seemed to be shock. Shock that politics might interfere with policing; astonishment that London’s police force might not be policing the laws of our democracy as vigorously as they do many other rules of our society.</p><p dir="ltr">And for me, that reaction is an example of something fascinating.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Welcome to reality</h2><p dir="ltr">If you speak to any black person in London, they will tell you their stories of living in a metropolis with an institutionally racist police force. If you look at money laundering in the UK – so common that the world’s leading mafia expert has called it “<a href="https://www.euronews.com/2017/04/03/the-uk-is-the-most-corrupt-country-in-the-world-anti-mafia-journalists-saviano">the most corrupt country on earth</a>” – or if you consider the failure to arrest any major player in the financial crisis of 2008, then it should be obvious how the British police internalise, reproduce and reinforce the larger power structures in the country.</p><p dir="ltr">Read, for example, the detailed coverage of the death of Rashan Charles as reported by my colleagues<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-explainer"> Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and Clare Sambrook</a>. It should come as no surprise that the institution at whose hands this young man died has been somewhat lax in investigating powerful, well-funded, predominantly white and right-wing groups led by people like Arron Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Why would we imagine that a law enforcement system which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/01/young-black-people-jailed-moj-report-david-lammy">nine times more likely</a> to jail young black men than young white men would want to pour resources into investigating the leaders of campaigns that smeared the internet with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/martin-shaw/truly-project-hate-third-scandal-of-official-vote-leave-campaign-headed-by-">racist messages</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the thing. Many people in the country haven’t had the misfortune of examining our national institutions up close in recent years. If you’re urban, white and doing all right, the Met aren’t hassling your son for being black and in possession of a pair of shoes. What’s more, you aren’t brutalised every week by the reality of universal credit. And – normally – neither you nor your near relatives spent your late teens in the deserts of Iraq realising you’d been sent off to kill and die for a lie.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Safeties off</h2><p dir="ltr">For much of this urban middle-class demographic, Brexit has revealed what many – including many who voted for it – already knew. The institutions of the British state are broken. As our investigations (along with those of many others) have shown, the Electoral Commission is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">practically powerless</a>, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Charity Commission</a> is is hugely under-resourced, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">Information Commission</a> can’t keep up and our parliamentary watchdog is in need of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">serious veterinary attention</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">More and more, Remain voters are <a href="https://twitter.com/Andrew_Adonis/status/1036196466279309312">chastising the BBC</a>, until recently the sacred temple of the British bourgeoisie. More and more are starting to understand that the civil service has been hollowed out by years of outsourcing, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/milburn-nhs-and-britains-revolving-door">revolving doors</a> and austerity, and is struggling to deliver something <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/22/civil-service-unable-to-cope-with-brexit-bob-kerslake">as vast as Brexit</a>. Tens of thousands of people in Britain have thought about Northern Ireland for the first time since Good Friday 1998, and realised why it matters.</p><p dir="ltr">For many of my friends on the left, watching this process can be frustrating. Passionate Remainers describing the crimes of the Brexit campaign as “the biggest scandal in British history” should probably be taught about the Tasmanian genocide or the plunder of India or the castration and rape of the Mau Mau. Regular claims that Brexit is the biggest crisis we face should be met with calm explanations of the implications of climate science and soil erosion and the Yemen famine. But these people should also be treated gently.</p><p dir="ltr">Ever since Cromwell, the success of the British ruling class has been that it has managed to placate and buy off much of the bourgeoisie with the plunder of empire. With violence externally, they were able to produce calm internally. For the last few decades, they have swapped this loot for lending as they allowed middle class lifestyles to continue on credit. But in the decade after the financial crisis, this relationship has started to strain. And it increasingly looks like Brexit is encouraging large chunks of middle class Anglo-Britain to look once more at the whole arrangement and realise that their country isn’t as rosy as they thought.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rod-charles/death-rashan-charles-CCTV">What is the truth about the death of Rashan Charles?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken">The laws protecting Britain&#039;s democracy from big money are broken</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Equality Brexit police DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:17:40 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120122 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our democracy isn’t working – it’s time to fight for it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jon-trickett/our-democracy-isn-t-working-it-s-time-to-fight-for-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Corporate power has captured the centralised state – but Labour’s commitment to a Constitutional Convention offers root and branch reform, writes Jon Trickett.</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/549093/British_Houses_of_Parliament_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/British_Houses_of_Parliament_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: British Houses of Parliament. Credit: Maurice/Wikimedia CC 2.0</span></span></span></p><p>Throughout the 2017 General Election, Labour’s slogan ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ took on a life of its own. In the space of just a few weeks we announced a series of policies that if enacted would initiate a dramatic shift in wealth and power from corporate elites to working people, and breathe new life into the public sphere. </p> <p>The policies signalled Labour’s willingness to break with the austerity consensus that has dominated Westminster for almost a decade, and it opened up the possibility of the creation of a new paradigm as dramatic as that of 1945 or 1979. The prospect of real change is now once more in the air. </p> <p>While much of the focus was then and is now on Labour’s economic policy, our programme goes beyond this. We are committed to a root and branch transformation of the archaic political structures and cultures of this country. </p> <p>Labour will deliver a constitutional convention. This will bring together individuals and organisations from across civil society and it will act as the driving force behind our democratic agenda. We will renew democracy from top to bottom, from London to the regions, and across the home nations. </p> <p>This is an urgent task. </p> <p>Trust in politics has broken down, and without political reform our ambitions to transform the economy and society will face potentially insurmountable obstacles. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">We must confront an over-centralised state</p> <p>We must confront an over-centralised state, weighed down by tradition and captured by lobbyists, consultancy firms and other representatives of big business. For decades these interests have steered policy in a direction that has contributed to the state of inequality we now find ourselves in. </p> <p>Because what we now have as democracy is clearly not working.</p> <p>The best way to illustrate this is through the financial crash and the massive transfer of wealth and power that followed. </p> <p>Although the fault of an out-of-control banking sector, the financial crisis was blamed on government and the public sector. The banks were bailed out for over £1 trillion. This provided cover for austerity, as the Coalition and then the Conservatives attacked the social wage in the name of achieving financial stability. We were sold austerity as a national sacrifice shared by all. We were ‘are all in it together’.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">“From 2009-18 the richest 1000 increased their wealth by £466 billion, while 33 million lost a similar amount”.</p> <p>Yet between 2009 and 2018, the richest 1000 increased their wealth by £466 billion, while in the same period the 33 million working people of this country lost a similar amount in income. According to the National Audit Office, the cost of the bailout has almost been recouped, through the withdrawal of guarantees and the sale of government shares in banks.&nbsp; </p> <p>Austerity had little to do with this, yet the damage it has caused runs deep. </p> <p>This has been a giant con-trick. A small political elite, detached from the majority of people, has accelerated a massive transfer of wealth and power from the bottom to the top, which has been underway over the last forty years. </p> <p>They have been assisted in this by corporate power, which through a medley of institutions and pressure points - donations, think-tanks, lobbying and supposedly impartial accountancy firms - has captured almost every level of policy making, ensuring its voice is heard above all others and opposition is drowned out.</p> <p>They have been assisted in this by an oligarchic media that has strangled informed public debate and pedalled without criticism the belief that ‘there is no alternative’. </p> <p>In short, our forums of discussion and decision-making - the foundations of our democracy<em> -</em> are simply not fit for purpose. This is true of democracies across Europe and also in the United States. This has led to outbreaks of political dissatisfaction, as the traditional left parties of government have collapsed as a result of their acceptance of the status quo. Meanwhile, insurgent parties and candidates have prospered by attacking it, even if they do not offer a fundamental break. There is no better example of this than Trump. </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">A change of guard simply will not be enough</span></p> <p>Labour has shown that a political party offering a real break with politics as usual and with austerity can win support. But a change of guard simply will not be enough. After all, many people voted for the parties of austerity, and politics in this country will continue to violently fluctuate unless the underlying structures and cultures are transformed. </p> <p>Because these structures breed disengagement, anger and sometimes ignorance – all of which combine to produce among people a deep sense of powerlessness, which finds expression in a variety of ways, often counterproductive. We see it everywhere.</p> <h2><strong>Which level of government currently best represents our interests? None of them</strong></h2> <p>A recent poll of 2000 UK adults by Deltapoll found that 40% of people had no trust at all in the House of Commons; that the most popular answer, when asked which level of government acts most in Britons’ interest, is “none of them”; and when mapped against postcodes, 0% of respondents were able to correctly identify all of the layers of government that applied to them.</p> <p>The Labour Party’s ambition must be to confront this head on and transform politics root and branch. We can no longer continue with top-down government and a marginalised civil society. </p> <p>Our aim is to create a system and culture where people see themselves as engaged and informed citizens, not just as voters every half-decade. Such a citizenry would surely not acquiesce to the massive transfer of wealth and power we have seen in these last four decades, especially since 2008. </p> <p>This is Labour’s ambition, and our Constitutional Convention will look to set in motion this goal, even if its realisation will take time. And it will be the conversations had here and across the country that determine the shape it takes and the outcomes it produces. It is not my place to dictate from on high what these will look like. After all, the zeitgeist is cellular rather than hierarchical. The leadership of the Labour Party has to learn from and be guided by the public. Politicians cannot be relied on to fix a mess partly of their own making. </p> <p>What I will say, though, is that if you agree with me, and with the Labour Party’s desire to transform politics in this country, then you must fight for it. Fight for it because the powers that have benefited from our rigged democracy will resist tooth and nail to any changes that will undermine their power. Fight for it because reforming our economy has to come hand in hand with democratising our politics. </p> <p>Let’s make the case for this in our movement and in our communities. ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ spoke to many people’s dissatisfaction with the way politics has been done in this country, let’s show them that change is not only necessary, but is possible. </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/paul-feldman/towards-citizens-constitutional-convention">Towards a citizens&#039; constitutional convention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jon-cruddas-response-to-michael-sandel">Progressive politics must rediscover its moral purpose: a response to Michael Sandel</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/open-labour-only-way-for-corbyn-to-replace-blatcherism">Open Labour: the only way for Corbyn to replace Blatcherism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jon-trickett/england-is-restless-change-is-coming">England is restless, change is coming</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Labour Party Jon Trickett Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:46:04 +0000 Jon Trickett 120119 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Race, porn, and education: will the UK’s 2020 sex education update rise to the challenge? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jonathan-shamir/race-porn-and-education-will-uk-s-2020-sex-education-update-rise-to-challenge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">The state must abandon all prudery in the interest of rectifying the time-lag leaving a whole generation of young people open to the unfettered excesses of the porn industry.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 20.12.07.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 20.12.07.png" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>SceenShot: Pornhub – The World's Most Viewed Categories.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">In July, the Ministry for Education announced that sex education would become mandatory for all children by September 2020. Beyond the minimum mandatory requirements within the science curriculum, it is currently only compulsory for state schools to offer 'sex and relationship'. Yet this stipulation only comprises approximately a third of schools in England, as it excludes both academies and free schools. </p> <p class="Body">The curriculum is also grossly inadequate. Current guidelines haven’t changed since 2000, with LGBTQ+ experiences, consent, and internet pornography swept under the carpet. This discrepancy signifies a time lag of almost twenty-five years from the widespread availability of online pornography, and its iron-grip monopoly on sex education for the internet generation. </p> <p class="Body">As the government seeks <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/relationships-and-sex-education-and-health-education">consultancy</a> before updating the curriculum in 2020, there is a whole generation of young people who have grown up uncritically watching pornography at their most impressionable stage in their mental development. A Middlesex University study from 2016 found that 94% of all children had watched pornography by the age of fourteen. Other studies and reports have suggested that some start watching pornography as early as the age of six. This would not be a problem were it not already a well-established fact that the porn industry has for too long has been driven by the worst aspects of the market and the internet.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Race and romance</strong></h2> <p class="Body">One issue in this field that has been woefully neglected is the role of race in pornography. This article does not need to be prefaced by reiterating the systems of racism that exist on every level of our society; they are obvious. Race and romance have already been the subject of much analysis elsewhere in our culture – for instance, the<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/28/racism-and-online-dating"> </a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/28/racism-and-online-dating">well-documented phenomenon</a> of how racial biases play out on dating apps, or the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2018/jun/26/single-black-female-love-island-the-problem-with-race-and-dating">persistent dismissal</a> of Love Island’s first black female contestant. Yet the equivalent phenomenon in pornography is often traced back to a generalised (and hence vague) problem with society – it is mistaken for an effect, when in fact, for a whole generation, it is has shaped the way that race interacts with romance.</p> <p class="Body">Besides academic material, there has been an embarrassing paucity of journalistic or mainstream discussion about the role of pornography in shaping the way in which racism interacts with romantic and sexual feelings and attitudes. Yet pornography almost monopolises sex education in the absence of comprehensive, open and relevant sex education. While this could be linked to a social reticence to discuss pornography, it is high time that this omission is rectified. The stakes are simply too high.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Desire is racialised, but is that racist?</strong></h2> <p class="Body">There is evidence to suggest that sexual desire is often racialized. A familiarity principle may prevail, which suggests we are attracted to those with whom we are familiar. However, does that in itself make desire inherently <em>racist</em>? <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Body">In countries which have an almost monoracial/monoethnic population, pornography consumption tends to mirror the race/ethnicity of the given population. The 43rd most-visited website in the world, <em>xvideos</em>, has a useful feature where one can organize the most popular pornography by country of consumption. It is unsurprising to find that African countries predominantly watch porn which depicts black actors, and that this, in a self-perpetuating cycle, reinforces their types or tastes for their sexual partners. Likewise, in Japan, the most racially homogenous country in the world alongside Korea, the top 12 search terms reflected this homogeneity, with the top 5 searches explicitly looking for "Japanese" with an appended noun, and the rest, with the exception of ‘3D’ and ‘VR’ (virtual reality), loudly proclaiming such a preference. (PornHub Data, 2017).</p><p class="Body">Of course, most countries have a sizeable ethnic minority population, a situation often accompanied by a racial power dynamic. In such countries, minorities have experienced exclusion from this hegemony of attraction – they often do not fit the narrow beauty standard of their societies – leading to immense frustration and misery. M.D. Plummer’s 2008 research on gay sexual racism demonstrates that minorities subjected to such sexual discrimination experience lower self-esteem, and can even internalise the same racial prejudice to a considerable extent.</p><p> Emma Dabiri’s more up-to-date 2017 Channel 4 Documentary, <em>Is Love Racist?</em>, conducted an experiment which revealed that more than a third of white people interviewed said they would never date a black person. With white people comprising 88% of the population, this means black people are automatically excluded from romantic consideration by almost ⅓ of the UK population. Per contra, just 10% of black respondents said that they would never date a white person. The romantic aversion to the black population apparently increased when it came to black women, and was quantified by a 2014 <em>okcupid</em> <a href="https://theblog.okcupid.com/race-and-attraction-2009-2014-107dcbb4f060?gi=777ed7fae221">study</a>, in which all groups of respondents registered negative rating for black women.</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/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 16.47.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 16.47.42.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: 2014 okcupid ratings by race.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">While it is difficult to place blame for individual sexual preferences, people cannot be exonerated from complicity. Indeed, these figures urge us to reflect on why such attitudes exist, and how they serve the perpetuation of racism. To say that such endogamous sexual behaviours are ‘natural’ is morally and analytically inadequate at best. These sexual preferences exist as a product of a social ecosystem which has an ingrained bias against some minorities who are excluded from arenas of power and — perhaps more importantly when it comes to attraction — visibility. </p> <p class="Body">At the same time, our most private feelings cannot be disentangled from the broader socio-political implications of visibility – whether we see ethnic minorities as MPs, news anchors, or other role models, for example. A refusal out of hand to unpack the politics of preference can only ensure that these inclinations move into the realm of racism.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Pornhub</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Pornhub – the most popular pornographic website and the 31st most visited website in the world as of May 2018, according to <a href="https://www.alexa.com/">Alexa</a> - should be considered one of the key arenas of<em> </em>sex education for young people. The website boasts over 80 million visitors per day. This raises the question, what sort of messages about race does <em>Pornhub </em>disseminate and reinforce?</p> <p class="Body">All of the top 28 videos in the interracial category on <em>Pornhub</em>, which between them have accumulated more than 271.4 million views, have some sort of highly racialized, if not overtly racist reference in the title alone. </p> <p class="Body">Women are "blacked" by the "BBC" (big black cock) in videos that hypersexualise and hypermasculinise black men. Unsurprisingly, this perspective often overlaps with stereotypes of violence – <em>Riley Reid gets Massacred by Mandingo</em>, <em>Brutal Cock</em>, <em>Monsters of Cock</em>, and <em>Creampied by Criminal After Blowjob</em> are just some of the names of the most popular interracial videos on the most popular porn website in the world. </p> <p class="Body">It is also interesting, though not unsurprising given the fetishisation of black men and the disproportionate absence of romantic interest in black women from heterosexual men, that all the videos on the first page of the most viewed interracial videos involve black men and white women, not vice versa.</p> <p class="Body">When I interviewed veteran pornography journalist Lynsey G, the writer of <em>Watching Porn: And Other Confessions of an Adult Entertainment Journalist</em>, she linked these depictions of race to a broader problem of structural inequality in the industry: "The mainstream American porn industry has a lot of issues around pay gaps, which leads to a lot of issues... performers of colour don’t get paid as much and there are not as many roles for people of colour in the flooded market, which means someone will always take the role for less money, which sets an expectation [for the producers] who tend to be rich, older white guys." </p> <p class="Body">However, she claimed that a lot of the racialised nomenclature does not necessarily come from the producers, but it is superimposed by tube sites who pirate the content and employ the "loudest voices" to stand out in a saturated market. To find out what sells, the marketers look to past trends, adopted from a society steeped even deeper in racism. The same language and tropes are recycled over and over again. She continued: "By the time it has made it onto the free websites, it has morphed into something really racist." </p> <p class="Body">However, many of these videos are clearly driven by something which can’t be explained by marketing. The porn industry is responding to consumption habits, with the viewer signalling what they want to see. There is a two-way causation: pornography feeding off racism and reproducing and exacerbating it too. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is a two-way causation: pornography feeds off racism and is reproducing and exacerbating it too.</span></p> <p class="Body">Amidst the comments beneath the video, one can occasionally sense the discomfort of racist consumption habits. The most liked comment on a video which just happens to show a black guy choking a white woman to death, which gathered 873 likes in total, sought to clarify that it ‘JUST HAPPENS TO BE A BLACK GUY’. </p> <p class="Body">Moreover, take a search of the word ‘criminal’ on <em>Pornhub</em><span>.</span> Given that the vast majority of these videos are produced in the US, where 12.1% of the population is black (14% if you count mixed-race people), black men disproportionately feature in the results, comprising 55% of the first page of recent ‘criminal’ videos’, and 55% of the first page of the most viewed of all time. </p> <p class="Body">Lynsey G points to countervailing discourses in the industry, nevertheless. She singles out <em>blacked</em>, which makes beautifully-styled interracial pornography and "treats performers of colour with more respect." Nevertheless, she concedes that there are still problems, as the content still “perpetuates the taboo of having sex with people of colour and when these end up on tube sites, it will end with the same derogatory racial epithets.” </p> <p class="Body">This is not all. The site also seems to sustain the practice in the industry whereby white women hold out for their first interracial scene to drive up the premium by advertising white girls’ "first time." This custom also partially explains the common refusal of white women when asked to perform with black actors, a phenomenon documented by the prominent black actor Mickey Mod. It is hard to imagine that such biases will go away, regardless of whether the prestigious AVN Awards (Adult Video News Awards) have a coveted interracial award.</p> <p class="Body">The hypersexualisation of black men cannot be decontextualized from a wider racist trope of the violent and uncontrollable black man. In popular titles such as ‘Mandingo Unchained’ and ‘Mandingo Massacre’, the racist genealogy between the historical image of the unruly slave and their "big black dicks" today is barely concealed. In the relatively new (and imperfect) paradigm of racism as ‘power plus prejudice’, racial fetishism can be understood as part of a web of depictions which establish an additional remove, desensitizing viewers to the discursive and semiotic environment in which a police officer can preemptively pull the trigger on a Trayvon Martin. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Body">This link is adroitly captured in the narrative arc of Jordan Peele’s multi-award winning satire <em>Get Out</em>. In the film, an ostensibly well-meaning white man turns to the young black and soon-to-be wincing protagonist Chris and tells him that ‘fairer skin has been in favour for the past couple of hundred years, but now the pendulum has swung back. Black is in fashion’. One of the women at the party soon asks Chris’s girlfriend: ‘Is it true? Is it better?’ Unbeknownst to the protagonist, and to the audience, this innocuous garden party is the scene of a modern day slave auction, where Chris’s black body is being sold to the highest bidder. </p><p class="Body">Yet while films like <em>Get Out</em> garner critical praise, Lynsey G tells me, porn does not attract the same level of scrutiny: "people need to talk about it as a form of media and view it critically."</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Crude taxonomies</strong></h2> <p class="Body">In western mainstream pornography, whiteness is established as the norm, reinforced by crude taxonomies which have no precedent elsewhere in our racist world. Attraction to any minority women – black, Asian, Latina, Arab – is construed as a deviation from the norm, whether this entails fetishisation or complete uninterest. Black women are frequently exoticised and commodified as ‘ebony’. </p> <p class="Body">The Asian category, which only admits East and South East Asian women, is filled with its own stereotypes and expectations of Asian sexuality. From the first page of results for the most viewed ‘Asian’ videos, garnering a total of 317.8 million views, 56%<strong> </strong>make explicit reference to the Asianness of the female performer, while the women are persistently depicted as innocent and submissive, doing "anything" for their partner accented. </p><p class="Body">Mireille Miller-Young, author of <em>A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography</em>, has pointed out that as well as its more reactionary features, "pornography has a long history of employing satire and parody to critique the powerful." This certainly applies to ‘Cheating Asian wife has a wet dream about her big-dick butler’, the fourth most popular video in the category, with over 13 million views. In this video, an Asian wife who seems incapable of speech is patronised by her old white husband, who calls her ‘my little sushi roll’ or ‘my little panda bear’, and offers to get her some ‘ricey yum yum’ before he leaves the room. Once gone she loses no time in summoning the butler, telling him she’s from New York, and explaining her past silence as a requirement for her husband’s racialised fantasy ( he ‘prefers foreign women anyway’). Her husband of course ends up cuckolded, while a particular vision of Asian female sexuality is affirmed. </p><p class="Body">Meanwhile,16% of the videos emphasise that it was the female’s ‘first’ experience of something – hardcore, anal, or just first time having sex altogether – while a further 13% portray Asian actresses in a massage setting. Many of the remaining videos played on an explicit power dynamic (which is disproportionately present in Asian pornography) such as owing debt. Docility, however, is not confined to depictions of Asian female sexuality. 40% of the most viewed videos for the search term ‘maid’ involve Latina women, who are usually presented with the same desperation to please their male counterparts. Such racialised stereotypes purportedly reflect their socioeconomic position in American society, but also serve to reinforce their discursive marginalisation, defining their sexuality in the process. <span class="mag-quote-center">As Lynsey G also notes: "every difference is a market."</span></p> <p class="Body">As Lynsey G also notes: "every difference is a market." Some might say that such categorisation is simply an effective way to navigate the vast content of the online pornography world. But categorization is also integral to the power play involved. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Challenging the narrative?</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Shine Louise Houston is an award-winning porn director from San Francisco, and one of many producers trying to challenge the narratives of mainstream pornography. In our interview, she mentioned that stereotypes — for example, that ‘Asian men are submissive’ — are also commonplace in gay porn, but that things are changing; she asserts with pride that "film-makers have a responsibility to subvert certain narratives." Her production company, Pink and White Productions, tries to live up to this maxim, specialising in queer, female and non-binary sexuality. Its website eschews racial categories altogether. “I’m not going to police or criticise people’s sexual attraction. There’s nothing wrong with exploring interracial sex, but these things are always about context,” she tells me. “Black bodies can be desired in a way that’s harmful and damaging. You’ve got to sometimes ask: ‘What stories about black women’s sexuality are these people chasing?’ The problem is when people can’t separate reality and fantasy, and people take out these perceptions into the real world.” </p> <p class="Body">On straight interracial pornography, Shine laughs at the consumer obsession with interracial porn’s depiction of black sexuality, somewhere between "fear and desire." She has little reticence about voicing her own Freudian theory on the matter: “Maybe it plays on an inferiority complex. There is something psychologically unique happening in that category [...] something about repressed homosexual desire.” </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 17.12.46.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 17.12.46.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Shine Louise Houston, writer, director of the CrashPad Series. </span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">Shine is part of a wider movement which seeks to recalibrate the gaze of pornography from the infamous and myopic male gaze that has dominated pornography since its inception. She is not the only one who is discarding racial classification. Websites such as <em>A Four Chambered Heart</em>, and <em>Foxhouse Films</em>, have also been revising the process of labelling, categorising pornography by performers rather than along racial lines. &nbsp;</p><p class="Body">The success of feminist film-makers such as Erika Lust is so profound that it did not simply trickle into mainstream consumption. It flooded it. Google Trends noted a threefold increase in the last five years. But Shine is fighting more than the patriarchal hold on pornography – she is trying to narrate the sexual experiences of “anybody excluded from the hierarchy of beauty”, marginalised people who have had their experiences glossed over by a “white, cis, missionary” establishment. </p> <p class="Body">Her current project, The Crash Pad Series, is a sort of porn reality show where the participants arrive at a secret San Francisco apartment to engage in their sexual fantasies. The website hosts over 250 20-minute long episodes, boasting loudly about its inclusivity: “queer women (cis and trans), as well as trans men, cisgender men, genderqueer and other gender-variant people; performers who are femme, butch, or other gender expressions’ people of colour; people of differing abilities; people who are fat, thin, athletic; and/or otherwise; people aged 18 to over 50; people with and without tattoos or piercings; and more”. It ends with a final note: “If you don’t see yourself represented...we encourage you to apply!” </p> <p>I heard whispers about the initiative a year before I conducted my interview with Shine in Rock Hard, a sex shop in San Francisco’s iconic Castro Street, metres away from a commemoration shop for the assassinated gay mayor of San Francisco, Harvey Milk, and towered over by the LGBTQ+ flag at the centre of the district. It is easy to see how Shine’s pornography thrives in such a landscape – her loyal fanbase supports her work through both paid subscriptions and IndieGoGo donations, raising tens of thousands of dollars. </p><p class="Body">However, unlike feminist pornography, her target demographic — and therefore the capacity for expansion — is limited by her niche. Although Shine has received recognition from mainstream pornography, even winning an XBiz Award, she chooses to focus on the impact on her fanbase, rather than her impact on tube empires like MindGeek (who own Pornhub and dominate the industry): “They are not porn industry’s friend and there is no way in hell I would work with them. 90% of their content is stolen [...] they hollow out companies until they can take them over.” </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Erika_lust.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Erika_lust.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'>Erika Lust, screenplay writer, director, producer, 2012. Wikicommons/Fabrizia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>The funding</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Companies like Pornhub, reliant on data mining and money made from advertisements to thrive, often find themselves in legal trouble over rights. This monetary structure means the website is prone to the same attention-seeking contests as the ones that encourage extreme and provocative content; after all, clicks equal profit. </p> <p class="Body">This structure contributes to radicalising our pornographic landscape. Despite the work of people like Shine, there is a pervasive expectation for porn to be free, and it is these free websites which are shaping the worldviews of the generation coming-of-age today. </p> <p class="Body">As Lynsey G told me, “People like to overlook the fact that porn is not just about sex but social dynamics.” While the porn industry is increasingly diverse, this hasn’t necessarily seeped through to the mainstream free pornography which most young people tend to watch. Perhaps porn is asking for the same solution as Jaron Lanier suggests with regards to social media: reduce the dependency on advertising and data harvesting by introducing subscription fees. Pornography, after all, is a good which requires graft to produce and this should warrant payment, just like any other product. Shine thinks that a payment model could rectify some of these problems, but adds that reforming sex education is also a fundamental prerequisite for progress. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Sex education reform</strong></h2> <p class="Body">It is only the failings of sex education in the UK and elsewhere that have allowed pornography to play such a disproportionate role in shaping young people’s ideas about sex. Lynsey G. argues that “nobody is born racist. The entertainment that they [young people] are consuming is built on a legacy of the 70s and 80s," but ultimately “porn is a product that is designed to make money. It’s explicitly not designed for children and it is not the porn industry’s job to teach people about sex.” </p> <p class="Body">So, what is the solution? “If somebody encouraged the porn empires to have a smidgen of a conscience,” Lynsey argues, ‘things could improve." She is optimistic about one development in particular that could move things forward. This is the decentralisation of the industry that is empowering the performer by allowing them to perform, produce and market their own content. The cam industry, for instance, gives more power to the workers to control their own depiction. But for as long as the current stranglehold by tube sites on the industry remains, both Lynsey and Shine talk about the necessary role of sex education in creating an “informed consumer” who can understand porn in its social context and the ramifications of their consumption habits. Simply put, we should start with the consumers rather than the producers. </p> <p class="Body">I asked Shine about how race could best be incorporated into the forthcoming syllabus updates, she told me she didn’t believe it should be laboured, but that educators should use “examples to naturalise them [interracial relationships] ... so students can feel like ‘that person is me'." When I asked Lynsey about sex education, she was reticent about including race explicitly in any syllabus, especially because of the limited time allocated to sex education. Race should rather be included into the conversation, and in a more “open way with kids." Her solution emphasised consent – if you tackle the problems surrounding this, everything else will follow: “Pornographers normally talk about what they are comfortable doing beforehand. The problem is that this is not seen by the consumer. The scene is completely decontextualized.” </p><p class="Body">However, with few, if any, educational spaces open to discussing issues related to race in our society, will this arena and its forthcoming updates offer anything like a real opportunity to consider such thorny issues? Or should we be looking to create separate spaces for these discussions? </p> <p class="Body">Bianca Laureano, the co-founder of The Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WoCSHN) and a frontline educator in the US, had some other ideas. Like Shine, she agrees that race should be dealt with frankly, but she thinks that this sometimes means taking an indirect approach: &nbsp;“I approach talking about different identities indirectly. The way we are encouraged to talk about race as a topic implies separation from other forms of identity such as gender and class.” </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 16.36.33.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 16.36.33.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of Bianca Laureano interview on the LatiNegrxsSex Survey,24Magazine, 2013.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">One of her activities in the classroom gets the children to write letters to "ancestors of the future", which forces them to conceptualise their own identity, who they are and who they want to be, to teach them “they are worthy and should be valued." </p> <p class="Body">Her intersectional approach is rooted in the philosophy of WoCSHN, a collective of “women of various ethnic &amp; cultural identities” who aim to “create opportunities for inclusion and retention of people of color – with a focus on women and gender expansive people of color in the fields of sexuality, sexual science, and sexology, that challenges the white supremacy these fields were built upon." </p> <p class="Body">They design and sell sex education curricula to individual educators, as well as some local planned parenthood organizations and parents. These curricula can be used to supplement federally-approved curricula with additional materials and activities. </p> <p class="Body">Although sex education laws differ between states, there are 8 approved comprehensive sex education&nbsp;curricula across the country. Bianca described these to me as “outdated”, and indeed, many erase the experiences of LGBTQ+ communities entirely. Some curricula, such as Wise Guys and Making Proud Choices, use “positive, affirmative language”, but even here she saw a need to supplement these curricula, which is where her organisation came in. </p> <p class="Body">The real problem in the US is that this contrasts with around 20 abstinence-only sex education (A.O.U.M) curricula, pushed by “organisations that promote abstinence” that receive federal funding. Often, American sex education therefore does not revolve around the small print of a progressive syllabus – it is embroiled in a broader battle to provide a more fundamental and basic level of<em> </em>sex education. Bianca tells me that people who purchase WoCSHN’s lesson plans tend to respond positively: “People love it. The activities are very accessible for the facilitators and engaging for the students.”&nbsp; But she ends with a caveat: “The people who are attracted to our curriculum already know what they’re doing. They just want it to be even better."&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">In the UK, we are lucky that we do not face the same challenges, yet to the best of Bianca’s knowledge, “no curriculum yet exists that comprehensively targets what pornography is” anywhere. There are “one-off lesson plans that aren’t great." </p> <p class="Body">Bianca basically takes issue with the way that pornography is approached in the syllabus: “Pornography, like STIs or pregnancy, needs to be treated as a philosophy, not a topic.” She suggests having classes on media literacy skills, or integrating this into other courses,<strong> </strong>which would “allow us to have conversations about marginalized peoples” and “would make any curriculum more engaging." This would also permit more flexibility, which is necessary given the scale of technological change.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">When I asked her about the 2020 syllabus updates, she recommended a long-term approach: “Sex education has to be taught at every grade. It has to be built into the fabric of the school system for the safety of young people.” To her, this is the only way the school can respond to the “rapidly changing” world of internet and its interaction with sex. If there isn’t the necessary infrastructure and culture within the school, she predicts the syllabus updates will already be obsolete by 2025. She also argues that “schools need to embrace a framework which deals with human rights, sexuality, and disability. Racial justice [needs to be] embedded into the classroom more generally.” This would help students have the historical and analytical frameworks to understand how race and romance interact. </p> <p class="Body">It is clear that many researchers and educators are pushing at the boundaries of sex education to meet the challenges of sex in the twenty-first century. The British Ministry of Education would be wise to consult them. But it should also expand the remit for reforms beyond sex education lessons, because attitudes towards sex exist within a wider social context which goes ignored in schools. The state must abandon all prudery in the interest of rectifying the time-lag which has left a whole generation of young people to be moulded by the unfettered excesses of the porn industry. It is time to tackle pornography head-on — in and out of the classroom. In all of this, we cannot omit race from the conversation.</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/dan-mahle/how-i-stopped-watching-porn-for-one-year-and-why-im-not-going-back">How I stopped watching porn for one year and why I&#039;m not going back</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"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK United States Civil society Culture Equality International politics Internet Jonathan Shamir Mon, 15 Oct 2018 07:19:38 +0000 Jonathan Shamir 120088 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We have the answers to Brexit’s causes https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British voters were right to demand radical change – those in power owe them action to rebalance our unequal society.</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/565030/PA-28021010.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-28021010.jpg" alt="An anti-EU Leave campaign sticker affixed to a car in Canvey Island, Essex. The seaside town had one of the highest leave votes " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An anti-EU Leave campaign sticker affixed to a car in Castle Point, Essex. The seaside town had one of the highest leave votes in the country. Image: Teresa Dapp/DPA/PA Images</span></span></span>We should have seen the referendum result coming. For millions the status quo isn’t working. Life is unstable, unfulfilling and unfair. And given the option to send a message to Westminster – or, as Russell Brand would have it, to press a bright red button that said “F off establishment” – it’s not surprising that so many people took it.</p> <p>Too many people spend too many hours working in insecure jobs to pay rocketing rents. The cost of living&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/15/rising-fuel-prices-push-up-uk-inflation-for-first-time-in-2018" target="_blank">continues to rise</a>,&nbsp;while average earnings remain almost&nbsp;<a href="https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/press-releases/britains-12-month-pay-squeeze-ends-as-jobs-market-breaks-new-records/" target="_blank">£800 a year lower</a>&nbsp;than they were ten years ago. As a nation, we are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/21/uk-households-face-hidden-debt-of-almost-19bn-citizens-advice" target="_blank">£19 billion in debt</a>&nbsp;on our everyday bills. </p> <p>Successive governments have neglected remote parts of Britain and former industrial areas, where it’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/28/social-mobility-stark-postcode-lottery-too-many-britain-left-behind-alan-milburn-commission-report" target="_blank">harder</a>&nbsp;to get a good education, to get a good job – or even to get around, thanks to inadequate transport links. </p> <p>In the six years before the EU referendum, growth in<a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/articles/changingtrendsinmortalityaninternationalcomparison/2000to2016."> life expectancy – which had been rising for a century – saw a “notable slowdown</a>”, worse for&nbsp;women than for men.<a href="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#m_7753672460260699508__ftn5">[5]</a>This is the human cost of government policies driven by individualism, corporate profit and contempt for the public sector – implemented by politicians elected under a system where most votes don’t count.</p> <p>But not everyone has suffered in the same way. The truth is that the UK today is host to grotesque levels of inequality. As the <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662744/State_of_the_Nation_2017_-_Social_Mobility_in_Great_Britain.pdf">Social Mobility Commission’s 2017 report</a> observes: “There is a fracture line running deep through our labour and housing markets and our education system. Those on the wrong side of this divide are losing out and falling behind.” </p> <p>It’s no accident, then, that the 30 regions identified by the Commission as the worst “coldspots”’ for social mobility – from Weymouth to Carlisle – all voted Leave. Nor indeed that seven of the poorest ten regions in northern Europe are in the UK – and that all had substantial majorities voting for Brexit in the referendum.</p> <p>A poisonous cocktail of de-industrialisation, the financial crisis and an ideological assault on public services came together in the Brexit vote, and the genius of the Eurosceptic right was to blame the EU and immigration. When the Brexit campaign offered people an opportunity to “take back control”, it’s no wonder so many jumped at the chance.</p> <p>Yet those driving the government’s agenda are using Brexit to accelerate the very ideology that got us into this mess. They support policies that would make us more like the United States where, without the safety net of social security benefits, falling ill or being made redundant can quickly lead to homelessness.</p> <p>The American Dream promises a better life, if only you work even harder. It tells you poverty is a personal failure – or encourages you to point the finger of blame. When there’s no voice or a hope for the future the emergence of Donald Trump is inevitable.</p> <p>British voters were right to demand radical change – those in power owe them action to rebalance our unequal society.</p> <p>There are some core policies that would begin to make a difference. Workplaces, where some staff are valued more than others, are a good place to start. Chief executives received&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45183881" target="_blank">pay rises</a>&nbsp;of 11% last year, while everyone else was granted just 2%.</p> <p>The biggest employers will soon be forced to publish pay ratios, but ministers must go further – imposing policies to ensure the highest paid receive no more than ten times the salary of those at the bottom of the pay scale. If corporations want to spend millions on board members, they’ll have to pay cleaners six figure sums.</p> <p>As well as making it harder for firms to justify poverty wages, fairer pay ratios could create more equitable workplace cultures, where bosses value and listen to their employees.</p> <p>As a bare minimum, everyone should earn enough to cover the basics. The Living Wage Foundation puts the cost of a decent standard of living at £8.75 an hour – or £10.20 in London. Over time, a basic income scheme would guarantee a core of economic security for everyone, a land value tax would help prevent the accumulation and speculation of capital in properties in the south, and a wealth tax would start to redistribute resources more fairly.</p> <p>But we don’t only need a new social contract – we need a new constitutional settlement that will reinvigorate our democratic institutions and genuinely give power back to people. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, with swathes of England – with no parliament of its own – remote in distance and attention from London, chronically poor, isolated and disempowered. This needs to be reversed, with a serious devolution of power to city regions and counties.</p> <p>A constitutional convention would see our archaic House of Lords replaced by an elected second chamber – perhaps based in the north as a symbol of the dispersal of power – and would replace our rotten first past the post electoral system, in which the majority of votes cast simply don’t count, with a proportional system.</p> <p>People understood that in the EU referendum every vote mattered, and turnout was huge as a result. That needs to be the case every time we go to the polls.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><span>This is one essay of over twenty in a &nbsp;new publication by Compass on <a href="http://www.compassonline.org.uk/publications/the-causes-and-cures-of-brexit/">The Causes and Cures for Brexit</a>, that brings together progressive politicians, thinkers and activists to address issues of identity, democracy and economy that helped lead to Brexit</span>.</em></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="/can-europe-make-it/ashoka-mody-rachel-lurie/brexit-is-consequence-of-low-upward-mobility">Brexit is a consequence of low upward mobility</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/video-referendum-in-labours-hearlands">Video: the referendum in Labour&#039;s heartlands</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/frances-northrop/as-brexit-dominates-its-causes-are-being-forgotten">As Brexit dominates, its causes are being forgotten</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Green Party Brexit Caroline Lucas DiEM25 Mon, 15 Oct 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Caroline Lucas 120062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The news is dead – long live the news? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jim-chisholm/news-is-dead-long-live-news <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a media world where the Big Five digital players are calling the shots, Jim Chisholm sees hope emerging from a growing breed of “new newsers”.</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/549093/Economist Who Killed the Newspaper (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Economist Who Killed the Newspaper (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="526" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: The Economist front cover, 6 March 2003, Fair use.</em></p><p>It’s 60 years since Francis Williams forebodingly noted in 1957 the closure ‘of at least 225 weeklies and 21 out of 41 regional morning dailies’ (1). Since then countless others from Bill Gates to The Economist have anticipated the newspaper’s extinction (2).&nbsp;</p><p> There is nothing we newspaper folks report more enthusiastically than our own demise. &nbsp;As I’ve written before (3), the news is flourishing but just not as we knew it.</p> <h2><strong>Some harsh realities….</strong></h2> <p>In Europe the average print newspaper has about five years of viability (4). Bar some exceptions, digital revenues (and critically gross profit) are not growing as fast as print revenues are declining. The notion of paywalls paying – with some notable exceptions – is unlikely. News media have always depended on advertising, and here lies our core challenge/opportunity. The reason that news media – and other aspects of life – are under threat, is in large part because of the unfettered control and revenue extraction of the Big Five digital giants: Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. Not only are young people turning to Facebook and Twitter for their news rather than connecting with traditional news media, but the belief that they somehow adopt traditional news media as they get older is false, as this chart of cohort behaviour over time shows:</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/older reader myth.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/older reader myth.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="208" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caption: Cohort model of readership trends drawing from the past (5)</span></span></span></p><p>So what does all this mean for our crucial role as the fourth estate in society?</p> <p>The future viability of news media will depend in part on the forces of demand and supply – </p> <p>what do news consumers of different demographics want/need? And what are both legacy and emergent news providers offering?</p> <p>Oscar Wilde wrote: “The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything……except what is worth knowing….. journalism.... supplies their demands.”(6)</p> <p>Today quality journalism is torn between society’s insatiable thirst for trivia, and President Trump’s and others’ attempts to present news as fake; an issue the European Commission are now addressing (7).</p> <p>CP Scott, editor of The Guardian famously said: ‘Comment is free. Facts are sacred.’ So news media must reinforce its reputation. New approaches to news that appeal to the young and disillusioned are part of this evolution.</p> <h2><strong>The new news and what is happening</strong></h2> <p>To demonstrate how the news industry is in fact thriving, let me focus on my birthplace Edinburgh, a population of 500,000. It’s very sad that the area’s flagship newspaper, The Scotsman has seen its circulation fall over the last 40 years from 100,000 to 20,000, of which half are full price. Some of this is due to the growth of The (London) Times, which has seen circulation rise from 16,000 to 25,000 in the last five years, driven by investment in content. Established evening and local weekly papers have seen significant falls.</p> <p>As a consequence, though, there are a raft of new initiatives. Firstly, take the plethora of community newspapers.</p> <p>South of Edinburgh, the Hawick News was a dominant local newspaper until its parent company made its senior editorial staff redundant. One of them launched the Hawick Paper in competition. After two years, the Hawick Paper outsells the News by more than two to one (8). Same people. Same market. </p> <p>In a tiny district of Edinburgh, the Broughton Spurtle (9), produced and distributed by a group of up to 70 volunteers enjoys a circulation of 2,500 and a monthly online base of 12,000-15,000, (in a community of less than 10,000) based in a local florists (10). Subscriptions are ‘£15 or whatever you can afford’.</p> <p>Across the city there are 44 defined communities (11), whose community councils each produce a newsletter of varying quality, mostly online, but in many areas a printed publication, funded by local advertising. Serious digital news media</p> <p>Daily Business (12), founded by a previous business editor of The Scotsman, is now described by one of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs as ‘My first go-to read of the day’, a sentiment echoed by many. It is funded by advertising, sponsorship, paid-for-content, a range of business-to-business services, and voluntary payments. </p> <p>The Ferret (13) is an award-winning, not-for-profit consortium of experienced, independent investigative journalists. Their stories are regularly republished in the national and international press. It is funded through voluntary subscriptions, and contribution fees. </p> <p>Holyrood Magazine (14) covers the activities of the Scottish Parliament every fortnight in print and digital formats. It is funded by subscriptions, advertising and sponsored content. </p> <p>Humans of Edinburgh (15) is a Facebook site created by a young Edinburgh photographer that every day interviews someone on the streets of the city. It was the first medium to report that film producer Danny Boyle would be making a sequel to Trainspotting (16): The scoop attracted more than a million visitors and was picked up by dozens of news-media around the world. </p> <p>Then there are innumerable niche publications covering entertainment, sport, lifestyle, and tourism, and the inevitable student newspapers, which are distributed free of charge across the city, each with accompanying websites.</p> <p>Without access to detailed figures, it would be reasonable to assume that this myriad of ‘new news’ media collectively create a local media economy at least equal in size to the established media.</p> <h2><strong>Who are the new newsers? </strong></h2> <p>One observation I would make is that, with notable exceptions, most of these new news media are produced by talented, seasoned journalists, who have become either disillusioned or deemed dispensable by the corporate publishers. Here is firm evidence that the decline of the traditional press is not a fault of its ever-declining number of employees. Many of the new news success stories across the UK have been created by staff well into their 50s, and beyond.</p> <p>However, with the exception of the thriving student press, very few new products are being produced by the under 35s. In addition, very few women appear among these new news players. </p> <p>If established publishers want to survive, they must seriously focus on the needs of millennials, whose needs, interests and views are never going to be satisfied by their current offerings.</p> <h2><strong>New news - where’s the money?</strong></h2> <p>Not surprisingly, most new initiatives are led by journalists. With no disrespect to these often brilliant, pioneering writers, I observe a lack of commercial expertise and in many conversations, I would suggest there is also commercial naivety. There has always been a healthy conflict between the content creators and the money-makers, but today realism must prevail. At one time newspaper organisations employed as many commercial staff as editorial. Now the ratio is around two journalists to every one revenue generator (17). In the new news world the emphasis is strongly on content with often little regard to the realism of revenue.</p> <p>This problem is exacerbated by the fact that these are small operations fighting for funds from fewer, ever-larger, media-buying houses. </p> <p>The same is true of technical systems, where smaller publishers are at a disadvantage in terms of acquiring top-drawer scalable content management and commercial software. In the US, the mighty Berkshire Hathaway’s have outsourced the management of its small network of newspapers, with the Poynter Institute noting: “It's harder for smaller companies to keep up with technology needs and centralize operations like larger media companies have.” (18) </p> <p>However, time has shown even the biggest publishers are struggling to make headway against the dominance of the Big Five (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft). To this end I have long advocated the creation of an Association of Independent Publishers, that provides a platform for mutual support, idea exchanges, cross-market networks, but as importantly, a collective approach to commerce, technology, training, legal services, etc.</p> <h2><strong>Traditional media – striking back on advertising?</strong></h2> <p>Traditional News media have generally relied on advertising to deliver the majority of their gross profit (19). Publishers are scratching around looking for paywall models, simply because such a high proportion of advertiser spend is being lost to the Big Five.</p> <p>Once the digital value chain looked like this:</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/digital value chain.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/digital value chain.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="75" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The original digital value chain</span></span></span></p><p>In this version of the digital value chain, generally 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the advertisers’ spending is taken by the media-buying agency (plus creative costs).</p> <p>Today it’s more like this:</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Luma value maze.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Luma value maze.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The complexity of the digital media transaction process (20). Source: LUMA, www.digitaladblog.com, and others.</span></span></span></p><p>The economic impact of this on publishers is stark.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/aemii.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/aemii.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="253" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The dilutive effect of intermediaries on the digital value chain (21). Source: AEMII Future Media Lab. Chisholm submission to House of Lords’ inquiry into advertising. </span></span></span></p><p>In this version of the value chain, for every £100 that an advertiser spends, only 29 per cent ends up in the hands of publisher, with a further 10% going to the media buyers.</p> <p>However, ways exist that enable publishers and advertisers to bypass this value-chain grabat least doubling the share of ad spend that the publisher receives. It will also significantly increase an advertiser’s return on investment (ROI) because of better targeting, without wastage (22).</p> <p>Another response is the various attempts by the national press to work together in their selling activities, the latest being the joint-venture between The Guardian, Telegraph and News UK (23).</p> <h2><strong>Alternative thinking on revenue</strong></h2> <p>One notable trend is the increasing reliance on voluntary subscriptions. The Guardian is the most significant example (24). It now boasts over 800,000 ‘supporters’ globally, of whom 500,000 make recurring monthly payments, with a further 300,000 one-off donors. This may be a tiny fraction of the medium’s 150m visitors worldwide, but their impact on the publisher’s future viability has been dramatic. </p> <p>This, combined with significant, largely operational cost savings, has resulted in The Guardian halving its losses to £18.6m on a turnover up one per cent to £217m, at a time when most publishers are reporting revenue declines.</p> <p>Today in 2018 more than 50 per cent of their turnover comes from digital, up 15 per cent year on year; reader revenues from donations and print circulation now outweigh advertising sales. The group is on course to break even on an operating basis in the new financial year.’ </p> <p>So what will the news media landscape look like in, say, five years’ time? </p> <p>The only consistency is tumultuous change, affecting every element of society, for better or worse. </p> <p>After the boom years from 1950 to 1990 we must assume that economic growth rates will return to the historical norms of one per cent to 1.5 per cent (25). The erosion of fair wealth distribution means that today’s young people are the first generation to earn less than their parents. </p> <p>Meanwhile, technology itself is evolving rapidly. The digital environment is increasingly dominated by mobiles and tablets. By 2020 more than a third of all advertising – and two-thirds of all digital – will be on mobile platforms (26). Mobile networks will continue to develop, with expanded bandwidth, and availability, and also advances in micro and auto-payments; think PayPal meets Vodafone. We read more and more about artificial intelligence, robots, data journalism, virtual reality, etc – but my view is that while these may enhance content provision, they are secondary to the need to identify viable business models that can fund quality journalism.</p> <p>In 2018, as I write, governments, at least in Western Europe, have recognised the plight of the news industry (27). In the UK, the Prime Minister instigated the Cairncross Inquiry (28) into the future of the press. In France and Germany there are already government initiatives to control the influence and impact of the Big Five. In Brussels the European Commission is proving forceful in cracking down on the Big Five’s excesses. But we must not rely on any government intervention as our means of survival or adaption. </p> <h2><strong>And in the end…</strong></h2> <p>For many printed newspapers extinction awaits. The question is how many of them will survive the point of inflection from print to digital profitability. Some undoubtedly will. But others will succumb to the Big Five and their own mismanagement. </p> <p>The good news is the flourishing new news. But to succeed, these excellent publishers need to adopt the entrepreneurial skills as they demonstrate in editorial. The new news has a bright future in tomorrow’s society, but unless the Big Five are reigned in, who knows what will happen?</p> <p><em>This is an edited version of a chapter from the new book&nbsp;Anti-Social Media: The Impact on Journalism and Society, edited by John Mair,&nbsp;Tor&nbsp;Clark, Neil Fowler, Raymond Snoddy and Richard Tait, available from Abramis priced £19.95. Email&nbsp;</em><a href="mailto:Richard@Abramis.co.uk" target="_blank"><em>Richard@Abramis.co.uk</em></a><em>&nbsp;to order a copy.</em><em></em></p> <h2>Notes</h2> <ol><li>Dangerous Estate ISBN: 12502346, 1957. </li><li>The Economist: <a href="https://www.economist.com/britain/2003/03/06/fading">https://www.economist.com/britain/2003/03/06/fading</a> </li><li>Last Words?: How can journalism survive the decline of print? ISBN: 9781845496968</li><li>Jim Chisholm report: Future of printed news http://www.jimchisholm.net/ </li><li>Source: UK National Readership Survey</li><li>Oscar Wilde: The Soul of Man under Socialism". 1891. ISBN: 9780140433876</li><li>https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/draft-code-practice-online-disinformation</li><li>Local Publisher figures, confirmed with independent calls to local outlets.</li><li>Broughton Spurtle – A “Spurtle” is a Scottish word describing a spoon, aka “stirring”: <a href="http://www.broughtonspurtle.org.uk/about-us">http://www.broughtonspurtle.org.uk/about-us</a></li><li>Broughton Spurtle: Publisher’s figures</li><li>Edinburgh communities: <a href="http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory/28/community_councils?page=2">http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory/28/community_councils?page=2</a></li><li>Daily Business <a href="https://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/">https://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/</a></li><li>The Ferret: <a href="https://theferret.scot/?s=Glenrothes">https://theferret.scot/?s=Glenrothes</a></li><li>Holyrood Magazine: <a href="https://www.holyrood.com/">https://www.holyrood.com/</a></li><li>Humans of Edinburgh: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/officialhumansofedinburgh/">https://www.facebook.com/officialhumansofedinburgh/</a></li><li>Trainspotting 2 Scoop: <a href="https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/trainspotting-2-filming-underway-director-7531382">https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/trainspotting-2-filming-underway-director-7531382</a></li><li>Review of company reports</li><li><a href="https://www.mail.com/business/economy/8577692-lee-enterprises-to-manage-berkshire-hathaway-newsp.html">https://www.mail.com/business/economy/8577692-lee-enterprises-to-manage-berkshire-hathaway-newsp.html</a></li><li>“Gross profit = Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold.” <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/grossprofit.asp">https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/grossprofit.asp</a></li><li>Source: LUMA, <a href="http://www.digitaladblog.com/">www.digitaladblog.com</a>, and others</li><li>Source: AEMII Future Media Lab. CHISHOLM submission to House of Lord’s Enquiry into advertising. <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/the-advertising-industry/written/76536.html">http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/the-advertising-industry/written/76536.html</a></li><li>Source: AdAppTive: http://www.adapptive.eu/</li><li>https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jun/20/guardian-news-uk-telegraph-launch-advertising-business-ozone-project</li><li>https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/guardian-chief-pemsel-arent-complacent-halving-losses-186m/1488698</li><li>Thomas Pickety. Capital. ISBN 978-1-912302-30-7</li><li>Source: Zenith Optimedia</li><li><a href="http://www.newsmediauk.org/News/ofcom-newspapers-play-vital-role-in-democratic-society">http://www.newsmediauk.org/News/ofcom-newspapers-play-vital-role-in-democratic-society</a></li><li>Cairncross Enquiry: <a href="https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/culture-secretary-matt-hancock-confident-cairncross-review-into-future-of-uk-press-will-find-solutions-to-help-news-industry/">https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/culture-secretary-matt-hancock-confident-cairncross-review-into-future-of-uk-press-will-find-solutions-to-help-news-industry/</a></li></ol><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jim Chisholm Sat, 13 Oct 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Jim Chisholm 120071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Natural History Museum has been used by the Saudi regime https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/andrew-smith/natural-history-museum-has-been-used-by-saudi-regime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">At a time when the Saudis are intensifying their crackdown on human rights, yesterday’s reception gave all the wrong messages.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/saudi guy.PNG" alt="Saudi Arabia's UK ambassador telling the BBC he too was "concerned" about missing journalist, Jamal Kashoggi. Image: BBC" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saudi Arabia's UK ambassador telling the BBC he too was "concerned" about missing journalist, Jamal Kashoggi. Image: BBC/Fair use</span></span></span></p><p class="Standard">Yesterday the Natural History Museum in London hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It was hosting a reception for the Saudi embassy in the UK - a glamorous affair that brought together high ranking Saudi representatives and politicians and journalists from across the UK.</p> <p class="Standard">The timing could not be worse. The last few days have seen the Saudi Arabian government coming under far greater international scrutiny, with allegations that a journalist, Jamal Khasoggi, was murdered in its Istanbul Consulate.</p> <p class="Standard">During the reception <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45832109">the</a><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45832109"> </a><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45832109">BBC asked</a> the Saudi ambassador to the UK about Khasoggi’s disappearance. He said that he too “would like to know what happened,” stressing that hoped the investigations would provide answers “soon.” Regardless of his unconvincing protestations, the allegations have created such a diplomatic storm that even traditionally supportive governments, like the US and UK, have raised questions about its conduct.</p> <p class="Standard">All this comes at a time when the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen is getting even worse. The last four months of war have led to a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/sep/26/huge-spike-in-yemen-violence-as-civilian-deaths-rise-by-164-in-four-months-hodeidah">164% increase</a> in civilian deaths. In August, Saudi forces bombed a school bus. Dozens of children were killed in an assault that the Saudi military initially argued was a “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-45382561">legitimate military target</a>.”</p> <p class="Standard">The bombardment would not have been possible without the support of arms-dealing governments like the one in Westminster. Since the war on Yemen began in 2015, the UK government has licensed almost £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi forces. These include the fighter jets, bombs and missiles that are playing a central role in the destruction.</p> <p class="Standard">Attendees at last night’s celebrations will have been sold a narrative and vision of a reforming government that is making big changes. It’s the same message that was pushed when the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, visited London earlier this year for high-profile meetings with Theresa May, the Queen and other parts of the UK establishment.</p> <p class="Standard">The ambassadors will have said as little as they could about those that have suffered at the hands of the regime. Despite the rhetoric about liberalism and change, the last few years have seen an intensification of the crackdown against human rights defenders in the Kingdom.</p> <p class="Standard">In 2017 alone, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-executions-2017-number-latest-a7980916.html">over 100 people</a> were executed by the Saudi authorities. <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/20/saudi-arabia-unrelenting-crackdown-activists">Human Rights Watch</a> has documented the increased arrests and abuses of women’s rights campaigners and activists. As Sarah Leah Whitson, the organisation’s Middle East Director has <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/20/saudi-arabia-unrelenting-crackdown-activists">said</a>, <em>“</em>The Saudi government appears determined to leave its citizens without any space to show even rhetorical support for activists jailed in this unforgiving crackdown on dissent.”</p> <p class="Standard">There is no doubt that last night’s event was a clear and unambiguous show of soft power from a repressive dictatorship that enjoys a powerful voice in the corridors of Westminster and beyond.</p> <p class="Standard">Predictably, the Museum <a href="https://twitter.com/NHM_London/status/1050359694655725569">said</a> that the decision is a commercial one, but the impact of its decision was political. Such a prestigious venue will be used to give an impression of legitimacy. At the same time, the message it will have sent to those living under repression is that their rights don’t matter.</p> <p class="Standard">It wasn’t the first time that the Museum’s events policy has come under question. In 2012 it <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/russian-arms-company-accused-of-enabling-syrian-atrocities-exhibits-at-farnborough-airshow-7924832.html">hosted the reception for the Farnborough Intrernational Airshow</a>, a major arms fair that brought many of the world's biggest arms companies together with repressive regimes from around the world. The Museum faced significant protests, but last night’s event suggests that it hasn’t learned any lessons.</p> <p class="Standard">The issue goes wider that the Natural History Museum. Corporations and governments with shameful records are hosting prestigious public venues <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/arms-trade-out">all across the country</a>. The reason they do this is because these venues offer respected public platforms and a veneer of legitimacy.</p> <p class="Standard">Hosting third parties such as governments or corporations is not a morally neutral act. Endorsements work both ways, and reflect on both parties. This is recognised by the Public and Commercial Sector Union, which represents 5,000 public gallery and museum workers across the UK. In 2015 its conference backed a motion to condemn arms company sponsorship of the cultural sector.</p> <p class="Standard">The reason for demanding better is not because campaigners don’t understand the difficulties and financial pressures that are facing the Museum. Rather it is because we recognise the crucially important role that it plays and want it to do the right thing. It’s time for museums and respected public institutions to send the message loudly and clearly that human rights abusers can never be welcome.</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="/north-africa-west-asia/Sarah-Al-Otaibi/west-s-approach-to-saudi-arabia-one-step-forward-two-steps-back">The West’s approach to Saudi Arabia: ‘one step forward, two steps back’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/western-complicity-yemen-humanitarian-crisis-famine-saudi-arabia-UK-France-USA">Western complicity is fuelling Yemen’s humanitarian crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/debunking-myths-that-underpin-britains-arms-exports-to-saudi-arabia">Debunking the myths that underpin Britain&#039;s arms exports to Saudi Arabia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Saudi Arabia UK Civil society International politics Andrew Smith Fri, 12 Oct 2018 12:04:56 +0000 Andrew Smith 120073 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Workhouse to Westminster – a review https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/stuart-weir/workhouse-to-westminster-review <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Stuart Weir reviews a new autobiography of Lord Smith, an energetic crusader for democracy and social justice - and a vital ally during stormy times at the New Statesman magazine.</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/549093/workhouse3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/workhouse3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="281" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The chances are that you haven’t heard of Trevor Smith, or to be more precise, Professor Lord Smith of Clifton. Yet he was the prime financial and intellectual force behind the surge towards democracy in the 1990s when Charter 88 was rampant under Anthony Barnett and the Blair governments were legislating for a spate of constitutional reforms.</p> <p>Smith is a man of singular entrepreneurial vision and remarkable political energy who most unusually followed through his many ideas into action. He was a political scientist of distinction when he took on the chair of the Joseph Rowntree Social Services Trust in 1987 and transformed it into the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust with a strong democratic direction. You should know that he became a close friend and colleague of mine.</p> <p>His autobiography, <em><a href="https://caperpress.com/product/workhouse-to-westminster/">Workhouse to Westminster</a></em>, is published this month and gives a nice rollicking account of his family background as well as his professional career. Smith’s father spent time as a boy with his family in a workhouse, polishing the stone floor. As well as Smith’s 12 years spent proactively chairing the Trust, the book covers his ‘Lucky Jim” years as an academic, his time as a reforming Vice Chancellor of Ulster University and as a Lib Dem activist and Lib Dem peer in the House of Lords (where he campaigned vigorously for its abolition). </p> <p>Smith’s account of his life is often bitingly candid, very funny and frequently gossipy (on, for example, the Jeremy Thorpe affair). I first met him when he was the Trust’s representative on the<em> New Statesman </em>board just as I took on the editorship. He was not obviously my type. He dressed like an old fogey, was a High Church Anglican, and a member of the Reform Club. But I soon saw that he was not on the board just to make up the numbers – and I began to relish his directness and salty sense of humour.</p> <p>Not long after Smith joined the New Statesman board, the magazine’s conceited CEO (who had been foisted on me) refused to fund my proposal to launch Charter 88 – which I saw as a joint promotion exercise for the magazine as well as a political enterprise. So I turned to Trevor and asked for a £5,000 loan, He agreed at once. He reflects, “the proposals in the draft charter for improving democracy and protecting civil liberties coincided exactly with my own thinking”. We soon obtained backing from some 350 well-known signatories and the rest is history. Trevor went on to sustain Charter 88 with major funding during the 1990s when the Blair governments were legislating for a programme of constitutional reforms including devolution, human rights, freedom of information.</p> <p>Smith pays tribute to the contribution that John Smith, Labour’s leader in the early 1990s, made in committing his party to reform. But it was undoubtedly down to the impact of Charter 88 and its ability to mobilise opinion under Barnett’s inspired leadership that obliged Blair to fulfil Smith’s legacy, however reluctantly and incompletely. The <em>Daily Telegraph </em>recognised Charter 88 as the most successful pressure group of the decade.</p> <p>Smith also initiated other projects to encourage a more democratic culture in the UK and to strengthen the promotion of constitutional debate. One was a 13 year series of opinion polls, the <em>State of the Nation</em>, measuring public attitudes towards constitutional issues over time and revealing, for example, that the public rated economic and social rights as highly as they did traditional civil and political rights. Another was Democratic Audit, a research body at Essex University which audited the democratic performance of the British constitution (I was its director alongside the political philosopher, David Beetham). </p> <p>Smith describes these and other initiatives and his time as Vice-Chancellor at Ulster amid the fiercely divided Northern Ireland society. He recounts how a man with a deep Ulster brogue phoned when he was appointed to warn that “we will be looking after him”. It turned out later that the threat came not from a terrorist but a member of the staff he was to inherit. He details the history of an audacious project which he almost pulled off, establishing a “peaceline” campus in northern Belfast equidistant between the Catholic Falls Road and Protestant Shankill Road as a symbol of reconciliation (or as the officialese had it, a “confidence restoring measure”). He steered this proposal through the self-regarding politics of Northern Ireland and Westminster to the point where Clinton, Blair and their wives were to attend a ceremony to mark the turning of the first sod. Unfortunately, he retired too soon and his successor aborted it.</p> <p>Smith omits one important episode from his account. As a board member of the <em>Statesman</em>, he helped save it as a political journal. The over-ambitious board lost something like £250,000 in a crisis and had to put the magazine up for sale. In desperation, the chair, Philip Whitehead, intended to sell to an Irish media group who planned to turn the <em>Statesman</em> into a news magazine. Smith warned me of this plan, and that I and my CEO were about to be ambushed at a meeting with representatives of the Irish group.</p> <p>So I turned up forewarned. Once at the meeting, I immediately and ostentatiously began taking notes. “What are you doing?” Whitehead demanded. I replied: “I think our readers deserve to know what is being done to their magazine, don’t you?” End of. </p> <p><em>Workhouse to Westminster, by Trevor Smith, £13.99 from <a href="https://caperpress.com/product/workhouse-to-westminster/">The Caper Press</a>.</em></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/trevor-smith/after-carillion-can-capitalism-clean-up-its-act-or-will-marx-have-final-word">After Carillion, can capitalism clean up its act? Or will Marx have the final word?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/trevor-smith/politics-against-democracy-tracing-roots-of-brexit">Politics against democracy: tracing the roots of Brexit.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/trevor-smith/what-next-for-liberal-democrats-view-from-lords">The challenge facing the Liberal Democrats</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Stuart Weir Fri, 12 Oct 2018 10:08:06 +0000 Stuart Weir 120065 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why our media is wrong to say proportional representation helps the extreme right https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/owen-winter/why-our-media-is-wrong-to-say-proportional-representation-helps-extreme-right <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK media likes to blame far right gains elsewhere – as in Sweden’s recent election – on PR. In fact the evidence shows&nbsp;<em>disproportional</em>&nbsp;voting systems give more power to the extreme right.</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/549093/viktor.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/viktor.jpg" alt="Hungarians protesting Orbán's election system, April 2018" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hungarians protesting against Orbán's election system, April 2018. Image: Wiktor Dabkowski/PA Images, all rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Reading the headlines, you would be forgiven for thinking that the recent Swedish general election had been a sweeping victory for the far right. “<a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6153041/DOMINIC-SANDBROOK-Chilling-rise-Far-Right-Sweden.html">Chilling rise of the far right in Sweden</a>”, reads a typically ominous example.</p> <p>Commentators in the Anglosphere have been quick to blame Sweden’s use of Proportional Representation - the kind of voting system that ensures Parliaments reflect how the people voted. “Democracy is weakened”, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/sweden-mainstream-parties-election-democrats-far-right-latest-a8531296.html">warned an editorial in the Independent</a>, “shadows of Weimar haunt Europe’s parliamentary chambers and their systems of Proportional Representation.”</p> <p>But the gains made by the right-wing Sweden Democrats were neither decisive nor the harbinger of catastrophe. Within Sweden’s enviable democratic system, they reflect grievances held by small but significant sections of society - grievances that politicians of all parties must now respond to.</p> <p>To put the Sweden Democrats’ performance into perspective, they received 17.5% of the vote, representing a gain of 4.6% on their 2014 election result. This puts them in third place, behind the more popular but rather less titillating “Moderate Party”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/sweden.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/sweden.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Make Votes Matter</span></span></span></p><p>Looking at the numbers rather than the headlines, around one in six Swedish voters were inspired, concerned or angry enough to vote for a party seen as being outside the mainstream political establishment.</p> <p>In the UK, the voting system would simply tell such people to shut up and go away. Amazingly, this is sold as one of the benefits of our First Past the Post system by its advocates - allowing, for example, that 13% of the popular vote elected just one UKIP MP in 2015. This means the concerns of these voters can be safely ignored by the political establishment even as they fester and grow… at least until an important referendum comes along, or someone with extreme views seizes the leadership of an established party.</p> <p>But Sweden takes a more democratic approach. Instead of telling unhappy voters to get lost, those voters are proportionally represented in the Riksdag just like anyone else. Politicians from all parties will respond in different ways. Some will do more to ensure no community is left behind, some will prioritise integration of recent immigrants, some will call for stricter limits on immigration. But they will all have to take these voters’ concerns seriously because all the voters will rightly have a fair say at the next election.</p> <p>This is why a <span><a href="https://www.cesifo-group.de/ifoHome/publications/docbase/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2018/wp-cesifo-2018-08/12012018007210.html">recent paper</a></span> from the Centre for Economic Studies found that a one-seat increase in representation for an anti-immigration party actually turns out to substantially <em>decrease</em> negative attitudes towards immigration. As the paper concludes, “Political representation can cause an attitudinal backlash as fringe parties and their ideas are placed under closer scrutiny”. As some say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You don’t win people back to your way of thinking by ignoring them.</p> <p>Perhaps even more importantly, Sweden’s enviable democratic system puts it at extremely low risk of its democracy being eroded, in comparison to some other developed nations, including our own. There is a narrative among commentators in the west about the attack on liberal democracy across Europe by far-right parties.</p> <p>This narrative generally doesn’t distinguish between proportional and disproportional parliaments, but it should. The details matter enormously because it is in places where parties wield disproportional power that democratic institutions are genuinely under attack.</p> <h2>Disproportional voting and power grabs in the old eastern bloc</h2> <p>Take Hungary. In 2010 Fidesz got 53% of the vote. But due to its disproportional voting system, the party won 68% of the seats in parliament - giving it the power to unilaterally rewrite the constitution.</p> <p>What does a party do when it’s given disproportionate power? It uses it to guarantee its own re-election. The party changed the electoral system to make it even more disproportional. As a result, in 2014 it won 67% of the seats with just 44% of the vote. In this year’s election the party retained its supermajority, again on a minority of the vote, and last month <span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45498514">was accused</a></span> by the European Parliament of undermining the rule of law as well as democratic norms.</p> <p>The Polish parliament –&nbsp;the Sejm –&nbsp;nominally uses a proportional voting system, but in practice, it is anything but. The Law and Justice Party won an outright majority at the last election on just 37.5% of the vote! Guess what? As well as granting themselves greater powers over the judiciary, the President has proposed changing the already unfair voting system to First Past the Post, which would be likely to hand even more disproportional power to the governing party.</p> <p>This phenomenon is not restricted to the former Eastern Bloc; it is happening in all three of the developed democracies that still use First Past the Post.</p> <p>Gerrymandering is endemic to America’s First Past the Post congressional elections, where representatives set their own district boundaries to make their re-election more likely. Legal challenges to rigged electoral maps are hindered by the appointment of unsympathetic judges, most recently by a President who was himself elected with three million fewer votes than the “losing” candidate.</p> <p>In June, Doug Ford - who has been called “Canada’s Donald Trump” - won an outright majority in the Parliament of Ontario with just 40.5% of the vote. Using this majority he moved to cut in half the number of representatives on Toronto’s city council in upcoming elections. When the courts ruled this move unconstitutional, he invoked an obscure power for the first time in Canadian history, allowing him to simply overrule the courts. Meanwhile, at the Federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly reneged on his cast iron promise to abolish First Past the Post after winning an outright majority with less than 40% of the vote in 2015.</p> <p>And in the UK, the Conservatives and DUP – who share a majority in Parliament with just 43% of the vote between them, are pushing ahead with changes to the constituency boundaries. These changes are predicted to hand the Conservatives a <span><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-rig-next-election-planned-boundary-changes-benefit-a8471811.html">crushing electoral advantage</a></span>&nbsp;–&nbsp;with projections suggesting they would win 40 more seats than Labour if both parties got exactly the same share of the vote.</p> <h2>Rigging the democratic system</h2> <p>This should all come as no surprise. By definition, a political party is an organisation that seeks to accumulate power. When such an organisation gets hold of total power on a minority of the vote, it is in their very nature to use this power to retain their position. Rigging the democratic system is one of the most efficient ways to achieve this.</p> <p>There is only one legislature in Europe that both has a highly proportional voting system and in which the far right is in government: Austria’s National Council. With 27% of the vote (and 28% of the seats) the far-right Freedom Party are junior partners in a coalition with the centre-right. It’s an unwelcome thought for people on the left. </p> <p>However, because Austria uses Proportional Representation, the party would have to almost double its share of the vote before it could attempt the kind of partisan changes that are happening in Hungary or the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Freedom Party has been in government in Austria before (from 2000 to 2007) with no sign of the kind of attack on democracy that is routine among disproportional societies.</p> <p>Just as absolute power corrupts absolutely, disproportional power corrupts disproportionately. This is the real threat to liberal democracy. And it is why proportional systems like Sweden’s, in which seats match votes, are crucial to building and retaining fair democratic institutions. If you want seats to match votes in the UK, join <span><a href="http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/">Make Votes Matter</a></span>: the movement for Proportional Representation.</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="/jan-zielonka/how-to-contain-hard-right">How to contain the hard right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sophie-cartwright/proportional-representation-can-offer-democracy-to-all-not-just-to-majority"> Proportional representation can offer democracy to all, not just to the majority </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/samuel-salzborn/hungary-and-end-of-democracy">Hungary and the end of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/neal-lawson/arguments-against-proportional-representation-have-melted-away">The arguments against proportional representation have melted away</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics">Platform parties vs plutocrat PR: welcome to the future of UK politics</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"> Sweden </div> <div class="field-item even"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Poland United States UK Hungary Sweden Democracy and government Owen Winter Fri, 12 Oct 2018 08:50:14 +0000 Owen Winter 120063 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to raise ‘wealth taxes’ to fund the NHS https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/rob-palmer/we-need-to-raise-wealth-taxes-to-fund-nhs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How will the Chancellor find the £20bn a year Theresa May has promised for England's NHS?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/may hammond.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/may hammond.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="383" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: The PM and Chancellor at the Royal Free Hospital in June, where May pledged £20bn extra to the NHS. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p> <p class="Normal1">At the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last week Theresa May danced onto the stage and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/03/theresa-may-conference-speech-ambasts-labour-as-she-calls-for-tory-unity">declared that austerity was over</a>. This was just the latest sign of a growing agreement in British politics that public services are under strain and need an injection of cash. </p> <p class="Normal1">An area of particular cross-party consensus is that the NHS should have more money. A vast majority of the public agree, and the government has <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44495598">promised an extra £20 billion a year by 2023</a>. Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have said that at least some of this will come from “fair and balanced” tax rises, to be announced at the Budget at the end of this month. </p> <p class="Normal1">The question now is which taxes might rise, and by how much.</p> <p class="Normal1">At <a href="http://www.taxjustice.uk/">Tax Justice UK</a> we believe that if the government is going to increase taxes, those with the broadest shoulders should pay the most. Our new report, <em>“The World We Want: The role of taxes in funding the NHS and other public services”</em>, sets out one way the government could find the promised £20 billion. </p> <p class="Normal1">We followed four guiding principles for any tax changes: companies and the wealthiest should pay their fair share to ensure trust in the system; tax should increase in proportion to a person’s wealth and income; a sustainable tax system needs to look beyond increasing taxes on just those at the top and companies; and the poorest should be protected from tax rises.</p> <p class="Normal1">Taxing wealth better is at the heart of our proposal. In the UK, <a href="https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk">wealth is spread deeply unevenly,</a> with knock on effects on people’s life chances. Those with the least suffer the most, with insecure work and skyrocketing housing costs. This is made worse by a growing generational gap: young adults today are unlikely to be as well off as their parents. </p> <p class="Normal1">Importantly, there is political support for raising taxes on wealth across the political spectrum, including from <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6132531/PETER-OBORNE-Welby-right-help-poor-tax-grab-fills-fear.html">Peter Oborne</a>, Lord Willetts, Rachel Reeves and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/12/wealth-inequality-liberal-democrats-economic-reform">Vince Cable</a>. And doing so would pay multiple dividends: not just helping to find the extra money the NHS needs, but redressing imbalances in our society that were part of the reason people voted for Brexit and that continue to foment unrest. </p> <p class="Normal1">A first step would be to <strong>cancel the plans to cut corporation tax </strong>from the current rate of 19% to 17%, which even many business groups don’t support. Corporation tax is an indirect way of taxing wealth, as share ownership and pension holdings are concentrated amongst the rich. A rate of at least 20% would bring in an extra £8.4bn a year, and would have a <a href="https://home.kpmg.com/uk/en/home/media/press-releas-%20es/2016/11/cutting-the-corporate-tax-rate-is-unlikely-to-be-enough-to-encou.html">much less dramatic impact</a> on inward investment than some claim. </p> <p class="Normal1">The government should also fix council tax, which is a mess. Wealth in Britain is primarily made up of pensions and property, both of which attract significant tax breaks. Due to huge changes in property prices over the last three decades, the amount people pay is only weakly connected to the value of their property. </p> <p class="Normal1">A proposal from the <a href="https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/press-releases/britains-increasingly-unevenly-shared-property-wealth-is-driving-up-inequality-after-a-decade-long-fall/">Resolution Foundation</a>, which would replace the current system with a <strong>tax levied in proportion to a property’s value</strong>, would leave nearly three-quarters of people better off while raising an extra £5 billion. This money should stay with local authorities to help plug the holes in their budgets, including for adult social care. </p> <p class="Normal1">Other recommendations in our report include: <strong>abolishing entrepreneurs’ relief</strong>, which would raise £2.7bn; <strong>taxing income from wealth at the same level as income from work</strong>, which could raise £4bn; <strong>applying National Insurance to earnings of those older than the state pension age</strong>, which would raise £1.3bn; and <strong>curbing the pension subsidy to the wealthy</strong>, which would raise £2bn. </p> <p class="Normal1">In total, we’ve identified a possible £23.4bn in savings from these progressive tax reforms, and believe more could be unlocked if the same guiding principles were followed. </p> <p class="Normal1">For too long in the UK we have been living in a fantasy world whereby we can have low taxes – our corporation tax rate is the lowest in the G7 – and very high-quality public services. Mrs May’s conference speech was tantamount to an agreement that this position is neither sustainable nor in the country’s best interests. </p> <p>The promised increase in funding for the NHS should be a starting point for a broader debate about the level of public services we want and how to pay for them. Tax Justice UK’s vision is of a society where people do not have to wait months for desperately needed operations, schools have enough resources to teach children properly, people have access to affordable housing, and elderly and vulnerable citizens are properly cared for. </p> <p>Achieving this will mean taxing many of us more, and taxing the wealthiest the most. It will mean taking on powerful vested interests and rebuilding a sense of unity and solidarity in an increasingly divided country. And it needs to start now. </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/caroline-molloy/nhs-tax-is-stale-regressive-and-technocratic-perfect-for-new-centrist-party">An &#039;NHS tax&#039; is perfect for a &#039;new centrist party&#039;—stale, regressive and technocratic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/jenny-shepherd/us-inspired-reorganisation-is-about-to-hit-nhs-help-fund-legal-challenge">A US-inspired reorganisation is about to hit England&#039;s NHS – &#039;help us stop it&#039; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/laurie-laybourn-langton/nhs-proves-there-s-always-been-alternative">The NHS proves there’s always been an alternative</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Rob Palmer Fri, 12 Oct 2018 06:51:05 +0000 Rob Palmer 120060 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Of Tories, charity... and Islamophobia https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anjum-peerbacos/of-tories-charity-and-islamophobia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Muslims know they have a duty to support the poor. Tories can't claim this mantle - especially whilst they're riven with Islamophobia.</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/549093/this homeless.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/this homeless.jpg" alt="A homeless person" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Homelessness is on the rise in the UK.&nbsp;Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/9668312847">Leo Reynolds/Flickr</a>, CC 2.0 </span></span></span></p><p>“Jeremy Corbyn, charity begins at home”, proclaimed Councillor Shazia Bashir as she stood at the podium of the Conservative Party conference last week. </p> <p>Like Councillor Bashir, I am a Muslim woman. As Muslims we know that it is our duty to provide for the vulnerable and less fortunate in society. Islamic law states that those who are able should donate 2.5% of their income annually for charitable purposes – a practice known as ‘Zakat’. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Quran states: "My Mercy extends to all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who have God-consciousness and give their Zakat and those who believe” (Surah Al-A`raf 7:156).</p> <p>Research by Just Giving and ICM in 2013 showed <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mustafa-field-mbe/muslimsramadancharity_b_16815380.html?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnVrLw&amp;guce_referrer_cs=DFu_hMVK3gh2O4mw92w7Qg">British Muslims give more to charity per capita, than all religious groups</a>. </p> <p>I’ve recently been involved in a Food Drive in central London to feed the homeless, with a charity called ‘Who Is Hussain?’ There are many Muslim charities – the National Zakat Foundation, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief, and the Ummah Welfare Trust to name but a few. </p> <p>But charities and goodwill alone cannot alleviate our concerns. It is only through systematically addressing the issues that the homeless and destitute face. During the food drive last week I began to realise that whatever we were able to provide was merely a drop in the ocean of need. We could have stayed there all night if our resources hadn’t run dry. </p> <p>Councillor Bashir’s party have seen the number of children living in poverty increase to 4.5 million children. Seen over a million people using foodbanks. Seen homelessness increase 50% in London alone. Seen at least <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/08/homeless-people-die-uk-2017">440 homeless people die in the UK in the past year</a>. </p> <p>Councillor Bashir may stand at a podium at the Tory Party Conference, and represent a seat in Peterborough where there is a tight-knit Pakistani community – but she definitely does not represent Muslim values or Islam. She certainly does not represent me as a visibly Muslim woman in the UK, nor, I would guess, a lot of the 2.7 million Muslims in this country. </p> <p>As a Muslim woman, I am horrified by lack of attention to the vulnerable in our society. I am also horrified by the anti-Muslim sentiment which is rife within the Conservative Party. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly warned about the Tories’ “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/04/sayeeda-warsi-calls-for-inquiry-into-islamophobia-within-tory-party">bigotry blindspot</a>”.</p> <p>&nbsp;It is almost as though the Councillor was not aware of the comments made by Boris Johnson MP in the summer, or the comments reposted on Facebook by another <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-councillor-compares-muslim-women-13059852">Tory Councillor comparing Muslim women to patio umbrellas</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>Such comments are dangerous. There has been a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/20/record-number-anti-muslim-attacks-reported-uk-2017">26% rise in attacks against visibly Muslim women</a> in the last year, and they are often more likely to be targeted than men.</p> <p>Shaun Bailey – recently selected as the Tory candidate for London Mayor - has also been vocal in his views about minority communities. In 2005 he wrote that by accommodating people that are Muslim and Hindu through multicultural teachings and holidays, “we rob Britain of its community” and risk turning the UK into a “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/03/tories-london-mayor-pick-shaun-bailey-multiculturalism-robs-britain-of-its-community">crime-riddled cesspool</a>”. This is the man the Conservatives have chosen to stand as a Mayoral candidate in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Bailey also recently ran into trouble for retweeting a post that included an image of our current mayor of London Sadiq Khan with the caption <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/shaun-bailey-islamophobia-sadiq-khan-london-mayor-tory-party-conservatives-a8558521.html">“Mad mullah Khan of Londonistan</a>”. This is nothing new for the Tories, they have mastered the act of running racist and Islamophobic campaigns in mayoral elections. Who can forget the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/07/top-conservatives-condemn-zac-goldsmiths-disgusting-mayoral-campaign">horrendous campaign that was run by Zac Goldsmith against Sadiq Khan</a>. </p> <p>But the silence from Theresa May is deafening.</p> <p>The reality is that such a campaign could be run again and again, as no one is holding the Tories to account. When prominent MPs are able to make derogatory statements about the Muslim community and are not disciplined, one questions the due processes within the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson has yet to apologise publicly for his remarks about ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, but the impact of his remarks have had devastating consequences for many Muslim women across the UK. </p> <p>Baroness Warsi has repeatedly highlighted how issues of Islamophobia must be addressed to ensure that the flames of discrimination, bigotry and racism are not fuelled. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jan/20/lady-warsi-islamophobia-muslims-prejudice">Islamophobia has "passed the dinner-table test"</a> and become widely socially acceptable in Britain, according to Baroness Warsi. </p> <p>The MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) and AVOW (Advancing Voices of Women, Against Islamophobia), have both written to Brandon Lewis in the last two months highlighting the need for an independent inquiry into the blatant Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. They are still awaiting a response. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Economics islamophobia Homelessness Anjum Peerbacos Thu, 11 Oct 2018 13:07:53 +0000 Anjum Peerbacos 120055 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Gay cake’ cases show strength of Christian right legal armies on both sides of the Atlantic https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nandini-archer-claire-provost/gay-cake-cases-strength-us-uk-christian-right-legal-armies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In UK and US supreme courts, freedom of speech has been the defence of bakers who oppose same-sex marriage. It’s no coincidence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-39045567.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ashers bakery owners outside the UK Supreme Court."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-39045567.jpg" alt="Ashers bakery owners outside the UK Supreme Court." title="Ashers bakery owners outside the UK Supreme Court." width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ashers bakery owners outside the UK Supreme Court. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The owners of Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland, who refused to make a cake with the words ‘support gay marriage' on it, won their appeal at the UK Supreme Court this week. The court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2017-0020.html">ruled unanimously</a> that this refusal was not discriminatory.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the UK LGBT rights group Stonewall <a href="https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/media-statement/stonewall-statement-ashers-bakery">said the</a> ruling was “a backward step for equality” which may be used “to justify even more discrimination at a time when LGBT people still face exclusion, abuse and discrimination every day.”</p><p dir="ltr">In a <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-44361162">similar case</a> earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Christian baker in Colorado, whose Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.</p><p dir="ltr">On both sides of the Atlantic, the 'gay cake' cases used freedom of speech and conscience arguments to defend the bakers, who oppose same-sex marriage. Rights activists warn the verdicts could <a href="https://www.rainbow-project.org/news/the-rainbow-project-expresses-disappointment-at-supreme-court-ashers-judgment">set new precedents</a> for when businesses can discriminate against customers.</p><p dir="ltr">But what else do the two cases have in common? They show the strength of organised and internationally connected Christian legal armies with growing track records of successfully defending opponents of sexual and reproductive rights in US, UK and other courts.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">But what else do the two cases have in common? Increasingly organised and internationally connected Christian legal armies.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US Supreme Court case, the plaintiff, baker Jack Phillips, had been successfully <a href="https://aclu-co.org/court-cases/masterpiece-cakeshop/">sued in Colorado</a> after he refused to bake the cake for a gay couple in 2012.</p><p dir="ltr">He was represented by <a href="https://www.adflegal.org/">Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)</a>, described as an anti-LGBT “<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/07/27/anti-lgbt-hate-group-alliance-defending-freedom-defended-state-enforced-sterilization">hate group</a>” by the Southern Law Poverty Center.</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK case, the Belfast bakery owners received <a href="https://www.christian.org.uk/press_release/gay-cake-case-uk-supreme-court-belfast-first-time-ashers-baking-co-seeks-ni-court-compelled-speech-decision-overturned/">a £500 damages award</a> from their county court after they refused to bake the cake in that case, in 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">They were supported by the Newcastle-based <a href="https://www.christian.org.uk/">Christian Institute</a> – a group that’s been <a href="https://adfinternational.org/legal/ladele-v-united-kingdom/">described</a> as an “allied organisation of ADF International,” ADF’s global wing, which also opened an office in London last year.</p><p dir="ltr">On Twitter, ADF <a href="https://twitter.com/AllianceDefends/status/1049990202859638784">called this week’s UK Supreme Court decision</a> “a great win for freedom”, while the Christian Institute <a href="https://mailchi.mp/christian/breaking-news-ashers-wins-in-landmark-victory-on-compelled-speech?e=f5840db50b">referred to it</a> as “thrilling news,” stating that “equality laws cannot be used to make people say things they don’t believe. That has always been our position.”</p><p>Previously, the two groups supported the case of a London registrar who <a href="https://adfinternational.org/legal/ladele-v-united-kingdom/">refused to officiate for same-sex civil partnerships</a>. The Christian Institute supported that case throughout, while ADF submitted legal arguments once it reached the European Court of Human Rights.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/GCC.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sharing cake."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/GCC.png" alt="Sharing cake." title="Sharing cake." width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sharing cake. Photo: Flickr/Loewyn Young. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Same-sex marriage was legalised gradually in the US, starting with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/may/18/usa.uselections2004">Massachusetts</a> in 2004. In 2015, it was legalised nationwide as the result of a Supreme Court ruling.</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, Northern Ireland is the only part of the country where same-sex marriage isn’t legal. A bill to change this <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44077962">was blocked</a> from moving to the next stage in the UK parliament earlier this year.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What good are rules and regulations if they are treated as 'opt-in' by religious believers?</p><p dir="ltr">Internationally, freedom of speech, religion and conscience arguments are increasingly being used by conservative groups to challenge anti-discrimination and equality laws.</p><p dir="ltr">“Cases like these, funded by large and wealthy Christian lobby groups, taken up as an attempt to fan the flames of a culture war, are becoming far too frequent,” Liam Whitton from the charity Humanists UK told us, asking: “What good are rules and regulations if they are treated as 'opt-in' by religious believers?”</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, ADF International’s executive director <a href="https://www.christian.org.uk/news/gay-cake-cases-rubicon-free-speech/">Paul Coleman</a> wrote that the Colorado and Belfast bakers’ cases represented “a fork in the road” and that they would “shape the directions of Western freedoms in the years ahead”.</p><p dir="ltr">But, at the US LGBT rights group Equality Federation, Mark Snyder said that despite “emboldened” attempts from conservative groups to “undermine our core values of fairness and equality”, resistance to these efforts is also strong.</p><p dir="ltr">“I think there has been a renewed awakening to the importance of intersectional movement building,” he said, “as we see that it is the same cynical politicians and far-right activists attacking women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.”</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk United States UK Equality International politics Tracking the backlash sexual identities Claire Provost Nandini Archer Thu, 11 Oct 2018 12:12:05 +0000 Nandini Archer and Claire Provost 120054 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young workers know they're being ripped off - and that unions are the answer https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/len-mccluskey/fast-food-strikes-show-young-workers-get-what-trade-unionism-is-about <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last weeks global food strikes show young workers get what trade unionism is about - and bringing new forms of digital organisation into play.</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/549093/tgi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/tgi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Fast food workers striking for fair pay, October 2018. Rights: Unite the Union</em></p><p>When I tweeted my congratulations to the fast food workers who took strike action last week, as part of their fight for fair pay and tips, I said they had shown the naysayers that unions are absolutely relevant in today's world of work, not least in the toughest of sectors.</p> <p>I had some interesting, and telling, responses to that. “How was the fast food industry tough?” “How many workers in the sector are union members? Mystery?” and “Minimum qualification requirements mean minimum wage”.</p> <p>My point, perhaps difficult to explain fully in a tweet, was that hospitality is a notoriously difficult area for trade unions to recruit and organise in. As is the precarious, agency, zero-hour and gig economy generally. So to the tweeter who asked, with that note of sarcasm, how many fast food workers are union members, it’s no real mystery. It’s difficult to build a collective mentality amongst any low-paid, transient workforce, especially when the anti-union laws in this country restrict us enormously in our efforts. And when their bosses tell them, illegally, either that they have no right to join a trade union, or they will be sacked if they do.</p> <p>But in any case it’s not so far off to say that working conditions in the industry are amongst the toughest. No they aren’t first responders, nurses or working in social care, but it is low paid, often gruelling work. And hospitality is full of sharp practices, like those of TGI Fridays, taking tips off waiting staff to make up the wages of the kitchen workers. Speaking to members, I know it hasn’t always been like that, but when private equity moved into the sector, the squeeze was well and truly put on the quality of their working lives.</p> <p>Hours are long, kitchens become like furnaces (particularly during our recent heatwave) and customers require outstanding people skills. The idea that taking orders and carrying plates of food is undemanding and deserves to be rewarded only by the minimum wage is, frankly, obscene. </p> <p>But that incredible day of action on 4 October, which saw TGI Fridays, McDonalds and Wetherspoons staff walk out, supported by UberEats, Deliveroo and other couriers, and joined by hospitality workers from four continents, demonstrated that only the trade unions can give any chance for workers, exploited almost as much in 21st century Britain as they were in the 19th, to stand up to their greedy bosses. </p> <p>I have always said that being relevant is the key to the future of our movement, if it is to survive and grow. We have to be relevant to working people’s lives, to the people we want to represent. By looking at new ways of organising in the hospitality industry, Unite, the BFAWU, GMB and others are demonstrating that we can become exactly that. Our TGI members have undoubtedly countered the myth that there’s no point in joining a trade union if the employer doesn’t recognise one. We had about five members there when the campaign against tip robbery started, and there was little organising going on. The fact is that the workers came to us and told us they’d joined Unite and they wanted to go on strike.</p> <p>We put our confidence in those members, in their ability to build membership across the restaurants, and deliver on a strike ballot. We were essentially being told to adapt and learn from this group of young workers, for whom trade unions might appear rigidly bureaucratic, about new ways of mobilising, building awareness and supporting each other.</p> <p>And so we’re seeing that the sector may only be the toughest to organise if unions stick to traditional ways of doing it. By doing it their way, using WhatsApp and other online methods to persuade and support, TGI staff have joined Unite in large numbers, and stood solid together at meetings and on picket lines.</p> <p>But it’s undoubtedly a learning curve, for all of us.</p> <p>As a young worker and shop steward on the Liverpool docks in the late 1960s, I led a campaign for the rate for the job, which we weren’t paid until we were 25, even though we were doing exactly the same work as the older hands. So I organised the younger workers, and even though our claim was resisted by our senior colleagues and management alike, we carried on fighting and eventually won an astonishing 100 per cent rise in our pay.</p> <p>That experience taught me a lot about the nature of solidarity. The hospitality strikers remind me of those times – and why unions are as relevant as ever in giving the faith to fight injustice. They demonstrate too that young workers ‘<em>get’</em><strong> </strong>solidarity. They aren’t the ‘future’ of trade unionism, they are its ‘now’. They know they are being ripped off, and they know that the only way to put an end to that is to be trade unionists.</p> <p>They know that trade unionism is about collectivism, about people understanding that together they are stronger than as individuals. </p> <p>The TGI and McDonalds strikers are in different unions, but they’ve held public meetings together, gone to rallies together and marched in the pouring rain with a joint banner at the front of the TUC’s anti-austerity demonstration last May. </p> <p>And that’s exciting for me, and tells us that our movement has a vibrant future. If we’re talking to young people now, in a so-called ‘gateway industry’, they are far more likely to take their trade unionism with them through their careers.</p> <p>The stand the TGI workers have taken, and their Pizza Express colleagues before them, and of all those involved in our Fair Tips campaign, appears finally to have forced the hand of a government so ideologically wedded to non-intervention. Finally – only 826 days since consulting on the issue – they have bowed to our demands and decided to ban employers taking tips from staff. (Though of course it remains to be seen if Theresa May will really deliver on her promise, given the powerful lobby that has persuaded her to sit on her hands thus far).</p> <p>Amazon workers too are finally to see an increase in the minimum wage. And as Jeremy Corbyn said, they haven’t been <em>gifted</em> the increase by the richest man on the planet. They <em>organised</em> for it, and their fight goes on for better working conditions, and to get the company to pay its taxes.</p> <p>As Chris Hepple, a Wetherspoons worker, said of the fast food strike, “I knew workers had never won better living standards, conditions and power by relying on the generosity of any government or these companies”.</p> <p>A Jeremy Corbyn government is committed to restoring sectoral collective bargaining, meaning that a rate agreed in an industry must be honoured by all employers in it. Labour has highlighted how the hospitality sector desperately needs its workers to have such a voice in setting their own terms and conditions.</p> <p>In contrast, of course, the political establishment has always sought to undermine trade unions. They don’t want trade unionism becoming part of the culture. They don’t want people to recognise that unions are a force for good in our workplaces and in our communities, giving a democratic voice to both working people and people not in work (who Unite have welcomed into our union family through our Community organisation). </p> <p>Our corporate and political elite know that if trade unions again become part of the fabric in which society operates, then more and more people will be attracted to them, there will be more collective strength, and a greater and fairer distribution of wealth – away from the powerful and the wealthy.</p> <p>But as a movement, we are increasingly demonstrating that we are that force for good, bargaining and winning better wages for workers, giving people dignity through a collectivism that a new generation of trade unionists clearly understands far better than those elite would have us believe.</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/frances-ogrady/heartunions-why-young-workers-need-trade-unions-more-than-ever">#HeartUnions - why young workers need trade unions more than ever</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/antonia-bance/working-lives-of-under-30s-show-future-of-work-for-us-all">The working lives of the under-30s show the future of work for us all</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/alex-j-wood/trade-unions-internet-and-surviving-gig-economy">Trade unions, the internet, and surviving the gig economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/charlotte-bence/not-on-menu-what-presidents-club-revealed-about-hospitality-work-and-media-attitu">Not on the Menu – what the Presidents Club revealed about hospitality work and media attitudes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/resisting-gig-economy-emergence-of-cooperative-food-delivery-platforms">Resisting the gig economy: the emergence of cooperative food delivery platforms</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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Economics Len McCluskey Labour rights in the gig economy Thu, 11 Oct 2018 11:25:09 +0000 Len McCluskey 120052 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Exclusive: Months after Scotland Yard received ‘substantial’ evidence of potential criminality by pro-Leave groups, nothing has happened. Is the police probe destined for the political long-grass?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police has stalled the launch of any criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns – citing “political sensitivities”, openDemocracy can reveal today. Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">In May and July this year, the UK Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the 2016 EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Substantial fines were levied, and the <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/244900/Report-of-an-investigation-in-respect-of-Vote-Leave-Limited-Mr-Darren-Grimes-BeLeave-and-Veterans-for-Britain.pdf">Electoral Commission’s reports and all related evidence</a> were shared with Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences.</p><p dir="ltr">Following inquiries by openDemocracy, the Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in “assessing evidence”. Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and “political sensitivities” that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Scandal’ and ‘police state’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Met’s acknowledgement of “political sensitivities” as a factor in its investigation of a potential crime has raised concern in senior legal ranks.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it</p><p dir="ltr">Jolyon Maugham QC, the barrister who leads the anti-Brexit Good Law Project, told openDemocracy that it was “profoundly troubling” that the Met was delaying or even not opening its investigation into the Electoral Commission’s evidence. </p><p dir="ltr">“If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it. Were that true, we would be living in a police state where criminality was overlooked – if that criminality was expedient to the government,” Maugham said.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said that breaking law during “one of the most critical moments in the UK’s history” made it of “urgent national interest that the police investigate what happened, how it happened and who was responsible.” </p><p dir="ltr">Watson added: “It is disappointing that no progress appears to have been made into these investigations months after they were supposed to start.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Vote Leave: ‘Serious breaches of the law'</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission published its findings into the funding and spending of Vote Leave, the pro-Brexit group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, in July. At the same time, the Metropolitan Police Service was sent a folio of evidence described as “<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">clear and substantial</a>” by Bob Posner, the commission’s legal counsel. He said the organisation had found “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The commission found “significant evidence” of illegally unreported co-ordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign group run by fashion student Darren Grimes; it identified an overspend of almost £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million; it claimed Vote Leave’s spending returns were inaccurate and totalled £236,000. Vote Leave was fined £61,000, Grimes £20,000, and Veterans for Britain, another pro-Brexit group, £250.</p><p dir="ltr">Key evidence sent to the Met included spending of £675,000 by BeLeave with the digital data company Aggregate IQ. The Electoral Commission found that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">Posner said that Vote Leave had “resisted the Commission’s investigation from the start”, refused to co-operate, and refused requests for interviews. The Commission said it was satisfied that Vote Leave’s board official David Halsall “knew or ought reasonably to have known” that spending limits would be exceeded.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vote Leave campaign was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former Brexit minister and ERG strategist, Steve Baker, the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave’s board, which is legally responsible for the campaign, included the leading Brexiteers Gisela Stuart, Lord Forsyth and Bernard Jenkin. Vote Leave rejected the findings of the Electoral Commission’s report</p><h2 dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Leave.EU: overspend ‘could have been much higher’</h2><p dir="ltr">In May, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">fined Arron Banks’s Leave.EU</a> campaign group £70,000 and referred its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, to Scotland Yard. As with the Vote Leave report, the Commission said Leave.EU breached multiple areas of electoral law, over-spent the legal campaign limits and delivered incomplete and inaccurate accounts to the Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The Commission said the group spent at least £77,380 more than it declared, and so more than 10% above its spending limit, but that the overspend could have been much higher. The regulator complained at the time that it is only allowed to issue a maximum fine of £20,000 per offence, saying that it "<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">considers this inadequate</a> for serious offences of electoral or referendum law".</p><p dir="ltr">The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, rejected the report saying the Commission had engaged in a “politically motivated attack on Brexit.” Banks called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Call for ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the Electoral Commission reports, in August a group of 70 cross-party MPs, peers and MEPs, wrote to Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, and to the Director General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens. The letter stated that the Electoral Commission had limited powers of investigation and sanctions, and had no powers to prosecute. It urged the Met and the NCA to “investigate these matters thoroughly and with urgency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Within two weeks the Met’s commander of Specialist Crime, Stuart Cundy, and the NCA’s Director of Intelligence, Steve Smart, had replied to the MPs. Cundy said that the commission’s evidence was “being assessed by the MPS in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required.”</p><p dir="ltr">Smart told the MPs that the NCA was “working alongside the MPS” and was also in close contact with “other government bodies on these issues.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">“No one should be surprised”</h2><p dir="ltr">Two months on, the Met’s position on its investigations into the three Brexit organisations remains unchanged and appears to be going nowhere.</p><p dir="ltr">A senior Home Office source, close to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, told openDemocracy: “No one should really be surprised that the Met have said there are political issues involved here. Of course there are. The Electoral Commission has done a thorough job. Fines have been made for the mistakes made. But we move on. We will soon know the shape of Brexit and maybe there are other issues that deserve our national attention more.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Law enforcement police Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:18:25 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit has ignited a fire under Britain. It is altering forever the way we see ourselves. This has to be confronted boldly and in an open-minded way</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4ksdrYYUY2w?autohide=1&showinfo=0&rel=0" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p> Here is a film on Brexit, democracy and England. It’s an illustrated talk plus discussion especially aimed at those of us in England. It comes to 1 hour and 8 minutes. “Oh, no”, I hear you say, “not a hour on Brexit! How unbearable is that!” But think of all the packages and items you’ve heard, seen and read about Brexit over the last two years and how many hours and hours of your time they have taken up. What changed your mind or even made you think? Very little, I suspect. </p><p>I talk about the realities of powerlessness, the rip-off state, massive inequality, identity politics, the Irish example, why the Scots are different, what it means to be English, the need to reimagine ourselves and what unites Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Along with images.</p> <p>Brexit has ignited a fire under Britain. It is altering forever the way we see ourselves. This has to be confronted boldly and in an open-minded way.</p> <p>I want a People’s Vote with a big majority for Remain. To achieve this the Remain campaign must change from 2016, and how! The response to my lecture is led by Rowenna Davis who opposes a People’s Vote. I didn’t shift her view and may not change yours. But I hope I make you think twice.</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="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:01:41 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120047 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is the tide turning on regulating Facebook and Google? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/leighton-andrews/is-tide-turning-on-regulating-facebook-and-google <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Facebook and Google are modern utilities - and natural monopolies - so they need a utility regulator.</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/549093/zuckerberg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/zuckerberg.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, May 2018. Rights: NUR Photo/SIPA USA/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>Let me start with two quotes, six months and a continent apart. The first is from the current chief executive of OFCOM, who told the Cambridge RTS Conference last year that while she believed that Facebook and Google were media companies, she didn’t “think regulation is the answer because I think it is really hard to navigate the boundary between <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/leighton-andrews/why-regulators-like-ofcom-are-dropping-ball-on-fake-news-dark-advertising-and-ex">regulation and censorship of the internet</a>”. Six months later, in an interview with CNN, Facebook’s founder <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/alexkantrowitz/mark-zuckerberg-im-not-sure-we-shouldnt-be-regulated">Mark Zuckerberg said "I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated</a>".</p> <p>There are good grounds for believing that we have witnessed a regulatory turn, that this has moved well beyond media policy, and that European regulatory proposals may become the ‘gold standard’ for global regulation. And there are signs that, even if Brexit happens, the UK will not be immune from the regulatory tide. The 2017 Conservative Manifesto, now being implemented through the Digital Charter, the Green Paper on Internet Safety and other measures, contained a series of proposals, including establishment of the regulatory framework in law. <a href="https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto">The manifesto</a> was explicit in its emphasis: “Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet. We disagree.” </p> <p>Indeed, by July 2018, even <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/it-s-time-to-regulate-social-media-sites-that-publish-news-pxsg9t3fv">Ofcom had arguably changed its position to support regulation</a>.</p> <p>Today, the debate over the role of information intermediaries such as Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica controversy and the revelations of abundant Russian election and referendum interference, revealed by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">painstaking investigative journalism</a> and <a href="https://medium.com/tow-center/who-hacked-the-election-43d4019f705f">detailed academic research</a>, encompasses a range of issues which fundamentally raise the role of state sovereignty and the political sphere of regulation. </p> <p>Facebook and Google are more than media companies. They are advertising engines, data controllers, information service providers and algorithm developers. And they are moving into a variety of new fields such as artificial intelligence and virtual or augmented reality, leveraging the revenues they are earning from advertising. Their corporate power is unprecedented. They have purchased early-stage ventures which might have turned out to threaten their position, and their dominance risks damaging innovation. In their main fields, they are arguably now natural monopolies. </p> <p>The role of network effects and economies of scale driven by Big Data consolidates and concentrates their power as first-movers. The entry costs for new suppliers are so high as to be prohibitive. Their ability to imitate and replicate at low cost the new services offered by competitors reduces the effects of competition. It is difficult for consumers to switch or exit when in the case of Facebook, most of their friends may be on the platform, and in the case of Google, its dominance of data makes it difficult for any other search engine to approach the quality of service it provides. Cross-platform sharing of data within a group of companies such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, intensifies their dominance. </p> <p>I suggest creating a new category of ‘Information Utilities’ for specific markets such as search and social media, drawing on <a href="https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/news-plurality-digital-world%20.">proposals for the ‘statutory underpinning’</a> of a new regulatory framework suggested by a former Ofcom regulator.</p> <p>Information Utilities would be licensed as such and they would have specific reporting regulations in respect of the regulator, which would be granted strong back-stop intervention powers. Dominant ‘Information Utilities’ – whose dominance might be measured in terms of their significant market power, such as their share of the online or mobile advertising markets – would have the most stringent reporting duties. These proposals would be compatible with <a href="///C:/Users/Caroline/Downloads/v">the imposition of a ‘duty of care’ on social media companies being proposed by others</a>. In the case of <a href="http://observer.com/2009/07/the-evolution-of-facebooks-mission-statement/">Facebook, its founder has regularly referred to it as ‘a social utility’</a> and in his 600-word manifesto last year, referred to it as <a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/building-global-community/10103508221158471/?pnref=story">‘social infrastructure’</a> on several occasions. Perhaps we should take Zuckerberg at his word and accept that Facebook is a social utility and a form of social infrastructure. Utilities, after all, are regulated.</p> <p>In the past, Parliament has regulated to control monopoly power. For example, the 1984 Telecommunications Act, introduced when BT was privatised, recognized the danger of such a dominant player being able to exert anti-competitive power and put in place a strong regulatory framework. The situation of Facebook and Google is different, but they are dominant in their spheres and have significant market power. Their potential for exploitation by hostile state actors, as we have seen in both the US Presidential election and in the UK’s EU referendum, means that they should be seen as critical social infrastructure. There would need to be a lead regulator in respect of this new framework for Information Utilities, which should additionally be charged formally with convening regular meetings with other relevant regulators. Today, the regulation of social media is no longer a media issue but a social issue.</p> <p><em>This is an extract from "Anti-social media? the effect on Journalism and Society" edited by Mair, Clark, Fowler, Snoddy and Tait (Abramis) which is being launched at the Frontline Club on 26 October. </em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/emma-briant/our-governments-share-responsibility-for-cambridge-analytica-crisis-and-her">Our governments share responsibility for the Cambridge Analytica crisis… and here’s how they should fix it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/moh-hamdi/facebook-and-journalism-part-two">Facebook and journalism. Part two</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joren-de-wachter/facebook-privacy-and-use-of-data">Facebook, privacy, and the use of data</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/techlash-why-facebook-s-approach-to-fakenews-ultimately-fails">Techlash: why Facebook’s approach to #FakeNews ultimately fails</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties OurBeeb uk Leighton Andrews Wed, 10 Oct 2018 06:00:10 +0000 Leighton Andrews 119795 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From Windrush to Universal Credit – the art of ‘institutional indifference’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/ruth-lister/from-windrush-to-universal-credit-art-of-institutional-indifference <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This government is 'institutionally indifferent' - to evidence, to criticism by the UN, MPs and inspectors, and most of all, to the suffering of those affected by its ignorant policies.</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/549093/cream of foodbank.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cream of foodbank.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/aestheticsofcrisis/24882459297">Georgie/Flickr</a>, CC 2.0.</em></p> <p>The past year or so has been marked by the exposure of the state’s ‘institutional indifference’ towards marginalised citizens and residents in a number of spheres. I borrow the term from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/02/grenfell-inquiry-brings-painful-memories-of-fight-for-justice-for-my-son-stephen-lawrence">Doreen Lawrence</a> who used it in relation to Grenfell and the treatment of social tenants generally (1).</p> <p>She identified institutional indifference in both the roots of the Grenfell tragedy and in some of the responses to it. And she linked that institutional indifference to questions of race and class, which meant that the concerns and complaints of residents were all too often ignored or treated as a nuisance because the residents did not count, were not worth listening to. Government – central and local - has now been forced to listen, even if they still don’t always appear to hear. </p> <p>Examples of institutional indifference abound. Those explored here concern the “hostile (now compliant) environment” created by immigration policy and social security. </p> <h2>Hostile environment</h2> <p>This year’s most glaring example, exposed by the admirable work of the <em>Guardian</em>’s Amelia Gentleman, is the Windrush scandal – the denial of the rights of a group who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries in the post-war era leading to loss of homes, jobs, healthcare, pensions and social security, wrongful detention and in some cases even deportation or refusal of re-entry. In the words of the <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhaff/990/99002.htm">Commons Home Affairs Committee</a> “their settled life in the UK [was] unjustly taken away from them” (2). The committee lambasted the Home Office for ignoring warnings over many years as it pursued and intensified its hostile environment policy. </p> <p>This was preceded by an equally damning <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/1034/103402.htm">report</a> from the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The summary of their investigation of the case files of two individuals who were wrongfully detained provides a telling example of institutional indifference. It “confirmed that Home Office officials discounted ample information and evidence – the individuals’ accounts of their lives; evidence and pieces of information on case files; representations from family members, lawyers and people who had known them for decades; letters and representations from MPs - all of which were consistent and clear representations on behalf of these individuals meeting their accounts of their lives which should have sufficed to ensure that such individuals were not deprived of their liberty. However, somehow it did not trigger the appropriate response and these people were not listened to and were wrongfully detained” (3). </p> <p>What finally appears to have triggered a response was the happy coincidence of the cumulative impact of the stories appearing almost daily in the <em>Guardian</em> and the forthcoming meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, which David Lammy MP used to press the issue in parliament. But even then, according to the JCHR, “the Home Office does not appear to have acted like an organisation that had discovered it had made serious mistakes” – mistakes with serious implications for the human rights of those wrongly subjected to immigration procedures and detention. The Committee is scathing about the Home Office’s attempt to explain what happened as “a series of mistakes” and instead points to the likelihood of systemic failure (4). </p> <p>The whole episode has shone a much-needed light on the hostile environment policy that has driven successive immigration laws. The first response of the new Home Secretary was to relabel it a “compliant environment”. But as the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism said in a recent <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23073&amp;LangID=E">statement</a> on the UK: “shifting from the rhetoric of hostile environment to one of a compliance environment will have little effect if the underlying legislative framework [rooted in the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts] remains intact” (5). So far, apart from a few minor easements, it does indeed leave that legislative framework intact, leaving the Home Affairs Committee “unconvinced” that the actions taken properly address the problems they had identified. </p> <p>The UN Rapporteur highlighted “an immigration enforcement framework that deputizes immigration enforcement to private citizens and civil servants in a range of arenas”. One example cited is the racialised impact of the right to rent requirement that landlords must check the immigration status of all potential tenants and deny tenancy to undocumented immigrants or risk penalties. A recent <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-inspection-of-the-right-to-rent-scheme">report</a> to government by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration concluded (6) that there has been no attempt to measure the impact – despite concerns raised by the Residential Landlords Association and others about its discriminatory effects. The government’s rejection of the Inspector’s recommendation for a proper evaluation simply compounded the institutional indifference shown to the policy’s effects. </p> <p>Other examples of institutional indifference come to light regularly. </p> <p>One, not created by the hostile environment, but aggravated by it, is the exorbitant fees charged children who are not automatically British because of their parents’ status, despite being born in the UK or having lived most of their lives here. They nevertheless have rights to register as British citizens – but are charged over £1000 to do so, of which only £372 is attributable to administrative costs. Unsurprisingly, many cannot afford it. The Home Affairs Committee points out, “there are parallels with the Windrush generation and their children, in that they are undocumented, have lived in the UK since an early age (or were born here) and consider themselves to be British” (7). The committee warns the government this is a problem it must solve: “a failure to do so will leave many in a precarious position, unable to study, work or seek the support of social security as they transition into adulthood”. Lawyers and activists have been campaigning on this issue for some years, but they are only now getting a public hearing post-Windrush.</p> <h2>Social security </h2> <p>Social security is another policy arena marked by institutional indifference towards the lives of marginalised citizens. As universal credit rolls out millions of existing tax credits and benefits claimants are migrated onto the new benefit, the cosy political consensus that it is a ‘good thing’ is becoming increasingly fractured. Calls are starting to be heard for it not just to be stalled but to be scrapped. Universal Credit’s architects ignored early warnings of the likely damaging impact of its goal of transformational behaviour change, which sought to impose middle class values regardless of the realities of life on benefit. So we see ‘institutional ignorance’ at the heart of so-called welfare reform: “an ignorance that is not one of blissful unawareness or innocent absence of knowledge, but rather of rational calculation” (8). In other words, institutional ignorance born of institutional indifference. </p> <p>We can see it again in the lack of official interest in what happens to people who have been sanctioned or subjected to various social security cuts; and the refusal publicly to accept the mounting evidence of the relationship between sanctions, benefit cuts and delays, and the evidence of the emergence of destitution and growing reliance on food banks. To quote Frank Field MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, who has turned into a fierce critic of universal credit when faced with the evidence, the role of government is changing from “a line of defence against destitution to becoming an active agent in its creation” (9). Shocking as it is, destitution must be understood in the context of the much wider and more entrenched experience of poverty, which the government also tries to downplay. </p> <p>The government’s indifference to the impact of its universal credit reforms hit the headlines when the Secretary of State, Esther McVey, was publicly taken to task by the head of the National Audit Office for misrepresenting to parliament its damning <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/report/rolling-out-universal-credit/">report</a> on universal credit. Among other things, the NAO report observes how the Department of Work and Pensions often dismissed “evidence of claimants’ difficulties and hardship” instead of working with organisations that represent and support claimants “to establish an evidence base for what is actually happening” (10). The NAO report was soon followed by a Public Accounts Committee <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/975/97502.htm">report</a> on errors in the transfer of claimants to employment and support allowance, which criticised the DWP’s “culture of indifference to underpayments” and a “management culture which does not proactively and systematically act on intelligence from its front line and fully address mistakes when they first occur”. This ‘was compounded by a lack of willingness to listen to experts and stakeholders’ (11).</p> <p>As the criticisms mounted, McVey finally responded in a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-way-forward-personalisation-and-digitalisation-of-benefits-and-support">speech</a> promising a ‘culture of mea culpa’ which would listen to people on the frontline (12). And a leak to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/01/revealed-ministers-plan-to-research-effect-of-policies-on-food-bank-use">Guardian</a> revealed top secret DWP plans to investigate the link between their policies and food bank use, which they have hitherto steadfastly denied (13). </p> <p>Then there’s the sad saga of the devolution of crisis support from the national social fund to discretionary local welfare assistance schemes (for which there is no ring-fenced budget). By last Autumn around 1 in 6 authorities had abolished their scheme altogether and many more had cut back drastically. <a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/resources-and-publications/not-making-ends-meet">Research</a> into the schemes by the Childrens Society and Church of England paints a picture of the retreat of the state from the provision of crisis support, with the voluntary sector filling in as best it can (14). When challenged in the <a href="https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2017-12-11a.1369.6&amp;s=speaker%3A25058#g1369.7">Lords</a> (15) as to whether the government accepted the warning of the Work and Pensions Committee that it maintains “an ongoing obligation to ensure provision of a safety net which prevents vulnerable people from falling into severe hardship”, the minister responded with platitudes about empowering local authorities with new flexibilities – what we might call the Pontius Pilate approach to policy-making. </p> <h2>“The essence of inhumanity”</h2> <p>Institutional indifference matters not just because of its material consequences for marginalised groups but because, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, to be indifferent towards our fellow human beings is “the essence of inhumanity” (16). This makes it the more important that we expose incidences of institutional indifference because the moral of this story is that it is possible at times and under certain conditions to puncture it and force the government to respond, even if inadequately. </p> <p><em>This article is based on Ruth’s presidential address to the Social Policy Association annual conference earlier this year.</em></p><h2>Notes</h2> <ol><li>Doreen Lawrence ‘Grenfell inquiry brings painful memories of the fight for justice for my son, Stephen’, <em>The Observer</em>, 3 June 2018.</li><li>Home Affairs Committee, <em>The Windrush Generation</em>, HC 990, July 2018, p3.</li><li>Joint Committee on Human Rights, <em>Windrush Generation Detention</em>, HC 1034/HL Paper 160, June 2018, p3.</li><li>JCHR, pp4, 20-1.</li><li>Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, <em>End of Mission Statement of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism</em>, May 2018, para 38.</li><li>Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, <em>An inspection of the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme</em>, March 2018.</li><li>Home Affairs Committee, as above, para 123.</li><li>Tom Slater, ‘The myth of “Broken Britain”: welfare reform and the production of ignorance’, Antipode, 46(4), 2014, quoted in Jane Millar and Fran Bennett, ‘Universal credit: assumptions, contradictions and virtual reality’, <em>Social Policy &amp; Society</em>, 16(2), 2017</li><li>Frank Field, ‘Hitting rock bottom’ in <em>Burning Britain?</em> ed. Eamonn Ives and Frank Soodeen, Bright Blue/Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 208, p30.</li><li>National Audit Office, <em>Rolling out universal credit</em>, June 2018, para 17.</li><li>Committee of Public Accounts, <em>Employment and Support Allowance</em>, HC975, July 2018, paras 2-3.</li><li>Esther McVey, speech to Reform, 19 July 2018.</li><li>‘Ministers’ secret plan to assess role of austerity in food poverty’, <em>The Guardian</em>, 2 August, 2018.</li><li>Not making ends meet. The precarious nature of crisis support in England, Children’s Society/Church of England, May 2018.</li><li>House of Lords Hansard, 11 December 2017, cols 1369-1372,</li><li>George Bernard Shaw, <em>The Devil’s Disciple</em>, Act II.</li></ol><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="/natalie-bloomer/invisible-britain-untold-stories-of-those-hit-by-austerity">Invisible Britain: The untold stories of those hit by austerity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/deborah-padfield/universal-credit-fantasy-of-tidy-world">Universal Credit: the fantasy of a tidy world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/ian-sinclair/universal-credit-internationally-unique-in-its-harshness-and-headed-for-7-million-of">Universal Credit - internationally “unique” in its harshness, and headed for 7 million of us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/luke-de-noronha/windrush-generation-and-illegal-immigrants-are-both-our-kin">The ‘Windrush generation’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ are both our kin</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ruth Lister Wed, 10 Oct 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Ruth Lister 120008 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Immigration and the impact of a no-preference post-Brexit deal https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/stephen-darwin/immigration-ans-impact-of-no-preference-post-brexit-deal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">In theory, a skill-based immigration system could work to reduce skill shortages in certain UK industry sectors but there are some key implications that remain unresolved. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38459715.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38459715.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dusseldorf International Airport in Germany. The signs are separating lines between All Passports, EU, Schengen passports or Other Nationalities.NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="normal">A shadow of the unknown has been cast over Britain since the announcement of Brexit in 2016. On the lead up to Britain’s exit in March 2019, Theresa May has been tirelessly invoking what the future will hold in terms of immigration, the free movement and trade. </p> <p class="normal">Immigration has been at the forefront of the debate since the announcement of Brexit; and with no clear resolution, business owners, international students, non-UK residents have all been in the dark regarding the matter. </p> <p class="normal">Whatever the government decide, will shape the future of the country in terms of trade, industry, overseas relations and how other countries will, in turn, choose to treat UK nationals. After extensive delays and disagreements, the cabinet have unanimously decided that the UK should have a skill-based immigration system and that EU residents will not be accorded preferential treatment in terms of immigration.</p> <p class="normal">May has stated that this works in the best interests of the United Kingdom, as this will help to boost productivity and shape the future of the nation. </p> <p class="normal">In theory, a skill-based immigration system could work to reduce the skill shortages in industry sectors such as the NHS, engineering and IT. However, there are some implications that remain unresolved. </p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Understanding the system as it stands</strong></h2> <p class="normal">As it stands, the UK immigration system is based on a threshold as opposed to merit or skill. Which means that many non-UK residents, including doctors and nurses have had their visa applications rejected previously. </p> <p class="normal">In addition to this, the UK and the EU currently uphold a “free movement” agreement, meaning that EU nationals can live and work in the UK, and vice versa. However, the cabinet have unanimously agreed to end this after Britain takes its leave from the European Union in March 2019.</p> <p class="normal">In order for the entire immigration focus to shift towards a skilled workers, it was necessary for the government to remove the priority status for EU nationals. However, this could have an adverse effect on trade, EU relations and overseas opportunities for UK citizens. </p> <p class="normal">Within the terms of the new immigration system proposal, it’s been outlined that in order to qualify for a Tier-2 skilled worker visa, the applicant will need to earn £30,000. </p> <p class="normal">Although this will ensure a certain level of capability for the skilled migrants that enter the UK to live and work, this could also be restrictive for those who possess the capabilities, but do not yet meet the salary requirements.</p> <p class="normal">Over the span of three months, NHS vacancies have risen by almost 10%, meaning that there are around 108,000 jobs that have been unfilled. </p> <p class="normal">In theory, the new policy could bridge the employee shortages in the future: however, this could also mean that some of the “lower-skilled” sectors could struggle to fill their roles. </p> <p class="normal">Although overseas doctors and nurses could be accounted for in the new post-Brexit immigration system, this could prevent vital administrative, management and clerical roles in the healthcare sector from being filled also. </p> <p class="normal">These limitations will benefit the healthcare sector by assisting with the key roles, but in the same heartbeat, could also be a hindrance in so far as scheduling, managing and all of the crucial behind the scenes work could be overlooked.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">In addition to this, industries such as the care and hospitality sectors that rely on so-called “low skilled workers” could suffer in the long term. </p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>The political ramifications</strong></h2> <p class="normal">This announcement risks antagonising EU leaders in the final months leading up to Brexit and will be likely to face criticism from those who argue that the UK should use the immigration system to negotiate preferential trade deals once it has left the EU.</p> <p class="normal">It has been announced that the UK will also introduce new “e-gate visa checks” for tourists and business travellers coming to the country for short-stay trips from “low risk countries”.</p> <p class="normal">This could work as leverage in the ongoing negotiations and can prevent any delays that UK nationals may face when entering the EU for a business trip or a holiday in the future. </p> <p class="normal">However, in terms of working overseas, UK citizens will most likely be placed under the same scrutiny as non-UK residents looking to move into the UK. </p> <p class="normal">Japan said that they would welcome the UK with open arms into TPP after Brexit. Which means that if any EU-UK trade relations become jaded after Britain takes its leave from the European Union, this could be a mitigating factor and much less detrimental than if Britain had no trade deals settled. </p> <p class="normal">However the Prime Minister of Japan has warned both the EU and UK parties that exiting with no deal could have extremely negative ramifications for global business. Which means that the government need to tread carefully in the final months leading up to Brexit.</p> <p class="normal">Despite the fact that UK immigration policy is a completely different matter to the post-Brexit deal, any immigration policy that can be deemed a hindrance to EU citizens could result in EU leaders revoking or changing the deal. In essence this could make a no-deal Brexit much more possible.&nbsp; </p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Looking towards the future</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Overall, the no-preference post-Brexit system would be a positive for failing sectors such as the IT and healthcare sector. This is a much better policy than the current immigration cap. However the lower level jobs are becoming much more difficult to fill.</p> <p class="normal">The government need to find a balance between appeasing the EU leaders, by agreeing to a level of leniency for EU nationals, whilst remaining true to the initial proposal. </p> <p class="normal">Additionally, many agree that the existing immigration proposal also needs to be reassessed because as it stands currently, the £30,000 minimum earning to qualify for a Tier-2 visa may be much too high and could prevent medium-skilled workers from moving to the UK and fulfilling the role. </p> <p class="normal">The Home Secretary Sajid Javid has agreed to assess the wage cap for skilled workers on the run-up to Brexit in relation to this. Although the premise is there with regards to the no-preference system, it is clear that the government need to do much more in order to create a more salient and appeasing immigration system before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Economics Equality International politics Brexit Stephen Darwin Tue, 09 Oct 2018 17:45:15 +0000 Stephen Darwin 120015 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Go Home?’ – five years on https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/william-davies-sukhwant-dhaliwal-kirsten-forkert-yasmin-gunaratnam-gargi-bhattacharrya-emma-jacks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On bordering, the referendum and Windrush: "It might be a dangerous moment but it is a moment when the old tricks of government cannot be repeated." Chain letter between UK researchers, June – September, 2018. </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/PA-36045801_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36045801_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May hosts a meeting in relation to the Windrush generation, with Commonwealth leaders, Foreign Ministers and High Commissioners at 10 Downing Street, London in April, 2018. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>It is five years this summer since the Home Office commissioned a poster van reading ‘In the country illegally? Go Home or Face arrest’ to drive through the streets of diverse areas of London, between 22 July and 22 August 2013. The vans episode was part of a wider campaign <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/operation-vaken-evaluation-report">Operation Vaken</a>. Responding to this as researchers, we kick-started a group research project that culminated in the publication of the book <a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526113221"><em>Go Home: The Politics of Immigration Controversies</em></a>.<em> </em></p> <p>As we wrote the final revisions to the ‘Go Home?’ <a href="http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=625583;keyword=go%20home">book</a> manuscript in June 2016, the UK really did seem at ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants">breaking point</a>’, but not in the way that MEP Nigel Farage’s Leave poster was intended to suggest. The Brexit referendum campaign still raged, and a remain-campaigning MP was murdered in the street by a man shouting ‘<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/vote-ukip-say-far-right-group-britain-first-10126389.html">Britain First</a>’. </p> <p>Meeting up in the wake of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/windrush-scandal">Windrush</a> scandal and the ongoing Brexit dramas in June 2018, and looking back on the moment of the vans in 2013, we realised we had more questions than we had answers. </p> <blockquote><p><em>Were we really ‘shocked’ by the phrasing of the vans at the time, or merely curious and irritated that the longstanding violence of state racism had become so shameless and so crass? </em><em>Has the Home Office backed off from such theatrical tactics since then? If yes, do we know why? The vans have played an iconic role in discussions of the Windrush scandal. Why? What do we think the overall approach to Home Office communications has been since the vans? What do we think is going on ‘on the ground’ with immigration raids? If we were doing the project from now, what would be our focus? What, if anything, might we revise in the light of later events?</em><em></em></p></blockquote> <p>We decided to carry on our conversation through the medium of a chain letter over the summer to reflect on these questions. The ensuing exchange also reflects the news events of the summer; the ongoing Brexit shambles, the World Cup, Boris Johnson’s resignation and Theresa May’s dancing. </p> <h2><strong>Letter 1: June 6, 2018 </strong></h2> <p>The vans marked a ramping-up of anti-immigration rhetorics; as many noted, ‘go home’ was a common far-right slogan in the 1970s. The vans also represent a clear example of what Shirin Rai calls ‘performance politics’: whereby policies are implemented less for their effectiveness (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/31/go-home-vans-11-leave-britain">the vans only led 11 people to leave the UK voluntarily</a> according to the official evaluation), than for demonstrating ‘toughness’ to citizens who are concerned about immigration and wanted to see something being done, and generating splashy media headlines. </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/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 10.22.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 10.22.24.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Go home or face arrest vans. Evening Standard, September 4, 2013</span></span></span></p><p>In using such theatrical communication tactics, the government is <a href="https://migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2018/05/08/whats-behind-the-hostile-environment/">creating a show for narrow audiences</a>. They are thereby defining whose concerns matter, and whose do not, and by extension who is included within or excluded from the body politic. The interviews, focus groups and street survey we carried out revealed widespread concerns within communities about how the Go Home Vans and more generally the ‘hostile environment’ sowed hatred and division, and made many people, including British citizens, feel they did not have the right to be in the UK. </p><p>Five years later, the vans are back in the news again. But this time, they’re being <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/18/theresa-may-thuggish-windrush-scandal-home-office">mentioned</a> in relation to the ongoing Windrush scandal. The vans have become symbols of the cruelty and the <a href="https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/05/21/windrush-hostile-environment-policies-shifting-attitudes-immigration/">whipping up of anti-immigrant sentiment</a> which mark the hostile environment. The newspapers are filling up with the heart-breaking stories of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/15/why-the-children-of-windrush-demand-an-immigration-amnesty">Paulette Wilson, Anthony Bryan, Michael Braithwaite and others</a>. They came to the UK as British citizens many years ago and have now found themselves on the wrong side of a system in which NHS staff, landlords, teachers and others are acting as proxy border agents. The term ‘hostile environment’ itself has now become toxic; the newly appointed Home Secretary Sajid Javid has replaced it with the euphemistic ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/03/compliant-environment-is-this-really-what-the-windrush-generation-needs">compliant environment</a>’. &nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">So why has it suddenly become unacceptable to treat people in this way, when for a long time it was not only acceptable, but also seen as an easy win.</span></p> <p>So why has it suddenly become unacceptable to treat people in this way, when for a long time it was not only acceptable, but also seen as an easy win for governments wanting to demonstrate toughness to voters who felt that something needed to be done? </p> <p>This shift happened very quickly; even as the news was breaking, PM Theresa May <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/15/no-10-refuses-caribbean-request-to-discuss-children-of-windrush">initially refused to discuss the situation of the Windrush generation with Caribbean diplomats</a>. &nbsp;Is it because the hostile environment now touches a generation which was integral to the building of Britain’s post-war welfare state (and therefore more difficult to scapegoat as scroungers or job-stealers)? Is it because (to a limited extent) the Windrush has become memorialised as part of Britain’s official history – and related to this, Britain’s self-perception as fair and decent? Is it because taking away the rights of British citizens is unacceptable but taking away the rights of migrant workers, international students or refugees is perceived as a necessary evil to keep immigration under control? What is crucial is how much the shift in attitudes will be limited to compensation for the Windrush generation, or how much it will involve a wider critique of the hostile environment. </p> <h2><strong>Letter 2: June 19, 2018 </strong></h2> <p>Five years ago, we found when surveying attitudes to theatrical performances of immigration control, that <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/2015/01/07/290/">attitudes were altered when actions were framed as overtly racist</a>. While bordering, including quite violent forms, could be assessed as tolerable or even desirable, overt racism in the form of ‘racial profiling’ in immigration spot-checks was not endorsed. </p> <p>We might read this as indicative of the complex and contradictory processes of bordering, race-making and contested nationalism running through recent British histories. Whereas not so long ago the appeal of authoritarian populism could be bolstered by the racist call for stronger borders, because people ‘felt a bit swamped’, recent years have seen a concerted campaign to separate discussion of immigration from that of racism. As we found, this could <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/soundings/61/deserving-and-undeserving-migrants">enable racially minoritised groups to echo anti-migrant rhetoric</a>, despite the recent histories of migration among their own communities. </p> <p>Yet something about the Windrush scandal has upset this demarcation. Everyone can see the racism. The realisation that these particular racist outcomes are a result of the intended and carefully planned impact of immigration policy has unsettled the terms of public debate, something we must see as an opportunity.</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/500209/PA-37136959.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37136959.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'>Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT 'Empire Windrush' landed them at Tilbury,22/06/48. Press Association filephoto. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In retrospect, the ‘Go Home’ vans have become a symbol of poor judgement. The revelations of the Windrush case have led to a rapidly increasing awareness of the hostile environment and its workings. Yet it is those vans that are referenced repeatedly, an iconic example of Theresa May’s political signature, at once cruel and awkward, miscalculating audience response. So it is the vans that have become, retrospectively, the symbol of the hostile environment and also of its failures. Not indefinite detention, including of pregnant women and children. Not the making destitute of those with irregular status, as a deterrent to other would-be arrivals. Not the barriers to healthcare. Not the imposition of the role of border guarding on hauliers, lecturers, landlords, everyone. Instead it is the crass call to ‘go home’ that has stuck itself in our collective memories. <span class="mag-quote-center">Post-Windrush, debate has returned to the question of who is and who is not ‘illegal’. </span></p><p>In our earlier work we found that participants were eager to demonstrate that they were ‘deserving’, unlike those undeserving illegals. Post-Windrush, debate has returned to the question of who is and who is not ‘illegal’ – with disappointing references to the necessity of detaining/dispossessing/deporting ‘illegals’, while respecting the rights of those who have ‘contributed’ to this country. However, as we know, the experience of the Windrush generation reveals how easily people can become ‘illegal’, despite their entitlement to citizenship.</p> <p>Instead of assuming a stable terrain of status, value, empathy – with clear demarcations between the allegedly deserving and undeserving – it might be helpful to consider the fragility of bordering endeavours. Despite decades of increasingly rabid anti-migrant rhetoric from both mainstream and far-right parties and sections of the popular media, the Windrush scandal reveals the fragility of the consensus around bordering practices. </p> <p>The failures that led to the abandonment of the children of Windrush link to other narratives underlying popular distrust of public institutions – unwieldy and opaque bureaucracies, unaccountable elites or experts who mess up the lives of ordinary people with their meddling, contradictory or meaningless instructions, impossible and incomprehensible paperwork. </p> <p>Sympathy for children of Windrush could be seen as the human face of Brexit consciousness. Could this become one trigger, among others such as Grenfell, for an alternative progressive populism? Or does the authoritarian under-belly of populism make this too risky? </p> <h2><strong>Letter 3: June 27, 2018</strong></h2> <p>The Windrush scandal is one rooted in decades of the repositioning of this group of people from natural citizens to not only undeserving but deportable. This started shortly after they arrived, with the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24463873">1971 Immigration Act</a> stripping away any natural claims as British Commonwealth citizens, redefining the Windrush generation as immigrants with the right to remain indefinitely but with this only officially granted to those who could pay the then high price of completing the application process. In terms of daily life, this was largely unproblematic. </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/500209/PA-37142931.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37142931.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'>Andria Marsh holding a photo of her parents, who arrived on the Windrush, after the service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, London to mark the 70th anniversary,June 2018. Victoria Jones/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>However, with the hardening of Home Office policy over the last six years, and legal changes to immigration law that occurred around the same time and since then, all that has changed. The Windrush Generation became subject to the long arm of border control. With bodies such as the Department of Work and Pensions, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/20/crackdown-migrants-nhs-doctors-border-guards-immigration-undocumented-migrants">the NHS</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/02/universities-border-police-academics">educational institutions</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/21/uk-banks-to-check-70m-bank-accounts-in-search-for-illegal-immigrants">banks</a> as well as employers and<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/government-right-to-rent-landlord-immigration-checks-housing-policy-high-court-windrush-a8385506.html"> landlords</a> now charged with carrying out checks on people’s citizenship and right to live in the UK, now aged Caribbean men and women are being repositioned as undeserving of the privileges and opportunities afforded to British citizens – if they cannot provide documentation for every year that they’ve lived in the UK as proof of their long-term residency. As invited citizens from the Caribbean, the Windrush scandal revealed the coming to life of the fascist slogan that was a common microaggression many generations of people have faced for decades: ‘Go Home. Go back to where you belong’. <span class="mag-quote-center">A common microaggression many generations of people have faced for decades: ‘Go Home. Go back to where you belong’. </span></p> <p>This raises a number of issues in terms of the study we conducted five years ago.</p> <p>Did we get it wrong when we said that there had been a notable hardening of Home Office policy? Has not the immigration policy, practice and legal framing in the UK of those from once colonised spaces always been at best tolerant? </p> <p>Or is it the theatrics, the performance and modes of control that have become more notable, not least in the context of what <a href="http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/125439/1/Tyler_JSBC_GS_CP.pdf">Imogen Tyler</a> refers to as the ‘authoritarian turn’ taking place in contemporary Europe? Was the slogan used in the government-sponsored campaign from which the study was based, the rallying cry of this resurgent form of social control? </p> <p>Tyler’s work speaks of deportation as a mode of control that has been increasingly used to remove those deemed deportable. Our study revealed fears among some of the children of those who came from the Caribbean (as well as from Africa and Asia) about how the increasing hostile environment would impact other groups. </p> <p>This has indeed become the case. What the Windrush scandal reveals is both the normalising of the hostile environment, and the flexibility of its desirability testing and deportation regimes in at once being seen as acceptable (for some groups) and deplorable (for others). The Windrush scandal is one instance when such regimes were deemed deplorable. The inability to separate these regimes from their racialised anchoring was something that – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/17/uk-still-uncertain-about-windrush-era-deportations">as we saw from the UK Government very fast back-tracking</a> – could not be sustained. </p> <p>The fact that this was also the year of the seventieth anniversary of both the Empire Windrush arrival and the NHS added to both the need to protest on behalf of, and celebrate the contributions made by this group – which made the UK Government’s original tough stance even more untenable. The disquiet also reveals the ways such dominant power regimes constantly work to include and exclude, using those who are included to justify in multiple ways the exclusion of others. </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/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.01.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 11.01.53.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Facebook.</span></span></span>Finally, <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/findings/">the study we conducted revealed re/newed forms of community activism at play</a>. People who had never been political or never marched, took to the streets and protested against the vans, the raids and the profiling being done both in London and throughout the UK. Such community-driven activism was a key element of the action against the Windrush scandal (for example, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/walesweare1/">Wales Solidarity with the Windrush Generation and their Families</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/179074649417770/">Bristol Solidarity with the Windrush Generation and their Families</a>) and a UK <a href="https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/216539">Government petition for amnesty</a> for anyone who was a minor that arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1971. The petition garnered 179,952 signatures, and the outcome of the subsequent debate was that “the Government is clear that an amnesty for this group is not required because these people do not require amnesty: they already have the right to remain here”.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Letter 4: July 12, 2018</strong></h2> <p>Last night the English football team lost a semi-final game in the World Cup. Apparently, this was the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-44804428">most-watched</a> television event in the UK since the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in 2012. In the days preceding the game, national media seemed to be entirely taken over by it – almost every guest on Radio 4’s Today programme was asked about the game, from the Colombian ambassador to (many) childhood friends of Gareth Southgate, the team’s manager. <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b85m5n">Three times</a> in just <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06cyh2f">over a week</a>, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b90pr8">I heard the BBC’s</a> lead political journalists interviewing English guests with partners from other countries about which team they or their children would support in the World Cup as they watched it at home (‘will you need to be in separate rooms?’). Each time it was treated jovially and amicably but why was this reminder of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/jan/08/britishidentity.race">Tebbit Test</a> even relevant in what <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/07/gareth-southgate-england-team-optismism-diversity">Southgate himself described</a> as a diverse ‘modern England’ represented by his team?</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/500209/PA-37518156.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37518156.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'>Gareth Southgate and Ashley Young after the FIFA World Cup semi-final, July 12, 2018. Elmar Kremser/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Stuart Hall wrote of a<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2012/feb/11/saturday-interview-stuart-hall"> ‘multicultural drift’</a> in Britain. Rather than a deliberate policy of ‘multiculturalism’ (such policies incidentally never having existed in the UK at a national level, despite the frequent announcement of their failure), multicultural drift describes how it simply became normal, boring even, to live with people who looked different or came from different parts of the world. And this was represented nowhere more prominently than in the London 2012 Olympics <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4As0e4de-rI">Opening Ceremony</a>, that televisual event even bigger than the World Cup semi-final, which featured, among other things, workers’ political resistance, suffragettes, the NHS – and Empire Windrush representing the arrival of Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean as central to British history and identity. </p><p>This triumph of spectacular conviviality and an alternative set of ‘British values’ (of struggle, change, and interconnection) to those announced by government as under threat, was followed only a year later by the wake-up call of the <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/about/">Go Home van</a>. </p> <p>Outside the level of spectacular communications, entrenchment of immigration controls in law and institutional practice and indefinite detention for administrative infractions continued. While Britain had become increasingly cosmopolitan – in its dictionary definition of ‘familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures’, it had simultaneously become more fearful, and this was embodied nowhere more clearly than in the performance of Home Secretary/Prime Minister <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-mein-kampf-adolf-hitler-nazi-vince-cable-liberal-democrat-conservatives-a7825381.html">Theresa May</a>.</p> <p>This July 2018 week’s news seems emblematic of where we are, five years on from the Go Home van, two years from the Brexit vote. In Westminster and in the media establishment there is a consensus that ‘the people’ voted for Brexit – and in doing so, rejected both internationalism and migrants – though the result was in fact a very slender majority of what was basically a 50/50 split, and was followed by the 2017 general election which resulted in a minority government, now dependent on Northern Irish DUP votes while the Northern Irish border has emerged as one of the most intractable – and for some reason, completely unanticipated – questions about how Brexit could work. </p> <p>Scotland did not vote in a majority for Brexit, and the First Minister continues to press for a <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/nicola-sturgeon-scotland-independence-vote-brexit-clarity/">further independence referendum</a> in the light of Brexit negotiations. There is less than a year until the UK leaves the EU and apparent constitutional chaos, as only this week did ‘a plan’ emerge, immediately followed by the resignation of both the Brexit Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. But never mind, perhaps football would be ‘<a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/world-cup-2018/6750454/its-coming-home-mean-three-lions-released-baddiel-skinner-the-lightning-seeds-song-about/">coming home</a>’ (to England, whose media often forgets it is only part of the Britain being riven by Brexit). <span class="mag-quote-center">What seems to be ‘coming home,’ aside from the defeated team, are the reverberations of Britain’s colonial history.</span></p> <p>What seems to be ‘coming home,’ aside from the defeated team, are the reverberations of Britain’s colonial history. This can be understood as what Paul Gilroy has termed ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/jan/18/britishidentity.monarchy">postcolonial melancholia</a>,’ the failure to properly contemplate the real history of empire’s cruelties and loss. The result is a persistent illusion that ‘greatness’ is a birthright of ‘the British’ – and when this greatness is not delivered for the majority of the population, a feeling of being cheated which tends to be directed at the ‘un-British’. In recent politics, this has been channelled into the problems of capitalist scarcity and competition, re-enforced by austerity policies, being blamed on the shadowy figure of ‘immigration’. This is also a gendered melancholia, one expression of it exploding after World Cup defeats in increased <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/shocking-domestic-violence-campaign-warns-incidences-rise-during-the-world-cup_uk_5b45c3bee4b07aea7545ac0a?guccounter=1">domestic violence</a>.</p> <p>It is notable that in his resignation letter, the Foreign Secretary claimed that the current Brexit ‘plan’ means the UK is ‘truly <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-44772804">headed for the status of colony</a> – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement’. No irony was signalled from this man whose own plans for post-Brexit Britain apparently included an ‘Empire 2.0’ in which Britain would be ‘<a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/britain-africa-trade/3834549.html">re-entering the Commonwealth</a>’. There is no recognition from this self-styled ‘<a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/books/2014/11/one-man-who-made-history-another-who-seems-just-make-it-boris-churchill">historian’</a> that Britain’s prosperity has been entwined with that of Commonwealth countries and their populations since British forces invaded and colonised swathes of the world. Britain (not just the English football team) would not exist in its current form without the violent histories of colonisation and resistance to it. But the British Empire is no more – and it is not for the former Foreign Secretary to grant permission to ‘enter’ or ‘leave’ those territories; Britain has to get used to asking for permission to enter others’ homes, rather than simply taking away others’ permission to enter Britain.</p> <p>The failure to re-imagine the various meanings of ‘home’ and how home might be shared rather than owned or controlled, lie at the heart of the politics of contradictory nationalism which are now playing out. </p> <p>Today, the ubiquitous white flag crossed with blood-red is being forlornly removed from cars, shops, houses and bodies; the over-excited news anchors might remember that there is more to Britain than England (never mind football); the replacement Brexit and Foreign Secretaries will have to resume negotiating a reality in which ‘the public’ apparently want to control where non-Brits call home but maintain their own rights to free movement and trade. The World Cup will remain out in The World. And the idea of Britain as home seems increasingly narrow for all of us who live here and make it home, including those many of us who thought that being part of the world was a good thing, that it was possible to make a home without bricking up all the doors, and that part of doing so might lie in recognising and understanding both the mistakes and triumphs of the past.</p> <h2><strong>Letter 5: September 5, 2018</strong></h2> <p>Picking up this chain letter at the end of the summer, the World Cup feels like a long time ago. A brief moment of national euphoria (for some) before a return to the realities of pre-Brexit Britain. </p> <p>I am struck by the comment at the end of the last entry that ‘the idea of Britain as home seems increasingly narrow for all of us who live here and make it home’. The Go Home vans were both a symbol and a mechanism of this contraction. This has made me think about the question, if we were doing the project now, what would be our focus? <span class="mag-quote-center">‘The idea of Britain as home seems increasingly narrow for all of us who live here and make it home’</span></p> <p>It does seem that there has been a move away from the spectacular performance politics of the vans and the #immigrationoffender Home Office tweets, but the heightened visibility of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nira-yuval-davis-georgie-wemyss-kathryn-cassidy/changing-racialized-common-sense-of-everyday-bord">everyday bordering</a> continues. </p> <p>I have seen signs in hospital waiting rooms this summer about NHS treatment not being available for everyone. The creeping normality of these kinds of signs in public and the interactions that go with them between doctor and patient, landlord and potential tenant, university administrator and student continue to unfold. The hostile environment becoming everyday is different to the jolt produced by the vans. As an earlier post on this chain letter pointed out, in our research we found that people were largely accepting of these everyday forms of bordering (as opposed to those they saw as being based on racial profiling). Given the shift in the centre ground of politics highlighted in the last entry on this letter, perhaps the Home Office are just running with this seemingly more palatable bordering and the theatrics encapsulated by the vans are no longer necessary or useful for them? </p> <p>Whether the Windrush scandal and the exposure of the violence of this more ‘quiet’ bordering means a rupture in public consent remains to be seen, but public anger certainly seems to have lessened over the summer since we began this exchange. It would be interesting to repeat our survey and find out how people feel about these various forms of bordering, five years on, after the referendum and Windrush. Meanwhile, the language of ‘go home’ continues to feature in many reports of <a href="https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/audio-video/cambridge-student-told-brexit-go-home-racist-row/">racist</a> and <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/eastern-europe-brexit_uk_5accc2f5e4b0152082fdd6c8?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&amp;guce_referrer_cs=ToNJmTyfUw5TaIY3woMANg">xenophobic</a> abuse, post-referendum. And, Theresa May, who was the face of the hostile environment for so long, now appears to be trying to soften her image through displays of awkward dancing on overseas visits. Where to even start?</p> <p>If we were to pick up the project, reviving the local approach that we used would be vital. One of the strengths of our research was the ability to move from the national scale, through the survey, to close-up local case studies, through the interviews and focus groups that we conducted. So many pronouncements have been made on the level of the nation about living in these anti-immigration and post-referendum times, but to know how this impacts on people living in particular places, their sense of who belongs, their stability or precarity, taking a finely grained qualitative approach would be valuable. We formed partnerships with organisations working with those most impacted by the hostile environment. How have five more years of anti-immigration messaging impacted on the people they work with and indeed how are those groups faring after five more years of austerity? What do the policy makers that we spoke to think about the changing tactics of the Home Office over this five-year period?&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Letter 6: September 7, 2018</strong></h2> <p>The <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/film/">film</a> that we commissioned for our project in March 2015 opens with a group of energetic and noisy women with megaphones. The women, facilitated by Southall Black Sisters (one of our civil society partners in the research), are disrupting an immigration raid in Southall in August 2013. What has always struck us about this clip is the chant, ‘Here to stay. Here to fight’. The same chant was used in pro-migrant campaigns in the 1970s and 80s and its use to challenge an Operation Vaken raid condenses over four decades of anti-racist feminist activism. Something about the recursive nature of racism, as well as anti-racist activism, is uncanny about this part of the film. Are we stuck in a political groundhog day? Have things got any better? Well, yes and no.</p> <p>In the beginning of 2018, we have started to see a more clandestine leaching of the hostile environment culture that we began to track five years ago, this time, through the illegalising of Britain’s cohort of post-war Caribbean labour migrants. An insidious feature of the diffuse violence of contemporary border regimes is that border strategies, tactics and devices are not simply <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-borders-of-europe">anticipatory and proactive</a>. As the public are now seeing, borders can also unfurl backwards in time. To put it another way, you can stay in place and through the on-going recalibration and whittling away of citizenship and residency rights, the border can move underneath you. In this case, through what <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n09/william-davies/weaponising-paperwork">Will Davies</a> has called the ‘weaponising of paperwork’. As we saw in 2013, some of complex border affects of hostile environment policies manifest in a creeping domesticated insecuritisation that can affect different minoritised groups. In an interview that <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/2018/04/20/windrush-and-go-home-the-whittling-away-of-both-rights-and-responsibility/">Hannah Jones</a> did with a community worker in Bradford, she was told that third generation citizens of migrant heritage were asking ‘Are we going to be allowed to stay here?’ </p> <p>Although it is relatively easy to feel pessimistic about the normalisation of hostile environment policies, the recent Windrush cases have made visible the debilitating and slow-moving effects of British border regimes and their entanglement with racism. Dexter Bristol, who came to the UK aged eight in 1968 to join his mother, collapsed and died in the street from heart failure in March 2018. His mother <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/18/mother-of-windrush-citizen-blames-passport-problems-for-his-death">believed</a> his death was caused by the extreme stress he had been under for more than a year in trying to prove his immigration status. Bristol was sacked from his cleaning job in 2017 because he did not have a passport.&nbsp; He was not able to claim the benefits that he was entitled to because officials did not believe he was in the UK legally. He did not go to the NHS when his health started to deteriorate because he believed he had no right to health care. <span class="mag-quote-center">He did not go to the NHS when his health started to deteriorate because he believed he had no right to health care. </span></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/28/family-windrush-citizen-dexter-bristol-walk-out-inquest-death">coroner’s inquest</a> into Bristol’s death in August 2018 refused to make the Home Office an ‘interested party’ in the hearing, recording a verdict of death by natural causes. ‘He was prepared to fight but as the months went on and he was required to find more evidence it became very difficult’ immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie said, ‘and we saw him just decline into a shadow of himself.’ For Sentina Bristol, Dexter’s mother, there was little doubt about the causes of her son’s death, ‘This is racism. He was the victim of their policies, and it is a tragedy. I’m hoping no one will go through what I’m going though now’. </p> <p>As we have pointed out, a key tenet of the political debate surrounding Operation Vaken included attempts by the government to separate out its hostile environment approach from racism. ‘It is not racist to ask people who are here illegally to leave Britain. It is merely telling them to comply with the law.’&nbsp; <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2381051/MARK-HARPER-Racism-It-racist-ask-people-illegally-leave-Britain.html">Mark Harper</a>, then immigration minister wrote in the Daily Mail, in reference to Vaken. ‘By no stretch of the rational imagination can it be described as “racist”.’ As <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/blog/go-home-vans-nasty-racist-and-likely-unlawful">Bella Sankey</a> has countered, ‘When today’s Government barks “go home”, the phrase is not an abstract one… it’s rooted in the popular fascism of a darker period we hoped was behind us.’</p> <p>The legacy of this ‘darker period’ of British history has become more visible with the increase in anti-migrant feelings and racism following the June 2016 Brexit vote. In the month after Brexit, there was <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crimes-racism-eu-referendum-vote-attacks-increase-police-figures-official-a7358866.html">sharp rise</a> in ‘racially or religiously aggravated’ hate crime. As events have unfolded in the past five years there has been more dialogue about the relationships between xenophobia and racism and longer histories of British colonialism, English nationalism and the racialisation of distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor. </p> <p>It is significant that much of the hostility whipped up by Vaken and Brexit has been on the terrain of health and welfare, with migrants being seen as a drain on national resources and a particular threat to the white working class. <a href="https://www.thepolicyspace.com.au/2017/11/182-beware-of-those-who-use-the-people-to-drive-through-brexit">Robbie Shilliam</a> has named these discursive associations as a ‘nationalisation of entitlement sentiment’, connected to ‘the historic dissolution, via the 1948 National Assistance Act, of the formal distinction between the deserving and underserving poor.’ He goes on to suggest that, ‘at the same time this distinction was informally racialized so as to place the homogenised deserving “<a href="http://wildcatdispatches.org/2016/11/28/lisa-tilley-the-making-of-the-white-working-class-where-fascist-resurgence-meets-leftist-white-anxiety/">white working class</a>” in opposition to undeserving “immigrants” from the “new” (i.e. majority coloured) Commonwealth countries.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">‘We are here because you were there…. We are the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea.’</span></p> <p>As well as challenging longstanding omissions in thinking race and class together, these types of analysis are reinvigorating discussions of migration. And in a variety of settings. Labour MP David Lammy’s fiery speeches on the devastating impact of the hostile environment on Windrush residents, mobilised Stuart Hall’s wide-ranging contributions on the connections between Caribbean migration and colonialism. ‘We are here because you were there…. We are the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea’, Lammy <a href="https://twitter.com/davidlammy/status/991375610093232131?lang=en">tweeted</a>.</p> <p>Perhaps the recursive is a vital and necessary part of political process of moving forward. </p> <h2><strong>Letter 7: September 11, 2018</strong></h2> <p>One rarely discussed aspect of response to the vans is the suggestion that they aped emotions and experiences unknown to the poster’s authors. Everything we learned about the escapade seems to confirm this view – it was most of all an attempt to both anticipate and echo a particular popular racist voice. To speak as if the elite is one with a racist populace. And in this, it was as convincing as Dick Van Dyke’s Disney cockneyisms and read as such, a mockingly disrespectful ventriloquism. </p> <p>Many British people may have wished that their neighbours would ‘go home’ and the aftermath of the EU referendum confirms this, including in the various attacks on Britons of colour. But that is another thing from having the rich and powerful put on their common voice to affirm ‘we ‘ate jonny foreigner, just like you oiks’. </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/500209/PA-38919996.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38919996.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'>Theresa May dances as she arrives on stage to make her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference, October, 2018. Stefan Rousseau/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Farage might have got away with this, just, as a marginal figure able to laugh at his own gaffes in the pub, but the instruments of the state cannot. If we accept that Brexit reveals not only the entrenched xenophobia of half of the electorate but also the exasperation with and distrust of big government, bureaucratic mechanisms and the accountability of supposedly democratic institutions, then the vans carry out their ill-fated local tours in the moment just before this and the response to them anticipates popular distrust in all and any pronouncements of the state. </p><p>We might consider the vans as one of the last moments when centrists believed that the rhetoric of the far right could be tamed and repurposed for their own electoral advantage. What has come since then is undoubtedly uncertain and potentially dangerous – giving greater space and attention to ‘real’ fascists – but it is also a crumbling of the practices and habits of violent and violating state racism that were shared by centre-left and centre-right. Since the Windrush scandal, this has not been sustainable. Tory ministers have appeared on television to decry the terrible tragedy of these events, as if their government played no role in manufacturing these outcomes. Former ministers from the Blair era have become scathing critics of indefinite detention, as if such practices were not introduced under their watch. Suddenly, everyone wants to say how much they value Britain’s black communities and their contribution, much to the amusement of older members of the black community. <span class="mag-quote-center">Former ministers from the Blair era have become scathing critics of indefinite detention, as if such practices were not introduced under their watch.</span> The events of the last five years have whipped back the curtain, revealing the mechanisms and impacts of state racism for all to see. The consequence is to open political opportunities for both racists and anti-racists and to make the disguised racisms of the time just past appear opportunistic or inauthentic or just plain racist or, equally, perhaps not racist enough. It might be a dangerous moment but it is a moment when the old tricks of government cannot be repeated. And the undecidedness and uncertainty of now this minute demands that we adjust our responses and stretch to see the opportunities and also the extent of the new dangers. </p><h2><strong>Letter 8: September 11, 2018</strong></h2> <p>With the clock ticking on Britain’s membership of the European Union, Boris Johnson hurling out Islamophobic metaphors on a weekly basis in pursuit of Theresa May’s job, Tommy Robinson’s profile resurgent and constant news of nationalist successes from the continent, there are plenty of reasons to fear that the ‘Go Home’ vans of summer 2013 presaged a darker political future. </p> <p>The letters above make for largely sombre reading, eloquently articulating the fears and anxieties of the present juncture. But there remains Raymond Williams’s famous question of how we ‘make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.’ The answer may lie largely in the activism that the previous letters describe, and with which our project engaged. But what about the public and political mood more broadly? What signs are there that the fixation on immigration and ‘illegals’ is waning? </p> <p>While none of this is cause for complacency or rejoicing, there are glimmering signs that the explosive force of the Brexit referendum (which might yet result in economic depression and the break-up of the United Kingdom) represented a peak of nationalist resentment, rather than an accelerator of it. </p> <p>As Rob Ford has explored in <a href="https://medium.com/@robfordmancs/how-have-attitudes-to-immigration-changed-since-brexit-e37881f55530">numerous</a> <a href="https://medium.com/@robfordmancs/taking-back-control-fcd9f209c7ff">blogposts</a>, there is evidence in the British Social Attitudes surveys and elsewhere that the British public has become more sympathetic to immigration since June 2016, and that this isn’t simply because they believe there will be less of it or more control over it. The demographic trends are also pointing in this direction in the long-term, as younger generations favour a more open and tolerant society, not to mention a far more left-wing political economy. </p> <p>While Leave’s referendum victory may be the most decisive event of Britain’s post-war history, it was not (at least in terms of probability) the most surprising one of the past five years. Between March and June 2017, the Labour Party rose from around 28% in the opinion polls to achieve 40% - an unprecedented turn around, that <a href="https://theconversation.com/broadcast-impartiality-rule-has-helped-labour-to-achieve-biggest-poll-shift-since-1945-78949">may well have been facilitated by</a> regulations on broadcasting impartiality during election seasons. Crucially, this involved turning around strongly pro-Leave regions (such as the Welsh Valleys), who had been drifting towards Tories, but without having to ‘talk tough’ on immigration in the process. Astonishingly, Corbyn publicly linked the two terror attacks during the election campaign season to Britain’s foreign policy (a kind of truth that was presumed politically suicidal), only for polls to show considerable public support for his analysis. </p> <p>The second letter in this chain asks if the Windrush scandal, combined with the Grenfell Tower tragedy, might become ‘one trigger… for an alternative progressive populism’. Certainly, these harrowing news stories have created the personalised biographies, family stories and affective communities that are so powerful in shaping public sympathies. The risk remains that by particularising ‘immigration’ as an issue, the division between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ immigrant becomes entrenched, as if Windrush families and recent Syrian refugees are completely different political issues. </p> <p>But I think we can at least say that if some equivalent to the ‘Go Home’ vans was being discussed in a Home Office communications meeting tomorrow, that the risk of offending public sensibilities would now be too great for the idea to go any further. I agree with the diagnosis above that the vans have become a ’symbol of poor judgement’. This is marginal progress, but we should appreciate the fact that the state has lost confidence in a resolutely anti-immigration rhetoric. Meanwhile, Paul Dacre will step down as editor of <em>The Daily Mail</em> in November, and who knows what political and cultural possibilities might be opened up as a result? <span class="mag-quote-center">Paul Dacre will step down as editor of <em>The Daily Mail</em> in November, and who knows what political and cultural possibilities might be opened up as a result?</span></p> <p>When we began the project five years ago, we did so out of horror that a Whitehall department had signed off on an experiment that repeated the rhetoric of the far right. As we looked more closely at that department, signs emerged of a bureaucratic culture that was more concerned with fire-fighting, reputation management and tracking public attitudes than it was in dealing in facts. In that sense, we caught a glimmer of a style of politics that has spread rapidly in the years since. </p> <p>But to some extent, the upheavals of Brexit and Windrush serve as a reality check, and the quest to <em>appear</em> tough, <em>perform</em> toughness cannot carry on being ratcheted up indefinitely, especially as the real injuries of the ‘hostile environment’ become plain. </p> <p>The anxiety is that, <em>beyond</em> the limits of the state and newspapers, via online communication channels that have been too often overlooked, the actual far right has been thriving these past five years. Hope may lie in a nation that comes to terms with itself at long last – the ‘coming home’ of Britain’s colonial history that is mentioned in the fourth letter. The threat will then lie with those who are enraged by that home-coming, and insist that others should sooner ‘go home’ before <em>Britain</em> accepts any guilt. The slogan ‘go home!’ will have migrated back to its original context of brick walls, toilet doors and bus-shelters. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics William Davies Kirsten Forkert Hannah Jones Roiyah Saltus Emma Jackson Sukhwant Dhaliwal Yasmin Gunaratnam Gargi Bhattacharyya Tue, 09 Oct 2018 13:11:00 +0000 Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Kirsten Forkert, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Emma Jackson, Hannah Jones and Roiyah Saltus 119996 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Forget early votes, do the maths, and start building for 2022 https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mark-perryman/forget-early-votes-do-maths-and-start-building-for-2022 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The lessons from conference season? Forget an early election – or a People’s Vote – the real prize to work for is a 2022 election that will be as era-defining as ’45 or ‘79.</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/549093/new corbyn.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/new corbyn.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Jeremy Corbyn at 2018 Labour Party Conference. Rights: Han Yan/PA Images</span></span></span>Three parties, three delusions. Sorry to disappoint (depending on your point of view) but there’s not going to be a ‘people’s vote’ / second referendum, nor an early General Election, nor Boris Johnson becoming leader of the Conservative Party.</p> <p>Johnson’s leadership hopes, at least, we can dispose of quickly. With Conservative MPs voting via a secret ballot for the top two candidates for party leader, Johnson is way, way short of getting his much sought-after opportunity. Daily Telegraph front page splashes at the drop of a column, and a fawning fan base amongst the Tory members, is about all he can now look forward to. And as his chances of a leadership bid disappear even both of those will rapidly lose their impact too. My heart bleeds.</p> <h2>Why we won’t have a People’s Vote or an early General Election</h2> <p>Far more serious are the closely linked delusions of a second referendum and early General Election. While it is foolhardy to rule anything out in politics the likelihood of either are on the outer margins of remote. Their enthusiasts have been allowed to get away with ignoring the parliamentary arithmetic for far too long. As MPs return to Westminster it’s time everyone wised up. </p> <p>Labour (kind of) backing a second referendum via a barnstorming Keir Starmer speech was one of the supposed highlights of Labour’s conference. But while a crowd-pleaser for the People’s Vote crowd, it was pretty irrelevant. Lib-Dems, SNP, Plaid, Green, most Labour MP’s can push for a People’s Vote as much as they like. But there won’t be enough of them to defeat a Tory-DUP majority unless about 30 Tory Remain rebels vote to split their party for a generation, ending their own careers in the process. At every twist and turn of the Brexit saga so far the so-called Tory rebels have largely failed to deliver the votes when it mattered. Why should it be any different this time?</p> <p>And if they Tory remain rebels did deliver? There remains a huge unanswerable. Polls suggest the result would be narrow, whoever won. Just suppose the vote to leave is reversed by a 51% to 49% majority. Where would that leave us? It is ironic that the most ardent supporters of a People’s Vote are also backers of Proportional Representation, yet here are more than happy to back the worst possible version of First Past the Post. Any referendum on constitutional change should surely be subject to both a turnout and requirement for a two-thirds majority. Anything less is a democratic disaster waiting to happen. </p> <p>So, no second referendum before Brexit Day, 29.03.19. And though conference delegates rapturously received Corbyn’s call for an early General Election, that is right off the scale of possibilities. Under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, the next election is due on 5th May 2022. Wishing something to happen doesn’t make it reality. </p> <p>Again, do the maths. This time we are looking for 30+ pro-Remain Tory MP’s willing to not just split their party but to destroy it by voting with the Opposition to bring their own government down. Of course on the other wing of the party there are the Tory Leave hardliners but very few of them want anything more than simply getting out of the EU. </p> <p>Of course on the other wing of the party there are the Tory Leave hardliners. Ideologically-driven, sure, but for the most part just getting out of the EU will be sufficient, they’ll force a no-deal if necessary, but bring down their own government? I doubt it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Gove has quietly but persuasively suggested to his parliamentary colleagues that once out of the EU almost anything they want is possible. So why would they throw away that opportunity in order to topple May? </p> <p>If there’s one factor that unites all the Tory parliamentary factions above all else, it’s the absolute necessity of clinging on to power, and they’ll sacrifice almost anything to maintain that. The DUP? They are not going to give the opportunity to win power to any party with a smidgen of commitment to a United Ireland – something a Corbyn government would have more than a smidgen of. </p> <p>So no chance there of forcing an early General `election. And if, or more likely when, May is replaced by AN Other Tory leader, then he or she is going to want to hold on to office for as long as possible and certainly not make the same disastrous mistake as May by calling a snap General Election. </p> <h2>Corbynism vs the threat of the populist Right</h2> <p>Whilst they fire up their various enthusiasts, these delusions need to be put to bed as quickly as possible in order to wise up to the reality, and prepare for a General Election that will take place three years and a few months after Brexit has already taken place.</p> <p>Not nice, but that’s the political terrain of the near future. And nobody really knows what it will end up looking like. Probably not the free trade nirvana of a Global Britain that the most fervent Leavers are promising us. Nor the entirely scorched earth economic wasteland that ardent Remainers warn us of. Probably somewhere in-between. Britain doing what it’s best at, coping, while the fabric of our society is slowly torn to shreds. </p> <p>Labour will seek to set out an agenda for post-Brexit economic revival that John McDonnell began to describe in his well-received conference speech. Freed from the Brexit impasse, this is Labour’s big opportunity. Not just to break from neoliberalism and the austerity it has imposed on us, but to shape a popular base for an alternative.</p> <p>But post-Brexit such a project is likely to be underway in much changed political circumstances. When Brexit fails to deliver any kind of boost to either the economy or our hard-pressed public services, the risk is a populist backlash. And waiting in the wings to take advantage are a revived, racist, populist Right. Not UKIP Mk 2 – potentially something much bigger and nastier than that. Something prepared to say that yes we got out of the EU, but that’s not enough we need to get rid of immigration too, and they can take their Mosques with them. Check the polls right now. A party that barely exists, UKIP, is hovering at around 10%. Imagine where they would be if they were actually functioning, and if voters were fired up by the kind of backlash I am describing. </p> <p>This isn’t fascism, the kneejerk labelling of preference for sections of the Left. In many ways that would make it easier to confront and defeat. Jackboots and swastikas thankfully have only had deposit-losing support amongst the British electorate. Rather, it’s a toxic mix of racism, Islamophobia and English nationalism. </p> <p>We shouldn’t restrict ourselves to narrow party-political self-interest. For one thing, it’s just as conceivable that a populist Right could split the Labour vote in some seats, as split the Tory vote in others. But these, to put it mildly, are short-term considerations. A successful populist Right would shift the entire political discourse towards a much uglier place than even where we are now. Racism and immigration would come to dominate politics in the way Brexit did. </p> <p>Labour is better placed than others to face down this challenge, to articulate a different sense of community, nation and the world than the one that the populist Right seek to establish. To expose the causes of, and solutions to, the genuine grievances working-class communities faced, both before and after Brexit. This is what Labour needs to be preparing for, now, with localised, community campaigning of a sort the party has too infrequently engaged with in the past but thanks to the huge surge of membership and enthusiasm it has the potential to initiate now on an unprecedented scale. Backed with not just physical resources but the vital intangibles of imagination and hope too. </p> <p>All of this will be of considerably more significance than the much talked-about Centrist party of some media commentators’ dreams. Ending their parliamentary career with lost deposits is only attractive to the most embittered few Labour MPs. Swapping Westminster for jobs that will pay them handsomely for their undoubted talent is likely to be a much more tempting proposition. And for those who stick it out there’s the opportunity to hold the balance of power, and real influence, should Labour form either a minority government or govern with a wafer-thin majority. If I shared their politics (I don’t) I know which one I’d plump for. A handful of possible reselection contests won’t change the calculations. But a combination of bridge-building within the PLP and a party membership confident in the party’s policies just might. </p> <h2>The electoral challenge ahead</h2> <p>But first Labour has to win. Apart from a changed political terrain, we can also be fairly certain that it won’t be Theresa May leading the Tories by 2022, unless Brexit has gone swimmingly well…</p> <p>Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are likely to have more formidable leaders than at present, and to run better campaigns than they did in 2017 (it would be hard for any of that to be worse). </p> <p>And the Tories will be favoured by boundary changes too, if they can force them through, as well as by new obstacles to voter registration including the rolling out of voter ID. All of this will depress turnout in precisely the areas and demographics Labour most needs to win. In crude terms it needs its 66 target seats, and a swing of just 3.6%, for an outright majority. Though we shouldn’t forget that a mere 0.98% swing the other way, delivers the same to the Tories. Even this far out it’s fairly obvious the next General Election is going to be very tight, with the result entirely determined by Labour’s targets and defences. Nothing else much matters. </p> <p>One complication along the way is likely to be Scotland. Much ignored by the English Labour Left, 18 of the 66 Labour targets are in Scotland. All are SNP held currently, and the SNP was also second in the four ultra-marginals Labour currently holds north of the border. Scotland is both crucial to a Labour victory. </p> <p>Currently Labour is making next to no headway in Scotland; a distant third to the SNP and the Scots Tories in the polls. It’s MSPs are in the process of an almighty bust-up that makes the Westminster PLP sweetness and light in comparison. Fortunately the Scottish Parliamentary elections take place in 2021 a year before the General Election. If Scottish Labour fails to make gains by then, the priority surely should be to win Tory held English seats and leave the SNP to their own devices. After all, it’s a battle with a broadly social-democratic party, not the Tories. A party that will (if Labour fail to win an overall majority) vote to support the vast majority of the Bills Labour puts forward, either in formal coalition or backing a Labour minority government. </p> <p>Such a strategy has nothing to do with tactical voting , or the ‘Progressive Alliance’ as proposed by Compass and others. Backing the candidate of a party you don’t actually believe in has next to no positive appeal for the hundreds of thousands who’ve joined Labour overflowing with enthusiasm and commitment. Campaigning for them is the closest thing to anathema I can imagine. It is an entirely negative tactic. Tactical campaigning is the precise opposite, and it will help Labour win in those 66 seats it must gain for victory.</p> <p>Remarkably, in my neck of the woods (East Sussex) it will be on the streets of Hastings, Crawley and East Worthing that history stands to be be made. OK, Hastings is used to a spot of history-making, but Crawley? Worthing! Crawley, number 45 on the list of 66. Worthing bubbling under just outside the 66 but in with more than a shout of a Labour gain. Win Crawley and Labour is well on the way to being the largest party, win East Worthing and it has a majority and preparing to form a government. </p> <p>Historic, because when 2022 comes it will be just like ’45 and ’79, a General Election that establishes a new consensus. Attlee and the post-war settlement. Thatcher and the beginning of its replacement with neoliberalism. In 2022 Corbyn threatens to break with neoliberalism, and this autumn what has fired up Labour more than anything else has been the mapping out the politics that will come in its place. Not just in places like Crawley and Worthing, but also in Thurrock, Telford, Mansfield, Corby, Walsall, Stevenage and the like – this is where history will be made. Not in Westminster or think-tanks but in those towns, on their streets. We live in frightening times right now, but a period of hope and expectation too, an era when taking part really can make a difference. The sands are shifting but there are waves to make too. Its our turn now to make some history. Personally, I can’t wait. </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/neal-lawson/people-s-vote-on-brexit-be-careful-what-you-wish-for">A “People’s Vote” on Brexit – be careful what you wish for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/epochal-election-welcome-to-era-of-platform-politics"> An epochal election: welcome to the era of platform politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-i-most-powerful-person-in-land">The Age of Corbyn I: He is now the most powerful person in the land</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Mark Perryman Tue, 09 Oct 2018 11:45:52 +0000 Mark Perryman 120002 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A peculiarly British nationalism? – book review https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nick-pearce/peculiarly-british-nationalism-book-review <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour’s attitudes to nationalism, Britain’s changing role in the global economy: myths of left and right are punctured in David Edgerton’s magnificent The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A Twentieth Century 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/549093/use this.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/use this.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Largest tanker built in Britain launching on Tyneside, 1969</span></span></span>After its recent annual conference in Liverpool, the Labour Party released a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/kieron-monks/labour-s-new-broadcast-channels-trump-to-good-effect">well-received party political broadcast</a> pitched squarely to the Leave voting working class electorate of Britain’s post-industrial towns. It painted a portrait of painful loss and redemption to come: a world of well paid jobs in factories and fishing fleets that had once given pride and purpose to communities, but which had been destroyed by forty years of neoliberalism and would now be rebuilt by a Labour government.</p> <p>The makers of Labour’s broadcast might well have spent the summer immersed in David Edgerton’s powerful new work, <em>The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A Twentieth Century History</em>. In it, Edgerton documents the rise and eclipse of a manufacturing powerhouse, able to feed, house and heat itself, led by a state with full spectrum capabilities and a vigorous, nationalist political class. Edgerton is an extraordinary historian who challenges established preconceptions of British history at every turn. Out go the myths of Britain as an imperial power in terminal decline, presided over by a gentlemanly class of capitalists and effete politicians living off the rents and fading glories of empire while squandering its industrial heritage. In their place is a portrait of a nation - drawn in the brute, material statistics of coal production, industrial exports, foodstuffs and freight - which prioritises warfare as much as welfare, and comes into its own in a productivist, scientific and industrial post-war period more commonly associated with relentless diminution and decay. </p> <h2>The myth of post-war decline</h2> <p>It was the very strengths of this British nation – in modernised nationalised industries, domestic food production and indigenous energy supply – that made Thatcherism possible, argues Edgerton. With North Sea oil and abundant agricultural production, Britain no longer needed manufacturing exports to pay for imported food and energy. This was an ‘epochal transformation’ that ‘has barely registered in political discourse or the history books’. The success of the post-war state, not its failure, provided Thatcher with a platform for restructuring the economy and society. The family silver had been thoroughly burnished in the 1960s and 1970s, making its sale all the more lucrative. The miners, dockers and factory workers made redundant in the shake out could be cushioned by a newly comprehensive and generous welfare state. </p> <p>But if Edgerton punctures declinist myths and Thatcherite narratives of a nation crippled by strikes, saddled with inefficient nationalised industries, and sapped of its native entrepreneurial energies, <em>Rise and Fall</em> also takes aim at bromides of the Left. Far from creating a welfare state, the Attlee government inherited one: the United Kingdom ‘went to war in September 1939 with a welfare state already in place’, Edgerton argues. Beveridge simply rationalised what had already been put in place by the Liberal-Conservative and Conservative governments of the 1920s and 1930s and filled in the gaps. It would fall to later Labour governments to overhaul the welfare state once more, dealing with the parsimonious legacy of Beveridge’s flat-rate contributions and benefits. Remembered for creating a New Jerusalem, Attlee’s government in fact put ‘warfare spending well above welfare spending in its priorities. It rearmed on a huge scale, while imposing NHS charges at a trivial but politically significant level.’ It was profoundly conservative too, leaving largely untouched elite education and the core structures of class society.</p> <p>Perhaps Edgerton’s most striking claim is that the Labour Party was a nationalist party in the post-war period, not a socialist one. It presented itself as the true party of the nation, not the tribune of the working class. It created a <em>National</em> Coal Board, a <em>National</em> Health Service, and a swathe of <em>British </em>nationalised companies. It was relentlessly focused on the development of a productive, export-orientated national economy. The post-war UK it helped to create ‘was in some ways better prefigured in the programme of the Tories and the British Union of Fascists (BUF) than that of the Liberal Party or the Labour Party.’</p> <p>In arguing that the post-war Labour Party is better understood as a nationalist party, rather than a ‘weak carrier’ of social democracy, Edgerton is advancing a broader claim that 20th century Britain had a strong nationalist political tradition. It was a ‘peculiar nationalism’ because it had little overt presence. It was neither liberal nor imperialist, but a challenge to both. It developed in the 1930s and 1940s, as world trade slumped and nations retreated behind tariff walls. In Edgerton’s account, it rejected both the liberalism of free trade and global openness that had dominated the Edwardian era, and imperialist projects for the prioritisation and consolidation of empire. It contributed decisively to the development of idea of a single national economy in the post-war period: ‘one that produced, imported and exported’ and was ‘highly protected and controlled’. It was this national economy that was to be swept away in the 1980s, as Britain globalised once again. Thatcher presided over a profound denationalisation of the British economy: industries were privatised, exchange controls were abolished, and foreign direct investment flowed in. A recognisably <em>British </em>capitalism – the members of whose business class fill the pages of Edgerton’s work – disappeared. </p> <h2>The Anglo factor</h2> <p>Analytically, there is much to be gained from Edgerton’s foregrounding of British nationalism and the rise and fall of a British nation. It is rich and arresting account that is likely to be the central reference for historiographical debates on 20th century Britain for a long time to come. </p> <p>But there is a price to be paid too. The continuities of Britain’s political economy, and the co-evolution of its economic model with a majoritarian, first-past-the-post democracy and liberal welfare state, are necessarily downplayed by a global-vs-national analytical framing. Viewed from a “Varieties of Capitalism’ perspective, Britain is a liberal market economy which has never had the institutions that coordinate business and labour interests typical of central and Northern Europe, nor the structured representation of those interests in a PR electoral system. Its corporate governance is shareholder, not stakeholder; firms compete on price in lightly regulated labour markets; vocational training is weak and less important than general education; and finance has a bigger, less patient role in the economy. </p> <p>These institutional features have endured across Britain’s recent political-economic history, despite the profound differences in the role of the state documented by Edgerton. They are shared in large part by other countries in the Anglo-world, which together constitute a distinctive liberal-market economy grouping. Instead of distinguishing ‘global’ and ‘liberal’ from ‘national’ economic policymaking, it is perhaps more useful to analyse different eras of economic policymaking as successive ‘<a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/hall/publications/electoral-politics-growth-regimes">growth regimes</a>’ pursued by coalitions of interests in the context of an institutionally liberal economy.</p> <p>Edgerton also argues that the British nation was created when ‘it emerged out of the British Empire, and out of the cosmopolitan economy, <em>after </em>the Second World War.’ A corollary of this argument is that the United Kingdom had once been part of an empire, but now possessed (a much reduced) one. Historians of the British Empire are likely to challenge this, since by implication it diminishes the centrality of the English (and then British state), and the political elite at the Westminster Parliament, to the growth and control of empire. It is not accidental that late Victorian political theorists argued for a <em>Greater Britain</em>, and sought to understand how the power of the British could be sustained in a world of large, multi-national empires and political federations, like those of Russia, Germany and the USA. </p> <h2>Reconstruction, empire, and New Labour</h2> <p>A Britannic nationalism was also at work in these discourses, one that stressed the ties of ‘kith and kin’ between Great Britain and the white settler dominions, and which persisted well into the 1960s in what has come to be called in recent years the ‘Anglosphere’. This was not an imperialist project to be contrasted to British nationalism, but one that projected a national identity and commonality of interest into a wider Anglo-world. It was sharply structured by racial hierarchies but cannot simply be equated with diehard imperialism.</p> <p>The nations of this Anglo-world were also vital to the reconstruction of the UK after the Second World War. As Edgerton notes, commerce with the independent dominions was more important to the UK in this period than in the Edwardian era, since the war had destroyed much of her European trade, and Canada aside, the dominions were members of the sterling area, and thus critical to the UK’s external position. But this in turn points to the centrality of the global economic context to the project of developing the post-war national economy and the absolute imperative of boosting manufacturing exports. The 1944 Bretton Woods Agreements created an international monetary regime in which exchange rates were fixed to the US dollar, which was linked to the value of gold. That meant that Britain had to earn its way in the world and do as much trade as it could in sterling. Unable to float the pound, and short of dollars, British policymakers were forced to focus on maximising competitive manufacturing exports and imports of raw materials that could be paid in sterling. The national economy was constructed in this global geo-political framework.</p> <p>Similarly, the economic importance of empire did not therefore come to an end with Indian independence in 1947, or the independence of the dominions. Instead, <a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/11090.html">as A. G. Hopkins points out</a> in another recent, monumental work of historical scholarship, the empire was repositioned to focus on its dollar-earning and dollar-saving parts in Malaysia, the Middle East and Africa (rubber, oil and minerals and foodstuffs). It did this successfully until the 1960s, when Britain finally called time on its military commitments East of Suez and the Sterling Area was wound up, prefiguring the long-anticipated entry to the EEC.</p> <p>Edgerton reserves his most vituperative prose for the New Labour era, which he considers a continuation of Thatcherism (as implicitly do the makers of Labour’s recent party political broadcast). <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/newe.12099">As another reviewer has noted</a>, he largely ignores its social democratic achievements in reducing child and pensioner poverty, investing in public services and creating the first National Minimum Wage. It is an unbalanced end to an otherwise remarkable book. But he can be forgiven this. Edgerton has given us radically new perspectives on 20th century British history. Written with bracing élan, <em>Rise and Fall</em> generates insights at every turn. Edgerton set out to rattle ‘the cage of clichés which imprison our historical and political imaginations’, and succeeds magnificently.</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-edgerton/why-does-left-ignore-british-nationalism-of-post-war-government">Why does the left ignore the British nationalism of the post-war government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-edgerton/shadows-of-empire-review">Shadows of Empire – a review</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Nick Pearce Tue, 09 Oct 2018 09:58:41 +0000 Nick Pearce 119989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our governments share responsibility for the Cambridge Analytica crisis… and here’s how they should fix it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/emma-briant/our-governments-share-responsibility-for-cambridge-analytica-crisis-and-her <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Government must regulate before privatised military propaganda firms interfere with any more elections</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A series of whistleblowers, journalistic investigations and public inquiries this year have reinforced concerns academics like me have had for some time about the rapid development of highly manipulative communication technologies. As our online activities are increasingly monitored and monetized, and we are being made more vulnerable to powerful actors abusing data for propaganda targeting. </p><p dir="ltr">This is enabled by digital platforms and influence industry applications that consumers trust, and which obscure their central purpose as part of their business model. Following questions of manipulation during Brexit and Trump campaigns inquiries interrogated the respective roles of: the campaigns themselves; foreign actors such as Russia; digital media platforms; influence industry companies and their business models and methodologies. Now US Senator <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/385137394/MRW-Social-Media-Regulation-Proposals-Developed">Mark Warner</a> and the <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36302.htm">Fake News Inquiry</a> in the UK have come up with some helpful solutions for the problem of ‘fake news’ and digital campaign practices that may undermine democracy… how well do these address the problem at hand? Well, these proposals largely focus on: Information Operations (IO) and coordinated responses to Russia; privacy and transparency measures largely focused on encouraging better behavior from digital platforms like Facebook; and providing public media education. </p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which platforms like Facebook are complicit has been central to media debates, to the neglect of other aspects of the problem. Scholarly proposals rightly emphasize a need to address the monopoly of these platforms. Some (Baron et al 2017; Freedman, 2018; Tambini, 2017, for example) say forcing data portability, whereby users are able to take their data to competitors, might reduce the monopoly power enjoyed by Facebook. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Privacy measures like GDPR and other measures aimed at platforms would certainly be helpful. However, a central question has been neglected by media and reports and yet is all the more urgent as we plan for upcoming elections in the UK and US – this concerns the influence industry and how government contracting helped create Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL. If UK and US responses are likely to include more propaganda or ‘information operations’ (IO), to counter Russia, it is unfortunate that both reports fail to address the fact the company central to the scandal emerged out of this kind of contracting work for US and UK governments and NATO. My <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/84032.html">submission to the Fake News Inquiry</a> from my academic research helped expose this link and indicated problems which seem to be largely unaddressed by recent proposals. </p><p dir="ltr">Policymakers must consider whether oversight and intelligence mechanisms were adequate as they failed to identify or prevent a developing problem. We must write to them demanding they make these necessary changes to ensure there can be no recurring issues with another contractor. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Addressing Facebook’s Monopoly Power</h2><p dir="ltr">Many of those who best anticipated how powerfully ‘big data’ would transform ‘influence’, were those who saw it as an opportunity to be exploited for profit. The opaque and monopolistic business models of digital platforms have recently been scrutinized, highlighting the implications of data harvesting and misuse as well as consent and privacy issues. Solving this is vital to <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/07/facing-facebook-data-portability-and-interoperability-are-anti-monopoly-medicine">enabling data portability</a>, something unlikely to be successfully achieved if left to the goodwill of profit-orientated companies<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0267323118790156?journalCode=ejca&amp;"> like Facebook</a>. Yet if we enable consumers to ‘be in control of’ their data and take it to competitors, we need to protect them too, to ensure we are not making them vulnerable to other companies like Cambridge Analytica, who may be keen to obtain and exploit their data in further unethical ways. And digital ‘whack-a-mole’ banning of particular techniques, or dropping of companies as they are exposed in the media would leave us falling short of responding to complex multi-layered adaptive manipulation and or preventing problems as a fast-moving industry develops. We must address a problem not just of social media companies, but of an influence industry with deeply concerning norms. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Unaddressed problems in the influence industry</h2><p dir="ltr">These companies grew not just from political campaigning and commercial advertising, but some emerged through our own governments’ information warfare. There has long been a revolving door between military and intelligence and private influence industries. PR companies, and wider cultural industries have frequently been involved in wartime propaganda which raises problems itself. Particularly as defense and intelligence methodologies increase in sophistication, we must take more seriously the risk of knowledge migrating the other way, into commercial and electoral campaigning.</p><p dir="ltr">Specific training and/or knowledge formally or informally acquired in a military or intelligence context could include: disinformation and deception techniques; methods used to demoralize an enemy; methods of harnessing psychological weaknesses or violent tendencies within a population or group; methods for influencing extremists, or increasing or decreasing inter- and intra-group tensions; techniques and specialist knowledge about surveillance and hacking; all of which many would recognize would be inappropriate knowledge to risk having among teams handling election campaigns if we wish to prioritize the protection of democracy. </p><p dir="ltr">The inquiries and journalistic investigations have raised concerns about relationships between a defense contractor, SCL, and Cambridge Analytica, who ran political campaigns; concerns included possible data, financial and staffing overlaps with some staff on defense projects working on political campaigns, and questions of whether defense-derived methodologies or possible hacking may have been used in political campaigns. It cannot be left to individuals’ personal integrity, it raises too great a level of risk. And it can be hard for people to speak out, particularly in the light of silencing and monitoring strategies of governments within national security.</p><p dir="ltr">It is vital governments not shy away from considering how companies seek to adapt services developed for defense beyond that domain, for example by adapting a business model or company structure to obscure what they do in lucrative political campaigns. SCL were a government contractor who developed their methodology through their own research facility, the ‘Behavioural Dynamics Institute’ (BDI), including through collaboration with US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">Briant, 2018</a>; <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/81874.html">Wylie, 2018a</a>). All SCL Group companies could draw on the methodologies developed. If these may have been able to inform tactics deployed in democratic elections this is very serious. </p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/81592.pdf">her Fake News Inquiry testimony</a> Brittany Kaiser, former Development Manager for Cambridge Analytica revealed that: </p><p dir="ltr">“I found documents from Nigel Oakes, the co-founder of the SCL Group, who was in charge of our defence division, stating that the target audience analysis methodology, TAA, used to be export controlled by the British government. That would mean that the methodology was considered a weapon — weapons grade communications tactics — which means that we had to tell the British government if that was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom. I understand that designation was removed in 2015.” The potential for defense-derived methods and knowledge to be commercially sold in other industries raises further risks to national security, as techniques could migrate abroad. Concern was raised by whistleblowers over Cambridge Analytica’s pitches to Lukoil, a Russian FSB-connected oil company, while SCL Group were delivering counter-Russian propaganda training for NATO, that methods for both might be based on a similar methodological core and could be utilized by Russia. My own evidence indicates around the same time, Alexander Nix from CA contacted Julian Assange at Wikileaks about amplifying the release of damaging emails; the Russian government has been accused of the hacking of these, which it denies.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Oversight of defense</h2><p dir="ltr">CA and many SCL Group companies may have gone bankrupt now, but SCL Insight appears to remain and new companies are growing from their ashes (Auspex International, Emerdata and Datapropria for example – Datapropria, 2018; Murdock, 2018; Siegelman, 2018b). These companies are part of a wider industry we mustn’t lose sight of. </p><p dir="ltr">Proposals from politicians and media demand information warfare responses to Russia, but do not fully consider how to address the problems SCL highlighted in how this is overseen by government, or how intelligence and oversight might be strengthened to prevent future recurrence. It is important to ensure potential vulnerabilities that might have contributed to the crisis are addressed. Nigel Oakes, the CEO of defense contractor SCL Group <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">said to me in interview</a>, “the defense people can't be seen to be getting involved in politics, and the State Department, they get very upset-” and stated that they imposed “strong lines” between the companies as a result. If the State Department had expressed concern, one might wonder if this could be due to the troublingly anti-democratic and potentially destabilizing roles CA played in international elections in Nigeria, Kenya and beyond. Oakes’ comments imply that the State Department may have been concerned that there was something to be ‘upset’ about in the conduct of, or relationships between, the companies. Oakes, the defense contractor, <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">in interview with me</a>, stressed his importance to the methods underpinning what CA did in politics, saying that if Alexander Nix was “the Steve Jobs, I’m the Steve Wozniak. I’m sort of the guy who wants to get the engineering right and he’s the guy who wants to sell the flashy box. And he’s very good at it. And I admire him enormously for doing it. But I’m the guy who say, yeh, but without this you couldn’t do any of that!”. It is vital that US and UK governments, including research entities like DARPA who worked with BDI, build into private contracts more control over tools and weapons they help to create for information warfare.</p><p dir="ltr">The public also to know that networks of companies cannot obscure unethical practices, flows of data, financial interests or possible conflicts of interest with foreign powers – all concerns raised in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. On the question of related companies the UK Fake News Inquiry’s recent interim <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36302.htm">report states</a>:</p><p dir="ltr"> “We do not have the&nbsp;remit or the capacity to investigate these claims ourselves, but&nbsp;we urge the Government to ensure that the National Crime&nbsp;Agency thoroughly investigates these allegations.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This sadly is beyond the current scope of the UK National Crime Agency and a UK Defence Select Committee Inquiry is needed to review this and why UK export control restrictions were removed. </p><h2 dir="ltr">What to do</h2><p dir="ltr">We need government to take action to address it. Investigations in both countries should ensure oversight is fully reviewed, particularly in relation to oversight of groups of companies, protection against commercial exposure of IO practices and migration into elections. Transparency in government contracting, stronger oversight and reporting mechanisms, and reforms in the industry such as licensing that could be revoked or fines set at a deterrent level that can prevent future scandals are essential in both countries. Transparency in the US could be improved by a reporting system for private companies equivalent to Companies House in the UK. There could also be penalties for defense contractors in each country found obscuring overlaps and company relationships. Strict regulation of the influence industry, or perhaps professional licensing that can be revoked on evidence of abuse, would not only protect citizens, it would give substance to a truthful narrative that would undermine Russian and other hostile narratives directed at democracies. And it would commercially protect the industry itself, creating a resulting ‘soft power’ economic benefit for industry and Western governments.</p><p dir="ltr">While Damian Collins MP of the UK Fake News Inquiry and Sen. Mark Warner are rightly cautious about government interventions regulating the media, improved oversight in the national security realm, electoral protections and licensing in the influence industry provide little threat to free speech, indeed unethical conduct in the influence industry could be argued to threaten free speech and democratic debate. Policymakers should ensure a) competition is enabled via data portability and b) influence industries are properly regulated, with enforced codes of conduct, professional licensing we see in other professions, and robust monitoring of companies and individuals beyond their contracts to ensure defense technologies are restricted and elections are protected. Preconditions for resolving this are of course greater transparency in the industry and may include dedicated monitoring by expert-led independent regulators and industry licensing bodies. This would actually strengthen an industry in which the absence of regulation has become unsustainable, threatening democracy and national security in this case. Current unethical practices can also be exploited by those wishing to spread narratives about the ‘corrupt West’ and weakness of democracy. The measures proposed above will together ensure that data portability produces competition and therefore innovation, and concurrently ensure that media consumers are not vulnerable to the actions of unethical companies. Democratic controls would strengthen public trust in democracy, help to protect and secure our elections and have a long term ‘soft power’ benefit for both countries. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Bibliography</em></p><p dir="ltr">Baron, S; Crootof, R &amp; Gonzalez, A. (2017) <a href="https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/isp/documents/fighting_fake_news_-_workshop_report.pdf">Fighting Fake News Workshop Report</a>, <a href="https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/isp/documents/fighting_fake_news_-_workshop_report.pdf">Yale University</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Datapropria (2018) ‘Data and Behavioral Science Experts’ Datapropria.com </p><p dir="ltr">Kaiser, Brittany (2018) <a href="blank">Oral Evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: Fake News, HC363</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Freedman, D (2018) <a href="blank">'Populism and media policy failure'</a> in European Journal of Communication: journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0267323118790156?journalCode=ejca&amp;</p><p dir="ltr">Murdock, Jason (2018) What is Emerdata? As Cambridge Analytica Shuts, Directors Surface in New Firm <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/what-emerdata-scl-group-executives-flee-new-firm-and-its-registered-office-909334">in Newsweek</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Siegelman, W (2018b) '<a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/theyre-back-ex-cambridge-analytica-employees-launch-auspex-international-to-focus-on-social-and-aa51a0ab6fca">They’re Back: Ex-Cambridge Analytica employees launch Auspex International to focus on social and political campaigns in the Middle East and Africa'</a> in <a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/theyre-back-ex-cambridge-analytica-employees-launch-auspex-international-to-focus-on-social-and-aa51a0ab6fca">Medium</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Tambini, D (2017) <a href="blank">Media Policy Brief 20 Fake News: Public Policy Responses</a>, LSE Media Policy Project: &nbsp;&nbsp;eprints.lse.ac.uk/73015/1/LSE%20MPP%20Policy%20Brief%2020%20-%20Fake%20news_final.pdf</p><p dir="ltr">Wylie, C (2018a) ‘<a href="blank">A response to Misstatements in relation to Cambridge Analytica’</a>, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/81874.html">Supplementary written evidence published by Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Emma L Briant Tue, 09 Oct 2018 07:16:24 +0000 Emma L Briant 119983 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To fix the climate crisis, we must face up to our imperial past https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/to-fix-climate-crisis-we-must-acknowledge-our-imperial-past <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s time to join the dots between our overlapping crises of – and shared solutions to – environmental degradation, damaged health, racial oppression and gender injustice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/NASAburningbrazil.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/NASAburningbrazil.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Deforestation in Brazil. Rights: NASA/Wikicommons, CC 2.0</span></span></span><p><em>‘The invading civilization[s] confused ecology with idolatry. Communion with nature was a sin worthy of punishment… Nature was a fierce beast that had to be tamed and punished so that it could work as a machine, placed at our service for ever and ever. Nature, which was eternal, owed us slavery’ (1) – Eduardo Galeano</em></p><p>There are many ways to see colonialism. A breakneck rush for riches and power. A permanent pillage of life. A project to appropriate nature, to render it profitable and subservient to the needs of industry. </p> <p>We can see colonialism as imposition, as the silencing of local knowledges, and erasure of the other. Colonialism as a triple violence: cultural violence through negation; economic violence through exploitation; and political violence through oppression (2). </p> <p>Colonialism was not a monolithic process, but one of diverse expressions, stages and strategies. Commercial colonialism, centred around ports, differed from settlement colonialism. But its common factor is that colonialism took states to seek access to new lands, resources and labourers. Impelled by God, fortunes or fame, with almost limitless ambition, countries and companies scrambled to acquire control of land. New territories were seen as business enterprises. Local inhabitants were either obstacles to be removed or workforces to be subjugated. </p> <p>The colonial-imperial era is fundamental to an understanding of how we have arrived here. As Eyal Weizman notes: ‘the current acceleration of climate change is not only an unintentional consequence of industrialization. The climate has always been a project for colonial powers, which have continually acted to engineer it’ (3).</p> <p>What did colonialism seek? Wealth and power are the abstractions. But concretely it was commodities: metals, crops, minerals, and people. Political might, economic growth and industrialization required hinterlands to provide raw materials, food, energy supplies, labour and consumer demand. States sought expansion, appropriating territories and dominions. Between 1400 and 1917, the Russian empire expanded a thousandfold (4).</p> <p>Gold and silver supplied the first vice, feverishly obsessing the early colonizers. From the 16th to the early 19th century, around 100 million kilograms of silver were hauled from the mines of Latin America to Europe. The Spanish writer Alonso de Morgado observed at the time that enough treasure had arrived on the shores of Seville by the 1580s to pave the entire city’s streets with gold and silver (5). </p> <p>Plant commodities – from sugar to spices, cotton to coffee – would follow, as empires arranged the world to satisfy metropolitan tastes. Nature would serve as the canvas, the prize, and the victim of colonialist dreams (6).</p> <h2>The impact on nature</h2> <p>Nature narrates the colonial story, through its vast mines, its desecrated rivers, and emaciated territories. Across continents, mangroves, grasslands, rainforests, and wetlands were cleared to make way for quarries, plantations, ranches, roads and railways.</p> <p>As historian Richard Drayton explains, imperialism – the expansion of empire – was ‘a campaign to extend an ecological regime: a way of living in Nature’ (7). Entire landscapes had to be subjected to control and exploitation. Overuse, pollution and deforestation were the norm. </p> <p>Colonies were arranged to maximize and facilitate extraction. Profit was the compass. French colonial planners divided ‘useful Africa’ from ‘useless Africa’ (8). Lands were surveyed, zoned, parcelled, and mapped. All these endeavours relied on a narrative of emptiness, of nothingness. </p> <p>The New World’s territories were vacant fields, lands of nobody, <em>terra nullius</em> – open for conquest and colonizing. The Arctic, the Outback, the Wild West and the Amazon were (and continue to be) enduring metaphors that allowed colonisers to depict territories as barren wastelands. But these lands were not empty. The fiction of negation, and discovery, was used to justify the clearance of native habitats and inhabitants. </p> <p>Nature was a blank slate, to be reconfigured and rendered useful. Where colonizers arrived, maps were redrawn, inhabitants ousted, and new methods of production installed. Collective land management practices were shredded, as models of individual property ownership were imposed. New courts and laws governed the territory, handing lands over to concessionary companies and settlers. Long-term residents were now ‘squatters’ on their own land. </p> <p>Time-tested and locally rooted agricultural traditions were trampled and stamped out (9). In Mexico, peasants were stripped of their <em>milpa</em> lands. In Madagascar, the <em>tavy</em> system was outlawed.</p> <p>Rural areas were dragooned into ambitious imperial strategies, with villages forced to pay tribute or follow new production regimes. Local peasants were subjected to forced cultivation, compelled to grow what they were told. In French Equatorial Africa, the Mandja people were barred from hunting and pushed into work on cotton plantations (10). In 1905, communities living in the German-controlled Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania) revolted against policy forcing them to grow cotton for export. In response, as historian John Reader recalls: ‘three columns advanced through the region, pursuing a scorched earth policy – creating famine. People were forced from their homes, villages were burned to the ground; food crops that could not be taken way or given to loyal groups were destroyed’ (11). Around 300,000 people would perish. </p> <p>From continent to continent, staples were replaced by cash crops. Plantation systems were installed, designed to maximize yields. In India, the British entirely reorganized the agricultural system. India’s land, previously used for low-scale subsistence agriculture, would now be destined for cash crops such as cotton and tea, grown for export to international markets. The Portuguese empire installed cotton regimes across its Brazilian, Angolan and Mozambican colonies.</p> <p>Communal water management techniques were replaced with enormous works of engineering and state regulation (12). Pseudo-ecological arguments were often used to discredit local peoples and justify the clearance of communities. Traditional pastoralist practices were framed as outdated, damaging and ineffective. French July Monarchy propagandists used Arab desertification of Algerian land as a justification for conquest: once in control, France would restore ecological order and change the climate (13).</p> <p>Perhaps the most destructive agrarian practice involved sugar. In the Canary and Cape Verde islands, sugar production was imposed through deforestation, woodlands were cleared to end up as deserts (14). The forested Atlantic island of Madeira, which means wood in Portuguese, was virtually stripped of trees to make way for livestock and sugarcane plantations. Slaves, transported from the Canary Islands and Africa, dug thousands of kilometres of canal to irrigate the sugarcane fields. Once Madeira’s forests were cleared, and the sugar industry could no longer burn wood to fuel its mills, plantations were replaced with vineyards (15).</p> <p>In the Americas, millions of hectares were stripped of forest life and burned to allow for massive cane plantations, accelerating soil erosion. In the West Indies and Guyana, rainforests were demolished to make way for sugarcane cultivation. Haiti, whose name means ‘green island’ in Arawak, was stripped of trees (16). In Mexico, deforestation exploded with the arrival of the Spanish, as forests were cleared to supply sugar refineries with fuelwood. </p> <p>The logic of sugar’s monoculture was applied to a variety of commodities. The peripheries of the Amazon were cleared for coffee plantations. Using forced labour, Southeast Asia, southern Colombia and the Congo were deforested and converted into rubber plantations. Burma and Thailand saw their forests turned to mass ricefields, while Indian ecosystems were felled to make way cotton plantations. </p> <p>In all these contexts, soils were exhausted and made sterile, degraded by deforestation and monoculture. In areas of Brazil and the Caribbean, the tree-bare terrains left by plantation economies became ideal incubators for mosquitos carrying malaria and yellow fever. Searing epidemics killed major segments of the population.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>As historian Corey Ross recalls: </p> <p>‘One of the recurring themes in the history of plantations is the perennial cycle of boom and bust. Whether the crop is sugar, tobacco, or cotton, the basic pattern is often the same: an initial frenzy of clearing and planting is followed by either a precipitous collapse of production or a gradual process of creeping decline before eventually ending in soil exhaustion, abandonment, and relocation elsewhere’ (17).</p> <p>Since there was always more land to conquer and acquire, sustainability was irrelevant. The model was simple: exhaust the land, abandon it and clear new land. But the shortcomings of such short-termist thinking would become readily apparent, particular in the circumscribed territories in the Caribbean. </p> <p>Beyond agriculture, intensive alluvial gold mining in the Caribbean, and silver mining in the Andes and Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, devastated the local terrain. Trees were ripped out of the ground to fuel smelting furnaces, triggering erosion, flooding and major loss of soil fertility. Around the Bolivian mining city of Potosí, over 30 dams were built around Potosí to power its mills. But the hydraulic infrastructure installed to amplify production (as well as the local deforestation) caused constant flooding. In 1626, the major San Ildefonso dam broke; over 4,000 people were killed. Thousands of cubic tonnes of water contaminated by mercury effluent flooded into local rivers (18). </p> <p>Loggers also wrought devastating impacts. India’s Malabar coast was cleared of teak forests by British merchants. Burma’s Tenasserim forest was raided next, stripped of teak over just two decades (19). Within only a handful of years, Fiji, Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands were cleared of sandalwood. In Canada, settlers set light to forests to provide a core ingredient of potash. In Australia, settlers predicted it would take centuries to clear the ‘Big Scrub’ terrain across New South Wales; it disappeared in just 20 years (20).</p> <p>From territory to territory, life was swept away. Entire animal species were decimated through overhunting. The demand from European elites for fine furs drove hunters and trappers into Siberia and the Americas, carving open new frontiers. John Astor, founder of the American Fur Company, became the first multimillionaire in US history (21). Fishing fleets scoured the seas, slaughtering shoals. In less than 30 years, sea cows were harpooned into oblivion across the Bering Strait (22). Quaggas, thylacines, great auks, passenger pigeons, warrahs and hundreds of other species disappeared within decades. Industrial whaling, driven by demand for blubber, culled whales to the edge of extinction, removing all bowhead whales from the Beaufort Sea (23). </p> <h2>The impact on peoples </h2> <p>Just as environments and animal species needed to make way for productive ‘civilization’, so too did local inhabitants. The eradication and exploitation of nature was conjoined with the eradication and exploitation of peoples. Ecocide came hand in hand with ethnocide. The Guanches, Lucayas, Charrúa and Beothuk are just some of the many peoples massacred on the altar of lucre. </p> <p>The methods were common: seize, dispossess, exclude, expel, extract, and extinguish. Martinican author Aimé Césaire would later note that between ‘colonizer and colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses’ (24). The life of empire depended on the theft of life. </p> <p>In the colonial realm, nature and those deemed inferior enough to be part of it, had to be removed or put to work. Governed by whips and watches, labourers were forced to work the earth: to slash, mine, break, cut, harvest, extract, carry and cart. Across its centuries, coerced labour found different incarnations, from formal slavery to convict-leasing, from indentured labour to peonage. Under systems of bondage, human beings were treated as chattel, expendable facets of the exploitation of expendable lands.</p> <p><em>This is the first of two extracts from ‘<a href="https://ethicalshop.org/the-memory-we-could-be-by-daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik-pb.html">The Memory We Could Be</a>’, Daniel’s new book published this Autumn by New Internationalist Books.</em></p><h2><em>Notes</em></h2><p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><ol><li>Eduardo Galeano, ‘Mundo: Cuatro frases que hacen crecer la nariz de Pinocho’, <em>Servindi</em><span>, nin.tl/Galeano#</span></li><li>Horacio Machado Aráoz, ‘El territorio moderno y la geografía (colonial) del capital’, <em>Memoria y Sociedad</em><span>, Vol 19, No 39, 2015; Vumbi-Yoka Mudimbe, </span><em>The invention of Africa</em><span>, Indiana University Press, 1988.</span></li><li>Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh (photographs), <em>Colonization as Climate Change in the Negev Desert</em><span>, Steidl, 2015.</span></li><li>Susan Crate, ‘Viliui Sakha of Subartic Russia and Their Struggle for Environmental Justice’, <em>Environmental justice and sustainability in the former Soviet Union</em><span>, MIT Press, 2009, p 190.</span></li><li>Kendall W Brown, <em>A History of Mining in Latin America</em><span>, University of New Mexico Press, 2012.</span></li><li>This framing draws on the writings of Danilo Urrea and Tatiana Roa Avendaño on the role of nature in the Colombian peace process. <span>See: ‘La cuestión ambiental’, <em>Y sin embargo, se mueve, </em></span><em><span>Ediciones Antropos, 2015.</span></em></li><li>Richard Drayton, <em>Nature’s Government</em><span>, Yale University Press 2000, p 229.</span></li><li>James Ferguson, <em>Global Shadows</em><span>, Duke University Press, 2006, p 39.</span></li><li>David R Montgomery, <em>Dirt: the erosion of civilizations</em><span>, University of California Press, 2012, p 110.</span></li><li>Michael Perelman, <em>The Invention of Capitalism</em><span>, Duke University Press, 2000, p 52.</span></li><li>Robert H Nelson, ‘Environmental Colonialism: “Saving” Africa from Africans’, <em>Independent Review,</em><span> Vol 8, No 1, 2003.</span></li><li>William M Adams, ‘Nature and the colonial mind’, in William M Adams &amp; Martin Mulligan, eds, <em>Decolonizing Nature</em><span>, Earthscan, 2003, p 25.</span></li><li>Diana Davis, <em>Resurrecting the Granary of Rome, </em><span>Ohio University Press, 2007, pp 4-6.</span></li><li>Per Lindskog &amp; Benoit Delaite, ‘Degrading land’, <em>Environment and History</em><span>, Vol 2, No 3, 1996.</span></li><li>Jason W Moore, ‘Madeira, Sugar, and the Conquest of Nature in the “First” Sixteenth Century’, <em>Review (Fernand Braudel Center)</em><span>, 2009.</span></li><li>David R Montgomery, <span>op cit,</span><span> p 231.</span></li><li>Corey Ross, ‘The plantation paradigm,’, <em>Journal of Global History</em><span>, Vol 9, No 1, 2014, p 49.</span></li><li>A Gioda, C Serrano &amp; A Forenza, ‘Dam collapses in the world’, <em>La Houille Blanche</em><span>, Vol 4, 2002; Jason W Moore, ‘Silver, ecology and the origins of the modern world, 1450-1640’, </span><em>Rethinking Environmental History</em><span>, Altamira Press, 2007, p 132.</span></li><li>Clive Ponting, <em>A New Green History of the World</em><span>, Random House, 2007, p 189.</span></li><li>William M Adams, op cit, p 30.</li><li>John F Richards, <em>The Unending Frontier</em><span>, University of California Press, 2003, p 463.</span></li><li>Callum Roberts, <em>The Unnatural History of the Sea</em><span>, Island Press, 2007.</span></li><li>Andrew Stuhl, <em>Unfreezing the Arctic</em><span>, University of Chicago Press, 2016, p 7.</span></li><li>Aimé Césaire, <em>Discourse on Colonialism</em><span>, Monthly Review Press, 2000, p 42.</span></li></ol> <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="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/my-environmentalism-will-be-intersectional-or-it-will-be-bullshit">My environmentalism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik Mon, 08 Oct 2018 15:22:47 +0000 Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik 119971 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A US-inspired reorganisation is about to hit England's NHS – 'help us stop it' https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jenny-shepherd/us-inspired-reorganisation-is-about-to-hit-nhs-help-fund-legal-challenge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>NHS plans due to take effect next spring could make general healthcare as difficult to access as mental healthcare already is – and lock future governments into long contracts with private firms, warn campaigners.</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/549093/Marching to Leeds High Court2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Marching to Leeds High Court2.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Campaigners march to court. Rights: 999 Call for the NHS</em></p><p>Members of the public, NHS campaign groups and trade unions are acting to stop NHS England from introducing a cost-cutting Accountable Care Organisation contract that will make it harder to get the healthcare we are entitled to. In their hundreds, they are <a href="http://bit.ly/999CourtofAppeal">donating to help crowdfund a legal challenge</a> to this contract in the Court of Appeal later this autumn.</p> <p>This legal challenge - brought by national campaign group 999 Call for the NHS and internationally recognised public law firm Leigh Day - is the only way of stopping the contract.</p> <p>NHS England has recently rebranded the “Accountable Care Organisation contract as the “Integrated Care Provider” contract, to avoid the USA connotations of the term Accountable Care Organisation - the type of healthcare provider used by Medicare/Medicaid, which provides a limited range of healthcare for Americans who are too poor or ill to get private health insurance.</p> <p>If this contract goes ahead, Clinical Commissioning Groups will be using it to procure a whole range of NHS services from April 2019.</p> <p>The Integrated Care Provider contract is not fully finalised, NHS England admitted in a recent consultation, making a mockery of the consultation itself. The contract does not even mention arrangements for integrating public health and social care with NHS services, though this is supposedly the public rationale for the change. </p> <p>999 Call for the NHS say that even if they agreed with the initial premise of contracting - which they don’t - they can’t see that this contract is fit for the provision of social care and public health services.</p> <p>Why is NHS England in such a rush that it is prepared to expose Clinical Commissioning Groups to the risks associated with procuring huge, complex 10 year contracts for a whole range of NHS, social care and public health services from a new untried form of healthcare provider, on the basis of an unfinished contract? </p> <p>Perhaps most worryingly of all, this contract would subject a whole range of NHS services to the same kind of cuts and pressures as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/21/nhs-beds-number-mental-health-patients-falls">acute mental health services</a>.&nbsp;It’s designed to “manage demand” for a whole range of NHS services in a given area - in the same way as mental health services contracts already operate.&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, in most NHS contracts apart from mental health, a set payment is made for each treatment provided to individual patients. But the new ICP contract would pay the provider a fixed lump sum at the start of each year, to cover the costs of a range of treatments for the whole population.</p> <p>The result of this payment arrangement for mental health services is that it is now normal for there to be NO hospital beds for acute mental health patients in their own area. They are routinely taken by ambulance across the country to wherever there’s a hospital bed. And at times, it seems that have been <a href="http://www.nhsconfed.org/~/media/Confederation/Files/Publications/Documents/Is%20mental%20health%20crisis%20care%20in%20crisis%20MHN%20Briefing%20290.pdf%20%5d">NO acute mental health beds free anywhere in the country</a>, according to Mental Health Network members.</p> <p>This 10 year contract would lock in that payment arrangement for a whole range of NHS services.&nbsp;</p> <p>It would set in concrete new “care models” that are based on the USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system that only provides limited health care for people who can’t afford private health insurance.</p> <p>A new government would be powerless to stop and reverse this because the contracts would lock it in for a continuous period of 10 years..</p> <p>Local NHS campaigns together with national 999 Call for the NHS are joining the dots between the cuts that they're fighting in their areas and the contract that 999 Call for the NHS are challenging in the Court of Appeal.&nbsp;</p> <p>This Court of Appeal hearing is NHS campaigners' best shot at stopping the contract that could set all these cuts - and worse - in stone for 10 years, imposing the same "demand management" payment arrangement that has been used to decimate acute mental health services.</p> <p>Jo Land, one of the Darlo Mums who organised the 999 Call for the NHS Jarrow to London March for the NHS in 2014, said:&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Accountable Care Organisation contract might seem like a dry legal issue that’s hard to get bothered about. The reality is anything but. This is about whether patients can continue to access the treatments they need, or whether the doctor-patient relationship will be undermined by making doctors put financial considerations ahead of patients’ clinical needs.”</p> <p>The campaign group point out that the payment arrangement in the Accountable Care Organisation/Integrated Care Provider contract would allow for price competition between providers when bidding for the contract. They argue this is contrary to Parliament’s express intentions, in passing NHS and social care legislation in 2012.</p> <p>In dismissing the 999 Call for the NHS Judicial Review earlier this year, the court ruled that this argument was a political issue - not a matter for the court.</p> <p>But the Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal on all seven grounds the campaign group’s legal team applied for - and has speeded up the process because the NHS is important to the public.</p> <p>Steve Carne, a 999 Call for the NHS campaigner said:&nbsp;</p> <p>“Call it what you like - Accountable Care Organisation or Integrated Care Provider - we can’t see that this new way of paying NHS providers is lawful. And if it’s introduced, it will restrict access to NHS treatments and accelerate the creation of a two tier health system. People with money will pay to go private while the rest of us make do with a limited NHS that operates like a health insurance company - putting financial considerations first.”</p> <p>If you would like to help 999 Call for the NHS to bring their challenge to the Integrated Care Provider contract in the Court of Appeal this autumn, <a href="http://bit.ly/999CourtofAppeal">here’s where you can donate</a>.</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/stewart-player/accountable-care-american-import-thats-last-thing-englands-nhs-needs">&#039;Accountable Care&#039; - the American import that&#039;s the last thing England&#039;s NHS needs</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Jenny Shepherd Mon, 08 Oct 2018 13:35:05 +0000 Jenny Shepherd 119964 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The UK just sent three men to prison for peaceful civil opposition https://www.opendemocracy.net/charlotte-threipland/uk-just-sent-four-men-to-prison-for-peaceful-civil-opposition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A closer look at the case that gave fracking protesters an excessive jail sentence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/EcoFlight - Jonah May06.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/EcoFlight - Jonah May06.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A fracking site in Wyoming, USA. So far, the USA is the only country in which fracking is happening at scale. Photo credit: Bruce Gordon via EcoFlight / Simon Fraser University via Flikr. CC BY 2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">What does it mean for our country when citizens are jailed for peaceful activism? Last week Preston Crown Court jailed three men for protesting against the activity of controversial fracking giant Cuadrilla. The three men - a piano restorer, teacher and soil scientist - were given hefty sentences of 15-16 months in prison for causing a ‘public nuisance’.</p><p dir="ltr">Their actions were motivated by a concern for the widespread impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). As well as contributing to climate change and harming local countryside, fracking releases toxic chemicals into the air and water. The exact health effects of these chemicals remains to be seen but they include carcinogens. A recent study found that women who lived near fracking wells had low birth weight babies. Fracking has been halted or banned in Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands and New York State because of the potential damage it causes.</p><p dir="ltr">Against this background, were these men justified when they obstructed a fleet of Cuadrilla lorries carrying drilling equipment?</p><p>Although the jury found them guilty, they were not given the whole picture. By law they were unable to even consider the mens' motivations because the offence for which they were being tried (the antiquated charge of ‘public nuisance’) is narrow and only allows for consideration of the disruption caused.&nbsp;</p><p>When it came to sentencing, the court found their political convictions to be an aggravating factor: “<em>each of them remains motivated by an unswerving confidence that they are right</em>”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The court did not attach importance to the fact that these men were exercising their fundamental rights. A barrister for one of the protesters, Kirsty Brimelow QC said that “<em>the points I made to Preston Crown Court were focused upon the importance of people’s rights to peaceful protest and the long history that this country has of accommodating civil disobedience. It sets us apart from countries with poor human rights records such as China, Turkey, Bahrain and many other countries</em>.”</p><p dir="ltr">These were the first protesters to be imprisoned following a criminal trial since 1932. Protesters have been imprisoned for breaching court orders (for example, in 1993 seven people were sentenced to 28 days imprisonment for breaking an injunction which prevented them disrupting the construction of the M3 at Twyford Down). But these will normally result in prison as it is similar to a contempt of court. It is a significant difference to imposing imprisonment for the offence itself (whether it is aggravated trespass or public nuisance).&nbsp;</p><p>The length of the sentences are also significant. The law is clear that custodial sentences should be reserved for the most serious of crimes, and, when they are deemed appropriate, should be as short as possible (see sections 152 and 153 of the <a href="https://www.google.pt/search?q=criminal+justice+act+2003&amp;oq=Criminal+Justice+Act+2003&amp;aqs=chrome.0.0j69i60l2j0l3.376j0j4&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8" target="_blank">Criminal Justice Act 2003</a>). The sentences in this case are clearly excessive.</p><p dir="ltr">By imposing such draconian sentences, which seem to have been influenced by the political motivations of the protesters, the court is sending out a strong and unsettling message. Business as usual will not be disrupted, especially by conscientious, concerned and peaceful citizens exercising their civil rights.</p><p>Given the grave negative ecological impacts that human activity is having on our planet we should surely admire and applaud the few who have the courage to take action. Instead we are putting them behind bars.</p><p>This verdict sets a worrying precedent for other protesters. Fifteen activists who secured themselves to a Home Office deportation flight to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone are currently on trial for terrorism offences. In labeling these peaceful activists as terrorists, the CPS is sending out an equally worrying message.</p><p dir="ltr">Our fundamental rights of freedom of expression and assembly are under threat and the space for civil opposition is shrinking. If anything, this should serve as encouragement to take action.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>More than 200&nbsp;academics signed an&nbsp;<a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScmXGgV93AycjcfbWmWBQ_7eYxbI69n5PIQhM_0B9kF1qMSaA/viewform">open letter</a>&nbsp;calling for a judicial review of these “absurdly harsh” prison&nbsp;sentences&nbsp;handed.</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk openJustice Charlotte Threipland Fri, 05 Oct 2018 10:36:20 +0000 Charlotte Threipland 119933 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russia, the internet and "political technologists" - is this the future of democracy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nick-inman/monument-to-last-democrat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As more revelations emerge about Russian interference in Western democracies, Nick Inman reviews a BBC broadcast that asks if Russia is merely where 21st century ideas of democracy died first.</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/549093/russia facebook.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/russia facebook.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Jaap Arriens/PA Images, all rights reserved</em></p><p>Democracy used to be defined as a system in which a society debates the issues that confront it. Two or more teams compete with each other to persuade a majority of voters that they have the most workable and cogent solutions to the problems. They put forward evidence and reasons as to why they should be trusted. A vote is held. And then the winning team implements its policies over the following few years with the full and conscious consent of the electorate.</p> <p>This description may be more fantasy and nostalgia than reality in today’s democracies, according to Peter Pomerantsev of the London School of Economics, as he explains in a recent radio broadcast, <em><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b91w19">British Politics: A Russian View</a></em>. The programme is public broadcasting at its best. It should be required listening for anyone trying to make sense of the last presidential election in the US, the Brexit referendum result, the collapse of traditional political parties in France and the success of populists everywhere.</p> <p>As the title suggests, the programme begins by looking at British politics through Russian eyes; but Peter Pomerantsev has something much more important to offer us. “Russia could well be the country where the future arrived first,” he says in his introduction, “where 21st century ideas died earliest; and another type of political logic emerged.” </p> <p>Democracy as described above is hard work. All that campaigning and rallying, debating, interviewing and sound-biting, posturing and questioning of candidates consumes a lot of time and energy. It is far too hit and miss for today’s political aspirants, reared on the Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast, break things.” In all western democracies our worried eyes should not be on the candidates but the invisible people working on their behalf who go under a new job title, “political technologists”. </p> <p>The tools and materials of the technologist are not speeches, rosettes, walkabouts and mass meetings but big data and social media. He/she (usually the former) goes for the jugular of democracy. Who cares which policy is right or wrong, better or worse; the object of an election or referendum is to win and nothing else. The political technologist’s only concern is to deliver a majority for the candidate or cause that is paying for his services. Every election is just another gig. Success requires a hyper-rationalist, asset-stripping, technological approach to the mechanics of democracy. </p> <p>To win an election, it is not necessary to build a majority in the sense of a mass of like-thinking people who share common interest and a vision for the future. The technologist seeks a majority in number only: 50.01% or more. It’s maths, not politics.</p> <p>“The electorate, unlike well-defined social groups, is a very plastic thing,” says one contributor to the BBC programme. “You just draw up a map of the electorate and gather a majority on the side you need.”</p> <p>This flash majority doesn’t need to endure into the morning after the election. Like a furtive subatomic particle, it only needs to exist at the moment the count is taken. After that it can happily dissipate. The technologist’s client has by then assumed power. </p> <p>The creation of ephemeral majorities is possible because our addiction to social media delivers vast amounts of data into the technologist’s hands and allows precisely targeted communications.</p> <p>The first step of a contemporary electoral campaign is to establish a narrative or “fairy story” to be used in all its communications. This needs to be emotive rather than rational. It must be summed up in merely a memorable slogan. It must not suggest an uncertain future or difficult choices, let alone the need for nuance and compromise. A phrase like “take back control” can mean whatever the hearer wants to believe it means. </p> <p>It is far easier for the technologist to mobilise the voter against some clearly identifiable demon rather than the uninspiring but functioning status quo. To get the voter’s attention, the technologist must promise radical action from a baggage-free outsider who will eject elites and corrupt incumbents from office and sweep the Augean stables clean. Fear and anger have to be harnessed and directed towards a nominated bogeyman. According to one estimate, made by a participant in the programme, identifying a villain can immediately add 20% of votes to a campaign. </p> <p>Terminology is carefully controlled because words propagate rapidly online. “The people”, “the few”, “the have nots” and even “us” all make the voter feel part of a just cause. </p> <p>The technologist borrows tactics from the world of marketing. His or her real task is to segment the “market” using the data that social media users willingly feed into the system. The electorate is seen as different “communities” built around single interests or obsessions. Each of these needs to be fed a particular message, preferably one that can be taken to heart and shared promiscuously. If this sounds to you as if the election of politicians and the direction of international relations is being treated with the same level of seriousness as the “liking” of videos showing the antics of talented cats, you are getting the right idea.</p> <p>In fact, animals provide a good example of what the technologist can achieve. Convince a critical mass of animal-lovers that the EU is more cruel in its farming regulations than a future re-sovereignised UK government will be and you have viral videos of calves crowded into lorries doing the rounds of kind-hearted people, generating emotional support for the Leave campaign.</p> <p>Hold on, though, because it gets more alarming. If the political technologist can target “communities” using the tools of social media why shouldn’t he target each individual in the way in which he will be most susceptible to instruction? As another contributor to the programme puts it: “I can shout into one person’s ear one message and shout into another person’s ear – who is right beside them – another message and neither of them understands that I am shouting different messages to different people”. </p> <p>Each person in the ephemeral majority that flickers across election night may have voted for an entirely personal reason, like passengers sitting next to each other on a cut price airline who have paid different ticket prices for the same service. You really can fool all the people all of the time as long as you fool each person in a customised way.</p> <p>There are many useful conclusions to draw from this abuse of democracy by technology. One is that no one who claims to speak for the “will of the people” should be taken seriously. That should be “the wills of people.”</p> <p>Another lesson is that we should stop looking the wrong way. All those commentators who talk about seismic shifts in society may be talking nonsense to justify their jobs. What we are seeing may not be anything to do with how the people do or do not think and feel. It might all be dictated by the choices they are fed by unscrupulous operators.</p> <p>What is certain is that post-post-modern elections and referendums have nothing to do with informed debate and rational, independent decisions taken by marginal voters. One speaker on the programme illustrated this with an image: “If there were a monument to the democratic citizen it should be a person who is ready to change his position on the basis of an argument. We’re living in a democracy in which this person doesn’t exist anymore because nobody is trying to change his mind, everyone is playing on his feelings”.</p> <p><em>British Politics: A Russian View Analysis BBC Radio 4. 30 minutes. Presented by Peter Pomerantsev, senior visiting fellow at the LSE, produced by Ant Adeane. First broadcast on 9 July 2018. To listen or download go to: </em><em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b91w19">www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b91w19</a></em><em>&nbsp;</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/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-junes/russian-interference-in-virtual-world-is-not-problem">Russian interference in the virtual world is not the problem</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk Nick Inman Fri, 05 Oct 2018 09:35:45 +0000 Nick Inman 119800 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Costing the country: Britain's finance curse https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/costing-country-britains-finance-curse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Don't believe the bankers' spin. The City of London cost the UK economy £4.5 trillion between 1995 and 2005.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3510" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2018/10/Screen-Shot-2018-10-05-at-09.09.05.png" alt="" width="1038" height="368" /> <em>A </em><a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2018/10/05/uk-finance-curse-report/"><em>report published today</em></a><em> from </em><a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/people/andrew-baker/"><em>Andrew Baker</em></a><em> </em><em>of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, </em><a href="https://www.peri.umass.edu/economists/gerald-epstein"><em>Gerald Epstein</em></a><em>, University of Massachusetts, and </em><a href="http://www.juanmontecino.com/"><em>Juan Montecino</em></a><em>, Columbia University, NY, suggests that the cost to the UK economy in terms of lost growth potential arising from hosting an oversized financial services industry was in the region of £4,500 billion between 1995 and 2015.&nbsp;In other words, had the City of London been smaller and focused on more useful functions, Britain might have enjoyed a cumulative boost to GDP over this period worth £4.5 trillion. That is equivalent to around £67,500 for every woman, man and child in the UK.&nbsp;With another recession in the pipeline, the spectre of the </em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o96KVsGYg0"><em>Finance Curse</em></a><em> looms darkly over the UK economy.</em> In the fallout from the 2007-8 global banking crisis the financial sector lost some of its aura of invincibility. Once the bailouts had been paid, what had previously seemed like rewards for hard work and quick wits began to look like the proceeds of incompetence and criminality on such a scale that it daunted the public authorities. But even if the criminality and self-dealing could be checked by regulation, is London’s massive finance sector nonetheless a drag on the rest of the economy? This was one of the questions thrown up by my work as economic adviser to the government of Jersey (a secrecy jurisdiction in the British Channel Islands) in the 1990s.&nbsp;Responsible for advising on how to maintain a ‘balanced and diversified economy’, I found myself trying to reverse an incoming tide as the booming offshore banking and trust administration sectors crowded out other industries. With the island’s economy becoming ever more dependent on financial services, political power skewed in favour of the banks and accounting firms, and the government became increasingly captive to those players. I gave this phenomenon a name – the Jersey Disease – as a nod in the direction of the well-known <a href="https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/11977/oil/dutch-disease/">Dutch Disease</a> which afflicts mineral and oil exporting nations. For all the billions flowing through the island, a significant proportion of the population were (and are) struggling to pay their rents and make ends meet. I published several papers with a focus on Jersey with my research colleague <a href="https://www.kent.ac.uk/kbs/people/profiles/hampton-mark.html">Mark Hampton</a> (see <a href="https://kar.kent.ac.uk/23050/">here</a>, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00358533.2011.565629?journalCode=ctrt20">here</a>, and <a href="https://kar.kent.ac.uk/3165/">here</a> for example). My interest in the Jersey Disease put me in contact with author and journalist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Shaxson">Nicholas Shaxson</a>, who was reporting for the <em>Financial Times</em> on how West African oil exporting countries were succumbing to the widely recognised <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-2346.2007.00677.x">Resource Curse</a>.&nbsp;Also known as <em>the paradox of plenty, </em>the Resource Curse arises from the paradox that countries and regions which export minerals and oil and gas tend to have lower economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources. In 2007 Nick joined me at the Tax Justice Network, leading to the publication of his best-selling book <a href="http://treasureislands.org/"><em>Treasure Islands</em></a>, which explored how tax havens have devastated the global economy.&nbsp;We also discussed the overlaps between the Jersey Disease and the Resource Curse, leading to the publication in 2013 of a short monograph titled <a href="http://taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Finance_Curse_Final.pdf"><em>The Finance Curse: how oversized financial centres attack democracy and corrupt economies</em></a> in which we explored how the curse appeared to impact larger economies, including the UK. This work formed the starting point for Nick’s latest book (published today) titled <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1112475/the-finance-curse/9781847925381.html"><em>The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer.</em></a> Our work on the Finance Curse attracted the attention of other researchers.&nbsp;Andrew Baker, for example, wrote on the <a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2014/11/13/finance-curse-grand-narrative/">SPERI blog</a> that the Finance Curse framing provides an effective grand narrative that can help explain apparently disparate forces, including global economic imbalances, regulatory failures, state capture, and more.&nbsp;Duncan Wigan from Copenhagen Business School also discussed these ideas with us, leading to <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1369148115612793">a joint paper</a> in which we concluded: <em>The Finance Curse hypothesis overturns an entrenched orthodoxy that what is good for the City must be good for Britain.</em> <em>Claims about the financial sector’s gross contribution are overblown, and an oversized financial sector imposes a wide range of costs on the economy, the polity and society, to result in a net negative for the country.”</em> Alongside our work on the Finance Curse, since the 2008/9 banking crisis researchers at the <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2012/wp12161.pdf">International Monetary Fund</a>, <a href="https://www.bis.org/publ/work490.htm">the Bank for International Settlements</a> and elsewhere, have posited the idea that once household and corporate debt rises above a certain ratio to national income the debt retards growth and productivity improvements.&nbsp;This line of research, known as the <a href="https://financecurse.net/research/academic-papers-too-much-finance/">too-much-finance</a> question, rests on econometric analysis which suggests that once the level of debt in an economy rises above a tipping point of between 90 to 100 percent of GDP a number of potential harms to economic performance and overall growth are triggered. These harms might arise from a variety of causes, including misallocation of investment into real estate and wealth extracting mergers and acquisitions; misallocation of skilled labour to financial services (the BIS researchers refer to finance literally bidding rocket scientists away from the satellite industry); and insufficient funding being allocated to research and develop new products and services. With interest in both the Finance Curse and the too-much-finance hypothesis increasing, in November 2017 we co-organised with Andrew Baker a research workshop at SPERI, and invited Gerald Epstein to provide a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TtO4chbe_Y&amp;list=PLPle_vPYGn5y3Bdu-oTwrPvymMtXQI2TS&amp;index=14">keynote address</a> about his ground-breaking analysis of how <a href="https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/729-overcharged-the-high-cost-of-high-finance">Wall Street overcharges Main Street USA</a>.&nbsp;The research findings published today stem from this workshop at SPERI in Autumn 2017. The City likes to argue that it is the engine of the British economy, generating jobs and taxes to boost our prosperity. This research, which is the first of its kind, shows that these benefits are outweighed by the much larger costs imposed on the rest of the economy by hosting an oversized financial industry. The real cost of hosting the City of London and its satellites at Canary Wharf and elsewhere is £4.5 trillion. This net loss stems from misallocation of resources, which is estimated to have cost the UK economy £2,700 billion during this period, and costs arising from the 2008 banking crisis, which are put at £1,800 billion.&nbsp;£4.5 trillion is approximately 2.5 years of average gross domestic product across the period 1995 to 2015. The research identifies further potential losses amounting to £680 billion arising from rents extracted by the City of London in the form of excess compensation and excess profits.&nbsp;Since at least part of this rent extraction stems from services provided to offshore clients, we do not include these sums in our estimate of the net cost to the UK economy.&nbsp;Other countries are also being impacted by London’s wealth extraction and overcharging. When compared with analysis of the costs imposed by hosting an oversized financial sector in the USA, this data suggests that the negative impacts on the UK might be two to three times greater than those imposed on the USA. Hosting the City of London causes more harm to the UK economy relative to the <a href="https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/729-overcharged-the-high-cost-of-high-finance">harm inflicted by Wall Street on Main Street USA</a>. Our hope is that this research, and the broader narrative frame provided by the Finance Curse will stimulate a fresh conversation among academics, activists and a wider public about the many pitfalls of hosting an oversized financial industry.&nbsp;Much more research is needed to test our analysis and explore these ideas, but the initial findings support the view that London, a global financial centre, extracts wealth from the rest of the UK economy as well as from the rest of the world.&nbsp;It is not the golden goose claimed by its vast public relations team: from our vantage point it looks much more like a cuckoo in the nest. <em>Read the new report </em><a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2018/10/05/uk-finance-curse-report/"><em>here</em></a> <em>Read Nick </em><em>Shaxson’s</em> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/oct/05/the-finance-curse-how-the-outsized-power-of-the-city-of-london-makes-britain-poorer"><em>Guardian Long Read</em></a><em> on the Finance Curse </em> <em>Watch this short video explainer on </em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o96KVsGYg0&amp;list=PLPle_vPYGn5y3Bdu-oTwrPvymMtXQI2TS&amp;index=39"><em>the Finance Curse</em></a></p> &nbsp;<div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk WP imported wagtail John Christensen Fri, 05 Oct 2018 09:09:31 +0000 John Christensen 119932 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP's shady Brexit cash https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Emails reveal elections regulator was ‘concerned’ by revelations about mysterious £435,000 donation – but closed the case quickly without investigation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" alt="Gregory Campbell" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP Treasurer Gregory Campbell MP. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span><br /></span><p><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff privately expressed ‘concerns’ that the Democratic Unionist Party had broken UK election law, openDemocracy can reveal. At issue was a controverisal £435,000 donation to the party’s 2016 Brexit campaign. But just weeks later the watchdog closed the case without investigating the DUP’s Brexit cash.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission was watching closely when BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team broadcast </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP</span></a><span> in late June. In internal emails, staff at the regulator said that the film raised ‘concerns’ about the source of the DUP’s donation, which came from a shadowy group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). <br /><br />Staff at the watchdog also said that the programme provided "new information" which suggested the DUP had been 'working together' with other Leave campaigns in contravention of electoral law.<br /><br /></span><span>But barely a month later, the Electoral Commission announced that it did “not have grounds” to launch a full investigation into the DUP’s Brexit spending. The emails, released to openDemocracy under freedom of information laws, suggest that little attempt was made to examine the allegations aired in the BBC film, with senior staff stressing the need to swiftly “draw a line” under the issue. <br /><br /></span><span>Barrister Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project said that the Electoral Commission’s decision not to investigate the DUP was “</span><span>utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator”.</span><span> Maugham and </span><span>Ben Bradshaw MP have annouced that they will seek juduicial review proceedings against the regulator for its 'whitewashed' investigation into the £435,000 DUP donation and its failure to investigate the CRC. </span><span>openDemocracy first </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"><span>broke the story</span></a><span> of the DUP’s Brexit cash back in February 2017.</span></p><h2><span>“Sufficient for us to have concerns”</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Political donations in Northern Ireland were secret until last year but parties still had to follow the same rules as the rest of the UK. Spotlight alleged that DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell did not perform due diligence before accepting £435,000 from the CRC. In the programme Campbell told a journalist from the investigative website </span><a href="http://source-material.org"><span>SourceMaterial</span></a><span>: “How would I be or anybody in our party be expected to know who the individuals are that are involved in the organisation?”<br /><br /></span><span>The day after the film aired, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to colleagues that Campbell’s comments were “sufficient for us to have concerns” about whether permissibility checks had been carried out on the source of the donation – the biggest in Northern Irish political history. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ZlrSOp623dKulqA2yCRMaxtuOI3MI9BCNcX0BMX96DWEfeCy_7qpl6ZgA-FCYgyUoqtNg0uVeUePQjmVXP85kP5UZTX5Ovi2PiBhTVSevbk0Lm4zKiaRNjRHrWOFbwGLZwFhi2sM" alt="" width="602" height="456" /></span></p><p><span>A separate, handwritten note said “Gregory Campbell did not know who donor was or why it mattered”. The note is labelled “Ann Watt”. She is the head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland and was interviewed by Spotlight.<br /><br /></span><span>That same day, in an exchange with Electoral Commission chief executive Claire Bassett, Watt said of the Spotlight film that “the most compelling point they made was on potential joint working. There is new information there.” </span></p><h2><span>A common plan?</span><span><span> </span></span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The Electoral Commission has previously found Brexit campaigners guilty of breaking the law having earlier decided against launching full investigations. Last year, the regulator reopened an investigation into Darren Grimes after openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">revealed</a> how Vote Leave used loopholes to give the fashion student more than £600,000.<br /><br /></span>In July,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">Grimes</a></span><span> and Vote Leave were fined £61,000 between them after the Electoral Commission found that the two campaigns had been working together, which is prohibited under UK elections law unless it's declared. The commission said they had a clear “common plan” for spending £675,000 with an obscure Canadian data analytics firm called Aggregate IQ.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP spent money with many of the same companies as Vote Leave, including tens of thousands with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-"><span>Aggregate IQ</span></a><span> and almost £100,000 on merchandise from the same </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit"><span>small company in Cambridgeshire</span></a><span> that supplied the Vote Leave campaign.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><br /></span><span>The Spotlight film found further evidence of potential joint working. The DUP’s contact with Aggregate IQ was Lee Reynolds, director of Vote Leave in Northern Ireland. (Reynolds, who is also a DUP councillor, said he did not direct DUP activities with Aggregate IQ.) An </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/24/eu-referendum-spending-official-campaigns-investigation-opens-electoral-commission"><span>advert in the Metro</span></a><span> newspaper taken out in the DUP’s name – at a cost of £282,000 – was actually </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>booked by</span></a><span> the Constitutional Research Council’s chair, Richard Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission has extensive powers of investigation. But the emails suggest that the watchdog chose not to use them to examine the allegations made against the DUP and Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The watchdog's head of regulation did write to Gregory Campbell the day after the Spotlight broadcast, saying that the DUP treasurer was required to ensure that all donations are permissible. “Anyone knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration… commits an offence,” Louise Edwards told the East Londonderry MP.<br /><br /></span><span>Campbell replied on 3 July expressing his “disappointment” that the regulator had written to him after a “biased BBC output”. Campbell said his interview had been used “out of context” and “in an attempt to convey an incorrect impression” that he was not familiar with electoral law. The DUP treasurer made no mention of whether or how he had checked the permissibility of the £435,000 donation.<br /><br /></span><span>A week later, Edwards wrote to Electoral Commission colleagues saying that she intended to reply to Campbell acknowledging his letter and reminding “him that if he does ever have questions about permissibility or donations more widely, he can always ask us”. There appears to have been no further communication between the regulator and the DUP treasurer over the source of the Brexit cash.</span></p><h2><span>“Draw a line” </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The emails also show that the regulator placed the onus on the BBC to provide it with information. On 27 June, while discussing a media query from the Irish News</span><span>,</span><span> an Electoral Commission staffer said that the regulator should tell the press that “we have asked the BBC to provide us with copies of any evidence it holds... This would put the pressure (rightly) on the BBC to provide us, the regulator, with the evidence.”<br /><br /></span><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff seemed particularly concerned about the optics of the Spotlight film. The morning after it aired the watchdog’s chief executive Claire Bassett asked her colleague at the Northern Irish Electoral Commission Ann Watt whether the programme was “getting much traction” and complained that the film “did seem to conflate a number of things and in doing so risked adding 2 and 2 together and getting 12!”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/NOWNLKMrxMw08z_gO87Nk3sYHaLm5-SCk_eLF7E8pIb4c44NbLDE50_Yy0KENIHbC0aicfPQ0GFgfV6QIcjVSoEplZgOTSXEQebB1g5pJqciiNnPs4xi1HcdnkiKhX1eXWvIcCHh" alt="" width="602" height="624" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>openDemocracy has also learned that a senior BBC Northern Ireland journalist did provide the Electoral Commission with a lengthy letter outlining their main claims and how the regulator could independently verify the allegations made in the programme. But it appears that the regulator decided not to investigate even before it received the BBC’s letter.<br /><br /></span><span>On 16 July, the day before the BBC’s letter was sent, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to Ann Watt saying that suggesting the Electoral Commission put out a “short statement… to draw a line” under the issue. Edwards suggested that the statement about the DUP could be combined with an announcement that it would not be investigating claims about the Remain campaign that former cabinet minister and prominent Brexiter Priti Patel lodged last December.<br /><br /></span><span>“It plays quite nicely with a similar statement we want to make on the complaint Priti Patel made about various remain campaigners, so there’s merit I think in doing the two together,” Edwards wrote.<br /><br /></span><span>On 26 July, less than ten days after receiving an extensive letter from the BBC outlining the allegations raised by the Spotlight film, an unnamed Electoral Commission staffer wrote: “I have now reviewed this and agree we should not investigate.” In response, Edwards expressed satisfaction that the issue was “dealt with in a timely way”.<br /><br /></span><span>On 2 August, the Electoral Commission announced publicly that it “did not have grounds” to open an investigation into the DUP. On the same day, the regulator also said it would not be examining Priti Patel’s complaints further.<br /><br /></span><span>Following the announcement, Gregory Campbell attacked the BBC and Spotlight presenter Jim Fitzpatrick. “Why was the programme fronted by a self‐confessed 'EU Remain' campaigner? The programme included an interview with me which was not authorised by me or provided by me for the programme, was there payment made for the interview?” the DUP treasurer said in a press statement. </span></p><h2><span>Utterly inexplicable </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Jolyon Maugham, barrister and director of the Good Law Project, has said that if the Electoral Commission does not open full investigations into the DUP and the Constitutional Research Council </span><span>(CRC) </span><span>he will bring a judicial review against the regulator. Last month, the</span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/14/electoral-commission-misinterpreted-law-vote-leave-high-court"><span> High Court ruled</span></a><span> that the Electoral Commission had misunderstood the law surrounding donations to Vote Leave, following a case taken by the Good Law Project.<br /><br /></span><span>"This was the biggest known political donation in Northern Irish history. The DUP's own treasurer was caught on tape saying he didn't know who the donor was and didn't think it was his job to check. This is the clea</span><span>r</span><span>est contravention imaginable of electoral law. Yet the Electoral Commission didn't even bother to investigate. This is utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator," Maugham told openDemocracy.<br /><br /></span><span>SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “It will come to many as a shock that given the evidence so far that the regulator has made this inexplicable decision on the DUP donation, and if it has now come to the point that a leading Queens Consul should seek a judicial review on this decision, then our notion of access to free and fair elections are to my mind ill served by the present regulations.”<br /><br /></span><span>An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “In line with our Enforcement Policy, the Commission carried out an assessment into claims made by BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight that the DUP and Vote Leave failed to declare joint working at the EU referendum.<br /><br /></span><span>“We concluded that we did not have grounds to open an investigation into the allegations that were made due to insufficient evidence. The decision was made after a thorough review of the programme, information that was provided to us and other sources.<br /><br /></span><span>“The Commission continues to be prohibited by legislation from disclosing any information concerning donations to Northern Ireland recipients made prior to 1 July 2017 (section 71 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000). We continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.”<br /><br /></span><span>The CRC remains one of the most opaque groups in British politics. The only person officially connected with the CRC is </span><span>Richard </span><span>Cook, a former Scottish Tory vice chair. The only other group to receive money from the CRC is the staunchly pro-Brexit European Research Group. In December 2016, the </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup"><span>CRC gave former Brexit minister Steve Baker £6,500</span></a><span> to “fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff” at a pre-Christmas event.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/electoral-commission-demand-right-to-publish-northern-irish-brexit-campaign">Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 05 Oct 2018 06:58:49 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 119893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Blair to Corbyn: the new now https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/blair-to-corbyn-the-new-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today's British politics resemble the 1990s. But Corbyn's Labour is set to change that. </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/500209/640px-Stained_glass_window_from_Baltic_Exchange.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Stained_glass_window_from_Baltic_Exchange.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Restored stained glass ‘Victory’ window from Baltic Exchange, 2013. Wikicommons/Heidi De Vries. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Over twenty-six years ago, on 9 April 1992, the Conservative prime minister John Major led his party to an unexpected general-election victory against Labour’s Neil Kinnock. What followed, and eventually led to the landslide victory of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997, has some interesting parallels with current British politics. But there is one fundamental difference. Before reaching the latter, the similarities are worth recalling.</p><p>The immediate aftermath of that election was startlingly different from what might be expected not because the Provisional IRA (<a href="https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/provisional-irish-republican-army-ira-aka-pira-provos-oglaigh-na-heireann-uk">PIRA</a>) detonated two very powerful van bombs in London. One was in the financial heart of the City of London in <a href="https://gulfnews.com/opinion/today-in-history/april-10-1992-baltic-exchange-bombing-kills-3-1.2008472">front</a> of the Baltic Exchange, inflicting damage estimated at £1 billion, and killing three people; the other hit a <a href="https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/video/extensive-bomb-damage-at-staples-corner-flyover-and-news-footage/1B06767_0002">flyover</a> at Staples' Corner, a crucial part of one of London’s busiest road intersections, the M1/A5/North Circular Road junction.</p><p>This was the start of a sustained campaign of economic targeting of the City of London. It was intended not to cause mass casualties but to damage the City’s reputation at a time when Frankfurt was competing with it to be Europe's financial heart. Another huge device was <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-43878479">detonated</a> in Bishopsgate, which killed one person, three <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-security-bombings/timeline-worst-ira-bomb-attacks-on-mainland-britain-idUKTRE74F31Q20110516">others</a> were intercepted, and many false alarms caused considerable disruption. Major’s government and the City authorities denied that the campaign would have any effect or alter its policy. But behind the scenes, they fully recognised the <a href="https://irishacademicpress.ie/product/ira-the-bombs-and-the-bullets-a-history-of-deadly-ingenuity/">seriousness</a> of the PIRA threat and encouraged covert negotiations that eventually helped bring about a <a href="http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/docs/ira31894.htm">ceasefire</a> in 1994.</p><p>The Major Government was already in trouble, as its majority of only twenty-one seats began to be <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/politics97/background/pastelec/majorit.shtml">eroded</a>: first by by-election defeats and then by the activities of Eurosceptic members of his own party. In July 1993 it had suffered a defeat on the EU's pivotal Maastricht treaty, followed by a TV interview at the end of which – the live feed still on – the prime minister <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/major-says-three-in-cabinet-are-bastards-1486997.html">blamed</a> the “bastards” in his own cabinet.&nbsp; Major had called a vote of confidence, won that and carried on, but his troubled administration became ever more dependent on the votes of Northern Ireland's Unionist MPs. These MPs in turn were increasingly unhappy with the government’s moves to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-9248.12091">talk</a> with PIRA. </p><p>The ceasefire collapsed in February 1996 with a <a href="https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&amp;ALID=2K7O3RTU8YN5">bombing</a> at Canary Wharf, which killed two people. The complex, London’s secondary business district, did not have the high levels of security of the City of London. A bomb in June that year devastated the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-36474535">centre</a> of Manchester. In May 1997, Tony Blair’s New Labour surged to power and made negotiations over Northern Ireland one of its priorities.</p><p>Major’s government had many other problems, but was weakened above all by the hardline Eurosceptic tendency in the cabinet and on the Conservative backbenches. While the worldview of Blair’s government overlapped with the Conservative one in key respects, it also made changes, such as the minimum wage, more investment in public services, devolution, and limited House of Lords reform.</p><p>There are some obvious similarities with the current situation, most vividly the deep divisions in Theresa May’s government over Europe and its current dependence on Unionists. A fundamental difference is that <a href="https://labour.org.uk/people/jeremy-corbyn/">Corbyn’s</a> Labour Party is well to the left of New Labour yet now appears electable, in spite of all the internal opposition to Corbyn and his team and the print media's near overwhelming hostility (see "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/corbyns-critics-time-to-come-round">Corbyn's critics: time to come round</a>", 4 May 2018).</p><p>What was fascinating about the Conservative Party <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/conservative-party-conference-where-have-all-the-tories-gone-11514720">conference</a> in Birmingham this week is that while the Europe controversy has dogged it throughout, there is also strong concern that what once seemed fanciful – that Corbyn could be elected and get into Downing Street – is now possible and even likely (see "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/jeremy-corbyn-s-labour-party-can-it-win ">Corbyn's Labour Party: can it win?</a>", 20 September 2018). A certain discomfort about that has certainly been present in the wake of the 2017 election. Since then, despite Labour’s travails on anti-semitism and other issues, the sense of a genuine challenge from Labour to the Conservatives has remained and even grown. These issues have simply not had the anticipated effect.</p><p>The Conservative disarray has not yet given way to a strong Labour lead in the <a href="http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/10031">polls</a>. But the governing party's nagging worry is what could happen in an election campaign, given that Labour in 2017 eroded a commanding Conservative lead within a few weeks – a turnaround unmatched by any party since 1945.</p><p><strong>The difference</strong></p><p>But a larger question in all this is: does it really matter who is in government? After all, the case can be made that power in Britain hardly lies in parliament when most parties in power simply bow down to the multiple elites, especially the <a href="http://www.uncsbrp.org/finance.htm">City</a>, that very largely determine the political direction of the country. </p><p>This is where the current situation is so volatile. Corbyn’s team simply do not accept the status quo and are having surprising success in putting their very different views across. Remember that only three years ago the dominant belief was that there was no alternative to austerity. The contrast with New Labour is never more obvious than here. Blair came to power in 1997 leading a team that fully accepted the reality, even the inevitability, of <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674725652">neo-liberalism</a> and its associated worldview. It was willing to work with the City, including <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-fsa-regulation-idUKL1756080220071017">light-touch</a> financial regulation, but aimed only to rebalance things a little in the direction of social progress. Corbyn’s team will have none of it.</p><p>One of the best and most perceptive pieces of writing on the City of London is in Nicholas Shaxson's<a href="http://treasureislands.org/"><em>Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World</em></a>, the seminal account of tax havens, of which the City is the prime example. In the “Griffin” chapter, written well before Corbyn’s rise to power, Shaxson pointed to the serious ignorance of the City and its power among the great majority of Labour MPs, in marked contrast to those in the Conservative Party. A notable exception, in <a href="http://treasureislands.org/the-author/">Shaxson’s</a> view, was <a href="https://labour.org.uk/press/john-mcdonnells-full-speech-labour-conference-2018/">John McDonnell</a> - who became and remains Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor. In the new parliament, moreover, McDonnell is not alone among Labour's contingent in parliament.</p><p>The wider issue is that Labour is now able to propose policies that relate directly to its view that the neo-liberal economic era may be coming to an end. It is now hardly a novel or surprising view any more: such an assessment is increasingly common in many progressive circles, and is frequently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/new-thinking-for-british-economy">analysed</a> by many authors in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/laurie-macfarlane/new-thinking-for-the-british-economy">openDemocracy</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>What <em>is </em>different is that one of the world’s major economies, which has a hugely influential financial <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/88cdec40-b03c-11e8-8d14-6f049d06439c">sector</a> with global influence, could well be <a href="https://labourlist.org/2018/04/a-new-start-for-labour-and-the-finance-sector-mcdonnells-full-speech-in-the-city/">governed</a> by a determined party with a membership bigger than all the others put together that does not accept the economic status quo.&nbsp; </p><p>Some of the more perceptive Conservative politicians in Britain are only too well aware of this. That is the main reason why fear of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn worries them more than that of any Labour configuration since the 1940s.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/peace/index.php"><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><span class="st">&nbsp;</span>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/books/irregular_war_isis_and_new_threat_margins"><em>Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins</em> </a>(IB Tauris, 2016)</p><p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/about">Oxford Research Group</a></p><p><span class="st"><span class="st">Mark Perryman ed., <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/book/the-corbyn-effect"><em>The Corbyn Effect</em></a> (Lawrence &amp; Wishart, 2017)</span></span></p><p><span class="st"><span class="st">Liam Young, <a href="http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/Rise/Liam-Young/9781471171345"><em>Rise: How Jeremy Corbyn Inspired the Young to Create a New Socialism</em></a> (Simon &amp; Schuster, 2018)<br /></span></span></p><p>Rosa Prince, <span class="st"><a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/comrade-corbyn-updated-new-edition"><em>Comrade Corbyn A Very Unlikely Coup: How Jeremy Corbyn Stormed to the Labour Leadership</em> </a>(Biteback, 2nd edition, 2018)</span></p><p><span class="st">W Stephen Gilbert, <a href="http://www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk/books/DisplayBookInfo.php?ISBN=9781908998972"><em>Jeremy Corbyn: Accidental Hero</em></a> (Eyewear, 2016)</span></p><p><span class="st">Richard Seymour, </span><span class="st"><a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2206-corbyn"><em>Corbyn</em>:<em> The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics</em></a> (Verso, 2016)</span></p><p><span class="st">Alex Nunns, </span><span class="st"><span class="st"><a href="https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/candidate-alex-nunns-2nd-edition/"><em>The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn's Improbable Path to Power</em> </a>(OR Books, 2nd edition, 2018) </span></span></p><p><span class="st"><span class="st">Mark Seddon &amp; Francis Beckett eds., <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/jeremy-corbyn-and-the-strange-rebirth-of-labour-england"><em>Jeremy Corbyn and the Strange Rebirth of Labour England</em></a> (Biteback, 2018)</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/corbyn-crowd-and-its-message">The Corbyn crowd, and its message</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/what%E2%80%99s-behind-corbyn-surge">What’s behind the Corbyn surge?</a> </div> <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="/paul-rogers/jeremy-corbyn%E2%80%99s-first-100-days">Jeremy Corbyn’s first 100 days</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/jeremy-corbyn-s-first-100-days-revisited">Jeremy Corbyn’s first 100 days, revisited</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/jeremy-corbyn-future-not-past">Jeremy Corbyn, the future not the past</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk UK global security Paul Rogers Thu, 04 Oct 2018 07:56:01 +0000 Paul Rogers 119928 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fox/Sky, Murdoch and Comcast: winners and losers https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-murdoch-and-comcast-winners-and-losers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On October 11<sup>th</sup>, the US cable giant Comcast acquires full control of Sky plc. For the first time since he launched Sky, Rupert Murdoch will have no say. But should we be careful what we wish for?</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/549093/sky.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/sky.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Images, all rights reserved</em></p><p>Comcast was a late arrival at the Sky takeover party. Sky – the UK’s most valuable media enterprise – had been the subject of a bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2010, trying to buy the 60.1% of shares in the company it did not already own.</p> <p>That bid – fiercely opposed by those who judged the Murdochs to have too much control over British media – collapsed in the wake of a series of revelations about voice-mail hacking by News Corporation newspapers, and it would be a further six years before 21st Century Fox (which inherited the Sky stake when News Corp spun off its entertainment assets into a separate company) returned to the fray.</p> <h2>Murdoch's long history in UK satelitte TV</h2> <p>Murdoch first invested in satellite television in 1983/4, paying £5 million for a 65% stake in a venture called Satellite Television, which a former researcher of mine, Brian Haynes, had founded in 1980. The venture was renamed Sky, and spent several loss-making years targeting a pan-European audience, who needed large receiving dishes to pick up the broadcast signals. Then the launch of a different satellite system by a Luxembourg company (10%-owned by my then employers, Thames Television) enabled medium-sized dishes to receive a dozen or more channels. In February 1989 Murdoch launched a UK-based 4-channel service, including our first 24-hour news service, Sky News.</p> <p>The struggle to persuade potential subscribers to buy dishes costing over £100 was compounded by the launch of an official British competitor, BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting, from which Murdoch had been specifically excluded), using a slightly smaller dish. As the rivals raced to sign up Hollywood movies and UK subscribers, they fell deeply into debt. The shareholders in BSB were relieved to find survival in the form of an equal merger with Sky, with the new company being named British Sky Broadcasting (or BSkyB). </p> <p>Murdoch was expressly granted management control, and once the weekly combined losses of £10 million were converted into similar levels of profit, the old BSB shareholders pressed for a flotation. This would raise some fresh cash, but also allow them to sell out. It was a requirement of the float that News Corp reduce its holding to below 40%, to re-assure new shareholders in BSkyB that they were not just passengers in a Murdoch vehicle. I still have my commemorative medal from the float, dated December 8 1994 (I was Sky’s Head of Programming at the time).</p> <h2>Never mind the content, feel the marketing</h2> <p>Ever since, the possibility of recovering 100% ownership of a business he had created and helped flourish must have lurked within Murdoch’s master company, be it News Corp, as in the 2010 bid, or Fox, as in the 2016 bid. </p> <p>No-one else had as close a knowledge of the company’s potential, as it spread its technical expertise, geographical reach and means of serving its customers. Telephony (both fixed line and mobile), broadband, cheaper and flexible subscription options, premium versions of technology and system navigation, “over-the-top” delivery of box sets, new territories such as Italy, Austria and Germany: the seamless expansion of the underlying platform and channel-packaging business has been an object lesson for all other media owners.</p> <p>Sky has been gently mocked by the likes of Private Eye for its relative failure in delivering high quality original content to match its technological and marketing achievements. Yet it is easy to forget that origination is a low priority for pay-TV operators when there is so much acquired material available relatively cheaply: it took HBO 25 years to deliver its first notable originated drama series. Even if much of Sky’s origination, especially in entertainment, continues to be only modestly successful, this year’s crop of drama series has brought us the brilliant “Patrick Melrose” (virtually guaranteed to win Benedict Cumberbatch a BAFTA for best actor), the ingenious “Britannia” from the Butterworth brothers, and the exceptional “Babylon Berlin” from Sky Deutschland and Tom Tykwer.</p> <h2>The Americans are coming</h2> <p>It was not Sky’s “Originals” that attracted Comcast to Sky (nor, despite media coverage of an attractive but apocryphal tale, a taxi driver’s well-informed eulogy to Sky whilst driving Comcast boss Brian Roberts into London). The obvious strategic objective is to enlarge the non-US element in Comcast’s revenue flows from a narrow 9% to a satisfactory 25% in a single stroke. Sky’s wide European footprint is all new territory for Comcast, and 23 million subscribers a healthy platform for further growth. </p> <p>Just as importantly, Comcast saw an announced deal between Fox and Disney in the US as threatening, but difficult to break up (mostly because Disney could offer the Murdochs Disney stock as an attractive way of delaying tax obligations, whereas Comcast could only offer immediately-taxable cash). Intervening in Fox’s bid to buy all of Sky – where regulatory hostility to the Murdochs was causing endless delays – seemed a much neater and easier way of limiting the growth of Disney. Comcast played a smart hand, quickly countering every Fox move without attracting any hostile comment (indeed, many Murdoch critics welcomed the cable company’s intervention).&nbsp; </p> <p>But why is Murdoch now bidding farewell to his most formidable media triumph? Perhaps at the age of 87 he could sense that his ability to shape its future was limited: indeed, he had already agreed the sale of most of the Fox entertainment assets to Disney, including whatever stake in Sky – 39% or 100% – he could bring to the deal. </p> <p>The simplest answer is probably the correct one: price. The pundits were keen to tell us that, in the one-day auction for Sky mounted by the UK Takeover Panel to resolve the bidding war, it was Disney and not Fox that was calling the shots. Yet it is not credible that Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, would have ignored input from the man who knew more about the target business than anyone else: Rupert Murdoch. And the final bid from Fox – below £15-75, the prevailing market price on the Friday before the weekend shoot-out – perhaps tells us that the Fox strategy that weekend was to keep the auction alive, but not win it at too high a price: and hope to induce Comcast to make a final, irresistible bid.</p> <h2>A significant overbid</h2> <p>It is hard to regard the winning offer from Comcast as anything but a significant overbid: that is certainly what the US market concluded as soon as trading started on the Monday, with Comcast shares dropping 6%. £17-28 per share is a staggering premium to the £9 at which Sky shares were trading last November (<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-more-twists-and-turns">when I recommended them to openDemocracy readers as an obvious bargain</a>). In practice, much of the benefit has been accrued by “arb” investors, mostly US-based, who have either built up their portfolio since 2010, or piled in since 2016. Some 40% of Sky shares were held by these funds: roughly the same as the Fox holding. Dozens of Sky staff, holding share options, will now become millionaires or multi-millionaires (perhaps weakening the desire of some key employees to stay on under the new owners). </p> <p>Although there was brief speculation that Fox might choose not to sell its Sky shares to Comcast, that never seemed a credible scenario. £11.6 billion from Comcast, to add to the £5 billion paid to News Corp when it sold its minority holdings in the Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia to Sky four years ago, represents an exceptional return on the relatively modest investments made by Murdoch’s companies in its European satellite ventures over 35 years (even if at one point in 1992 they came close to endangering the entire empire). </p> <p>Murdoch is also aware that he will never really be thanked by the UK for delivering a dominant, state-of-the-art European media business to this country, creating tens of thousands of jobs and huge consumer benefit, nor for creating a highly-esteemed 24-hour television news service (which his critics bizarrely imagine he could not wait to subvert, despite spending 30 years not doing so). Sometimes you just have to fold your cards, collect your winnings, and move on.</p> <h2>Be careful what you wish for</h2> <p>Yet those who spent so much time, effort and argument trying to prevent, or at least, delay, Murdoch becoming the 100% owner of Sky News may come to regret their seeming victory. The prospects for Comcast to achieve the cost savings and synergies spelled out in its bid document (and appraised by the ever-vigilant Enders Analysis team in <em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/What Sky means for Comcast [2018-088].pdf">this note</a></em>) seem to me remote.</p> <p>There is virtually no overlap between the two businesses (though a certain amount of “best practice” learning may take place). Certainly, the £230 million of promised annual cost savings will not come from merging corporate head offices, which are in different continents. Even the large Comcast subsidiary, NBCUniversal, is highly unlikely to move from Oxford Street to Osterley (when NBCU bought Sparrowhawk Media, which I chaired, a few years ago, only the cheapest staff and office space were let go, despite my offering to tell NBCU how to save tens of millions a year in its wasteful practices).</p> <p>Nor will NBCU’s distribution strength add more than a modest premium to whatever return Sky expects on its investment in origination. The sheer lack of credibility of the £230 million figure helps explain why so many Comcast shareholders sold their holdings as soon as the deal was announced.</p> <p>There is, of course, an obvious way for Comcast to save at least £50 million a year in one swoop: the closure of Sky News. Against this, the Enders Analysis note points to the voluntary undertakings given by Comcast to the Takeover Panel: to maintain the brand and culture, broad level of expenditure, and editorial independence of Sky News, for at least 10 years. </p> <p>These undertaking are extensive, and defined as legally binding (though not quite as extensive and binding as the contractual undertakings Fox had offered the Secretary of State if it had taken full control of Sky). The problem arises should they be breached: what are the penalties? When Kraft gave the Takeover Panel undertakings in advance of buying Cadbury, it breached them almost immediately, receiving in return nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Comcast needs nothing from the Takeover Panel in the future, and has some form in not complying with regulatory obligations in the US.</p> <h2>Comcast’s collection of news channels</h2> <p>In any case, “closing” Sky News may be the least subtle way of slicing the banana. As from October 11th, Comcast will be wholly or partly responsible for three of the most prominent news channels on the Sky platform: Sky News, CNBC and Euronews. CNBC is a US business news channel, which is re-broadcast live to many other territories around the world. It has very little overlap with the other two.</p> <p>Sky News is overwhelmingly focused on the UK audience. It is hard to imagine that it has much relevance to non-English-speaking audiences (such as Sky’s millions of customers in Italy, Austria and Germany). As for Euronews (channel 508 on the Sky system), Comcast’s NBCU bought 25% of the business (for $30m) only a year ago. A majority of the shares are owned by an Egyptian billionaire, with the remainder held by some 20 public broadcasters from Europe and the Arab world. Euronews claims 52 million daily users, employs 500 journalists, and broadcasts in 12 languages. </p> <p>NBCU’s international news services are overseen by a familiar UK figure: Deborah Turness, the one-time editor of ITV News (and deputy editor of Channel 5 News when I was running that channel) who was snapped up by NBC some years ago. The redoubtable John Ryley, long-time editor of Sky News, will presumably in future report to her in operational terms.</p> <p>It is not difficult to imagine NBCU in due course buying out the Egyptian Sawiris family’s majority holding in Euronews, as a prelude to rationalising any overlap between that service and Sky News (or indeed extending the practice of using the same person to file international reports for both its European services and NBC). At that point Euronews’ CEO, Michael Peters would presumably also report to Ms Turness. </p> <p>Comcast’s undertakings with regard to Sky News are detailed, and include a supervisory structure with an independent chairman, along with the pledge to maintain editorial independence. However, independence in selection of stories, running orders and even staff is not incompatible with a wholesale change of direction for Sky News. For instance, if Euronews were re-branded as Sky News, and run with no less in the way of resources as Sky News currently enjoys, whilst still enjoying editorial independence (from whom? Brian Roberts?), could anyone say that the Takeover Panel undertakings had been decisively breached? And if so, what penalty would follow?</p> <p>Objectively, reversing last year’s Euronews transaction (even at a loss) is an easier exercise than consolidating ownership and then extracting duplicated costs from some form of combination with Sky News. Perhaps Comcast will simply bite the bullet, perpetuate the luxury of running Sky News as part of the cost of doing business, and admit to its shareholders that it not only overpaid for Sky but cannot take the necessary steps to deliver the promised compensatory savings. And perhaps not. </p> <p>Rupert Murdoch repeatedly declined to close Sky News, when doing so would have eased his way to outright ownership of Sky, and even when a majority of independent directors of Sky invited him to do so. The endless delays imposed on his acquisition timetable, in both 2010 and 2016, in order to satisfy regulators and ministers that Sky News would be protected by cast-iron guarantees under his full ownership, led to that first bid collapsing and an opportunity to be gazumped the second time by a rival with no particular interest in news (let alone a deep-pocketed passion for it). It would be sad if those who had campaigned so tirelessly to block Murdoch’s bids, in the name of media plurality, were to see the nature – and perhaps even the future – of Sky News endangered by their efforts.</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-elstein/let-battle-commence-matt-hancock-approves-both-bidders-for-sky">Let battle commence! Matt Hancock approves both bidders for Sky</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/fox-sky-comcast-disney-endgame-approaches">Fox, Sky, Comcast, Disney: the endgame approaches</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-story-so-far-how-will-it-end">Fox/Sky: story so far – how will it end? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk David Elstein Wed, 03 Oct 2018 08:34:16 +0000 David Elstein 119913 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Investigate the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair https://www.opendemocracy.net/john-holmwood/investigate-birmingham-trojan-horse-affair <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Birmingham Trojan Horse affair has had serious consequences for public policy, but now the parliamentary standards committee is being asked to investigate possible governmental misconduct in its handling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-19584985.jpg" width="100%" /> <p><em>The Birmingham Trojan Horse affair involved claims that there was a plot by hardline Islamist governors and teachers to takeover schools in Birmingham. Slowly, however, a different truth is emerging. A successful school, Park View, was sacrificed against the evidence to a Prevent agenda that promotes anxiety, pathologises British Muslims, and undermines the civil liberties of everyone. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/john-holmwood/birmingham-trojan-horse-affair-very-british-injustice">Justice now requires a proper examination of the evidence</a> independently of its distorted presentation by the government and its allies. To summarise all that has happened so far:</em></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• <em>The affair was subject to scrutiny in the Houses of Parliament, including by the Education Select Committee. Yet there are grounds to believe that the evidence presented to the house in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/birmingham-schools-education-commissioners-report">Clarke Report</a> – presented by Nicky Morgan MP, the former secretary of state for education – was incomplete and misleading. </em></p> <p>• <em>Evidence that would have supported a different conclusion, namely that the takeover of schools was part of an improvement programme supported by Birmingham City Council and the Department for Education, was withheld. </em></p> <p>• <em>The nature of this evidence has come to light following the collapse in May 2017 of professional misconduct cases brought against teachers associated with Park View Educational Trust. </em></p> <p>• <em>The cases collapsed because of <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-misconduct-panel-outcome-mr-monzoor-hussain-mr-hardeep-saini-mr-arshad-hussain-mr-razwan-faraz-ms-lyndsey-clark">serious improprieties on the part of lawyers acting for the National College of Teaching and Leadership</a> (the agency then responsible for teacher standards), including the non-disclosure of relevant evidence. </em></p> <p>• <em>Nonetheless, sources close to the government and journalists involved in the affair have continued to assert that there was serious evidence of a plot and that the cases collapsed on a ‘technicality’. For example, the co-head of the security and extremism unit at Policy Exchange (the conservative think tank that had advised Michael Gove’s schools programme), Hannah Stuart, and its head of education, John David Blake,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/trojan-horse-if-anyone-still-any-doubt-practices-uncovered-were?platform=hootsuite.">proposed</a>&nbsp;that “non-disclosure of anonymous witness statements from the Clarke inquiry was described as an ‘abuse of process’, and that is deeply unfortunate, but this falls short of an exoneration. The decision to discontinue disciplinary proceedings was based on procedural grounds – not on a shortage of evidence.” </em></p> <p>• <em>In fact, the cases were the first opportunity for that evidence to be challenged, as most of it was, just as exculpatory non-disclosed evidence was put forward and not reported on as a consequence of the collapse of the cases. The teachers were, in fact, denied the exoneration that was their due.</em></p> </div> <p><em>In the light of this, a request for an investigation is being brought to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. This alleges that Nicky Morgan misled parliament and in doing so breached the ministerial code as well as her duties as a member of parliament. The full text of the request is available for <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/109h3CFUuMl0Mz0TJBbptGV689BLCuzoZ/view?usp=sharing">download</a>.</em></p> <p><em>The request is brought by Professor John Holmwood, an expert witness for the defence in cases brought by the National College of Teaching and Leadership. The affair represents a serious injustice visited upon teachers and governors, as well as parents and pupils linked with the schools. It has also had a profound effect on public policies that have created anxieties about the integration of British Muslims and have diminished our civil liberties. </em></p> <p><em>The request is supported by Caroline Lucas MP, who writes that, “I welcome John Holmwood’s initiative in bringing his complaint to the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Ministerial Code requires ministers to give accurate and truthful information to Parliament and the evidence he has painstakingly collated suggests there may well have been a breach of the Code by Nicky Morgan MP when she was Secretary of State. In 2014, Nicky Morgan and her then Department presented the Clarke Report to Parliament when they knew – or should have known – that the Report was incomplete. As a result, not only were a group of teachers potentially subjected to an injustice, but Parliament may also have been misled and subsequent government policy distorted.”</em></p> <hr /> <p>Claims of a ‘plot to Islamicise’ schools in Birmingham became a major media story in early 2014. Dubbed the Birmingham Trojan Horse plot, it sparked rapid interventions first by the government and subsequently by Birmingham City Council (BCC). These included investigations of 21 schools by Ofsted; a report commissioned by the former secretary of state for education, Michael Gove (the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/birmingham-schools-education-commissioners-report">Clarke Report</a>); and a report for Birmingham City Council (the <a href="https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1579/investigation_report_trojan_horse_letter_the_kershaw_report">Kershaw Report</a>). The findings of these investigations were accompanied by vigorous statements by Michael Wilshaw, then the chief inspector for schools, as well by Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan. </p> <p>The Trojan Horse affair has had great significance for public policies associated both with education and the government’s Prevent agenda. For example, a duty on schools “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/guidance-on-promoting-british-values-in-schools-published">to promote fundamental British values</a>” was adopted in November 2014, and the affair was used the following year as the primary example of “extremist entryism” that would be guarded against by a new&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-extremism-strategy">counter extremism strategy</a>. These initiatives have gathered apace with the creation of a new counter extremism unit in 2017 and a counter terrorism and border security bill currently on its way through parliament. The government has now moved from a concern with ‘safeguarding’ vulnerable children and individuals to criminalising extremist speech. </p> <p>These developments have been widely criticised for the lack of evidence that there is a “pre-criminal space” of extremist ideologies, which supposedly act as a conveyor belt toward violent extremism. There is also a lack of clarity in the very definition of ‘extremism’. <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/sites/default/files/Liberty%27s%20Committee%20Stage%20Evidence%20on%20the%20Counter-Terrorism%20and%20Border%20Security%25">According to Liberty</a>, among other problems, the proposed bill involves “the criminalisation of expression or inquiry divorced from any act in pursuit of actual terrorism … and an extension of Prevent together with a failure to reflect on long-standing concerns about the strategy.”</p> <p>The government’s concern with extremism is presented in terms of a failure of some communities to integrate and support British values. They have presented the Birmingham Trojan Horse case as exemplifying this failure. </p> <p>However, part of the non-disclosed evidence involved exculpatory evidence given to the Clarke Report (and, by association, to the Kershaw Report) by school improvement officials in the Department for Education (DfE) and BCC, as well as by a representative of the Birmingham Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE). The fact that Park View school had been a failing school in 1996, but by 2012 was in the top 14% of schools in the country was absent from nearly all media reports and official investigations. Instead, the dominant narrative was that good head teachers were beset and bullied by parents and governors seeking improvement.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">At the heart of the affair was a successful school that was attacked by government and media.</p> <p>At the heart of the affair was a successful school that was attacked by government and media. This success occurred in the context of 98.9% of its pupils coming from Muslim heritage backgrounds, with 74% in receipt of free school meals and just 7.4% with English as a first language. It is precisely this achievement that made it the focus of the schools improvement strategies of both the local council and the DfE. The ‘takeover’ of other schools and the formation of the Park View Education Trust, then, was at the behest of Michael Gove.</p> <p>The trust was accused of having a religious ethos which would have been appropriate in a faith-designated school, but not in a “secular state school”, as the Clarke Report put it. Nowhere was it stated that <em>all</em> schools in England are legally required to teach religious education and provide daily acts of collective worship (even if many do not do so). Normally this is of Christian character, but it can be varied by a ‘determination’.</p> <p>Although Park View school had become an academy in 2012, it continued to teach the local SACRE-approved religious education curriculum and had been granted a determination for Islamic collective worship as early as 1996. Since then Ofsted inspection reports had commented approvingly of its management of the spiritual needs of its pupils and the atmosphere of tolerance in the school. This evidence was presented to the Clarke inquiry, but was not commented upon in the subsequent report.</p> <p>A play by LUNG theatre company based on interviews with those involved, official reports, and transcripts from the cases was recently put on to great acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award. It was attacked by Nick Timothy, <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/09/fiction-suggest-no-plot-islamist-hardliners-take-state-schools/">who declared</a> that those who continue to challenge the Trojan Horse ‘findings’ risk “playing the Trojan Horse extremists’ game”, and by Andrew Gilligan, <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trojan-horse-reviewed-by-andrew-gilligan-the-man-who-helped-report-the-scandal-sh966t2sw">who claimed it</a> “distorts the truth of how Muslim hardliners took over Birmingham schools”. The charge of extremism is visited upon those who question the government’s narrative and it is one that, should the government’s proposed counter terrorism and border security bill be passed, will invite scrutiny as itself a criminal activity.</p> <p>It is time for an investigation into the misrepresentations associated with the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair, which have damaged community relations and led to the introduction of legislation with chilling consequences for civil liberties.</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="/john-holmwood/birmingham-trojan-horse-affair-very-british-injustice">The Birmingham Trojan Horse affair: a very British injustice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/john-holmwood/schooling-%E2%80%98british-values%E2%80%99-threatening-civil-liberties-and-equal-opportunit">Schooling ‘British values’: threatening civil liberties and equal opportunities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/francesco-ragazzi/trust-and-suspicion-under-policed-multiculturalism">Trust and suspicion under ‘policed multiculturalism’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk John Holmwood Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:50:12 +0000 John Holmwood 119898 at https://www.opendemocracy.net