OurKingdom https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/front en Defending the rule of law against the UK government’s ‘slash and burn’ https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/defending-rule-of-law-against-uk-government%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98slash-and-burn%E2%80%99 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, sworn to uphold the rule of law, hurtles down the road towards injustice for victims and defendants.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/a.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/a.jpg" alt="" 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'>Campaigners at Runnymede, the birthplace of modern democracy, 21 February, 2015</span></span></span></p><p>Yesterday Chris Grayling, Britain’s first Lord Chancellor to have no legal training, lost yet another case in court.</p> <p>This one concerned Judicial Review funding. In order to bring a Judicial Review case, permission from the Court is required. This means that the initial step in any case is an application for permission.</p> <p><span>The Government had removed funding for this initial stage to those cases where permission was not granted.&nbsp;</span><span>The Divisional Court ruled that this removal of funding is unlawful because it is contrary to the purpose of the statutory scheme set out in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013.</span></p> <p>The latest legal challenge came from public interest lawyers and from charities representing some of the most poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain, including the housing charity Shelter, the Howard League for Penal Reform and Coram Children’s Legal Centre.</p> <p>They argued that the Government proposals to remove funding for Judicial Review cases where permission had <em>not</em> been granted was unlawful: l<span>egal aid providers would be inhibited by</span><span>&nbsp;financial risk and this&nbsp;</span><span>would prevent commendable cases being brought.</span></p><p><span>Yesterday Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Ouseley agreed with them, saying that the non-payment or discretionary payment was “inconsistent with the very obligations that were created by the grant of legal aid”.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It is hard to keep count of the number of times that Grayling has been ruled to have acted unlawfully.</p> <p>There was his ban on sending books and other essential supplies such as underpants to prisoners. Ruled unlawful. A <a href="http://www.howardleague.org/victory-court-shelve-book-ban/">victory for the Howard League</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/connor-johnston/absurdity-of-mr-grayling%E2%80%99s-residence-test">residence test</a> denied legal aid to people who had lived in Britain for less than one year, putting British babies as well as asylum seekers beyond the law’s protection. Ruled unlawful. Another victory for the <a href="http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/news/41/press-release-plp-wins-residence-test-case.-proposals-to-introduce-legal-aid-residence-test-are-unla">Public Law Project</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The decisions by the Director of Legal Aid Casework, in each of the six immigration claims, not to grant legal aid under Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (section 10) have also been overturned.</p> <p>The claimants argued that the policy adopted by the Director was wrong in law and too restrictive. Collins J ruled:&nbsp;“In the circumstances, the decision of the director in each of the claims is quashed. I have indicated in individual claims whether I was of the view that legal aid should have been granted … The Lord Chancellor's guidance is in the respects I have indicated in my judgment unlawful”&nbsp;(para 128).</p> <p><a href="http://www.lag.org.uk/magazine/2014/07/judicial-review-success-for-laspo-s10-cases.aspx">Steve Hynes, LAG's director, said</a>:&nbsp;“This is a very welcome decision. The ruling indicates that the exceptional funding scheme is not providing the human rights safety net that parliament was led to believe it would.<span>”</span></p> <p><span>One Saturday last month (21 February), hundreds of lawyers, trade unionists, campaigners and civil liberties groups, gathered at the Runnymede, where 800 years ago in June 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta, to defend it legacy —&nbsp;access to justice: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice.”</span></p> <p><a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/global-law-summit/">The marchers set out</a> to defend the rule of law, from “a Government that is&nbsp;<a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/litigants-in-person/">denying justice to the poor</a> by slashing <a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/legal-aid/">legal aid</a>, attempting to shield itself from scrutiny by restricting <a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/judicial-review/">judicial review</a> and pledging to <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2014/10/rights-wish-discard/">repeal the Human Rights Act</a>”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Gathered together by <a href="https://justiceallianceuk.wordpress.com/">Justice Alliance</a>, they marched&nbsp;<span>against the hypocrisy of the government’s own Magna Carta celebration, a three day £1,750-a-ticket “Global Law Summit” at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre at Westminster.</span></p><p><span> Describing itself as “a platform for thought-leadership and cutting-edge debate, and facilitate business networks and access to key industry decision makers”, the</span><span>&nbsp;Global Law Summit told its paying guests: “Whether you are looking for investment, to invest or wanting to collaborate, networking can be instrumental for your prospects for growth.”</span></p> <p>To the journalist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/hypocrites-have-jumped-aboard-magna-carta-bandwagon">Peter Oborne it</a>&nbsp;was “a partisan attempt to hijack one of the great glories of our common history for party political purposes on the eve of a general election.”</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GLOBAL_LAW.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GLOBAL_LAW.jpg" alt="" title="" width="420" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The Justice Alliance gathering, calling itself <a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/global-law-summit/">“Not the Global Law Summit”</a>, began a 42 mile Rally for Rights, over three days, from the original birthplace of modern democracy, Runnymede, to Westminster to rally outside <a href="http://www.globallawsummit.com/">The Global Law Summit</a>. Leading the march was a&nbsp;giant papier mache Chris Grayling. Protestors chanted: “Magna Carta, not for sale” and “Grayling, Grayling, Grayling, OUT, OUT, OUT!”.</p> <p><span>Rhona Friedman, co-founder of </span><span>Justice Alliance, </span><a href="https://justiceallianceuk.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/defendmagnacarta/">said at the start of the march</a><span>:&nbsp;“Legal aid is the fourth pillar of the welfare state and it is being decimated. Magna Carta, the foundation of our civil liberties is being torn up by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. We have to resist because we will end up in a society where we cannot protect the vulnerable”.</span></p> <p><span>openDemocracy's founder&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/anthony-barnett">Anthony Barnett</a><span>&nbsp;said that the rally was for three profound reasons: “The first of these is the act itself. Magna Carta brought arbitrary power to account. It was a deal between the barons and King John. It was an example that when legitimate authority starts to exercise its power in an arbitrary and despotic fashion, it is right and proper to resist and to bring that power to account, to bring it to the table and to force it to secede from those actions.&nbsp;Second it set down three principles of law.”</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BARNETTJ_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BARNETTJ_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Barnett (right) concluded his rousing speech: “When we say we are going to defend Magna Carta, from whom? The answer to that is very simple, from today’s barons. Today’s barons are the great corporations, the international corporations – financial and business. They have stolen our political parties, they have stolen our media. Now they want to suborn our legal system and our history. The Global Law Summit is playing with the Magna Carta, to invite people from around the world to a networking event, to allow everybody to chat each other up for corporate tax avoidance. This has to be stopped. We say in defending Magna Carta, 800 years of rule by barons is enough.”</p> <p><span>Inside the Global Law Summit, Tony Cross QC, who chairs the Criminal Bar Association, unleashed an attack on the government.</span></p> <p>“It is no good championing the principle of access to justice, whilst dismantling the mechanisms by which the common man achieves it,” he said. “It is no good claiming ‘To no one will we sell Justice’ if a two tier system of justice evolves where those who can pay get access to justice, and those who cannot, do not.</p><p><span>“</span><span>It is no good saying we will not delay justice, if our criminal justice system is so chronically underfunded, or overstretched, that delays become endemic.&nbsp; When the courts are underfunded, courts sit empty and trials get delayed. These delays let down those accused of crime, entitled to have their case heard promptly. Just as importantly, they betray victims of crime for whom justice delayed is no justice at all.”</span></p><p><span></span><span>Cross went on: “The first port of call for anyone involved in criminal matters is the trusted high street solicitor. Our government plans to replace those 1,700 firms with just 527 firms. Justice will be provided by conglomerates and supermarkets of lawyers. It will lead to injustice for victims and defendants alike... Those firms, once disappeared, will not be able to provide work for the young lawyer. When they are gone, where will the future judges of tomorrow come from?”</span></p> <p>He continued, “Austerity is hitting hard in this land. This English garden is not so rosy. The sort of austerity that we face must be resisted.” Cross predicted that the bar ‘will die out’ and solicitors be replaced by paralegals. You can read his full speech <a href="https://www.criminalbar.com/latest-updates/news/q/date/2015/02/23/cba-monday-message-23-02-15/">here</a>.</p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bpeake.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bpeake.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="422" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>As Tony Cross spoke, the </span><a href="http://magnacarta800years.com/global-law-summit/">Not the Global Law Summit</a><span> rallied at Old Palace Yard. Their event focused on people, rather than business. Maxine Peake, star of the television legal drama, <em>Silk</em>, (pictured above) read out some clauses of Magna Carta, to loud applause and cheers.</span></p><p><span>Matt Foot, co-founder of the Justice Alliance, told the gathering: “The summit is a sham; it is a sick joke... The only way to celebrate the anniversary of Magna Carta is to get rid of Grayling.”</span></p> <p><span>Michelle Bates, the sister of Barry George, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of Jill Dando, said that the Summit was “a complete farce. Compensation for these men would cost a fraction of what the Global Law Summit is costing the Government to host. Mr Grayling, your title is Right Honourable but I see nothing honourable in your deeds.”</span></p> <p><span>Robin Murray, Vice Chairman of Criminal Law Solicitors Association, also spoke: “I do not criticise Mr. Grayling for being a non-lawyer Lord Chancellor,” said. “Just for being a very poor one. But I&nbsp;do&nbsp;criticise Mr Grayling for pimping out&nbsp;</span><em>our</em><span>&nbsp;Magna Carta for base commercial reasons at the Global summit when his slash and burn approach to legal aid and Judicial review is leaving ordinary people without the ability to stand up and challenge over mighty corporate Barons&nbsp;and Government power. He is the antithesis of what Magna Carta symbolises.” &nbsp;(speech in full </span><a href="http://www.clsa.co.uk/index.php?q=Robin-Murray-Speech-Magna-Carta-23-February-2015">here</a><span>).</span></p> <p><span>The protestors delivered a letter from the Justice Alliance to the organisers of the Global Law Summit, together with a Magna Carta scroll, carried by foot for 42 miles from Runnymede to Westminster in defence of the legacy of Magna Carta.</span></p> <p>The <a href="http://www.younglegalaidlawyers.org">Young Legal Aid Lawyers</a>&nbsp;took part in the action, out on the streets, leafleting in Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Leigh.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Later, at a packed Union Chapel in north London, Matt Foot opened the Justice Alliance comedy night with a passionate speech to lawyers, students, campaigners and journalists. Since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into effect, he said, legal aid has been decimated. LASPO was the opposite of Magna Carta, it was the “Bullies’ Charter”. The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjOigFHdVIY">Justice Alliance film</a> &nbsp;was shown, featuring Stephen Fry and Jo Brand, supporting the fight to save Legal Aid.</p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dpasco.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dpasco.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="434" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Comedians including Stephen K Amos, Stewart Lee and Sara Pascoe (pictured left) performed for free in solidarity with the campaign against the government. Grayling’s effigy took centre stage. Paul Hamilton directed one of his poems to it — “Grayling, it is you they should be jailing”&nbsp;—&nbsp; to loud applause.</span></p> <p><span>Shami </span><span>Chakrabarti</span><span>, Director of Liberty, who had boycotted the Global Law Summit and returned her invitation, expressed her distaste at the Global Law Summit taking place in a time of austerity and cuts to legal aid.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The government cuts and restrictions are preventing access to justice for all, something Magna Carta stood for – the rule of law, access to justice and a fair trial.</span></p> <p><span>That same day, the High Court ruled against the Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, and in favour of the Lord Chancellor. The Ministry of Justice propose to press ahead with the two-tier contracts for criminal legal aid, and to dramatically decrease the number of solicitors firms around the country that awarded a duty contract from 1,600 to just 527.</span></p> <p>But just a week later, the Court of Appeal granted <a href="http://www.clsa.co.uk/assets/files/general/Upload%20files%20for%202015/lccs....%20&amp;%20LAW%20SOCIETY%20v%20THE%20LORD%20CHANCELLOR%20FINAL%20DRAFT%20X%202%2012.2.15.doc">Leave to overturn</a> the Divisional Court win by the Ministry of Justice. The next hearing is due to take place on 10 March 2015.</p> <p>Whilst we await the result of that hearing, shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan MP, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/mar/02/labour-cannot-reverse-tory-legal-aid-cuts-sadiq-khan-says">told the Guardian on Monday</a>: “I’m really worried about the government’s attack on judicial review. When I was a lawyer, I used judicial review to challenge public authorities. When I became a minister, I accepted that judicial review was a pain in the backside: civil servants had to check and double-check. It may have been a nuisance but it’s a very important safeguard.&nbsp;</p> <p>“So I will reverse all the changes the government has made. It’s important that the executive respects the powers citizens have to hold us to account.”</p> <p><span>In the run up to the General Election, Labour say they cannot reverse Tory legal aid cuts. </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/mar/02/labour-cannot-reverse-tory-legal-aid-cuts-sadiq-khan-says">They promise instead</a><span> to reverse two-tier criminal legal aid, the eligibility test for legal aid for victims of domestic violence, judicial review and freedom of information requests which cover private companies such as G4S and Capita.</span></p> <p>The future of justice is far from secure. The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta should focus our minds on defending the Rule of Law.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/dear-ban-kimoon-please-withdraw-your-video">Dear Ban Ki-moon, please withdraw your video</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/hypocrites-have-jumped-aboard-magna-carta-bandwagon">The hypocrites have jumped aboard the Magna Carta bandwagon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rhona-friedman/rally-at-runnymede-and-join-opposition-to-global-law-summit">Rally at Runnymede! And join the opposition to the Global Law Summit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/british-justice-minister-fails-to-convince-human-rights-committee-that-he-me">British justice minister fails to convince human rights committee that he means no harm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/gemma-blythe/does-grayling-respect-nothing-but-market">Does Grayling respect nothing but the market?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/one-man-two-guvnors-conflict-at-heart-of-british-justice">One Man, Two Guvnors: the conflict at the heart of British justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Gemma Blythe Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:24:37 +0000 Gemma Blythe 91001 at https://opendemocracy.net On the eve of Magna Carta’s 800th birthday, the British legal system is being ripped apart https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/on-eve-of-magna-carta%E2%80%99s-800th-birthday-british-legal-system-is-being-ripp <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="subheadline"> A protest march against the Global Law Summit in London symbolises the relevance of the Magna Carta.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/barnett3.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/barnett3.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="510" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>'King John’ Grayling confronted by the Magna Carta at the Runnymede memorial by ‘citizen’ Anthony Barnett reading out the famous sections 39 and 40</em></p><p>At midday on Saturday 21 February perhaps 70 of us, warmly clad, some carrying banners, gathered at Runnymede alongside the River Thames in Surrey. We were accompanied by an enormous, terrifyingly lifelike puppet of the UK’s Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, dressed as King John. We met in the car park of the Magna Carta tea-room, then set out in the cold sunshine across the muddy, sweeping water-meadow,&nbsp;with the river bending away to our left, to the memorial donated by American lawyers that marks the founding moment of the modern concept of the rule of law.</p> <p> <span>There, we listened to three short speeches. Susan Matthews described how her son Alfie Meadows had suffered brain damage after being attacked by police in 2010 and been wrongly charged. What a battle it had been to clear his name against the fortune spent to convict him. And how justice would never have been secured without&nbsp;legal aid. She was followed by Ruth Hayes of Islington Law Centre, who let us know with detail after detail how access to justice is being prevented. Then I said a few stirring words about why we were there.</span></p> <p> <span>After this the organisers set out to march the 42 miles down the winding Thames Path to Westminster in protest against the Global Law Summit – and the less stalwart of us joined them part of the way.</span></p> <p> <span>****</span></p> <p> <span>The so-called summit was a monstrous jamboree of corporate law, tax avoidance, networking and global business, legitimised by phoney celebration of Magna Carta’s forthcoming 800th birthday.</span></p> <p> <span>The rally was organised by Justice Alliance: its plan, wonderfully executed, was to walk against the fading light to as close to Hampton Court as possible. Then to use Sunday 22 February to carry a copy of the two defining clauses of Magna Carta, the famous numbers 39 and 40, to Putney. There, the marchers met on Monday morning outside St Mary’s Church, scene of the historic Putney Debates, when the New Model Army clashed over the purpose of the English civil war. Thomas Rainsborough famously argued, “. . . the poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest hee” – the earliest claim for modern democracy. With the spirit of Rainsborough walking among them, they set out for Old Palace Yard in Westminster.</span></p> <p> <span>****</span>&nbsp; </p><p> <span>Justice Alliance is a network working across the waterfront of the UK’s legal system as it hits the poor, the weak and the dispossessed. The alliance is witnessing at first hand the dismantling of legal aid, the destruction of the probation service, the privatisation of court services and, I would add, even the marketisation of Britain’s once outstanding forensic service.</span></p> <p> <span>The agent driving forward this destruction&nbsp;of the rule of law in Britain is the one-time management consultant and Tory attack dog&nbsp;Grayling. At the concluding rally outside the Commons, the criminal defence lawyer Greg Foxsmith led the crowd of by then 300 protesters, whom he generously described as “the people”, in a mock-impeachment of Grayling for “misleading the House of Commons”, the “obstruction of justice” and his “abuse of power”.</span></p> <p> <span>There was a wide range of other speeches showing how we are on the edge of returning, as Robin Murray, a solicitor working with the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, put it, “to the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s and their miscarriages of justice”.</span></p> <p> <span>****</span></p><p><span>The rally was a first skirmish in the battle for Britain’s constitution that will hot up through the course of this year, across the election in May and the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta on 15 June.</span></p> <p> <span>Three great issues are symbolised by what happened then. First, the example of holding arbitrary and despotic power to account, bringing it to the table and forcing it to concede. Second, the claims of those two celebrated clauses – that no one shall be imprisoned or destroyed except by judgment of his peers and the rule of law, and that&nbsp;no one will be able to buy justice, and “to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice”. Of course today we add “she” to “he” and also what we possess has altered, as the rights to privacy and now to our personal metadata become central parts of our lives; and we can say for sure that the rule of law does not exist if the wronged cannot afford access to the courts.</span></p> <p> <span>Third, it was called the “magna” or “great” charter because another charter soon accompanied it, the Charter of the Forest: the first claim to what we can now see as our&nbsp;environmental commons.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> <span>****</span>&nbsp; </p><p> <span>The Global Law Summit had none of these issues as its themes. Lord Green was to&nbsp;have addressed it on supranational activity until the bank he once ran, HSBC, was exposed as having indulged in rather too much supranational activity. One excited tweet on the first day told the summit’s followers how to exchange business cards, another how to get updates on the role of private equity.</span></p> <p> <span>The corporations have stolen our political parties, they are stealing our media, they are robbing us of our government, they are suborning the law and now they are stealing our history, making it a plaything for networking. Such were my reflections as we walked beside the Thames, the pure branches of its oaks massed in the bright, cold sky, witnesses to a resistance that is once again girding itself for battle.</span></p> <p> <span><em>Cross published with thanks from the New Statesman</em></span></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://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Rights and liberties today Building it: campaigns and movements Anthony Barnett Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Anthony Barnett 90931 at https://opendemocracy.net With corporate energy, we're stuck in the dark ages – let's switch to public ownership https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/calum-mcgregor/with-corporate-energy-we%27re-stuck-in-dark-ages-%E2%80%93-let%27s-switch-to-public-ow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fuel poverty, constant price hikes, billions siphoned off to shareholders - the private energy market has failed in social terms. It's time for democratic control of energy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/britgas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/britgas.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/GAAP Studio. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It is clear that Britain has an energy problem. The privatisation and ‘liberalisation’ of the energy market has left us with six dominant suppliers from which over 90% of us buy our energy. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/228m-british-households-now-living-in-fuel-poverty-9532501.html">1 in 10 households</a> in the UK are in fuel poverty. Confidence in the ability of the biggest energy companies to act in the public interest has almost completely eroded, and the head of Ofgem has identified a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25101062">‘deep mistrust in anything the energy companies do or say’</a>. The Big Six have faced continued criticism over widening profit margins and a perception that they abuse their dominant market position. Average pre-tax profits are expected to reach <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/29/energy-companies-boost-profits-despite-gas-price-cuts">£114 per household over the next year</a>, despite plummeting oil and gas prices. And we are categorically failing to make the necessary moves towards green sources of energy; just <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-energy-in-brief-2014">5.2% of our overall energy consumption</a> is from renewable sources, one of the lowest in the EU.</p> <p>Anyone can see that the system is broken. But to how fix it? What would a new energy paradigm look like? This was the topic of an inspiring workshop event, ‘Imagining Energy Democracy’, organised and chaired by <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/">Global Justice Now</a>, and attended by a wealth of campaigners and academics. We allowed our minds to wander, to dream, to imagine an energy future not dominated by fossil fuels and large private companies, but a future in which ‘energy democracy’ had won out against corporate profit and climate destruction.</p> <p><strong>Imagining energy democracy</strong></p> <p>Energy democracy is a concept born out of the climate justice movement, and brings together intersecting ideas grounded in social justice and the need for decisive and collective action to limit the devastating effects of climate change. It demands independence from large corporations, decentralisation, and a shift towards participatory forms of decision-making, enabling people to be involved in the economic decisions that shape their lives. It means giving everyone equal access to energy that’s affordable, and doesn’t put the future of our planet in danger. Above all it means putting the common good before private profit. All energy struggles are important for achieving this, from battling crippling fuel poverty to preventing the fracking of our countryside. But the question of ownership is critical. Energy democracy cannot be achieved without public ownership of the means of generation and distribution of energy.</p> <p>To break the stranglehold large private companies have on our energy, we need to produce a positive and pragmatic alternative. Public ownership, whilst vital to achieving energy democracy, is no panacea. Large state-owned corporations are still guilty of unresponsiveness and inefficiency. A re-imagining of public ownership must be diverse, and able to operate at a number of different scales. Nationally-owned organisations and infrastructure will form a vital part of this, but so will more localised forms of public ownership, through municipal or council-owned bodies, as well as small-scale co-operatives and community groups. In all cases, collective ownership must prove itself to be flexible, responsive and able to enhance democratic participation.</p> <p><strong>What does the alternative look like?</strong></p> <p>Many of the countries in Europe that have been the most successful to-date in implementing the transition towards renewable energy, such as Germany and Denmark, have a broad range of energy suppliers, owned by the public on a local, regional and co-operative basis. A continuing wave of ‘re-municipalisation’ in Germany has seen over <a href="http://classonline.org.uk/pubs/item/renewing-public-ownership">100 energy concessions</a> brought into public ownership since 2007, such that <a href="http://www.respublica.org.uk/our-work/publications/creating-local-energy-economies-lessons-germany/">nearly half</a> of Germany’s renewable energy capacity is now owned by citizens. In Denmark, the country’s rapid shift towards wind power in the 1980s is credited to the decentralised and local nature of its network (80% of wind turbines are owned by families or co-operatives.) In the UK, both Nottingham and Bristol City Councils are working to set up municipal energy companies to provide fairly priced, renewable energy to their citizens. Central to <a href="http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/city-council-to-create-uks-first-municipal-energy-company">Bristol’s plans</a> is a desire to be a ‘force for social good not wholly driven by profit’, and a pledge to guarantee ‘competitive, fair and simple energy tariffs with any profits reinvested back into local communities’. It is these values, and this view of energy as a public utility, which are missing from our current system. </p> <p>Imbued with these values, collective ownership of our energy could also be an avenue through which to tackle some of society’s glaring inequalities. Currently, the poorest pay the most through punitive prepayment meters, which, despite the energy companies’ pledge never to ‘knowingly disconnect’, could be <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/03/energy-cutoffs">forcing thousands to go without electricity and gas</a>. As well as producing savings that could be passed on to the public, a series of progressive tariffs could be established to help those least able to pay their energy bills. Proceeds could also be used to directed towards projects of social value. In Nebraska, all residents and business buy their energy from a <a href="http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2732464/red_state_red_power_nebraskas_publiclyowned_electricity_system.html">public or community-owned institution</a> rather than a for-profit company. Payments from these providers are used to support a variety of social services, including the public education system. </p> <p><strong>Power instead of paralysis</strong></p> <p>Public ownership, in its multitude of forms, would give us all the ability to participate in vital decisions about how our energy is generated. Under the current regime, those who use energy are excluded from any decisions about how profits or surplus is reinvested, and the form that this investment takes. If these decisions were delegated to the public, would they opt to pour further funds into the discovery and exploitation of ever more extreme sources of fossil fuels? Or would they choose to invest in the expansion of renewables? As ‘consumers’, the only method of participation we are afforded by the market is to change suppliers. Yet many of us feel unable to exercise this power, paralysed by a byzantine number of tariffs, and a sneaking suspicion that ‘they’re all the same anyway’. In fact, recent research by consumer group Which? has estimated that the lack of competition in the energy market could have cost us <a href="https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/lack-of-competition-in-energy-market-costs-consumers-2-9bn/">£2.9 billion over the last year</a>. </p> <p>Not only is corporate ownership of our energy restricting our ability to choose how our energy is generated, but it is also charging us a premium for our lack of civic power. <a href="http://weownit.org.uk/privatisation-failing/cost-privatised-living">Research carried out by We Own It and Corporate Watch</a> calculated how much each household could save if water, energy and rail were in public ownership. Public ownership would be cheaper because there would be no need to pass on profits to shareholders, and because government can borrow more cheaply than private companies to raise money for investment. The cost of privatisation came to £248 a year, per household, of which energy comprised £160. These are likely to be conservative estimates.</p> <p><strong>Planning for our future</strong> </p> <p>Also absent from our current private model is long-term planning. The Big Six energy firms have a legal duty to maximise returns for their shareholders, shareholders that are often only interested in short-term profit rather than planning for a sustainable energy future. A number of German cities, including Frankfurt and Munich, decided not to privatise their electricity networks in the 1990s. These cities now have ambitious targets for renewables, with Munich aiming to satisfy the energy demands of the city’s <a href="http://cityclimateleadershipawards.com/mayors-voices-munich-mayor-hep-monatzeder/">one million people with green energy by 2025</a>, a goal <a href="http://www.munich-economic-summit.com/mes_2011/speeches.htm">local councillor Dieter Reicher</a> says can only be ‘successful if the long-term goal is sustainable economic success rather than short-term profit maximisation.’ </p> <p>There is still much work to be done to counter the dominant narrative of ‘the market knows best.’ In their sharp and incisive essay <a href="http://platformlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Manifesto_energy_beyond_neoliberalism.pdf">'Energy Beyond Neoliberalism' (pdf)</a>, Platform floats the idea of a nationally-owned offshore wind farm, the profits from which would be used to fund social projects and a sovereign wealth fund, inspired by Norway’s state oil fund. Public ownership of energy is undoubtedly popular (68% support it), but the fact that these sorts of discussions are not even on the national agenda points to the stilted nature of the debate, which is often falsely presented as a choice between <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/10726104/Energy-boss-warns-of-blackouts-as-competition-probe-stops-investment-in-power-plants.html">unfettered markets or black-outs</a>. We Own It has <a href="https://weownit.org.uk/privatisation-people-vs-politicians">compared public opinion with party policy</a> relating to privatisation and public services - and public ownership of energy is only advocated by one party - the Greens. This is not an unattainable vision of utopia, but a model that has proven to work for many of our European neighbours. Countries across the continent, often driven by grassroots campaigns, are pursuing public ownership as a way to bring down prices and fight climate change. The UK needs to follow, or risk being left behind. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>This article is part of our <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/modernise-deprivatise">Modernise: de-privatise series</a>. </strong></em></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Calum McGregor Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Calum McGregor 90939 at https://opendemocracy.net Labour's lackluster tuition fee pledge is the tip of the iceberg: mainstream politics is melting away https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-smith/labour%27s-lackluster-tuition-fee-pledge-is-tip-of-iceberg-mainstream-politics-i <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the 2015 general election, centrist policy maneuvering and political commentary cannot comprehend the new political reality</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/V5OjUQru3ti2XBk6lHkPyq0l2RDN003D4SUg6nynHAc/mtime:1425417531/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/tuition-fees-440x440.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/PV38i0y5HsokncaTkbTJw7H_Cs8jl39-KQDXZtImx6M/mtime:1425398924/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/tuition-fees-440x440.png" alt="" title="" width="440" height="440" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>If the world treats them as though they are an authority, every idiot will be obliged say that the objective conditions of a situation are complicated to the point of being incomprehensible. In the run up to the 2015 general election, this is rapidly becoming the defining feature of both mainstream political commentary and policy formulation. </p> <p>The mystification of political journalism is nothing new. It carries with it a whole vocabulary designed to complicate simple ideas. Between now and May, you won’t be able to move for people talking about “the electorate” in the third person and how things might “play” with them, or people using the word “data” unnecessarily, or political correspondents “revealing” very obvious things from “insiders”. </p> <p>This election, however, is witnessing a new and higher stage of disorientation. Mainstream political commentary and policy manoeuvring – with all of its reduction of power and politics to the level of a game – has always failed to understand or relate to social realities, but they are now failing to understand even the game they were designed to master. It isn’t just the breakdown of first past the post or the rise of new parties that is confusing the picture – it is the collective inadequacy of the political establishment, grounded in centrist dogma. The result is a series of policies that nobody really wanted, surrounded by coverage that cannot link anything that happens in Westminster to how or why people vote. </p> <p>The constant repetition of polling data through every orifice of the mainstream press, usually a means of droning out political ideas with an avalanche of digits, has served only to underline this. In two consecutive weeks in February, just as it looked like the minor parties might at last recede and normality prevail, the mainstream press professed its astonishment at the apparently Kafka-esque voting intentions of the general public. First, Labour jumped ahead <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/07/labour-conservatives-opinion-poll-miliband-cameron?CMP=share_btn_tw">“despite” a week</a> in which they were savaged by business leaders; then, a week later, the Tories gained a one point lead <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/16/tories-up-six-points-latest-icm-opinion-poll">“despite” week</a> in which saw the HSBC revelations and dodgy business connections. </p> <p>It was as if no-one could tell what was happening; the Nick Robinsons looked on, powerless and afraid, as events which ordinarily would have moved mountains in previous elections seemed to have no effect on a ceaselessly shifting tide of coloured lines on a graph. </p> <p>The reality of this election is extremely simple: Labour is too right wing to win an overall majority. For many months, it has become pop analysis to cite the fact that most of the public – even most Tory voters – <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/11/04/nationalise-energy-and-rail-companies-say-public/">support nationalising the railways and utilities</a>, or that most people are to the left of Labour on <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/02/21/majority-support-mansion-tax/">taxing the rich</a>. Now, months into the campaign, these sentiments are entrenched into the arithmetic of the election: the Green Party is taking <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/24/green-party-labour-threat-2015-election-robert-ford">a large proportion</a> of the disillusioned Labour and Lib Dem vote, and the left-of-Labour nationalist surge in Scotland <a href="http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9194">is robbing Miliband</a> of what should be a walk-over parliamentary majority. </p> <p>The reason for all the apparent “complexity” is that mainstream political commentary and analysis cannot allow itself to acknowledge these relatively simple facts. The battle over the centre ground and over a number of shibboleths (demonization of the poor and migrants, ‘toughness’ on crime and “the deficit”) has been the staple of political journalism for decades. In the run up to many general elections, these points of reference were, sadly, true – even if they were reflections of what the media and politicians themselves put out. But if taken in isolation they are now redundant, and all that political analysts can give us is mystification and endless, endless graphs. </p> <p>The Labour Party should be perfectly capable of adapting to these realities. In fact, some form of this realisation was the very basis on which Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership. Unlike his brother, Ed realised that there was mileage in taking on the banks and big business, allying with anti-establishment sentiments, and in re-instituting, even in a different form, basic elements of the social democratic consensus that had informed the leadership of the Labour Party before Blair. </p> <p><a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/labour-will-cut-fees-9k-6k-party-pledges">Last week’s announcement</a> that Labour would cut tuition fees to £6,000 symbolises the failure of Miliband’s leadership – not because he has failed to succumb to appease the right wing press, but because he has seemingly failed to face down the right wing of his own party. In the past, Miliband had talked about a graduate tax, a policy which, while being a rebranding of fees rather than their abolition, would have had a tangible effect on how universities are funded. </p> <p>Labour’s fees policy will effectively change nothing in higher education: the marketisation of the sector will not be challenged, and neither will the privatisation of services, the casualization of staff or the consumerisation of student life. Students will still pay a sticker price for their education, they will still take on vast debts, and they will still live in poverty: Labour’s other announcement, of a £400 annual increase in student support, will barely pay for two weeks’ rent in a London hall of residence. </p> <p>Six thousand pound fees are a gesture in the right direction, but one which does nothing to challenge the status quo politically, and does no-one any good in material terms. They are a policy – like a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24213366">price freeze on utilities</a>, or maybe-sort-of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31621300">allowing the government to bid</a> for its own rail franchises – which would have made crude opportunistic sense in a battle over the centre ground. But in the current climate, they are no things to no people, a tacit acknowledgment that the Greens and the SNP are right, but that Labour is too spineless to implement left wing policies itself. </p> <p>Blairism and centrism in the Labour party fitted so well into the world of the hacks and political correspondents because both sets of people shared a self image backed up by a common historical narrative: they were the post-ideological technocrats who rejected the idea of party politics as a means of mass working class participation, and who understood the ‘game’ of politics. It is well overdue that this version of politics was exorcised, if only in the name of expediency. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-griffin/tuition-fees-rebellion-sparks-coalition-crisis">Tuition fees rebellion sparks coalition crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson/tuition-fees-fallout">Tuition fees: the fallout </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom John Smith Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:00:01 +0000 John Smith 91005 at https://opendemocracy.net The BBC, the licence fee and the digital public space https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/tony-ageh/bbc-licence-fee-and-digital-public-space <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Controller of the BBC’s archive strategy maintains the institution’s fundamental role within the media ecology and argues that the Licence Fee should safeguard a new democratic digital public space.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-right"><span style="font-style: italic; line-height: 1.5;">This is an edited version of </span><a style="font-style: italic; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2015/02/tony-ageh-the-bbc-and-a-digital-public-sphere/" target="_blank">a speech given at Royal Holloway University London (RHUL) </a><span style="font-style: italic; line-height: 1.5;">on 10 February.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Over the years I have had some wonderful jobs and some degree of success in being instrumental in the development of a number of interesting media products or services, a few of which have become quite well known and loved – such as The Guardian’s Guide and website, When Saturday Comes (still the best half-decent football magazine in the UK), and more recently the BBC’s Genome and RES projects and, of course the iPlayer.</p> <p>However, my current day job as Controller of Archive Development at the BBC is possibly the most interesting and challenging of them all and, if the ideas we are working on are successful, it is the job that has the potential to bring about the most universally beneficial and empowering change of them all.</p> <p>Originally I was invited to come along and explain a little of what is meant by this term ‘Digital Public Space’. I realise it is a difficult concept to grasp all in one go, even for those of us who are trying to make it happen, but you seem like a friendly bunch so here goes...</p> <p>In a nutshell, the ‘Digital Public Space’ is intended as a secure and universally accessible public sphere through which every person, regardless of age or income, ability or disability, can gain access to an ever growing library of permanently available media and data held on behalf of the public by our enduring institutions.</p> <p>Our museums and libraries; our public service broadcasters (all of them); our public archives; our government services. Every person in this country, whether adult or schoolchild, should be able to use the Digital Public Space to access... for research or for amusement, for discovery or for debate, for creative endeavour or simply for the pleasure of watching, listening or reading ... they should be able to access the priceless treasures that have recorded, reflected and shaped our shared national heritage.</p> <p>Our National Abundance. Our Inheritance. Our Story.</p> <p>It is our right to have this access, and it should be freely available to all.</p> <p>The Digital Public Space must – by definition – be equally accessible by everyone, universally equivalent and unconditional. It must be dialogic, open and protective of the rights of all participants and contributors. It must be available at all times and in all locations, it must expect contributions from every member of our society and it must respect privacy. It must operate only in the best interests of the people that it serves; absent of overtly political or commercial interests. And it must endure.</p> <p>Digital technology certainly holds out the potential for making this possible. But don’t expect it to just happen. Despite exciting our imaginations and driving up our expectations, digital technology can also be a bit of a lazy devil – quite understandable really given it is, metaphorically at least, still something close to a surly teenager.</p> <p>But we must be careful when we think it will, all by itself solve the problems it creates; as Stuart Brand once said “digital solutions will last forever or for five years... whichever comes first”. I believe the engineering term for something as complicated as this proposal for a Digital Public Space is ‘Decidedly Nontrivial’ meaning requiring both real thought *and* significant engineering power.”</p> <p>So, given the audience today, I thought it might be interesting if I shared with you one of the paths that I took to arrive at that seemingly impossible, or at best improbable, proposition and I’m going to argue that, despite the enormous challenges of making such an idea a reality, there is already an existing publicly funded organisation which is perfectly placed to provide the leadership - the real thought and significant engineering power – that will be needed for the development of such a public realm, because although we may not realise it, that’s exactly what they have been doing, on our behalf, for almost a century.</p> <p>In my view, it is the greatest media organisation ever established in the history of the world.</p> <p>It is The BBC.</p> <p>But first I want to start off by asking which you think came first – the BBC or the Licence Fee.</p> <p>Hands up for the BBC...
 Hands up for the Licence Fee...
 And which of you think they came into being at about the same time?...
And which of you don’t know?...</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oenCc9xwp6qJbu7UFM5t-m87Y2AcQGTzoZk9kwAuslI/mtime:1425367976/files/image002_1.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /></p> <p>Congratulations to those of you that guessed right...</p><p>The Licence Fee actually predated the BBC by about 20 years!</p> <p>Now I realise that almost nobody would stop to think about that question in the first place because when asked what the Licence Fee is for, most people say BBC programmes. It’s certainly what the majority of the money is spent on and long may it remain the case.</p> <p>The BBC makes without doubt some of the greatest and most important programmes – both radio and television – anywhere in the world today. It’s hard not to get excited by Wolf Hall, The Archers, The News Quiz, The Fall and landmark sporting occasions such as our unprecedented coverage of The London Olympics.</p> <p>Our Children’s programmes are truly second to none and, in aggregate, our International, National and Local News services have no peer anywhere on the planet.</p> <p>In the upcoming conversations about the renewal of the BBC’s Charter, it is natural to ask the question ‘What is the BBC for?’ and an equally natural and common refrain, is that we make great TV programmes in support of our public purposes... and so, of course, the public want us to get as much of the Licence Fee ‘on screen’ as possible.</p> <p>However in this talk I will argue that this is not only somewhat untrue, in as much as it is only part of the picture, it is also potentially and dangerously misleading.
 I will show that the BBC and the Licence Fee are symbiotic, certainly; but not synonymous.</p> <p>Part of the reason for this is what it is currently called: ‘The Television Licence’. I think as a matter of urgency, it should be renamed.</p> <p>Because as it currently stands we all only tend to compare the BBC to other ‘competitors’ in television against the quantity and quality of the programmes that *they* broadcast.</p> <p>In the vast majority, if not all cases, the BBC compares favourably with this ‘competition’ but that is not the point. In fact this is simply the wrong paradigm.</p> <p>How did we get here? I want to go all the way back and ask what the world looked like in February 1920.</p> <p>There is no electricity as we know it. There is nothing like the choice of reading material that we have today and anyway many, many people can’t or don’t read. Most women got the vote two years earlier but some still have to wait for another eight years. The First World War ended only two years ago. We’ve only just adopted British Summer Time.</p><p><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ag2.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>There are no traffic jams, no Times Crossword and no sliced bread.</p> <p>And there is no BBC.</p><p> Around the turn of the 20th century, the thing that we now call broadcasting was starting to emerge although it wasn’t yet called ‘broadcasting’. It was called wireless telegraphy: the ability to send information through free space without a connecting electrical conductor... or ‘wires’ to you and me. This emerging technology had (and still has) a number of unique characteristics:</p><p>- It could reach every part of the UK. Even the remotest island received the same signals</p> <p>- It transmitted the same version to everyone regardless of what they received it on </p> <p>- It didn’t require the user to acquire any new skills (e.g. reading), just to tune in and listen - assuming you were not deaf or hard of hearing</p> <p>- There was no need to travel to the venue where the event was taking place </p> <p>- The radio waves were ubiquitous– almost ‘omnipresent’ – they couldn’t be ‘turned off’ </p> <p>- All of this at zero marginal cost of distribution and reach, to both the broadcaster and the user</p> <p>It was different to any medium that had gone before. At first it was quite hard to work out what to do with it, but it soon became clear that, if it could be tamed, then we could do amazing things with it.</p><p>John Reith was soon to suggest that it would allow Nation to speak peace unto nation. It had the potential to connect the entire country, to give the best seat at the concert, to eradicate loneliness. And of course, to inform, to educate and to entertain – but not just the privileged few... everyone.</p> <p>Our politicians looked around the world to see how other countries were using, as well as funding, these emerging broadcast technologies. They saw broadly two approaches:</p> <p>In countries such as the US, there was what was described at the time as a free-for-all approach; a bit of a 'cacophony'. They decided that *we* didn’t want that. There was also an underlying suspicion that the potential of this new technology was rather ‘squandered’ by being used mainly for broadcasting ‘Light Entertainment’. It was felt that there was great potential to *also* use it for enlightenment and other so called ‘uplifting’ purposes.</p> <p>Looking across Europe there were concerns that broadcasting risked being abused by political interests if controlled entirely by the state. The term ‘propaganda’ appears frequently in the documents of the time; although it was not used in quite the same way we have come to use it since the Second World War.</p> <p>Not that either of these approaches was seen as wholly ‘bad’ – as my Italian born mother said when I told her I was joining the BBC “it wasn’t Garibaldi that unified Italy, it was radio” – it was more that they believed that there was much, much greater potential for public benefit than either of these models were likely to achieve.</p> <p>In those earliest days, although it was clear that broadcasting had great power there were also real concerns. Everybody could hear everything! At this stage, this looked more like a bug than a feature; the military were specifically concerned in much the same way that the authorities are concerned about the internet today. There was a worry that it could be used to destabilise countries.</p> <p>And so, to try to control, and essentially restrict, this exciting but as yet unproven technology to only those who had a bona fide reason to be using it, permission had to be sought from the General Post Office to experiment or own equipment and three types of licence were established:</p><p>- A Licence to manufacture any equipment: bearing in mind this was military grade technology </p> <p>- A Licence to broadcast over the airwaves: justifying what are you broadcasting and to whom?</p><p>- A Licence to own the receiving machinery for what was known back then as ‘listening in’. </p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Licence for ordinary people to be able to broadcast was abolished during the First World War and the receiving licences suspended until around 1920.</span></p><p><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/telegram.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>The Licence to manufacture was replaced by the formation of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922, by a pioneering group of radio manufactures who issued standards to the UK’s other, smaller manufacturers who in turn became ‘members’ of the association. It also started to broadcast radio programmes in order to give people a reason to buy radios, funded through sales of the radios themselves as well as some sponsorship – but not advertising.</p> <p>The Licence to own receiving equipment – the first of which, I believe, was issued by the Post Office in 1905 – was retained. That is the one that endures today – the permit to access the airwaves – and was the method eventually chosen to fund the British Broadcasting Corporation when it was created by Royal Charter in 1927, whereby most, but not all, of the money raised by the GPO was used to fund John Reith’s BBC.</p> <p>At the same time, the Government designated a part of the spectrum for the exclusive use of the public – separate from military use, whose signals needed to be encrypted. The public’s machines were designed to only ‘listen in’ to that defined public access range of frequencies.</p> <p>How to make this work in practice, in the best interests of all was a significant challenge – Decidedly Nontrivial in fact, requiring real thought and significant engineering power. And so the BBC was asked to develop the technology and broadcasting services in the national interest. Its job was to push the capabilities of the medium to its limits, to develop formats and output that were interesting, useful, uplifting, empowering and delightful within those permitted frequencies.<img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ageh4_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So we have established the development of the public airwaves, the origins of the BBC and the potential of the BBC to do wonderful things. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/speeches/stories/thompson_cambridge.shtml" target="_blank">An ‘Analogue Public Space’ if you like</a>.</span></p><p>This publicly owned and funded spectrum was protected from overtly commercial or political interests and intervention and over time came to be shared by a wide number of organisations, many of whom were almost entirely commercial in their operations, but all of whom benefitted from investment and innovation by the BBC. </p><p>Therefore, unknown to almost everyone, for the majority of its life, the BBC has been a world class engineering organisation pushing the boundaries on behalf of the population of the UK and the whole of the industry – from manufactures, to other ‘competing’ broadcasters in both radio and television: sharing technologies to enable broadcasting to go further and faster; introducing standards for pictures, colour, clearer sound, teletext, and HD.</p> <p>Different kinds of programmes and formats were introduced to demonstrate and drive the technological innovation, sales and skills. Snooker demonstrated colour. The initial idea behind the Eurovision song contest was a worldwide collaboration to join up a network of satellites.<img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ageh5_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Th</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">at first programme was called ‘Our World’ and featured a new, specially written song from the Beatles: ‘All you need is love’.</span></p> <p>Our engineering excellence drove all of this. The BBC pushed technology to its limits and, along with this, it came up with new formats and ideas to excite and delight.</p> <p>It has also kept a steady and robust hand on the editorial independence and the integrity of that ‘analogue public space’. UK News and Current Affairs, and in particular BBC News and Current Affairs, enjoys the highest international acclaim and respect. I believe the role of the BBC in setting and maintaining quality and standards for the entire industry cannot be over stated. If the only motivation for covering news is commercial – then we eventually find ourselves with a news agenda reduced to gossip, sex, sport... and strange or cute animals.</p> <p>But by having news coverage and agenda-setting which is led by principles of public interest, holding the authorities to account and including a full range of voices from around the world as well as at home, the BBC sets a bar which encourages other providers to follow-suit.</p> <p>Together the BBC and the Licence Fee have ensured that, for the best part of a century, all you need to be part of the greatest conversation that any nation on earth has been free to enjoy, is a receiving device and a permit to ‘listen in’ or watch...</p> <p>How did the Licence Fee go from all that, to being only about making television programmes? I think I can show you exactly how:</p><p> Here is an advertisement against Licence Fee avoidance from around 1974.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Tq7luWzbouo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>There are a couple of things you may not have appreciated about this advert at first sight.
 First of all, it was made by the Home Office on behalf of the Post Office. As I said, back then it was the Post Office that issued and collected the licences and the Home Office who enforced them and decided the level of penalty for avoidance. It was never, and is never, the BBC sending people to prison.</p> <p>The ad is dark and threatening but the important point you may have missed is this: they were watching Columbo! That wasn’t a BBC programme; it was shown on ITV, which is as you know fully funded by commercials. It was and remains the case that if you want the freedom to access that protected slice of spectrum that carries live transmissions, you have to obtain a licence on behalf of yourself and those in your household who also watch or listen, including those who cannot pay for themselves – in particular your children. It is worth just checking what it says in the Charter about Licence Fee Payers. It says this:</p><p><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ageh6_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In other words, everyone in the UK is a Licence Fee Payer, whether they actually ‘pay’ the licence fee themselves or not.</span></p> <p>The public broadcasting spectrum is as much theirs as it is the people who actually pay for it and the obligation lies with those of us who are responsible for paying it to continue to fund and maintain this precious entitlement... for everyone.</p> <p>It’s not a tax. It’s a permit and the whole of our society benefits from its unique status and, in particular, from the protection it buys us from those who would see that preserved public realm removed or obstructed or turned only into a means of charging those who can afford to &nbsp;- and who choose to - &nbsp;to pay ever more, for ever less.</p> <p>So, when does that all change?</p> <p>Unfortunately, and it really pains me to say this, it all appears to change with John Cleese.</p> <p>He is without doubt a genius and certainly one of the most significant individuals ever to grace our airwaves. However, in a genuine attempt to help quell the tide of resentment towards what still to many feels like an unfair charge for something we don’t always appreciate, he casts the die.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bh9hz9wsHgw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>This is a wonderful ad, clever, funny, much slicker, much more upbeat, certainly less intentionally sinister, but sadly gets the wrong end of the stick. This advert equates the Licence Fee only with the BBC’s programmes. It even ends with: ‘The BBC - Is 16 pence a day really too much to ask?’, instead of the Television Licence – etc. etc. which is what the ad is actually for.</p> <p>Of course the BBC broadcasts great programmes, but it is not the only public service organisation that does. His comment at the end about there being no commercials within the services covered by the licence is entirely incorrect. In fact, he really should have included programmes and presenters from ITV and Channel 4. He should have included technological innovation, research and development.</p> <p>But most of all he should have said that the Licence Fee ensures that the allocated public spectrum, through which the Public Service Broadcaster remit is safeguarded and secured, and that barriers to entry cannot be placed in the way of the general public by either politicians or commercial gatekeepers.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/m1k92G_bmt5FpdEE_A7PZMeIddgyQwK8Tl4mCxuRT7s/mtime:1425368506/files/finalofcom.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p> <p>We need to rediscover what it is that 'only' the Licence Fee 'only' does.</p><p>The BBC is not a competing media business in the usual sense of the term. If the BBC were a bank it wouldn’t be Barclays or HSBC. It would be the Bank of England. It sits to one side of those that compete for business and safeguards the entire system itself for the benefit of all – providers and public alike. It enables plurality not competes with it. It raises the quality threshold and maintains standards. It underpins and supports the greatest media eco-system in the world.</p> <p>Through the Licence Fee, the BBC defends the airwaves to allow others to innovate. A lot of that innovation was indeed commercially driven and funded by advertising but while the BBC, funded through that Licence Fee, continues to keep it secure, it guarantees that everyone has the same rights to access it all.</p> <p>So what? you might say. That was then, this is now. We’ve all moved on and many of us don’t even watch live broadcasting as much as people did back then. Well, that brings me to the main point of my talk.</p> <p>Because we’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. A new technology has emerged that is likely to change everything for ever: the internet. When we eventually move to a fully IP delivered world we are going to discover something altogether disturbing.</p> <p>Without us really noticing it happen, the internet has started to strip away not only those original characteristics of broadcasting, but also three other, even more important, unique and priceless properties that broadcasting also gave us all; three characteristics, so it turns out, that are fundamental to the vibrant and democratic nature of our media consumption in the past, and that we will sorely miss if they were taken away. These are:</p><p>1. Total anonymity – You can watch or listen, secure in the knowledge that nobody can know what you are doing and exploit it for commercial or political ends or to your disadvantage. </p> <p>2. Unmetered consumption – there was no limit to the amount of broadcasting that you could have or where you chose to access it without additional charge or fees </p> <p>3. It cannot be taken away – the confidence to know that you, or other members of your family, will never be cut off from any of the public service broadcasters, not just the BBC.</p><p>The internet - certainly when thinking about using it to access the public service broadcast networks - removes all of those things. Over and above these, access to the internet is shaped by a significant range of variables and no two people are exactly the same. There are growing concerns around:</p><p>- Who does and does not have access to the Internet in the first place;</p> <p>- The speed, level and cost of access that they have or can afford;</p> <p>- People’s right to privacy and to retain ownership of their activity, thoughts, comments, and creativity </p> <p>- Their ability to keep up to date with hardware, software, operating systems; </p> <p>- The motives of gatekeepers and service providers who stand between the public and the organisations that they wish to access; </p> <p>- How often each of these will change during their lifetime and the levels of impact on them, their rights and their families </p> <p>We’ve got the cacophony we previously and skilfully avoided. We are now in a situation where the commercial sector has complete control. And they are dividing up the spoils often making commercial return the only criteria for developing or maintaining our right to access our public services – including but not limited to the public service broadcasters themselves. In many cases obsolescence is built in as the operating model itself. We need to pay them, and to keep on paying, simply to keep pace – eventually we will lose the concept of free-at-the-point-of-use to all public services when they are delivered over IP.</p><p>This is a major problem. There is something particular about the media that we understood all the way back then, but have now forgotten. A fully functioning democracy demands that everybody always has the same access.</p> <p>Whether it is about holding politicians to account, terrorism threats, consumer rights, health information, everybody should be involved and fully represented.</p> <p>Soon even getting to the BBC will be entirely mediated by commercial operators. So will digital access to public libraries, museums, galleries, education, the NHS and the wider public sphere.</p><p>In order to watch the news in future, whether from the BBC, ITN or Reuters, you will have to pay an ISP or MNO, over and above the money that you have already paid for the news to be gathered in the first place – be that through your licence fee, subscription payment or the ever growing percentage of your weekly shopping bill that is handed over via the advertising industry – itself a truly regressive tax if ever there was one.</p> <p>It will soon be impossible for journalists to protect their sources – as long as webmail service providers are ‘legally’ scanning and retaining your email – in particular those of the very people most likely to whistle-blow or refuse to be silenced.</p> <p>Because there is NO safeguarded allotment of bandwidth for public access and discourse – free of political or commercial imperative or intrusion.</p> <p>There is NO principle of privacy or protection of the rights of the individual to own and retain control over their contributions or creativity. The default position of many, many providers of online services and social media networks – in the words of an old internet meme is ‘All your Base Are Belong to Us’.</p> <p>You cannot keep your children safe online – whether from classroom bullies, predatory adults or unrelenting marketers determined to catch them while they are still too innocent to know the difference between friendly suggestions and cynical consumer profiling and consumption grooming</p> <p>The is NO guarantee of universal access or provision regardless of income or status</p> <p>What would John Reith do? I can’t tell you for certain but my hunch is he’d want to put it back.</p> <p>Go back to those basic values and engineering principles that underpin the entire broadcast system. We need to preserve an allocation of the internet entirely for universal access to public services, free at the point of use, for everyone.</p><p><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ageh8_0.png" alt="" width="280" /></p><p>We need to restore the right to access as much of the services we already fund as we choose or need – not just for those who can afford pay or who choose to pay, but for everyone who cannot.</p> <p>We need to safeguard privacy, personal data and the right to be a part of the national debate – not only for those who have time and money to spare or the confidence to do battle with the trolls. Losing those things will only leave us poorer.</p> <p>No country has ever come up with a better broadcast ecology – no matter what those who insist otherwise will have you believe. The BBC is still the envy of the world and I am yet to be shown a single example of a better way of funding something better.</p> <p>So what would the ‘Digital Public Space’ look like?</p> <p>It should have all the original values of the ‘Analogue Public Space’, plus some amazing new features and services that were previously impossible or unimaginable:</p><p>1. It would ensure a guarantee of access to a protected allocation of internet bandwidth for every citizen, free at the point of use, at home and in key public places – conceptually similar to frequencies within the broadcast spectrum reserved for Public Service Broadcasting </p> <p>2. The Digital Public Space will offer an ever growing digital library of digitised media and assets from our publicly funded organisations: our public service broadcasters, our museums, libraries and archives, our institutions of education and our public services. </p> <p>3. The Digital Public Space will offer innovative products and services that allow people to access, contribute to and communicate with the public and cultural sectors </p> <p>4. Users can be safe and secure to discover, use and share without fear of loss or theft or unintended exposure of their personal data and creative endeavours </p> <p>5. The Digital Public Space works through unmetered consumption, free at the point, of use for every person, regardless of status or ability. The Digital Public Space will not require a broadband subscription. It will be available anywhere across the UK, at any time, to anyone. </p> <p>6. And finally: the Digital Public Space cannot be taken away.&nbsp;</p><p>To get there, perhaps we may need help from the source that created the BBC in the first place – an ambitious desire for there to be an infrastructure constantly developed in the public interest. The combination of Real Thought and Significant Engineering. In fact we already have that remit written into the BBC charter. The sixth public purpose for the BBC states:</p> <p>(f) in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies ...</p> <p>I believe that to understand the BBC’s relevance in the 21st Century, we need to ask, not just “what is the BBC for?” but also “what is the Licence Fee for?” They are not the same thing but, inadvertently, we have allowed them to be seen as the same.</p> <p>I think we should go back to first principles and consider the emerging needs of all Licence Fee Payers – not only those who actually pay the fee itself – and ensure that in the future each and every one of us has guaranteed access to the public sphere, control over their own data and identity and enduring services that they can trust and depend on.</p> <p>We used to be broadcast beings. We are now internet beings. However with more and higher barriers to entry to the digital realm we must work hard to ensure that nobody is stripped of the ability to be a citizen of the future.</p> <p>I believe that is, and has always been, the higher calling for both the BBC and the Licence Fee.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Culture Democracy and government Ideas Internet Science Tony Ageh Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:20:40 +0000 Tony Ageh 90687 at https://opendemocracy.net Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abuse at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre is finally mainstream news. When a woman died at Yarl’s Wood in 2014, a woman who knew her inside spoke by phone to Jennifer Allsopp.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" alt="" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><em>This article was first published on 31 March 2014.</em></span></p><p><span>JA: Can you tell me why you wanted to speak to openDemocracy 50.50?</span></p> <p>A: [Name withheld] died here on Sunday morning and I wanted to say that we’re all so upset and we're not happy here. There are so many people in here who are unwell and not to fit to be detained and deported. </p> <p>JA: Did you know her?</p> <p>A: Yes. I spoke with her before she died. She’d been here about nine days. She was telling me that she was scared because she was going to be taken to the airport. She was taken there but then she was brought back here because of her solicitor. She was worried the Home Office were going to issue her with another document and send her again. To me, when I saw her, she was well. She seemed strong and was moving around. </p> <p>Some people told me that two days ago someone opened the door hard and she had a shock and was very frightened. The previous day, Saturday, she asked her friend to do her hair and then she said, when she was doing it, ‘I can’t carry on, I’m feeling unwell’.</p> <p>JA: This was a friend she’d met in detention.</p> <p>A: Yes, a friend from detention. </p> <p>JA: How have the women in Yarl’s Wood responded?</p> <p>We’re very upset. Especially yesterday, nobody went to the afternoon meal, and only some people on medication went to the evening meal. We’re all remembering her, every discussion we had with her. She was really very nice. In nine days in here she was in touch with so many people. She was strong you know. When I met her she said ‘I’m going to go and get my clothes from the reception’. I told her ‘but where will you wear your clothes in here?’ and she said, ‘yes, but they are new and I am going to wear them!’</p> <p>JA: So the women are in mourning?</p> <p>Yes, the women are in mourning. The women are in fear. We were all just thinking, this could happen to me as well. This could happen to any of us. There are other people here who are sick and most of us are not believed when we tell them. It’s common. There are vulnerable women who will keep dying in here. There are women here now in wheel chairs...there’s a paralysed woman here. </p> <p>JA: It sounds like there is an atmosphere of solidarity.</p> <p>A: There’s an atmosphere of solidarity, we get to know people’s stories. We get the stories of people who’ve been here 2 years, 2 months...</p> <p>JA: Have you been given much information about what has happened? </p> <p>A: Now the situation is in shutdown. All they’ve told us is that they’ve tried to contact her next of kin.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit about your own experience of being detained in Yarl’s Wood?</p> <p>A: In Yarl’s Wood it’s like looking out of a window in the middle of nowhere. There are no houses when you look out of the window. You’re brought here in the middle of the night so you’ve no idea where you are: no idea what the gates look like or what’s outside.</p> <p>There’s little peace. Every day you have a roll call, four times a day. Yesterday there were countless roll calls because of the situation. It was so, so uncomfortable. I don’t know what word to use.</p> <p>If a new person comes in, at 2am, 4am it doesn’t matter, they take them into your room while you’re sleeping. They just bring them in. They don’t care if you’re asleep or not asleep. They don’t care if you don’t sleep again until morning.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit more about the roll call?</p> <p>A: They knock on your door and check you’re there. The guard could be male or female, they don’t really care.&nbsp; You have to be dressed, that’s your responsibility. They knock and just come straight in. They’re doing one right now [<em>there’s a loud voice in the background and a door banging.</em>] If you’re dressing you should do it in your bathroom. They find women naked all the time. </p> <p>We have cards with our name and number. You have to carry it with you all the time, even when you go to the toilet.</p> <p>JA: What would you like to see change?</p> <p>A: I look forward to the day Yarl’s Wood will be shut down. We’re all in here and we’re not criminals. Most of us have been in detention before we fled our countries and we thought that running away would free us from detention. We didn’t think that instead of getting help, we’d be detained again here in England.</p> <p>I’m hoping that Yarl’s Wood will be closed down and asylum seekers will not be treated like animals in this country; that asylum seekers’ cases will be looked at properly; that we won’t just be bundled in here and given a ticket for three days time. It’s so unfair the way the system works. You don’t have time to appeal. Even on the outside they make you report every Monday and you know you could be taken into detention at any time. You do that for years and years with so much fear inside you. Because detention is like a prison. There's no difference as I can’t go out; I can’t breathe fresh air. There’s just a little square between the houses but it’s still an enclosed space.</p> <p>I think about the people who have been here one year, two years: the need for fresh air! I feel I’m locked up in a room and there’s no door and no fresh air. It’s an uncomfortable feeling but again, this word... imagine that for one month, one year. It’s unbearable.</p><p><em><strong>The name of the interviewee has been withheld at her request.</strong></em></p><p><em><strong><em><strong><a href="http://opendemocracy.net/5050/refugee-week">Refugee Week: Women's Voices</a>: To mark Refugee Week, from 16-22 June&nbsp;openDemocracy 50.50 presents a range of articles written by refugee women authors&nbsp;and refugee rights' activists around the world. All articles are taken from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">People on&nbsp;</a><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">the Move</a>, 50.50's migration, gender and social justice dialogue, edited by Jennifer&nbsp;Allsopp.</strong></em></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/latefa-guemar/seeking-safety-in-algeria-syrian-refugee-women%E2%80%99s-resilience">Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-blagojevic/detention-and-human-rights-in-uk-maintaining-presumption-of-liberty">Detention and human rights in the UK: maintaining the presumption of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-here-thats-what-broke-my-spirit">&#039;What happened to me here. . . that&#039;s what broke my spirit&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/sun-sandand-indefinite-detention">Sun, sand...and indefinite detention </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> 50.50 50.50 OurKingdom UK human rights Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Refugee Week Refugee Week - highlights 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights violence against women gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Anonymous interviewee and Jennifer Allsopp Tue, 03 Mar 2015 10:54:27 +0000 Anonymous interviewee and Jennifer Allsopp 80885 at https://opendemocracy.net 3 police officers forcibly strip a vulnerable child without calling her mum. Is that all right? https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shauneen-lambe-paola-uccellari/3-police-officers-forcibly-strip-vulnerable-child-without- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More and more children are being stripped or strip-searched in state custody in England and Wales. Children’s charities welcome a recent court judgement that clarifies the law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stripgraphic_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stripgraphic_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="440" height="236" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people on being stripped in state custody (Youth Justice Board, 2011)</span></span></span></p><p><span>PD was a 14-year-old girl, with a history of mental illness, who had been a victim of sexual abuse. She was arrested in 2010, after being drunk and abusive outside a kebab shop, then taken in handcuffs to Wirral police station where she was forcibly stripped of all her clothes by three female officers. No one called her mother until after PD had been stripped.</span></p> <p><span>The police say they stripped PD to prevent her harming herself, but CCTV footage of her after she had been stripped and put in a cell on her own, show her in acute distress, banging her head and pulling out chunks of hair. No officer appears to have tried to stop her hurting herself in this way.</span></p> <p><span>Last week, PD lost her claim for damages from the police on a point of law. However the appeal court judges expressed their “concern that it should have been thought appropriate immediately to remove the clothes of a distressed and vulnerable 14 year old girl without thought for alternative and less invasive measures to protect her from herself”.&nbsp; The police claimed she had to be stripped because they were worried she might use her underwear as a ligature and hang herself.</span></p> <p>PD’s is not an isolated case. Charities such as ours —&nbsp;<a href="http://www.justforkidslaw.org">Just for Kids Law</a> and <a href="http://www.crae.org.uk">Children's Rights Alliance for England</a>&nbsp;(CRAE) —&nbsp;are alarmed at the doubling in the number of children being stripped by police over recent years, both for their own protection and to search for weapons or drugs. </p> <p>Because of this, we acted as ‘interveners’ in PD’s case, which means that, although we weren’t acting for her directly, we were able to put expert evidence before the court to highlight the importance of children’s welfare and best interests being at the heart of any contact with police. In their judgment, the appeal judges wrote that they concurred “with the submissions made on behalf of the interveners that children in custody are vulnerable and that special care is required to protect their interests and well being”.</p> <p>It seems that little special care was shown in this case.</p> <p>Police lawyers had tried to argue that because PD was so vulnerable, she needed to be stripped for her own protection, and she was not entitled to the safeguards that are given to children who are stripped to search for evidence. </p> <p>They argued that because she was not technically being strip searched (merely stripped), the protections that apply to strip searching didn’t apply. They argued that she was not, therefore, entitled to have her mother or another ‘appropriate adult’ with her, to reassure or support PD.&nbsp;</p> <p>The rules around strip searching are contained in what is known as PACE Code C, which specifies that where someone is strip searched by the police, the strip should be conducted by an officer of the same gender and in private. If is it a child, they are entitled to have a parent or other appropriate adult with them.</p> <p>In PD’s case, the first court to look at the issue agreed with the police: it was a strip, not a strip search, so she wasn’t entitled to have her mum with her. Thankfully, the Court of Appeal disagreed, and said there is no distinction between a strip and a strip search. The same protections must apply to both.</p> <p>Although this was an important point of principle to establish, and will be welcomed by children’s campaigners, it was a fairly hollow victory for PD herself. The appeal court added the rider that there is an exception to the need for a parent or other adult to be present “in cases of urgency, where there is a risk of harm to the detainee or to others” – which is what the police successfully argued in PD’s case.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On the broader issue the decision in PD is a positive one. Human rights laws demand that the police, and other public bodies, can interfere with a person’s privacy (in this case by removing a child’s clothes), <em>only</em> if it is a proportionate response to the risk – that is, if there is no other less intrusive measures they could have taken to achieve their objective. </p> <p>Even the most well balanced adult would be traumatised to be held down and stripped by three strangers. Imagine how much worse it must be for a child who already has mental health issues, who has previously been sexually abused.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Just for Kids Law and Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) believe that the police should only ever strip children as a last resort, when there is no other alternative to keep them safe, and that all necessary protections should be in place to minimise the trauma involved.</p> <p>This doesn’t appear to be happening in practice. Statistics recently gathered by CRAE via a freedom of information request for their State of Children’s Rights in England report show that the strip searching of children by the police doubled between 2008 and 2013. CRAE’s statistics also show that in 45 per cent of those strip searches there was no appropriate adult present. The court’s decision in PD gives welcome clarification that the police can strip a child without an appropriate adult present <em>only</em> where there is an immediate risk of harm.</p> <p>Both CRAE and Just for Kids Law recently wrote to the government asking for an urgent review of police strip-searching of children, but we know ministers are already aware of the problems. The Home Office is due to publish two reports later this month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which are expected to include recommendations over the use of strip searching on children and other vulnerable people by police. </p> <p><span>In 2013, the Ministry of Justice reviewed the use of strip search on children in prison or other secure accommodation. As a consequence of that review the Ministry of Justice issued guidance&nbsp;stating that children must only be strip searched as a proportionate response to a real risk. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice now collects data showing when strip search is used. It is essential that the Home Office, which is responsible for policing, follows the example set by the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for prisons, and conducts a review of how and when children are being stripped by the police.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Shauneen Lambe is a barrister and director of Just for Kids Law; Paola Uccellari is director of Children’s Rights Alliance for England.</p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong></strong></p> <h3><hr /><span>Notes:</span></h3> <p>1. <a href="http://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/barristers/felicity-williams/">Felicity Williams</a> of Garden Court Chambers acted for JfK and CRAE in the case pro bono.</p> <p>2. Under PACE Code C any one under 18 being strip searched by police should have the following safeguards: the strip be conducted by an officer of the same gender; the strip should be conducted in private; they should have a parent or other appropriate adult with them.</p> <p>3. In January, 23 leading children's rights and youth justice experts, including the Children's Commissioner for England and Deputy Children's Commissioner for England, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/21/strip-search-children-police-stations-last-resort">called for stripping of children in police stations only to be used as a last resort</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>4. Quotes in the image are from&nbsp;<span>Young People’s Views on Safeguarding in the Secure Estate, A User Voice Report for the Youth Justice Board and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner,&nbsp;Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, 2011</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="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/strip-searched-in-derbyshire">Strip-searched in Derbyshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of-">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Paola Uccellari Shauneen Lambe Tue, 03 Mar 2015 00:00:39 +0000 Paola Uccellari and Shauneen Lambe 90938 at https://opendemocracy.net 'Headbutt the bitch' Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jackie-long/%27headbutt-bitch%27-serco-guard-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For years women locked up inside Yarl’s Wood, a UK government lock-up in Bedfordshire, have complained of racist abuse, sexual abuse and shoddy medical treatment. Now there is video evidence. <strong>WATCH ‘INSIDE YARL’S WOOD’ CHANNEL 4 NEWS</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <object id="flashObj" width="370" height="260" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0"><param name="movie" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=4087052456001&playerID=69900095001&playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_VhJQ6tgdykx3j23oh1YN-2U&domain=embed&dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="http://admin.brightcove.com" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed src="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashVars="videoId=4087052456001&playerID=69900095001&playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_VhJQ6tgdykx3j23oh1YN-2U&domain=embed&dynamicStreaming=true" base="http://admin.brightcove.com" name="flashObj" width="370" height="260" seamlesstabbing="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowFullScreen="true" swLiveConnect="true" allowScriptAccess="always" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"></embed></object> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Yarl’s Wood, which holds nearly 400 detainees, is the UK’s most secretive immigration detention centre. It has been plagued by damning accusations about the behaviour of guards since it opened in 2001.</span></p> <p>Cameras have never been allowed inside. Even the United Nations special rapporteur for violence against women <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/rashida-manjoo-yarlswood-banned-home-office">was barred entry</a>.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Tonight </span><strong>Channel 4 News </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">will reveal footage shot undercover inside the facility over a period of months.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Our investigation reveals:</span></p><ul><li><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Numerous incidents of self-harm</span></li><li><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Questions over standards of healthcare</span></li><li><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Guards showing contempt for detainees&nbsp;</span></li></ul><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The management of Yarl’s Wood has been</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.channel4.com/news/public-sector-private-labour"> outsourced to Serco since 2007</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. The company has always robustly rebutted allegations of sexual abuse and degrading treatment that have emerged from behind the facility's high fences and barbed wire.</span></p> <p>Serco says its focus is ‘decency and respect’ for the ‘residents’ of Yarl’s Wood. The<strong> Channel 4 News</strong> investigation suggests a different reality for the mostly female detainees. Most of them are failed asylum seekers who have committed no crime.</p> <p>As a result of the allegations, the Home Office has ordered “thorough and immediate investigations into all matters raised by this programme” and told Channel 4 News that they “will not hesitate to take whatever action we think appropriate in response”.</p> <p>Serco have also said that former barrister Kate Lampard will “carry out an independent review into our work at Yarl's Wood” in response to the investigation. (Lampard was the NHS and Department of Health<span style="line-height: 1.5;">’</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">s choice to provide independent oversight on the Jimmy Savile investigation). &nbsp;</span></p> <p>“We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate”, Serco said.</p> <h3>“They’re all animals”</h3> <p>Staff at Yarl<span style="line-height: 1.5;">’</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">s Wood are filmed referring to the detention centre</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">’</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">s inmates as&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">animals</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">beasties</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;and&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">bitches</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p>“Headbutt the bitch,” one guard says. “I’d beat her up.”</p> <p>A guard is also filmed saying: “They’re animals. They’re beasties. They’re all animals. Caged animals. Take a stick with you and beat them up. Right?”</p> <p>Guidance from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) says staff at detention facilities must “promote a respectful and safe environment”.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">HMIP&nbsp;</span>says a healthy detention facility is one where: “Staff address women using their preferred name or title and never use insulting nicknames or derogatory or impersonal terms.”</p> <p>The strain on the staff could increase further as a result of government cuts, as 68 guards will be made redundant at Yarl’s Wood.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Channel 4 News</strong> put this to Serco, who said: “the new structure that we are putting in place will provide sufficient operational staff to cater fully for the needs of residents.”</p> <h3>Health care at Yarl’s Wood</h3> <p>Standards of health care at the immigration detention centre are also brought into the spotlight.</p> <p>Holding pregnant women is one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s detention policy: pregnant women are supposed to be detained&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>only</em></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;if their removal is imminent.</span></p> <p>The investigation heard about a pregnant woman who had collapsed in the facility’s dining hall and was taken to hospital.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/animals_blurred--%28None%29_LRG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/animals_blurred--%28None%29_LRG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still image from the Channel 4 News investigation</span></span></span></p> <p>“They said she was bleeding,” one officer says. Later in the conversation another adds: “The technical thing is no concerns were raised.”</p> <p>Channel 4 News learnt that the woman went back to the hospital the next day and was told she had miscarried her baby. She was sent back to the detention centre.&nbsp;</p> <p>Early the next morning the woman returned to the Yarl’s Wood healthcare suite, which is sub-contracted to another private company, G4S. She was bleeding, highly distressed and desperate to be sent back to hospital.</p> <p>Serco documents seen by <strong>Channel 4 News</strong> say the woman was “spoken to” because she was “refusing to wait her turn” and tried to ring the ambulance service.</p> <p>G4S told <strong>Channel 4 News</strong> the woman was offered pain killers and told to come back two hours later to see the doctor. But they could not confirm that appointment took place.</p> <p>Eventually four hours later, just before midday, she was seen by a visiting midwife, who called an ambulance.</p> <p>G4S told Channel 4 News: “While this resident's miscarriage was understandably a deeply distressing experience for her personally, she received an excellent standard of clinical care from both G4S medical staff and the pregnancy unit at the local NHS hospital.”</p> <h3><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;">Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons guidance says detention facilities must make sure: “pregnant women and those caring for children in prison are fully supported throughout their time at the prison by appropriately trained staff.”&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>On health care it states the aim that: “Women are cared for by a health service that assesses and meets their health needs while in prison and which promotes continuity of health and social care on release.” </p> <p>And: “The standard of health service provided is equivalent to that which women could expect to receive elsewhere in the community.”</p> <h3><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span>Attention seeking<span style="line-height: 1.5;">”</span></h3> <p>On February 24 of this year <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/150224-0001.htm#st_39">the Home Office Minister Lord Bates told Parliament</a> that there had been no serious incidents of self-harm at Yarl’s Wood in the past two years.</p> <p>When asked how many “suicides or serious attempts at self-harm” there had been in the centre in the past two years, he said: “the answer is, fortunately, none.”</p> <p>However, <strong>Channel 4 News</strong> has obtained figures through <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/321023/Number_of_individuals_on_ACDT.pdf">the Freedom of Information Act</a> that show there were 74 separate incidents of self-harm requiring medical treatment in 2013 alone.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/01_wrists2_w--%28None%29_LRG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/01_wrists2_w--%28None%29_LRG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Above: a still image from the Channel 4 News investigation</span></span></span></p> <p>The details of these incidents have never been disclosed, but an officer is recorded saying: “They are all slashing their wrists apparently. Let them slash their wrists.”</p> <p>Another officer asks why the women would self-harm. The first officer responds: “It’s attention seeking.”</p> <p>Inmates are also reported to have jumped from a stairwell in the detention centre — with one breaking her back.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons says prisons should provide: “a safe and secure environment which reduces the risk of self-harm and suicide.”</p> <p>It says detention facilities should ensure that: “vulnerable women are identified at an early stage and given the necessary support.”</p> <h3><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span>Then I jumped<span style="line-height: 1.5;">”</span></h3> <p><strong>Channel 4 News</strong> interviewed Esther Izigwe who was released from Yarl's Wood at the end of January.</p> <p>She had suffered years of sexual violence as a teenager in Ghana before fleeing to the UK. Already struggling with depression, she says her mental health deteriorated badly in detention. When guards said they were about to remove her by force to send her home she was desperate.&nbsp;</p> <p>She says: “I started running then they started chasing me then she was like ‘Esther, please, we need to go’ and I was like ‘I'm not going, I don't want to go’. Then she said ‘you need to go’ and then I stood by the stairs. I said ‘if you come near me I will jump’. And then she still came and then I said ‘one more step I will jump’ and then she still tried to come in and then I jumped.”</p> <p>“We take all incidents extremely seriously”</p> <p>In response to the investigation's findings on self-harm in Yarl’s Wood, Serco said: “We work hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the vulnerable people in our care and last year the number of incidents of self-harm decreased. All incidents of self-harm are treated extremely seriously and any resident who self-harms is seen by a nurse, regardless of the severity of the act.”</p><p>Serco went on:</p> <p>“In the last eight years, there have been three occasions when residents attempted to self-harm on stairs. We take all such incidents extremely seriously and on each occasion a thorough review was undertaken and actions taken with the individuals to prevent them repeating attempts at self-harm. As part of these reviews the option of placing nets or barriers was considered but rejected as they would not be effective in preventing acts of self-harm.”</p> <p>In response to the Channel 4 News claim that there was a lack of empathy among guards for detainees who self-harmed, Serco said: “We expect the highest standards of behaviour from all our staff at all times.The vast majority of our employees consistently meet these standards and I am proud of the work that they do. Nevertheless, we recognise that there are rare occasions when those standards have not been met by a few individuals. This is always unacceptable and when it is proven to have happened we take swift and appropriate disciplinary action.”</p> <h3>Official response:</h3> <p>In response to the Channel 4 News findings, a Home Office Spokesman said:</p> <p>“The dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance — we will accept nothing but the highest standards from companies employed to manage the detention estate.</p> <p>“Last month, the Home Secretary commissioned an independent review of detainees’ welfare to be conducted by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, but these are clearly very serious and disturbing allegations which merit immediate scrutiny.</p> <p>“Serco has already suspended one member of staff. We expect Serco and G4S to conduct thorough and immediate investigations into all matters raised by this programme, and we will not hesitate to take whatever action we think appropriate in response.</p> <p>“All of our detention centres are part of a regular and rigorous inspection regime operated by Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons. Lapses in standards, when they are identified, are dealt with swiftly and effectively.&nbsp;</p> <p>“A sense of fairness must always be at the heart of our immigration system —&nbsp;including for those we are removing from the UK.”</p> <p>In response to the investigation as a whole, Serco said: “We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate.</p> <p>“We work hard to ensure that the highest standards of conduct are maintained at Yarl’s Wood and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons has found the Centre to be a safe and respectful place.</p> <p>“We are conscious that we are working in a particularly challenging environment at Yarl's Wood, looking after 300 women detained during the final stages of their removal proceedings.</p> <p>“The public will want to be confident that Yarl's Wood is doing its difficult task with professionalism, care and humanity. </p> <p>“Accordingly, we have asked Kate Lampard, who has immense experience and credibility, to carry out an independent review into our work at Yarl's Wood.”</p> <p><em>Full details of the investigation will be released on Channel 4 News on Monday at 7pm. 
The investigation was undertaken by Channel 4 News and producer Lee Sorrell. This report, republished by permission, first appeared on the <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/yarls-wood-immigration-removal-detention-centre-investigation">Channel 4 News site</a>, headlined, "Yarl's Wood: undercover in the secretive immigration centre".</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller/child-locked-up-%E2%80%98by-mistake%E2%80%99-for-62-days-at-adult-immigration-jail">Child locked up ‘by mistake’ for 62 days at adult immigration jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rhetta-moran-kath-grant/coroner-finds-capita-detainee-died-of-natural-causes-at-mancheste">Coroner finds Capita detainee died of natural causes at Manchester immigration lock-up</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/harmit-athwal/neglect-and-indifference-kill-american-man-in-uk-immigration-detention">Neglect and indifference kill American man in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani-heather-jones/extraordinary-things-visiting-women-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-detention-centre">Extraordinary things: visiting the women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom openSecurity OurKingdom Jackie Long Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:00:18 +0000 Jackie Long 90942 at https://opendemocracy.net Britain's dysfunctional economy cannot last - but we can fix it https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-mills/britain%27s-dysfunctional-economy-cannot-last-but-we-can-fix-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Because sterling is much too strong, manufacturing as a percentage of GDP in the UK has shrunk from 32% as late as 1970 to the unviable level of barely 10% now. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/mills3.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/mills3.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CLICK TO ENLARGE</span></span></span></p><p>Most manufacturing operations, as is confirmed by the Office for National Statistics, (ONS) have a cost structure which clusters round about one third of charges being those for which there are world prices while two thirds are determined by local cost conditions. Typically there are world prices for raw materials and plant and machinery and locally determined prices for more or less everything else. The cost base comprises all of the charges which are incurred in the local currency. In our case, of course, this is sterling. </p> <p>The cost base is made up of a very wide variety of charges – including everything from travel expenses to audit costs, from fuel bills to cleaning charges, from repair bills to postage costs, from insurance premiums to printing and stationery. It includes direct labour costs but also interest charges, rent and the need for a level of profitability. Rather more than half these charges are essentially labour costs because compensation for employment represents about 55% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The remaining 45% is made up of what is received as unearned income in the form of payments for inputs such as rent, interest and dividends.</p> <p>There is a stark contrast between those costs which are determined by world markets and those incurred domestically. Measured in an international currency such as dollars, everyone all over the world has to pay more or less the same amount for inputs, particularly raw materials and plant and equipment, for which there are world markets. The charges for domestically incurred costs, however, can and do vary enormously, measured in international terms, such as in US dollars. The rate at which all these domestic costs are charged out to the rest of the world depends almost entirely on the exchange rate. If the currency is strong, measured in international currencies these costs will be high and the price for goods to be exported will seem to foreign buyers to be expensive and, conversely, if the domestic currency is undervalued they will seem cheap.</p> <p>Some simple maths shows how powerful influence of the exchange rate is on export costs. Between 1977 and 1981, the UK’s exchange rate rose by about 60%. Measured in world prices, the costs of raw materials and new machinery stayed the same but all the cost base costs rose by 60%. This meant, as a first approximation, that UK export costs, measured in international currencies, rose by two thirds of 60% - about 40%. This did not affect some export industries very much because they were in non-price sensitive markets such as aerospace, arms, pharmaceuticals and perhaps vehicles. All these industries are protected by long and complicated supply chains, high levels of expertise and experience which take a long time to accumulate, patents and other forms of intellectual protection, strong brands and sometimes competitors in other countries, such as the USA, where exchange rates also strengthened enormously. It did, however, have a devastating impact on manufacturing which was not protected in these ways and where therefore sales were much more price sensitive. </p> <p>The situation was then made much worse by what happened in the East. Whereas most countries in the West, heavily influenced at the time by monetarist doctrines, adopted policies which greatly increased their exchange rates, very different policies were adopted round most of the Pacific Rim. In China, there was a huge devaluation of the renmimbi, by about 75% between the 1980s and the 1990s, as the graph shows.</p><p>Big exchange reductions were also implemented by many other Asian countries, following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The Korean won, for example, fell by about 50% and the Malaysian ringgit by 35%. Because, as the graph shows, countries such&nbsp; as the UK, far from taking action to ensure that their economies remained reasonably competitive, allowed – or even encouraged – their exchange rates to become &nbsp;ever higher; their industries exposed to price competition were completely unable to compete.&nbsp; As a result, most countries in the West rapidly de-industrialised.</p> <p>This matters hugely for three reasons. The first is that productivity in much easier to increase in manufacturing than it is in most service industries. If you replace a machine which makes one unit with one which produces two, you double productivity whereas changing organisations to make them even five or ten per cent more efficient is extremely difficult. Second, manufacturing produces a far better spread of high quality and well paid jobs both regionally and in socio-economic terms than is the case in services. Third – and perhaps most crucially – most international trade is in manufactured goods, even for a country such as the UK with a very weak manufacturing base, and if we do not have enough to sell to the rest of the world, we cannot pay for our imports. This is exactly what has happened to us.&nbsp; We have not had a visible trade surplus since 1982 or avoided an overall balance of payments deficit since 1985 – now 30 years ago. The resulting deficits have sucked demand out of the economy causing slow growth, rising unemployment, increasing inequality and ever rising debt. </p> <p>The consequence is that the UK economy is now almost incredibly unbalanced. As a result of slow growth feeding on itself the proportion of our national income which we invest in the future – at barely 14% excluding research and development – is now one of the lowest in the entire world, where the average is 24%. In China it is 46%. We now have too little manufacturing in the UK for us to be able to pay our way and as a result we have a massive balance of payments deficit - about £100bn in 2014 with a higher figure still expected in 2015. To make up for the national income which we enjoy spending but which we are not earning, we continue to sell off vast quantities of national assets and to borrow huge sums from abroad, which is why both the UK economy as a whole - and the government in particular - are getting deeper and deeper into debt. What growth we have is very largely driven by consumer demand, fuelled by asset inflation on a scale which is completely unsustainable and cannot last.</p> <p>What can we do to remedy this situation? There are plenty of things which need to be done on the supply side of the economy – to improve our education and training, for example, and to upgrade our infrastructure, to install faster broadband, and to update our planning procedures. But we also need to act on the demand side. We need to provide the right economic incentives to get people to invest on a big scale where investment is really needed – and the place where the highest returns are to be found, given the right conditions, is in light relatively low tech industry. To make this occur, we need to ensure that investment of this type is highly profitable – and to do this we need to make sure that the cost base is low enough for UK pricing – both for exports and for import substitution – to be competitive.</p> <p>How much lower would the exchange rate need to be to make this happen? It depends on what we want to try to achieve, and there is a simple trade-off. The lower the exchange rate, the more competitive the cost base will be, the more response there will be from both exports and imports, and the faster the economy will grow. Careful modelling of the economy shows that if the exchange rate stays at $1.50 to $1.60 to £1.00, the economy will barely grow at all for the foreseeable future. At $1.00&nbsp; to $1.10 to £1.00, with an equivalent reduction in the exchange rate to other currencies such as the euro, within five years the economy could be growing at a sustainable rate of 4% to 5% per annum. </p> <p>Is this possible? You have only to look round the world to see that it is. The common factor between all the economies which have grown fast since World War II has been that they have all had low exchange rates, competitively priced cost bases and successful exports. Outstanding examples include most of Western Europe during the 1950s and 1960s, Japan through until the 1980s, the Tiger economies (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea) right up to now, and of course China, which has grown by around 10% per annum for every decade since the 1980s. Why has the UK missed out? Because we have always tried to keep our exchange rate as high as possible rather than realising how crucial it is to keep it down to a competitive level.</p> <p>It is not an exaggeration to say that it is perverse attitudes to the exchange rate – either ignoring it completely or favouring it being maintained at completely unrealistic and uncompetitive levels - which have very largely been responsible for generating the chronic weaknesses from which the UK economy suffers. If we deliberately – or by default – continue to charge out our cost base to the rest of the world at levels which are far above the world average, then the consequence will be continuation of our all too obvious decline in share of world trade, constant balance of payments problems, slow or non-existent growth, rising inequality, increasing debt, and relative if not absolute national decline. Relatively developed and well diversified economies like that of the UK need realistic exchange rate policies just as much as they need stable fiscal and monetary strategies. When all three economic policy components pull in the same direction, spectacularly successful economic outcomes become relatively easy to achieve. When the crucial cost link between our economy and all the rest of the world is either ignored or misjudged in the way we have seen in the UK, the inevitable consequence will continue to be the kind of desperately poor economic performance we have seen as our political institutions slowly fragment under the strain of completely unnecessary austerity, stagnant living standards and the inability of our political leadership to achieve tolerably successful economic outcomes.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>This article is part of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/there-is-alternative">There is an Alternative</a> series. An economist and entrepreneur, <a href="http://www.john-mills.info/" target="_blank">John Mills</a> is Chairman of JML. He recently established <a href="http://www.poundcampaign.org.uk/" target="_blank">The Pound Campaign</a> to raise awareness of the uncompetitive exchange rate and the effect it is having on UK manufacturing and the wider economy. John Mills sits on openDemocracy's board and is a supporter of OurKingdom.<br /></em></strong></p> OurKingdom openEconomy OurKingdom There is an Alternative John Mills Mon, 02 Mar 2015 09:18:24 +0000 John Mills 90870 at https://opendemocracy.net Putin still has plenty of friends in London https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/harry-blain/putin-still-has-plenty-of-friends-in-london <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we take a brief look back at our history of “getting tough” with Russia, we can see where our political and financial elites really stand.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/10617559395_dd1b43ed97_z.jpg" alt="Picture of London financial district" title="City of London" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still open for business. Flickr/Mariano Mantel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The House of Lords EU Committee has now joined British political leaders – and even <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/21/us-britain-putin-prince-idUSKBN0E10MO20140521">reportedly the heir to the throne</a> – in voicing concern over our alleged “appeasement” of Vladimir Putin. Its <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldselect/ldeucom/115/115.pdf">report</a>, “The EU and Russia: before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine,” published on February 20, accuses Europe of “sleepwalking” into the crisis, with the Committee Chairman, Lord Tugendhat, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31545744">criticising</a> “the lack of robust analytical capacity, in both the UK and the EU,” which “effectively led to a catastrophic misreading of the mood in the run-up to the crisis.” </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the report has received plenty of media coverage (<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/ukraine-crisis-uk-and-europe-are-accused-having-badly-misread-russia">at home</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/world/europe/britain-europe-ukraine-house-of-lords-report.html">abroad</a>) and could provide ammunition for those in Washington and elsewhere calling on western countries to escalate the conflict further by <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/2/10/playing_with_fire_a_debate_on">selling weapons to Ukraine</a>. Indeed, it seems to have already pushed David Cameron into <a href="http://rt.com/uk/235183-cameron-aid-ukraine-pledge/">a pledge of “non-lethal aid”</a> for the Ukrainian military. </p> <p>Its publication also comes amid a flood of sensational reports in the British press after the RAF scrambled to intercept two Russian military aircraft off the coast of Cornwall on the same day as <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31530840">Michael Fallon’s warning that Russia poses a “real and present danger</a>” to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. With the BBC <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-31537705">now telling us</a> how to spot Russian aircraft in our skies, and Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of NATO’s military forces in Europe, speaking of <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/102442785#.">the possibility of a Blitzkrieg-style Russian assault</a> in Eastern Europe, we could be forgiven for thinking that, after Estonia, we’re next. </p> <h2><strong>Collective hysteria</strong></h2> <p>Former defence chiefs added to the chorus: “They [the Russians] have got us more or less at their mercy”, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-at-mercy-of-putin-in-a-war-against-russia-former-defence-chiefs-warn-10058543.html">claimed Sir Michael Graydon</a>, while former Air Commodore Andrew Lambert <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960793/Britain-mercy-Putin-s-planes-Russian-war-aircraft-taunt-ex-RAF-chiefs-warns-powerless.html">told the <em>Mail</em></a> that “if the Russians turned up the heat, we would struggle badly.” In his opinion, “the modern generation of politicians has grown up in absolute security – they’ve never felt a threat to their existence, safety or security. They’ve taken peace for granted and decimated the Armed Forces. Let’s hope we don’t pay the price.”</p> <p>Hopefully he will find consolation in the fact that the government still <a href="http://newint.org/blog/2015/02/23/government-spending/">“spends 25 times more</a> on Research &amp; Development (R&amp;D) for the military as it does on R&amp;D for renewable energy”, &nbsp;and <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2015/02/23/comment-military-spending-doesn-t-make-us-safer-but-it-does">continues to maintain the 6th largest military budget in the world</a> (at £37 billion annually) in an era of deep public spending cuts. Nevertheless, it is concerning that despite these continually high levels of spending, the Armed Forces remain ill-prepared for what should be fairly routine tasks. Indeed, the Cornwall incident, and the laboured response to it, is <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533846/Battle-stations-Navy-scrambles-destroyer-challenge-Russian-warship-British-coast-takes-24-hours-make-600-mile-journey-Portsmouth-base-Putin-testing-response-time.html">not without precedent</a>. </p> <p>But it is worth keeping this in perspective: the aircraft never entered British airspace, only our <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/passenger-planes-at-risk-from-russian-bombers-says-former-head-of-armed-forces-10062509.html">“area of interest”</a>, and – although Russian planes have increased their activity across Europe recently – these incidents don’t quite compare to, say, 2000 NATO troops undertaking military exercises in Eastern Europe, with <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/2000-nato-troops-send-message-to-russia-as-tensions-mount-9719419.html">the explicit purpose</a> of demonstrating “our ability to project power,” and to “plan and conduct complex operations spanning different countries.” Moreover, if we take even a brief look back at our history of “getting tough” with Russia, we can see where our political leaders really stand. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>“Not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close London’s financial centre to Russians.” </strong></h2> <p>This statement was photographed on <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/03/uk-seeks-russia-harm-city-london-document">a document</a> being carried into a national security council meeting at Number 10 last year. It clarified what the government meant by “getting tough” on Russia. That is, <em>appear</em> tough, but don’t hurt financial or corporate interests. Russian money is actively invited into the City: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html">tier-one “investor visas”</a> – providing residency in exchange for investments in Britain of at least 1 million pounds – are ideal purchases for wealthy Russians seeking to make money from property or, more likely, avoid paying taxes. &nbsp;</p> <p>Reuters <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/06/ukraine-crisis-britain-russia-idUKL6N0M31RX20140306">reported</a> last year that while only two Russian companies were listed on the New York Stock Exchange, companies from Russia and former Soviet states were able to raise “$82.6 billion in London in the past two decades.” Ben Judah of the New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html">put it simply</a>: “This is Britain’s growth business today: laundering oligarchs’ dirty billions, laundering their dirty reputations.” </p> <p>When the head of the UK National Crime Agency <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/london-tax-haven-financial-crime-terrorism">states that</a> “many hundreds of billions of pounds of criminal money is almost certainly laundered through UK banks and their subsidiaries each year,” it is easy to see the attraction for businessmen with plenty of cash and questionable pasts. To be fair, the House of Lords committee put two and two together – big sums of illicit money leaving Russia; big sums flowing through London – and argued for <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldselect/ldeucom/115/115.pdf">stronger anti-money laundering provisions</a> in Britain (see pages 82-85). </p> <p>Sanctions were, of course, tightened, but the impact of this is not exactly clear in London. If, for example, you are a student wealthy enough to afford accommodation with Pure Student Living, your <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/12/russian-trio-535m-luxury-student-housing-london-carlyle-group-pure">new landlords</a> will be “Mikhail Fridman, Russia’s second richest man, worth an estimated £9.3bn; German Khan, said by Forbes magazine to be worth about £6bn; and Alexei Kuzmichev, with a fortune of about £4.5bn.” Your monthly rent will also be up to £2,200 per room. </p> <h2><strong>“We stand by it strategically”</strong></h2> <p>And, then there’s BP, which has a 20% stake in Rosneft, the enormous oil and gas company majority-owned by the Russian government. Between the beginning of 2014 and the downing of MH17 last July, BP “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10998732/BP-chief-executive-stands-by-Rosneft-deal.html">raked in</a> roughly $2.3bn from its links with the Russian company.” No wonder chief executive Bob Dudley, when pressed on his company’s continual involvement in Russia, stated: “we stand by it strategically… Russia is the largest oil and gas producer on the planet and the energy needs of the world are going to increase 40% in the next 20 years ago so from an investment perspective it makes sense to be there.” </p> <p>Compare the wording of the document heading into Downing Street – “Not support, for now, trade sanctions” – and this <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/29/bp-sanctions-russian-oil-profits">statement</a> from BP: “Further economic sanctions could adversely impact our business and strategic objectives in Russia, the level of our income, production and reserves, our investment in Rosneft and our reputation.” </p> <p>This is not to claim the existence of a grand conspiracy – BP is now <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/173ef1da-927e-11e4-b213-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Sc2x993t">apparently suffering</a> from the declining rouble and the deterioration of the Russian economy. But it’s not as if the company is shy when it comes to exerting influence in Westminster – like when it admitted to successfully pressuring the government into the completion of a faltering prisoner swap with Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2010: “We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan Government of BP’s exploration agreement,” a <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7892112/BP-admits-lobbying-UK-over-Libya-prisoner-transfer-scheme-but-not-Lockerbie-bomber.html">company statement</a> read. If, however, profits continue to slide, it might be time to arrange a dinner with an MP to avoid <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/it&#039;s-no-surprise-rifkind-and-straw-don&#039;t-get-it-westminster&#039;s-swimming-in-cor">falling behind everyone else</a>. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The keys to the City</strong></h2> <p>Finally, we shouldn’t forget the telling image <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/07/01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party/">captured in June 2013</a>, when “two prominent Russians with connections to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin’s wealthy judo partner, were photographed chatting to David Cameron at the Conservative summer party, held in the City at Old Billingsgate.” Both were employed by a PR firm that advised the Russian government and donated £91,000 to the Conservative Party between 2009 and 2010. One is an honorary freeman of the City of London. </p> <p>This sums up the reality that is buried beneath the media hysteria and thinly veiled war-mongering: our political class is far more interested in Russian money than they are in us or our "security."</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/it%27s-no-surprise-rifkind-and-straw-don%27t-get-it-westminster%27s-swimming-in-cor">It&#039;s no surprise Rifkind and Straw don&#039;t get it. Westminster&#039;s swimming in corporate influence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nicholas-shaxson-john-christensen/finance-curse-introduction">The Finance Curse - introduction</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-ukraine/article_2267.jsp">Ukraine and Europe: a fatal attraction</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom London Conflict International politics Political Class Foreign Policy Crime Corruption Corporate state Conservative Party Harry Blain Mon, 02 Mar 2015 00:00:02 +0000 Harry Blain 90883 at https://opendemocracy.net Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ben-hayes/why-britain-won%E2%80%99t-talk-about-crucial-elements-of-jihadi-john%E2%80%99s-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The role of our security services in the actions of 'Jihadi John' needs grown up discussion - we must not forget the lessons of Northern Ireland.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/3goiU_g3wQCYgk0eGrteOOmhsLXN1SIsCrJ5r1ch5TM/mtime:1425121662/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/john.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7ISaNJYnGsTa6UCVZ--58cAKSZXG3lgfeoNCczFA61c/mtime:1425121571/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/john.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In “<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Suspect-Community-Experience-Prevention-Terrorism/dp/0745307264"><strong>Suspect Community: People’s Experience of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in Britain</strong></a>”, professor Paddy Hillyard produced what remains the world’s most detailed ethnographic study of the impact of repressive laws and state policies on what we now call “radicalisation”. That was 1993. Hillyard, a former chair of the National Council of Civil Liberties (now <em>Libert</em>y), had interviewed more than 100 people of Irish catholic descent and provided unequivocal evidence that their everyday treatment at the hands of the British state had boosted support for Irish republicanism, acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA and fuelled “the Troubles”. Of course it wasn’t the only “radicalising” factor: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkOpgr1ElXg"><strong>Bloody Sunday</strong></a>, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/22/northern-ireland-police-apologise-delay-secret-shoot-to-kill-files"><strong>a shoot-to-kill policy</strong></a> and <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lethal-Allies-British-Collusion-Ireland/dp/1781171882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1382644462&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Lethal+Allies%3A+British+collusion+in+Ireland"><strong>state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries</strong></a> also played their part. As of course did the violence, propaganda and popularity of organisations like the IRA. </p> <p>We could learn a lot from people like Paddy Hillyard and the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMZ3CtC8KEY"><strong>incremental moves toward truth and reconciliation</strong></a> in the north of Ireland. Instead, this valuable insight is being steadily exorcised from public debate – as are the <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n07/gareth-peirce/was-it-like-this-for-the-irish"><strong>similar experiences of Muslim communities</strong></a> at the hands of the British state. </p> <p>Yesterday the identity of “Jihadi John”, the ISIS executioner-in-chief, was revealed to belong to British citizen Mohammed Emwazi. The human rights group <a href="http://cageuk.org/"><strong>CAGE</strong></a> – the only organisation in Britain who offers legal support to Muslims who have been interrogated or harassed by the security services (support which is readily available to most others questioned by the UK authorities) – produced a <a href="http://cageuk.org/case/mohammed-emwazi"><strong>3,000 word dossier</strong></a> detailing his treatment between 2009 and 2013. This included, <em>inter alia</em>, the surveillance of his movements, the interception of his telecommunications, the orchestration of his arrest in Tanzania and transfer to the Netherlands where he was interrogated by MI5, attempts to coerce him into becoming an MI5 informer, harassment of his family and fiancé, and the prevention of his resettlement in Kuwait – all in the absence of any formal allegation, charge or prospect of official recourse. </p> <p>Since this occurred well before Mohammed Emwazi’s departure from the UK and appearance in Syria as “Jihadi John”, one might have thought our media duty bound to ask whether this and other encounters played any part in his decision to go there. Indeed the most revealing exchange, which should surely have been on the lips of any journalist worth their salt, is the following, spoken by MI5 agent “Nick”: “Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” When Mohammed declines, he is told: “You’re going to have a lot of trouble... You’re going to be known... you’re going to be followed... life will be harder for you.”</p> <p>Let us be clear that whatever else may have transpired since this exchange, here is a credible allegation of state-sanctioned blackmail of one of our citizens upon pain of having his life ruined by unaccountable security forces. When things like this happen to Muslims in Arab dictatorships, we talk about “secret police” and “fearsome security apparatuses”. When they happen here, we put our fingers in our ears and demand that Muslims “get over themselves” and condemn acts of terrorism. </p> <p>And so it was that Kay Burley of Sky News duly began her <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jihadi-john-cage-representative-storms-off-sky-news-interview-after-accusing-kay-burley-of-islamaphobia-10073785.html"><strong>interview</strong></a> with a CAGE spokesman by asking “What level of harassment by the security services here in the United Kingdom justifies beheadings?” – a plainly preposterous straw man argument that literally no-one was making. Liberal pin-up Jon Snow also <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X7Cwl8QlUU"><strong>glossed over the evidence</strong></a> produced by CAGE, before getting down to the most important business of the day: demanding that their spokespeople condemn terrorism, and seeking to belittle them when they question why this demand is only ever made of Muslims, or worse still, refuse to participate in the ridiculous spectacle. </p> <p>It was already a nailed-on certainty that the government and the media would turn the “extremist” spotlight onto CAGE and its supporters in a witch hunt that would make McCarthy blush. But having anointed Peter Oborne the Supreme Ruler of Media Integrity for taking on the <em>Telegraph</em>, perhaps they should ask him <a href="http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100279865/if-cage-has-broken-the-law-let-it-be-prosecuted-this-reeks-of-the-police-state/"><strong>what</strong> <strong>he thinks about CAGE’s treatment</strong></a> at the hands of the establishment. Or reflect on CAGE’s founder and director’s <a href="http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/mi5-gave-green-light-to-moazzam-begg-trip-to-syria-30636910.html"><strong>own experience at the hands of MI5</strong></a>, or his three-and-a-half years of illegal detention in Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh prisons. Nope: they’re just “apologists for terrorism”, guilty until proven innocent. </p> <p>Human rights and social justice groups should be supporting CAGE in its endeavours to uncover the extra-judicial prosecution of the “war on terror” in this country. They won’t because they’re scared of the “public perception”. Much easier to support free expression from behind the comfort of a “Je Suis Charlie” banner. The country should be having a serious conversation about the way “intelligence-led policing” has undermined our national security and human rights by linking the treatment of Mohammed Emwazi to the <a href="http://database.statewatch.org/article.asp?aid=33252">discredited use of informants and double agents in Northern Ireland</a>, to the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/mi5-terror-plots_b_3352781.html">links between MI5 and extremist groups</a>, and to an <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jan/20/undercover-police-children-activists">undercover culture that has perverted the pursuit of social and legal justice</a> in this country. It won’t, because we’ll turn a blind eye to anything at the drop of the T-word. &nbsp;</p> <p>Something fundamental has to change if we’re to have the grown-up conversations that can inform these policies, and that can temper the appeal of extremism and violence in all quarters. </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="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/amnesty-working-against-oblivion">Amnesty: working against oblivion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/dangerous-liaisons">Dangerous liaisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ben-hayes/no-we%E2%80%99re-not-all-charlie-hebdo-nor-should-we-be">No, we’re not all Charlie Hebdo, nor should we be</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom Arab Awakening OurKingdom Snooping on the innocent Ben Hayes Closely observed citizens Sat, 28 Feb 2015 11:04:37 +0000 Ben Hayes 90895 at https://opendemocracy.net Rifkind: good riddance https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-lowry/rifkind-good-riddance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Malcolm Rifkind has faced public rage this week. He deserves every decibel of it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/jvccHKd_FkW2T2XN-1p9PqMNhbpsYiv5m51qsEoK23s/mtime:1425037580/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/800px-Malcolm_Rifkind_2011.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/PVX8myJas2lDNSTf8zRGoxDFounbDGSqUpSdFdDVaFk/mtime:1425036359/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/800px-Malcolm_Rifkind_2011.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'>Malcolm Rifkind/Wikipedia</span></span></span></p><p>Let me declare an interest. I don’t like Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the pompous and sneering politician who has thankfully fallen sword after the excellent sting operation by Channel Four Dispatches, exposing his avaricious and arrogant attitude to being an elected Member of Parliament.</p> <p>Last year Sir Malcolm co-chaired a press launch at the House of Commons of the Trident Commission. I asked from the floor how he and his fellow co-chair on the Commission, Lib Dem grandee Sir Menzies Campbell, as international lawyers, could support renewing Trident? Its procurement from the United States was in breach of the UK’s legal obligations under both Article 1 (prohibiting the transfer of nuclear explosive devices to any recipient whatsoever, directly <em>or indirectly</em>) and Article 6 (requiring all member states, including nuclear weapons states, and to enter into negotiations to halt the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, ie from 1968) of the 189-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Sir Malcolm looked at me as if he had stepped in something nasty and smelly on the pavement, ignored my question, and let Ming Campbell attempt an answer.</p> <p>That is the measure of Sir Malcolm: pompously arrogant and loquacious, until struck dumb by somebody knowledgeable prepared to challenge him on his own area of supposed expertise!</p> <p>In December 2008, he became a leading spokesman of the <a href="http://www.globalzero.org/">Global Zero</a> movement, which includes over 300 eminent leaders and over 400,000 citizens from around the world working toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons by multilateral negotiation. In backing Trident’s renewal, he seemed to be directly contradicting this organisation.</p> <p lang="en">Amongst the jaw dropping comments he made to the Channel Four undercover reporters, was the claim that he did not receive a salary – even though he is paid over £67,000 a year to be an MP. Trying to extricate himself from the hole he had dug for himself, he actually made this worse by letting slip he considered a salary of £67,000 was insufficient for a man of his background; he was entitled to much more, he opined.</p> <p>On his own constituency web site <a href="http://www.malcolmrifkind.com/what-can-mp-do" target="_blank">he states</a>: “Members of Parliament are elected to the House of Commons to represent the interests and concerns of all the people who live in their constituency, whether they voted for them at the General Election or not. They are only able to deal with issues raised by people who live in their constituency, called constituents.” </p> <p lang="en">Apparently this "only dealing with issues raised by constituents" rule did not apply to meeting with lobbyists offering money to him to ask questions of ministers, officials or serving ambassadors, for a fat fee of £5,000-to £8,000 a day, as he told the undercover reporters. That would be about a third of the annual income for a day’s work for many of the constituents in the north of his constituency. Many erroneously think his entire Kensington seat in west London is super affluent; maybe Sir Malcolm did too, and never ventured too far north to see the real poverty there.</p> <p>That restraint, however, has not stopped him from as an MP venturing into very valuable, well-remunerated consultancies and directorships, earning £69,610 last year according to his latest entry in the <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/11660/malcolm_rifkind/kensington#register" target="_blank">Register of Members financial interests</a>, published by Parliament on 2 February. As he told the undercover reporters, he had plenty of free time to undertake extra-parliamentary fee earning, as well as walking and reading.</p> <p>Also, if you look at his record as an MP, it's hard to find evidence of him paying much attention to its role, which includes keeping the government of the day to account. He boasted to the undercover reporters, "there is an awful lot of which is not secret which if you ask the right questions you'll get an answer." But either he was insufficiently curious or all knowing, as since the formation of the coalition government nearly five years ago he asked just one written question to government on behalf of his constituents. </p> <p>But Sir Malcolm knows how to be active when he wants to be. Here is an extract from <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/bhp-wanted-rifkind-to-lobby-us-for-iraq-oil-406715.html">the </a><em><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/bhp-wanted-rifkind-to-lobby-us-for-iraq-oil-406715.html">Independent</a></em> nine years ago: </p> <blockquote><p>“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, undertook to lobby the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, in an attempt to land a lucrative oil contract in Iraq for BHP Billiton, according to evidence given to a public inquiry in Australia.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">“In the most blatant evidence to so far emerge about Western businesses jockeying for a slice of Iraq's oil wealth, the Anglo-Australian group BHP Billiton drew up a plan for getting access to the huge Iraqi Halfayah oilfield just weeks after outbreak of war in 2003.</p><p lang="en-GB">&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">"BHP Billiton held a secret meeting in May 2003 in London with Sir Malcolm - who has worked as a consultant to the company since 1997 - and Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, to discuss how best to convince the Americans that BHP Billiton should be handed the Halfayah field in southern Iraq.</p><p lang="en-GB">&nbsp;</p><p>“The evidence came to light as part of a Royal Commission inquiry started late last year in Australia to examine any involvement of the country's businesses in breaching the sanctions that were in place against Iraq before the war. According to the minutes of the meeting, Shell, the oil giant, and Tigris Petroleum, a joint venture set up by BHP Billiton and some of its former executives, were also interested in "securing the Halfayah field investment".</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“The minutes, which were taken by Australian government officials and labelled "Confidential", note: "Sir Malcolm emphasised that it was critical to register the BHP Billiton/British Dutch [Shell]/Tigris interest early with the US administration... It was a good claim and required lobbying - including from the Australian government - in Washington."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The document said that BHP Billiton had briefed the office of Australia's Prime Minister adding, "it has only just started lobbying in the UK but intended to approach Downing Street and the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry]".</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>"The minutes said "Sir Malcolm would be seeking an appointment with Vice-President Cheney when the opportunity arose". And Mr Downer, who is still Foreign Minister, "agreed he would raise the matter both in Washington and in Baghdad with Paul Bremer [the US administrator of Iraq]". </p></blockquote><p>Last year Sir Malcolm was appointed Chairman of the World Economic Forum's Nuclear Security Council. Just last month, he was appointed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a member of their Eminent Persons Panel on European Security. Let’s hope he has been un-appointed from both.</p> <p>Laughably, five years ago he was considered an eminent enough MP to chair the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the House of Commons in April 2010. To think he was considered fit to chair Parliament’s “Intelligence” Committee too.</p> <p>There is an excellent book, published 24 years ago, written by Mark Hollingsworth, called <em>MPs for Hire</em>. He dubs the type of behaviour exhibited by Sir Malcolm as “pork-barrel politics”. Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn told the BBC this week that some MPs have got their body so far into the trough, all you can see is the soles of their Gucci shoes. Bye, bye Sir Malcolm.</p> <p lang="en">Now he is gone for good, unless the Tories dare nominate him for a peerage. Surely they wouldn’t, would they?</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/it%27s-no-surprise-rifkind-and-straw-don%27t-get-it-westminster%27s-swimming-in-cor">It&#039;s no surprise Rifkind and Straw don&#039;t get it. Westminster&#039;s swimming in corporate influence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom David Lowry Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:45:31 +0000 David Lowry 90872 at https://opendemocracy.net The left needs to confront its illusions about the EU https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/chris-bambery/left-needs-to-confront-its-illusions-about-eu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we voice opposition to the EU without sounding like Nigel Farage?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7fJbQZirRSidex0js5tVLUcQ9hZTXl7wAWj5OGmG3do/mtime:1424385755/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/9112839553_f4df055cc2_z.jpg" alt="Sticker decrying the EU's lack of democracy" title="Never mind democracy" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Aesthetics of crisis. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/world/europe/alexis-tsipras-greece-debt.html">“We don’t change our policy according to elections”</a></em></strong> <strong>– Jyrki Katainen, Vice President of the European Commission, 29 January 2015.</strong></p> <p>Katainen was responding to the election of the radical left coalition Syriza in Greece last month. But his words could form the motto not just for the unelected European Commission but for the European Union itself.</p> <p>Any discussion of the EU has been difficult for those of us on the left. For a long time any debate was centred on keeping pounds and ounces, our beloved pound and other symbols of fading greatness. Today, of course, it’s dominated by UKIP and toxic hatred of migrants.</p> <h2><strong>The EU’s track record</strong></h2> <p>Yet we should not respond by keeping quiet about the appalling lack of democracy within the EU and its equally appalling neo-liberal track record. This is summed up by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ttip">the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)</a> negotiated in secret between the European Commission and the USA. The European Parliament will have no say in this. If the TTIP is signed EU member states <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/nick-dearden/does-european-commission-understand-no">will not be able to amend it</a> – they can only accept or reject it.</p> <p>It’s a deal being negotiated by the elites and which will be rubber stamped by the elites. But that is very much what the EU has become, a club where business is conducted by and in the interests of the European elite.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_European_Union.html?id=jv2IAAAAMAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">often complex institutional structure</a>&nbsp;<span>of the EU is largely unaccountable to the views of the public. The European Council is made up of leading government ministers of member states, and has the power of final decision, while the European Commission enforces EU directives and regulations, with the European Parliament permitted to amend but not initiate those directives.</span></p> <p>The European Parliament is itself highly undemocratic being virtually unaccountable to those who elect it and free from any meaningful media reportage. It is dominated by a cartel of the main centre-right and centre-left blocs, which support the neo-liberal programme and whose leaders get together to decide parliamentary business and to carve out positions on the various committees which carry out the real work. They operate closely with the European Commission, in truth under its direction, because the cartel needs to win acceptance of any amendments it proposes or risk being ignored.</p> <p>The Euro Parliament is extremely good at co-opting those elected from the far right or radical left. One key instrument is <a href="http://www.thelocal.fr/20140624/le-pen-fails-to-create-euro-parliament-group">the lavish funding made available to them if they join the set-up,</a> being encouraged to create cross-EU groups of the-like minded to gain extra funds.</p> <p>So far this process of co-option has worked well. A case in point is UKIP, which, despite its fundamental opposition to the EU, plays the Brussels game and causes little or no trouble.</p><h2>Pushing the neo-liberal agenda</h2> <p>Yet of all these bodies it is another unelected institution which has become the most powerful: the European Central Bank. Based as it is in Frankfurt it currently works in close alliance with the German government of Angela Merkel.</p> <p>Germany is now exerting itself as the key player in Europe, based on the single fact that it is the biggest European economy. That is a break with Germany’s traditional preference to work in tandem with France.</p> <p>And the simple fact is that since the 2008 financial crisis a German-led EU working in alliance with the International Monetary Fund where necessary, has seized the chance to push the neo-liberal agenda further down the road.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/econ/dv/studybruegel_/studybruegel_en.pdf">European Semester system</a> introduced in 2010 obliges each member state to have their national budgets approved by the European Commission before they are voted on in their national parliament. May 2010 also saw the creation of the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8653439/The-European-Financial-Stability-Facility-QandA.html">European Financial Stability Facility</a>, which made the bail out loans available to Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal conditional on the implementation of savage austerity measures dictated by the European Commission, ECB and IMF.</p> <p>A year later the <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2011/03/pact_euro">Euro Plus Pact</a> committed each member state to raise productivity and to reduce labour costs. Twelve months on <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/05/07/fiscal-compact-disempowers/">the Fiscal Compact</a> was aimed at enforcing budgetary discipline on member states by limiting the size of budget deficits and debts. Finally, further EU legislation – the 2011 Six Pack and the 2013 Two Pack – gave further surveillance and control powers over national budgets to the European Commission and Council of Ministers.</p> <p>Notwithstanding the current stand-off between the new Syriza government in Athens and the European Commission, European Central Bank and the Merkel administration, it’s not difficult to see how these measures would be used to prohibit increases in the Greek minimum wage or welfare spending.</p> <p>Added to all this we saw in 2011 the imposition in both Italy and Greece of unelected “technocratic” governments, committed to enforcing austerity measures and free market “reforms.” This was the extreme end of a process which has seen a drift towards coalition governments of the centre-right and centre-left across Europe.</p> <p>In total the various measures put in place since the 2008 crash act as an effective break on any national government which wanders away from the neo-liberal path. The contempt expressed by Jyrki Katainen for electoral democracy sums it up.</p> <p>Further, there is no obvious way of reforming the EU from within, given the limits on the European Parliament’s role, and its lack of democratic legitimacy in the eyes of many European voters.</p> <h2>The illusions of the left</h2> <p>In my native Scotland there is, within the broad alliance which backed a Yes vote in last September’s referendum, general support for the European Union. It’s based, firstly, on a shallow belief that anything UKIP and the Tory “Eurosceptics” hate must be ok, and, secondly the hope that in any future UK referendum on EU membership, if England votes to quit and Scotland votes to stay it will trigger independence.</p> <p>Such illusions remind me of an episode in the late 1980s when the EU briefly seemed to offer an alternative to full blooded free market policies, only to flatter and deceive.</p> <p>In 1988 the then President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, addressed the British Trades Union Congress, <a href="http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2014/05/14/europeans-or-bust/">putting the case for a social Europe</a>. His speech enraged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.</p> <p>Delors told the TUC that the new European Single Market would not “diminish the level of social protection already achieved in the member states”, adding that the new single market would “improve workers’ living and working conditions, and... provide better protection for their health and safety at work.”</p> <p>Finally, realising a high proportion of his audience were trade union full-timers he promised “measures to be taken will concern the area of collective bargaining and legislation.”</p> <p>In an instant traditional hostility towards the European Union within the British trade union movement, and within the Labour Party vanished. Thatcher’s livid reaction to the promise of a “social Europe” seemed to promise the imminent arrival of the 7th Cavalry to rescue the British working class.</p> <p>The trouble was that Delors’ promises were not worth the paper they were written on. Instead the Single Market and the subsequent Maastricht Treaty opened up a major fast forwarding of the neo-liberal project across Europe. Susan Watkins <a href="http://newleftreview.org/II/90/susan-watkins-the-political-state-of-the-union">argues</a>:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“In democratic terms, Maastricht brought a decisive widening of the gap between rulers and ruled. The architecture of the euro system was deliberately designed to be immune from electoral pressures. With the general shift to neo-liberalism, the Maastricht era also saw the obliteration of any real policies for a ‘social Europe’; levelling down replaced the levelling up... just as structural unemployment began to rise. Privatisations and shrinking social entitlements widened the gulf between ‘above’ and ‘below’. Free­ market competition was inscribed as a foundational principle in the 2004 Constitutional Treaty, one of the main reasons for its rejection in the 2005 referendums. The emergence of popular majorities against the post-Maastricht direction of the EU in founder countries like France and the Netherlands signalled a new stage in this deterioration. They were brushed aside by Europe’s rulers... The Treaty, minus its preamble, was reaffirmed at Lisbon.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Support for the European Union today means backing an even more aggressive neo-liberal programme.</p> <h2><strong>If the left is quiet, the right will prosper</strong></h2> <p>But how can we voice opposition to the EU without sounding like Nigel Farage? Well the obvious answer is not to stay silent about the EU’s lack of democracy because to do so is to hand the whole issue over to the right who, as we see across Europe, will profit from that.</p> <p>Secondly the left should have a lot to say about what sort of Europe we want – one based on equality, a pro-welfare agenda and peace. That inevitably means confronting the rulers of the existing EU. A start can be made by mobilising in support of Syriza.</p> <p>Lastly, we should be proud to be Europeans but not proud of a Europe where the bodies of refugees lap up on its southern shores and where the people of Greece are treated as guinea pigs in some nightmare free market adventure.</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="/european_union_after_the_reform_treaty">European Union: after the reform treaty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/damian-hockney/ukip%E2%80%99s-growth-misunderstood-by-left-and-right-in-britain">UKIP’s growth - misunderstood by left and right in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/evangelos-aretaios/gardener-grapes-and-thorns-backbone-of-europe%27s-future">The gardener, the grapes and the thorns: the backbone of Europe&#039;s future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom Can Europe make it? OurKingdom Civil society Democracy and government Economics Margaret Thatcher Europe EU Disengagement Class Chris Bambery Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Chris Bambery 90664 at https://opendemocracy.net From electricity suppliers to doctors, why do many reject the modern imperative to 'shop around'? https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jonathan-tomlinson/from-electricity-suppliers-to-doctors-why-do-many-reject-modern-imperative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new report by the Competition and Markets Authority highlights how poorer people are failed by energy markets. Jonathan Tomlinson finds the same for health - and for understandable reasons.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9iLKdnetFOwY7u9mF-PJyDdn6MpxJ0eypVR9RUrZI4A/mtime:1424954318/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/old%20lady.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Bz5hhCcnafJDadvAWr8r7dSPXQyOpASoCF5Hr3Q11D8/mtime:1424954193/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/old%20lady.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Lee Jeffries / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/16536699@N07/">Flickr</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Last week, the Competition and Market Authority reported that those least able to take advantage of competition and choice in the energy market were,</p><blockquote><p>less educated, less well-off, more likely to describe themselves as struggling financially, less likely to own their own home, less likely to have internet access, more likely to be disabled or a single parent.</p></blockquote><p>They were also more likely to stick with providers with whom they had an established relationship.</p><p>Tese vulnerable people also stand to&nbsp;benefit least&nbsp;from competition and choice in&nbsp;healthcare, because of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review" target="_blank">associations between poverty and ill health</a>.</p><p>Dr Smith was well past his due retirement, but was unable to find anyone to take over his surgery in a pretty rough part of town where he had been a single partner for nearly 40 years. His wife had been the practice manager until she had a stroke and then had to be cared for in a nursing home. He had been struggling to make money from the surgery for the last few years due to the cost of locum GPs and a locum manager. </p><p>The building was desperately in need of repair. Dr Smith was tired and struggled to keep up with the paperwork, coming into work every weekend and staying late into the evenings. He hadn't had a holiday in the last 3 years. He had survived his annual appraisals and revalidation by the General Medical Council. and he was allowed to continue working even after the Care Quality Commission made a long list of recommendations after inspecting the practice.&nbsp;Like many GPs it was his considered opinion that&nbsp;the&nbsp;only things guaranteed by regulation and inspection were time taken away from patient care and low professional morale. Dr Smith was loved by many of his patients who known him for years and trusted him unquestioningly, though his treatment regimes were often out of date and he was tended to be pretty blunt.</p><p>One day, at work, Dr Smith had a heart-attack and died at his desk. When Dr Jones and partners took over his list, they found that the patients were more likely to be,</p><blockquote><p>less educated, less well-off, more likely to describe themselves as struggling financially, less likely to own their own home, less likely to have internet access, more likely to be disabled or a single parent.</p></blockquote><p>They were also more likely to be over 65 and have cognitive-impairment, learning difficulties or long-term mental illnesses. Other patients had changed GP long before Dr Smith retired. They didn't need Friends and Family tests, NHS choices feedback, 'I want great care' or any other on-line rating system to recognise that the shabby waiting room and the ever-changing locum GPs weren't 'great'. </p><p>But many of those that remained valued the long relationship that they had with Dr Smith and everything they had been through together. A fair few had been born at home and delivered by Dr Smith - twenty or thirty years ago it was common for GPs to deliver babies. He had cared for their parents and grandparents, their children and grandchildren. Personal care from a doctor they considered a family friend was of more significance than anything that could be measured and listed on a GP comparison site. According to the&nbsp;CMA report, energy consumers&nbsp;who valued long-term relationships&nbsp;based on trust and familiarity were also not served well by competition and choice.</p><p>The NHS is founded on the basis of equality and fraternity but&nbsp;competition and choice are new values for the NHS.<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/liberating-the-nhs-white-paper" target="_blank">&nbsp;'Liberating the NHS'</a>&nbsp;was the name of the 2010 government white paper that preceded the NHS Act, and the focus on liberty has increasingly eclipsed equality and fraternity. Competition and choice are enforced by a new NHS organisation called&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/monitor/about" target="_blank">Monitor</a>&nbsp;and strongly advocated by government advisers including&nbsp;<a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/gp-competition/" target="_blank">Tim Kelsey</a>, National Director for patients and information&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nhs-competition-regulation.net/" target="_blank">Andrew Taylor</a>, founding director of the NHS Competition and Cooperation Panel and now adviser to NHS providers on competition issues.&nbsp;</p><p>A situation where there is less transparency and no choice between providers cannot reasonably be defended, but questions need to be asked. What is the <em>point </em>of competition and choice in healthcare? Why must it be enforced? Who will benefit and who will lose out? What if patients don't want to behave like consumers? What are the alternatives?</p><p>The&nbsp;<a title="What is the point of patient choice?" href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/point/" target="_blank">point of choice</a>&nbsp;is that it demonstrates respect for autonomy.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nhs-competition-regulation.net/" target="_blank">Proponents</a>&nbsp;argue that since quality between providers of care varies, patients have a right to know who is best so that they choose accordingly. They argue that if patients choose the best or cheapest providers then all providers will have to increase their quality or reduce their&nbsp;costs to stay in business. Even when choosing energy supply the cost is not the only consideration, though you wouldn't know it from the CMA report.&nbsp;Other issues include&nbsp;'green energy' and customer service and the confidence that comes with staying with an established provider.</p><p>When choosing healthcare,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk/Programme/Reports/Quality+in+Healthcare" target="_blank">measuring quality</a>&nbsp;is extremely difficult. Other factors like access, location, continuity or 'customer service' may be more important or even conflicting. For example, a service with better continuity of care - assuming such a thing is measured, may be hard to get access. Quality, whatever that means, may not be the same as 'what matters', because what matters to a young mother joining a GP surgery may be very different for a working man with diabetes or a frail, elderly couple. </p><p>'Choice' when you are having a miscarriage, when you've broken your neck, when you have cancer or when you've got depression, hepatitis and diabetes all together or if you are housebound with severe agoraphobia and heart-failure may have very little to do with choice of healthcare provider and a lot to do with the quality of the relationships you have with health professionals. Leaving Dr Smith who has looked after you for 20 years because Dr Jones has got a better CQC report doesn't make so much sense when you think about the importance of therapeutic relationships.</p><p>Healthcare is, for the most part, dependent on the quality of&nbsp;relationships between patients and professionals. It is&nbsp;<a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/patient-centred-care/" target="_blank">interactional</a>&nbsp;and cooperative. It is&nbsp;<a title="Making it up as we go along" href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/making-it-up-as-we-go-along/" target="_blank">full of uncertainty</a>&nbsp;about the nature of the problems and what should be done. More than ever it is about the care and support of patients with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cchsr.iph.cam.ac.uk/2238" target="_blank">multiple long-term conditions</a>. At other times care is for emergencies in which speed, not choice is key.&nbsp;</p><p>Less often health care is transactional -for example when a patient has a clearly defined problem and is in need of a standard procedure for which outcomes are easier to measure and relationships relatively unimportant. Here competition and choice may have value. For most health care however,&nbsp;the relationships between patients and professionals are both complex and caring and depend on mutual trust and respect and time to get to know one another.</p><p>Both the CMA and those directing health policy are of the opinion that the problems of choice and competition can be overcome by offering more choice and making it easier to choose at the same time as increasing competition. Not only is this based on a misunderstanding of the nature of care, but it is very unlikely to serve the interests of those who are most vulnerable and whose health is most precarious.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><strong><em><span></span></em></strong></p> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Jonathan Tomlinson Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:32:07 +0000 Jonathan Tomlinson 90840 at https://opendemocracy.net Lose the licence fee, abolish the Trust https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/lose-licence-fee-abolish-trust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new House of Commons report sets out the issues for the forthcoming review of the BBC Charter. It calls for the abolition of the BBC Trust and a long-term replacement for the licence fee.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p>Today's publication of <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/report-future-of-bbc/" target="_blank">a report on the 'Future of the BBC' </a>by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee marks a major step in the process of renewing the BBC Charter. A formal review will not be officially triggered until after the election - despite the Charter only having 18 months life ahead of it at that point - but the key issues are already clearly defined.</p> <p>One of the Committee’s recommendations is that, should it be determined that a properly conducted review requires more than 12 months (leaving the BBC and ministers too little time to implement any major proposals before the current Charter’s expiry), there could be a short-term extension of the ten-year Charter period, by up to two years. That seems sensible.</p> <p>At the same time, it should be recognised that the Committee has done an excellent job in defining that review. The great bulk of its findings have been based on cross-party consensus. Three of the MPs (Lib Dem John Leech from a strong pro-BBC stance, Tory Philip Davies from an anti-licence fee approach, and Labour Paul Farrelly offering a re-written governance section) proposed a series of amendments to the text, but in almost every case each proved to be the only supporter of their respective positions. At the end, all three voted against the final report, though presumably in the full knowledge that doing so would not affect the outcome. </p> <p>With nearly 70 recommendations, it could be argued that the Committee has actually done a great deal of the work that any Charter review would entail: at the very least, in setting out all the key debating points.</p> <p>For instance, on finance, it has looked at the new funding system for YLE, the Finnish equivalent of the BBC (0.68% income tax surcharge, over-18s only, all charges below 51 euros excused, cap of 143 euros) and at the new German system (a broadcasting levy on all households, irrespective of whether any actual TV is in the household, nor how many people live there). </p> <p>The Committee plumps for the German idea, even though it discriminates against single-person households and those who choose to do without a television (though there can be very few that lack even a radio, let alone a device by which video can be viewed).</p> <p>That would be a short-term fix, as the Committee accepts. Beyond that, they say that the licence fee has “no long-term future”, that conditional access technology needs to be deployed, and that the BBC needs to prepare for the 2020s without any assumptions about a household tax of any kind.</p> <p>The report also supports decriminalisation of the licence fee, urging that enforcement should be no different than for non-payment of council tax, even though <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11394253/BBC-licence-fee-dodgers-are-still-criminals.html" target="_blank">the BBC warns its revenues might be reduced by some £200 million a year in the absence of criminal sanctions. </a></p> <p>Given that both the Commons and the Lords have now voted for decriminalisation - whether in 2016 as preferred by the Commons, or 2017 as backed by the Lords - the BBC needs to get its thinking cap on. Although a formal review of decriminalisation will not be completed till June, this Committee’s report is likely to prevail. With encryption of the i-Player now almost a certainty, perhaps the conditional access route for all future TV sets, and plug-in modules for existing sets, is the best route to avoid a revenue meltdown. </p> <p>The report also recommends that at least part of the licence fee, for however long the system lasts, be used as a contestable fund in support of public service content from a range of suppliers, particularly those offering regional and children’s programming. It takes up a proposal dating back to 2005, from the panel set up by then Secretary of State Tessa Jowell and &nbsp;chaired by Lord Burns, which had called for a Public Service Broadcasting Commission, whose brief would be to address the overall need for public service content, the level of finance required, and the way it should be allocated.</p> <p>The Committee tweaks the Burns formula by making its relationship with the BBC advisory rather than regulatory, but otherwise follows his urgings that the BBC Trust be replaced by a unified BBC board of non-executives (in the majority, and holding the chair) and executives, with Ofcom regulating quotas and content and competition issues, and the PSBC judging the BBC’s success in meeting its agreed public service objectives. </p> <p>This would also allow S4C, as a client of the PSBC, to recover its independence of action, by no longer being beholden to the BBC. The Committee also argues for giving the National Audit Office much fuller access to BBC accounts, as a further means of reforming BBC accountability.</p> <p>The report is scathing about the 2010 licence fee settlement imposed on the BBC by the coalition as part of the public spending review that October. It says the BBC Trust should have rejected the demand for all kinds of government expenditure to be absorbed by the licence fee. Arguably, say the Committee, the BBC Trust acted in breach of its duties by caving in to over £500m of costs &nbsp;imposed on the BBC without any public consultation.</p> <p>The Committee is also highly critical of the BBC for allowing its commercial subsidiary, BBC Worldwide, to buy the Lonely Planet business (which lost the Corporation some £100 million), and calls for a tightening up of investment criteria in the future.</p> <p>On the broad issues of BBC purposes, and&nbsp; scope and scale, the Committee lays down some guidelines for the formal Charter review, not least tightening up the definitions of public service “characteristics” which all BBC programmes are required to meet, in at least one of five respects. As one of those is “engagement” with the audience, and as all BBC programmes are viewed or listened to by someone, it is not surprising the report quotes the verdict in my evidence to the Committee: the definitions of success are such that “you cannot fail the test”. The test needs to be much more stringent, says the Committee.</p> <p>The report rejects one of the planks in BBC management’s case for dropping BBC3: a desire to re-deploy the available spectrum to accommodate a “+1” channel for BBC1. The Committee sees no public need for such a service, and recommends that the BBC Trust turn down the proposal, if need be returning the vacated spectrum to the DCMS for disposal to another public service provider.</p> <p>Other acute points the Committee have picked up include the fact that all the BBC’s attempts to move production to the North and to the nations means that the Midlands has been left providing 25% of licence fee income in exchange for 2.5% of network spending; and that BBC management has a sneaky habit of burying poor indicators of performance in a mass of verbiage, whilst trumpeting any successes. The report calls for more rigour and honesty.</p> <p>The section on BBC Director General Tony Hall’s proposal to create a commercial production subsidiary within the BBC is perhaps the least fully rounded. The report can see cost advantages (and sharply notes that all the BBC’s cost-cutting so far still leaves it with £400 million of savings to find); but it feels that public service content (even if it cannot define it) might lose whatever locus it enjoys as a result of all BBC production currently being in-house. </p> <p>In hedging its bets, the report argues, even if a commercial entity is created, for retaining an in-house production arm, “where its output is distinctive from the market” and “where it makes economic sense to do so”. As the latter is never going to be the case, and the former is the subject of a much wider debate addressed elsewhere in the report (please define output that is “distinctive from the market”), this chapter parks itself without properly resolving the arguments.</p> <p>The Committee cites a range of expert witnesses, many with close experience of the BBC: former chairmen Gavyn Davies and Lord Grade, former D-Gs Lord Birt and Greg Dyke, Professors Barwise and Barnett, Ofcom bosses Ed Richards and Colette Bowe, and&nbsp; - most impressive of the bunch – Lord Burns himself.</p> <p>Where Davies worries that the BBC spends too much time thinking about reach, share and ratings, in the absence of any other currency, Burns is more incisive: the BBC’s output is too “driven to the middle ground” because distinctiveness has lost out to the claims of reach and universality. Trying to be all things to all people – because “everyone pays the licence fee so everyone is entitled to something however mediocre” – is something the BBC has to change, says the report. Do fewer things better, is the verdict.</p> <p>Two small points. The report cites some of my oral evidence, including a “statistic” I corrected in written evidence: licence fee revenues rose by 25%, not 50%, as a result of the increase in the total number of households in the last 20 years (a fact always omitted by the BBC when it claims the licence fee has been flat in real terms during that period). </p> <p>And the Committee, in noting how the BBC developed a 'Delivering Quality First' project in 2011, ostensibly in response to the 2010 shotgun licence fee settlement, failed to remember that the BBC had foolishly published a 'Putting Quality First' document in 2009, describing how it could make internal savings of £600m a year to re-invest in content (almost precisely the amount the coalition seized in its ambush of the BBC in October 2010).</p> <p>This is a must-read document for all followers of Our Beeb: although the Committee chairman, John Whittingdale does not feature in any of the voting lists (as is traditional, unless there is a tie), his deep knowledge of the issues, supported by that of advisor Ray Gallagher (warmly thanked in the report), shines through the document. This is an important ground-clearing exercise.</p> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom David Elstein Thu, 26 Feb 2015 07:57:51 +0000 David Elstein 90835 at https://opendemocracy.net Four options for configuring the UK https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/andrew-blick/four-options-for-configuring-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unitary state, devolution, federalism&nbsp;or confederation? Andrew Blick discusses four options for configuring the UK. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Inbuilt within the United Kingdom is the potential for instability. It is a multi-nation state, like Belgium, Canada, Spain and – some would say – the European Union. At present, it consists of three nations – Wales, Scotland and England; and a fourth territory, Northern Ireland, the status of which is complicated and controversial. This internal differentiation is not necessarily a weakness. But it has at times been a source of problematic tension. Pressure for more autonomy, or even secession, has come from within some of the national groups incorporated into the UK. Early in the history of the state, during the eighteenth century, Scottish Jacobite rebellions took place. The place of Ireland within the UK has often been a source of discord, with both Unionists and Irish Nationalist at times perpetrating acts of violence to further their respective causes. Early in the 1920s, most of Ireland split from the UK to form the Republic. Under the terms of the Belfast or ‘Good Friday’ Agreement of 1998, the six counties of Northern Ireland too may one day leave the UK and rejoin with the South.</p><p>An emergent issue in recent decades has been the rise of political nationalism and independence movements in other parts of the UK, including in Wales and most prominently in Scotland. The Scottish National Party has held office at devolved level since 2007; and the surprisingly close result in the referendum of September 2014 has given its cause added momentum. A break up of the union of England (including Wales) and Scotland that took place in 1706-7, inaugurating the UK as a state, is now as plausible as it has ever been. Unlike in earlier eras, it could take place peacefully, with the consent of both sides.</p><p>Consequently, if we are to seek to answer the question ‘what is the future of the UK constitution’, the answer may be that it does not have one, at least in its current form. The SNP wants to leave; while those who wish the UK to survive are altering its internal arrangements to accommodate a more autonomous Scotland within it. But what are the different options for configuring the constitution?</p><p>Option one is a unitary state. Under this centralised model, ultimate power resides at the centre, with the UK Parliament in Westminster and the UK executive in Whitehall. Often in the past observers have used the term ‘unitary’ to describe our arrangements. In some senses they are correct. Our doctrine of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ and the tendency to override local government from London fit with this approach. But the UK has always included within it some official allowances for national diversity, such as different arrangements for religion and language, and multiple legal systems. Northern Ireland even had its own legislature and executive from the 1920s to the 1970s. It is better, therefore, to describe the UK as having been a ‘union state’ from the outset.</p><p>Option two is devolution. Under this system, the centre provides for a tier of elected regional or national authorities, transferring some power downwards to them, but without fully surrendering ultimate control. In the late 1990s, devolution was introduced to Wales, Scotland and arguably Greater London, and re-introduced to Northern Ireland. But despite its many successes, this system has not prevented – and may have encouraged – the rise of nationalism in Scotland, threatening the integrity of the UK. Moreover, it is asymmetrical. Outside Greater London, England has yet to share in the benefits of devolution.</p><p>Option three is a federal system. Under an arrangement of this type, ‘sovereignty’ is shared between different tiers of government, each with its own respective spheres of operation. Typically, the rules are set out in a written constitution, with a supreme court responsible for enforcement. Arguably the UK has been moving, through its adoption of devolution and other reforms, in practice increasingly in a federal direction. Some hope that federalism could provide Scotland with a degree of self-government sufficient to induce it to remain within the UK.</p><p>However, the full adoption of federalism would entail the end of the notion of Parliament as a ‘sovereign’ body, since it – like all other institutions – would be subject to the constitution, as interpreted by the UK Supreme Court. There is cultural resistance to this change. Furthermore, a practical problem involves how to incorporate England into a federal UK. If England were included as a single unit, since it accounts for more than 80 per cent of the population, federalism might create instability worse than that which it sought to correct. Another approach could be for England to participate in a federation in a series of more manageably-sized regions. Yet it is not clear how to demarcate these territories, and whether they would command sufficient popular attachment to make the federal project politically viable. Nonetheless, a federal UK may become the most plausible means of preserving the UK, necessitating a resolution to this English dilemma.</p><p>Option four is some kind of confederation or even federacy, that is a looser arrangement still than a federation. In some senses, the UK is moving in this direction. It already has – as a ‘union state’ – more diversity in certain respects than might be found even in a federation, for instance through the existence of three different legal systems (in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England), with a fourth possibly coming in Wales. The extensions in Scottish devolution presently contemplated, in the fiscal and other fields, are substantial. Other parts of the UK, such as Wales, are likely to seek at least some of these new powers for themselves. At the centre, there are demands to exclude Westminster MPs from voting on matters that are devolved in the particular areas they represent. The implication of this idea – though it may not come about – could be a reduced role for Scottish MPs in UK level decision-making.</p><p>When Scotland and England were negotiating the union in 1706, the opening position of the team of Scottish commissioners was to call for a ‘federal union’, by which they meant a loose attachment between the two nations, with a single monarchy and external policy, but retaining their existing parliaments. At the time, this model was not on offer from the English, who had the stronger bargaining position. But it may be that the objectives some from Scotland sought in 1706 are belatedly coming about. The position of Scotland under this arrangement may not differ greatly from the independent Scotland envisaged by the SNP.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>This article was originally pubslihed at the <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/generalelection/four-options-for-configuring-the-british-constitution/">LSE British Politics and Policy</a> blog.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</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 NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom A written constitution? Great Charter Convention Power where? Nations, regions, cities Andrew Blick Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Andrew Blick 90631 at https://opendemocracy.net A theatre of narrative https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/geoffrey-heptonstall/theatre-of-narrative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The performance of stories in various fringe venues has gathered enough momentum to present the possibility of a Theatre of Narrative where the art of storytelling is as vital as other performing arts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/theatre.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/theatre.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Bahman Farzad. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Some literature is not written to be read but to be spoken. Shakespeare is an obvious example. The works of Homer were not even written but were memorized and spoken from generation to generation. Dickens prepared [and performed] oral versions of his fiction. Bob Dylan’s poetry is written to be sung. Poets are invited to read their work to audiences in recordings or live performance. Engagement by direct communication always has been integral to the idea of literature. The solitary reader is a necessary part of literature, but it is only a part of a wider experience that is within society. Of necessity the act of writing is in part solitary because it is personal. The act of reading may require concentration and silence. The reception, even in a social space, is an individual, personal experience. Yet we have reading groups with members sharing their interests. The need is for the personal to find its way into society because we recognize and value literature as integral to society.</p> <p>A recent development extends this idea of sociability further by the performance of fiction as drama is performed – by actors on a platform before an audience. This contrast with the received image of the isolated reader taking the bound volume from bookshop or library home where it can be read in a quiet sitting room. Some texts do require a level of concentration that depend on a measure of isolation. As autonomous beings we require some personal space for the part of us that is ours alone. As social beings we find the need and the pleasure in communicating that which we are. Without those feelings there would be no literature that extended and codified conversation. </p> <p>The growth of organisations like <em>Are You Sitting Comfortably?</em> and <em>Liars’ League</em> and <em>White Rabbit </em>testify to the creative opportunities within the experience of performed literature. The generative capacity of the experience is not yet fully realized. The writer of fiction is certain to be stimulated by the social exchange which is performance. Where once the only direct contact may have been the brief banalities of the book signing, today we no longer rely on the book to contain our fiction – it is there in the reading and the subsequent podcast and Youtube broadcast. The story may be published also, and perhaps it should be, as a permanent record in a literate culture. But the primary communication of that literature is oral. Will anyone turn up to a fringe venue midweek to hear stories? You bet they will. The frisson both of expectation and acceptance can be electrifying.</p> <p>Fiction as a performance art takes place within a breaking of forms. There is a fluidity of bounds that challenges the orthodoxies. The traditional categories of genre no longer apply. Theatre is no longer primarily a text with dialogue between two or more characters. The essence of theatre is in performance, but the definitions are flexible. On the one hand there is physical theatre. It has a long history of acrobatics, mime and music. Street theatre shapes the performance according to the immediacy of the moment. Street theatre is an invaluable apprenticeship in performance skills. Nowhere than the square or park is more illustrative of Peter Brook’s dictum that the theatre is an empty space. Stripped of the proscenium/auditorium dichotomy, stripped of the social formalities of courtly entertainment, theatre returns to its roots in rituals sacred and profane.</p> <p>The challenge to a theatre of words is profound. The dialogue play will not, and should not, disappear. But it must be seen as one convention among others. This is far less of an aesthetic challenge than it may seem. Change is a negotiation with history, a looking back as well as forward. Stoppard’s masterly <em>New Found Land</em>, an inspiration to his younger contemporaries, is exemplary. The monologue has been a preferred form for Beckett and Brian Friel. Popular successes like <em>Shirley</em> <em>Valentine</em>, <em>Spoonface</em> <em>Steinberg </em>and<em> The Vagina Monologues</em> testify to the capacities of narrative drama. There is a long history of narrative drama, not always for one voice alone. Charles Laughton, with Tyrone Power, was creating such performance for radio and stage in the Nineteen Forties. The ambition was to create a Theatre of Narrative, although the conditions for such a project were not there.</p> <p>Today the conditions are gathering coherence. A literary theatre of a performed fiction has grown in part from a frustration with an orthodoxy that demands that theatre be one form, or another. To propose conflict between the theatre of words and the theatre of sound and gesture is divisive and obstructive. Against the orthodoxy of separation is the radical spirit seeking the infinite permutations to be found within the cross-fertilization of forms. Harmony is the blending of parts, not a single note of unity. Poor Johnny One-Note is left at the stage door, or perhaps some shadowy corner of the Garrick. Beneath his feet, almost literally so, the spells of enchantment are being cast.</p> <p>Where words matter, where the text takes precedence, the search is for a writer’s theatre. The Royal Court has a long history of being such a theatre. But other places may be so described in other terms. Mike Leigh as writer/director (in the spirit of Joan Littlewood) improvises collectively with the company of actors. The text is not a precious artefact but a working part of the whole. This approach does not conflict with the idea of writers’ theatre. It complements it. To work in this collaborative way is a refreshing engagement with literature as a social exchange. It is how Shakespeare and Sheridan and Shaw worked. </p> <p>It was said in the Fifties that theatre was the natural home for writers. The famous explosion of new writing lends credence to this view. But a closer look at the writers’ personal statements testifies to an age-old truth: writers explore all the available media before concentrating on the one where they find success. Resisting quasi-mystical notions of the medium finding the writer, it is a question of practicalities. Radio, it is said, is a writers’ medium because it is language-based. There is a demanding concentration of form that betrays any indifference to literary quality. Underwritten scripts cannot be saved by visual effects. In radio every cliché clunks where elsewhere it may pass unnoticed as the eye gazes on the scene.</p> <p>A stumbling block to the advancement of radio as a writers’ medium has been the hierarchic structure of broadcasting within a hierarchic society. Liberal pieties mouthed as a litany do not alleviate this problem. New media, and a new spirit among a network of engaged writers, have circumvented the obstructions. </p> <p>A significant development as I write is that the BBC is alert to the new theatre of narrative. It is seeking accommodation. It is a timely sign of acceptance. The possibilities for such a development have hovered round BBC radio drama for years. In certain respects it is a return to a tradition abandoned so recklessly in the populist orthodoxy that swept over all our culture as a counter-revolution with a vengeance. For a time it seemed irresistible. And, if you wanted to hold on to your job, it was. But there prevail the everyday acts of resistance that good writing is.</p> <p>To speak of victory is the language of conflict. The language of harmony speaks of acceptance. After the BBC will come the National Theatre’s Season of Narratives, let us call it, with Michael Billington’s considered appraisal. Glastonbury will follow, returning to its roots circa 1978 when Heathcote Williams was the headliner. There even may be an actual Theatre of Narrative. Who knows? Scepticism will be swept aside. Something may be lost other than obstructive cynicism. A sense of intimate space will be possible no longer. Other possibilities will emerge. A sense of engagement with things that are seen to matter is the basic narrative that must not be lost.</p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Geoffrey Heptonstall Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Geoffrey Heptonstall 90752 at https://opendemocracy.net The Saatchi Bill is not about 'innovation' but 'improvisation' https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/michael-baum/saatchi-bill-is-not-about-%27innovation%27-but-%27improvisation%27 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We already have a sound structure for innovation. What this Bill will deliver is medical <em>improvisation </em>with virtually non-existent patient safeguards. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/s78b2DHgUJ-jYC2ctXQahlb56E8F0MRHsKZglp2H8fw/mtime:1424860589/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/syringe3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Rb4b_EZPC23_tvhIkZnmc-Nc9XJUQeThAYW9bVwKMQs/mtime:1424860399/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/syringe3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Zaldylmg. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In this essay I would like to address two new issues that have not yet been adequately aired. First I would like to consider the likely motivations of those who sponsored or have supported the “Saatchi” bill (MIB) and then look again at the false premise upon which so much time has been spent in Westminster, the news media, blogosphere and the twitter-sphere. In starting out on the motivations behind the MIB I will not touch on potential conflict of interests, firstly as it is something of a distraction and secondly because I think it is unjust to all those sponsors and supporters, who like me, have lost a loved one to a terrible disease with inadequate palliative care.</p> <p><strong>What are the genuine motivations of the supporters of the MIB?</strong></p> <p>Someone who has lost a loved one to a terrible disease, who had to endure a cruel death, goes through a roller coaster ride of emotional responses. Eventually most come to terms with the tragedy and the mourning period is in due course replaced by an acceptance of the loss and a slow return to normal life. In some the mourning period lasts a lifetime almost like a pathological obsession as well illustrated by Queen Victoria. Yet others have a different response where mourning is replaced by anger and a search for others to blame. I have nothing but deep sympathy for these people as I have been in that “bad place” myself whilst standing by, helplessly watching my dear mother die prematurely, in uncontrolled pain from skeletal metastases from carcinoma of the breast. To add insult to injury, the primitive chemotherapy regimen she endured, added nothing to her life except nausea, vomiting and alopecia. She had always prided herself on her long and glossy black hair that she wore as a chignon but that was replaced by a paisley scarf that kept slipping to reveal her baldness. I will describe how I dealt with this at the end of this piece. </p> <p>A second motivation, commonplace amongst the scientifically illiterate, is the idea that their loved one might have been saved by a miracle cure. This is often seen amongst the well off who have always been in the position of affording anything their heart desired. They are easy fodder for the snake oil salesmen.[1] Related to this is the popular myth or fairy story about a medical maverick who discovers a cure for cancer in the Amazonian jungle only to be frustrated in his humanistic and self sacrificing endeavor by Big Pharma, who feel threatened by the discovery of a cheap and “natural” alternative to their hugely expensive market leaders. A good example of this genre is the film “The Medicine Man”.[2] I have less sympathy with such people as there is a well-proven cure for scientific illiteracy and that is known as an all rounded education that combines both science and the humanities. If their education failed to cover the two pillars of wisdom that supports our culture, then there’s a fault in our system.</p> <p><strong>Innovation vs improvisation</strong></p> <p>The daily practice of medicine can be looked upon in three ways: “standard care”, “improvisation” and “innovation”. My dictionary defines&nbsp;<em>Innovation</em>&nbsp;as “a new idea, device or process that&nbsp;can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements or existing problems”. In medical research we have a pattern of governance in place that protects patients as well as doctors during episodes of innovation. All clinical research has to negotiate two hurdles before the study can be launched. First of all any <em>meaningful </em>project<em>&nbsp;</em>needs resources and that means satisfying the grants committee that the study is rational and organized with robust methodology sufficient to produce a reliable result, that might either support or refute the underlying hypothetical conjectures. Secondly the clinical scientist has to satisfy an independent committee of the ethical probity of the work and that the patient provides informed consent. This committee would normally reject a proposal that fell at the first hurdle on the principle that flawed science is an unethical abuse of human subjects.</p> <p>If we choose to define&nbsp;the legal principles of the “Bolam” and “Bolitho” tests, as&nbsp;meaning that a judge will be satisfied that bodies of expert opinion would accept the new treatment as 'logically defensible’, then in effect the doctor enjoys prospective protection from&nbsp;litigation already, whilst the patient has been protected by the ethical scrutiny of the independent expert committee.&nbsp;Perhaps this is why there are no recorded examples of litigation by patients in a research program under current governance unless the clinician was negligent in his delivery of one or other of the treatments being compared.</p> <p><em>Improvisation</em>&nbsp;is defined as “the process of devising a solution to a requirement by making-do, in the absence of resources that might be expected to produce a solution”.</p> <p>In real life practice of medicine and surgery this is commonplace. As a surgeon I often had to face a crisis mid operation, where there were no textbook guides on how to proceed so I had to improvise to save the patient’s life or limb. To an extent the recent high profile cases of Ebola might be the equivalent of emergency medical improvisation in practice. We act in good faith and if things go wrong then we have to face the Bolam and Bolitho tests with expert witnesses advising the courts.</p> <p>All along we’ve allowed ourselves to think we are discussing a medical <em>innovation </em>bill when in fact we’ve been discussing a medical <em>improvisation </em>bill, with the latter prospectively protecting the doctor from litigation whilst removing the patient’s rights of redress.</p> <p><strong>How do we cope with the fact that we all suffer from an incurable disease?</strong></p> <p>All of us, including the proponents and opponents of the bill, know someone they held dear, who died of an incurable disease and all of us face that inevitable outcome.</p> <p>The best we can hope for our loved ones and ourselves is that our passing will be dignified, with adequate symptom control and ideally in the comfort of our own homes.</p> <p>When I held vigil together with other members of the family on the night my mother died, I was plagued by a complex set of emotions. I felt guilty, because as a young doctor I had insufficient knowledge to deal with her suffering. I felt angry with her doctors, allowing such uncontrolled suffering and I felt angry at some amorphous embodiment of “cancer the killer”. After her death I entered a natural period of mourning but unlike most people I had the “advantage” of coping with my anger by trying to avenge my mother’s death by chasing the demon responsible. Her experience galvanized me to try and discover more effective and less toxic options for the disease that carried her away, and I can claim some modest success in this field. However the last point I want to make is that everyone can join this crusade by identifying the real villain and sharing my “advantage”. This can be done in a number of ways. Firstly cure your own scientific illiteracy by studying the rudiments of the philosophy of science. This is easy, as you don’t have to learn facts but simply learn a new way of thinking.</p> <p>Secondly, if you feel motivated and wish to campaign, then campaign first and foremost for a merciful death for us all.</p> <p>Finally, if you are rich and powerful, then work with us clinical scientists to deal with the real obstacles to progress and support the medical charities that are searching for prolongation of a good quality of life for all those “incurable” diseases that we all will face when our time comes for that visit of the grim reaper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>References</strong></p> <p>[1] <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/032998_Burzynski_cancer_cures.html">http://www.naturalnews.com/032998_Burzynski_cancer_cures.html</a></p> <p>[2] <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104839/">http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104839/</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/david-nicholl/saatchi%27s-%27medical-innovation-bill%27-will-benefit-lawyers-and-charlatans-not-pat">Saatchi&#039;s &#039;Medical Innovation Bill&#039; will benefit lawyers and charlatans, not patients</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-hills-jos%C3%A9-miola/saatchi-bill-is-internally-inconsistent-and-must-be-scrutinised-in">The Saatchi Bill is internally inconsistent and must be scrutinised in the Commons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anne-williams/maurice-saatchi-his-medical-innovation-bill-and-booming-%E2%80%98orphan-drugs%E2%80%99-mark">Maurice Saatchi, his Medical Innovation Bill, and the booming ‘orphan drugs’ market</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-hills/lord-saatchi-and-medical-anecdote-pr-machine">Lord Saatchi and the medical anecdote PR machine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom ourNHS Michael Baum Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Michael Baum 90818 at https://opendemocracy.net Why did intelligence agencies spy on Greenpeace? https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/henry-porter/why-did-intelligence-agencies-spy-on-greenpeace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Because they are building a vast system of social control</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/surv5_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/surv5_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/jonathan mcintosh</span></span></span></p><p>With the evidence of so much unregulated mass surveillance and the interception of practically every form of communication that we once regarded as private, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/24/spy-cables-greenpeace-kumi-naidoo-targeted-security-threat-g20-seoul">the spying on Greenpeace's International Executive Director</a>, Kumi Naidoo, and what are termed other 'rogue NGOs' seems less&nbsp;significant than the headlines generated by Edward Snowden over the last 18 months. <br /> <br /> But this story, which comes from a cache of cables disclosed by Al Jazeera&nbsp;and the <em>Guardian</em>, is important because it is not just about the system of&nbsp;favours that operates between agencies; it shows that monitoring of legitimate and law abiding targets has become the default practice in democratic states. <br /> <br /> A vast system of social control is being constructed, with sophisticated&nbsp;methods of espionage turned on the very freedoms that the intelligence services and law enforcement once sought to defend. And political establishments across the west have effectively sided with the agencies, enabling the accumulation and abuse of a range of intrusive powers.<br /> <br /> The idea that the South African born Greenpeace executive is in anyway a threat to South Korea,­ the country that requested information on him from South Africa,­ would be risible if it were not so sinister: Naidoo was placed on a list of three dangerous men, the other two being wanted in Pakistan. He was effectively classed as a threat, rather like Laura Poitras, who has endured years of harassment by American authorities and has just won the Oscar for CitizenFour (screening tonight on Channel 4).<br /> <br /> "Sadly, the assumption that we make, especially after the Edward Snowden&nbsp;leaks and the Wikileaks information came out, is that we are heavily monitored and under constant surveillance," Naidoo said when told of the cables by Al Jazeera.<br /> <br /> These stories barely raise an eyebrow. Few protest, let alone pause to&nbsp;wonder how we got to a place where activism and political dissent are grounds for state suspicion, and surveillance of innocent people has&nbsp;become the norm.<br /> <br /> Part of the explanation, of course, is that politicians have encouraged the agencies, or simply averted their gaze, while the public has gone along with the argument that dragnet surveillance increases their safety. But a much deeper trend is at work, which is the theme of a brilliant but little known book, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/history/military-history/counterinsurgency-exposing-myths-new-way-war?format=PB">Counterinsurgency, </a>by an American military academic Douglas Porch. Porch follows the insight of Hannah Arendt who noted in <em>The Origins of Totalitarianism </em>that the violence and racism that accompanies imperial conquest abroad usually has a boomerang effect on the homeland. Porch shows how counterinsurgency strategies such as those used in Palestine by the British and Algiers by the French had far reaching domestic consequences.</p><p>Another example comes from the intelligence techniques used by the US in the Philippines at the turn of the century, which were later deployed against Italian and Japanese Americans in the 1940s and Hollywood filmmakers in the 1950s. <br /> <br /> In his conclusion, he writes, "Nor has the United States escaped the domestic consequences of the global war on terror which recalls the British and French cases: democratic dissent is first colonialised (by which I think he means made alien) and then criminalised."<br /> <br /> Techniques developed for the war on terror have been imported to the American homeland. Porch points out that the police have become militarised, both in appearance and in the sorts of weapon and tactics that they deploy in&nbsp;fairly humdrum policing situations. And let's not forget that America, like the rest of the west, is experiencing an astonishing decline in crime. (The US murder rate has fallen to the 1960 level.)<br /> <br /> The policing of the Ferguson troubles was a prime example of this development, as is the very disturbing story of the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site">'black site' used by Chicago's police</a> to illegally interrogate innocent people without the slightest regard for their rights, or the fundamentals of the American&nbsp;constitution. In other words, a CIA black site, used in the great modern counterinsurgency operation of the War on Terror, was viewed as an appropriate tactic for domestic policing.<br /> <br /> It is not just in America that the attitudes and techniques of counterinsurgency operations abroad have been re-imported to have serious impacts on freedoms at home. In Britain, there is mass surveillance of communications and the police think nothing of building image banks of innocent people for facial recognition systems and plundering the phone records of mainstream journalists. On the basis of these few stories that have reached the public domain, it is reasonable to assume that surveillance of legitimate journalists, activists and politicians in Britain is far greater than any of us appreciate.<br /> <br /> Our leaders assure us that parliamentary oversight is the key to controlling surveillance by the agencies and police but there is nothing in the behaviour of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), for instance, which&nbsp;gives you confidence that the agencies have in any way been restrained by parliament. The ISC was until this week chaired by a former foreign&nbsp;secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, who was entirely in the camp of the agencies when it came to the Snowden revelations. He stands discredited after the Channel Four documentary showed him <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11433387/Sir-Malcolm-Rifkind-boasted-about-high-level-defence-and-nuclear-contacts.html">eagerly selling his influence</a> to a bogus Chinese company. His career is rightly in tatters, yet he still shamelessly seeks to influence the committees report into mass surveillance by GCHQ and the NSA.<br /> <br /> There is a connection between the suspicion that fell on a Greenpeace&nbsp;activist and the developments we have seen in America and Britain since 2001. Across the west, the business of journalistic inquiry and ordinary&nbsp;political dissent are now seen as alien and threatening and, therefore, grounds for suspicion. The authoritarian mindset induced by the war on&nbsp;terror and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has boomeranged to jeopardise&nbsp;political freedom and the processes of accountability at home.</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://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom Can Europe make it? OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Rights and liberties today Henry Porter Wed, 25 Feb 2015 11:49:19 +0000 Henry Porter 90823 at https://opendemocracy.net Wolf Hall: history and her story https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/richard-rex/wolf-hall-history-and-her-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="text">The television adaptation of Wolf Hall is somewhat dull but its appearance offers an opportunity to reflect anew on the unaccountable success of the original book<em>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="text"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/t9w-jQa4-QzSV41G1mqlz_joZK2zcI1-IlTaf2LqlNA/mtime:1424943054/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/henryviii.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/X6v2F5D4ycfAcNGGiaDosJ5RFp7nyW5h0dA6R1CkMGU/mtime:1424942877/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/henryviii.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/lisby1</span></span></span>Wolf Hall</em> was meant to be a novel about Thomas Cromwell, but something went wrong. Wolf Hall itself, the country seat of Jane Seymour’s family, is only mentioned right at the end. Somewhere along the way the book was hijacked by its pantomime villain, Thomas More. Cast by the author in this unaccustomed role, he nevertheless manages to steal the show, as she ruefully admits through the voice of her hero, Thomas Cromwell (the traditional choice for villain in previous productions), who resentfully observes at one point that everyone seems to be acting out a play in which More ‘has written all the parts’. We should not be too surprised: as the literary critic Stephen Greenblatt noted, More was adept at on-stage improvisation. The Cromwell of <em>Wolf Hall</em> is defined in contrast to More, his common sense and decency set against a charge-sheet of fanaticism, superstition, cruelty, malice, and hate. The More of <em>Wolf Hall</em> is also defined in contrast to More, or at least to More as usually understood, for he is heavy-handedly stripped of all the sympathetic qualities credited to him by those who knew him and by the consensus of historians and biographers. Yet somehow, devoid of any redeeming features, he still overshadows the novel. It is his story that gives the drama whatever unity it has. His execution is its last act.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="text">Things have changed. In his classic play <em>A Man for All Seasons</em> (1960), Robert Bolt gave us Thomas More as a liberal hero for the Cold War, a lone voice speaking the truth and standing up for the rights of the individual against the totalitarian demands of the State. Bolt’s play was a brilliant dramatisation of the liberal More painstakingly constructed by R. W. Chambers in his 1935 biography. It was not ‘the truth’ about More, but it was a persuasive transposition of the heroic Catholicism of the sixteenth century into the heroic liberalism of the twentieth. It told some of ‘the truth’ about More: he was in the end a hero, meeting death with fortitude and even a measure of humour. As he knelt down he stroked his long grey beard forward and laid it carefully over the block so as to avoid the blade, telling the executioner that he didn’t need it trimmed. Edward Hall, the chronicler of Henry VIII’s reign who put a po-faced paragraph into the mouth of Cromwell on the scaffold, was frankly baffled by the ironic cast of mind which enabled More to meet death with a wry smile.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="text">The great Tudor historian Geoffrey Elton, determined as he was to exalt Cromwell as the defining genius of Henry VIII’s England, chose to make diminishing More an integral part of his enterprise, partly in reaction to Bolt’s iconic portrayal. Elton’s iconoclasm was taken further in the 1984 biography by Richard Marius, who advanced a sub-Freudian vision of More as a ‘failed priest’ haunted by a savagely repressed but slightly perverse sexuality. John Guy, who has written three of the most important books ever written on Thomas More, has comprehensively dismantled the Elton-Marius construct in his incomparable forensic work on the sources for More’s life. But it is the More of Elton and Marius who has become the villain of <em>Wolf Hall</em>, just as Bolt’s hero was drawn ultimately from the pages of Chambers. <em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="text">Truth, in so far as the historian can get near it, resides not so much in the details as in the proportions. Accuracy is a more attainable scholarly target, and <em>Wolf Hall</em> does reasonably well in this regard, though the mixture of fact, fiction, and credulous reportage will inevitably mislead the unwary or inexpert reader. The deeper problem is that the portrayals of Cromwell and More are wholly out of proportion – a problem manifest in the way that More hijacks the story. The quiet but relentless ferocity of the demonisation of More betrays not Cromwell’s vision of him but the author’s. The transmigration of a twenty-first century Islington soul into the sixteenth-century Putney body of Cromwell is an equally striking piece of authorial alchemy. Hagiography has notorious flaws as a genre. But to be made, as More was, the subject of prompt and plentiful hagiography is historical evidence in its own right. It hints at a certain character, a certain charisma. Thomas More had biographers to spare: his friend Erasmus, his relatives John Roper and William Rastell, and his later admirers Nicholas Harpsfield and Thomas Stapleton, were as busy as a bunch of Boswells in perpetuating his memory. Even Cardinal Wolsey found a biographer in his loyal personal aide, George Cavendish. The early biographers of Cromwell are notable only by their absence.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="text">The ‘Cromwell’ of <em>Wolf Hall</em>, this witty and genial chap, this caring, sensitive and tolerant fellow, the best of sorts, a no-nonsense man, no standoffishness about him, not too obsessed with religion – where were his friends? Henry VIII did not need to issue any proclamations forbidding his subjects to describe Cromwell as a martyr. Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell lived at the same time, acted on the same political stage, and met the same fate at the hands of the same master. But they do not stand on the same level.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="text">There were those who went along with Henry at the time who wished later that they had taken a stand with More in 1535. Nobody said anything like that about Cromwell. Who ever thought him a hero? He took no stand. His death was, tragically, rather pointless, serving only as an object lesson, the emblem of a royal vindictiveness pursued with a zeal worthy of some high principle, a vindictiveness which Cromwell’s servile instrumentalism had honed to an edge that would take off his own head. Poor Cromwell’s end was not like More’s. No one reported his merry jests on the way to the scaffold, nor even thought to put any in his mouth.<em></em></p> <p class="text">The poet Charles Péguy once said that ‘the fight is against the intellectuals, against those who despise heroes and saints alike’. The intellectuals he fought have, to a large extent, triumphed. The Thomas More and the Thomas Cromwell of <em>Wolf Hall</em> are adequate reflections of that. Hers is indeed a story for our age. But it is not history.</p><p class="text">&nbsp;</p><p class="text"><em><strong>This article is co-published with <a href="http://www.historyandpolicy.org/opinion-articles/articles/wolf-hall-history-and-her-story">History and Policy.</a> </strong></em></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Richard Rex Wed, 25 Feb 2015 10:30:21 +0000 Richard Rex 90764 at https://opendemocracy.net Why is the government putting health watchdogs on the leash of ‘promoting economic growth’? https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/jen-persson/why-is-government-putting-health-watchdogs-on-leash-of-%E2%80%98promoting-economic-growth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="FreeFormA"><span style="line-height: 1.5; font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">Lord Tunnicliffe asked in Parliament on November 20, 2014:&nbsp;</span><em>“are these new clauses a licence for regulators to approve regulations that kill people to save money?”</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="FreeFormA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/XLEspz0mH8VigSqkYqAIRHBrC3RK6J6uO86qA_2tukE/mtime:1424853815/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Cameron_dog.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5hFsFNVreXqfwsBbEWanFTuPiP3Qidk1paQ4lfGtWG4/mtime:1424853634/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Cameron_dog.jpg" alt="" title="" width="350" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Health watchdogs, tamed? Credit: Uncyclopedia.</em></p><p class="FreeFormA"><span>Imagine an unsafe care home where children or the elderly are at risk.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Imagine its staff with fewer professional registration requirements than today.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Imagine the home could legally reject a Care Quality Commission call for changes, citing that to do so would harm the home’s “economic growth”.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Could this ever be reality, if this controversial </span><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0058/lbill_2014-20150058_en_9.htm#pb16-l1g91">clause 88(2) of the Deregulation Bill</a><span> becomes law?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>In bingo, the number 88 is jokily nicknamed ‘two fat ladies.’</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But this clause 88 could have serious implications across health and social care, affecting all of us - from preventing accidents and ill health; to safeguarding the use of human tissues, our reproductive health, and our medicines standards; and to the care standards we can all expect in our old age.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The Deregulation Bill has been </span><a href="http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/deregulation.html">in parliament for 18 months</a><span> and is in House of Lords for its final stages before the 3rd reading on 4 March. My bet is that few beyond their benches and MPs, have had their eyes down on the detail.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><strong><span>The Deregulation Bill - What is the very big bill all about?</span></strong></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The Deregulation Bill has had little coverage in the media though Richard Grimes addressed some of the concerns on </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/richard-grimes/bonfire-of-citizens-rights">openDemocracy in September 2013</a><span>.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The Deregulation Bill is as big and bloated in its content as its title is bland. But it has the potential to be a bombshell.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>It covers subjects as diverse as busking and the Breeding of Dogs Act. It includes changes to how the </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jan/31/secret-hearings-police-journalists-deregulation-bill">police can obtain confidential material </a><span>from journalists and provides a gateway to sell information from birth, death, marriage and civil partnership records.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Some changes in law will specifically affect the NHS; ‘Road traffic legislation: use of vehicles in emergency response’, and ‘NHS foundation trusts and NHS trusts: acquisitions and dissolutions’.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Other clauses affect services across the board, including the NHS. My ‘bingo clause’, Clause 88(2), is one of these. It creates a new legal duty for regulators to give regard to promoting economic growth.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The term ‘regulators’ covers a wide range of </span><a href="http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/focusonenforcement/list-of-regulators-and-their-remit/">organisations</a><span>. You might think of Ofwat responsible for oversight of water and sewage, or the Food Standards Agency, or Forestry Commission.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>It will also include all those in health and social care.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Ken Clarke MP, joint bill owner with Oliver Letwin MP, wrote in 2013:&nbsp;</span><em>“<a href="http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2013/07/ken-clarke-oliver-letwin.html">This is the beginning of a fundamental change in the culture of government. We think Reagan would have approved.</a>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“By putting a duty on regulators not to burden business with unnecessary red tape, it will help to ensure that every nook and cranny of Whitehall is relentlessly focused on growth.”</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Will the Deregulation Bill take a gamble with the public interest in our NHS health and social care provision through the ‘relentless’ duty to promote profit in Clause 88(2)?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Slimming down laws and the administration processes they affect, could be a very good thing.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Hunt of King’s Heath says of the bill as a whole: </span><em>“I’ve no problem trying to streamline the regulatory processes, that’s why we broadly support it.”</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But is Letwin and Clarke’s ‘relentless focus on growth’ going to mean compromise in worker safety, or in patient protection in the health and social care market?&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><strong><span>Clause 88(2): regulators to have a duty to promote economic growth</span></strong></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Hunt shared his key concern with clause 88(2), saying</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>&nbsp;“In earlier discussion with ministers it was made clear they have a preliminary list of 5 regulators that they consider [in health] would fall under the economic growth clause in the bill: The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Professional Standards Authority.&nbsp;</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“I cannot for the life of me, see why the health regulators are in there. I hope that the government will be able to take some, or all of them out.”</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Hunt </span><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0058/amend/ml058-III-Rev.htm">proposed an amendment</a><span> to ring-fence some of the health and social care regulators from the effects of Clause 88 (2).</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But the government did not support the amendment when it was debated on February 11. They promised merely ‘further discussion’.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>Lord Hunt asked:</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“The nub of the issue is ‘will this compromise their main regulatory function?’ I think it’s very ambiguous.</span></em><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“The health regulators are very unkeen on all of this. It’s pretty clear to me in discussions that they worry about the impact this will have.”</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>If the regulators long-standing duty to protect standards conflicts with their new duty to promote economic growth, how will it be decided which takes precedence?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><a href="http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/274552/14-554-growth-duty-draft-guidance.pdf">Summary guidance</a><span> on the deregulation bill states that the growth duty does not </span><em>automatically</em><span> take precedence over or supplant existing duties held by regulators, but what will that mean in practice?&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>One regulator that could be affected is Care Quality Commission. A CQC spokesperson said:&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“The Government’s response [...] said the duty does not set out how economic growth ranks against existing duties as this is a judgement only a regulator can and should make.</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“The quality and safety of services is the primary basis on which we will regulate, and take enforcement action where necessary to protect people who use services. We would not consider a new duty to promote economic growth to override this position.”</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But the government expects to see it make a difference. So what will that difference be?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>A Department for Business, Innovation &amp; Skills spokesperson said:</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“Regulators will be required to be transparent about how they are complying with the growth duty” and include details in their current reporting requirements.</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But will regulators also be less rigorous about requirements and imposing non-compliance regulatory penalties on companies, if a private provider could complain, citing this duty?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The Care Quality Commission is </span><em><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11021374/We-failed-elderly-because-we-were-too-scared-care-home-owners-would-sue-us-watchdog-admits.html">already<span> terrified of being sued by private health and care companies</span></a></em><span>, its Chairman David Prior recently told the Telegraph. It too often ‘backed off’ trying to close unsafe homes and ‘tended not to fight back’ when it was legally challenged, he said.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Will the ‘growth duty’ just be another stick for the private companies to beat the regulators into silence with?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which promotes worker rights and fairness, felt that: <em>“applying this growth duty to the EHRC poses a significant risk to the EHRC’s independence, and therefore to its compliance with the Paris Principles [its duties under EU equality law].”</em></span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>There are other aspects to the Bill too that could have damaging outcomes. Social care is to become less regulated by scrapping the need to register staff with Ofsted.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Baroness King of Bow said in the Lords debate on November 18th: </span><em>“There is a feeling in the [social care] sector and indeed elsewhere that there has been quite simply inadequate debate around these very serious and important issues.”</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><strong><span>Are these changes in the public interest?</span></strong></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>A year ago in February 2014, MPs in the House of Commons, Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Edwards, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn MPs </span><a href="https://www.nuj.org.uk/news/nuj-backs-reasoned-amendment-to-deregulation-bill/">proposed the removal of this clause putting a duty on regulators to promote economic growth</a><span>, saying:</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>..." this Bill represents a race to the bottom and an obsession with GDP growth at any cost which is not in the public interest."</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Of key concern is whether regulators will be inhibited from taking actions in the public interest because of the potential for legal challenge by private interests.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>If this sounds familiar, you may have heard similar language on deregulation in discussion of </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/linda-kaucher/eu%27s-giant-and-secretive-deregulation-blitz">the behemoth of deregulation playing in parallel internationally: the TTIP</a><span>, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>How are the consequences of these national and international deregulation changes inter-related? It is impossible to fully understand given the lack of public information available.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>If the aim of the deregulation bill is to streamline services and remove red tape it should be very clear what purpose will be served through the changes and what consequences will be unleashed as a result.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>But it seems that the government wants to get the bill through parliament first and leave the detail to be defined by secondary legislation afterwards - which does not have the same parliamentary scrutiny and discussion and is almost impossible to veto.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Hunt said:</span><em> “It’s a very unsatisfactory way of doing it, there’s no guarantees and the government can just produce and list and then change that at any time in the future.</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Hunt asked: “</span><em>it’s a very open ended piece of legislation and the thing to ask is will it inhibit these key health regulators in protecting the public?”</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><strong><span><span>Risky consequences?</span></span></strong></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Lord Reid of Cardowan in the Lords on February 5th said:&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“There are occasions during a ministerial career where, on study, what seems a relatively small decision becomes an obviously profound and very risky decision [...] having listened to this debate, I have the impression that this is one of them.”</span></em><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>The potentially harmful consequences of these changes demand greater public scrutiny.</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>Will this bill future-proof the regulatory protections of health, environmental, safety, and social care, and prioritise the public interest?</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>If instead a duty to profit should be put first, one day </span><a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141120-gc0001.htm">the words of Lord Tunnicliffe may come back to haunt us</a><span>:</span><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>“Are these new clauses a licence for regulators to approve regulations that kill people to save money?”</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><span>W</span><span>e may then look back to find why failings happened, look to this bill, and shout, ‘bingo!’&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span><strong>Footnotes</strong>:</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>The third reading is on 4 March and Lord Hunt has submitted an amendment to take out the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for Health and Social Care from being covered by the growth clause.</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>The importance of the regulation role of HFEA will be of particular importance in the upcoming <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/03/mps-historic-vote-three-parent-babies">mitochondrial donation debate</a>.</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA"><em><span>As the Bill is amended and re-written, clause numbers will change. Clause 88(2) was the number of the duty to promote growth clause on February 11 2015 in the House of Lords debate.</span></em></p> <p class="FreeFormA">&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="/ournhs/richard-grimes/bonfire-of-citizens-rights">A bonfire of citizen&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/linda-kaucher/eu%27s-giant-and-secretive-deregulation-blitz">The EU&#039;s giant and secretive deregulation blitz</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Deregulation Bill TTIP Jen Persson Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:42:47 +0000 Jen Persson 90813 at https://opendemocracy.net Language, populism and democracy https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ben-waite/language-populism-and-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ability and desire to rouse 'emotion' in the demos should not be left to right wing populists - language is critical to how people view and understand the world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/iVIXrMHyYYNdeW1zswPoq9a1FOMpkU7XhSj2XSM7SDI/mtime:1424353425/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/farage_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dYNm1M_tgvi-rg3xVhD7HlW7_c3TXouPg0SWP6w9qU8/mtime:1424349654/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/farage_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/European Parliament. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Today, across the western world, politicians are widely distrusted and even despised. The distance between peoples and their representatives in government is broad and many are simply turning away. Much ink has been spilt in trying to explain this phenomenon, but one issue that is greatly under-studied is the role of language. Many regard language and communication as little more than a veneer on the true substance of politics: the realms of policy and ideology. I want to argue here, however, that language lies alongside these two as part of the fundamentals of politics and, more urgently, to the functioning of democracy.</p> <p>In the late nineteenth century, the academic Ferdinand de Saussure revolutionised the study of linguistics, giving it a central role in our understanding of the social world. He suggested that language is characterised by an important schismatic relationship between the ‘signifier’, the collection of sounds or characters which form a word or sign and the ‘signified’, the concept or object which appears in the mind as a result. Saussure claimed that this relationship is not fixed, but formed as the result of social interaction. As an everyday example, mentioning the word ‘football’ would conjure up different concepts depending on one’s cultural surroundings, say in Europe versus the United States. The arbitrary and potentially contestable nature of ‘signs’, in this sense, makes the formation of language and meaning itself something that is <em>political</em>. </p> <p>Theorists have taken this insight in interesting directions since. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe have argued that politics is frequently shaped by language<a href="#_edn1">[i]</a>. Here, ‘free-floating signifiers’, or words that can be imbued with a different meanings, are the site of political contest, crucial for asserting ideological dominance. Thus, the term ‘freedom’ was employed in the 20th century in a wide range of emancipatory struggles like the civil rights movement, but later became a clarion call for conservatives like Margaret Thatcher, who preached&nbsp; individual self-realisation in the face of government interference. Furthermore, language is in many ways responsible for <em>creating</em> social realities. Words are employed to create understandings of social phenomena which can differ and therefore shape thoughts and actions in a variety of ways. Psychologists describe this concept as ‘framing’ and have demonstrated its effect in countless experiments<a href="#_edn2">[ii]</a>. If an instance of violence such as a public shooting were to occur in London tomorrow, the behaviour of the police, the government and my neighbours would depend heavily on whether the incident was defined as that of a terrorist attack or of an act of simple criminality. As another example, our attitudes toward welfare are shaped by whether we think of the recipients as ‘scroungers’ and ‘chavs’, or rather as ‘working-class’ or ‘the poor’. At the most extreme, Orwell’s concept of ‘Newspeak’ in the novel <em>1984</em> warns how dominance over vocabulary and semantics can be a tool for social and ideological control over the downtrodden ‘proles’.</p> <p>Language affects politics in many respects therefore, but it is arguably most crucial in the functioning of democracy. The ability to suggest, persuade, counter-argue, satirise and the like can only be accomplished by employing language in a way that appeals to other citizens. Today, the majority of the population in many Western nations do not often engage with mainstream politics in an active way, or take an interest in policy dilemmas<a href="#_edn3">[iii]</a>. This means that the speeches, writings and news clips of politicians constitute the vast majority of their contact with democracy in the day-to-day world. If we say, generously, that 20% of the population have an active interest in political processes and policy, then for the very vast majority, their decision-making in conventional political matters will be shaped overwhelmingly by these forms of communication.</p> <p>Politicians are certainly aware of this. Language is largely subsumed in the concept of ‘personality politics’, which has a central role in electoral strategy. Vast amounts of time and effort are spent on cultivating the public images of political leaders and crafting the minutiae of their communications. However, the unfavourable light in which most of them are viewed suggests that something is going very badly wrong. Two key reasons stand out here. The first is the approach to 24-hour news media and to the rise of social networks. ‘News management’ is something that all front-line politicians and their teams are very well versed at. This approach to interviews and public events attempts to bend the short-term news agenda to portray the protagonists in a favourable light and focus on a particular message they want to reinforce. In practice, it tends to involve circumvention of questions, ‘non-apology apologies’, carefully prepared leaks or blatant band-wagoning in ways that make the politicians seem dishonest or evasive and leave the public mistrustful.</p> <p>&nbsp;The second reason includes within itself the first and is a reflection of the zeitgeist in which we live. Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel has argued that in the last thirty or so years, many western states have undergone a transformation from having market economies to becoming market societies, as the market has become the ideal agent for organising not only economic, but political, social and personal activity<a href="#_edn4">[iv]</a>. A range of entities and activities have been re-shaped according to business principles and not surprisingly, there has been a growing tendency for political language and communication to appear like marketing or PR activity. Politicians must ‘compete’ ably in the ‘marketplace of ideas’, with the result that politicians attempt to ‘sell’ themselves in a variety of synthetic situations. A photo-opportunity here, a new catchphrase there and a baby-kiss thrown in for good measure are seen as key vote-winners. In the UK, we have heard ad nauseam that ‘we are all in this together’ or that we are living through a ‘cost of living crisis’, depending on the tribal colour of the speaker.&nbsp; Psychologically, these communicative techniques are important in pushing a message. The psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe explains that keywords and actions can act as ‘underlying frames of association’ (previously discussed) which provoke ‘a powerful emotional charge, provoking a gut response’, that often trumps rational thinking<a href="#_edn5">[v]</a>. However, the messages put across are all too frequently turned into transparent attempts at vote-getting. The rejection by voters of the messages such as those above further reflects our existence in a society in thrall to market values. Many people simply view the politician as a self-interested ‘rational actor’, whose overriding focus is his own gain and that his message has little purpose beyond this goal. The general public are subjected to vast amounts of advertising in their everyday lives and consequently learn to filter it. The politician’s message, as an act of marketing, can expect to receive as much attention as the generic actress’s telling us about the wonders of some or other laundry detergent. The PR-news management approach to communication of today lacks the elegant simplicity of the art of rhetoric studied and practiced by the likes of Aristotle over two thousand years ago<a href="#_edn6">[vi]</a>. He argued that effective communication relied on making best use of the available means of persuasion, paying careful attention to key issues concerning the audience and the effect of emotions. Though his text may not have a wide following, his approach does have successful practitioners today.</p> <p>The most obvious are the wide variety of populists from across the political spectrum who have seen a huge rise in their fortunes in the recent past. There are some, like Russell Brand or Beppe Grillo, who reject mainstream politics and its corrupting nature. Separatist movements in Scotland and Catalonia have gained momentum. And hard-right organisations like the Front National under Marine Le Pen and UKIP under Nigel Farage have enjoyed electoral success. These individuals or groups have highly disparate ideologies, but are linked by their ability to communicate effectively and connect with the public on matters that are important to them. They have won support by talking frankly about matters of key importance: inequality, corruption in politics, the unresponsiveness of central government or multinational bodies, or the perceived threat to cultural identity posed by immigration. The success by far-right groups in many European nations in employing simple, forthright communication to push the latter issue demonstrates how easily such practices can be employed for illiberal means; in this case stoking hostile feelings towards Muslims and Eastern European migrants.</p> <p>Mainstream politicians have regularly derided these groups as mere populists, making the term a pejorative. However, the political successes they have achieved not only electorally, but in shaping the political agenda, means that these insurgents are no longer ignored. The key lesson they give is that rationality by itself will not bring political success, however much we may wish it. Whether it is rhetoric or sophistry, language that appeals to latent emotions and values is a powerful tool.</p> <p>Ed Miliband recently derided the ‘triviality, superficiality and artificiality’ of modern-day politics, citing the need for ‘principle’ to trump ‘posturing’<a href="#_edn7">[vii]</a>. Yet he and his peers need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of language and communication beyond their current approach if the mainstream parties are to remain relevant. Language <em>will</em> shape our democracy in the future. It may do so in a direction that embraces the path of humanity, tolerance and pluralism, or one that forges a politics of difference and division. Much will depend on who harnesses it best.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ednref1">[i]</a> Laclau, E &amp; Mouffe, C; (2001) <em>Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics</em>, <em>Second Edition</em>; London: Verso</p> <p><a href="#_ednref2">[ii]</a> See Kahneman, D; (2012) <em>Thinking, Fast and Slow</em>; London: Penguin.&nbsp; Also Pinker, S; (2008) <em>The Stuff of Thought: &nbsp;Language as a Window into Human Nature</em>; London: Penguin</p> <p><a href="#_ednref3">[iii]</a> See Mair, P (2013) <em>Ruling the Void: The Hollowing Out of Western Democracy</em>; London: Verso.</p> <p><a href="#_ednref4">[iv]</a> Sandel, M; (2012) <em>What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets</em>; London: Allen Lane</p> <p><a href="#_ednref5">[v]</a> Verhaeghe,P (2014) <em>What About Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society</em>; London: Scribe</p> <p><a href="#_ednref6">[vi]</a> Aristotle; (1991) <em>The Art of Rhetoric</em>; London: Penguin</p> <p><a href="#_ednref7">[vii]</a> Hodges, D; 'Ed Miliband's Attack On Political Cynicism Is The Most Cynical Thing I've Seen In Years '. <em>Telegraph Blogs</em>. From http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100281415/ed-milibands-attack-on-political-cynicism-is-the-most-cynical-thing-ive-seen-in-years, 2014. Retrieved 29/1/2015.</p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Ben Waite Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Ben Waite 90651 at https://opendemocracy.net Beyond our shores: Europhobia and the BBC https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/jamie-mackay/beyond-our-shores-europhobia-and-bbc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The BBC has been attacked from all sides about its European coverage. How it responds will have consequences far beyond the newsroom.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-right"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 09.33.03.png" alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> Title credits for ‘The Truth about Immigration’, 2014</em></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Euroscepticism in Britain continues to thrive and will be one of the most heated topics in the run-up to this year’s general election. </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.opinion.co.uk/article.php?s=european-attitudes-towards-the-eu-britain-stands-out#http://www.opinion.co.uk/article.php?s=european-attitudes-towards-the-eu-britain-stands-out">A poll conducted by WIN/Gallup at the end of 2014</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> indicated that if a referendum were held now 51% of the public would vote to leave the EU. The reasons for this are diverse, ranging from democratic critiques of Brussels’s nefarious institutions to hysterical anxieties about immigration, the latter of which have notoriously tended towards racism.</span></p> <p>In a climate of intense cynicism towards transnational governance a large chunk of the English language media has reflected an idea of Europe as it is presented by the Westminster elite, as something <em>intrinsically</em> opposed to the sovereignty of Parliament and, by extension, the people of Britain. Following in the footsteps of the politicians - from the Lib Dems to UKIP - journalists have made frequent mistakes, conflating Europe with the EU, the Commission with the Troika and, most gravely, freedom of movement with unchecked immigration. By and large it has been a sham debate.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the centre of this conversation, and first to take the blame for all national shortcomings, is the BBC, an institution that continues to exert considerable influence over public opinion. MP’s have <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/jan/27/eu.bbc#http://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/jan/27/eu.bbc">long been complaining about an apparently “pro-EU bias” on the part of the organization</a> but in recent years this has gone beyond mere grumbling. Tony Hall has been <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2910254/BBC-chief-Lord-Hall-locked-stand-Commons-refusing-answer-questions-MPs-peer.html#http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2910254/BBC-chief-Lord-Hall-locked-stand-Commons-refusing-answer-questions-MP">summoned on multiple occasions to answer the questions of the European scrutiny Committee</a> on the basis that the institution presents an ‘unintentional pro-European bias’. The DG has repeatedly refused to attend such a meeting, controversially exploiting his position as a Lord to avoid doing so (if he were not a peer this would constitute a criminal offence). Hall’s stance has been condemned by many within and outside the institution but was supported by the Trust who reiterated that such a process would “threaten the BBC’s independence in the run up to the election”.</p> <p>Last month Hall <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11377167/Lord-Hall-agrees-to-appear-before-MPs.html#http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11377167/Lord-Hall-agrees-to-appear-before-MPs.html">u-turned on this hardline stance and publicly declared his intention to meet with the committee</a>. No reason was given and no statement was made. The timing of this announcement though – just three months before the vote - raises some uncomfortable questions about the relationship between the state and broadcaster: What kind of pressure is the BBC under from government beyond the saber rattling of Eurosceptic politicians? What information, or <em>data</em>, is the BBC privy to which is kept from the general public? What is the real link between the coming elections and Britain’s future in Europe? Hall’s dance with Westminster represents more than a tension over ‘balanced reporting’. It is indicative of the BBC’s changing relationship with the British state and indicative of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/brian-winston/what-do-you-do-with-problem-like-%E2%80%98news%E2%80%99#https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/brian-winston/what-do-you-do-with-problem-like-%25E2%2580%2598news%25E2%2580%2599">the central role its news coverage plays in the operation of Britain’s informal constitution</a>.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Biased coverage and the power of ‘big names’</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The BBC’s current European materials are split between wonkish statistics on the one hand and manipulative populism on the other. There are in-depth resources such as <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11710563#http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11710563">the online blog ‘Inside Europe’</a> which is comprehensive, with extensive detail about everything from policy debates to spending reviews. The archive is clear and concise, detailing both the successes and failures of EU legislation without much in the way of spin. For those blessed with Buddhistic patience this dense analytical material is supplemented by <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/europe/#http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/europe/">a livestream of the European Parliament</a>, which can be found on the website’s politics section. The content which most people encounter however – and that which is prioritized in scheduling - lacks any of the rigour that characterizes this dedicated European section. Far from ‘liberal-left’, as the organisation’s opponents in parliament have accused, the content that is aired on the most popular media (TV or radio) tends to be explicitly anti-European.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MHplEJgevqM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>The most publicized documentary of last year, <em>The Truth About Immigration</em>, for example, was characterized by a kind of elite conjunctivitis, privileging voxpops by Nigel Farage and Jack Straw over 'inconvenient' facts (<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-24813467#http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-24813467">migrants to Britain make a net contribution and are less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain</a>). Throughout the programme Nick Robinson, the organisation's political editor, delivered a<span style="line-height: 17.7272720336914px;">&nbsp;compelling narrative about 'waves', 'invasions' and 'our shores' with</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;no mention of imperialism, class or, most importantly, capitalism which remains a dirty word for the organisation. Despite this, other senior figures including Jeremy Paxman, Helen Boaden and John Humphreys anticipated such criticism and were vocal in calling-out the BBC’s ‘leftwing’ bias, bizarrely singling Europe and its “ideal” as evidence of this (there is of course little that is ‘left’ about Europe). The latter, bear in mind, is the presenter of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/may/26/behind-scenes-today-radio-4#http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/may/26/behind-scenes-today-radio-4">Britain’s most influential radio programme.</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It is this kind of subjective and emotive framing – by ‘trustworthy’ <em>celebrities</em> - which stands in for critical debate in exactly the places where the objective information on ‘Inside Europe’ is needed. This is even more important in the context of official political debate. In the showdown between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg before the European elections last May, for example, there was no context given for the conversation and the agenda was allowed to run according to the paranoid logic of the tabloid media (with immigration and border checks dominating the discussion). It was apparent from the acceptance of these terms - and Farage’s subsequently <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/03/farage-wins-round-two/#https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/03/farage-wins-round-two/">inevitable victory on YouGov</a> - that most people knew little about what was at stake in the discussion.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This point says much about how Europe is understood within the BBC at large - either as an evil beast threatening the cultural purity of ‘our shores’ or else something to be hidden away and left for the technocrats to brood over. Meanwhile, the European Parliament is almost never shown on the prime-time news or analysis shows like Newsnight despite the fact that debates there have at least as much relevance to the British public as those happening in Westminster. <a href="http://www.precariouseurope.com/power/the-new-europe-may-leave-ttip-behind#http://www.precariouseurope.com/power/the-new-europe-may-leave-ttip-behind">Take TTIP, for example, which will determine whether corporations are able to sue governments on the basis of threatening their profits</a>. Or the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9375822/European-Parliament-rejects-ACTA-piracy-treaty.html#http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9375822/European-Parliament-rejects-ACTA-piracy-treaty.html">Acta law, which MEPs recently voted against in an unparalleled defence of freedom and creativity on the internet</a>. These are just two examples of stories that deserve to be looked at alongside the ‘more important’ issues of finance and immigration. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How does the BBC compare with other PSBs?</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It is important to note that on this latter point the BBC is distinct from public broadcasters in other European nations. In Italy, for example - a country hardly renowned for its open democratic media - debates in Brussels and Strasbourg are covered daily, often with extensive (if frequently superficial) commentary. <a href="http://www.europa.rai.it/#http://www.europa.rai.it/">RAI media, the public service broadcaster, has been particularly fastidious in detailing the alliances among different parties</a>,&nbsp;which on the BBC are presented as sideshows to the ‘main actions’ of the ECB, while TTiP has been a regular topic for panel discussions on 'Ballaro’, the national equivalent of Question Time. In the run-up to Juncker’s appointment as President of the European Commission too livestreams were broadcast day and night from Brussels featuring interviews with leaders and civil society groups from across Europe. This is one of the most corrupt media organisations in Europe, but it is defiantly international in its scope.&nbsp;</p> <p>The situation is similar in Spain <em>despite</em> the fact that the public service broadcaster there is actively and openly entwined with the state. The unambiguously right wing and nationalist TVE has several <a href="http://www.rtve.es/television/europa/#http://www.rtve.es/television/europa/">dedicated radio and television</a> programmes, which aside from panel discussions host in-depth documentaries and investigative stories about the political culture in Brussels. Despite the politics of its management (Pablo Inglesias and Podemos representatives were notoriously banned from appearing for a number of months) the broadcaster nonetheless occupies a European identity through the <em>range</em> of its concerns, covering everything from the refugee crisis to radical and anti-state protests in Greece and Italy. In the end, despite the conservative narrative in which these stories are embedded, the European lens itself can be seen as positive for democracy - and it is surely significant that Podemos remain the most popular party in Spain despite the propaganda being deployed against them.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The BBC by immediate contrast appears isolationist, and despite hosting occasional debates about Podemos or The Five Star Movement, or emotive features about shipwrecks at Lampedusa, those looking for actual <em>information</em> are forced back to ‘Inside Europe’ or to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/correspondents/gavinhewitt/#http://www.bbc.com/news/correspondents/gavinhewitt/">Gavin Hewitt’s personal blog</a> (which focuses mainly on hard economics and personality politics). European polity, as a civic space, seems not to exist. The minimal treatment of EU democracy in turn means that other parts of the organization seem as much in the dark about what goes on as the majority of the public. The Newsnight report on Syriza’s victory in the Greek elections is a perfect example. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMMHKoj66cs#https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMMHKoj66cs">Not only did Emily Maitlis fail to position the elections in an appropriate historical context, against the brutal dictatorship of New Democracy, she even pandered to a Fox News version of the new government as some uncompromising behemoth, baying for blood.</a> The Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was left speechless in the face of this sheer ignorance: “I’m a great BBC fan, but I’ve never listened to such an inaccurate report”.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>British exceptionalism and the ‘constitutional moment’ </strong></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Whether by design or as the result of structural pressures, the BBC’s editorial decisions reflect and perpetuate the idea that the UK is somehow ‘exceptional’ in its relationship to Europe. Contrary to the accusations of ‘liberal internationalism’ the BBC is an active component in the continuation of a certain kind of paranoid nationalism; a fact which might legitimiately be seen to compromise the organization’s ability to provide adequate coverage of EU issues. It is true of course, and it should be reiterated, that the broadcaster has been confined to intervene in a political climate that is itself remarkably poor. One might even say that in the absence of any conversation about an ‘alternative Europe of the left’, or a left Euroscepticism, the BBC has had </span><em>no choice</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> but to position UKIP as its main coordinate in the Europe debate.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The allure of such an argument is particularly unfortunate from a democratic perspective as another function of a European lens - aside from that of holding Brussels to account - is to provide a more general template through which to observe Britain’s own nationalist idiosyncrasies (those which underpin the the nationalism's of both UKIP and the current government). This was a point that emerged with force in the run-up to last year’s Scottish independence vote and was </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre#https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">put particularly well by Adam Ramsay</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in his comparative analysis of European demography. Britain, </span><em>is</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> exceptional, just not in the way that its own nationalists have tended to emphasise:</span></p> <p><em>[It’s ] Britain that is the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerry-hassan-the-fourth-most-unequal-country-in-the-world-1-2178654"><em>fourth most unequal</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>developed country on earth, in which&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23655605"><em>pay has in recent years fallen faster than in all but three EU countries</em></a><em>, in which people work the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/dec/08/uk-employees-work-third-longest-hours"><em>third longest hours</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>in Europe for the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.oecd.org/social/soc/47723414.pdf"><em>second lowest wages in the OECD</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>despite having Europe's&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/jul/19/uk-housing-costs-third-highest"><em>third highest housing costs</em></a><em>, </em><a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/uk-rail-fares-highest-europe-2673718"><em>highest train fares</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>and the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.itv.com/news/story/2013-10-25/fuel-poverty-energy-david-cameron-government/"><em>second worst levels of fuel poverty.</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>It's Britain which has the least&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/shortcuts/2012/jun/27/why-british-children-so-unhappy"><em>happy children in the developed world</em></a><em>, the </em><a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/health/britain-s-big-slide-gives-it-western-europe-s-worst-infant-death-rate-1-805598"><em>highest infant mortality rate in Western Europe</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>and&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/uk-warned-that-youth-unemployment-is-public-health-time-bomb-waiting-to-explode-8913672.html"><em>some of the worst child poverty</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>in the industrialised world. It's British elderly people who are the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/money/pensions/more-than-1-in-5-british-pensioners-at-risk-of-poverty-7827985.html"><em>fourth poorest pensioners in the EU</em></a><em>. It's Britain which has the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2285531/Hourly-pay-rates-women-Britain-FIFTH-lower-men-doing-work.html"><em>eighth biggest gender pay gap in Europe</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>and child care costs&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2147489/Childcare-cost-British-parents-pay-times-families-Europe.html"><em>much higher than most European countries</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p><em>It's Britain which has&nbsp;</em><a href="http://presstv.com/detail/280688.html"><em>a wealth gap twice as wide as any other EU country</em></a><em>, </em><a href="http://reidfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Dysfunction1.pdf"><em>Europe's greatest regional inequality</em></a><em>, productivity&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f0eb7394-2043-11e3-9a9a-00144feab7de.html"><em>16% behind the average for advanced economies</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>and the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://reidfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Mismanagement.pdf"><em>worst record on industrial production of the rich world</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p> <p>These are shocking statistics and demonstrate in clear-cut fashion that Britain’s problems do not stem from the EU alone. The level of inequality, for example, can be traced to a string of <em>national</em> neoliberal policies and particularly the gusto with which the political elite has embraced the mantra of privatization, as James Meek outlines <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/05/private-island-why-britain-now-belongs-to-someone-else-james-meek-review#http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/05/private-island-why-britain-now-belongs-to-someone-else-james-meek-review">in his encyclopedic <em>Private Island</em></a>. Why, for example, can Germany have free higher education and Britain one of the highest tuition fee costs in Europe? Why does Germany invest in high-quality social housing and Britain doesn't? If the BBC was to emphasise <em>these</em> case studies, objective truths, rather than relying on the emotive misinformation of its key figureheads the culture of debate surrounding Europe would be significantly higher. This would not constitute bias – i.e. prejudice against a group or position – but the introduction of vital information into one of the nation’s most significant debates. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">UKIP’s popularity is grounded in the attractive claim that ‘bringing sovereignty back’ will resolve Britain’s problems on its own. Without </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention#https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">major constitutional reform</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, of course,</span><em> </em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">this will achieve nothing more than the consolidation of the elite into a new configuration, with no guarantees against corporate power, state surveillance or the excesses of financial capitalism. Surely it is the BBC’s responsibility to make sure </span><em>these</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> arguments are heard. The British public is Eurosceptic largely on the basis of a perceived ‘invasion’ by migrants when what is really at stake is the democratic illegitimacy of both Westminster and Brussels. As UKIP seeks to force public discontent inwards, towards an archaic of the nation-state, the BBC at the very least has a responsibility to reframe this problem in a wider European context, of which the UK is only one part.&nbsp;</span></p> OurBeeb Can Europe make it? OurBeeb OurKingdom Jamie Mackay Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Jamie Mackay 90688 at https://opendemocracy.net What’s happening to my local GP? Carrots, sticks, and the long game of NHS privatisation https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/bob-gill/what%E2%80%99s-happening-to-my-local-gp-carrots-sticks-and-long-game-of-nhs-privatisation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Behind yet more spin of 'more power to GPs', the scary truth is of a profession being steadily dismantled to make way for the unfettered free market.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/rbRpRI91DQIQdrdm3--VvAN5v2SNmd76qbgly3hTa54/mtime:1424779670/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/bob2015.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Hz8bU8oUaoMkP8i-7dR7pXui5C2pyskwy3hMGImDQ5Y/mtime:1424779160/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/bob2015.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Dr Bob Gill. National Health Action Party &nbsp;</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The NHS needs </span><a href="http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/implementing-nhs-five-year-forward-view"><span>‘fundamental changes’</span></a><span> to save it from ‘disaster’, the Kings Fund told us last week (as they seem to most weeks). New NHS plans mean GPs ‘will deliver more integrated services in the community’, they tell us. GPs already have lots of ‘autonomy’ and can embrace ‘disruptive innovation’, be more ‘flexible’ over payments, take on new ‘leadership’ roles, and ‘collaborate’ better with a wider range of ‘providers’, including (it is left implicit) private healthcare corporations. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The Kings Fund seems to be living in a parallel universe. As a GP, I see my colleagues having lost autonomy, morale and now income to such an extent that they are leaving in droves - clearing the way for the private sector. And what’s caused this fundamental disaster now rapidly unfolding in General Practice? The pro-private sector policies pursued by politicians for decades. Policies that the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/gary-walker/kings-fund-suggests-nhs-fees-but-is-it-really-independent">once highly respectable Kings Fund</a> now promotes as effectively - if more circumspectly - as more obviously right-wing ‘think tanks’ like the <a href="http://www.rcpjournal.org/content/12/2/128.full.pdf+html">Adam Smith Institute have done for years</a>.&nbsp; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span><span>How the private sector is usurping what your GP used to do</span></span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since taking over a small family practice on the London and Kent border, I have endured multiple reforms imposed on general practice. The reforms have been cleverly crafted and spun using the privatiser’s favourite language of ‘patient choice’. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In 2004 New Labour’s </span><span>GP contract </span><span><a href="https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/true-history/">allowed GPs to give up responsibility for organising out of out of hours care</a> by paying £6000. Already overworked, the vast majority of GPs did so - having been given the impression that the service would be provided by already long-established co-operatives of GPs sharing the work. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But the old GP co-operatives have found themselves side-lined in favour of the corporates, who know how to play to </span><span>new</span><span> the new ‘tendering’ system. By employing fewer doctors and favouring </span><span>cheaper</span><span> less qualified staff, they can undercut established NHS services. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There have been some alarming results. Virgin was <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/04/nhs-watchdog-virgin-care-croydon-hospital">heavily criticised</a> by the quality watchdog the CQC for allowing unqualified receptionists at an urgent care centre to assess patients. In Cornwall, Serco was found to have had only one out of hours GP on duty to cover a county of 532,000 people at one point, and to have <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9913780/Disgraceful-Serco-falsified-GP-out-of-hours-figures.html">falsified</a> their data rather than admit patients were regularly waiting far too long as a result. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But it’s not just GP’s out of hours role that is being increasingly usurped by the private sector.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The New Labour ‘reforms’ also changed the system of GP employment. From the outset of the NHS, </span><span>most</span><span> GPs had been classed as ‘independent contractors’ - an integral part of the NHS family, trained in the NHS, paid by the NHS and part of the ethos of public service. This arrangement remains, for now, but now the numbers working as salaried GPs were significantly boosted. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Sold as allowing doctors to practice without the headache of running a practice, this was in fact another entry point for the corporate profiteers. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Not only did GPs not have to run practices - now, you didn’t <em>have</em> to be a GP to run a practice. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Private companies </span><span>for the first time could </span><span>instead employ salaried doctors to run practices and skim off profit for their trouble. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And they moved in fast<a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f4f87ba6-26c5-11df-bd0c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3RwcLnlmF">. Virgin acquired</a> a 75% stake in Assura Medical in 2010 serving a population of over 3 million patients. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>These changes dealt a blow to the continuity of care for patients as private providers like United Health </span><a href="http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/gps-lose-out-on-apms-contracts-despite-scoring-higher-than-private-firms/10970653.article#.VOb8xvmsVGM"><span>bid low to win contracts</span></a><span> and then sold off or </span><a href="http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/news/private-firm-closes-flagship-gp-practice-in-north-london/13395610.article#.VOb8nvmsVGM"><span>closed down GP clinics</span></a><span> that </span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-29893453"><span>weren’t profitable enough</span></a><span>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The new funding arrangements also removed the ‘principal allowance’ which was paid dependent on how much time GPs personally offered for direct contact with patients. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Some ‘entrepreneurial’ doctors exploited the new system too, delegating their clinical work to others, pocketing large incomes without having to spend much time seeing patients. &nbsp;We began to see headlines about </span><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-468874/Rise-250-000-GP-half-figure-salaries.html"><span>‘fat cat’ GPs</span></a><span>, a useful by-product in </span><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2885730/GPs-money-patient-care-really-blame-dawn-queues-outside-health-centre.html"><span>demonising the profession</span></a><span>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span><span>How to make GPs compliant - the carrot…</span></span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Practice income was significantly boosted with the introduction of performance related pay through the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) in 2004. &nbsp;High achievement on reaching multiple clinical targets for controlling long-term conditions such as high blood pressure could add up to more than 20% in practice income. Some commentators believe the Government underestimated how well GPs would do with QOF. For a while, GP morale and recruitment improved - the latter <a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/report/nhs-pay-modernisation-new-contracts-for-general-practice-services-in-england/">up by 4,000 in 5 years</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But something else had changed. GPs were being incentivised to perform tasks for which there was little scientific support. They were <a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4298">encouraged to over-prescribe and over- investigate</a>. With this came an erosion of professionalism and an acceptance of managerialism. GPs were being driven by targets rather than what the patient wanted. And consultations were contaminated with the need to collect data which we diligently trawled for and recorded, little suspecting this would be handed over to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries several years down the line <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/19/nhs-patient-data-available-companies-buy">through the care.data scheme</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The compliant GP workforce was being unwittingly softened up to play their role in the next key step of privatisation - a huge extension of ‘commissioning’, ie the parcelling up of NHS services to be sold off to the lowest bidder. The phoney buying and selling of services between different parts of the NHS had already been established, its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/billions-of-wasted-nhs-cash-noone-wants-to-mention">bloated bureaucratic infrastructure</a> ready for the logical transition to an external market open to all comers. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>When it came, the transition - under the Health &amp; Social Care Act 2012 - was daringly disguised as ‘giving power to GPs’, as it closed down the previous local NHS commissioning bodies (Primary Care Trusts) and replaced them with even less accountable ‘Clinical Commissioning Groups’ decorated with a few GPs on the board. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Often it was the same few entrepreneurial GPs who had flourished under GP contract changes and off-loaded their patient care to others, who were ready to take up the challenge (and income) of ‘Clinical Commissioning’. Lacking the necessary skills to actually scrutinise ‘commissioning’ decisions to dismantle acute hospital services themselves, they read </span><span>from</span><span> the scripts written for them by the army of expensive management consultants and accountants - merely increasing </span><span>the success of </span><span>the deception on their GP colleagues. Blatant conflicts of interest were no barrier to these costly and unnecessary consultancies swallowing up <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11282888/NHS-spending-on-management-consultants-doubles-under-Coalition.html">hundreds of millions of pounds</a> previously destined for patient care. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong><span><span>…and the stick</span></span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Having now established Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to give hospital cuts and closures the cloak of local clinical endorsement, politicians no longer need GP compliance. Now political attention turns to the destruction of traditional primary care. The operation of a free market finds it most inconvenient to have </span><span>expensive and independent minded </span><span>GPs as the main healthcare gatekeepers, </span><span>obedient as the vast majority </span><span>of them are to higher laws than profits (such as professional ethics and the Hippocratic Oath). So General Practice is now being dismantled through a combination of regulation, funding squeeze, privatisation and propaganda that lowers morale and recruitment. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Changes to QOF have meant have made points (and therefore income) harder to attain. The proportion of total NHS spending on primary care has <a href="http://www.rcgp.org.uk/news/2013/november/patient-care-compromised-as-funding-for-general-practice-slumps-across-the-uk.aspx">steadily fallen despite more work being done in surgeries</a> as a result of government imposition and cuts to hospital services. Fragmentation, privatisation and cuts make services increasingly hard to access for patients - and for their GPs, now often subject to tightly managed ‘referral limits’ on their patients imposed from above. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>GPs are blamed for increased pressure in casualty departments, conveniently forgetting the impact of government policy on hospital closures and bed reductions. The corporate heist of Out of Hours care, particularly the dumbed down 111 service which replaced doctors with computer based algorithms, has been a <a href="http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/commissioning/commissioning-topics/urgent-care/rise-in-ae-attendances-caused-by-nhs-111-emergency-medicine-leader-claims/20008914.article#.VOJ-HfmsWSo">disaster</a>. Seven day working for GPs is being pushed as the remedy but this will merely damage morale and recruitment further. Being a GP becomes even less attractive for young doctors, and senior GPs look for a way out. Bring on <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28896625">the ‘doctor’s assistant’</a> and more momentum behind surgery closures. The soul destroying bureaucratic burden is worsening as a new CQC inspection regime increases administrative burden and stress on overstretched practices. Requirements are being ratcheted up to <a href="http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/your-practice/practice-topics/regulation/200-gp-practices-face-closure-under-cqc-inspections/20008036.article#.VOTJ7vmsWSo">destabilize smaller practices</a>. CCGs are being given the power to ‘performance manage’ the mass closure of local surgeries deemed unsuitable for one arbitrary reason or another. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The mood music from NHS policy makers is to have practices merge or ‘federate’ leading to consolidation onto fewer sites. None of this is backed up by evidence or necessity. The ground is being prepared for further corporate takeover, perhaps disguised yet again </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2015/feb/19/nhs-five-year-forward-view-clinical-staff-support"><span>as ‘GP-led consortia’</span></a><span>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The unsuspecting majority of general practitioners struggle to cope with the day to day job and find it difficult to contemplate quite what is happening around them. Our medical leaders show little desire to shed light on the devastation facing primary care. True to form they follow and react rather than lead and prepare. Meanwhile those still left at the coalface are, for now, resigned to struggle on providing care the best they can for as long as they can cope. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>We are slowly but inexorably drifting closer to the death of traditional general practice which provided convenient high quality care and effective gatekeeper role to specialist care. This major strength of the NHS was both cost-effective and professionally satisfying. It is being replaced by a </span><span>highly profitable </span><span>American style system which excludes many, is vastly more <a href="http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/fund-report/2014/jun/1755_davis_mirror_mirror_2014.pdf">expensive and wasteful whilst returning worse outcomes for patients</a>. &nbsp;It does not provide continuity of care or strong preventive medicine, and trust between patients and health professionals is low. US medicine is a commercial transaction focussed around profit maximisation not patient care. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Successive governments have effectively deployed a minority of doctors to help with the destruction of hospital services, erosion of quality and access for patients to vital services. The public and NHS staff have been betrayed by carefully selected and often handsomely rewarded ‘leaders’. </span></p><p><span>The majority of </span><span>UK family doctors, familiar, trusted and local, with knowledge of you and your loved ones will be a thing of the past. And who better to deliver this vision but Simon Stevens, head of NHS England and former UnitedHealth executive. His ten years of experience at the largest health corporation in the world and his stated intention to <a href="http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/commissioning/commissioning-topics/secondary-care/corner-shop-gps-should-expand-and-employ-hospital-consultants-says-nhs-england/20008108.article#.VOKMV_msWSo">replace the outmoded ‘corner shop’ model of primary care</a> should leave the attentive in no doubt of our final destination.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><span>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/donate" target="_blank"><strong><span>here&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em><span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/david-wrigley/jeremy-hunt%E2%80%99s-rose-tinted-spectacles">Jeremy Hunt’s rose-tinted spectacles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/deborah-colvin/more-competition-medicine-now-its-your-gps-turn">More competition medicine - now it&#039;s your GP&#039;s turn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/david-zigmond/autoasphyxiation-who%E2%80%99ll-stop-market-suffocating-nhs">Autoasphyxiation - Who’ll stop the market suffocating the NHS?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/david-zigmond/nhs-england-2014-vichy-france-1941">NHS England 2014: Vichy France 1941</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/paul-hobday/what-doctors-know-in-england-and-in-america">What doctors know - in England and in America</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/jonathan-tomlinson/what-might-trip-to-your-gp-look-like-in-future">What might a trip to your GP look like in future?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/david-wrigley/gps-aren%27t-private-companies-but-private-takeover-is-nearing">GPs aren&#039;t private companies - but the private takeover is nearing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Bob Gill Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:07:29 +0000 Bob Gill 90797 at https://opendemocracy.net When Irish Travellers die in British prisons https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/damien-walshe/when-irish-travellers-die-in-british-prisons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Inside and outside prison, Travellers have particular vulnerabilities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/fA4kPxCQwUEJKNdahZf3iMBc8thFlfF4udyK_SBCe54/mtime:1424775093/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/pooleyTRAVELLERS_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="By Owen Pooley for Voices Unheard, A Study of Irish Travellers in Prison, Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, 2011"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/78c79swfPkktcf4etSxKVVEvvOZbf0okWRMihY-SfkA/mtime:1424774362/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/pooleyTRAVELLERS_0.png" alt="" title="By Owen Pooley for Voices Unheard, A Study of Irish Travellers in Prison, Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, 2011" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By Owen Pooley for Voices Unheard, A Study of Irish Travellers in Prison, Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, 2011</span></span></span></p><p>A prisoner badly missed his family. Every night he called home on a mobile from his cell, said goodnight to his children. Prison staff found the mobile, confiscated it and disciplined the prisoner, known as Mr A. He obtained another mobile, it was confiscated, he got another. The prison’s head of security allegedly told Mr A that if he didn’t tell them how he was getting the illegal phones he wouldn’t be allowed to see his family. </p> <p>During one search Mr A allegedly assaulted an officer. He spent the night in the segregation unit. Mr A, who had a history of self-harm, told another prisoner that he was very upset, finding it hard to cope. Later he was found hanged in his cell. </p> <p>Mr A was an Irish Traveller. His story features in a report published last month by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman,&nbsp;<span>Nigel Newcomen,&nbsp;</span><span>who investigates deaths in custody in England and Wales. (You can read the report&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.ppo.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Traveller-deaths-news-release-_2_.pdf">here</a><span> in PDF).&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“All prisoners are affected by the separation from their family,” wrote the Ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen. “For Travellers, this separation is often a particularly difficult aspect of imprisonment. Travellers are highly family orientated, often marrying young and having large families. Although not all have nomadic lifestyles, Traveller families often do not have landline telephones, resulting in extra cost to call a mobile. Irish Travellers, in particular, are more likely to have family in the Republic of Ireland. This combination of factors can lead to&nbsp; expensive calls to mobiles charged at an international call rate. The effect separation can have, and the distress it can cause, is illustrated by the case of Mr A.” </p> <p>The Ombudsman’s report makes a series of suggestions about how to improve prison life for a minority ethnic group which is marginalized both outside and inside prison walls. </p> <p>Who are Irish Travellers, what are the factors that lead to their relatively high incarceration rates and what are the specific issues that need to be tackled in order to reduce their vulnerability in prisons? </p> <h3>Who are Irish Travellers? </h3> <p>Irish Travellers are an indigenous nomadic ethnic group with a long established past in Irish history dating back to before the 12th century. There are approximately 40,000 Travellers on the island of Ireland, almost 15,000 in Great Britain and 10,000 in the United States. Travellers have a long shared history, cultural values, language, customs and traditions make them a self-defined group, and one which is recognisable and distinct from non-Travellers (often referred to as “settled people” or “country people” by Travellers). Their culture and way of life, of which nomadism is an important factor, distinguishes them from the sedentary (settled) population.</p> <p>Traditionally Travellers played a vital role in an agrarian society, as seasonal labourers, tinsmiths, Bards, poets, providing services as needed to a settled rural population. Closely connected to their extended families, travellers were nomadic for part or all of the year, reflecting different family patterns and trades.</p><h3><span>Irish Travellers and incarceration rates</span></h3><p><span>Travellers, as individuals and as a group, experience a high level of prejudice and exclusion in Irish society and in the UK. </span><a href="http://www.academia.edu/4416258/Anti-Traveller_racism_in_Ireland">A study</a><span> by Ireland’s </span><a href="http://www.esri.ie/#/">Economic and Social Research Institute</a> <span>back in 1986 revealed &nbsp;that Travellers “fare poorly on every indicator used to measure disadvantage; unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, health status, infant mortality, life expectancy, illiteracy, education and training levels, access to decision making and political representation, gender equality, access to credit, accommodation and living conditions.”</span></p> <p>The <a href="http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/all-ireland-traveller-health-study">All-Ireland Traveller Health Study</a> in 2010 identified a gap in life expectancy between Traveller women and settled women of 11 years. Between Traveller men and settled men the gap was 15 years. The suicide rate for Travellers is six times the rate of general population and accounts for approx 11 per cent of all Traveller deaths. </p> <p>Socio economic factors have long been cited as one of the key contributing factors in the over-imprisonment of minority ethnic groups, specifically in relation to the increased risk of poverty, unemployment and educational disadvantage. </p> <p>Travellers represent less than one tenth of the population in Ireland yet according to the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study Traveller men are between five and ten times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population. Traveller women face a risk of imprisonment as much as 18 to 22 times higher than that of the general population. </p> <p>Research by Con Mac Gabhann for the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain revealed that just over half of offences involving Travellers in Britain relate to unlawfully obtaining property, compared with less than a third for all prisoners. Mac Gabhann’s research (<a href="http://www.irishchaplaincy.org.uk/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=81554">PDF here</a>) suggests that the main causal factor for Traveller incarceration was in order to provide for a family. </p> <p>Much of the marginalisation of Travellers from the settled population results from loss of common lands and the fundamental differences in how sedentary and nomadic people view land use. These differences were exacerbated by rapid changes to Irish society in the 1960s including the mechanisation of farming, the cheap availability of plastic and rapid industrialisation, which proved to have huge consequences for Travellers. These changes resulted in the loss of defined roles which not only provided income and status for Travellers within Irish society but also supported nomadism as an expression of identity. </p> <p>From the 1960s onwards, many Travellers, like many settled people, moved en masse from rural areas to urban centres in search of work in jobs where they lacked skills. Traveller families living in camps in cities and towns were viewed as “problems” which, to use the parlance of the government’s 1960-1963 Commission on Itinerancy, would be solved through “absorption” into Irish society. The policy was to &nbsp;restrict opportunities for nomadism and permanently “settle” Travellers. </p> <p>State policy focussed not on the needs of Travellers and how best they could be supported to build on their skills to provide for themselves and contribute to society, but on a misguided approach, at best a paternalistic charitable model, at worst a deeply racist one, which viewed a nomadic way of life as an anachronism and provided charity and welfare, not education and jobs. </p> <p>This approach that limited expectations for Travellers in education solely to their receiving religious sacraments condemned many Travellers to further dependency on welfare, charity and intergenerational unemployment and propelled some into lives of crime.</p><h3>Lessons to be learned</h3> <span>The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s report makes a number of important recommendations, stressing the need for accurate data on the number of Travellers within the prison system and the need for targeted supports.</span> <p>Prison staff should be aware of the increased risk of suicide among Travellers, especially in light of anti-Traveller racism and intimidation within prison. The Ombudsman’s comments on the need for Travellers to be represented within prison equality groups probably does not go as far as needed —&nbsp;there are plenty of models of good practice of Traveller peer support, as led by the Irish Chaplaincy. </p> <p>This Ombudsman’s report is timely. <a href="http://www.lizacostello.com/research-portfolio.html">Liza Costello</a> interviewed ten former prisoners the Irish Penal Reform Trust report, Travellers in the Irish Prison System&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span><span>published in May 2014&nbsp;</span><span>(</span><a href="http://www.iprt.ie/files/IPRT_Travellers_Report_web.pdf">PDF here</a><span>). From that report there emerged a new coordinating group, led by the </span><a href="http://www.ssgt.ie">St Stephen’s Green Trust</a><span>, with Traveller organisations, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service, Ireland’s health services and the Irish Penal Reform Trust to come together to develop a workplan to improve outcomes for Travellers in prison and their families.</span></p> <p>In both jurisdictions, work by Prison services to develop culturally competent services could reduce Traveller vulnerability in prison and ultimately reduce recidivism for Travellers.</p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><h3><span>References:</span></h3><ul><li><span>1. Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Learning lessons bulletin: Fatal incident investigations issue 7: </span><em>Deaths of Travellers in prison</em><span> (January 2015)</span></li><li><span>2. Anti-Traveller racism in Ireland, ESRI, July 1986, </span><a href="http://www.academia.edu/4416258/Anti-Traveller_racism_in_Ireland">Paper no. 131</a></li><li><span>3. Pavee Point: </span><em><a href="http://www.paveepoint.ie/resources/our-geels-all-ireland-traveller-health-study/">Our Geels: All Ireland Traveller Health Study</a></em><span> (2010)</span></li><li><span>4. Mac Gabhann, C (2011) </span><em><a href="http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2138">Voices Unheard: A Study of Irish Travellers in Prison</a></em><span>, the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain.</span></li><li><span>5. Costello, L (2014) </span><em><a href="http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2624">Travellers in the Irish Prison System: A Qualitative Study</a></em><span> IPRT/SSGT &nbsp;&nbsp;(</span><a href="http://www.iprt.ie/files/IPRT_Travellers_Report_web.pdf">PDF here</a><span>)</span></li></ul> <p><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="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/suicide-murder-despair-coalition-government-makes-its-mark-on-prisons">Suicide, murder, despair. Coalition government makes its mark on prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/juliet-lyon/rising-suicides-and-assaults-more-punitive-regimes-less-rehabilitation-no-pri">Rising suicides and assaults, more punitive regimes, less rehabilitation. No prisons crisis?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Care and justice Shine A Light Damien Walshe Tue, 24 Feb 2015 10:03:01 +0000 Damien Walshe 90789 at https://opendemocracy.net The winning preamble for a written constitution in the UK https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ourkingdom/winning-preamble-for-written-constitution-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The winning introductory preamble for a written constitution from the competition hosted by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Recently the&nbsp;Political and Constitutional Reform Committee&nbsp;ran an open <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/pcrc-preamble">public competition</a> to find who can write the best Preamble – or introductory statement – for a modern Written Constitution for the UK. We are delighted to announce that Richard Elliot, a DPhil student at Jesus College, Oxford, was selected as winner in the public category.</p> <p>His Preamble reads,</p> <p>United, we stand in celebration of the diverse voices that make up the great chorus of our nation. Confident in our individuality, and steadfast in our shared values and common purpose, we—the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—have come together in the spirit of self-determination in order to establish the principles of our law and governance.</p> <p>By this act, we create for ourselves a sovereign state, animated by many spirits, accountable to all. Conscious of the responsibility that we bear to future generations—and of their role in defending and regenerating this Constitution—we lay down maxims crafted to promote civic harmony, mutual tolerance, universal wellbeing, and social and political freedom.</p> <p>We embody these ideas in democratic government, and enshrine them in a system of law. And we empower each citizen to reform this design, by democratic process and political debate. By popular mandate, we establish this Constitution:</p> <p>To recognise every citizen as an equal partner in government—at a local, regional, and national level.</p> <p>To affirm that each citizen is entitled to fair and equitable treatment under the law.</p> <p>To establish the principle of equality of opportunity for all citizens.</p> <p>To eradicate poverty and want throughout the nation.</p> <p>To protect and cultivate community identities within the four great countries of the union: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.</p> <p>To preserve our common environment, and to hold it in trust for future generations.</p> <p>To safeguard freedom of thought, conscience, and assembly; and to facilitate peaceable dissent.</p> <p>And to protect these fundamental rights against the encroachment of tyranny and the abdication of reason.</p> <p>Through this undertaking, we remind one another of the benefits and duties of citizenship enshrined in membership of the United Kingdom, challenging ourselves to enact these principles throughout society.</p> <p>Let our example stand as an inspiration to the peoples of the world, and to their rulers and their governments.</p> <p>Let our principles animate our dedication to peace and justice in international affairs.</p> <p>And let our united resolve grow ever-stronger under the enlightened auspices of this Constitution.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>To see an alternative Preamble, submitted my openDemocracy’s Anthony Barnett, click <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/opening-up-new-british-constitution">here</a>.</em></p> <p><em>This post is part of our&nbsp;<a href="http://politicsinspires.org/special-series/great-charter-convention/">Great Charter Convention</a>&nbsp;series, hosted in collaboration with Politics in Spires, IPPR and the University of Southampton.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</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://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom A written constitution? Great Charter Convention OurKingdom Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 OurKingdom 90564 at https://opendemocracy.net The Saatchi Bill is internally inconsistent and must be scrutinised in the Commons https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-hills-jos%C3%A9-miola/saatchi-bill-is-internally-inconsistent-and-must-be-scrutinised-in <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Bill claims to both protect patients and also prevent doctors fearing litigation - clearly, it cannot achieve both. One must come at the expense of the other, and it's patients who are going to lose out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/medicine.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/medicine.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/NVinacco. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Introduction</strong></p> <p>The Medical Innovation Bill, introduced by Lord Saatchi and commonly referred to as the “Saatchi Bill”, has passed the House of Lords and is about to be debated in the House of Commons.</p> <p>Lord Saatchi <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/10024231/I-was-a-desperate-lover-trying-to-save-his-love.html">has been confident</a> of his aim for the Bill: “I intend to cure cancer, you see. I mean to do it. I expect to do it.” The reason we do not have a cure for this and other diseases, he asserts, is because doctors are prevented from innovating by restrictive law and the fear of litigation. He intends to alter the law to remove that fear, while preserving patient safety.</p> <p>However, the Bill has met strong criticism, including observations that it is <a href="http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s35832/Letter%20from%20the%20Minister%20for%20Health%20and%20Social%20Services%20to%20HSC%20Committee%20-%20January%202015.pdf">unnecessary</a>, that it <a href="http://www.serjeantsinn.com/ImageLibrary/Medical%20Innovation%20Bill.pdf">misunderstands the law</a>, that it <a href="http://bma.org.uk/-/media/files/pdfs/working%20for%20change/policy%20and%20lobbying/bmaresponselegislationencouragemedicalinnovation.pdf">jeopardises patient safety</a>, that its scope is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/nov/19/saatchi-bill-medical-innovation">so broad</a> that it would cover treatment for any condition, however minor, even if effective treatments already exist, and that it may “<a href="http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045%2814%2971139-8.pdf">strike at the heart</a> of evidence based medicine” and undermine clinical trials. For these reasons, it is opposed by virtually every major medical, medical protection, patient and research organisation, including the <a href="http://www.gmc-uk.org/GMC_response_to_proposed_legislation_to_encourage_medical_innovation___April_2014.pdf_56053559.pdf">GMC</a>, <a href="http://bma.org.uk/-/media/files/pdfs/working%20for%20change/policy%20and%20lobbying/bmaresponselegislationencouragemedicalinnovation.pdf">BMA</a>, <a href="http://www.themdu.com/~/media/Files/MDU/Publications/Consultation%20responses/MDU%20response%20to%20consultation%20on%20Medical%20Innovation%20Bill.pdf">MDU</a>, <a href="http://www.medicalprotection.org/uk/casebook/casebook-september-2014/medical-innovation-bill">MPS</a>, the <a href="http://www.aomrc.org.uk/general-news/medical-innovation-bill-house-of-lords-third-reading-23-january-2015.html">Academy of the Royal Colleges</a>, the <a href="http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/stellent/groups/corporatesite/@policy_communications/documents/web_document/wtp057760.pdf">Wellcome Trust, the MRC</a> and <a href="http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/2014-11-13-doctors-sign-letter-of-opposition-to-medical-innovation-bill">Cancer Research UK</a>.&nbsp; Now the National Assembly for Wales have <a href="http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgDecisionDetails.aspx?IId=11886&amp;Opt=1">unanimously rejected it</a> as well.</p> <p>As opponents of the Bill ourselves, we believe that each one of the above criticisms should mean – if it worthy of any further parliamentary time at all - that the Bill is subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny. However, there is a distinct possibility that it will pass through the Commons during its second reading on 27th February and then into law, unless at least one MP objects. </p> <p>In this article, we argue that this fast-track passage would be inappropriate. We do so not by reference to any of the criticisms already noted, even though each would be sufficient basis on its own, but because of a hitherto under-recognised issue in relation to the Bill.&nbsp; Essentially, the Bill contains an internal inconsistency that is so fundamental that, structurally, it does not work – even on its own terms. The two pillars on which the Bill rests - removing the fear of innovation from doctors and patient safeguards - are mutually exclusive in the way they are constructed in the proposed legislation. Thus, if it has one protection it cannot have the other.</p> <p><strong>The current law – <em>Bolam</em> and <em>Bolitho</em></strong></p> <p>Anyone following the Bill will no doubt be familiar with the current law, and a lengthy description is outside the scope of this article but, in essence, in order to win a case in negligence the plaintiff must demonstrate that the doctor has not acted ‘reasonably’. This has a two-part test. First, the court will assess whether the doctor has acted in a way that other doctors might have done in the same circumstances. This is the <em>Bolam</em> test, which ascertains whether such a body of medical opinion exists. The second step is to ask, if there is such a body, whether the evidence presented by it can withstand logical analysis. This is the test in <em>Bolitho</em>. If the doctor can provide evidence from such a body, and it can withstand logical analysis, then the doctor <em>cannot </em>be liable in negligence. If she is unable to provide evidence then it is open to the judge to find liability, although this is not compulsory as the judge can still find that the doctor acted reasonably in the circumstances. The test is well known, and well tested in the courts.</p> <p><strong>What Does the ‘Saatchi Bill’ Do?</strong></p> <p>The Bill states that, for departure from “the existing range of accepted medical treatments”, a doctor is not negligent so long as the process described in the Bill is complied with. In other words, it provides immunity from liability in negligence and indeed any professional requirements, but only if the <em>process</em> is followed. It is then described as containing safeguards to protect patients being treated under the bill.</p> <p>Therefore, the Bill rests on two central pillars: peace of mind for doctors and safeguards for patients. In relation to the former, this is purportedly achieved by attempting to bring the question of liability forward so that it is determined <em>before</em> treatment. As the Bill’s website <a href="http://medicalinnovationbill.co.uk/the-present-law-is-not-clear/">notes</a>,</p> <p>[b]y following the process set out in the Bill, doctors can be confident that a decision to depart from standard practice will be upheld as responsible by the courts, the regulatory bodies and others.</p> <p>The Bill’s fundamental philosophy is that if it can move the determination of potential liability forward then doctors can innovate safe in the knowledge that they cannot be sued or disciplined later. Thus, the bulk of the Bill relates to the process that the doctor must undertake in order for the proposed innovative treatment to be labelled ‘responsible’ and the doctor consequently to be safe. This includes “obtaining the views” of at least one other doctor (s.1(3)(a)), taking “full account” of those views in a way that reasonable doctors would do (s.1(3)(b), obtaining consent from the patient (s.1(3)(c)), considering the patient’s views (s.1(3)(d)(i)) and risks and benefits of the proposed treatment (s.1(3)(d)(ii)).</p> <p>Note the conditional language: doctors must <em>obtain</em> views and <em>take them into account</em>, which falls short of requiring agreement, a point now <a href="http://medicalinnovationbill.co.uk/amendments-to-be-moved-on-report">admitted</a> by the Bill’s creators. Amendments to the bill aimed at resolving this point have all been rejected by Lord Saatchi or the government (supporting the bill), on the basis that the doctor being consulted should not be expected to take on a burden of responsibility for what is envisaged to be a very informal discussion, often without reference to details of the case or the patient’s notes. This informal level of oversight is intended to replace the tests in <em>Bolam</em> and <em>Bolitho</em>.</p> <p>Further, the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment must be ‘considered’, though there is nothing to specify the adequacy of that consideration: it requires mere consideration irrespective of the content of that reflection. According to s.1(2), if a doctor goes through this process then the treatment is deemed to be “responsible”, and the doctor is “not negligent”. In this way, the doctor is supposed to be reassured whether she is liable in negligence <em>before</em> treatment begins and need not fear litigation or professional sanction.&nbsp; It is designed to be easy to achieve, because innovation is assumed to be necessarily a good thing that is worthy of being encouraged, and the individual doctor <a href="http://medicalinnovationbill.co.uk/clarifying-the-law/">decides</a> which law applies to her when she makes the decision to treat.</p> <p>At the same time, patients have to be protected, and the second central pillar is that of patient safety. English law has long recognised the words ‘reasonable’, ‘responsible’ and ‘respectable’ as allowing courts to intervene: a body of opinion in support of the defendant can be defined as ‘unreasonable’, ‘irresponsible’ or ‘not respectable’, in acknowledgment of the normative nature of the words. This is the very basis of <em>Bolitho</em>. The Bill’s drafters have <a href="http://medicalinnovationbill.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Medical-Innovation-Bill-Briefing-Note-10th-June-2014.pdf">stated</a> that this robust system of judicial scrutiny will remain. They have highlighted the fact that the Bill’s own wording contains various references to ‘reasonable’ behaviour, and that the Bill states that it will only support ‘responsible’ innovation. However, the latter assertion is somewhat questionable, as the definition of ‘responsible’ in the Bill relates to the following of a set of procedural steps in deciding to treat, rather than an examination of the content of a decision (as <em>Bolitho</em> requires). The Bill’s <a href="http://medicalinnovationbill.co.uk/get-the-facts/">website notes</a> that once the process in the Bill is complied with (before treatment) there will be “no opportunity” for anyone to review the decision afterwards.</p> <p>In short, then, the Bill provides legal indemnity to doctors who fulfil its criteria for ‘responsible’ innovation. It does not do anything other than this. It does not seek to address any issues relating to access to treatments. Nor does it consider issues of funding. Indeed, it does not empower doctors to do anything that they cannot already do. This is problematic, given that while a fear of litigation has not been identified by any major organisation as being a barrier to innovation, the other factors mentioned above <a href="http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/stellent/groups/corporatesite/@policy_communications/documents/web_document/wtp057760.pdf">have</a>. It can therefore be said that the Bill seeks to solve a problem that does not exist.</p> <p>But, even more troublingly, the Bill is even unsuccessful in achieving its own aims.</p> <p><strong>The Problem With the ‘Two Pillars’</strong></p> <p>Eagle-eyed readers will already have noted the structural problem with the Bill as it is currently drafted, and it is so fundamental that it means that – even if the Bill addressed a genuine issue in an appropriate way - it is fatally flawed. Put simply, the two central pillars are constructed in a way that makes them mutually exclusive. The Bill claims <em>both</em> to settle the question of liability <em>before</em> treatment, <em>and</em> to allow judges to assess not just the process but the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141024-0001.htm#14102458000643">content of the decision</a> afterwards. But, of course, this is impossible. If we move the <em>Bolam</em> test forward so that the doctor can proceed knowing that she will not face legal sanction, then this actively precludes judicial scrutiny of anything other than the process involved in reaching the decision. Conversely, if the courts <em>are</em> able to assess the content of the decision after the fact, then no doctor can act secure in the knowledge that they are legally safe.</p> <p>In this way, we can see that the Bill cannot simultaneously provide peace of mind for doctors <em>and</em> safeguards for patients. Let's imagine a doctor follows the procedure set out in the Saatchi Bill: he consults a fellow doctor at the same practice, the doctor does not agree with the treatment, but after due consideration the doctor proceeds. The patient suffers harm as a result. Now, <em>if</em> that patient is able to sue retrospectively then clearly the Bill safeguards patients <em>but</em> it does not safeguard doctors. On the other hand, if the patient is <em>not</em> able to sue, then the Bill has safeguarded doctors but it has <em>not</em> protected patients. </p> <p>The question therefore arises: which pillar does the Bill prioritise? In our view, it clearly prefers protecting doctors rather than patients. Indeed, the concept of bringing the issue of liability forward was the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141024-0001.htm#14102458000643">intent</a> of the Bill. Moreover, it is important to remember that the basis of the Bill is the notion that the law impedes innovation, and therefore the purpose of the Bill is to free doctors from the law. This was reflected in the fact that, in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/medical-innovation-proposals-to-make-clinical-negligence-law-clearer">version of the Bill</a> sent by the Department of Health for consultation, doctors were explicitly “not negligent” even if they suspected or <em>knew</em> that there were no other doctors who would support the proposed treatment.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>There are two principal issues highlighted here. First, the Bill is internally inconsistent to the point of being fundamentally flawed in its construction. The patient safeguards <em>cannot</em> operate if the ‘key objective’ of moving the question of liability forward is achieved, and <em>vice versa</em>. Given that the point of the Bill is the protection of doctors, and the Bill is pointless if any other interpretation is adopted, we must conclude that the legislative intent is to prioritise doctors rather than patients. It remains to be seen what the courts will do, but this inconsistency necessarily means more litigation. This is already ironic in a Bill that is supposed to be about reducing litigation. It is fatal when one considers that <em>no</em> serious stakeholder – all of those listed in the opening paragraph of this paper and many others including the NHS Litigation Authority – is of the opinion that a fear of litigation <em>is</em> impeding innovation.</p> <p>Given this, we are moved to disappointment that this Bill has been allowed any parliamentary time at all, but note that it would be a tragedy if it were passed without the Commons giving it full scrutiny. We would ask MPs, in the strongest possible terms, to attend on 27th February and ensure that this scrutiny takes place.</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/david-hills/lord-saatchi-and-medical-anecdote-pr-machine">Lord Saatchi and the medical anecdote PR machine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anne-williams/maurice-saatchi-his-medical-innovation-bill-and-booming-%E2%80%98orphan-drugs%E2%80%99-mark">Maurice Saatchi, his Medical Innovation Bill, and the booming ‘orphan drugs’ market</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/david-nicholl/saatchi%27s-%27medical-innovation-bill%27-will-benefit-lawyers-and-charlatans-not-pat">Saatchi&#039;s &#039;Medical Innovation Bill&#039; will benefit lawyers and charlatans, not patients</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom ourNHS José Miola David Hills Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 José Miola and David Hills 90760 at https://opendemocracy.net It's no surprise Rifkind and Straw don't get it. Westminster's swimming in corporate influence https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/it%27s-no-surprise-rifkind-and-straw-don%27t-get-it-westminster%27s-swimming-in-cor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind can't see what they have done wrong because they swim in a sea of corporate influence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mUT4LKNjM3c76shMJFbqqbTzsUguhnKsc7ijbkSxQXQ/mtime:1424679088/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/David_Miliband%2C_Davos_2010.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6L9Qk67tG1yn--6PFhzU7C0bjGBCA5aamTPdg4jqFZs/mtime:1424678424/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/David_Miliband%2C_Davos_2010.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Miliband, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>For the right fee David Miliband will have dinner with you. A couple of years ago, that fee seems to have been <a href="http://www.totalpolitics.com/life/342847/expensive-taste-the-afterdinner-speakers.thtml" target="_blank">around £20,000</a> + (substantial) expenses. These days, it seems <a href="http://www.comedians.co.uk/profiles/david-miliband/" target="_blank">he only asks for £10,000 to £15,000</a>.</p> <p>I raise this because two of the elder Miliband's predecessors at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/investigations/11411007/Jack-Straw-and-Sir-Malcolm-Rifkind-in-latest-cash-for-access-scandal.html">got themselves into a bit of bother</a>, having been caught red handed offering to use the influence bestowed on them by the British electorate to advance the interests of a fictional Chinese firm in exchange for a significant sum of money. </p> <p>Jack Straw used the same defence as he did when the Guardian put to him <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/12/questions-jack-straw-cia-torture-report" target="_blank">serious questions </a>about his involvement in torture: that he had done nothing which was against the law. I am sure this is true. He may deserve to be in prison for his role in the Iraq War, but he's not stupid enough to commit more minor offences. Unless you're a fool, there are plenty of ways to amass a personal fortune from the office time and influence granted to you by your constituents without deviating one iota from the legislation you have a role in writing. </p> <p>For me, though, these scandals are interesting not because they highlight a few bad apples, but because they are a window into a whole world. There is no suggestion, for example, that any of David Miliband's dinner engagements have been with anyone particularly unsavoury, but yet they still leave a bad taste in my mouth.</p> <p>I suppose part of my concern is that I've seen the man speak. Despite what the papers always said, he's no more charismatic than his brother – by which I mean, he can tell a joke and string a sentence together, but it's nothing special. He's no Brown or Blair. Given this, why would a company pay more than £26,000 in total to have him at their event? Is it for the jokes, or for something else? Who would they sit him next to during the dinner? What conversation would they have over their starters? What questions would they ask?</p> <p>Influence is a complex business. It's about knowing how to put things, and who to put them to. The corridors of power are a maze. Westminster and Whitehall are like the internet without any search engines. With no guide, it's almost impossible to find what you need. Almost everyone gets lost. How much each of us can influence formal politics depends, therefore, partly on the access we have to those who know parliament best and so can give us a steer. </p> <p>If you want to know who to talk to about <em>this</em> government policy, or how to get <em>that</em> detail of law changed, then sitting at dinner next to a former foreign secretary would be very useful. Of course, none of this information is secret. There is no reason he shouldn't tell anyone who asks. It's just, not everyone has the opportunity to pose their question. Most people can't pay £20,000 to get to sit next to the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. </p> <p>Of course, it's unfair to pick on David Miliband. There are huge numbers of current and former politicians who will happily dine at your top table if you write them a vast cheque – Gordon Brown is said to charge <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/1096468/gordon-brown-earns-1-37m-on-top-of-mps-pay" target="_blank">£100,000 a night</a>, though his office say (and I don't doubt) that he doesn't pocket a penny of it, that it all goes to charity. And I've deliberately chosen the fluffy end of the scale. If we're looking for deals which stink even more, then we'd be talking about former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/milburn-nhs-and-britains-revolving-door" target="_blank">cashing in on</a> his own NHS privatisation schemes; those&nbsp;<a href="http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/over-60-mps-connected-to-companies.html" target="_blank">coalition MPs</a> with connections to private healthcare companies; or the fact that Tory MP and former whip Brian Wiggin <a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-a1c7-The-former-Tory-whip-cashing-in-on-privatised-welfare" target="_blank">is being paid £5k a year</a> by a company which got the contract to run privatised welfare benefits.</p> <p>But the harder ways in which our democracy is being auctioned off are only a small part of the problem. Because what really matters are the softer mechanisms – the ways in which those with lots of money find guides to navigate the complexities of the British state, the web of gentle influence which quietly ensures that British public policy never crosses certain lines, that the voices heard first, the people whose language MPs become accustomed to speaking, are at a certain end of the income spectrum. </p> <p>Perhaps the most remarkable thing when each of these stories breaks is that those who have done wrong seem <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31580374">not to understand where or that they have erred</a>. Like toddlers being told off for putting their fingers in the chocolate spread, they simply don't see what the issue is. This is because the story about Rifkind and Straw isn't so much a one off scandal as a system. The walls of Westminster are papered with corporate logos.</p> <p>Whether it's a black-tie dinner or a seat on an advisory board, if access to power can be bought, the rich will always be at the front of the queue. Oxfam recently predicted that the UK will soon be the <a href="https://twitter.com/oxfamgb/status/474448271596060672" target="_blank">most unequal country in the developed </a>world. Should we really be surprised?</p><p><em><strong>Stop corporate advertiser influence in the media</strong><strong>: <a href="https://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free/">contribute to openDemocracy today</a>.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/andrew-robertson/will-private-interests-of-peers-swell-vote-for-englands-health-bill">Will the private interests of peers swell the vote for England&#039;s health bill?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anne-williams/maurice-saatchi-his-medical-innovation-bill-and-booming-%E2%80%98orphan-drugs%E2%80%99-mark">Maurice Saatchi, his Medical Innovation Bill, and the booming ‘orphan drugs’ market</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Adam Ramsay Mon, 23 Feb 2015 08:08:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay 90744 at https://opendemocracy.net Development resistance threatens election upset in Devon https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/martin-shaw/development-resistance-threatens-election-upset-in-devon <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In one seat in the South West, the bookies list the main challenger is an independent. What's going on?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/N1OFmPf33HqO0Yp1VwY3xuzLgCsXQIRXncL4nY0f_5k/mtime:1423866179/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/East%20Devon.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8gt-eHhfBoewGhy8hJuW6YJ8cWuIplDa87if9BoEKQI/mtime:1423858194/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/East%20Devon.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>Claire Wright</em></p> <p>It is the unlikeliest place to look for evidence of Europe's new political turbulence. Forecasters agree that in South West England, the main issue in the May 7 General Election is between the two Coalition parties. Will the Liberal Democrats manage to cling on to their seats or will David Cameron's Tories take them, offsetting Labour gains elsewhere in England and Wales - which combined with the SNP's capture of Labour seats in Scotland will allow Cameron to remain in Downing Street?</p> <p>Certainly, the insurgent soft-racist party, UKIP, will advance a little here, but it is nowhere near to capturing seats as it may elsewhere. Likewise the 'Green surge' may conceivably work in regional capital Bristol, but there is no sign that rural constituencies will see strong Green advances. With the Lib Dems the fall guys of the UK's first coalition since the Second World War, sitting Tory MPs must be feeling complacent about their own returns to Westminster, even if the national outcome remains on a knife-edge.</p> <p>This will undoubtedly have been the case in the East Devon constituency, where the academic site <a href="http://www.electionforecast.co.uk/"><span>electionforecast.co.uk</span></a> projects national trends to give the Conservatives 40 per cent, Labour 16, the LibDems and UKIP 15 each and the Greens 7. However the site willingly acknowledges that local constituency-level knowledge is not included in its model, and <a href="http://lordashcroftpolls.com/"><span>Lord Ashcroft's programme of constituency polling</span></a> has also not reached here. </p> <p>It is therefore understandable that national media have so far overlooked a very English local insurgency which has produced a serious independent candidate, <a href="http://www.claire-wright.org/"><span>Claire Wright</span></a>, who aims to oust Tory foreign office minister, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Swire"><span>Hugo Swire</span></a>.</p> <p>Independent MPs are rarely elected in UK general elections, but the rare exceptions are often in safe Tory seats where (as here) both Labour and the Lib Dems are weak. In recent times, Martin Bell (a BBC reporter) toppled 'sleazy' Tory Neil Hamilton (now a leading UKIP figure) in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatton_%28UK_Parliament_constituency%29"><span>Tatton</span></a> in 1997, although when Bell stood down in 2001, the seat reverted to the Tories' George Osborne. Consultant Richard Taylor captured <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyre_Forest_(UK_Parliament_constituency)"><span>Wyre Forest</span></a> in 2001 on the back of a strong campaign to save Kidderminster’s hospital, holding it until 2010. </p> <p>Could East Devon be 2015's case? Wright is not a celebrity capitalising on a national scandal, as Bell was, nor does she have a single decision like Kidderminster's hospital closure to rally opposition to local Tory dominance <span class="im">(although local hospital closures are important issues, and Wright is part of a campaign against cuts in the Ottery St. Mary hospital).</span>. It might therefore be thought that her chances are slim. Yet she is building on very broad opposition to the ruling Tories on East Devon District Council (EDDC), widely perceived as a one-party state where developers rule - if not a hotbed of corruption (Tory Graham Brown was <a href="http://www.trinitymatters.co.uk/index.php/eddc-east-devon/item/130-councillor-in-councillors-for-hire-scandal-resigns"><span>forced to resign in 2013 in a ‘councillors for hire’ scandal</span></a>).</p> <p>Wright has a broad local base. A youthful district and County councillor, she came to prominence in a mass movement which brought 4,000 people onto the streets of the district capital and seaside resort of Sidmouth (population 14,000) in 2012, in protest against a development on open green space proposed by the EDDC. Already there was a scent of wider anger with a one-party regime on the council (the Tories have ruled <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Devon_District_Council_elections"><span>for 35 of the last 39 Years</span></a>). ‘Without the ventilation of change, the council has, some feel, begun to smell’, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/hands-off-our-land/9625012/Sidmouth-mans-the-barricades.html"><span>wrote the editor of </span><em><span>Country Life</span></em></a> at the time.</p> <p>Unlike most such protests which quickly fade, Save Our Sidmouth spawned a movement, the East Devon Alliance (EDA), which is now challenging for power on the council. EDA is aiming to contest at least 45 of the 58 council seats and end Tory rule. The election takes place on the same day as the general election and the Lib Dems have no chance of gaining control, while Labour and the Greens will be lucky to gain any seats at all.</p> <p>Syriza or Podemos, EDA is not. Yet this local movement of mainly middle-aged, middle-class southern English is one of many local resistances to the Tory-led Coalition's <a href="http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/planning/nppf"><span>National Planning Policy Framework</span></a>, widely seen as a property developers' charter, who are nationally united in the <a href="http://covop.org/"><span>Community Voice on Planning</span></a> (COVOP). </p> <p> Like the London tenants fighting the sale of their estates to developers, EDA contests the increasing bias of the British state towards property developers, local and international. The difference between EDA and other anti-developer resistance is that EDA, including several sitting independent councillors, is now challenging for district power. With implicit backing from the local press, EDA threatens a major upset in this quiet backwater.</p> <p>Without EDA's challenge to the local council, Wright's independent campaign might seem quixotic. Yet simultaneous local and national elections, with synergies between the campaigns, give her a chance. Bookies now have her <a href="http://www.oddschecker.com/politics/british-politics"><span>ahead of the Lib Dems and Labour</span></a>, and a respectable second place is clearly possible. Wright's challenge is to persuade Lib Dem, Labour and Green voters who will vote EDA in the local elections to also support her - while at the same time trying to eat away at the Tory vote.</p> <p>In what has been called Britain's most unpredictable election - as I write, electionforecast projects a mere one-seat Labour plurality over the Tories (283-282 in a parliament where 326 seats are needed for a majority) - clearly every seat counts. Experts expect wide variations between constituency outcomes, and East Devon is another to watch. They would also do well to take on board the significance of the local elections: in East Devon on May 8, the most likely change is an end to decades of Tory council rule.</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="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/left-collection-or-right-cluster-ed-miliband%27s-bumpy-road-to-downing-street">The left collection or the right cluster: Ed Miliband&#039;s bumpy road to Downing Street</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Martin Shaw Mon, 23 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Martin Shaw 90479 at https://opendemocracy.net Communities of resistance: resistance is not futile https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mike-aitken/communities-of-resistance-resistance-is-not-futile <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Understanding how neo-liberalism can be challenged by common and reciprocal action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>My essay looks at some of the activities undertaken by civil society and illustrates how these may be gradually co-opted by business practices. It considers this kaleidoscope of activities - including the work of community and voluntary organisations – as representing a ‘social commons’ that is under threat. At times civil society can offer resistance and alternatives to the current political orthodoxy, known as neo-liberalism, which is becoming pervasive around the world. This is an economic, political and cultural project that seeks to privatise public goods and common land, outsource welfare services and introduce competitiveness deeper into every aspect of our lives. It is operated by trade agreements, structures and terms of trade and governance. Citizenship and rights become challenged and conditional. </p> <p>Even civil society activities are affected by neo-liberal mechanisms. The activities within civil society can resist but the spaces are becoming smaller. This essay argues that ‘resistance is not futile’ and provides examples of different activities in the UK. Activist <em>practices</em> including: community organising, reciprocal working, commoning and conviviality can build spaces for relationships and learning. They offer ways of doing and thinking differently. This essay points out that even here there are attempts at colonisation by the dominant regime and argues for a strong defence of the social commons.</p> <p>You can read my essay on the TransNational Institute’s site <a href="http://www.tni.org/briefing/communities-resistance-resistance-not-futile">here</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>This article is part of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/localismwatch#0">LocalismWatch series</a>. </em></strong></p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Opinion LocalismWatch Mike Aitken Mon, 23 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Mike Aitken 90670 at https://opendemocracy.net Want more sex crime? Send more kids to jail https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorraine-atkinson/want-more-sex-crime-send-more-kids-to-jail <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sending children to prison may make them more likely to commit sexual offences in adulthood, Britain’s first independent review of sex behind bars has found.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vKTar5azHy3HAFrh2Pwlew7vW6ByOFY5ew_cuv5aOQ4/mtime:1424189166/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PORTLAND.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6W7TMw1MxCdrPWR-yzp9DdU7x0v0LXT3El2JHVmsgMQ/mtime:1424188052/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PORTLAND.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young Offender Institution, England (Andrew Aitchison andy@prisonimage.org )</span></span></span></p> <p>England and Wales lock up more children than any other country in Western Europe. Yet the impact of imprisonment can be extremely damaging to children and can compound problematic behaviour rather than prevent it. <a href="http://www.commissiononsexinprison.org">The Commission on Sex in Prison</a>, Britain’s first independent review of sex behind bars, has found that locking children in large prisons where violence is a daily occurrence is harmful to healthy sexual development and may increase the risk of violent and sexual offending in adulthood, leading to more, not fewer victims of crime.</p> <p>There are around 1,000 children in custody in England and Wales. Three quarters of the children locked up are held in prisons, large institutions with low staff-to-child ratios and high levels of violence. More than 2,600 children were received into prison custody during 2013.</p> <p>Prisons often hold around 200 boys. They are run by staff in uniform to a strict regime where security is the paramount concern. </p> <p>Children spend a lot of time locked in their cell during the day. Although the number of children in custody has been falling, the government plans to build a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/17/super-prison-children-ministry-justice-physical-punishment">huge new prison for children in Nottinghamshire which will hold 320 children</a>. Child experts and charities including the Howard League for Penal Reform have condemned plans to build one of the largest prisons in Europe for children and said it will endanger children and threaten public safety.</p> <p>The majority of children who end up in prison have experienced multiple disadvantage in their short lives. A third have been placed in the care of the local authority. Over a third have experienced abuse or neglect or been on the child protection register. One in twenty boys in prison has suffered sexual abuse. One in five has emotional or mental health problems. (There’s a note on sources at the end of his piece).</p> <p>A child psychologist told the commission that some young people in prison have had no positive care-giver experiences or role models during childhood. Many will have experienced overly harsh or inconsistent parenting or neglect. Some boys in prison will have been involved in gangs and some may have sexually exploited girls. The children who end up in prison have complex needs. Vast prisons, where a few staff are responsible for many children, cannot address all these problems or provide the therapeutic environment that these children need.</p> <p>There have been few studies on the impact of prison on the healthy sexual development of children. The British Medical Association looked at the <a href="http://bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2014/november/child-detention-bma-advises-doctors-on-how-to-stop-it">health and social needs of children in the criminal justice system</a> and found: </p> <p>“It is manifestly clear…that children and young people seldom thrive in the secure estate.”</p> <p>Studies have shown that locking children up in prison can delay or damage the normal maturation process. All children need opportunities to develop positive and appropriate social and sexual relationships with their peers. It is part of the normal developmental process that children go through in order to develop healthy relationships in adulthood. </p> <p>Yet children in prison are effectively precluded from this important stage of normal adolescent development. This can have a profound impact, limiting their ability to form healthy and positive relationships with others in adulthood.</p> <p><a href="http://www.commissiononsexinprison.org">The Commission on Sex in Prison</a> found that prison placed limits on adolescent development. Sexual expression was not permitted in prisons. Boys were disciplined by prison staff for masturbating, even though they thought they were masturbating in private. Boys in prison learnt to keep their sexual behaviour secret for fear of punishment. </p> <p>Relationships with other boys were not allowed and there were no opportunities for boys to develop relationships with girls. A child psychologist told the Commission that punishing children for normal sexual behaviours could evoke feelings of guilt or shame and might even increase the risk of sexual offending.</p> <p>Prisons are inherently violent institutions. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons found a third of boys felt unsafe in prison and a fifth had been victimised. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23248433">At Feltham prison in West London</a> there were on average two fights or assaults a day, including pre-meditated attacks on individual boys. At <a href="http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/30-weapons-found-in-young-25195/">Cookham Wood prison in Kent</a>, there were high levels of violence and a high use of force by staff including the infliction of pain to gain compliance.</p> <p>Evidence from the US has shown that there is a correlation between the way children are treated in custody and sexual victimisation.&nbsp; Evidence given to the <a href="http://ojp.gov/reviewpanel/transcripts.htm">review panel on prison rape in the US</a> suggested that if children in prison were controlled through coercion there would be a growth of other coercive behaviours such as sexual victimisation. Other studies have shown that exposure to violence was a risk factor for the development of sexual and non-sexual aggression among boys in prison.</p> <p>There has been little research on sexual violence in prisons in England and Wales. Neither the National Offender Management Service nor the Youth Justice Board were able to supply information on the number of official complaints about sexual abuse in custody for children. It would be complacent to assume that abuse never happens in child prisons. <a href="http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/prison_officer_admits_sexually_assaulting_inmate_at_suffolk_prison_1_213086">In 2010 a prison officer was jailed for sexually abusing a 17 year old boy</a> in Warren Hill prison in Suffolk. Over 900 adult men have come forward to report to the police that they were sexually or physically abused whilst held in Medomsley Detention Centre as boys in the 1970s and 1980s.</p> <p>Evidence from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the States found that children held in large prison facilities holding more than 100 boys were nearly five times more likely to report being sexually victimised than children held in small facilities holding less than 10 children. </p> <p>There are small secure facilities for children in England and Wales. They are not prisons but secure children’s homes, run by highly trained and well managed staff who are able to give children the education, therapeutic and behavioural programmes to meet their individual needs and prevent re-offending. They are also able to keep children safe.</p> <p>Large prisons with low staff-to-child ratios cannot keep children safe and may compound abusive patterns of behaviour. There is plenty of evidence to show that placing children in large prisons puts them at risk and can endanger lives as well as public safety. Building a super prison to hold hundreds of children is a retrograde step, is unnecessary and is a waste of money.</p><p><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><em>here&nbsp;</em></a><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong></p><p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><hr /><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <em>References</em> <p>The Commission on Sex in Prison’s fourth briefing paper, Healthy sexual development of children in prison, is <a href="http://www.howardleague.org/publications-prisons">here</a>.<span></span></p> <ul><li><em>“One in three girls and one in twenty boys who end up in prison have suffered sexual abuse.”</em></li><li><span>Lader, D., Singleton, N. and Meltzer, H. (2000) Psychiatric Morbidity among Young Offenders in England and Wales. London: Office for National Statistics.</span></li><li><em><br /></em></li><li><em>“Over a third have experienced abuse or neglect or been on the child protection register.”</em></li><li><span>Jacobson, J. et al. (2010) Punishing disadvantage: a profile of children in custody. London: Prison Reform Trust and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.</span></li><li><span><br /></span></li><li><em>“It is manifestly clear…that children and young people seldom thrive in the secure estate.”</em></li><li><a href="http://bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2014/november/child-detention-bma-advises-doctors-on-how-to-stop-it">Young Lives Behind Bars</a><span>, A British Medical Association Report, December 2014.</span></li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/lorraine-atkinson/let%E2%80%99s-talk-about-prisoner-rape-and-sex-behind-bars">Let’s talk about prisoner rape and sex behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/andrew-neilson/investing-in-failure-government%E2%80%99s-plan-for-youth-custody-in-england-and-wa">Investing in failure: the government’s plan for youth custody in England and Wales</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/al-aynsley-green/does-westminster-government-want-to-improve-youth-custody-or-not">Does the Westminster government want to improve youth custody, or not? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of-">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/frances-crook/our-youth-justice-systems-fatal-flaw-it-is-harming-children">Our youth justice system&#039;s fatal flaw: it is harming children</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Care and justice Shine A Light Lorraine Atkinson Mon, 23 Feb 2015 00:00:20 +0000 Lorraine Atkinson 90611 at https://opendemocracy.net From here to democracy, open letter to Ed Miliband https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/from-here-to-democracy-open-letter-to-ed-miliband <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour is promising British voters a muddled, demoralising way forward for democratic reform despite its leader knowing better, here is the solution.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Dear Ed, </p><p>I have written to you privately and now I am doing so publically, about how we govern ourselves. </p> <p>You are the only man who can promise and bring about the change our democracy needs and you are risking this opportunity for greatness by being far too calculating and prudent. You need to stand up and say, "Let's face it - we are all sick of this mess. This is not about a lot of small issues that can be fixed independently of each other. We have one big problem concerning our constitution. The word constitution can mean many things: a body of principles and practices for the governance of a state, for example; or a person's physical state, vitality and health. This is about our health as a country. Lords Reform, the place of Scotland, English Votes for the English, membership of the European Union, the Human Rights Act, securing our liberty and privacy, defending freedom of speech are all about one thing...&nbsp; and I and my party, plan to use this election to win this argument”. </p><p>Given the abuse directed at you, I should say I think you are capable of such boldness. You are the most consequential British opposition leader since Attlee insisted that Chamberlain step down in 1940. For some reason the media fail to point this out. When you became leader you defined the key issue as being the ‘squeezed middle’ - meaning the millions in work who are seeing their real incomes decline. I vividly recall John Humphries on the Today programme snorting his derision at a phrase he regarded as meaningless. Now it is understood as a matter of fact. You challenged the most powerful figure in British politics of the last 30 years, Rupert Murdoch, and his baleful authority collapsed. To the astonishment of the political class, you later faced down the Prime Minister and refused to allow our going to war in Syria. Normally, opposing belligerence is fatal for the opposition; instead President Obama followed your lead. As well as defining the economic terrain, toppling the mighty and shaping foreign policy, you have kept Labour relatively united. Tory Central Office would be eager for TV debates if you were as pathetic as they claim. The Farage bubble can be burst by publicity, but if voters see your ability to think and strength of purpose for themselves this might expose Cameron’s insincerity to devastating effect. </p> <p>You have expressed the will to renew British democracy. You can be sure that the public is not shivering at the prospect of change. We want a modern country and the British are wise and practical people. You are telling us you want to replace the House of Lords. You argue that we must confront the English question. You say these should be linked to a Constitutional Convention. You want to keep the UK in the EU. These policies do not add up to a story that makes sense. Bullet points are for think tanks: a manifesto needs a project (a good word that was sadly abused). To win an election you need to set out a national direction stronger than ‘becoming fairer’. </p> <p>I recall at first hand how Blair, Brown and Clegg talked about democracy and it proved a massive turnoff. All made Lords reform a talismanic element in their attempts to project themselves as radical. In the end they added to voters’ alienation and contempt as they saw through their maneuvers. </p> <p>Will you too end up repeating Gordon Brown’s efforts, where an exceptional grasp of the issues was undone by a disastrous inclination to play safe and try and ‘lead’ change from behind? </p> <p>My direct involvement goes back to John Smith’s leadership, when he asked me to help launch his far-reaching constitutional agenda, set out in his Charter 88 lecture in 1993. In direct response to a question from the audience, he explained he wanted a new constitutional settlement because, </p> <blockquote><p>Your criticism of Parliament is apt: Parliament is weak in this country… we do have an elective dictatorship. I've come to realise that. I used to myself believe in the sort of mysteries of the British Constitution. My experience… has caused me to change my mind quite fundamentally.</p></blockquote> <p>Tony Blair was Smith’s Shadow Home Secretary. He inherited and then pushed through most parts of John Smith’s reforms while rejecting an overall “new settlement” Smith advocated. This conveniently left Blair himself with even more unchecked executive power than Thatcher. When in 1999 I wrote and warned him that his approach was disintegrative, his Chief-of-Staff, Jonathan Powell, called back, summed up my argument saying “After us the deluge” and asked me to meet then Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine, who agreed the “The genie is out the bottle”. </p> <p>Today, we are now entering the deluge. North of the border the genie takes the form of the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon; to the south it is UKIP and Nigel Farage followed by the Greens who are surging out of the bottle. </p> <p>Only one response will work in these circumstances. Britain has to be offered a reform movement that measures up to the multiple nature of the issues with a coherent approach. You need to encourage the release of energy, link reforms together, and trust the public’s judgment. </p> <p>It is called democracy. Everyone who ‘knows how things are done’, even your shadow cabinet colleagues, will warn against it. But the time for an administrative approach to change is over. </p> <p>I’ll focus on the Lords, your proposed ‘Constitutional Convention’, UKIP and Europe. </p> <p>Imagine a well-briefed media interviewer (unlikely, I agree, but not impossible). It is the last week before the election. He or she presses you as to how your proposed Constitutional Convention might replace the Lords and renew democracy in Britain. You want to give a clear, inspiring answer, demonstrating your grasp of the issue and arousing a belief in change. But because the Lords and Commons are a single political ecology any proposal such as yours to <em>replace</em> the Lords will alter the role and proceedings of the other half of Parliament, namely the House of Commons itself. With what authority will your Convention be able to reshape the Commons? If your answer is that the Commons will finally decide, then as Clegg found, the result will be bollocks. Nobody can believe a political process that terminates in the miasma of Commons’ procedure is going to deliver democracy. On this potentially attractive issue you will lose not gain credibility.&nbsp; </p><p>Writing in the Observer, you explained the rise of UKIP in terms of social and economic factors. But it is also mobilising around the call to save our democracy from the unelected bureaucracy of Brussels. This has some credibility and must be addressed as such, not evaded. How can you demand that the British people be given the power to decide the way half of parliament works but cannot have a say about whether the EU should also be a legislative authority? How democratic is that? To reply by saying ‘I feel your pain as a marginalized working class community in peripheral zones especially along the coast’ is no answer at all. To then put yourself forward as a true democrat because you want voters to replace the unelected Lords when you won’t allow them a say on the unelected bureaucrats will be perceived as an insulting smokescreen, an attempt to divert attention from the more important issue. </p> <p>What you need to do is combine your approach into a single, sweeping call for reform. </p> <p>This should have two parts. Announce that if elected in May 2015 your first action will be to pass a European and Constitutional Reform Act. Explain that when Cameron proposed an In-Out referendum in 2017 after achieving reforms of the EU, this was a cynical contrivance. When he left the Tory benches for UKIP, Douglas Carswell blew Cameron’s cover and reported how Cameron’s team will fix the referendum and whole thing is “smoke and mirrors”. The Tory referendum is proposed in bad faith and will be conducted in bad faith. There is no future for Britain in any such an exercise, either way the outcome will be toxic. You are proud you opposed it.</p> <p>But something new has happened, as Farage, Carswell and UKIP receive significant support that rightly earns their party a place in the leaders’ debates. They may be wrong about Europe but they are sincere. UKIP’s call for a referendum is made in good faith. At least a third of voters genuinely want the real thing. This is why it generates such support. The necessary, democratic response must be ‘See you in the voting booth’. </p> <p>The European and Constitutional Reform Act will commit Britain to holding an In-Out referendum on Europe in September 2015. The Act to have two parts. First, a referendum on the simple principle of membership of the EU carried out on a national basis. The votes of each four parts of the UK to be counted separately, with none being obliged to either leave or stay in the EU against their wishes, by the decision of the others. Polls say only in England is there a chance of majority for leaving. Such a nation-based referendum will face the English, therefore, with a democratic reality. The cozy UKIP view is that they will resuscitate ‘Great Britain’ when the grip of Brussels is prised from our throat. It isn’t go to happen. A UK referendum that respects all the nations of the Union will confront the English with the fact that if they want to retain the UK this can only happen within the EU. </p> <p>Just as important in terms of confronting our malaise, if you think Britain <em>should</em> be in the EU you must have the courage of your convictions and let us decide. Anything else looks cowardly. Your concern about uncertainty is dealt with by holding it straight away. </p> <p>The second part of the European and Constitutional Reform Act will legislate that if voters agree to <em>remain </em>in the EU then a Constitutional Convention will immediately be convened to consider all aspects of the British constitution and how it should be codified. Please excuse detail here, my aim is illustrative, to make tangible the essential argument, not insist on any particular number. </p> <p>A Convention will draw together 400 people made up of 100 MPs, 100 elected leaders from the cities and counties of the UK, and 200 regular citizens selected by lot with representative proportions from all parts of the UK. Each group will be 50/50 men and women. The Convention will convene in January 2016 and have two years to formulate a new constitutional settlement. It will be funded to ensure extensive public participation in all aspects of its considerations. Its members will swear an oath to put aside their personal interests and seek the best outcome for Britain as a whole. They will be in charge of their own agenda. Their mandate will be to set out the constitution of British democracy and to put this into a set of proposals to the British people in the form of a referendum. The European and Constitutional Reform Act of 2015 will bind both Houses of Parliament to accept the results of this referendum. Thus the Houses can debate the proceedings of the Convention, they can openly seek to influence the Convention and a significant number of MPs will be part of it, but they will be bound in advance to accept the outcome even if it abolishes or changes them profoundly.</p> <p>There are two key points I am trying to illustrate. First, <em>any</em> proposal with respect to democracy needs to be absolutely clear about the process. Namely: how it will begin, how it will work, how it will conclude. Only then will people believe that there will be a result they can influence. A vague proposal to ‘call’ a Convention with no clear outcome is absolutely hopeless. </p> <p>Of course politicians do not like constitutions, because they are bound by them; or conventions, because they cannot control them. This is just why such an approach will be popular.</p> <p>We can be confident a Convention empowered to decide what should go to a referendum will not propose to retain the House of Lords! Confine yourself to Lords, however, and you will be lost. The trap we are in is that there is no way of replacing the upper half of Parliament without formulating the constitution as a whole. The only question is who does this, and how they do it. </p><p>Of course such a Convention will have the capacity to consider everything. This will be its attraction. And the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is stirring up widespread interest in a new version that holds the arbitrary power of corporate barons to account, protects liberty, ensures access to justice and defends the commons of our shared environment. This is a constitutional moment. </p> <p>The second key point is that a European referendum and a new British Constitution need to go together, as they should have done in 1975. Technically this is because the EU is building its constitution it cannot but threaten a smaller multi-national entity like Britain that enjoys no codified constitution. To remain happily within the EU the UK needs to articulate its own democracy, with a constitutional court able to defend it in the way that the German court protects German democracy. </p> <p>A more popular way of putting this is that we must ensure that staying in Europe makes us more democratic, not less. Farage’s most notable phrase is that we must “take our country back”. In his case, back to an unrealizable better yesterday. But he taps into a genuinely felt loss of who we are. The answer: we have to find ourselves in the future, not in the past. </p> <p>Put the two together - membership of Europe and a democratic constitution - and a referendum becomes a positive, winnable call for change not a defensive manoeuvre. Fail to do this and UKIP supporters, including one-time Labour ones, will reluctantly vote Tory in the vain hope this will give them a say.</p> <p>Dear Ed, you have picked up the democratic banner. It has great power and can reshape the battlefield. But it is a strategic banner, not a tactical one. And if you try to wave it around tactically, confining its reach and limiting its direction, you will be routed.</p> <p>In this long letter I have </p><p>-&nbsp; asserted the need for a clear story<br />-&nbsp; signaled my experience of these issues <br />-&nbsp; described the quicksand of a partial advocacy of democratic reform <br />-&nbsp; advocated an approach that trusts the public on the EU <br />-&nbsp; linking this to a new constitutional settlement for Britain in Europe<br />-&nbsp; combating Farage's claim to ‘take our country back’ by taking it forward<br />-&nbsp; oh yes, and I began by showing that you have the capacity to do this&nbsp; </p><p>Labour needs a non-Labour perspective at this moment to gain the initiative.</p> <p>With good wishes and best of luck, </p><p>Anthony</p> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Anthony Barnett Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:01:26 +0000 Anthony Barnett 90702 at https://opendemocracy.net Help set journalism free https://opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/help-set-journalism-free <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Mary-1.png" alt="" align="left" hspace="5" width="80" />Peter Oborne's HBSC/Telegraph revelations expose a fundamental threat to press freedoms. Contribute to openDemocracy today, so we can keep bringing you the stories others won't.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/FAake3jxTcWynU77x8oMDEu3RqGc6dUdoBSEAAAjxkc/mtime:1424432283/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/HSBC.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/i3al-1hfc-6xhVDIl6HrnEj29S9uhsmQzyBU1kO_yn8/mtime:1424430366/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/HSBC.JPG" alt="" title="" width="430" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Dear readers, <br /><br />This week openDemocracy broke a story which casts a shadow over our democracy. Peter Oborne’s allegation that Britain’s Daily Telegraph has suppressed embarrassing stories about big corporations like HSBC rather than risk advertising revenues cannot be ignored. If journalism doesn’t hold power to account, democracy doesn't work.<br /> <br /> Today, we're launching a funding appeal so we can keep bringing you the stories that others won't<strong>.</strong> <strong><a href="http://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free" target="_blank">Join us here</a></strong>.<br /> <br /> Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the Telegraph/HSBC scandal. As we have stopped paying for news, papers have become increasingly dependent on advertisers. That leaves us with a stark reality. Either we find a way to fund journalism into the future, or democracy itself is in peril.<br /> <br /> On openDemocracy, we don’t shy away from fearless reporting. We’ve taken on G4S, governments and vast banks. Because we’re a not-for-profit, there are no corporate owners or shareholders expecting dividends. But it also means <strong><a href="http://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free" target="_blank">we need your support to continue</a></strong>.<br /> <br /> It’s normal, when fundraising, to promise specific outcomes. To break it down into neat packages of “£2 pays for a coffee, £100 pays for an article”. But in all honesty, you know it’s not that simple.<br /> <br /> The truth is that the best journalism comes when reporters follow whatever scent they find to wherever it takes them. That is what we are asking you to help pay for.<br /> <br /> We can't allow truth to be caged by a dependence on advertisers. <strong><a href="http://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free" target="_blank">Contribute today</a><a href="http://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free">, and help set journalism free.</a></strong><br /> <br /> Thank you, in advance,</p><p>Mary Fitzgerald, Editor-in-Chief<br /> <br /> PS: In his <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph" target="_blank">resignation statement</a> on openDemocracy, Peter Oborne wrote:<br /> <br /> <em>“A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.<br /> <br /> “It is not only the Telegraph that is at fault here. The past few years have seen the rise of shadowy executives who determine what truths can and what truths can’t be conveyed across the mainstream media.”</em><br /> <br /> This worrying trend is why openDemocracy exists. Our model depends on a simple belief: that you are willing to pay for what we do. Please keep this hope alive and <a href="http://www.justgiving.com/keep-journalism-free" target="_blank">contribute here</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="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">Why I have resigned from the Telegraph</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/fallout-from-oborne-files">Fallout from the Oborne files</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/des-freedman/wider-significance-of-oborne%E2%80%99s-resignation">The wider significance of Oborne’s resignation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/on-accuracy-of-our-oborne-story">On the accuracy of our Oborne story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/des-freedman/wider-significance-of-oborne%E2%80%99s-resignation">The wider significance of Oborne’s resignation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jonathan-heawood/price-to-pay-for-journalism">The price to pay for journalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/eic-blog/mary-fitzgerald/bad-business">Bad business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/koen-roovers/settling-accounts-what-happens-after-swissleaks">Settling accounts: what happens after SwissLeaks?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom Mary Fitzgerald Fri, 20 Feb 2015 11:08:09 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 90683 at https://opendemocracy.net Grasping the nettle: how to clean up party funding https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/josiah-mortimer/grasping-nettle-how-to-clean-up-party-funding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are simple solutions to the UK's party funding mess.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HWWOdcQ8JBNb747j4AFDKgRpYikZO8ynwT4J2J3CreU/mtime:1424422867/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/large_img51efa2d90d6ba.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/_2F7-6twZGStX2RohnNplH1C3X-JKizC8TYjTlNUBS0/mtime:1424422754/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/large_img51efa2d90d6ba.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="175" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Another week, another scandal. Party funding is back in the news again, and for many it sadly comes as little surprise. </p> <p>We have grown used to allegations of tax-dodging donors, multi-million loans from wealthy backers that will never be repaid, paid access to ministers and more. </p> <p>As party membership has tumbled in recent decades, reliance on a handful of big donors and organisations has increased. Donations over £250,000 accounted for over half of Labour’s, a quarter of Conservatives’ and a sixth of the Liberal Democrats’ donations income <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/just-224-large-donations-fromfewer-than-60-sources-funded-two-fifths-of-all-spending-by-the-top-threeparties-across-a-decade-of-british-politics-this-is-far-too-narrow-a-base-forthe-health-of-uk-d/">between 2001 and 2010</a>. These donations are coming from just 60 ‘donor groups’, giving rise to justifiable suspicion that these groups have far too much influence on our politics. And this serves to reinforce the assumption that politics is increasingly something for a small number of people, and not something for everybody.</p> <p>It’s clear that the public are fed up. <a href="http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/paying-for-parties">Polling</a> last year for the Electoral Reform Society showed that 75% of the public believe big donors have too much influence on our political parties, 65% believe party donors can effectively buy knighthoods and other honours, and 61% believe the system of party funding is corrupt and should be changed. ‘Corrupt’ is a strong word, so it says a lot that this is how the public feel. </p> <p>The question is: what to do about it?</p> <p><strong>Looking for solutions</strong></p> <p>The problems are pretty clear to most – we have a party funding system where individuals or businesses can effectively ‘buy’ a party, pumping as much money into it as they desire. Parties then have to spend much less time trying to win the financial backing of millions of ordinary people. The lack of a donations cap, then, is a serious impediment to democracy. Many developed economies have donations caps in place. It’s time the UK followed suit.</p> <p>The presence of big money in our politics is particularly damaging at election time. One thing driving the dash-for-cash is the lack of a proper spending cap in the UK. The fact that the limit has just been <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/13/tories-david-cameron-buy-election-campaign-spending">increased by 23%</a>, with the Conservatives building up a <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/story/tories-accused-trying-buy-election-victory">£78m</a> ‘war chest’, suggests that this May could be a particularly high-spending election, particularly with the surge in smaller parties. This race to outspend each other destabilises our politics. Parties, with their highly volatile sources of income, could be left exposed by a lack of funds compared to their rivals, which in turn increases the incentive to be less than pure about what they provide in return for cash. A proper spending cap would end this arms race and put parties on a much more sustainable footing.</p> <p>Needless to say, parties do need money to function. We live in a modern democracy with millions of people whom the parties need to reach. But the source of the funding needs to change – from big donors to cleaner and more democratic sources of income. </p> <p>One part of the solution is for parties to shift to being funded by their millions of supporters. Many are pointing to online funding and supporter engagement as the new panaceas. But let’s not kid ourselves. Disillusionment with politics and parties runs <em>very </em>deep indeed, and people aren’t rushing to donate just to take the place of hedge-fund managers or union leaders. </p> <p>There are promising developments, it’s true – for example the use of <a href="http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/green-party-in-your-seat/?af=egreens">crowdfunding by parties</a> – but these still don’t remove the incentives for parties to accept multi-million pound contributions. Nor do they deal with the arms-race in campaign expenditure. They are, unfortunately, a democratic trickle of funds amid a deluge of undemocratic cash. </p> <p>So what else is needed?</p> <p><strong>A not-so-radical idea</strong></p> <p>Mention state funding of parties in the UK and it can be hard to get past the barrage of instant booing. And not without reason: the idea of giving taxpayers’ money to some of the country’s least trusted institutions does, understandably, cause some discomfort. </p> <p>But it’s not as controversial an idea as it seems. In the UK, we already publicly fund our political parties<strong>. </strong>Opposition parties receive ‘Short’ money to pay for parliamentary activities (£7.5m in 2014/15 alone), travel and the Leader of the Opposition’s office, in order to ensure proper scrutiny of the government can take place. ‘Cranborne’ money is the equivalent in the Lords, at nearly £650,000. In addition to direct funding, parties do not pay for political broadcasts (paid broadcasts are prohibited), and are entitled to free postage for one leaflet in both General and European elections. </p> <p>But we don’t invest enough, with the UK spending just a tenth per voter on political parties as the rest of Europe – 36p a year to £3.25. It’s a shocking indictment of how we treat our democracy in the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’, leaving it to the whim of benefactors. Some 91% of European countries publicly fund their political parties – they understand the need to avoid parties luring wealthy backers with peerages or policy commitments.</p> <p>The question of where the money will come from to replace the estimated £30m lost by parties if a £10,000 donation cap was put in place is a valid one. But there’s a very simple answer. A <a href="https://fundingdemocracy.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/breaking-the-deadlock-final-may-2013.pdf">cross-party report</a> in 2013 found that £47 million could be saved by replacing the freepost leaflet system with a joint election address booklet (copying the Mayoral and GLA election practice) – more than enough to cover the lost £30m. And if a donations cap and public funding is combined with a lower spending cap, parties won’t need as much money in the first place.</p> <p><strong>Next steps</strong></p> <p>Reforming our party funding system is completely achievable. There’s strong public support for doing some deep-cleaning of party finance, while the latest scandals show the need for change is more urgent than ever. We can’t go on stumbling from crisis to crisis and headline to headline, with public trust continuing to plummet. If we’re serious about democracy, it’s time to clean up this mess before it’s too late. The stakes are too high not to act. </p> <p>The past few years have seen cross-party reports on this with no action. Waiting years for another report or further deadlocked party negotiations isn’t the only option. There are gains to be made by any party or parties that go ahead with funding reform after May. </p> <p>Let’s hope, whoever gets to power, that they do. </p> <p><em><strong>Read the Electoral Reform Society’s new report, ‘</strong></em><a href="http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/images/dynamicImages/file/Deal%20or%20No%20Deal%2017%20Feb%20FINAL.pdf"><em><strong>Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals</strong></em></a><em><strong>’, released today. </strong></em> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/anthony-barnett/2008/06/17/party-funding-white-paper-defies-belief">Party Funding White Paper Defies Belief</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/stuart-wilks-heeg/party-funding-pathway-to-reform">Party funding: a pathway to reform</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Great Charter Convention Rethinking representation Josiah Mortimer Fri, 20 Feb 2015 09:00:56 +0000 Josiah Mortimer 90669 at https://opendemocracy.net Less velvet glove, more iron fist https://opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/lis-howell/less-velvet-glove-more-iron-fist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The new Chair of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead has given her first public speech which was widely reviewed. Now the dust has settled – but what did Rona say, and more importantly, what did she really mean?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Professor Lis Howell, Director of Broadcasting at City University London, heard Rona’s speech on 3 February, and was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0510ftg" target="_blank">one of the reviewers on the Media Show, BBC Radio 4, the next day.</a> She has now had time to mull it over. Here she argues that Rona Fairhead may need to be less velvet glove and more iron fist. Either way she must be demonstrably in charge.</em></p> <p class="image-right"><img src="//www.opendemocracy.net/files/rona fairhead.jpg " alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> Rona Fairhead in the middle, 2013. Financial Times/Wikicommons. Some rights reserved </em></p> <p><span>Rona Fairhead gave a speech that had at least three qualities. It was clear, and accessible. It had enough personal detail to make her seem a warm human being. It also tagged her as a lifelong BBC aficionada. It attracted attention, but the various papers and magazines all found something different to pick up.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Broadcast magazine said “Rona Fairhead has made a passionate case for the BBC Trust’s role.” The Daily Telegraph reported “Rona Fairhead said licence fee payers should have their say on the BBC’s future.” The Guardian said “The BBC Trust is to look into £100m bid to save BBC3 channel”. Meanwhile Ariel, the BBC staff newsletter, ran “Hands off the BBC, Fairhead tells MPs.” In the end, perhaps we should have asked the real Rona Fairhead to stand up. But as all things to all men (and men were the majority of the RTS audience) it was a pretty good try.&nbsp;</p><p><span>I think, on reflection I know why this happened. The research I have done into women experts on TV and radio news pointed up one thing very clearly. Even today, women in authority have to be very careful about their ‘pushy’ image (which perhaps explains why so few women asked Rona Fairhead questions at this event). <a href="http://gom.sagepub.com/content/29/6/659.full.pdf" target="_blank">A fascinating American study in 2004</a> revealed that women can be respected and obeyed just as much as men when it comes to solving problems. But the nasty side effect is that women who take the lead are far more likely to be disliked. I suspect that Rona Fairhead has decided, so far, that being a bit of a chameleon, in public, is a good idea. </span></p><p><span>But what about in private? Can anyone that powerful be so pleasant? Could it be that Fairhead is cultivating a girl-next-door manner not unlike Tony Hall’s nice boy from Birkenhead? &nbsp;Actually, I knew a lot of nice boys from Birkenhead but only one became Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House! Looking at her track record, Fairhead has not been particularly high profile. She is relatively new to the big public stage and&nbsp;</span><span>probably has neither the experience nor the desire to emulate her predecessors, Christopher Bland and Patten. They were Big Beasts crashing through the undergrowth of press coverage like Kings of the Jungle</span><span>. And she is nothing if not circumspect. When she was appointed last September she said that if the BBC Trust needed to change, then she would roll with it – which was what the politicians needed to hear. But a few months later, with an audience of BBC supporters, she made no reference to changing the Trust. She actually referred to the Trust’s ten year plan (whereas some commentators wouldn’t give it ten months). There is a danger, perhaps, that Ms Fairhead tells people what they want to hear.</span></p><p><span>And what else did they want to hear on 3 February, aside from the fact that the BBC governance was working so wonderfully well that it wasn’t worth mentioning? Well, the speech had four main points. She asserted the BBC’s need for guaranteed editorial and financial independence. There was a corporate silent hurrah from the audience (well, who wouldn’t agree?). She talked, as all BBC chiefs do, about efficiency and cost cutting - but not at the expense of the product. Another silent hurrah. She called for public involvement in policy and charter renewal. There was a slightly puzzled hurrah for that one. But then Ms Fairhead went on, comfortingly, to confirm that the latest Trust survey indicates that the British love the BBC (and everyone who works there) almost as much as they love the monarchy. Phew! Lastly, she iterated the importance of the nations and regions. That got a rather muted hurrah - but there was a sense that she was saying something worthy, which wouldn’t disturb them much in W1. So there was nothing in the speech not to like, for that particular audience. They were possibly a little vague about the relationship between the BBC, and, say, the Cumberland News but overall the audience was pretty impressed.</span></p><p><span>But can that be the real Rona? Here is a person who was Chief Executive of the Financial Times Group (a subsidiary of Pearson) for seven years and served as a non-executive director on the boards of several large corporations, including HSBC Holdings and PepsiCo, and as a "business ambassador" for UK Trade &amp; Investment. She cannot possibly be that unchallenging by nature. &nbsp;Or could things have changed? Could she perhaps have “gone native” (a horrible but effective expression) and become the BBC’s ultimate cheerleader? She denied it but it’s always a danger. For some people, the ability to see the BBC as just another organisation evaporates when they enter New Broadcasting House. There are people I know who would rather change loo rolls at the BBC than work for another broadcaster, and former hard-nosed commercial TV execs who become dewy eyed at the thought of dear old Auntie. But surely someone as smart and commercial as Rona Fairhead cannot be like that? Not with her sort of background?</span></p><p><span>She says not and I believe her, although I found the references to programmes that had changed her life a little bit over the top. It’s a familiar tune now, also played by Tony Hall in October 2013. Did neither of these people ever watch ITV? It was very big in the North West when I was young! By her act of homage I think Rona Fairhead was trying to place herself as friend not foe with her audience and she succeeded. But perhaps at the expense of not looking as objective as she should, as the guardian of so much of our licence fee contributions. I desperately wanted to find a tougher Rona Fairhead in there somewhere, and I tried hard, afterwards, to try and unpeel the speech and to find Rona’s real message. Could the clue lie not in the speech, but in the off-the-cuff &nbsp;Q&amp;A session?&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Well, yes, that was a bit more revealing, although as usual many of the questions were more like declarations. One question focussed on Tony Hall’s “Compete or Compare” strategy, announced last July. This strategy would transform the way the BBC produces its programmes. They would throw out their in-house quota and commission anything from everyone, even Sky or ITV. Some people say this is already happening by stealth. </span></p><p><span>The questioner wanted to know the Trust’s view. Rona Fairhead calmly reported that the Trust had not yet been consulted, eight months later. But why not? Isn’t that exactly the sort of strategic change in BBC policy that the Trust is there to endorse – or otherwise? Similarly, the Trust was supposed to decide on whether BBC Three would be shifted from broadcast TV to online. They are still deliberating but there is evidence the shift is slowly happening by default (Steve Hewlett, <em>Guardian</em> Monday: February 8th ) while the Trust goes through the motions, distracted perhaps by the attempt to ‘save’ BBC Three by some high profile independent broadcasters.</span></p><p><span>In both cases it is clear that the Trust – there to decide whether what the BBC executive wants is in the public interest – should have been more involved. Fairhead did not turn a hair when admitting that the Trust hadn’t been sent a proposition about “compete and compare”. Her sangfroid led one person to say to me afterwards that he believed that she was "sending Tony a message" in this speech. Could this be the answer – that the speech was full of coded messages? A sort of ‘spot the iron fist in the velvet glove’? But why would Rona Fairhead need to send secret messages? Can’t she just pick up the phone and say “Oi, Tony, what’s this ‘Compete or Compare’ all about?”</span></p><p><span>It seems not. And perhaps this is the point. If she did call him up, what could she say? “OK, we need to know about this, to apply a Public Value Test”? And what might be the reply? “Suit yourself” perhaps? What is going to make Tony comply with Rona? In fact, there is no iron fist. The Trust has few powers of sanction. Unlike Ofcom, they cannot fine, or take away licenses to broadcast. There <em>is</em> an odd arrangement for a ‘licence’ from the BBC Trust for each service in the BBC, but there is no history of any service being reduced or suspended by the Trust – so what is that really about? What can the Trust actually DO? &nbsp;They declaim on their website, and Rona Fairhead repeated in her speech, “Our job is to get the best out of the BBC for licence fee payers” But how?&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Well, there has already been this enormous survey, apparently, though its findings aren’t public. A bit of a contradiction there…. But as result of this she hopes to rewrite the BBC’s ‘strategic objectives’ with greater input from the public. The survey has already told her that over 80% of the British public seem to love the BBC just as it is. Or perhaps not quite. A majority said that an independent body should administer the licence fee – though none of them named the BBC Trust as that body. But that was skated over in this speech…. &nbsp;And the licence fee didn’t get a mention despite widespread mutterings that is now outdated (the licence fee, as I’ve said before, is older than women’s suffrage!).&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>However new strategic objectives will be written. The old ones, by the way, are framed on the Trust’s feisty website as a ‘challenge’ to the BBC, which makes the Trust sound very roughty toughty. But actually these objectives are just what you would expect. The Trust says that the BBC should:-</span></p><p><span>• Make the most creative and distinctive output</span></p><p><span>• Innovate online to create a more personal BBC</span></p><p><span>• Serve all audiences</span></p><p><span>• Improve value for money through a simpler, more efficient, and more open BBC</span></p><p><span>This all looks fine and dandy. So how are these strategic objectives going to be rewritten with more public input? Will we all get a bash at drafting? &nbsp;Perhaps after tea on a Sunday night, with an on-air vote? “Strategic objectives” aren’t the stuff of The Voice. They sound like ‘management speak’ - those phrases which we’re all a bit cynical about - like “mission statements”, and “outcomes”, and “matrixes” and “low hanging fruit”. They’re all about marketing and branding – aimed at the public, not from the public, and not about public service. Sadly, nothing has ever surpassed John Reith’s idea that the BBC should inform, educate and entertain. So what difference is Ms Fairhead’s new broader conversation going to make in reality? &nbsp;That sort of thing is always a nightmare anyway – just listen to Radio Five Live if you want public input.</span></p><p><span>So we have a very sensible and circumspect Chair of the BBC Trust, who so far won’t rock the boat. BBC fans at the RTS event, certainly seemed to feel she was a safe pair of hands. Maybe one of the reasons they are so reassured is because there is little or nothing she can do about the way the BBC executive runs the show. The BBC Trust tells us “We issue a service licence to every BBC service stating what we expect it to deliver and how much it can spend. We set the BBC’s editorial guidelines and protect the BBC’s independence. We monitor performance to ensure that the BBC provides value for money while staying true to its public purposes.” </span></p><p><span>Do they really? How? With what control? By reducing budgets? I don’t think so. Frankly, this stuff could be seen as so much guff. The Trust has no teeth. Or none you can find on their website. It is full of forceful statements. But there is absolutely no indication of how it is going to do anything - other than by rapping knuckles in reports after the horse has bolted. You can’t help wondering if the Trust is more cheerleader than critic, more defender of the faith that translator of the Vu|gate, if I may refer, in homage of course, to that wonderful drama Broadchurch. Oops, sorry, I meant Wolf Hall.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>I think Rona Fairhead must be tough in reality, and I think she could have teeth. It’s interesting that the issue which has already taken up much of her time is that of the BBC’s relationship with local newspapers. She knows about the newspaper industry. For decades, local papers have raged at the BBC in the regions, for using the papers’ journalistic infrastructure as a free source of content for the BBC local news. James Harding, Head of News at the BBC, has already made noises about partnerships with local media to redress this, and Jeremy Hunt’s plans for local TV means that the licence fee, and BBC content deals, will support local digital terrestrial TV. But that won’t help the papers unless they own a digital terrestrial TV station. And nothing either Fairhead or Harding can do, will satisfy newspaper groups who just want the BBC to stop pinching their content. To try and tackle the problem of regional news nicking, fits perfectly with the Trust’s remit of ensuring the BBC does not take all the oxygen out of the commercial marketplace. But it is also a virtually unsolvable problem. And as Rona Fairhead goes North to tackle the regions, back in London, the BBC Executive seems to do what it likes.</span></p><p><span>I can cope with the tributes to Dr Who and the Today programme, and if that makes the audience at the RTS feel better –fine. But those of us who don’t work at the BBC, or who don’t owe the BBC our living or who don’t define our lives by BBC programmes but just watch them (those of us, in fact, who merely owe it a very large chunk of £145.50 a year) want to know how she is going to protect us. People at the event kept on saying, in her defence, that she was "damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t". &nbsp;They explained that she’s in a difficult position - critic and cheerleader. In fact Rona Fairhead carefully avoided being either and to my mind fell right through the middle. Of course she isn’t there to soothe a group of industry executives who want everything to go on as it did. Nor is she there to close down the BBC. But that doesn’t mean "damned if you do. Damned if you don’t". She has a clear, unbiased job to do. She is there to govern the BBC. And the nature of that governance was the biggest thing missing from her speech, when it was the one thing that should have been right there at the heart of it. The Trust has be clearly understood and supported by every licence fee payer. That is the job – not rewriting strategic objectives. We need to know how those strategic objectives are enforced.</span></p><p><span>So I would say to Rona Fairhead – get to grips with the inherent muddle which is BBC governance. You are cool, calm, sensible, capable of clear thought and the long view. Someone – probably you – has to make the Trust defensible and then defend it, or preside over its replacement by something better. But whoever does that must take the reins. It can be either with velvet gloves or iron fists. It doesn’t really matter, whatever suits you, Ms Fairhead – but do it before the horse bolts again. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Lis Howell Fri, 20 Feb 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Lis Howell 90572 at https://opendemocracy.net