uk en Food, the UK and Brexit: an even messier reprise of Corn Laws politics? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We see Liam Fox warming up a US-UK trade deal, while Michael Gove assures consumers that animal welfare and food quality standards are safe in his hands. This doesn’t add up.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A meeting of the Anti-Corn Law League in Exeter Hall in 1846. Wikicommons. Public domain.</span></span></span>If Brexit is supposed to improve Britain, then it must do so for food.&nbsp; In astonishing arrogance or myopia, British politicians collectively ignored food in the run-up to the 2016 Referendum, other than to draw upon decades of pillorying the Common Agricultural Policy to knock the EU and, in the Tories’ case, to promise to continue CAP farm subsidies till 2020 (now extended to 2022).<span class="mag-quote-center"> If Brexit is supposed to improve Britain, then it must do so for food.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>Anyone would think farmers feed people! Actually farming is already a small, shrinking but noisy sector of the UK food system. It makes up only 8% of the value added by the whole UK food supply chain. Manufacturing, Retailing and Catering make up over <a href="">three times more</a> each. But <em>food</em> is what the 65 million Brits eat every day, £203 bn’s worth a year. We get 31% of our food from within the EU, a fact which seemed to elude politicians as they vied for votes. And the food trade gap is massive. We import over £42bn’s worth and export £20bn. In come fresh fruit and veg. – out go soft drinks, (and whisky) and biscuits. Not a great health exchange!</p> <p>To exit the EU without any food plans or national debate could be an act of monumental stupidity, unless there is a Plan B no-one told us about or the idea was to get food from somewhere else or just leave it to the food industry to sort out. I suspect a mix of these, not least since the Tory Government and Party – like Labour – are fundamentally split about what they want. One faultline is Europeanisation vs McDonalidisation. That’s why we now see Liam Fox warming up a US-UK trade deal (the US mass agri-food industry is salivating) while Michael Gove is assuring consumers that animal welfare and food quality standards are safe in his hands. This doesn’t add up.</p> <p>As we know, the whole Brexit issue is an argument about Progress and, since it is in power, the Right’s vision for British capitalism. Alas, some of the faultlines now emerging amidst the chaos, divisions and drift have echoes with the past. A failure to consult the public. Dishonesty.&nbsp; Plus genuine political differences: mercantilism (protected food supplies), neo-imperialism (get others to feed us), nationalism (grow more here), all cut through by the new politics of ecosystems and health. The gods spare us, if the UK seeks to emulate the diet-related ill-health of US citizens on low incomes, where obesity is rampant without the healthcare. <span class="mag-quote-center">The gods spare us if the UK seeks to emulate the diet-related ill-health of US citizens on low incomes, where obesity is rampant without the healthcare.</span></p> <p>The bad news about Food Brexit is that this is all coming upon us in pressurised and dramatic ways. The food industry is more worried by a Food Brexit than it has been by anything for years. It is massively reliant on EU migrant labour for ‘British’ food. An entire system of supply, infrastructure, taste, cost, and standards is to be swept away in 19 months’ time, as colleagues and I show in our new report on <a href="">Food Brexit</a>, the first comprehensive overview of what’s at stake. &nbsp;</p> <p>Food is a bellwether of progress. If the supply or the quality of our food is damaged by Brexit, those responsible for those failures will deserve to pay a high price. The most immediate issue is food prices, which have direct impact on consumption, and are already rising in a time of stagnant wages. Some Tories simply want us to source from wherever is cheapest. China? India? Tory MP Jakob Rees-Mogg <a href="">has even mused</a> about the case for getting our food standards to be closer to India’s. He’ll regret he said that, I suspect. Cheap food, low standards is risky politics.</p> <h2><strong>Corn Laws revisited</strong></h2> <p>The British have become accustomed to cheap food.&nbsp; This assumption has gradually been hard-wired into British food culture since the early nineteenth century, due to a 30-year political battle over what were known as the Corn Laws. Beginning in 1815, these imposed duties on imported food, thus protecting UK farmers from external competition, and keeping food prices high. They were enacted blatantly to suit the UK landed class. </p> <p>But the UK was in the process of industrialising and democratising its Parliament. The widening of the voting franchise really began with the Great Reform Act of 1832; became more serious (but still inadequate) with the Second Reform Act of 1867; and <a href="">was only resolved</a> with full one-person-one-vote rights in the twentieth century. </p> <p>Compared to that century-long march for political democracy, the 30-year fight over the Corn Laws seems positively speedy, but its consequences are once again resurfacing. The 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws set the seal on what is known as Britain’s desire for a ‘cheap food policy’. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, Britain’s rural population was leaving the land and becoming the urban working class. For 30 years, culminating in the 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws, political arguments raged about cheap versus expensive foods, the role of food in setting wage levels, the political risks of what we’d now call ‘food security’. Above all, which class interest would drive British capitalism: old aristocracy or new industrialists? The people were excluded but getting noisy; demands for voting franchise were building up. <span class="mag-quote-center">Which class interest would drive British capitalism: old aristocracy or new industrialists?</span></p> <p>Fresh from naval and land victories in the Napoleonic Wars and in the process of massive colonisation and expropriation, the UK Parliament in the end took the momentous decision to repeal the tariffs. A slow process began of abandoning domestic farming, and instead importing food from within the Empire, whichever country offered it most cheaply. </p> <h2><strong>Taking back control </strong></h2> <p>It was not until the two world wars of the twentieth century shook this political complacency that governments again reviewed the UK’s food security policy. And by then there had been <a href="">a furious battle</a> over legal restrictions on food adulteration and poor quality, not sorted till the 1890s. Reluctantly in World War 1, and then in desperation in World War 2, the UK relearned what other rich countries had not ‘unlearned’ – that it makes sense to retain a sound food production base. That’s why the UK set up its own agricultural policy in 1947, under Labour, a system of farm support which served the same purpose as what the Common Market created a decade later with the Common Agricultural Policy – security for farming to produce food at home.</p> <p>Negotiating to join the EU in 1967-73 switched subsidy systems but with shared intent. It meant abandoning the relics of Empire which had fed industrialising Britain in the nineteenth century: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the looser historical food links such as with Latin America or the Baltic. </p> <p>Joining the Common Market coincided with a revolution in the food system: more processed foods, supermarketisation, cafés, taste changes, rises in diet-related disease (most recently obesity and diabetes) and thus huge externalised healthcare and environmental costs. Aspects of these changes have been felt everywhere, first in the western rich world and now even in low and middle income countries. This has delivered a situation the proponents of ‘cheap food’ never dreamed of, a flood of what nutritionists now call ‘ultra-processed’ foods, unnecessarily high in fat, salt and sugar – <a href="">the <em>opposite</em></a> of the Mediterranean diet. </p> <p>In a class-divided society such as the UK, we can be saddened but not surprised that British people on low incomes spend proportionately more of their disposable incomes on food than do the rich. The money spent on food in the UK has grown in absolute terms, while in relative terms food expenditure as a proportion of disposable incomes has fallen. This has been the success of both the EU and before that the UK’s 1947 Agriculture Act which in effect repealed the 1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws and committed the UK to taking measures to stabilise food supplies and prices.</p> <p>Those policy shifts took over a century, two world wars and a recession. Food Brexit today is being rushed upon us in less than two years, without debate, and reigniting old debates about cheapness, quality and sources.&nbsp; The Corn Laws debate lasted 30 years and split the Tory Party. The UK then had a navy to protect its supply chains. Today, we have just 77 ships, compared with the hundreds in 1939, not that anyone officially anticipates World War 3 when long routes would again be problematic, of course. </p> <p class="ParaAttribute0">Amidst its current concerns, it is essential that the UK Government is held to account. We need a clear and explicit commitment to ensuring a sufficient, sustainable, safe and equitable supply of food, with realistic plans for how this will be achieved when and if the UK is no longer in the EU. <strong></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">See SPRU report,&nbsp; <strong><a href=";site=25">A Food Brexit: time to get real</a></strong><span>&nbsp;by Tim Lang, Erik Millstone and Terry Marsden, </span><span><span>July, 2017</span>.<br /></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk United States EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Brexit2016 Tim Lang Wed, 26 Jul 2017 17:25:39 +0000 Tim Lang 112540 at Brexit and the global south: Why it’s time to end free trade imperialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">After Brexit, Britain must prioritise trade justice for the poorest countries of the world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At the end of last year, <a href="">a news story was published </a>with huge implications for ‘international development’: a drop-off in commodity prices through 2016 dashed hopes that the world’s poorest countries could escape extreme poverty by the end of the decade. The story raises a critical question directly linked to what Brexit will mean for countries of the global South and the reality of what ‘free trade’ and protectionism mean in the context of economic development – a reality brought into sharper relief in recent weeks by a long-running <a href="">spat</a> over trade at the G20 and Liam Fox’s <a href="">focus on signing tariff-free trade agreements</a> around the world. Why is it that global trade policies continue to ensure that the world’s poorest countries remain dependent on the export of primary commodities, whether food products, metals or minerals? And what, if anything, will a Brexit UK do to address this? These questions are particularly relevant in light of <a href="">Nigeria and Tanzania’s</a> confirmation that they will reject the EU’s proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) for West and East Africa respectively because they will prevent African industrialisation. And they must also be placed in the context of official international development policies: the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly target “<a href="">sustainable industrialisation</a>” and the requirement to give “<a href="">respect for each country’s policy space and leadership to implement policies for poverty eradication</a>”. Nigeria and Tanzania’s reaction to the EU’s proposed agreements highlights the divide between what Northern-authored trade deals claim to offer and how they can directly inhibit the ability of Southern countries to enact their own industrial development policies. While the European Commission holds to a neoliberal mantra – redolent of <em>1980s </em><a href="">structural adjustment</a><em> programs – of removing ‘barriers’, meeting ‘international’ standards and reforming the public and private sectors</em>, a different view holds sway in Tanzania, where there is awareness that a <a href="">recent ban</a> on the export of mineral sands from gold mining in favour of local processing would not be allowed under EU trade terms. Tanzania’s foreign affairs permanent secretary Aziz Mlim <a href="">argues</a> that the EU trade regime: “… will not benefit local industries in east Africa. Instead it will lead to their destruction as developed countries are likely to dominate the market.” Frank Jacobs, President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), expressed a <a href="">similar concern</a>, explaining that Nigeria would experience an: “… accelerated shut down of the few surviving industries in the region. This will further de-industrialise the region and would have catastrophic implications on employment generation thereby worsening the poverty situation in the region.” Most worryingly for the EU – and the UK, which plans to roll over EU agreements – Nigeria’s rejection may trigger <a href="">similar refusals</a> from other West African states. For many focused on trade and development post-Brexit, a key ask, now granted, is that the UK carries over existing <a href="">EU schemes</a> that grant poor countries tariff free market access for exports. But the UK must go further. Brexit trade policies will do little for longer term economic change in the South unless poor countries can export processed or manufactured goods with similar preferential schemes, or, conversely, use tariffs to shield emerging industries from international competition. On top of this, the Northern-led agenda of using trade deals to <a href="">privatise public services</a> and <a href="">grant corporations legal powers</a> to sue states outside national jurisdictions offers little in the fight against poverty. As such, the option for poor countries to adopt protective measures is critical to fulfilling not only industrial policy SDGs, but also to lessening dependence on commodities – and in so doing, providing an economic platform for diversifying economies and alleviating poverty. And it is here that the simplistic free trade vs protectionism framing that is shaping Western discourses on trade – especially post-Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump – must be rejected. This framing, evident in the <a href="">tussle</a> between the EU and the Trump administration within G20 talks, pits the little-loved rules and institutions of an international liberalising order against a belligerent economic nationalism. However, this obscures the fact that rich countries only pursued free trade after they ascended to the peak of the global economy; they used protectionism to ensure that domestic industries grew ahead of being exposed to competition, before “<a href="">kicking away the ladder</a>” they used to get to their dominant positions. Even trade agreements to which Southern countries are not party, such as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the USA and the EU, are crafted in an effort to liberalise and undermine regulations in poor countries that rich country ‘investors’ do not like – such as <a href="">tightened regulations on fossil fuel extraction</a>. By using the powerful political lexicon of ‘free trade’ to once again impose equal rules on unequal partners, the UK’s “<a href="">Empire 2.0</a>” would be alive and kicking. The UK faces a simple choice. It can continue with “<a href="">free trade imperialism</a>” policies which are increasingly opposed in the global South, and which the UK, outside of the EU, may lack the influence to force through. Or it can carve a new path as a Northern state that pays more than lip service to commitments contained in the SDGs and other international accords. Only one path can lead to trade justice for the poorest countries of the world.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Mark Dearn and Paul Keenlyside Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:28:50 +0000 Mark Dearn and Paul Keenlyside 112525 at Shocking new evidence could overturn Northern Ireland ruling that became an international blueprint for torture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I “felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious” - new testimony from survivors of torture in Nothern Ireland goes to the heart of British colonial myth-making.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Wire fence.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Wire fence.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>British forces in Northern Ireland used waterboarding and electric shock treatment on detainees during the 1970s, newly uncovered files show. Witness statements and internal Whitehall correspondence released for the first time last month could have significant implications for international human rights law and British-Irish relations.</p> <p>One victim of waterboarding in Belfast spoke out publicly about his experience for the first time at following the recovery of his original testimony from 1972, which recounts that he ‘felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious’</p> <p>The documents were revealed at an event in London to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, hosted by Matrix Chambers, along with the Pat Finucane Centre, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and Amnesty International.</p> <p>They add to growing evidence that interrogation practices in Northern Ireland went beyond those criticised by the European Court of Human Rights in the 1978 case of <em>Ireland v. the United Kingdom</em>. The so-called ‘five techniques’ examined in that judgement included deprivation of sleep, deprivation of food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’.</p> <p>Although the European Court condemned these practices as ‘inhuman and degrading’ it refused to describe them as torture. This paradoxically opened the way for the ruling to be used as a blueprint by interrogators, notably in the ‘torture memos’ drafted by the Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US John Yoo to justify practices used during the earliest phase of the ‘War on Terror’.</p> <p>Previous revelations regarding the suppression of medical evidence in 2014 prompted the Irish Government to re-open the original case. The discovery that interrogation practices went beyond the five techniques, and included waterboarding and electric shock treatment, is likely to increase pressure on the European Court to alter its original verdict. In February this year, Channel 4 news covered allegations that British paratroopers had used waterboarding against two Irish men, <a href="">with the knowledge of then Prime Minister Edward Heath</a>. The latest revelations show the practice was not a one-off.</p> <p>The re-opened legal case – which still awaits a ruling from Strasbourg – has been the subject of significant tension in British-Irish relations, now under further pressure given negotiations over Brexit and reforming the Northern Ireland Executive. A stronger line from the European Court would also be embarrassing for a British Government who have just agreed a DUP demand that bodies examining the legacy of the conflict should not <a href="">'unfairly focus on former members of the armed forces or police.'</a></p> <p>At last month’s Matrix Chambers event, witness statements from the closed archive of the of the Association for Legal Justice at the Ó Fiaich Library in Armagh were revealed for the first time as well as newly uncovered material from the UK National Archives.</p> <p>An anonymous former detainee read an extract from his own newly recovered testimony given in 1972 when he was aged 17. He stated that in between beatings and other abusive techniques at Black Mountain Army Base “they wrapped a towel round my head and poured water all over it.” </p> <p>“As it filled with water, it felt like I was drowning or suffocating until I fell on the floor unconscious. Once I was conscious they would then beat me again with batons until I was on my feet and repeated the process again. I lost a stone in weight in seven hours and my clothes were ripped to shreds. Finally an army officer came in. I had met him before. He said he believed that I wasn’t involved, but he felt that I could give him information on the IRA, and he would give me one week to do so. He drove me back to the Springfield Road and threw me out.”</p> <p>A statement given by the same detainee’s mother to a Cork-based NGO in November 1972, described how, during his detention “he was brutally beaten and had a wet towel tied tightly round his head and face. </p> <p>“This was filled with water at intervals causing him great distress and suffocation. His body was doubled over causing him extreme pain. He was also forced to hold an armalite rifle and a .22 calibre pistol to have his fingerprints on them, and was told this was enough to get him 15 years.”</p> <p>“When my son arrived home I was so distressed by his appearance that I decided to send him away for his own safety. He was completely changed in his personality from a happy-go-lucky boy to a very frightened one.”</p> <p>Other accounts of a similar pattern of torture included a Downing Street memo from November 1972 recording the concerns of Taoiseach Jack Lynch, and a Ministry of Defence file recommending settlement of a case brought by a detainee subjected to electric shock treatment. Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said the file was clear evidence that the MOD was anxious to keep certain matters out of court, “particularly issues involving the use of water, and people’s heads being held under water, and electric shocks being administered.”</p> <p>O’Connor criticised the response of the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to advance reports of the new evidence. “Both responses were that anybody that had allegations of serious criminal wrongdoing should approach the police, who are implicated in the wrongdoing. “</p> <p>Daniel Holder of the Committee on the Administration of Justice said that evidence interrogation methods that went beyond the five techniques was significant for the European Court case.</p> <p>He added that previous revelations had already shown that the original court decision was influenced by misleading information provided by the British Government: “It knew what the real long-term impact of these techniques were. It’s there in the archives. They had real medical reports as well as the misleading ones that were presented before the court.”</p> <p>Ann Hannah of Freedom from Torture argued that accountability for such practices was essential to the long-term rehabilitation of victims. “Time and time again we see the idea that you can rebuild after conflict and achieve some form of stability or you can have accountability. These things are so commonly played off against each other. In reality of course, stability is fragile without some form of accountability.</p> <p>“How can you expect survivors and their communities to trust state institutions like the police, the army, their politicians, if there’s been no attempt at accountability? Reconciliation is a buzzword in these situations but all too often survivors of torture and other abuses are just completely ignored in that process.” </p> <p>Guardian journalist Ian Cobain, author of <a href=""><em>Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture</em></a> warned of a significant backlash from the Ministry of Defence against such legal challenges.</p> <p>“We British are not any more prone than other former colonial powers to resort to torture at times of emergency. We probably compare quite favourably to some other states in that respect, but what we are particularly good at is concealment. We are really good at using official secrecy, denial and obfuscation to keep it all really well hidden.”</p> <p>“The reason a lot of British people tell themselves that [we behaved better than other colonial powers] is because denial and official secrecy has cleared the space within which this very powerful myth flourishes. I suspect one of the reasons why the Ministry of Defence is so keen to shutdown post-conflict litigation is because it is challenging to this ideal that we Brits have about ourselves.”</p> <p>A recent YouGov poll, showing that 59 per cent of are proud of the British Empire, perhaps underlines Cobain’s point. One consequence of that narrative may be an international legal order that allows other powers to emulate the empire’s torture practices.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/julian-petley/human-rights-scrapping-terrorism-democracy">Scrapping human rights is as great a threat to democracy as terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/at-williams/british-torture-in-iraq-and-state-s-corporate-memory-loss">British torture in Iraq and the state’s ‘corporate memory loss’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/aisha-maniar/on-britains-use-of-torture">On Britain&#039;s use of torture</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Tom Griffin Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:06:53 +0000 Tom Griffin 112496 at John Berger and the Booker Prize <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Clarity is more important than money.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Paris 1974: the campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)"><img src="//" alt="" title="Paris 1974: the campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Paris 1974: a campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)</p><p><em>BBC 3 presented a three-hour radio tribute to John Berger on Sunday, 23 July called </em><a href=""><em>Ways of Listening</em></a><em>. Its centre-piece was a re-broadcast of the dramatization of his novel, </em>To the Wedding<em>, directed by Simon McBurney and created by Complicité. It included tributes, reminiscences and John Berger’s own broadcasts from the BBC archive. The producer Tim Dee asked me for a short reflection and I talked about the time shortly after I got to know him. Here it is in full, followed by the Booker Prize speech in full. The programme can be heard </em><a href=""><em>on iPlayer</em></a><em> until 28 August 2017.</em></p><p>I want to talk about two episodes in the 1970s, which back then we might have referred to as being about the “conditions of production” of John’s work, and in these neoliberal days his “cash flow”. His getting the Booker prize, denouncing it but taking half the money. Second, his being funded to write novels about peasant life starting with <em>Pig Earth</em>. </p><p>The two are linked by something which, today, may seem hard to believe. He was at a pinnacle of his career. <em>Ways of Seeing</em> was still fresh from its being broadcast by the BBC. The book of the four programmes was just becoming a bestseller. <em>G </em>had been published and acclaimed. Yet John was without financial support. British society made every attempt to discard and marginalise him in return for his radicalism – with success. Tolerance can be ruthless in this respect. He was nearly crushed by it.</p> <p>John read out a careful statement to his fellow diners when the Booker was announced in the Autumn of 1972. He was prepared because it was still early days for the prize and those shortlisted might not turn up. Unlike today when the jury decide just before the gathering and surprise the winner as everything is live streamed – not only did the jury decide in advance but winners were told in confidence to ensure their attendance.</p> <p>John came to see me with the news. He hated the idea of the prize but he could not afford to refuse it. It was worth £5,000. He was desperate for funds to research a book on immigrant workers. It would become <em>A Seventh Man</em>. He got me to help him finalise the text that explains his decision: to keep half the money for his costs and donate the other to the London Black Panthers to recognise the tainted origins of the Booker McConnell corporation in the West Indies sugar plantations and slavery. </p> <p>When John came back to his table after reading his statement the critic George Steiner was furious for his not even refusing it outright. He whispered at him in a rage: “You Leninist”. John seemed proud of this when he told me about it the next day, it was a recognition of his cunning.</p> <p>35 years later Steiner recalled the moment for the <a href="">Guardian</a>,</p> <blockquote><p>I fought very hard for John Berger to win for <em>G</em>, and then he threw it in my face by giving half the prize money to the Black Panthers. It was a very grim experience. I was in a very precarious position at the time and I literally thought it was the end for me in this country. I thought I would have to pack my bags and go.</p></blockquote> <p>Steiner was an outsider, like John. Unlike him he desperately wanted to succeed in the British establishment. Yet he retained an intellectual integrity and recognised and welcomed the European ambition and scale of G. </p> <p>If John had merely rejected the prize outright, he’d have been mocked for copying Jean Paul Sartre as if the Booker was the Nobel prize for literature. Both he and it would have been damaged. Instead, he struck at the underlying and still unresolved bad-faith of British culture with respect to the part played by slavery and racial prejudice in its success. Ironically, this may have helped to elevate the prize to its present importance, ensuring that somehow it matters. </p> <p>But the marginalisation of Berger proceeded. It meant that after he had written <em>A Seventh Man</em> he could see no way to support his immersing himself in one of the last peasant communities of western Europe in the Haute Savoie, to write what would turn into his fiction trilogy <em>Into their Labours</em>. </p><p>He was convinced that he was doomed, and would be brought down by what he called his “Demon”. I went to meet him in Paris in 1974 and launched a campaign to get him to a fellowship at the <a href="">Transnational Institute</a>. This had been created by left-wing Americans and was based in Amsterdam. The main difficulty was to persuade John – to overcome his resistance, to defy his Demon and apply. Eventually he did, in January 1975. He asked for a modest three-year fellowship. They said “yes” and gave him $6,000 a year. When he got the news he telegrammed me: </p><blockquote><p>YOUR SUCCESS STOP DEMON DEPARTED TO BECOME YOUR </p><p>GUARDIAN ANGEL&nbsp;&nbsp; JOHN</p></blockquote> <p>Without this support from across the Atlantic I don’t know what would have happened to John, for his life-source welled up from his implacable stubbornness. The Britain that celebrates him now should not forget this. He rightly fought its class system which, wrongly, shut him down as best it could, hoping to asphyxiate his exceptional genius. It remains a country profoundly hostile to his still vitally necessary radicalism – whether in its demonic or angelic forms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Speech by John Berger on accepting the Booker Prize for Fiction at the Café Royal in London on 23 November 1972</strong></p> <p>Since you have awarded me this prize, you may like to know, briefly, what it means to me. The competitiveness of prizes I find distasteful. And in the case of this prize the publication of the shortlist, the deliberately publicised suspense, the speculation of the writers concerned as though they were horses, the whole emphasis on winners and losers is false and out of place in the context of literature.</p> <p>Nevertheless prizes act as a stimulus - not to writers themselves but to publishers, readers and booksellers. And so the basic cultural value of a prize depends upon what it is a stimulus to. To the conformity of the market and the consensus of average opinion; or to imaginative independence on the part of both reader and writer. If a prize only stimulates conformity, it merely underwrites success as it is conventionally understood. It constitutes no more than any other chapter in a success story. If it stimulates imaginative independence, it encourages the will to seek alternatives. Or, to put it very simply, it encourages people to question.</p> <p>The reason why the novel is so important is that the novel asks questions which no other literary form can ask: questions about the individual working on his own destiny; questions about the uses to which one can put a life - including one’s own. And it poses these questions in a very private way. The novelist’s voice functions like an inner voice.</p> <p>Although it may seem somewhat inappropriate on my part, I would like to salute - and to thank - this year’s jury for their independence and seriousness in this respect. All four books on their shortlist demonstrate the kind of imaginative non-conformity I’m talking about. That they gave a prize to my book gave me pleasure - because it represented a response, a response from other writers.</p> <p><em>G.&nbsp;</em>took five years to write. Since then I have been planning the next five years of my life. I have begun a project about the migrant workers of Europe. I do not know what form the final book will take. Perhaps a novel. Perhaps a book that fits no category. What I do know is that I want some of the voices of the eleven million migrant workers in Europe and of the forty or so million that are their families, mostly left behind in towns and villages but dependent on the wages of the absent workers, to speak through and on the pages of this book. Poverty forces the migrants, year after year, to leave their own places and culture and come to do much of the dirtiest and worst-paid work in the industrialised areas of Europe, where they form the reserve army of labour. What is their view of the world? Of themselves? Of us? Of their own exploitation?</p> <p>For this project it will be necessary to travel and stay in many places. I will need sometimes to take Turkish friends with me who speak Turkish, or Portuguese friends, or Greek. I want to work again with a photographer, Jean Mohr, with whom I made the book about the country doctor. Even if we live modestly as we ought to and travel in the cheapest way possible, the project of four years will cost about ten thousand pounds. I did not know exactly how we would find this money. I did not have any of it myself. Now the award of the Booker Prize would make it possible to begin.</p> <p>Yet one does not have to be a novelist seeking very subtle connections to trace the five thousand pounds of this prize back to the economic activities from which they came. Booker McConnell have had extensive trading interests in the Caribbean for over 130 years. The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation. One of the consequences of this Caribbean poverty is that hundreds of thousands of West Indians have been forced to come to Britain as migrant workers. Thus my book about migrant workers would be financed from the profits made directly out of them or their relatives and ancestors.</p> <p>More than that, however, is involved. The industrial revolution and the inventions and culture which accompanied it and which created modern Europe was initially financed by profits from the slave trade. And the fundamental nature of the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world, between black and white, has not changed. In&nbsp;<em>G.</em>&nbsp;the statue of the four chained Moors is the most important single image of the book. This is why I have to turn this prize against itself. And I propose to do so by sharing it in a particular way. The half I give away will change the half I keep.</p> <p>First let me make the logic of my position really clear. It is not a question of guilt or bad conscience. It certainly is not a question of philanthropy. It is not even, first and foremost, a question of politics. It is a question of my continuing development as a writer: the issue is between me and the culture which has formed me.</p> <p>Before the slave trade began, before the European de-humanised himself, before he clenched himself on his own violence, there must have been a moment when black and white approached each other with the amazement of potential equals. The moment passed. And henceforth the world was divided between potential slaves and potential slavemasters. And the European carried this mentality back into his own society. It became part of his way of seeing everything.</p> <p>The novelist is concerned with the interaction between individual and historical destiny. The historical destiny of our time is becoming clear. The oppressed are breaking through the wall of silence which was built into their minds by their oppressors. And in their struggle against exploitation and neo-colonialism - but only through and by virtue of the common struggle - it is possible for the descendants of the slave and the slavemaster to approach each other again with the amazed hope of potential equals.</p> <p>This is why I intend to share the prize with those West Indians in and from the Caribbean who are fighting to put an end to their exploitation. The London-based Black Panther movement has arisen out of the bones of what Bookers and other companies have created in the Caribbean; I want to share this prize with the Black Panther movement because they resist both as black people and workers the further exploitation of the oppressed. And because, through their Black People’s Information Centre, they have links with the struggle in Guyana, the seat of Booker McConnell’s wealth, in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean: the struggle whose aim is to expropriate all such enterprises.</p> <p>You know as well as I do that the amount of money involved - as soon as one stops thinking of it as a literary prize - is extremely small. I badly need more money for my project about the migrant workers of Europe. The Black Panther movement badly needs money for their newspaper and for other activities. But the sharing of the prize signifies that our aims are the same. And by that recognition a great deal is clarified. And in the end – as well as in the beginning – clarity is more important than money.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong><em>Anthony Barnett's <a href="">The Lure of Greatness </a>will be published next month</em></strong></p><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-berger/rostia-kunovsky-fen%C3%AAtres-lettres-0">Rostia Kunovsky: Fenêtres Lettres </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/john-berger-witness-to-human-condition-1926-2017">John Berger, witness to the human condition (1926-2017)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-5-redrawing-maps">Art and Property Now: Room 5, Redrawing the Maps</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-4-vertical-line-%E2%80%93-radio-edit">Art and Property Now: Room 4: The Vertical Line – Radio Edit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-3-to-be-continued-by-reader%E2%80%A6">Art and Property Now: Room 3: To be continued by the reader…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-2-ways-of-seeing-and-g-at-40">Art and Property Now: Room 2: Ways of Seeing and G at 40</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-1-painter-of-our-time">Art and Property Now: Room 1: A Painter of Our Time </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-berger/shame-not-individual-guilt">Shame, not individual guilt </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk United States UK europe Caribbean Anthony Barnett Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:35:35 +0000 Anthony Barnett 112489 at Words of fire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The language of resistance is resourceful, creative and deep. After Grenfell, the words of those affected ring out clearly and truly – showing up the shallow contempt of those by whom they are governed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People in the public gallery at a meeting of Kensington and Chelsea Council at Kensington Town Hall in west London. Ben Stephens/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span class="blockquote-new">“Thank you for your stories. Let's get on with the meeting.” – a councillor at an&nbsp;open council meeting of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council.</span></p><p dir="ltr">A lot has been said about the burning of Grenfell Tower as a human rights issue. But the catastrophe is as much about political citizenship, and the meanings of democracy, particularly local democracy, in the UK just now.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">At a meeting last week, the elected representatives of Kensington and Chelsea&nbsp;council&nbsp; looked at the survivors of the fire – and rolled their eyes.</p><p dir="ltr">At a meeting last week, the elected representatives of Kensington and Chelsea council looked at the survivors of the fire – and rolled their eyes. Last year I <a href="">wrote</a> about the banality of Brexit, and the audacious thoughtlessness that characterised the UK’s Leave campaign. But to react to the words of people of who had lost their children, spouses, lovers, relatives, friends, pets, possessions – their homes in all senses – as though their words were only so much smoke of predictable, irritating, grievance, is a particularly shocking banality. Those swivelling eyeballs betray a weary contempt not just for the humanity of suffering others, but for the political rights of the members of the community the councillors represent.</p><p dir="ltr">The councillors were not just being rude, although the conspicuous bad manners in public debate in the UK over the last year suggests a country that has forgotten how to be civil. It is one thing to give offence out of political passion, but something much more shallow and sticky is at work in our current incivility.</p><p dir="ltr">Shallow was how Hannah Arendt described modern evil – a contagious, rootless malevolence that murdered not so much out of diabolic conviction as sheer thoughtlessness. You could tell you were in the presence of this kind of evil, she said, because of the words it uses: hollow clichés, often pompous, and self-regarding – and devastatingly detached from reality. &nbsp;These are the words people utter when they don’t care who is listening. It’s a thoughtless language for thoughtless actions. By contrast, the two-in-one of thinking – the dialogue in our heads to which we should be listening – Arendt said, was a way of being in the world: judging it, holding ourselves, and one other, to account.</p><p dir="ltr">Eye rolling is defensive. It is what people do when they think they are being attacked. In groups, it is a mirroring battle formation: look, say the eyes, we all know how tiresome this all is. Language is important. In rolling their eyes at one another, the councillors were also shutting their ears.&nbsp;The words that came at them were anything but clichés:</p><h2><em>"Children went to bed and woke up in ashes."</em></h2><h2><em>"We are united. We are here to teach you to be united."<br /></em></h2><h2><em>"I haven't slept in 6 weeks. Your responsibilities are on our shoulders."</em></h2><h2><em>"You are the leader. You intimidate us daily with the sight of that tower. You call us poor, we are poor in what? Rich in love, culture, heritage."</em></h2><h2><em>"This village no longer recognises the legitimacy of our estate."</em></h2><h2><em>"You guys have houses – hear what we have to say."</em></h2><h2><em>"All public office holders are servants of the public and stewards of public funds… We are not your servants."</em></h2><h2><em>"The worth of this borough lies in its communities, its cohesion."</em></h2><h2><em>"You need to be blessed by this community to be in this chair."</em></h2><p dir="ltr">A woman from flat number 10 Grenfell Tower held up her key to her flat: 'this is my home. Every time I look at this key I wonder what is the difference between us human beings.’</p><p dir="ltr">The key to a missing home is the traditional symbol of the Palestinian Nakba. In that appalling history, the citizenship of some was also assumed while that of others’ was rendered invisible.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The language of resistance is resourceful, deep, and creative. These are the words of people for whom it is imperative that language starts to mean things in the world again. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If Grenfell has stripped certain words bare of their meaning (‘tragedy’ being one, ‘trust’ another, ‘sympathy’ an unhappy third), the language of resistance is resourceful, deep, and creative. These are the words of people for whom it is imperative that language starts to mean things in the world again. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">What could be heard in the council chamber last week (for those with ears to listen, and eyes to see) was both the testimony of people who are suffering, and, as importantly, the political speech of people who are thinking, intensely and tirelessly. &nbsp;These ‘stories’ were as much about responsibility and agency, recognition, representation, leadership and accountability, as they were about suffering. &nbsp;The stories were the meeting – or should have been.</p><p dir="ltr">This was not a demonstration in which legitimate leaders were ‘heckled’, as was implied by much of the UK press, but a demonstration, a manifestation, of what democracy should look like in a place where it was glaringly absent – many residents were locked out of the council chamber, the fire doors bolted against them. An absence of any appreciation for the cruelties of irony is another characteristic of the banality of evil.</p><p dir="ltr">Arendt thought that speech itself was a kind of action, which is why she defined the ‘right to have rights’ as the right to speech – not necessarily ‘free speech’, but politically meaningful speech. Grenfell’s residents may not have many rights – that much is horribly clear – but in their speech last week, in their actions, leadership and organisation, they were actively claiming their citizenship and, in so doing, giving a lesson in democracy to the rest of us.</p><p dir="ltr">‘If you councillors from the ruling party honestly believe that you have the legitimacy to rule after everything you have heard here tonight, you need to reconsider,’ explained Edward Daffam, to the people who sat behind their bottles of chilled water. ‘Because I’ll tell you one thing: &nbsp;the wounds of this community are not going to heal if you are ignorant enough to believe you have any legitimacy.’ &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The etymology of ‘ignorant’ shares a history with the word ‘ignore’: it’s a kind of willing stupidity – a banality. When Daffam called the council ignorant, he was not being rude; he was explaining to them what responsible governance means.</p><p dir="ltr">The words ‘dignity’ and ‘humanity’ are used a lot in the discourse around Grenfell. They are good words, but they too are lacking meaning. As activist and writer Seraphima Kennedy has pointed out, the citizens of Grenfell don’t need any more pity; it is political and existential recognition that they seek.</p><p><em><strong>Thanks to Dawn Foster (<a href="">@DawnHFoster</a>) Seraphima Kennedy (<a href="">@seraphimaAM)</a> and Susie Symes (<a href="">@susiesymes1</a>) whose live-tweeting and reporting on the meeting provoked these reflections.</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="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london"> Fire in neo-liberal London</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/fire-in-worlds-laudromat">A fire in the world&#039;s laundromat</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/hsiao-hung-pai/grenfell-tower-and-people-without-capital">Grenfell tower and the people without capital</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/roshan-croker/terrible-consequences-of-deregulation-and-cutting-corners">The terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell Tower Fire Lyndsey Stonebridge Mon, 24 Jul 2017 16:13:01 +0000 Lyndsey Stonebridge 112482 at The UK government thinks I am an extremist – and you might be one too <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK government has turned to the policing of ideas in their efforts to pre-empt and thwart terrorism. Such a strategy makes anyone who rejects the status quo a potential suspect.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May as Home Secretary in 2015 speaking at Chatham House event 'Countering Terrorism: A Global Perspective'. Chatham House/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Given the recent attacks in London and Manchester, the violence of the far right in murdering the MP Jo Cox, and the images of the London bombings in 2005 still fresh in Britain’s collective memory, it is no surprise that preventing terrorism remains a high priority for the UK government. Yet, since 2005, preventing terrorism has shifted, from attempting to stop terrorist attacks, to attempting to pre-empt terrorism by discouraging the ideas that appear to be behind these attacks. Since 2005, the fear of ‘home-grown terrorism’ has led to a policy focus on ‘extremism’ – defined as a precursor stage on a ‘radicalisation’ journey towards political violence. Yet, what does ‘extremism’ mean? And what ideas are therefore considered threatening?</p><p dir="ltr">A certain logic appears to dictate how we comprehend an attack having taken place. The perpetrator of the violence is a ‘terrorist’ who must have been ‘radicalised’ to believe that violence is a legitimate action to achieve a political goal. Furthermore, this radicalisation must have been promoted by an ‘extreme’ political ideology that catalysed that journey. Whether we look at <a href="">Mohammed Emwazi</a> (the British ISIS fighter known more commonly as ‘Jihadi John’), or <a href="">Thomas Mair</a> (Jo Cox’s murderer), newspapers are awash with analyses of the ‘radicalisation journey’, which attempt to pinpoint the very moment, and the very factors, that caused that person to take up a violent struggle.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, this fascination with journeys to terrorism, and this emphasis on ideology, is not supported by academic research. The fact of the matter is that the empirical evidence is very weak and uncertain. We simply do not have the ability to say why one person turns to violence, while another, under the very same conditions, does not. Despite this focus on ‘extremism’ and ‘extremist ideology’, we are no closer to saying what impact it has on political violence. In the words of terrorism scholar, <a href="">Mark Sageman</a>, “There is no doubt that ideology, including global neo-jihadi ideology, is an important part of any explanation in the turn to political violence, but we still don’t know how”. The American scholar <a href=";cbl=2031898">Randy Borum</a> is even more dismissive of theories of radicalisation: “None of them yet have a very firm social-scientific basis as an established ‘cause’ of terrorism, and few of them have been subjected to any rigorous scientific systematic enquiry”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This uncertainty in the ‘science’ behind radicalisation does not appear to have translated into policy circles.</p><p dir="ltr">This uncertainty in the ‘science’ behind radicalisation does not appear to have translated into policy circles. In the 2011 major overhaul of the UK’s counter-terrorism <a href="">Prevent strategy</a>, the emphasis on the ‘ideology’ of terrorist groups was made objective number one. The strategy writes that Prevent will, “respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it”. It is this transformation of counter-terrorism strategy into a counter-ideological project that makes the UK’s approach to countering terrorism so threatening to democracy and political change more broadly.</p><p dir="ltr">Prevent explicitly aims to counter extremist ideology. One arena in which it aims to achieve this is in schools. <a href="">Since 2015, schools must by law,</a> comply with the ‘Prevent duty’ – a legal requirement that teachers are trained to identify to relevant authorities any students that might display signs of ‘radicalisation’. Such a requirement has had profound and traumatic impact on some students, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative entitled <a href="">Eroding Trust</a> listed a number of troubling cases including: primary school students having their political opinions recorded by the Home Office; a 12-year-old being interviewed by school leaders after playing a ‘terrorist’ in a drama class, and a secondary school-aged student being interviewed by police for expressing pro-Palestinian views in school. All of the students involved were Muslim.</p><p dir="ltr">But schools must not just scrutinise and survey their students. <a href="">They are also regulated</a> on their ability to promote “fundamental British values” and their ability to “challenge extremist views”. This curious expression of ‘fundamental British values’ was conceived within the first attempt by a UK government to define extremism – within the 2011 overhaul of the Prevent strategy:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="">Despite clear divergence and contestation in the academic literature</a> regarding the meaning of extremism, the UK government defines an extremist as someone opposed to a certain group of values. These values have been critiqued for not being uniquely British, for being vaguely grouped under the word ‘including’, and for being potentially contradictory – the Suffragettes’ necessity to break the law in order to make Britain more democratic being oft-cited in this regard. Despite this, schools make frequent reference to this definition, with common citations in school counter-extremism policies, school assemblies on fundamental British values, and in classes that teach students about terrorism and extremism.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_England,_1908.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_England,_1908.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A suffragette meeting in Caxton Hall, Manchester, England circa 1908. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>But how do schools interpret ‘extremism’ and how do they challenge extremist narratives? Exploring this aids an understanding of the broader implications of this focus on ‘extremism’ in countering terrorism. This article reports findings from an on-going study, which has analysed nearly 200 lessons currently used in British classrooms that teach students about the issues of extremism and fundamental British values. Exploring schools’ teaching on the topic offers us all great pause for thought as to the dangers of current thinking about extremism and counter-extremism, and in particular its threat to democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">The study analysed how extremism was defined in each of these 200 lessons. It found three broad groups of definitions. Some lessons offered no definition at all – assuming students would already know what extremism is. Others would offer tautological definitions suggesting ‘extremists are people with extreme political or religious views’. The third group would cite the government’s definition straight from the Prevent strategy directly into classroom presentations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It is heavily implied that the UK government holds British values, and that anyone who does not is therefore an extremist.</p><p dir="ltr">Students are thus being offered very little assistance in assessing what might be considered ‘extreme’, but they are certainly being aided in understanding what the ‘moderate’ or the ‘reasonable’ is. Through citing the government’s definition, students are being taught that the UK government is the barometer from which extremism is measured. It is heavily implied that the UK government also holds British values, and that anyone who does not is therefore an extremist. The government is thereby in a position to adjudicate the ‘normal’ or the ‘reasonable’. One sees this most clearly when the fundamental British values themselves are being taught. Democracy, for instance, is often taught in direct contrast to dictatorship. One presentation explains, “The UK is a democracy, of course”. Another compares the pros and cons of living in the UK or living in IS-controlled Syria, and asks students where they would prefer to live. That the UK could be more democratic is a suggestion that is very rarely offered.</p><p dir="ltr">In cases where definitions of extremism are absent or tautological, students are asked to fill in the gaps. But this does not stop these resources building up a picture of the ‘normal’ from which extremism is said to deviate. Extremists are painted as being ‘manipulated’, and ‘vulnerable’ to being ‘brainwashed’. As such, rational, moderate, correct views and values are implied into existence. Extremists are painted as abnormal. As one classroom presentation to students explained: “Extremism in its broadest sense is an individual or group of individuals who take an extreme position from that of the norm, or take an extreme action”.</p><p dir="ltr">Extremists are thus painted as people who have “crossed a line” from the permissible to the illegitimate. In an educational video, one interviewee explains: “Extremism for me is when somebody goes too far because of something that they believe in”. Exploring the multitude of examples of ‘extremism’ that are given across these lessons helps to explain both a lack of clarity as to what extremism is, and the sheer breadth of ideas that are seen to have crossed this line into extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">Alongside the many mentions of what might be termed ‘Islamic extremism’ and the frequent mentions of what might be termed ‘right wing extremism’, it is fascinating to examine the more unusual examples of extremism on show in these materials. In particular, these examples tend to focus on having crossed one of two ‘lines’ – into the realm of illegality or into the realm of violence.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Caroline Lucas MP’s arrest at an anti-fracking demonstration&nbsp;was given as an example of extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">With regard to the latter, it is interesting how often examples of genocide – the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide in particular – are given as examples of extremism. While these are both certainly forms of ‘extreme’ violence, they appear to bear little relation to contemporary threats, and are particularly at a distance from current terror threats from those inspired by white supremacists or the Islamic State. The violence of genocide is horrific, but is it terrorism? In another case of ‘extreme’ violence, students examine violent clashes that occurred between members of the EDL and anti-fascist protesters, and are asked, “when does protest cross the line?” – with the occurrence of violence demonstrating the presence of extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">In other cases, it is breaking the law that indicates ‘extremism’ – the rule of law being one of the ‘fundamental British values’. One respondent in an educational video, when asked ‘what is extremism?’ answers: “Anything that doesn’t obey the law of the land is extreme”. Examples included students protesting tuition fees in 2011 damaging property, or an educational play in which a fictional ‘anti-capitalist’ group had planned to break into and graffiti a bank. It seems of little surprise, therefore, that Caroline Lucas MP’s arrest at an anti-fracking demonstration <a href="">was given as an example of extremism by a police officer</a> training teachers in the Prevent duty. It appears that civil disobedience, despite it playing a vital role in struggles for women’s suffrage or employment rights, both contradicts ‘fundamental British values’ and is ‘extreme’.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What is perhaps of most concern are examples of 'extremism' where it is merely an opinion or view, rather than an action.</p><p dir="ltr">What is perhaps of most concern however, are examples of 'extremism' where it is merely an opinion or view, rather than an action, that has strayed across a ‘line’ too far from the norm. The Westboro Baptist Church (organisers of the &nbsp;“God Hates Fags” protests) is given as an example. One presentation offered a series of examples of ‘extreme’ views that students were required to challenge including “Multiculturalism is bad for Britain” – an argument made strongly in a speech by David Cameron back in 2011 – yet, one would be hard-pressed to argue the then Prime Minister was an extremist. One can be ‘extreme’ about a whole host of issues according to some teaching materials – rights for fathers, nuclear power, whale hunting, even vegetarianism. 'Extreme' appears synonymous with being passionate for unpopular ideas – and yet, these ideas are also being painted as threatening.</p><p dir="ltr">While these examples of extremism appear broad, and at times laughable, what is of most concern is the links drawn between these ‘extreme’ views and the potential for political violence. Despite, as mentioned above, the lack of scientific support that can link so-called ‘extremist ideology’ to the use of political violence with any certainty, the linkages between ideas and violence is made very clear in educational resources. As one teaching resource explains: “Extremism can lead to violence and so it is never OK because we can’t predict what will become of extreme views and innocent people don’t deserve to suffer.” As the UK government themselves argue in the Prevent strategy: “Terrorist groups of all kinds very often draw upon ideologies which have been developed, disseminated and popularised by extremist organisations that appear to be non-violent”. Extreme ideas in non-violent organisations may lead to violence, and thus need to be discouraged: the threat to democracy appears considerable.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">As someone who has engaged in civil disobedience and been threatened with arrest, I have “crossed the line” into extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">In compiling this research, it appears that, according to the UK government, I am an extremist. As someone who has engaged in civil disobedience and been threatened with arrest, I have “crossed the line” into extremism. But moreover, even if I had not done this, and did not ever plan to do so in the future, simply acknowledging the legitimacy of civil disobedience might be enough to be considered an extremist if, after hearing my views, someone else went to protest illegally. In linking the term ‘extreme’ both to the threat of violence and to the idea of ‘abnormal views’, the UK government is transforming diverse ideas into a threat, and narrowing the window of legitimate opinion. In countering extremism, the UK government is therefore countering a key tenet of democracy – free and open debate of a diversity of views and ideas. It is deeply ironic that in attempting to protect so-called fundamental British values, the UK government appears to endanger those very same values it champions. It is deeply troubling that the window of ‘reasonable’ and ‘permissable’ political views that we are offering to our young people in their education on extremism and terrorism is so narrow.</p><p dir="ltr">It is clear a new strategy is needed if the UK wishes to both counter extremism and promote democracy. Perhaps clearly discouraging the use of violence rather than discouraging diverse political views would be a good first step forward.</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="/kieran-ford/banality-of-terrorism-story-we-ve-all-heard-before"> The banality of terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kieran-ford/which-lives-do-we-mourn-and-other-questions-we-no-longer-decide-for-o"> Which lives do we mourn? And other questions we no longer decide for ourselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/eva-nanopoulos/corbyn-led-government-should-start-by-scrapping-prevent-strategy">A Corbyn-led government should start by scrapping the Prevent Strategy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Kieran Ford Mon, 24 Jul 2017 11:20:50 +0000 Kieran Ford 112371 at Aesthetic labour, beauty politics and neoliberalism: An interview with Rosalind Gill <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ian Sinclair speaks to Professor Rosalind Gill about the relationship between beauty politics, aesthetic labour and neoliberalism, the role of social media and the impact all this has on women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Rosalind Gill is Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at City, University of London, and is Co-Editor of the new book <a href="">‘Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism’</a>, published this year by Palgrave MacMillan.&nbsp;</em><em>In this interview Ian Sinclair speaks to Professor Gill about the relationship between beauty politics, aesthetic labour and neoliberalism, the role of social media and the impact all this has on women.</em> <strong>Ian Sinclair: What has happened to beauty politics since the turn to <em>Rosalind Gill is Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at City, University of London, and is Co-Editor of the new book <a href="">‘Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism’</a>, published this year by Palgrave MacMillan.&nbsp;</em><em>In this interview Ian Sinclair speaks to Professor Gill about the relationship between beauty politics, aesthetic labour and neoliberalism, the role of social media and the impact all this has on women.</em> <strong>Ian Sinclair: What has happened to beauty politics since the turn to neoliberalism in the Western world from the late 1970s onwards?</strong> Rosalind Gill: Over the past two decades we have seen an extraordinary intensification of beauty pressures that are connected to a variety of changes – some of them social, cultural, economic and technological. In terms of technological change, for example, the ubiquity of camera phones with very high capacities for magnification has led to a new and unprecedented surveillance of women’s bodies. It is a truism to say that this is the age of the image, of the photograph – <a href="">24 billion selfies</a> were taken in 2016 alone. No previous generation has ever been the subject or object of so much visual attention. This was bound to have an impact on beauty pressures. When you add to it the mainstreaming and normalisation of cosmetic procedures – both surgical interventions and nonsurgical beauty treatments such as Botox, liposuction, <a href="">skin peels</a> and <a href="">fillers</a>, promoted as&nbsp; ‘everyday’ even ‘<a href="">lunch hour</a>’ interventions, you can see that even at the level of technological change there has been a growing impetus to focus on appearance. Yet on top of that there are key social and cultural changes, and the vast economic growth of the cosmetics industry too, blurring and hybridising into surgical and pharmaceutical industries. Now, more than ever before, it really makes sense to speak of a ‘beauty industrial complex’. One of the ways that this is connected to neoliberalism is through the emphasis upon the body as a project – something to be worked on, and something which is thought about as our own individual capital. This idea has been around in social theory for some considerable time now, linked to theorisations of late modernity in which we are all held to be responsible for the design of our own bodies. Interestingly a lot of this writing has been quite general, even universalising, in tone – but I think what we are seeing much more now are attempts to ground this in specificities – for example in terms of gender or race or disability. While it is clear that there is a broad imperative around the symbolic value of the body, it matters whether you are <a href="">cis</a> or <a href="">trans</a>, whether you have a normative body or are fat, and still – I think – whether you are male or female. </strong></p><blockquote><strong>"Now, more than ever before, it really makes sense to speak of a ‘beauty industrial complex’"</strong></blockquote><p><strong> Allied to neoliberalism there have been a series of shifts that have come to be understood in terms of a ‘postfeminist’ sensibility circulating in contemporary culture. One of the key features of this sensibility is the emphasis on the body as the locus of womanhood and the core site of women’s value. This has displaced earlier – equally problematic – constructions of femininity, which placed emphasis on motherhood or on particular psychological capacities such as caring. Today, the requirement to work on and perfect the body has reached such an intensity for women that it has become – in Alison Winch’s <a href="">words</a> – ‘her asset, her product, her brand and her gateway to freedom and empowerment in a neoliberal market economy’, even though it must also always be presented as freely chosen, not the result of any coercion or even influence. A beauty imperative has gained more and more traction, with the idea that sexual attractiveness is the measure of success for a woman – whatever else she is she must also strive for beauty and perfection. Depressingly, you don’t have to look far to see instances of this in popular culture. Even our female politicians are subject to this as we saw graphically in the notorious ‘<a href="">LEGS-IT</a>’ headline a few months ago, comparing and rating Theresa May’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s legs. </strong></p><blockquote><strong>"A beauty imperative has gained more and more traction, with the idea that sexual attractiveness is the measure of success for a woman"</strong></blockquote><p><strong> When I make this kind of argument the first responses is usually for someone to say ‘men are under pressure too’. And this is undeniably true. I’ve done a lot of work over my career on changing representations of male bodies – from the ‘sixpack’, to the trend for removing body hair, to the promotion of skincare products targeted at men. For me it is absolutely clear that the beauty industry is moving in on men, big time; they represent an enormous potential market – and it is especially clear this year as we see cosmetics companies begin aggressively to market make up to men. Cover Girl’s first male/gender fluid ‘ambassador’, <a href="">James Charles</a>, is simply the most visible example. It seems to me that there is a relentless market-driven pressure being brought to bear on men – especially young men. Having said that, the pressure and scrutiny that women are under is still far greater, has a different history, and greater significance and centrality in women’s lives. <strong>IS: In the book you refer to ‘aesthetic labour’ and ‘aesthetic entrepreneurship’. Citing some examples, can you explain what you mean by these terms?</strong> RG: The term ‘aesthetic labour’ had been around for some time, especially used by sociologists of work. It has been part of a toolkit of terms designed to unpick the different forms of labouring involved in various occupations – <a href="">emotional labour</a>, <a href="">affective labour</a>, <a href="">venture labour</a>, and so on. A body of work by scholars including Irene Grugulis and Chris Warhurst has been interested in how soft skills are increasingly called upon, including the need for workers to ‘look good and sound right’ in workplaces such as coffee shops. More recently Elizabeth Wissinger has also developed the notion of ‘<a href="">glamour labour</a>’ to talk about the work of models and fashion industry insiders. A particularly valuable feature of this is the way it shows that this labour isn’t just about the physical body but also involves attention to qualities like ‘cool quotient’ – which involves relationships, social media use and style or reputation. With our intervention we wanted to build on these really interesting bodies of work to argue that these practices of what we see as aesthetic entrepreneurship are not bounded by the workplace, but rather are much more widespread in contemporary societies that are dominated by new forms of visibility, appearance and looking. The requirement to curate an appealing self is not only a work requirement; it is a growing social and cultural imperative. Secondly we also wanted to highlight the psychosocial dimensions of this, with an emphasis on the fact that in today’s makeover culture it is not just the body that is reinvented but the whole self, the making of a beautiful subjectivity.&nbsp; And finally by using the term ‘aesthetic entrepreneurship’ we wanted to draw links to neoliberalism more broadly – that is to this idea of selves as enterprising, calculating, reflexive, and so on. One of the things this does for us is to break the impasse in feminist beauty studies – an impasse in which some talk of women as autonomous and creative agents, and others talk of passive and docile subjects. Our intervention – and shown through the chapters in the book – is to argue that women are both subjected and creative. A chapter in the book by <a href="">Simidele Dosekun</a> illustrates this beautifully. The affluent, fashionable Nigerian women she interviews are shown to be operating in a beauty regime in which particular features are highly valued and others disparaged – in this sense their aesthetic labour is culturally compelled. Yet far from being ‘passive dopes’ Simi shows that these fashionistas are knowing and sophisticated consumers, investing in notions of vigilance and rest – e.g. giving their skin time to breathe, their nails ‘time out’ from gel add-ons, and so on – practising aesthetic entrepreneurship to mitigate risks. <strong>IS: How have the changes you have set out been influenced by the increasing popularity of social media?</strong> RG: Social media are so ubiquitous now that they are hard to disentangle from other influences. One of the things that interests me greatly, though, is the impact of social media on our ways of seeing. A lot of writers have tried to engage with this in some way – Terri Senft has talked about ‘<a href="">the grab</a>’ of social media, whilst Malcolm Gladwell famously talks of ‘<a href="">the blink</a>’ as our current modality of engagement. Personally I am really interested in current attempts to think about surveillance beyond the metaphor of the <a href="">Panopticon</a>. Of course there is loads to be said about big data and surveillance which is hugely important. But my focus has been on something slightly different: the idea that our ways of seeing are literally transforming. I notice with my students that they pore over and really scrutinise images on their phones – whether this is of celebrities, their friends or themselves. It involves the kind of forensic form of looking in which magnification is to the fore. This is producing all kinds of new visual literacies, particularly of the face, and they are literacies in which I am not competent. As someone who believes thoroughly in the idea that we are socially and culturally shaped, I can recognise that my own visual habits and competencies have been formed in another era: when I look at an image on social media I simply do not ‘see’ what my students (often 30 years younger) see. I am constantly astonished by the detailed and forensic quality of their ways of seeing, as well as the way they are often framed through a ‘<a href=";pg=PA37&amp;lpg=PA37&amp;dq=pedagogy+of+defect+bordo&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=33bu0ESaWW&amp;sig=Bu8qgZAtVL4kbbzKZA93oj2nbcI&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjI7s3ixIbVAhUMK1AKHZNyAYcQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&amp;q=pedagogy%20of%20defect%20bordo&amp;f=false">pedagogy of defect</a>’ (to use Susan Bordo’s famous phrase) in which minute flaws and imperfections are itemised. Compared with this I feel my own ways of seeing are almost akin to a blur or at best a casual glance – and mostly more benign. These new visual literacies have been engendered and taught not simply through <em>Facebook</em> and <em>Instagram</em> and <em>Snapchat</em> but also through the vast proliferation of beauty apps that I have been writing about with Ana Elias. &nbsp;Some of these are filters: ‘swipe to erase blemishes, whiten teeth, brighten dark circles and even reshape your facial structure’ (<a href=""><em>Face Tune</em></a>) or ‘to look 5, 10 or 15 lbs. skinnier’ (<em><a href="">SkinneePix</a></em>). As we have argued, many of these filters encode deeply troubling ideas about race as well as gender – with skin ‘lightening’ a common feature, and recourse to problematic ideas from evolutionary psychology. Aesthetic ‘benchmarking’ apps are another huge category allowing users to get a score on ‘how hot am I?’ or ‘how old do I look?’ or get rated by the ‘ugly meter’. These apps call on users to upload a selfie – after which they will be given a ‘score’. Claiming to tell you things your friends wouldn’t, the apps trade on a certain algorithmic authority and may also highlight which features need to be changed, with ‘helpful’ hints about treatments or surgeries that would elicit a higher score. As such they shade into another type of app we discuss – namely the cosmetic surgery try-out apps that allow you to ‘visualize a new you’ with whiter teeth, or larger breasts or a remodelled nose. As Ana and I argue in an <a href="">article</a> that has just come out in <em>European Journal of Cultural Studies</em>, these kinds of apps (and others we discuss) not only generate new visual literacies but also bring the cosmetic surgeon’s gaze out of the clinic and into our most intimate moments, via the smartphone. We argue that they are part of the shifting of meaning-making about surgery and other interventions – made more seductive through the gamified features of these apps. </strong></p><blockquote><strong>"These new visual literacies have been engendered and taught not simply through <em>Facebook</em> and <em>Instagram</em> and <em>Snapchat</em> but also through the vast proliferation of beauty apps"</strong></blockquote><strong> <strong>IS: How have women been impacted by the ‘intensity of beauty norms’ pushed by what you call the ‘beauty-industrial complex’ and wider culture?</strong> RG: It’s quite hard to answer this question. It seems strange doesn’t it – yet there really is a paucity of research around these issues – at least outside of psychology. Psychology and the ‘<a href="">effects tradition</a>’ has the upper hand in this field with lots of studies correlating social media use or posting of selfies etc. with poor body image, mental health issues, greater propensity to undergo cosmetic surgery and so on. This is all valid of course, but tends to be focussed in a narrow effects tradition with all the problems that are well documented. The lack of sociological studies makes it feel as if we lack a sense of the way feelings and practices and everyday reasoning around appearance are actually part of the texture of everyday life. On the other hand when we do have more ethnographic studies they often seem invested in a particular perspective – for example the claim that young people are robust, resilient, critical users of media and there isn’t really a problem. I don’t find either perspective particularly illuminating. I have to admit that the main insights I get come from my own students’ discussions of these issues in my courses on media. Some are scathing and critical and may claim their engagement with beauty culture is always mediated by ‘having a laugh’. Others tell of painful struggle with weight or skin conditions, or experiences of untagging themselves from multiple photos in which they don’t think they look good, or of trying to score higher on some attractiveness-rating app. I think it’s fair to say that none of us exist outside of the rapidly intensifying and extensifying beauty industrial complex. I say extensifying as well as intensifying because what is striking is how beauty pressures are also spreading out – across new domains (<a href="">facial symmetry measurements</a>, <a href="">thigh gap</a>) and new parts of life – childhood, old age, pregnancy etc. <strong>IS: I was interested to see you discuss Dove’s ‘Love Your Body’-style </strong><a href=""><strong>Campaign for Real Beauty</strong></a><strong>, which was launched in 2004. Though it has been widely celebrated, you have some criticisms of it?</strong> RG: Love Your Body (LYB) advertising has really taken off over the last decade or so with brands like <em>Dove</em>, <em>Always</em>, <em>Weightwatchers</em> and <em>Special K</em> queueing up to spread the self-love and body confidence message to women. I feel deeply ambivalent about this. On the one hand these exhortations to self belief, body love and confidence are genuinely a welcome interruption to a stream of commercial communications that have focussed on body hate and pointing out what was wrong with us and how we could do better. Yet against this it is hard not to feel cynical when it is the exact same companies that sold us HYB (Hate Your Body) that are now preaching a quasi-feminist empowerment. <em>Special K</em> telling us to “<a href="">shut down fat talk</a>”?! Come on! Even the <em>Daily Mail</em> called it ironic. And clicking through on that very ‘positive’ campaign takes you straight to the company’s BMI calculator… Some other relatively obvious criticisms of LYB are about its fakeness – it uses the exact techniques&nbsp; it claims to repudiate: hiring ‘non-model models’, using photoshop, etc; it’s pseudo diversity – try comparing a <em>Dove</em> advert with an image from <a href="">Fat Activism</a> and see how ‘diverse’ it really looks; and its ‘re-citing’ of hate talk – when <em>Special K</em> told us to shut down fat talk it obviously had to spend most of the advert reminding us just what those hostile messages were (obvs!). But more than all this I’m very critical of LYB – and what Shani Orgad and I have called ‘<a href="">confidence cult</a>’ discourses more generally – for some more profound reasons. First because they blame women for their own lack of confidence, and exculpate patriarchal capitalism by implying that low self-esteem or body insecurity are things that women do to themselves (try watching <em>Dove</em>’s ‘<a href="">Patches</a>’ if you don’t believe me). And secondly because I believe that this new culture of confidence actually represents a new form of regulation: one that seeks to regulate not simply the physical body but also the self and one’s feelings and relation to oneself and others. Body love and self-confidence have become compulsory dispositions. It is not enough to work on and discipline one’s body, but one also has to have the correct, upgraded, body-positive subjectivity. Insecurity and vulnerability have become toxic states – something that links to the wider culture of what I call the ‘femspiration’ industry. Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is about the affective life of neoliberalism: how it not only shapes our economic and political formations, and our subjectivities, but also colonises our feelings.</strong><p></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ian Sinclair Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:45:35 +0000 Ian Sinclair 112469 at Why the Conservative-DUP deal spells bad news for the environment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Beneath the surface, the new confidence and supply deal poses a number of threats to environmental justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When British prime ministers go into negotiations with the DUP, they find themselves giving undue consideration to some very skewed priorities. Back in 2006, Tony Blair was brokering the deal between DUP and Sinn Fein that would become the St Andrew’s agreement.&nbsp;The DUP brought him what would become known as a “<a href="">shopping list</a>” of demands that they wanted to see implemented if they were to go into government with their former enemies. Amongst their concerns about legacy issues arising from the Troubles was an obscure request about a proposed development at the Giant’s Causeway. The aspiring developer who wanted to build a new visitor’s centre at the tourist attraction was a man called Seymour Sweeney.&nbsp;A constituency planning matter brought up in an international peace settlement seemed like a rather minor request, but it would lead to a scandal that would&nbsp;<a href="">bring down Ian Paisley Senior as First Minister</a>, barely a year into the job he’d worked towards his whole life.&nbsp;Sweeney’s ambitions were a direct threat to plans to restore the National Trust visitors’ centre. UNESCO were alarmed when it was revealed that Paisley Jnr had falsely claimed that they had personally told him that they were happy with Sweeney’s proposals.&nbsp;Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage site was now under threat of being delisted. It would turn out that Sweeney was one of Ian Paisley Junior’s closest friends and business associates, although Paisley was at first&nbsp;<a href="">rather coy about their relationship</a>.&nbsp; In a foretaste of the expenses crisis that would engulf Westminster a year later, it transpired that the Paisleys’ joint constituency office was costing the taxpayer £56,000 a year in rent, and that Sweeney was a director of the company that had been set up to buy the building and act as landlord to First Minister &amp; Son. The intervention on behalf of Sweeney’s business interests during negotiations to secure peace for Northern Ireland was inferred by many as patronage in return for services rendered.&nbsp; This public perception was enough to trigger the palace coup that installed Peter Robinson in the Rev Dr’s place. It was the memory of this affair that led me to cast a sceptical eye over the Conservative-DUP financial agreement as soon as it was released. I knew that there&nbsp;could be potential threats to environmental justice. What immediately jumped out wasn’t much of a surprise, but could amount to&nbsp;an attack&nbsp;on Belfast’s urban working class. You see, apparently Northern Ireland’s suburban commuters need to get to work faster. That’s the first item on the agenda of the&nbsp;<a href="">financial settlement</a>&nbsp;attached to the agreement announced on Monday 26 June 2017. This is the cost of needing to negotiate with the Northern Ireland parties when you need something from them. Not that we don’t need our fair share of help from the UK government. Like every other part of the country, Northern Ireland is suffering from&nbsp;<a href="">a chronic shortage of adequate housing for our poorest citizens.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;Just like in Great Britain we are&nbsp;<a href="">failing to provide the minimum standards of breathable air</a>&nbsp;for the residents of our towns and cities. All this costs money, and solving these problems is incompatible with austerity. Yet Theresa&nbsp;May has been&nbsp;negotiating&nbsp;as a priority&nbsp;the&nbsp;upgrading of Belfast’s urban motorway, instead of finding the money to stop another Grenfell.&nbsp;Northern Ireland is one of the poorest areas of the UK, and we desperately need more cash. But the first real problem with this financial settlement is that so much of the money coming our way will go on this one tiny stretch of road, when every previous attempt to use new infrastructure to ease Belfast’s chronic congestion has given us only temporary respite. Eventually the lanes will clog up again – as they did on the Westlink in the noughties – and the idling traffic will spew even more unlawful quantities of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and climate trashing carbon dioxide into the air, mostly affecting some of the country’s most economically deprived communities.&nbsp;Belfast has&nbsp;<a href="">two of the ten most congested thoroughfares in the UK</a>. It has been emptying of residents for decades, and yet tens of thousands of us still need to do our jobs in the city centre every day. Our uniquely permissive planning system let too many of our citizens&nbsp;<a href="">build their homes in the open countryside</a>. This isn’t just a legacy of the Troubles, but a reflection of a polity whose environmental and planning governance are far behind the rest of the UK. A dispersed, hyper-suburbanised population cannot easily be connected via mass transit to a highly centralised economic hub, and so our politicians and civil servants are locked into a 1960s vision of transport, with the needs of the private car trumping all other means of conveyance. It is this mindset that the DUP brought to their negotiations with Theresa May. The perimeter of the city centre is already&nbsp;<a href="">blighted by a grey donut of multilane roads</a>&nbsp;cutting through what used to be tight lattices of streets that fostered cohesive inner city communities who felt connected to the beating heart of Belfast. The remnants of those communities now sit on the wrong side of the tarmac, feeling the city turn their back on them. They suffer disproportionately from the exhaust fumes of the suburban&nbsp;and rural dwellers&nbsp;who&nbsp;drive past them every day.&nbsp;Of all the things that the DUP could have negotiated on our behalf, the facilitating of unsustainable settlement patterns and transport policy was certainly not in the national interest. I have no doubt that prioritising the rights of commuters is environmentally unjust. I am also sure that another key item in the new “shopping list” is potentially disastrous. The term “Enterprise Zones” evokes a Silicon Valley vision of tech start-ups and disruptive innovation.&nbsp;&nbsp;This is not what they’re likely to mean for Northern Ireland. A similar sounding idea was first floated during the lead-up to the G8 summit in County Fermanagh in 2013.&nbsp;During a meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street, First Minister Peter Robinson, and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced their plans to introduce “<a href="">Special Economic Planning Zones.</a>” What this meant in practice was that OFMdFM (the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister) could draw a circle right in the middle of County Tyrone and declare it, for example,&nbsp;<a href="">a gold mining free-for-all</a>.&nbsp;A deregulated&nbsp;klondyke&nbsp;for anyone living nearby, with all the usual protections of the right to participate in the planning system suspended. A planning bill that was passing through the Assembly at the time was hijacked by Sinn Fein and the DUP with amendments that would have made these special powers a reality. Then environment minister, Mark H Durkan, was forced to withdraw the entire bill from further passage through the Assembly in order to prevent this power grab from progressing. Could these “Enterprise Zones” be yet another attempt to experiment with hyper-deregulation? Is Northern Ireland going to be a guinea pig for the complete suspension of environmental rule-of-law? What we do know is that the Conservative-DUP confidence-and-supply deal was agreed by a prime minister desperate to defend her position after a shock election victory, and that she was negotiating with a team of seasoned deal-makers who have a history of coming at these discussions sideways. I cannot say from what I’ve seen so far if there is any sectarian imbalance in the financial settlement, and I doubt strongly that the DUP or the Tories would make the mistake of letting this happen.&nbsp;There is already enough concern about how this deal threatens the British Government’s status as a neutral arbiter in the ongoing peace process, without scoring the own goal of handing more goodies to one side than the other. Concerns like this distract us from looking out for other potential hidden agendas in the new governing arrangements at Westminster.&nbsp;We should not cry foul about an extremely impoverished part of the UK getting a sudden injection of cash, or keep caricaturing the DUP as Cromwellian fanatics and killjoys. But we do need to cut through the murky detail, to the hidden background of this deal. It took multiple Freedom of Information requests in 2007/8 to uncover the St Andrew’s scandal. It is incumbent on all the citizens of the UK to be sceptical and vigilant as the new supply and demand regime beds in at Westminster.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Niall Bakewell Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:19:56 +0000 Niall Bakewell 112465 at Leadsom campaign chair denies involvement in dark-money funded poll which boosted her campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The MP who ran Andrea Leadsom’s leadership bid tells openDemocracy that he wasn’t involved in commissioning a key opinion poll which boosted her campaign and was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tim Loughton MP - photo,</span></span></span></p><p>The chair of Andrea Leadsom’s campaign to become Conservative party leader has denied involvement in <a href="">an opinion poll</a> which added momentum to her bid for prime minister at a key moment, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p>Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing &amp; Shoreham, has responded on Twitter to <a href="">our revelation</a> that a vital poll in the election, which showed Leadsom to be the key challenger to Theresa May on the day that MPs voted in their ‘first ballot’, was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council. Mr Loughton Tweeted “it is nonsense &amp; the campaign had nothing to do with this poll”.</p><p>The <a href="">Constitutional Research Council</a>, who funded the Survation poll, are a secretive group, currently taking advantage of obscure Northern Irish laws to prevent the public from finding out who gave them the £435,000 which they passed to the DUP ahead of the European referendum. The group later funneled cash to Steve Baker, who was the only MP other than Loughton to be a director of the “<a href="">Leadsom4Leader</a>” campaign.</p><p>News of the poll was <a href="">published at the time in the Telegraph</a>, who quoted two MPs supportive of Leadsom – Andrew Bridgen, and one who “asked not to be named”. As openDemocracy <a href="">reported on Saturday</a>, the poll was one of only three to appear after Boris Johnson withdrew from the race, and showed that Michael Gove – Leadsom’s main contender for pro-Brexit MPs – had disastrous approval ratings among the public. Responding to openDemocracy’s story about the poll, Mr Loughton tweeted at us:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">1/2 No one contacted me or my office about this or I would have told them it is nonsense &amp; the campaign had nothing to do with this poll -</p>— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="">July 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">2/2 so trust you will want to put the record straight immediately</p>— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="">July 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p>In fact, openDemocracy spoke to a member of Mr Loughton’s staff on the 18th of July at 16:31, and she said that she’d ask Mr Loughton what he knew about the poll and get back to us, which she never did. But leaving such details aside, the response begs a bigger question: if the campaign had nothing to do with the poll, who was the anonymous Leadsom supporting MP quoted in the article? Who was behind this carefully timed intervention in the election, which was spun so heavily in Leadsom’s favour and, most importantly, where did the money for the survey really come from?</p><p><i><strong> Update: Mr Loughton has now added that he was completely unaware of the poll altogether. </strong></i></p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Not only denied it but completely unaware of poll altogether-at that time we were too focussed on getting MP votes 2 do any outside activity</p></blockquote><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet">— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="">July 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">Key poll which boosted Leadsom’s leadership bid funded by DUP’s dark-money donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark money Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:19:18 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 112464 at Rashman: Police watchdog to investigate lethal restraint of young black man in Hackney <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <ul><li>Police claim officer “intervened” to “prevent the man from harming himself”. But video shows sustained restraint. (warning: distressing)</li></ul> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashan Jermaine Charles under police restraint, Hackney, Saturday 22 July 2017</span></span></span></p><p><em>UPDATE According to <a href=""></a> at 11AM Sunday the young man was aged 20 and has been named by his family as Rashan Jermaine Charles.</em></p><p></p>The Metropolitan police has claimed that a young black man who died in the London borough of Hackney in the early hours of Saturday morning was “taken ill” after “trying to swallow an object” and that a police officer “intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself”. <p>But <a href="">video circulating on social media</a> appears to tell a different story.</p> <p>The video shows the young man, who has been identified as “Rashman”, walking down the aisle of a shop.&nbsp;</p> <p>A uniformed police officer grabs him from behind and pulls him backwards.&nbsp;</p> <p>The young, slightly built, black man appears to put up no resistance.</p> <p>The officer then appears to throw the young man to the floor, chest down, landing heavily on top of him. He then appears to apply a headlock. The young man’s legs can be seen moving.</p> <p><iframe width=“560" height=“315” src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>At 1 minute 12 seconds a second officer, in plain clothes, joins the restraint, appearing to sit astride the young man, pinning his legs down, while the first officer handcuffs him from behind.</p> <p>At about 1 minute 45 seconds the man appears to stop moving, both officers look into his face, and the uniformed officer shakes him. The restraint continues.</p> <p>In the closing moments of the video, at around 2 minutes 20 seconds, the uniformed officer stands up. The plain clothes officer appears to continue the restraint. (A longer, 3 minute 52 second, version of the video appeared on Youtube late on Sunday afternoon. Rashman is still under restraint by the end of it.)</p> <p>A shop worker apparently witnesses the restraint. There is no audio of the incident. The video’s audio track carries sounds of the shop till and people chatting, presumably at the front of the shop.</p> <p>The video was posted on Twitter by @_coinz at 11.16pm on Saturday 22 July and has been shared using the hashtags #Rashman #justiceforrashman and #JusticeForRash .</p> <p>Here is the BBC’s Sunday 7.30AM report in full:</p> <p><em>The Met Police said the man was followed on foot after officers tried to stop a car in Kingsland Road, Hackney, at 01:45 BST on Saturday.</em></p> <p><em>He was "taken ill" after "trying to swallow an object" and was pronounced dead in hospital a short time later, the force said.</em></p> <p><em>The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been informed.</em></p> <p><em>Footage apparently showing the incident has been shared on social media, along with the hashtag #JusticeForRash.</em></p> <p><em>Police said the officer "intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself".</em></p> <p><em>A force medic provided first aid at the scene before London Ambulance Service paramedics arrived.</em></p> <p><em>The man, who has not been named, was taken to an east London hospital and pronounced dead at 02:55.</em></p> <p><em>Police said next of kin had been informed and a post-mortem examination and formal identification would be "arranged in due course".</em></p> <p><em>"The Directorate of Professional Standards and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have been informed and have declared the incident independent," a force spokesman added.</em></p> <p>People have shared <a href="">pictures of Rashman</a> on social media.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rashman, according to @kasxest on Twitter</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/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="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/nice-work-g4s-wins-118-million-guant-namo-contract">Nice work: G4S wins $118 million Guantánamo contract </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/carolyne-willow/uk-charity-seeks-funds-to-challenge-use-of-painful-restraints-on-childre">UK charity seeks funds to challenge use of painful restraints on children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lara-pawson/unlawful-killing-why-jimmy-mubengas-death-is-british-business">Unlawful killing: Why Jimmy Mubenga&#039;s death is British business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/damola-awoyokun/no-surprises-in-failure-to-prosecute-g4s-over-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">No surprises in failure to prosecute G4S over death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Shine A Light Care and justice Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Sun, 23 Jul 2017 09:25:00 +0000 Clare Sambrook 112448 at Key poll which boosted Leadsom’s leadership bid funded by DUP’s dark-money donors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An important poll which added momentum to Andrea Leadsom’s campaign to become prime minister was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2017-07-22 at 15.30.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-07-22 at 15.30.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andrea Leadsom. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A key poll in the run up to last year’s Tory leadership election was funded by the same secretive group which funnelled a mystery £435,000 to the DUP’s Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The funding of the carefully timed survey is one of only three known occasions that the mysterious Constitutional Research Council has been used to channel money into British politics – as well as the DUP donation, £6,500 was given to the MP and now Brexit minister <a href="">Steve Baker</a>, to pay for a meeting of the pro-Brexit MPs’ European Research Group, which he chaired. Baker was a key member of Andrea Leadsom’s campaign team, and sat on the board of directors of “<a href="">Leadsom4Leader</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">The poll, which was conducted by Survation, was <a href="">released on the day</a> that Conservative MPs conducted their ‘first ballot’. The survey showed that, other than Theresa May, the only candidate with a positive net approval rating was Andrea Leadsom. Pollsters’ rules require that they are transparent about who commissions their work and Survation disclosed the fact that the Constitutional Research Council were their clients. </p><p dir="ltr">The publication of the poll was particularly damaging for Michael Gove, Leadsom’s key challenger for the support of pro-Brexit MPs, who it showed as having a net approval rating of minus 47% among the public. When the Telegraph published its findings the next day, its headline claimed that “Four in 10 Tory supporters will not vote Conservative at 2020 election if Michael Gove becomes leader”, and the article quoted two MPs, both of whom were supporters of Andrea Leadsom: Andrew Bridgen, and another “who asked not to be named”, according to the Telegraph.</p><p dir="ltr">The poll was one of only three published after the close of nominations for candidates – and after Boris Johnson announced that he wasn’t standing. It added momentum to Leadsom’s campaign at a key moment in the race for prime minister, as a number of candidates tussled to take on Theresa May in the final round of voting. </p><p dir="ltr">Under Conservative party election rules, MPs vote in a series of ballots, eliminating a candidate each time until two contenders remain. These two must then contest an election among the party membership. Survation confirmed to openDemocracy that when a client funds a survey, as the Constitutional Research Council did, they have control over whether and when its results are released. This rule, which is normal among polling agencies, means that the secretive CRC, which channelled nearly half a million pounds of dark money to the DUP to campaign for Brexit, would have been able to time the publication of this research in order to have maximum impact on the race to 10 Downing Street. We don’t know if the group commissioned any other polls without publishing them.</p><p dir="ltr">Andrea Leadsom was the favoured candidate for prime minister among a number of prominent Leave campaigners. Days before the poll was released, Leave.EU chair Arron Banks <a href="">told the Daily Mail</a> that:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">'Andrea was the breakout star of the Leave campaign during the referendum: calm, assured and, in contrast to May and Gove, honest; putting the case for Brexit eloquently and passionately. Leave.EU will therefore be throwing its full weight behind Andrea.' </p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Without knowing who is involved in the Constitutional Research Council and who funds it, we can’t establish whether Andrea Leadsom’s campaign team were involved in coordinating the research and its publication. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards whether a poll such as this could count as a political donation to Leadsom. They don’t comment on individual cases, but referred us to the fact that, in 2014, Vince Cable was forced to declare <a href="">a poll as a donation</a>. All donations to MPs with a value of over £500 must come from ‘permissible’ sources, though they only need to be declared if they are worth more than £1,500. We asked Survation for the cost of a poll such as this, but they haven’t replied.</p><p dir="ltr">The Constitutional Research Council has been at the centre of an <a href="">ongoing</a> openDemocracy investigation since we forced the DUP to reveal that a £435,000 donation for Brexit campaigning came to the party via the group. Little is known about the secretive organisation, but we do know that it is chaired by the Scottish Tory Richard Cook, whose numerous business and political connections include the former head of the <a href="">Saudi intelligence service</a>, a <a href="">Danish ‘private banker’</a> at the centre of a notorious Indian gun-running incident, Conservative Friends of Israel and the Campaign Against Political Correctness.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked Survation who from the Constitutional Research Council had contacted them about the poll, but they said that this would breach client confidentiality. We contacted the offices of Steve Baker; Leadsom’s campaign manager Tim Loughton MP; Andrew Bridgen, who is the Leadsom-supporting MP quoted in the Telegraph article; and Leadsom herself. None got back to our requests for information about the poll.</p><p dir="ltr">Survation is a reputable polling agency which works with clients across the political spectrum and there is no suggestion that it has done anything wrong, or that the poll was anything other than accurate. However, the fact that such a secretive organisation was able to intervene in the election for prime minister in this way has raised questions. </p><p dir="ltr">Steve Goodrich from Transparency International said:</p><p dir="ltr">“Transparency is essential to preventing outside or undue influence over our democratic process. There are clear rules on what should be made a matter of public record and what the consequences are when these aren’t followed. Knowing who funds leadership bids is of heightened public interest, so it’s essential that all contestants ensure they disclose any support they receive in compliance with the law.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a href="">Update: Leadsom campaign chair denies involvement in dark-money funded poll which boosted her campaign</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">The dark money driving the Scottish Tory surge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark money Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:44:07 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 112446 at Breaking the poverty cycle through parenting <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Is it parenting or the financial situation of a family that can break the poverty trap? Parental confidence is the link between the two.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Children having fun in London. Maureen Barlin/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The current debate on austerity, which follows a catalogue of political upheavals and social earthquakes, raises some interesting questions on a central aspect of this debate: child poverty and the attainment gap between rich and poor children. Why does the attainment gap exist? Does it link directly to income or is it a parenting style that is often associated with families living in relative poverty, or is it in fact both?</p><p>In 2010, the Rt. Hon Frank Field MP published a report demonstrating that the experiences in the first five years of a child’s life, and the influence of the parents in that period, can define a child’s life chances. While all the evidence shows that children from poorer backgrounds tend to have worse outcomes, the key message was that what parents do is more important than what they earn. The report’s central message was that “<em>Nothing can be achieved without working with parents, enabling [them] to achieve the aspirations that they have for their children</em>.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Family income is critical for a child’s early development and home environment.</p><p>That was 2010. Last week the LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion published a report demonstrating that family income is critical for a child’s early development and home environment. Their evidence suggests that nothing can be achieved without money: “<em>money itself matters and needs to be taken into account if we want to improve children’s outcomes.”</em></p> <p>In fact, the authors of these two reports do not contradict each other: Frank Field’s report does not deny that a secure income helps to create an environment from which it is easier for parents to give their child a good start in life. Kerris Cooper, the co-author of the LSE report, did not deny that parenting is important – but simply that the economic context in which parenting takes place cannot be ignored.</p> <p>It seems to me this is all swings and roundabouts. The debate is important but we mustn’t let the evidence lead us to casually “laying blame” on either parenting style or income for the attainment gap. Instead, we should remember that poverty is multifaceted, with multiple causes and cannot be reduced to one factor.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Money itself matters and needs to be taken into account if we want to improve children’s outcomes.</p><p><span></span>The Foundation Years Trust’s work is inspired by Frank Field’s original report. We work with parents and their children under five with interventions aimed at improving parental wellbeing, sensitivity towards their children’s development needs and the home learning environment.</p> <p>Among the families we work with, we repeatedly find that parental confidence is on the floor. And yes, this is probably related to financial stress within a family. The Foundation Years Trust cannot provide a cure for financial hardship. However, we do find that once parents realise how much they already know and already do to support their child’s early development, their self-perceived ability to parent improves. That confidence allows parents to master their children’s development, helping them to break the cycle of poverty. Our approach is universal – designed for all parents, not just poor parents. We know full well that parenting is a struggle and that the stresses of parenting are heightened for those families coping with the web of poverty. However, the work of The Foundation Years Trust shows that interventions in parenting can dramatically change the course a child’s life. Especially those families facing the full force of austerity.</p> <p>There is a real danger in taking too narrow a view of the causes of poverty. Addressing child poverty requires a sophisticated response combining sufficient family income and support to parents to fulfil their role as their child’s most enduring educator. Whilst we should welcome an end to the impacts of austerity which are bearing down hard on children’s outcomes, we must also remember that there is a critical need to support families to achieve their aspirations for their children.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/ruth-cain/bringing-up-neoliberal-baby-post-austerity-anxieties-about-social-repro">Bringing up neoliberal baby: post-austerity anxieties about (social) reproduction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/uk/anna-louise-van-der-merwe/fighting-inequality-in-uk-has-to-start-young">Fighting inequality in the UK has to start young</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anna-Louise van der Merwe Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:08:31 +0000 Anna-Louise van der Merwe 112441 at Shareholder capitalism: A system in crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> "The modern joint stock company is a British invention… but the rules need to change as the world changes. Boards should take account of the interests not just of shareholders but employees, supplie... </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><span class="standfirst-pub">"The modern joint stock company is a British invention… but the rules need to change as the world changes. Boards should take account of the interests not just of shareholders but employees, suppliers and the wider community.”</span></blockquote> <span class="standfirst-pub">Which revolutionary firebrand said that? Who dared to question the fundamental correctness of modern shareholder capitalism?</span> <span class="standfirst-pub">You may be surprised to learn that the above passage is taken from the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto. In fact, the party joins a list of unusual suspects voicing concerns about the nature of modern corporate behaviour. Dominic Barton, the global managing director of McKinsey, <a href="">has argued for years</a> that capitalism needs to take a longer view. Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England, recently suggested that businesses ‘<a href="">are eating themselves</a>’. Even the Chief Executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, <a href="">has admitted</a> that pressure to keep the share price high means corporate leaders are ‘underinvesting in innovation, skilled workforces or essential capital expenditures’.</span> <span class="standfirst-pub">They are right. Our current, highly financialised form of shareholder capitalism is not just failing to provide new capital for investment; it is actively undermining the ability of listed companies to reinvest their own profits. The stock market has become a vehicle for extracting value from companies, not for injecting it.</span> Corporate governance has become dominated by the need to maximise short-term shareholder returns. At the same time, financial markets have grown more complex, highly intermediated, and similarly short-termist, with shares increasingly seen as paper assets to be traded rather than long-term investments in sound businesses. This kind of trading is a zero-sum game with no new wealth, let alone social value, created. For one person to win, another must lose – and increasingly, the only real winners appear to be the army of financial intermediaries who control and perpetuate the merry-go-round. There is nothing natural or inevitable about the shareholder-owned corporation as it currently exists. Like all economic institutions, it is a product of political and economic choices which can and should be remade if they no longer serve our economy, society, or environment. The shareholder model is harming the economy by actively holding back investment. It is harming society by increasing inequality through ballooning executive pay. And it is harming the environment by encouraging risky short-term behaviour such as fossil fuel extraction. So why keep it? Reforming shareholder capitalism is not as hard as it sounds. In a new report for the New Economics Foundation, we set out what needs to be done to take the first steps towards a better economic model. For instance, <strong>corporations could be required to state their public purpose</strong> openly and regularly report on how they are fulfilling it. That would start to move companies from focusing entirely on shareholder returns towards thinking about their stakeholders as well. At the same time, <strong>shareholders could be required to make longer-term commitments to their companies</strong> by making their voting rights dependent on the length of their commitment. And we should restrict some of the damaging forms of speculation which drive short-termism. For instance, <strong>predatory high-frequency trading could be restrained</strong> without destroying their benefits. For most people, our economy simply is not working, and the way corporations are structured is at least in part responsible. Reforming shareholder capitalism must not be dismissed as too difficult – the crisis is too urgent for that. We can take the first steps towards a better model right now. It’s time to act. <em>This article was originally published by the <a href="">New Economics Foundation</a>. The full report 'Shareholder capitalism: A system in crisis' can be downloaded <a href="">here</a>.</em><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Duncan McCann Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:07:54 +0000 Duncan McCann 112401 at The price of love that nearly half of us cannot pay <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If you fall in love with an EU citizen, your rights to a family life are at risk from Brexit. But if you fall in love with someone from elsewhere in the world, you've already lost them. It's time to push back.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A few years ago Candy, an American dancer, met another performer while working in the UK, who she would later go on to marry. </p> <p>On a student visa, she completed a course at the University of Huddersfield. The couple had their first child shortly before she graduated.</p> <p>Now she may have just a few months left with her family. Her husband works in a kitchen and earns just £600 a year below the £18,600 income a British citizen needs to be able to earn to sponsor a spouse. </p> <p>Marcus, a British citizen married to a Filipino man, is in a similar predicament. He is recovering from a long term illness that restricted his ability to work for over five years, but was never classified disabled on the grounds that he could walk over 100m without resting. He earns below the income threshold and is saving up to be in a position where his husband (an LGBT man currently having to work in a deeply hostile country in the Middle East) can come to the UK. </p> <p>It has now been five years since the Government banned nearly half of all British citizens from family life at home with a foreign partner. The <a href="">minimum income requirement</a> uses your wealth to decide whether you have the right to fall in love and have a normal family life. </p> <p>Under the guise of reducing migration, the Home Office significantly rolled back British citizens’ rights. A recent Supreme Court judgment even found the policy <a href="">unlawfully fails to take children’s’ needs into account</a>. But the policy remains in force. </p> <p>It has given rise to “Skype families”, like that of <a href="">David Lordkipanidze</a>, who fled political harassment in Georgia in 2000. After a ten-year battle he was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, but since has not earned enough for his family to be permitted to join him. He has had to watch his son grow up over Skype. “It’s like the Government has sentenced me to die alone without family in a different country”, he says. And some of those affected have partners living in places where stable internet is difficult to come by, so they don’t even have the benefit of Skype much of the time. </p> <p>4 out of 10 earn below the £18.6k threshold – but those earning above the threshold are not immune either. The threshold rises with each child in a family, and those on contract work or similar will have trouble proving the stability of their income, even when their earnings are significantly higher. </p> <p>Migrant Voice, who work to increase migrant representation in the media and change the tone of public debate on migration, have spoken to a huge range of people affected. They include lifelong British workers, refugees fleeing war, or non-EU professionals – all denied the simple birth-right of time with parents, partners or children. At least 15,000 children have been affected by these rules since 2012. The 2012 family migration rules also changed for <a href="">adult dependent relatives</a>. Previously, elderly people could come to live with relatives in the UK that they were dependent on for financial or emotional support. This category has been restricted to severely incapacitated people and in essence closed altogether. </p> <p>In both these cases the new rules save no money at all: neither category were able to access public funds beyond NI contribution entitlements prior to 2012. </p> <p>Neither are these policies popular. In March the case of Irene Clennell <a href="">made headlines</a>: a Durham woman with a British husband dating back decades and British children and grandchildren. “During my removal from Britain I was treated like a terrorist”, she said. “I was restrained by the arms, my every word written down, and there were guards on the door when I went to the toilet.” Her crime? To visit Singapore to care for an ailing relative – to find on her return that she would no longer be permitted to stay. Public polling showed <a href="">66% of respondents</a> opposing Irene’s deportation. </p> <p>Polling also shows that people generally supported Theresa May’s net migration cap. But on the real, often hidden measures taken to achieve the unachievable, many are opposed. The gap is there due to a failure on part of government to be honest about migration policy – because few relish the idea of families being torn apart. </p> <p>While individuals with refugee status are not subject to the income threshold requirement they face other barriers. Imagine, for instance, an LGBT couple fleeing persecution <a href="">in a country where same-sex marriage is not recognised</a>. Or imagine a refugee who has fled a war zone and left most of their possessions behind. Neither would have the often onerous levels of “proof” of a relationship the Home Office requires, which routinely goes beyond just marriage certificates or wedding pictures, into demands for years’ worth of email exchanges or phone records.</p> <p>The 2012 family migration rules are not the only part of UK migration policy that routinely breaks up family life. There is a pre-existing architecture of legislation that undermines and tramples on the right to a family life. But the 2012 rules are among the most far-reaching and senseless parts of the system.</p> <p>European nationals are currently able to bring family members to Britain without being subject to the threshold; a right that the Government currently aim to scrap after Brexit. Soile Pietikäinen, a Finnish woman who has lived in Britain for 17 years says the whole process makes her feel “intensely unwanted.” Real parity after Brexit would involve raising British people’s rights to the level Europeans enjoy – but the government are set on a race to the bottom. </p> <p>It doesn’t have to be this way. During the general election, immigration did not take centre-stage as an issue. The last few years, from the widely-circulated images of refugee child <a href="">Aylan Kurdi</a> lying on a Turkish beach to the Irene Clennell case, have been marked by spontaneous surges in support for the humans behind the “migrant” label. With Brexit approaching and a new Immigration Bill due to be tabled, the level of public understanding of policy can – and must – be raised over the next year. </p> <p>The Government says it is in the mood to compromise. People across the political spectrum will agree that breaking families up provides no benefit to Britain, and that we do not have to choose between common sense and compassion. This is one of a number of areas where the senselessness of arbitrary migration caps can be exposed and challenged, and eventually replaced with a policy that rather than holding back or breaking up families, helps people to thrive and flourish.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/charlotte-peel/families-broken-apart-because-theresa-may-thinks-they-arent-rich-enough-for-love">The families broken apart because Theresa May thinks they aren&#039;t rich enough for love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/christopher-bertram-devyani-prabhat-helena-wray/uk-immigration-rules-vs-best-interests">UK immigration rules vs. the best interests of children</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Nathan Akehurst Thu, 20 Jul 2017 07:12:16 +0000 Nathan Akehurst 112393 at Residents challenge council plans to demolish their homes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Central Hill housing estate in South London is threatened with demolition. Residents are challenging the “regeneration”. Photos by Wasi Daniju, words by Lotte Lewis.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Lambeth Council plans to demolish the Central Hill estate where I live with my dad in South London. <a href="">Central Hill is one of six estates threatened with demolition.</a>&nbsp;There are 456 homes on the estate and a long-established, close knit community. That will be lost during a regeneration programme that could take more than a decade to complete. Even then, there is no guarantee people could afford homes on the new site. Most people are against the plans, but feel ignored by the council. There are residents here who have lived on the estate since its completion in 1975.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Last month the residents of the estate held an open day, hosted by the <a href="">Save Central Hill campaign group</a> and <a href="">Architects for Social Housing</a>. Visitors learned about the history of the estate and the campaign to stop the Labour-led council’s demolition of people’s homes. People shared stories and discussed their encounters with the council. One resident said that the council would <a href="">replace the existing low-rise maisonettes and flats on the estate with tower blocks measuring just under 30 metres high</a>. Building regulations stipulate that buildings over 30 metres must be fitted with sprinklers. Some new tower blocks will be built on stilts, but the height of the stilts won’t be counted in the height of the building. As one resident says, <em>if there was a fire and you were forced to jump out of the window to escape, the uncounted void – due to the stilts – will not reduce your fall.&nbsp;</em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><div>The open day took place four days after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire. As I walked through the tightly knitted corridors of the estate, I heard worried voices: <em>“Do we have any cladding like Grenfell’s? Can we get the council to install sprinklers in our flats?”</em></div> <p>Campaign group <a href="">Architects for Social Housing</a> have spent two years working with residents in the Central Hill to design an alternative plan, showing the possibility of building more housing on the estate and refurbishing existing housing – without demolishing a single home. Lambeth Council instantly dismissed the proposal without further explanation.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Central Hill was designed in the 1960s by <a href="">Rosemary Stjernstedt</a>, who worked for the Lambeth Borough Architects headed up by Ted Hollamby. The houses on the Central Hill estate were built low, offering impressive views of London’s skyline. Every home was built with a garden or a spacious patio. Hollamby’s ethos was to put <a href="">“people at the heart of his designs”.</a> <a href="">Trees and wildlife were left to flourish in communal areas.</a></p><p>Maybe we are not entitled to these views. Or the spacious flats, the greenery and the tranquillity. Lambeth Council’s ‘regeneration’ plan will see us kicked from our homes. The area will be given to those deemed worthy of the space: developers, investors and anyone rich enough to buy the replacement luxury flats (white businessmen, from the look of the images in Lambeth’s design leaflets).</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>‘Housing crisis’ is all over Lambeth’s leaflets for the project. A stream of leaflets is posted through my dad’s door. On its <a href="">specially designed website</a> the council writes: “We need these better homes for existing residents, and more new homes to help tackle Lambeth’s housing crisis.”</p> <p>But what sort of housing crisis? Why is the solution knocking down spacious, well-built homes?</p> <p>The council makes it sound like there aren’t enough houses in London for people to live in. But there are <a href="">nearly 20,000 empty homes in the capital</a>, worth about £9.4bn based on the average cost of a London home, which is £474,704. In Lambeth there are 756 empty homes and in the borough of Kensington &amp; Chelsea, where Grenfell Tower still stands, <a href="">there are 1,399 empty homes</a>.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>The official line is that this regeneration project will benefit us, the residents. We don’t believe this. <a href="">Just under five per cent of residents on our estate support the demolition, a fact ignored by Lambeth Council.</a> And regeneration is an expensive business. The council says it wants to build an additional 500 to 750 homes. Architects for Social Housing estimates that Lambeth Council could spend between £225-240,000 per flat. <a href="">That’s between £100m and £120m to demolish and rebuild existing homes.</a> </p> <p>Residents say the council told them construction could last 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, it is unclear where we will live.&nbsp; Or to use the council’s terminology, where we will be ‘decanted’ to. It’s highly unlikely that we will be able to return to the area at all, but if some do, they will be returning to a transformed area. Towering blocks of flats will replace Rosemary Stjernstedt’s vision. <a href="">Approximately a fifth of residents</a> are elderly and worry about losing their accessible maisonettes. In light of Grenfell everyone is fearful.</p> <p>The strength and solidarity witnessed in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire demonstrates the thriving survival of community in spite of daily attacks from central government and local councils.</p> <p>Many living on Central Hill estate have been here since its completion in 1975, and at the open day referred to the destruction of the community, rather than just the physical estate. One resident said that on some days, it took her nearly an hour to get from one side of the estate to the other, because on her way she would bump into so many people she has built friendships with over the years. The strength of our communities are a threat to capitalism – and the desire to dismantle it by those in power is clear. There is a painted mural in the middle of the estate that the community had commissioned to read ‘Save Central Hill Community’. When Lambeth Council saw this, they ordered that it be repainted, and now it only reads ‘Community’.</p> <p>Many living on the estate are suffering physically and emotionally from the prospect of having no home, as well as the continually changing “evolution of the promise” made to residents by Lambeth Council. The term ‘regeneration’ – spouted by developers, on council surveys and gentrifying businesses – refers to <em>new growth after loss or breakage</em>. Our communities aren’t broken, and where and who we live with are not without value.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Lambeth Council has set up <a href="">Homes For Lambeth</a>, a standalone property development company, to manage the demolition and rebuild of the six estates. When the new housing is built, Homes for Lambeth, rather than Lambeth Council, will be responsible for maintenance and managing tenancies. Homes for Lambeth is the glossy face of its £120m project with promises to increase housing capacity by nearly 45 per cent. But residents are wary. London councils have form in steamrolling through regeneration projects with little meaningful community consultation. The <a href="">Heygate Estate regeneration</a> in Elephant &amp; Castle is the famous example: the number of social rented homes fell from 1,200 to 79. A one-bedroom flat will set you back £380,000. <a href="">More rooms if you have a million-pounds to spare.</a></p> <p>Just two weeks ago&nbsp;<a href="">Haringey Council voted to push through widely criticised development plans</a> <a href="">despite widespread opposition.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Some residents worry that the estate has been neglected and poorly managed by the council; the shabbier the estate is the easier it is to argue the case for regeneration. The council’s response to residents’ complaints has been to ignore them, and as Grenfell has shown, this is happening to social tenants across London. </p> <p>Even so, the estate meets the Lambeth’s own housing standards. &nbsp;An internal survey found of residents revealed that the estate is structurally sound, and that refurbishment would cost around a tenth of the current plan to demolish and rebuild. Regeneration <em>is</em> political: rather than properly inspect the mould on my bedroom wall, or make sure all streetlamps work properly when I walk home at night, Lambeth Council will erase the failures they have chosen to ignore.</p> <p>One Central Hill resident declared at the open day: “There is no such thing as the voiceless; there are only those who have their voices systematically and deliberately smothered by those with greater power.”</p><p>The evening of the open day, I walked into Crystal Palace and came across the graffiti artist Artful Dodger painting a mural of Grenfell on an empty wall. It was a warm night, and as groups of passers by sat down together and watched him paint, conversations about Grenfell leading to gentrification and our own areas. When finished, the mural read, <em>Grenfell…How many more will follow?</em> The Council painted over it the next day.</p> <p><span>Visit <a href=""></a> t</span><span>o find out more about the Save Central Hill campaign.</span></p><ul><li>Edited by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="">Shine A Light</a>&nbsp;at openDemocracy.</li><li>To follow Wasi on Twitter:&nbsp;@knox_o</li><li>Lotte tweets&nbsp;@lotte_lee_lewis</li><li>To follow Rebecca and Shine A Light:&nbsp;</li><li>@Rebecca_Omonira</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span><br /></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="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/why-are-so-many-people-being-evicted-in-coalition-britain">Why are so many people being evicted in Coalition Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-one-day-at-coventry-county-court">Losing your home: one day at Coventry County Court</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/losing-your-home-simon-s-story">Losing your home: Simon’s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/hsiao-hung-pai/grenfell-tower-and-people-without-capital">Grenfell tower and the people without capital</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london"> Fire in neo-liberal London</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">The Age of Corbyn 2: Inferno</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Austerity Politics Shine A Light Lotte Lewis Wasi Daniju Tue, 18 Jul 2017 23:07:59 +0000 Wasi Daniju and Lotte Lewis 112146 at Making the inevitable impossible – winning at the fossil fuel frontlines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Lancashire to the Italian coast – communities are disrupting the fossil fuel conglomerates threatening their homes, environment, and livelihoods.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// kelly.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// kelly.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Gillian Kelly, Lancashire resident and one of three generations protesting at the Preston New Road fracking site.</em></p><p>On Friday a defiant Barbara of Frack Free Lancashire stood outside Preston New Road fracking site. “Not here, not anywhere” she shouted and was greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the day.</p> <p>“Not here, not anywhere”, I’ll repeat to myself this morning as I lie in front of the entrance to Preston New Road fracking site, using my body to physically stop vehicles entering and leaving the site. </p> <p>Today’s protest is part of the Rolling Resistance, a month long blockade of the Lancashire frack site. </p> <p>If Cuadrilla have their way this will be the UK's first multi-well fracking site. Once that was inevitable, but right now it looks more likely to become the site of the UK anti-fracking movement's biggest win. </p> <p>Since January 2017 the community in Lancashire have been determinedly disrupting Cuadrilla's attempts to frack their local area. Communities weary of betrayal are trying to prise our beleaguered democracy free of the corporate stranglehold.&nbsp;</p> <p>Back in June 2015 Lancashire county council <em>rejected</em> Cuadrilla's fracking plans - but the following year Secretary of State Sajid Javid overturned the council's decision. In January 2017 Cuadrilla came to drill. But Caudrilla didn’t reckon on was the community determined to stand in their way. Since January there have been over 200 arrests with protests disrupting work almost every day at the site.</p> <p>At the start of July <a href="">Reclaim the Power</a> joined the local protectors for a month of Rolling Resistance. It kicked off with an action that involved three county councillors. Councillor Gina Dowding explained: “I got involved in local government because I thought that's an effective way to influence policy, but it's absolutely clear when it comes to fracking that the government's overturned Lancashire County Council's decision not to accept fracking”. One action involved three members of the same Lancashire family, including 73 year Gillian Kelly who explained that she wanted “many more people to stand up and be counted”.</p> <p><strong>The company are hurting</strong></p> <p>Last week it was revealed that in May the drill rig Cuadrilla had planned to use at Preston New Road was deliberately vandalised with sledgehammers – resulting in smashed touchscreens, components drilled out and pneumatic pipes and electrical cables cut. It was going nowhere near Preston New Road or any other fracking rig. And the terrible publicity generated from seven months of daily protests has seen contractor after contractor pull out from working with Cuadrilla. In 2017 alone eight have dropped out including Cemex. There is no doubt that the company are hurting. Their timetable has already slipped - they originally hoped to drill in June.</p> <p>As first coal and now oil become climate pariahs, and dwindling resources become harder to exploit, the fossil fuel industry are looking to gas to ensure future profits. The industry's PR machine is already working overtime to frame gas as 'a clean, green fuel that will bridge us to a sustainable future'. In reality gas is a bridge to nowhere. Experts now fear that gas may be more harmful to the atmosphere than oil because of the amount of methane released through gas extraction, which has a much more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide.</p> <p><strong>From Lancashire to Puglia, Azerbaijan and beyond</strong></p> <p>The Lancashire community know they are not alone in the struggle against the next line of fossil fuel extraction.&nbsp; Today at the gates of Preston New Road we're taking action in solidarity with another community fighting the industry that wants to sacrifice their home for gas. As protestors at Preston New Road were <a href="">beaten and allegedly strangled at the start of July</a>, eerily similar images were coming out of the small town of Melendugno in Southern Italy, where local residents are standing up to the riot cops violently attempting to enforce the construction of a giant gas pipeline across their land, destroying a beautiful coastal town, ruining its beaches, ripping up 2000 year old olive trees and destroying people’s livelihoods.</p> <p>The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is a crucial section of the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline – which if built will run over 3500 kms from the Caspian Sea off the coast of Azerbaijan, through Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, across the seabed of the Adriatic before breaking land in Melendugno. And it won’t end there – the gas will then be pumped via another pipeline from southern to northern Italy.</p> <p>This BP-led pipeline will create a giant construction site across Europe. Trucks and excavators will rip up farmland, thousands of villages, forests, deserts and the seabed of the Adriatic. The Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline doesn't just destroy land - the profits from it will also entrench the repressive Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan.</p> <p>In response, the community in Puglia have organised a tenacious campaign.&nbsp; The story of the extraordinary struggle in Melendugno begins with a waste plant, which arrived without warning and without permission from the local community. The unaccountability shocked people and left them determined to understand the implications of infrastructure before they are built. </p> <p>In 2010 when a resident discovered that the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) was supposed to land in the region, small local associations, environmental and political groups and residents associations came together to form the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">No TAP committee</a>. The result is an incredibly well organised group who are not only unequivocally rejecting a piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, but also proactively seeking alternatives.</p> <p>As local resident&nbsp; Maria Mancini says </p> <p>“This idea is crazy, it makes no sense. It is going to ruin the landscape and the people. The people who live here don’t want this. We will get dumped with it because we are not rich enough to get listened to when we say no.”</p> <p>The No TAP campaign has spread across Puglia. Mayoral candidates have stood on anti-pipeline platforms, and thousands of people attended a concert against the pipeline. By challenging the Environmental Impact Assessment, the town proved the pipeline was unsafe and the regional authority rejected the project. </p> <p>Yet, as in Lancashire, democracy has betrayed this Italian community and now the pipeline is being forced upon them by the national government and the corporations they support.</p> <p>A popular movement of thousands of people are organising daily non-violent actions in Melendugno to stop the operations. The size of the protests, which include stone barricades blocking access to the site, have delayed the works day after day. BP are beginning worry that Melendugno will stop their pipeline being built at all. </p> <p>As more and more communities stand up against the fossil fuel industry inevitabilities are turning into impossibilities. The oil corporations may want to make gas the fuel of the future but we're here to tell them “not here, not anywhere”</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"></a> have a <a href="">petition you can sign</a> to tell the European Commission to end their support for the Euro-Caspian Mega pipeline.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/uzma-malik-james-farndon/why-2017-is-year-we-need-to-break-fracking-supply-chain">Why 2017 is the year we need to break the fracking supply chain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/al-williams/lancashire-fracking-go-ahead-prompts-nationwide-opposition">Lancashire fracking go-ahead prompts UK-wide opposition </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/brexitinc/amy-hall/three-ways-fossil-fuel-industry-influences-uk-political-system-and-three-things-y">Three ways the fossil fuel industry influences the UK political system – and three things you can do</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jake Wood Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:03:10 +0000 Jake Wood 112345 at Spying, surveillance and sabotage - what will it take to bring an end to political policing? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is it possible to hold undercover policing to account? Not without redistributing wealth and power within society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href=""></a></em></p><p><em>“Civil government, in so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” – </em><strong>Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I, Part II On the Expense of Justice.</strong><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>It has been observed that when it comes down to it, the police exist to protect those who have wealth from those who do not. Seeking to reform the most egregious of policing practices – especially political policing - without also addressing economic inequality will result in only the most limited and temporary form of accountability. </p> <p>In the light of recent scandals about undercover policing, it’s important to distinguish between, on the one hand, the state targeting and infiltrating violent organised crime syndicates, and on the other hand, the state infiltrating law abiding social justice organisations to subvert their activities. More than 400 UK based anti-war, environmental, and social justice organisations have been subjected to ‘undercover policing’ in recent decades – and this is better understood as <em>political</em> policing.</p> <p>Political policing includes spying and data retention, initiating deceitful sexual relationships with women activists, acting as agents provocateurs to entrap law abiding people into criminal acts, spying on grieving family members and even being implicated in murders. </p> <p>Such practices are not simply the product of a corrupt police force or “rogue” unit within it. Rather, it is the consequence of living in a society whereby those who govern view the ‘greatest threat’ to their power as ultimately coming from their own citizenry. And indeed this view is quite correct. The citizenry of any state do pose the greatest potential threat to the leadership of any given society, if not in the short term then in the long run.</p> <p>So political policing will not be permanently changed or eliminated, by legislation, inquiries, further regulations, or even improving oversight. History has proven &nbsp;that as long as economic and thus political power is not evenly distributed within society, even hard-won reforms will ultimately be reversed, undermined or diluted into meaninglessness.</p> <p>Inquiries such as <a href="">Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing</a> may have their place – though more than two years after being established by then Home Secretary Theresa May, the inquiry is yet to hear any evidence, thanks to delaying tactics employed by the Metropolitan police.</p> <p>Inquiries and reformist movements will only take us so far. Political policing reflects long standing state policy, across party lines, over generations, both within the UK and in other countries around the world. </p> <p><em>“In our society, real power does not happen to lie in the political system, it lies in the private economy; that’s where the decisions are made about what’s produced, how much is produced, what’s consumed, where investment takes place, who has jobs, who controls the resources, and so on and so forth”</em> - <a href="">Chomsky, Understanding Power</a></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;“Guardians of the status quo”</strong></p> <p>Perhaps the clearest example of the deeply entrenched nature of political policing, within “bourgeois democracies”, is that of COINTELPRO in the United States. COINTELPRO (<a href=";task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=13483"><strong>Co</strong>unter<strong>int</strong>elligence <strong>Pro</strong>gram</a>) involved local and federal authorities infiltrating and disrupting dissident organisations. In theory it started in the 1950s as a series of surveillance and counter subversion programmes designed to “increase fractionalisation” “cause disruption” and “win defections” in the (perfectly lawful) <a href="">Communist Party USA</a>. </p> <p>However, COINTELPRO and similar schemes also targeted all manner of other individuals and organisations engaged in lawful behaviour <a href=";task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=13483">including</a> faith groups, anti-war groups, left-wing organisations, singers, song writers, activists and poets. <a href=";task=view&amp;id=767&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=13483">The Black Panthers in particular suffered heavily</a> at the hands of COINTELPRO falling victim to spying, infiltration, disinformation campaigns, mass arrests, false arrests, fabricated prosecutions, and even <a href="">murder</a>.</p> <p>Following revelations of malfeasance and criminality on the part of local and federal authorities, internationally and domestically, a select committee of the US Senate was established to investigate foreign and domestic ‘intelligence’ practices. The findings and conclusions of the Committee were as damning as they are illuminating, and were published in 1976 in the <a href=""><em>Final report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities<strong><span>[2]</span></strong>, of the United States Senate</em></a><em> </em>(known as the Church Committee).</p> <p>The late historian and activist Howard Zinn <a href="">explained the Church Committee’s conclusion</a> that COINTELPRO “had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed <em>major premise of much of COINTELPRO</em> is that <em>the</em><strong> </strong><em>Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order</em>”<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> [emphasis added]. </p> <p>When he was asked about the discrepancy between the FBI labelling some violent acts as terrorism and other violent acts not, such as the massacre at the American Methodist Church by white supremacist Dyllan Roof, former FBI counter-terrorism Agent Mike German <a href="">answered as follows</a>:</p> <p>“So it is surprising, but I think, again, reflects this idea that the government has that <em>if you’re using violence to challenge the establishment, to challenge government policy, you’re more dangerous than if you’re using violence in a way that affects minority communities or reinforces establishment status quo</em>.” [emphasis added]</p> <p>Mike German, now a fellow at the Brenan Centre for Justice, previously specialised in domestic counter-terrorism and had himself infiltrated far-right and white supremacist groups as an undercover agent. German went on to <a href="">emphasise the point</a> that:</p> <p>“As the Church Committee found, the <em>FBI</em><em> in the Hoover era saw themselves not as law enforcers but as the guardians of the status quo</em>. And…that thinking seems to be reflected in the statement that this act wasn’t political.” [emphasis added]</p> <p><strong>From the UK to the US and back again</strong></p> <p>Those familiar with the history of the <a href="">Special Demonstration Squad</a> (SDS) and <a href="">Special Branch</a> in the UK may not find the details of COINTELPRO’s targets, tactics and methods, too surprising. From their creation in late 1960s to their official disbanding in 2008, the SDS under the guise of the Metropolitan Police Service engaged in some of the most egregious violations of civil liberties and human rights over a forty year period. &nbsp;And the SDS appears to live on in organisations such as the <a href="">National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit</a> (NDEDIU). </p> <p>The best-known examples of state collusion, spying, surveillance and sabotage in the UK – as well as out-and-out murders – may well be in Northern Ireland. Decades long repression by the British state in collusion with loyalist militants guaranteed a fertile ground for heavy, lawless levels of political policing. </p> <p>Last month, in the biggest <a href="">Super Grass</a> case to date, former loyalist paramilitary Gary Haggartyy has admitted two hundred terror offenses including five murders. But Haggerty also secretly acted as an agent on behalf of state. Lenience is expected from the Court for his cooperation. </p> <p>In his article, <a href="">‘See no evil’: Collusion in Northern Ireland</a>, Professor Mark McGovern details how during the 1980s Special Branch “withheld intelligence from criminal inquiries in order to ‘protect’ their agents and informers…in the drive to recruit and protect paramilitary informants, criminal investigations were fundamentally manipulated, undermined or prevented”. Perhaps even more alarming was that “senior police, military and political figures were aware that this meant those working on behalf of the state were often involved in serious crime, up to and including murder”. As McGovern explains, “this is <em>not a failure of policy, but its point</em>. It was the space in which a culture of collusion could flourish” [emphasis added].</p> <p>McGovern encapsulates the establishment view towards political policing when quoting the view of the late Lord Chief Justice Lowry. Lowry, the most senior legal figure in the Northern Irish judiciary, commented that because “police officers are charged with the duty&nbsp; to&nbsp; maintain&nbsp; justice, even&nbsp; if&nbsp; guilty&nbsp; of&nbsp; serious,&nbsp; violent&nbsp; crime, any&nbsp; sentence<em> ‘</em>would be imposed on a different<em> </em>and<em> lower scale from that appropriate to terrorist</em>s<em>’</em> ” [emphasis added].</p> <p>So much for the ‘Rule of Law’.</p> <p>From decade to decade and country to country the same rules apply.</p><p><strong>This is not democracy</strong></p><p><em>“Republican States</em><em>, to be sure, are more “democratic” than other kinds of States…But they are nonetheless States—overarching structures of domination in which a few people rule over the great majority. In a structure where power is distributed so unevenly, democracy is impossible. Far from embodying rule by the people, even a republican State is incompatible with popular rule.”</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Janet Biehl and Murray Bookchin, </em><a href=""><em>The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism</em></a></p> <p><a href="">Katerina Hadjimatheou</a>, researcher in ethics, surveillance and law enforcement has recently suggested some interesting proposals to aid accountability in the realm of political policing. At a conference entitled <a href=""><em>'Is it possible to hold undercover policing to account</em>?</a>' she suggested the police should have to complete risk assessments before they refuse to release information regarding political policing enquiries. This would include the names of undercover officers. The theory being that forcing officers to describe in detail whether genuine security implications were at stake or not in a manner that would be public and open to scrutiny, would result in the police being more forthcoming and transparent. </p> <p>Her overall argument argument ultimately centred on the so called “dilemma of liberal democracy”. In short, that is the dilemma between the need for secrecy on the part of the state, and transparency and justice for the survival of democracy. </p> <p>But there is no such dilemma. </p> <p>And there is no such dilemma because, the United Kingdom (like France, Germany, the US, Canada, et al) is not a democracy. </p> <p>In his book <a href=""><em>Against Elections: The Case for Democracy</em></a> the Dutch author and historian, David Van Reybrouck, explains that until the mid-to late 1800s no one ever referred to any of these countries as being democracies. Until recently, republics and parliamentary states were understood to be “elective” or “electoral aristocracies” NOT democracies. Indeed if we lived in a democracy we would not have the problem of political policing and lack of the Rule of Law that we currently do. The problem is not so much the tension between the need for secrecy and the need for democracy and accountability, as much as it as a problem of a lack of democracy altogether. And once again that lack of democracy can be traced back to who holds wealth, and therefore economic power and political power, within any given society. As the thinker, philosopher and linguist <a href="">Noam Chomsky</a> has repeatedly <a href="">pointed out</a>;</p> <p>“<em>The effect of concentration of wealth is to yield concentration of power</em>. Not only is it extremely unjust in itself, <em>inequality has highly negative consequences on the society as a whole, because the very fact of the inequality has a corrosive harmful effect on democracy</em>”. </p><p><strong>A new experiment</strong></p> <p>In Northern Syria (aka <a href=";task=view&amp;id=767&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=17778">Rojava</a>) an immense, predominately (though not exclusively) Kurdish, experiment in libertarian socialism is underway, which has continued to evolve and grow as the armed conflict in Syria rages on<em>.</em></p> <p>Janet Biehl, the political writer and thinker, visited Rojava and translated the recently published book <a href=";">Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan</a> into English, which outlines how this experiment is directly challenging inequality and state repression.</p> <p>During a recent interview, anthropologist <a href=";task=view&amp;id=767&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=19461">David Graeber explained</a> what he saw and learned when he went to Northern Syria.</p> <p>“They decided that <em>rather than demanding a state of their own</em>, they wished to simply make borders irrelevant and dissolve away states entirely. And it's kind of made sense to people in that part of the world. Remember the Kurds are a population who are divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The idea they are somehow carving a government out of that seems unlikely…</p> <p><em>“People will say, "</em>'Well, you know, we've come to realize in this part of the world<em>, </em>demanding your own country<em> </em>is<em> basically the same as 'I demand the right to be tortured by secret policemen speaking my own language'</em><strong>.</strong>" It's not much of a demand. So they've come around to this idea of bottom-up direct democracy.”</p> <p>Graeber continues, <a href=";task=view&amp;id=767&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=19461">explaining</a> “They say this isn't a state because<em> anybody with a gun is answerable to the bottom-up structures and not the top-down. </em>So the people on the top <em>can't actually force anybody to do something they don't want to do</em>.” [Emphasis added]</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“Democracy is governance that is not state, it is the power of communities to govern themselves without the state</em>” - Abdullah Ocalan, <a href=";">The Political Thought of Abullah Ocalan</a></p> <p>We are seeing resurgence in the growth of grassroots social justice organisations fighting the good fight against all odds. Every day that passes more and more people recognise that the state structure itself, rather than any particular individual or party within it, is the ultimate source of oppression and inequality. </p> <p>For the crisis of political policing to be brought to an end we should therefore avoid pinning all our hopes on either reformist measures or securing power within the institutions of government (i.e via elections). Those who hold concentrated wealth and power within our society will not vanish because Labour – even under Corbyn –gets elected into office. Of course we are still far away from the conditions necessary for our own libertarian experiment along the lines of Rojava. However, we can still prepare and develop a foundation for such a time until that day comes.</p> <p>And until that day comes, let the good fight for social justice continue.</p> <p> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>Resources:<br /></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><a href="" target="_blank">Undercover Research Group</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Police Spies Out of Lives</a></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><a href="" target="_blank">Campaign Opposing Police Surviellance (COPS)</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Network of Police Monitors (NETPOL)</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">The Monitoring Group</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Islamic Human Rights Commission</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Scotland Against Criminalising Communities</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Campaign Against Criminalising Communities</a></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Author’s note: The title is adapted from that of the excellent 2016 conference <a href="">Subversion, sabotage, and spying: Political policing and state racism in the UK</a> . Although not addressed in this article, state racism is often central to the phenomenon of political policing and has a <a href="">long illustrious role in facilitating</a><span> it</span>. This must never be forgotten whenever political policing is to be challenged.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Mohamed Elmaazi Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:04 +0000 Mohamed Elmaazi 112295 at Why the ICC examination into torture and other abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq must continue <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is under pressure to conclude the examination. It must remain open. The Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Royal Regiment of Fusiliers preparing to engage enemy targets, south of Basra, March 2003. Wikicmmons/ Cpl Paul Jarvis/MOD. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The International Criminal Court has received numerous submissions of information about the UK military’s conduct in Iraq. An initial preliminary examination was opened and then later <a href="">closed in 2006</a>. Although there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court had been committed, namely wilful killing, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners and civilians, the Prosecutor’s view was that the gravity threshold was not met. The number of victims of alleged abused at that time was very limited, totalling in all less than 20 persons, so the ‘quantitative criteria’ was not fulfilled. </p> <p>Subsequently, more information on alleged crimes was supplied, and in May 2014 the ICC Prosecutor <a href="">announced&nbsp;the re-opening of the previously terminated preliminary examination</a>. This preliminary examination is ongoing. <a href="">According to her latest report</a>, the ICC Prosecutor is currently finalizing the assessment of whether the alleged crimes committed by UK nationals fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court. In other words, do the crimes fall within the definition of war crimes or crimes against humanity, and do they meet the Prosecutor’s gravity threshold? </p> <p class="Default">The Office of the Prosecutor is now under pressure to conclude the examination. &nbsp;But this examination must remain open. Instead, the Prosecutor should be taking it to the next logical step – a full-blown investigation.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Under the ICC Statute, the Court can only pursue an investigation and prosecution if it can be shown that the country with competence over the said crimes (in this case the UK) is unable or unwilling genuinely to pursue the matters which the ICC is specifically investigating, domestically. The UK has one of the strongest and most highly renowned legal systems in the world. Thus, it would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question. <span class="mag-quote-center">It would be difficult to say that the competent UK authorities are unable to pursue an investigation or prosecution. Certainly they are able to do so. The issue is one of willingness and this is now seriously in question.</span></p> <p>There have been numerous investigations, including criminal investigations but there have been no prosecutions of UK armed forces personnel since the creation of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which was established to review and investigate the growing number of allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009. This in itself is extraordinary given that the MOD has spent about £60 million on IHAT, and paid out £20 million in compensation for abuse in over 300 “civil” cases (a process separate from IHAT).</p> <p>But IHAT’s focus was mainly the rank and file soldiers. There has never been a genuine attempt to prosecute the&nbsp;high-ranking&nbsp;military commanders or the senior officials who ordered and/or who were complicit in the&nbsp;commission of torture in Iraq. The IHAT may have been held up by the UK Government to the ICC Prosecutor and others as evidence that it was investigating, in order to stand up to the ICC’s ‘complementarity’ test. But has it all been an exercise in smoke and mirrors ?</p> <p>Most alarmingly, a clear picture of abuse during interrogation has emerged. In 2003, British interrogators were challenged for their use of the <a href="">outlawed ‘5 techniques’ - deprivation of sleep, food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’ (loud static)</a>, on up to 40 prisoners. Six months later, Baha Mousa was beaten to death during ‘tactical questioning’. In the <a href="">Baha Mousa Inquiry</a> in 2010, the MOD admitted it had breached the Geneva Conventions during interrogations and this is likely to have taken place between 2003-2009. &nbsp;According to sources, the typical practice was that Iraqis were taken into armoured vehicles, beaten, then either taken for a few days to an undisclosed location to be ‘worked over’, or taken straight to detention where they would be kept for about a month, during which time they were subjected to sleep and food deprivation, stress positions, physical, sexual and religious abuse and restricted access to toilets. Many of the detainees were photographed naked. </p> <p>There are also allegations that special forces aided the rendition of Iraqi prisoners to and from secret detention facilities in the Western desert and that prisoners were not officially recorded in medical facilities, presumably so that their existence could be officially denied. Who was ultimately responsible for this?</p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Arguably, the UK Government has undermined the very investigative body they originally championed. They have painted a set of simple narratives: ‘Our brave troops’, ‘ambulance chasing lawyers’, ‘vexatious’, ‘spurious’ and ‘baseless’ claims. This painting of narratives was easy to do; one of the claimant lawyers was dramatically <a href="">struck off by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal</a> for his improper actions, which helped to reinforce the Government’s narrative. On the other hand, <a href="">another firm has been cleared of any wrongdoing</a>, but this has passed almost without mention. <span class="mag-quote-center">The ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted.</span></p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">But the ethics of a lawyer in a single case doesn’t say anything about the strength or weakness of the evidence itself, which should have been independently investigated and any underlying crimes prosecuted. Indeed, IHAT never relied exclusively on claimant lawyers for its evidence; IHAT undertook its own investigations, and there were a number of ICRC reports of abuse along with service personnel witnesses, some of whom had sounded their alarm about mistreatment as early as 2003. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Over the last year, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of allegations being investigated, with hundreds of ongoing investigations shut down prematurely, some because of the so-called taint of the providence of the allegations – the ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’. But many credible investigations were not being pursued, including the death of Tariq Sabri al-Fahdawi on board an RAF helicopter in Iraq in April 2003, and the death of Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a river by British soldiers, or even <a href="">the beating of children captured on video by News of the World</a>. And there has been an entirely unacceptable delay in investigating and prosecuting crimes where there is clear evidence of abuse.</p><p class="xmsolistparagraph">There have been a number of deaths in custody and almost six years after a major public inquiry found that Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, had been beaten to death by British soldiers in Basra, no new prosecutions have yet been brought. The High Court judge overseeing the ongoing civil claims against the MOD, Mr Justice Leggatt, recently described this delay as ‘extraordinarily difficult to understand.’ Apparently, Ministry of Defence civil servants began to interfere in the conduct of investigations and the vetting of evidence. Months before the plans were put in place to close IHAT down, the MOD instructed investigators that it could no longer interview service personnel as part of its investigations.&nbsp; </p> <p class="xmsonormal">Some of these tactics are similar to what has recently been revealed in the <a href="">Sunday Times’ exposé on the SAS in Afghanistan</a> – Operation Northmoor, where about 90% of the 600 allegations had been shelved. These Afghanistan allegations were generated in part by evidence supplied by soldiers and through ICRC reports.&nbsp; Operation Northmoor is being run by the SIB – the Army police investigating army alleged offences. It was determined that the Army police wasn’t sufficiently independent to carry out the investigations in Iraq; this begs the question why they are leading the investigations in Afghanistan. </p> <p>The MOD has confirmed to REDRESS that 752 of the IHAT cases concern interrogation and that the videos of some of the interrogations are held in the archives of Defence Intelligence and with IHAT. The MOD will know whether these allegations are true or not and to what extent they are to blame. It seems extraordinary that the MOD is now responsible for closing down an investigation which could legitimately question members of their own Ministry. </p> <p class="xmsolistparagraph">Now that the IHAT investigation has effectively closed, the few investigations that remain open will be transferred to a less independent process – reportedly, the Airforce police will be leading the investigations, overseen by the Provost Marshall of the RAF. This ignores the <a href="">appellate ruling in respect of IHAT</a> which required that the investigators be hierarchically, institutionally and practically independent from those they were investigating. </p> <p class="xmsonormal">All that this shows is that the UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts. <span class="mag-quote-center">The UK Government is unwilling to pay anything more than lip-service to its obligation to investigate and prosecute abuses allegedly perpetrated by service personnel and the higher echelons who ordered or condoned such acts.</span></p> <p class="xmsonormal">This is why the ICC should maintain its preliminary examination and take it to the next logical step: a full blown investigation. The fact that the competent UK authorities are able to prosecute but have chosen not to do so, is a sad testament of the respect for the rule of law in this country. That the UK Government is unwilling to pursue these matters itself has now become clear. The numbers of allegations which have not been subject to independent scrutiny remains high and problematic. But furthermore, the assessment of the gravity of the alleged crimes should also take into account the abuse of power and the high prospects for impunity. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk Afghanistan Iraq Conflict Democracy and government International politics openJustice Carla Ferstman Sun, 16 Jul 2017 10:36:50 +0000 Carla Ferstman 112288 at Grenfell tower and the people without capital <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Contempt for Grenfell residents is representative of the way the city of London treats its global working-class. They were ignored; their disenfranchisement is permanently tied to their lack of citizenship. They have no voice, no representation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Justice for Grenfell. Garry Knight/Flickr. Public domain.</span></span></span>It’s just gone midnight on the 14th of June. Mushtaq Lasharie has returned home from a celebratory dinner with his friends and colleagues in the Labour Party. Only a few days previously, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – and the politics he represents – had dealt the British public a surprise result. Having dragged himself back to his ground-floor flat on the Lancaster West Estate, Mushtaq changed into something more comfortable and sat down in front of his computer ready to catch up with the news.</p><p dir="ltr">Around 00:54, Mushtaq heard some noise outside his flat. It was probably some people having a fight, he first thought, possibly over a domestic issue, as sometimes happened on the estate. But there came more noise – “Help! Help, call the fire brigade!”. Mushtaq looked out of his window and saw that the 24-storey Grenfell tower, just twenty yards away from him, was on fire. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">No one heard a fire alarm. Residents inside Grenfell were only woken by screams and shouts.</p><p dir="ltr">He had to do something. The people in that tower were his neighbours and friends. Mushtaq woke his family. His son, his daughter, his daughter-in-law. Four of them rushed outside while his wife stayed with their two grandchildren who were still asleep.</p><p dir="ltr">“We wanted to help,” he said with frustration, “but we couldn’t. The fire was already at the middle of the building by then. It was spreading fast, from one corner, to three flats, then to five…” No one heard a fire alarm. Residents inside Grenfell were only woken by screams and shouts from their neighbours inside and outside the tower block desperately trying to alert people to the fire and get them out. Those who were lucky enough to get out were gathering outside the building, wanting to get back in to help others.</p><p dir="ltr">“The first family came out of the building at around 01:45. We know them,” said Mushtaq. “Their kids play with our children. They’re from Morocco. We were very pleased that they were safe.”</p><p dir="ltr">Around 02:30, seeing that the fire had escalated fast, Mushtaq’s daughter, Beinazir Lasharie, a Labour councillor, was panicking, crying and shouting. “Let’s go up to help children up there,” she said to her dad.</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq recalled: “We saw one person jump from the window. And a child was thrown out from up there, the ninth floor, I think. Every one of us was very upset and wanted to go up to help people. But we were stopped by the police.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Lancaster West Estate where Grenfell Tower is located is an ethnically diverse area, just like many social housing neighbourhoods across Britain. The global working-class converge in these impoverished inner-city areas. Grenfell residents came from everywhere: Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines, Thailand, and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the tragedy, when you walk through streets where Grenfell residents have put up missing person notices on church walls, outside pubs, under walkways and on almost every lamppost, you see names and faces of the world’s citizens who weren’t born or hadn’t grown up in this country – some of them having only lived here for a few years.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wall with messages for the missing people. Photo: Hsiao-Hung Pai.</span></span></span>“We know a family with three children, who were living on the 21st floor. They are from Sudan,” said Mushtaq, “One of the children was in the same nursery as my grandson. They only came to this country two years ago, and I don’t think they were well connected with people here…Two years is a short time. The wife was very close to my wife and daughter because of their children…They’re still missing. I don’t think they stood a chance.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">“They’re still missing. I don’t think they stood a chance.”</p><p dir="ltr">A family of three was also missing from the 23rd-floor flat. The mother, named Rania Ibrahim, messaged friends and livestreamed a video to Facebook from her flat as the fire rose through the tower. By then, the blaze was such that she had given up hope of escaping on her own with the children. She comforted them while the smoke was coming through her door. Soon, her battery ran out; no one has heard from her since. Her husband was in Egypt at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq mentioned the name Mohamed al-Haj Ali several times. He is one of the first people confirmed dead and identified – a 23-year-old Syrian refugee. Mushtaq was haunted by the terrible fate that ended this young man’s life. He himself was once a refugee. 34 years ago, he was a trade unionist and socialist in Pakistan and, fearing persecution, he had to change his name and appearance. When he fled the dictatorship to seek refuge in Britain, he had a bounty on his head. He will always remember the date and time of his arrival in the “land of freedom”: 7pm, 12th of June, 1981. His wife and three children joined him several days later.</p><p dir="ltr">Every day now, he sees the charred shell of the tower and the debris around it when he opens the back door of his flat, and thinks how unjust all this is.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the Grenfell residents worked in London’s low-paid menial jobs, as cleaners, porters and catering workers. The labour of migrants and ethnic minority workers in Grenfell not only sustained their families but also kept the city going. Some of the migrants from the tower would be workers selling their labour cheap in the southern part of Kensington. Cosmopolitanism might mean adding “colour” to the consumer lifestyle for the urban middle-class, but for global workers, it means below-average wages as well as poor and often unsafe living conditions.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Global workers – that is, the people without capital&nbsp;– have always fought against the tide when demanding justice.</p><p dir="ltr">Before the Grenfell fire, every visit I made to the borough was to see migrant domestic workers, from the Philippines and India, who were struggling to endure subhuman working conditions in the households of the wealthy: the multinational businessmen, the diplomats, the supermodels and movie stars. Some of them kept their domestic workers starved and sleeping on kitchen floors. Some never paid them a penny.</p><p dir="ltr">A huge number of domestic workers in the borough had stayed with their abusive employers because immigration rules prevented them from changing bosses. Since then, I have always associated Kensington with the exploited workers that were kept behind the doors of the rich.</p><p dir="ltr">Global workers – that is, the people without capital&nbsp;– have always fought against the tide when demanding justice. These are people who could vanish as if they had never existed. Many in Filipino communities, for instance, were talking about the missing; Reydeluz Conferido, Labour attache of Philippines embassy, revealed that information about the victims – including the numbers – has not been made available to the community, even to survivors. Do people not deserve to know?</p><p dir="ltr">It’s understood that some Filipino migrants caught up in the fire are undocumented and therefore haven’t been able to come forward. Although the embassy couldn’t verify this, Conferido believes that the government’s immigration policy is likely to be the main reason for some of survivors’ silence. The undocumented migrants will also be unable to access payments from the government’s emergency fund. For global workers, their immigration status determines the level of support they’ll be receiving.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, through church organisations and grassroots efforts, the Philippine embassy has been able to contact eight Filipino families who survived. One of the two survivors with regular immigration status with whom the embassy’s welfare officer has spoken is a domestic worker working in London. She had three people, including her partner, with her in the flat at the time of the fire. They all escaped. Another Filipino survivor with whom embassy staff had spoken is a restaurant chef. The two are staying in temporary accommodation at the moment; the embassy is also providing financial assistance to them. Some survivors are still receiving treatment in hospital, one of them still in critical condition. The survivors have received no real support from the authorities, let alone any counselling for PTSD. &nbsp;</p><p>The utter contempt with which residents of Grenfell have been treated by the authorities is representative of the way this city treats its global working-class. They were never listened to. Their disenfranchisement is permanently tied to their lack of citizenship or regular immigration status. They have no voice, no representation.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Their lack of power is permanently tied to their lack of citizenship or regular immigration status. They have no voice, no representation.</p><p dir="ltr">When the residents informed the authorities about safety issues of the building before the fire, time and time again they were ignored. The Grenfell Action Group, which was formed in 2010 and became part of Radical Housing Network four years later, had attempted numerous times to raise fire safety issues with RBKC and its social housing management agent KCTMO (Kensington &amp; Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation), to no avail. This was despite a power surge incident at Grenfell in 2013 that was found to be caused by faulty wiring, and then a serious fire at Adair Tower in north Kensington two years later. Instead, Grenfell residents were informed by a notice stuck in their lift that they should remain their flats in the event of fire. The residents’ concerned were treated as irrelevant.</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq didn’t sleep the night of the fire. He and his family watched the tower burn in front of their eyes, feeling utterly powerless. At around 02:30 and 03:00, he and his family were evacuated from the estate. “We picked up our things, like nappies for the grandchildren, and all of us went to my son’s house outside the area.” Those trapped in the tower continued waiting desperately for rescue. They’d been waiting for hours. Some families were rescued after 04:00, although those above the twelfth floor stood little chance of getting out.</p><p dir="ltr">“At 9am, I came back to Grenfell to try to help out…,” said Mushtaq, “Charities of all faiths were doing a marvellous job. But neither national nor local government were there. The leader of the council had disappeared since then…”</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq was surprised when hearing the initial death toll of six. “I thought the victims would be between 80 and 200… Then we were given briefing by the police and fire service that you cannot give the number until the bodies have been identified and certified. And of course on the first day they weren’t even able to go into the flats… They announced the death toll in stages so that people can take it in, so they won’t panic and start a riot.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mushtaq Lasharie, at his balcony, behind his flat is Grenfell tower. Photo: Hsiao-Hung Pai. </span></span></span>As estimated by several local residents, around 60 families out of the 129 households managed to escape without rescue from the tower block the night of the fire. According to local residents I talked to in the first two weeks after the fire, there were hundreds still unaccounted for. Numerous notices were put up in the neighbourhood, by families looking for their loved ones. Friends and neighbours of those missing were also trying to help. Some put up posters on the windscreen of cars parked in the area. There’s a strong sense of helplessness among residents here; solidarity is all they’ve got.</p><p dir="ltr">A boy of eight or nine was standing alone by a missing person’s wall, staring at the written messages that have been dedicated to a 15-year-old girl. He stood there for a while, reading the messages one by one. Then he turned to tell me, “She’s my friend. Her brother’s missing, too. I know the family.” This missing 15-year-old girl lived on the 21st floor, and since the night of the fire, she had not been found and neither had her parents and two siblings.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Grenfell residents were informed by a notice stuck in their lift that they should remain their flats in the event of fire.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Later, the 15-year-old girl’s cousin, who lives next to Grenfell, described her to me. “She’s sporty, funny, and protective of her family. I love her.” He is of the same age as her and went to the same school. They were close. “She would have turned 16 yesterday,” he said – the 27th of June was her birthday. Her father worked in the hospital and mum was a housewife, looking after their 9-year-old son at home. That tragic night, her cousin and his family were awake for Ramadan, and quickly ran to the tower as soon as they were called by the relatives inside. But they, like everyone else, were helpless. The blaze was consuming the building and there was nothing they could do. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Given the horrific loss of lives and the level of destruction, the residents were shocked and angry that they were treated as if they were not entitled to full information. The latest death toll of 80 was released by the police on the 28th of June as a result of mounting pressure from the community following the announcement of “79 dead or missing presumed dead” more than a week before. The police also said then that the final death toll will not be known till end of the year.</p><h2>Grenfell United</h2><p dir="ltr">Ishmahil Blagrove, activist and coordinator of Justice4Grenfell, a coalition made up of Grenfell survivors, local residents and their supporters, said that the police’s refusal to even publish an estimate was making people suspicious of a cover-up. “People are rightly feeling that because of their circumstances,” he said. “People need to know how the police have come up with the number of victims.” Sajad Jamalvatan, a student who lived on the third floor, has set up a Whatsapp group of 86 families who escaped from the tower block, naming the group Grenfell United. He estimated the number of victims to be above 120.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">“People need to know how the police have come up with the number of victims.”</p><p dir="ltr">Under increasing community pressure, the police released further information on the 10th of July, nearly a month after the tragedy, that 350 people (an estimate based on census and school registers, with police’s methodology unexplained) were in the building the night of the fire and 255 survived. They now also said that the death toll will remain “at around 80”. While the police denied the community’s concern that many more people were still missing, many local residents continue to be suspicious of a cover-up. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Four days after the fire, a source who worked with the police revealed to me that a police officer had told him the death toll then was 170. The officer said to the source that the gradual release of the&nbsp;number of victims is to “avoid a riot”. Several firefighters were also reported to have been told by their management not to talk about the death toll which they said are higher than announced.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, according to a Notting Hill resident, Alice, there was a huge sense of fear of rioting in the wealthier neighbourhoods surrounding Grenfell. “It’s because of the history of rioting, many local people have been worried that the anger over Grenfell will lead to trouble,” she said, “They were worried particularly when Day of Rage protesters were marching from Shepherds Bush to Parliament Square… Some people found that kind of ideology [of the protesters] too extreme and were very concerned about their talk of ‘bringing down the government’.” This kind of concern about law-and-order among the wealthier communities in the borough (and the damage a riot might do to their properties and their property values) could say something about why there has been a lack of information from the police regarding the Grenfell death toll.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">“It’s contempt,” I said to him. Cladding&nbsp;is now a poignant signifier for that contempt.</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq said he’d never seen such a fire in his life. “It is unique in the Western world,” he said. Perhaps China, India or Brazil, but not a “first-world” country like Britain. The day following the fire, an asylum seeker from Nigeria, who I befriended in Catania, Sicily, called and asked if I was alright. He told me the reason for his worry that it might have affected me directly was that “they’re all immigrants in that tower”, as he put it. &nbsp;“How could it happen in London?” he said. This is not the usual image he has when thinking of a developed country – this is not only one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but one that, in his eyes, respects human lives.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s contempt,” I said to him. It is the contempt with which the elite treated the global working-class that fundamentally caused this tragedy. Cladding is now a poignant signifier for that contempt. Lives have been lost for the sake of cost-saving: documents obtained by the BBC show that the zinc cladding originally proposed during the refurbishment was replaced with a less fire-resistant aluminium type, which saved nearly £300,000. To date, all 120 social housing tower blocks that have been tested for fire safety failed the test. 100% failed. The contempt is deep-seated.</p><p dir="ltr">“In the last seven years, our councils have been cutting corners to meet budget requirements,’ said Mushtaq. ‘ln this case the resources were there. They spent ten million pounds on refurbishing the tower, but didn’t manage to make it safe. Not only is there the problem with cladding, there should be sprinklers installed in tower blocks. There should be more than one exit. The council didn’t even properly test the fire alarms.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Beinazir Lasharie, resident and Labour councillor, with her son in their flat. Photo: Hsiao-Hung Pai.</span></span></span>In the aftermath of the tragedy, the council has continued to treat residents with contempt. Beinazir Lasharie has been deeply traumatised by witnessing community being destroyed. Not only has the TMO has never shown their face in public, she’s furious that the council has not even bothered to meet the residents. “The cabinet should be held responsible for the tragedy. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it,” she said.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Beinazir&nbsp;is concerned that this is the way the local authorities are attempting their social cleansing – to move residents out of the area.</p><p dir="ltr">Beinazir has been staying in temporary accommodation in Victoria since the fire. “The hotel room isn’t very good, but I can’t let my two children stay here next to the tower. The air isn’t clean here.” Meanwhile, Beinazir has to come back to the area in the daytime for her work and also send her children to school. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Only a few dozen households among the survivors have accepted the given temporary accommodation. People are very worried about how long the temporary housing will be – and whether it would take years for them to be moved to permanent homes.</p><p dir="ltr">The entire Lancaster West Estate is suffering. There’s no hot water in all the households on the estate, and many don’t have gas, either. 398 families on the surrounding estates are currently staying in temporary accommodation, not only because of the lack of hot water supply, but also because people are so emotionally affected by what happened. His daughter-in-law has been so upset by the tragedy that she doesn’t want to move back to the area again. Beinazir is concerned that this is the way the local authorities are attempting their social cleansing – to move residents out of the area.</p><p dir="ltr">Many children in the neighbourhoods have been badly affected by the tragedy. Mushtaq pointed to an academy next to the leisure centre and told me it’s been closed as several children had died. It means that 700 children have been put in temporary schools.</p><p dir="ltr">This distressing situation is a world apart from what Mushtaq remembered of the borough when he arrived three decades ago. Back then, when he applied for refugee status, he was placed in asylum housing in Bayswater, and because he had a friend who lived in a B&amp;B in Earls Court, he moved to be near him and coincidentally became a resident in Kensington.</p><p dir="ltr">“There wasn’t the wealth gap we see today,” he said, “It used to be a much more welcoming, compassionate and humane place…Tony Benn used to live here and became a friend of mine. I became a member of Labour Party as soon as I started living here. Tony Benn inspired me and together with a team we founded the Third World Solidarity in 1986...One of my main aims is to influence politics and develop democracy in my home country. I’ve also known Jeremy Corbyn, for three decades now.”</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">“It used to be a much more welcoming, compassionate and humane place…Tony Benn used to live here and became a friend of mine."</p><p dir="ltr">“I was appointed a trustee and vice-chair of a church-run community centre. It showed how welcoming this place was, for someone who just came from Pakistan as a refugee…” Mushtaq was later elected a Labour councillor in Kensington &amp; Chelsea in 1992 and had been for 18 years.</p><p dir="ltr">“But gradually this place became more and more selfish and opportunistic…With the arrival of Thatcherism came social exclusion and isolation.” His time was also very unhappy under New Labour. ‘Everything I stood for, the central government under Blair’s Labour was doing the opposite,’ he said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Our borough is now extremely divided. We have the largest number of billionaires and millionnaires, and the largest number of graduates – 54% of residents in this borough are graduates. 54% of the children go to private education… There’s a house that’s worth £400 million on Kensington Palace Road, 180 embassies and offices are there. A very rich borough.” As he spoke, the image came into my mind of some well-dressed, “clean”-looking white middle-class residents with their prams whom I saw wandering around Lancaster West Estate last week as if for some “tragedy tourism”. They’d have come from the south part of the borough.</p><p dir="ltr">Mushtaq continued: “On the other end, if you look at Lancaster West Estate, or other social housing, it’s a completely different story. We used to have 10,000 homes, now reduced to 7,000 homes as result of Thatcher’s right to buy. Since then, social housing has been taken over by housing associations; it has been sold off or demolished. Housing became a lucrative thing… In the ward where Grenfell is, there are five tower blocks. We don’t have much social housing in the borough anymore.” For many, the Grenfell fire happened as result of the government’s year on year attack on social housing, the amount of which being built has dropped for more than two decades.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">For many, the Grenfell fire happened as result of the government’s year on year attack on social housing.</p><p dir="ltr">The waves of deregulation since Thatcherism in the past thirty years&nbsp;are no doubt the context for poor and unsafe living conditions for social housing residents. In the spirit of “there is no society”, Thatcherism set out to destroy lives in working-class communities. In 1986, the Thatcher government scrapped the London Building Acts which stipulated fire safety rules in buildings. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Under David Cameron, the “one in, two out rule” was a step further to cut red tape and put profits before everything. Cameron wrote to ministers back then, that he wanted to be the first government in modern history to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation. He wanted business no longer to have to report minor accidents, to be freed from health and safety regulation, and for the HSE to begin the task of slashing half the regulations. In this way, building controls were relaxed. It couldn't be more evident whose interests deregulation has served.</p><p dir="ltr">“Working-class people in our local area are being neglected, because the council is represented by Oxford graduates, landlords whose children go to private schools, who never see poverty, so there’s no understanding… Councillors or leaders don’t understand or represent,” said Mushtaq.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Working-class people in our local area are being&nbsp;neglected, the council is represented by Oxford graduates, landlords whose children go to private schools, who never see poverty.</p><p dir="ltr">Mustafa Almansur, a campaigner whose family friend Rania Ibrahim died in the fire, organised the town hall protest in the first week of the tragedy. He said: “This is failure of democracy – those who’re in North Kensington may be reps of the community but they have no power…The council is dominated by those in south Kensington who have absolutely no understanding or relationship with the impoverished community… There’s also the conflict of interest…You have 142 Tory MPs who are also landowners… It’s not in their interest to legislate stringent fire safety regulations… It’s a crazy situation where you have legislators having conflict of interest with legislation…This is democracy in crisis.”</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2015, Labour has put two pieces of legislation before Parliament to improve housing safety for council housing and privately rented properties. While all social housing is expected to be fit for habitation, no existing law in Britain actually allows that standard to be enforced. Both of Labour’s proposed laws would have allowed council tenants to challenge local authorities on unsafe conditions. In 2015, Labour MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck, put forward the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, which was designed to ensure that tenancies on terms shorter than seven years are fit for habitation. It put the obligation for this on landlords, including when the landlords are local authorities, and also give tenants power to take landlords to court if there’re major health and safety failings. This bill was voted out by Tory MPs.</p><p dir="ltr">Then again, in 2016, Labour MPs and peers took a second shot at rental regulation, this time attempting to amend Tories’ Housing and Planning Bill (introduced in 2016 which doesn’t protect social housing tenants) and incorporating content from the previous rejected bill. But the then-Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said that these would impose an “unnecessary regulation” on landlords. The Labour amendment was once again defeated. The 309 Tory MPs that turned up all voted against it.</p><p dir="ltr">On Friday afternoon, two weeks after the fire, Mushtaq went to attend a funeral service in Westbourne Grove. It was for an old colleague and fellow Labour activist who perished in the tragedy. His name is Abdel Salam Sabah, and came to Britain from Morocco in the 1970s. Many from the community came and gathered to pay respect and remember this well-loved man.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">It took thirty years to have wealth gap increased to this level today. It will take a lot of effort to reduce the gap…</p><p dir="ltr">Thinking about the state of affairs and the future of the borough, Mushtaq sighed, saying: ‘It took thirty years to have wealth gap increased to this level today. It will take a lot of effort to reduce the gap… Labour has come up with a strong socialist manifesto this year. I’m sure that no Labour leader will be able to come up with anything less in the next 30 years. So if they’re committed to it, they will be able to reduce the gap eventually.’ &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For now, the residents are still demanding basic justice. Justice4Grenfell campaigners are asking that the public inquiry must enable a comprehensive investigation into the historical background leading up to the events that paved way for the tragic fire. As activist Ishmahil Blagrove said, issues of marginalisation of communities need to be addressed. The fire, its cause, and the immediate emergency response to it need to be investigated.</p><p dir="ltr">Justice4Grenfell campaigners also point to the aftermath of the fire, including the ongoing endeavours of the bereaved families and survivors to obtain the support and assistance they require, and the admitted failures in this regard on the part of the state, local and national. They demand that the investigation must leave no stone unturned: it must identify each and every individual and organisation who must bear responsibility and accountability for this tragedy. These demands won’t be met if the public inquiry is headed by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who has a track record of facilitating social cleansing in London. Grenfell’s struggle continues.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london"> Fire in neo-liberal London</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell Tower Fire Hsiao-Hung Pai Fri, 14 Jul 2017 18:01:40 +0000 Hsiao-Hung Pai 112279 at All the fun of the (arms) fair this Sunday <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A fun day out for all the family has a dark side, as arms dealers shake hands with oppressive military regimes right alongside the picnic blankets.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// arrows.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// arrows.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Image: Red Arrows at RIAT, <a href="">Airwolfhound/Flickr</a>. License: <a href="">Creative Commons</a></em> </p><p>This Sunday, families will gather in the Cotswolds to lay picnic blankets, relax in the sunshine and watch pilots perform incredible flying feats above them.&nbsp; Meanwhile in Yemen, 10,000 people have been killed in conflict, seven million are on the edge of starvation and more than 300,000 have contracted cholera. What links these two events? The planes and bombs which caused the latter may have been sold at the former.</p> <p>For many the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), which takes place this weekend, is a fun day out in the Cotswolds every July. Foldable chairs are unfolded, pop-up tents are unpopped and spectacular air displays are witnessed by around 150,000 people.</p> <p>Like many of these air-shows though, the Tattoo has a dark side. According to the euphemism-laden RIAT website, the weekend is a ‘key event on the aerospace and defence calendar”. Alongside the punters gather 6,000 ‘corporate guests’ and more than 1,400 ‘international military personnel’, representing over 35 countries. </p> <p>Who are these corporate guests? RIAT’s list of sponsors gives a good indication. The majority are arms companies including BAE Systems, which sells fighter jets to the Saudi Arabian air force, and Raytheon, which sells the Paveway missiles which those fighter jets are currently using to bombard the people of Yemen. Others include MBDA, which <a href="">sold missiles to Colonel Gaddafi,</a> and Elbit Systems, which makes <a href="">most of the Israeli military’s drones</a>.</p> <p>These arms dealers are attracted to the show as it is a chance to network with their customers – military bosses from around the world. Among the global militaries <a href="">invited</a> to the show this year are eleven which also appear on the Foreign Office’s own <a href="">list</a> of countries with the worst human rights records in the world: Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan.</p> <p>The organisers have also invited Turkey, the <a href="">world’s biggest jailer of journalists</a>, whose government has just arrested the country’s local <a href="">Amnesty International bos</a>s. Its air force will be in attendance exhibiting its <a href="">F-16C Fighting Falcons</a>.</p> <p>If you’re looking to sell a fighter jet to the military of a despotic or human-rights abusing regime, RIAT seems to be the place for you. As the Tattoo’s website states, “the networking opportunities are endless”. Venues include the <a href="">patron’s pavilion</a>, situated in the prime place beside the runway and hosting RIAT’s “most senior guests including Royalty, Ministers, Defence Leaders and Captains of Industry”. On top of this, there are private hospitality chalets, a gala dinner, barbecue and salute party.</p> <p>As Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE Systems put it: “RIAT 2016 provided an excellent opportunity to forge and enhance relationships with a significant number of our domestic and international customers in a relaxed atmosphere against the backdrop of what has to be one of the best air displays in the world.” </p> <p>RIAT’s organisers should be alarmed to know that such immoral behaviour is taking place at their charity-run day out. Unfortunately, the event is run by the RAF Charitable Trust and, while there’s no reason to think the charity doesn’t spend its money on good causes, it is unlikely to object to this way of attracting sponsorship. </p> <p>The charity’s board of trustees is chaired by a man called <a href="">Kevin Leeson</a>, who used to be the chief of material (Air) at the Ministry of Defence. According to his <a href="">LinkedIn</a> page, this means he oversaw buying fixed wing aircraft for the UK’s Ministry of Defence. After leaving the public sector in 2012, he has passed through the revolving door into a private sector job in the same industry – as the director of military affairs at Airbus UK, one of the companies involved in the production of the same Eurofighter jets that are bombing Yemen. </p> <p>Unfortunately, a charity whose board of trustees is chaired by a senior arms industry figure is unlikely to object to his charity selling RIAT’s networking opportunities to arms companies in return for sponsorship.</p> <p>Major arms deals like those done for fighter jets are not done in a weekend so it’s not possible to point to a deal and say ‘that was done at RIAT’. Nevertheless, arms companies would not spend money sponsoring RIAT if they weren’t getting something out of it and the links forged and strengthened at RIAT help lead up to the point when a fighter jet can be sold.</p> <p>While RIAT is no-doubt a fun day out, those visiting should not overlook the sickening schmoozing taking place in the Patron’s Pavilion and the death and destruction it leads to.</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-smith/government-steps-up-role-as-global-arms-dealer">Government steps up role as a global arms dealer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/javier-g-rate/court-victory-gives-momentum-to-long-struggle-against-london-arms-fair">Court victory gives momentum to long struggle against London arms fair</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andrew-smith/arms-companies-are-making-money-by-taking-over-uk-schools">Arms companies are making money by taking over UK schools</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andrew-smith/arms-sales-to-egypt-when-rhetoric-overtakes-reality">Arms sales to Egypt: when rhetoric overtakes reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kaye-stearman/uk-arms-sales-to-libya-stop-start-stop-and-start-again">UK arms sales to Libya - stop, start, stop and start again </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/node/621">Arms sales, beauty contests and Exxon Mobil</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Joe Lo Fri, 14 Jul 2017 13:29:30 +0000 Joe Lo 112281 at The most foolish NHS privatisation yet? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If private staffing agency fees are damaging the NHS so much, why on earth does the government keep trying to privatise the in-house agency set up to help the NHS avoid the problem?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><a href=""><em>Image: Flickr/Ralph Berry, some rights reserved</em></a></p><p>For the third time since 2010, the government is planning to sell off NHS Professionals, the NHS in-house temporary staffing agency. This is the latest in a long series of gradual and covert moves to privatise our NHS. The obscurity in the privatisation process is no surprise.<a href="" target="_blank"> 84%</a> of us want a publicly owned NHS. Those who want to place it in private hands know they can’t do so transparently.&nbsp;</p> <p>Plans for the sale of NHS Professionals in 2010 and 2014 were shelved. This time around, the government’s schedule has been disrupted by the election, and now Eleanor Smith, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, has tabled an <a href="">Early Day Motion (number 152)</a> for concerned MPs to sign, calling on the government to halt the sell-off, co sponsored by the SNP health spokeswoman Dr Philippa Whitford MP and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP.</p> <p>Lucas has also <a href=";max=20&amp;questiontype=QuestionsOnly&amp;house=commons%2clords&amp;member=3930">tabled written questions to the Department of Health</a> in an effort to find out more information about the sale process. Through parliamentary pressure and a wider campaign by We Own It, this move to privatise yet another part of the NHS can be stopped.</p> <p><strong>NHS recruitment</strong></p> <p>NHS Professionals was set up in 2001 as a response to the unsustainable costs of recruiting temporary healthcare staff through private agencies. It consists of a bank of 88,000 healthcare professionals and is used by around 60 out of 250 NHS Trusts. The organisation <a href="" target="_blank">saves the NHS £70 million per year</a> and turned a<a href="" target="_blank"> profit of £6.4 million</a> in 2015-16. It is currently owned entirely by the Department of Health, but the government plans to sell 74.9% of it to the highest bidder.</p> <p>Despite the success of NHS Professionals, agency staffing poses a<a href="" target="_blank"> significant financial problem</a> for the NHS. The costs of agency staff have have risen each year from 2011 to 2015-16, in which they reached <a href="" target="_blank">£3.64 billion</a> – £1.4 billion over budget.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, a large chunk of this expenditure ends up as profit for recruitment agencies, which is not reinvested in the NHS. Of the £3 billion spent in 2016, between<a href="" target="_blank"> £300 and £600 million</a> went into the pockets of recruitment agencies. While hospitals struggle to function, the heads of recruitment agencies earn salaries of<a href="" target="_blank"> almost £1 million a year</a>.</p> <p>In October 2015, controls were introduced in an effort to curb extortionate recruitment charges. While this is reported to have saved the NHS<a href="" target="_blank"> £300 million in six months</a>, some trusts have<a href="" target="_blank"> struggled to fill vacancies</a> since the imposition of caps on recruitment charges. Even after the controls were introduced, there were reports of recruitment agencies taking a commission as high as<a href="" target="_blank"> 49%</a>.</p> <p><strong>NHS privatisation</strong></p> <p>The staffing problems facing the NHS look set to continue, not least given the<a href="" target="_blank"> net loss of nurses</a> reported earlier this year. But the solution is not to hand NHS Professionals over to private control, which would effectively turn it into the kind of organisation it was meant to allow the NHS to avoid.</p> <p>Privatisation damages the NHS is an at least three ways, and the current proposal is no exception.</p> <p>First, privatisation drives up costs. The millions funnelled to recruitment agencies’ shareholders could be reinvested in the NHS under a publicly owned system. The additional bureaucratic costs of running the NHS as a market are also astronomical, estimated to be <a href="">at least £5bn-£10bn a year</a>. </p> <p>Second, privatisation has led to lower standards of healthcare. Services outsourced to private companies which have repeatedly failed to provide adequate treatment for patients. For example, the handing over of Nottingham’s dermatology centre to Circle – who won NHS contracts worth<a href="" target="_blank"> nearly £1.5 billion</a> in 2014 – left it<a href="" target="_blank"> on the brink of collapse</a> in 2015. In 2013, it emerged that Serco had been<a href=";keytype2=tf_ipsecsha" target="_blank"> tampering with data</a> and was forced to pull out of a contract to run out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall. A 2014<a href="" target="_blank"> inquiry led by Debbie Abrahams MP</a> also found evidence on an international scale that privatisation reduces quality of healthcare.</p> <p>Third, privatisation damages accountability. The ‘Clinical Commissioning Groups’ established by the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 frequently outsource work to organisations. Outsourcing companies can also avoid disclosing information by appealing to<a href="" target="_blank"> “commercial confidentiality” rules</a>.</p> <p><strong>Next steps</strong></p> <p>The government has already spent<a href="" target="_blank"> £2 million</a> arranging the sale, half of which went to the consultancy giant Deloitte. The recruitment agency<a href="" target="_blank"> Staffline is one known bidder</a>. The other bidders remain undisclosed, though <a href=";max=20&amp;questiontype=QuestionsOnly&amp;house=commons%2clords&amp;member=3930">Caroline Lucas has asked them to disclose the other bidders</a>. Ultimately, though, we know who is responsible for the sale at the Department of Health: Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary; Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Health; and Ben Masterson, Head of Companies Management.</p> <p>These are the actors which the We Own It campaign will target. A<a href="" target="_blank"> petition</a> to stop the sell-off has already reached 15,000 signatures. Given the government’s weakened mandate there is hope that public outrage, together with action in Parliament from Eleanor Smith MP and others, will force the government to abandon the sale.</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/jos-bell/tory-links-of-health-agencies-exposed-as-hunt-lines-up-next-nhs-selloff-in-england">Tory links of health agencies exposed as Hunt lines up next NHS sell-off in England</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/jos-bell/admiral-jeremy-is-not-so-admirable">Admiral Jeremy is not so admirable</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/paul-teed/locum-ae-doctor-speaks-out-about-silent-privatisation-of-nhs-workforce">A locum A&amp;E doctor speaks out about the silent privatisation of the NHS workforce</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Michael Thorne Thu, 13 Jul 2017 11:56:48 +0000 Michael Thorne 112254 at Ditching the dogma: When does a focus on productivity become counterproductive? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Productivity" is the mantra in current economic discussions. But it's too often undefined - and is it even relevant in an economy where care, personal services and creative sectors are growing in significance?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><a href=""><em>Image: Arianna String Quartet, Flickr/Ching, some rights reserved.</em></a></p><p>There seems to be a new trend in town – it’s not Pokemon Go or turmeric lattes or pouty photos on social media. </p> <p>It’s the tendency to unquestioningly throw around the term ‘productivity’ as an unmitigated good – as an important goal of policy – without defining it, let alone discussing whether more ‘productivity’ is an appropriate goal for today’s economy.</p> <p>Admittedly, the mantra of ‘we need to boost our economy’s productivity’ has long been with us – but it recently seems to be experiencing a spell of particularly high popularity in ministerial <a href="">speeches</a>, TV and media interviews, and in high level meetings.</p> <p>In one of these meetings – a room full of highly educated people, people very senior in businesses or economic agencies or government – I asked: ‘but how are you defining productivity?’&nbsp; </p> <p>The answer: ‘we haven’t really discussed that’.</p> <p>This is concerning. </p> <p>I asked if they were defaulting to the definition I was taught in my first year studying economics at university – output per worker. Yes, that was, apparently, what they had in mind: ‘<a href="">Productivity gains are vital to the economy</a>, as they mean that more is being accomplished with less’.</p> <p>So the next question is if increasing the output each worker produces is necessarily a good thing. Why would we want more? And why would we want to do it with ‘less’, if less means fewer people?</p> <p>First, <a href="">more stuff</a>? Really? In a world pushing up against and beyond environmental limits and <a href="">planetary boundaries</a>? When there is already more than <a href="">enough</a> to deliver sufficient food for everyone, if only we could share resources better and stop <a href="">wasting</a> so much? When the link between more stuff and enhanced wellbeing becomes <a href="">tenuous</a> after fairly modest levels of income? </p> <p>Second, more output per worker? In an economy in which many people are simply trying to stitch together a semblance of a livelihood on <a href="">short term contracts</a> and too few hours, is pursuit of fewer people on the payroll a good thing for anyone other than those signing the pay cheques? And is it even relevant in an economy where care, personal services and creative sectors are growing in <a href="">significance</a>? After all, these are sectors where having more people involved might just lead to better outcomes and higher quality delivery. </p> <p>And as economist William Baumol noted, with reference to a <a href="">string quartet</a>, the push for more intensity of work might end up compromising the quality of delivery and hence the experience, for both worker and customer. Ecological economist and former UK Sustainable Development Commissioner <a href="">Tim Jackson</a> <a href="">explains</a> that ‘when it comes to human services, continually stripping out the time spent in service actually becomes (in any meaningful terms) counter-productive, even though it is counted in economics as being productive’.</p> <p><a href="">A recent Oxfam International report suggested</a> we need to consider who gets the gains of any productivity increases. Doing so would reveal this is one type of decoupling that has occurred: a breakdown of the link between productivity gains and workers’ wages. To a great extent (especially in the <a href="">US</a>) owners of capital have siphoned off the benefits. Whereas workers – often due to their declining power in workplace negotiations – have been delivering more for their bosses, but without commensurate remuneration.</p> <p>So why, with all these possible downsides, is productivity rolled out so often and so categorically as a good thing? It seems to me that it reflects an example of how <a href="">out of date economic axioms</a> remain entrenched in so many discussions about the economy in political and media circles. </p> <p>It is the same with productivity’s twin-concept of ‘growth’ – another abstract term wheeled out without asking what sort of growth is wanted, for whom, and what trade-offs societies need to make in order to attain it. Instead an ‘adjective lipstick’ is painted on the growth pig – to paraphrase Sarah Palin. We have: ‘Inclusive Growth’; ‘Sustainable Growth’; ‘Green Growth’; ‘Shared Growth’; and ‘Low Carbon Growth’. Whitewashing an abstract term of dubious merit is not good enough. </p> <p>But returning to productivity, there are some good reasons to put it forward as a goal. One would be if workers were able to negotiate to take the benefits – for example, as more leisure time, without less pay. This would be a good thing in our over-worked stressed out society. Another would be if pursuit of productivity gains were focused on those jobs that are unpleasant – using technology and automation to make these jobs easier would be entirely appropriate. </p> <p>And finally, what if the sort of productivity being promoted was ‘output per unit of resources’? That would <a href="">mean</a> the same amount of material goods or services were being delivered, but using fewer resources. Given the extent of stress on the environment, an economy that chews up less would be a great turn of events.</p> <p>Discussing how the challenges the economy faces and how it can be improved is a very necessary conversation. They would be even better if the terms used and assumptions made are on the table for debate and redefinition. A more cautious and nuanced approach to mantras such as growth and productivity might just lead to a wealthier country. Wealthier, of course, in the old English <a href="">definition</a> of ‘the conditions of wellbeing’... </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk economics Katherine Trebeck Wed, 12 Jul 2017 07:00:00 +0000 Katherine Trebeck 112197 at Release details of DUP Brexit ‘dark money’, MPs tells Northern Ireland Secretary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why is James Brokenshire colluding with the DUP to cover up Northern Irish donations between 2014 and 2017?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP Treasurer Gregory Campbell. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">MPs are calling on Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to use his powers to reveal the names of the secret donors who gave the DUP £435,000 to campaign for Brexit, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">In an unprecedented move, an SNP MP has written to Brokenshire calling for the UK government to use existing legislation to publish all political donors in Northern Ireland since 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week <a href="">Brokenshire announced</a> the end of the long-running practice of donor secrecy in Northern Ireland. But he said the new transparency rules will only apply to donations made after 1st July 2017 – which means the source of DUP £435,000 donation can remain anonymous.</p><p dir="ltr">Political donations have long been secret in Northern Ireland. In February, <a href="">openDemocracy revealed</a> that the Democratic Unionist Party received £435,000 for the party’s Brexit campaign. The cash – which was spent on newspaper adverts and campaigning, all outside Northern Ireland – came from a shadowy pro-union group called the Constitutional Research Council. The DUP has since signed a ‘confidence and supply’ deal with the Conservatives to keep Theresa May in office.</p><p dir="ltr">In a letter to Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire seen by openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes says that the public should know who funded the DUP’s Brexit campaign – and points out that the Secretary of State has the power to publish all political donations since 1 January 2014 under legislation that is already on the statute books, but which has never been enacted.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“[I]t is not clear why any new legislation is required at all – under the terms of Sections 15 A and 15 B of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 as Secretary of State you already have the power to introduce donor transparency into Northern Ireland, and can do so presently, without the need for any new legislation,” writes Doherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire since 2015. &nbsp;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“There are serious concerns, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere that the UK Government's recent political deal with the DUP contributed to your decision to refuse the public access to information on source of the DUP's record Brexit funding…. In light of these facts I would call on you as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to enforce the laws that already exist, and to ensure that the public know who funded the DUP's Brexit campaign, good governance demands it.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">If Mr Brokenshire presses ahead with trying to pass new legislation, rather than using the existing 2014 Act, the bill he will have to get through the Commons could be amended by MPs to allow for the disclosure of previous donations, which would include details of the massive DUP ‘dark money’ donation. </p><p dir="ltr">So far both the DUP and the Constitutional Research Council’s chair Richard Cook have maintained that all existing procedures have been complied with, but refused repeated requests to disclose the source of the £435,000 donation. </p><p dir="ltr">Doherty-Hughes told openDemocracy that he was “hoping for an enlightening response from the minister on what was a very unusual decision not to bring this transparency into line with the 2014 act. This is a story which just gets murkier and murkier, and I think nothing other than a full disclosure will satisfy the public's requirement for this transparency."</p><p dir="ltr">The SNP MP joins a chorus of politicians and campaigners on both sides of the Irish Sea who have called on Brokenshire to publish all donations from 1 January 2014. Speaking to openDemocracy, Caroline Lucas said: "The Secretary of State should immediately allow the Electoral Commission to publish the details of these donations. A democracy worthy of the name relies on transparency, especially when it comes to donations – and it's absolutely crucial that people are able to see who funded the EU Referendum."</p><p dir="ltr">Others have questioned whether Brokenshire’s move is part of an effort by the Conservative government to protect the DUP, whom they rely on in parliament to get laws passed. Last week, Seamus Magee, retired head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said: "The deal on party donations and loans must be part of the DUP/Conservative deal. No other explanation."</p><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland’s donor secrecy is a legacy of the Troubles but publishing recent donations – such as the DUP’s Brexit cash – is relatively straightforward. Since 2014, all political parties in Northern Ireland have had to submit documentation to the Electoral Commission and fulfil all aspects of electoral law, except that the donations were not made public. </p><p dir="ltr">As Niall Bakewell, campaigner at Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland, explains, all Northern Irish political parties knew that donations could be published since January 2014. </p><p dir="ltr">“Any donor giving during this period who believed they would be perpetually anonymous only has themselves and the parties to whom they donated to blame for failing to understand this regime,” said Bakewell, adding that when it came to details of donations the UK government had “no reason to keep our property from us.”</p><p dir="ltr">Former Labour MP Tom Harris who headed the Vote Leave campaign in Scotland said that he “totally agreed” with the SNP letter. “The legislation is there. I have no idea why (Brokenshire) is not using it. I can’t see what the justification for this is,” Harris told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">“It would be hilarious to find out where that money came from,” added Harris, who in 2001 was elected in Glasgow Cathcart, finishing ahead of Richard Cook of the Scottish Conservatives. Cook, who lives outside Glasgow, has since emerged as the only individual linked to the £435,000 DUP donation. Speaking of Cook’s emergence as a key player in the DUP Brexit story, Harris said: “I said to my wife, ‘There’s Richard Cook in the news. How weird is that’.”</p><p dir="ltr">There is near universal agreement in Northern Ireland on ending donor secrecy. According to a <a href="">Channel 4 News report</a>, all the main political parties want donations backdated to January 2014 – except the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="">Channel 4 News</a>, Sinn Fein MLA and former MP Conor Murphy <a href="">said</a>: “The premise under which every party was operating was that legislation... would be backdated to 2014 in order to provide transparency around political donations. The announcement by James Brokenshire in the House of Commons was a surprise to everyone here, apparently except from the DUP – that the start date (for donation transparency) would be 2017, which would obviously exclude any transparency around this particular donation.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Northern Irish Electoral Commission has also asked for the power to publish details of donations retrospectively. "Legislation was made in 2014 to enable to future publication of any donations from 1 January 2014 onwards, the Secretary of State has chosen to only publish donations from 1 July 2017," &nbsp;Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, told the BBC recently.</p><p dir="ltr">"That means the public... on the current plans, will not see donations over the last three-and-a-half-years. We would welcome full transparency and we would welcome full transparency back from 2014."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">We&#039;ve forced a change in the law on &#039;dark money&#039;. But we still need to do more</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. DUP Dark money Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 11 Jul 2017 17:21:42 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 112213 at Human rights protection at home and abroad: lessons to be learned from the Colombian peace process <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human rights abuses in Colombia can serve as a stark reminder of what the UK has to lose.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights abuses will be fundamental to the success of the Colombian peace process. Photo: U.S. Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process, Bernard Aronson, Addresses Conflict Victims. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of State from United States. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Kofi Annan once said: "<em>We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights</em>."&nbsp;</p><p>In the wake of rising hate crime and racist attacks following the Brexit referendum and the UN expressing “<a href="" target="_blank">serious concern</a>” regarding the disproportionate and adverse impacts that austerity is having on disadvantaged and marginalised groups in the UK, this is a sentiment which the UK Government must not forget.</p><p>The salience of Kofi Annan’s message was brought home to me during a recent visit which my colleague Elisabeth Andresen and I made to Colombia as part of the fifth biennial visit of the International Caravana of Jurists (the 'Colombia Caravana'). Along with 53 other lawyers and judges from 10 different countries around the world, we visited seven regions of the country and the capital, Bogotá, in order to record testimony from human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses.&nbsp;</p><p>This was a historic time to visit the country as on 24 August 2016 a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the guerrilla movement FARC, bringing to an end a 50 year conflict which has seen hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. The agreement intends to establish a transitional justice system to provide reparations to victims, and hold to account those who have committed crimes during the conflict.</p><p>Although the peace process is an extremely important step forward for Colombia, it was clear from our visit that significant challenges remain. Ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights abuses, protecting human rights defenders and addressing socio-economic inequality are going to be fundamental to its success. Despite the challenges facing the UK being different in their nature, there are a number of key lessons which I will take away from our visit regarding the importance of human rights protection, both at home (where we often take our development and security for granted) and abroad. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h2>Threats to human rights defenders&nbsp;</h2><p>One of the things that struck me most during our visit was the threats and stigmatisation faced by Colombian human rights lawyers and defenders.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="// defender_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// defender_1.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rommel Durán Castellanos. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>As a lawyer in the UK, I am in the privileged position of not generally having to worry about risks to my life or being unlawfully detained as a result of the cases which I bring or the people I represent. My counterparts in Colombia, however, are not so lucky. Rommel Durán Castellanos, a human rights lawyer from the organisation <a href="" target="_blank">Equipo Jurido Pueblos</a> in Bucaramanga, has faced arbitrary arrest and threats to his life as a result of the work that he undertakes on behalf of forcibly displaced communities and other victims of human rights abuses. &nbsp;</p><p>In the first three months of 2017 alone, the organisation <a href="" target="_blank">Somos Defensores</a> estimates that 25 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia.&nbsp;</p><p>It is essential that adequate protections and guarantees are offered to these individuals who daily put their lives at risk in order to represent the most marginalised members of Colombian society.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are concerns that the transitional justice process will lead to a significant increase in the number of cases to be heard, and that the system will be overwhelmed</p><h2>Access to justice</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="// prison.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// prison.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palogordo prison. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Significant concerns were raised during our visit regarding the Colombian justice system being under-resourced and severely overstretched. This was particularly evident during a visit to Palogordo prison, in which we were given unprecedented access to the inner-workings of a prison where a large number of political prisoners are held.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Prison officials complained that they have insufficient resources to support the ever-expanding prison population, which is leading to severe overcrowding. A key problem is the inadequate provision of healthcare, which has led one prisoner to go on hunger strike in an attempt to persuade the prison to provide an operation he requires. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p>There were also worrying accounts of preventative detention being used. In a clear miscarriage of justice, one individual has been held on remand for five years without trial due to a lack of publicly funded lawyers and delays in the system.&nbsp;</p><p>There are legitimate concerns that the transitional justice process will lead to a significant increase in the number of cases to be heard, and that the criminal justice system will be overwhelmed. Investment in adequate resources at every level of the justice system will therefore be required in order for the peace process to succeed.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I&nbsp;heard worrying testimony of paramilitary groups being used by multinational corporations to pursue their investment interests</p><h2>Holding multinational corporations to account</h2><p>It is anticipated that the peace process will lead to increased investment in Colombia by multinational corporations wishing to exploit the country’s mineral riches including gold, coal and oil. This offers important opportunities for the country in terms of economic development. However, it also carries significant risks.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prisoner on hunger strike in the medical centre of Palogordo prison. Melissa Tesler. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>During our visit I heard worrying testimony of paramilitary groups being used by multinational corporations to pursue their investment interests; environmental damage being caused by investment projects; widespread land-grabbing, displacement and threats to local communities. It has also been <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> that over 50 companies may be charged with financing the largest paramilitary group in recent Colombian history, the AUC, as part of the transitional justice process.&nbsp;</p><p>Multinationals must ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses and that they comply with their obligations to respect human rights, as set out in international instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Colombian government and the international community as a whole will have a crucial role to play in this regard by holding multinational corporations to account and ensuring access to remedy.</p><p>It is also essential that the country’s social and economic development is sustainable and of benefit to all members of society. As one campesino (small-scale farmer) told me “con hambre no hay paz”: &nbsp;“with hunger, there is no peace”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In recent years there have been unrelenting attempts by the Conservative Government and right-wing press to redefine human mere political correctness.</p><h2>Threats to access to justice and human rights protection in the UK</h2><p>Although it may seem that the legal, economic and political situation here in the UK is far removed from that which I observed in Colombia, in reality there are very real threats to the protection of human rights here at home.&nbsp;</p><p>In recent years there have been unrelenting attempts by the Conservative Government and right-wing press to redefine human rights, including such fundamental rights and freedoms as the right to life, the right to be free from torture and the right to a fair trial, as mere "<em>political correctness</em>". The Conservative Party has pledged to replace the Human Rights Act with a "British Bill of Rights”. Theresa May has also suggested that the UK may withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights, an international treaty drafted in response to the horrors of the Second World War to which every country in Europe is a party with the exception of the military dictatorship in Belarus.&nbsp;</p><p>Such actions would undermine the human rights protection that we currently enjoy in the UK and represent a significant step backwards at a time when progressive approaches to development and security are needed most. Over a <a href="" target="_blank">quarter of children in the UK </a>are currently living in poverty and cuts to the benefits system have led to an unprecedented reliance on food banks. We have seen the dismantling of legal aid, particularly in the fields of asylum, family law and judicial review, which is significantly impeding access to justice. A recent report of the <a href="" target="_blank">Joint Committee on Human Rights</a> into the UK’s compliance with international guidance on business and human rights also found that more must be done to ensure that victims of human rights abuses at the hands of UK companies have access to effective remedy. &nbsp;</p><p>Both Colombia and the UK are at important crossroads. While the peace process in Colombia offers a great deal of hope, significant challenges remain in establishing a stable and long-lasting peace. I would urge the UK while negotiating the post-Brexit landscape not to lose sight of the fundamental role which human rights play in this regard. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><em>For more information regarding the Colombia Caravana and to read the report of the August 2016 delegation visit: <a href=" " target="_blank">;</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/kirsty-brimelow-qc-and-jennifer-robinson/tory-manifesto-promises-floating-hollow-on-huma">A poor track record and a worrying manifesto on civil rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Emily Soothill Tue, 11 Jul 2017 14:57:31 +0000 Emily Soothill 111598 at The City of Blades <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is Manchester merely a playground for tired Madchester myths, property speculators and discredited Osbornomics? Or is there a chance for something more radical to emerge from the controversial Manchester International Festival?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// City of Blades__1499768351_176.35.4.248_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// City of Blades__1499768351_176.35.4.248_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="403" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Manchester, ziggurats and sleeping bags. </em><br />Manchester International Festival (MIF) has a new injection of money for culture, in the shape of an extra £9m a year for MIF and a new £110m Rem Koolhaas-designed cultural centre called The Factory. This is partly a legacy of George Osborne, who inaugurated the centre when he announced his Northern Powerhouse vision, in the Old Granada Studios that will be demolished to make way for The Factory. Last week Osborne’s connection to Manchester seemed reaffirmed when he was awarded an Honorary Professorship in Economics by Manchester University. </p><p>But these things arrive right at the moment when Manchester needs new, fecund myths, because the old ones are dried-out husks. The biggest evidence for this, actually, can be found in this year's Manchester International Festival. </p><p>Manchester’s tedious afterimage is the fault of the films 24 Hour Party People and Control. Walking the city, the little glyph under the ‘Haçienda’ occasionally flashes up in the periphery of your vision. This little accent is a hook that the city’s mythmakers have hung themselves on. The millimetre wide imagination of these mythmakers can be seen in the name 'The Factory', and yet another celebration of New Order at Manchester International Festival in 2017 (now with even more synths!) and an exhibition called Ceremony at the City Art Gallery. </p><p>A bizarre dimension of Manchester cultural life is that no article on the city can be written which doesn't mention Joy Division, yet the deep connection of, for instance, Napalm Death to Solihull isn't eternally present. Alan Erasmus didn't know about Warhol's Factory when he named the club night, that became the record label, that is now about to become the multi-million pound cultural centre. Manchester needs many things, but another glittering arts white elephant is not among them. According to insiders willing to talk, HOME, the arts complex that replaced The Cornerhouse, is struggling to be a success. The fact that the sign Erasmus named Factory after actually said ‘factory closing’ may yet haunt us. </p><p>A <a href="">recent and damning LSE report shows how local government in Manchester</a> 'has sponsored the transformation of the city by private property developers' for 'exclusive growth with gross internal inequalities’ which ‘cannot be changed by upskilling workers or adding public transport links to the deprived districts.' All of this cultural investment is happening as the homeless pile up in doorways. </p><p>The LSE report pulls no punches. It concludes that with '80,000 on the housing waiting lists of the ten boroughs, the first priority should be social housing; With so many on low wages, the first priority in transport should be much lower public transport fares; With so much employment in sectors like retail and hospitality, the first priority should be to ensure that all chain based operators in these sectors pay the Greater Manchester Living Wage.' </p><p>As Lara Williams in the Guardian wrote back in 2011, the Manchester International Festival <a href="">effectively excludes the majority of Greater Manchester citizens</a>. She suggests only inclusive ticket prices, an end to the reliance on unpaid work placements, volunteers and outreach, could mean 'the festival might just tap into Manchester's greatest resource', a 'city unified.' <br />Even as the 'I Love Manchester' slogans build up after the horrific MEN Arena bombing, the Manchester International Festival is for everyone except ordinary Mancunians. It is the glittering bauble offered to an international audience. </p><p>And what is the 'International' in Manchester International Festival? The word hovers over the city. There are buildings in Manchester that boast they are architecture of 'international quality'. Academics of 'international quality' are requested in job adverts. </p><p>What does all this mean? Manchester International Festival is appealing to the Saudis, to China, to Deloitte in America, all circling above waiting to invest for profit. Manchester City Council, despite its recent march against cuts, has in fact enacted 'austerity' all along, with savage cuts to council workers and services. At the same time it enthusiastically pulls in culture money assuming that it will 'trickle-down'.</p><p>But nobody believes in the trickle-down any more, or the miraculous 'connect-up', that simply by improving the trains a thousand new commuters will bloom. The LSE report on Manchester doesn't believe it either. Unless stagnating wages and public transport fares are not tackled a thousand commuters will only suffer. Andy Burnham, with his <a href="">new-old Deputy Sir Richard Leese</a>, seems bent on carrying on the same old public-private neoconservative game, despite a proclaimed social justice agenda. </p><p>The 'international' is another confusion that should be demolished. Here's how: At a recent Manchester Met event, ‘Manchester as Cosmopolis’, academic Saskia Sassen began by describing some cities of the global north, with their vast, visible luxury zones. These zones are examples of what Sassen calls ‘de-urbanisation’, cities as monocultures for the wealthy. Manhattan was given as an example, half full and for the rich. ‘A monster’ that crawls in and eats neighborhoods from within. London’s Docklands is another example, as is Salford Quays, although much more modestly so.</p><p>When ‘the global’ sets in, stability rots at the core: Manchester is global and is preparing to shift up a level of velocity in the global game. That is why the city is a building site, its circuits are being re-wired. But these circuits are not being tested before they run. Manchester International Festival is the big department store window display illuminated with neon for global investment. <br /><a href="">Jeremy Deller's MIF piece this year, 'What Is A City But Its People?</a>' was in many ways extremely moving. A parade of Mancunians, some famous, some not, was given a real emotional gravity by the horrific arena bombing not long before it. But I heard from a volunteer in migrant homeless shelters that Deller was attempting to get hold of some stateless refugees to parade along with the local celebrities and 'ordinary people'. How very different, my activist friend asked, is this from the parade of pygmies at the nineteenth century world fair? For him, the local is fodder for the international gaze, and it is a buyer's gaze that will transform the local into a heaven for others that ordinary people in Manchester cannot afford. </p><p>Giles Fraser recently explained in the Guardian how his East London parish is being emptied by overseas capitalist investment. And a man of the cloth should be concerned: Sassen tells us that this business is ‘extractive’; but the injections of capital themselves, the buying of the properties, are also a potential cause for concern, as dirty money launders through property. None of this, to cut through the technical language, is good for ordinary people. </p><p>Sassen shows a list of the acquisitions of existing properties by national and foreign investment. London is right up there with a jaw-dropping 40.5%. Manchester is lower down the list, at No.23 globally, hovering by Miami, but this is astonishing in itself. Sassen also shows a map of the iconic buildings in London, owned by one Chinese investor. To ‘a mayor’, she says, watch what happens to the physical assets. You need to know how to handle them, ‘or it will eat you up’. Look at what is happening in London, she says, public servants cannot afford to live there. </p><p>All of the cities in the global game are in trouble, as they risk being ‘kidnapped’ by global finance, and Manchester is in that top 100. Buildings and streets that appear public are often owned by corporations. Potsdamer Platz appears public, but is private, as is much of Docklands London. And then there’s Salford Quays and the massive public-private fudge of the BBC and the <a href="//">offshore wealth of Peel Holdings and its shell operations. </a></p><p>Sassen tells us that ‘the law of urban land is often very old law’, but that the more creative lawyers are now creeping into public spaces. These compacts of legal advice, global speculation, investment and statecraft are ‘colonising the future’ of cities to ‘deal with the current electoral cycle.’ This permanent need, to deal with an eternally collapsing present moment, involves the same infinite deferral of judgement that led to 2008, a deferral of judgement that carried on after 2008 and continues to hang over us. It doesn’t just hover abstractly over some mystical place called ‘the global’ that we need not worry about, it hangs over Manchester, right now, in the form of roving giant blades.</p><p>These blades, hanging overhead, are Deloitte U.S. priming the ground for overseas investment in Manchester via cultural journalism that blurs into a tourist guide. It is the Chinese consortium CMC at Manchester City football ground. It is Peel eyeing up more infrastructure and opportunity. Sassen asks us to examine ‘who owns the city?’ </p><p>This is not necessarily against the 'what' of overseas interest, but it is completely against the 'how' of capitalist investment that disenfranchises ordinary people of any ethnicity or background in Manchester. It is not against people of a multitude of nations visiting Manchester to check out its culture, quite the opposite, but it is against an arts festival that appears to actively exclude local audiences in order to grease the processes that will even further marginalise them long-term. </p><p>Of course, one might argue that cultural spend is separate from, for instance housing. But this ushers in a capitalist realism argument as Mark Fisher made it: Why is our imagination so limited? Culture doesn't need vast amounts of money. There is often a negative equation between quality and amount of money spent on it. $44 million didn't make ‘Heaven's Gate’ a good film. The smaller galleries in Manchester are very often the best. It would be hypocritical of me to say I wanted less money for the arts, generally, but the old urban game of culture and art to pull inward investment now comes with extremely convincing evidence of its ills.</p><p>But we do need new culture in Manchester too, not old: The literature festival is largely polite, middle class and Manchester can’t seem to produce a single decent radical independent bookshop at its centre, due to its 'Powerhouse Economics'. Similarly, the Manchester and Salford literary traditions swing between transgressive and straight, great and average. The terrible include the erroneously canonised De Quincey, who was a biological racist at core, along with the deeply conservative Mrs Gaskell. </p><p>Good things are happening of course. The Anthony Burgess Centre, also with its ‘International’ status, is a great hub for Manchester writers. But the things that spring up in the cracks of the pavement are just as important: The Other Room is an amazing particle collider for new experiments with words and sounds, which has its parallel in nights such as The Noise Upstairs at Fuel in Withington. These should be right at the forefront of what Manchester does. </p><p>The old, bloated corpses still weigh heavily on the city: ‘Manchester, So Much To Answer For’ was a line that originally diagnosed the Brady and Hindley murders, but has since swollen to designate anything and everything that originated in the city region, brilliant, bad or plain evil. </p><p>We cannot allow our city to pivot on six words that once fell out of Morrissey’s mouth, that would clearly be foolish. But out come tired old New Order, and a Phil Collins artwork called Ceremony, named after the Joy Division track, and toe-curling images of an Ian Curtisalike on MIF posters all over town: It is embarrassing. We must drop the old stories and look for new ones. We need to make very particular, politicised new myths. The Haçienda and Madchester myths must go precisely because they sat on the highest curve of the Neoconservative rollercoaster.</p><p>Lara Williams stated that MIF has so far attracted big stars and 'deterred locals'. Smaller local press outlets are thrown scraps of returns and last-minute dropouts, undermining the chances of a critical or diverse reading of the festival in the media. MIF has 'done wonders in revamping Manchester's cultural brand', Williams states, yet 'the majority of the festival's events are financially inaccessible to the wider Manchester populace.' Williams cites former MIF director Alex Poots, saying 'I don't want to be a festival that attracts the same 15%, largely white middle-class audience.' So what went wrong? It's all pitched at people outside the city. It is all about seeing the city as a global product to be consumed, it is all part of the game that Saskia Sassen says will actually eat your city if you give it half a chance. </p><p>At the jazz festival in St Ann’s Square a couple of years ago I saw someone drinking Prosecco by a gazebo across from a homeless person drinking Tenant's Super in a tent. The homeless peoples’ tents had been outlawed by a Labour city council who were using health and safety to do social cleansing. All tents were equally illegal, but some less illegal than others. To be fair, this was not the fault of the Jazz Festival, and it does still feature a large amount of free performances. </p><p>Last week New Order played in the Old Granada Studios where Osborne announced his vision of the 'Northern Powerhouse'. Also last week the controversial announcement came from the University of Manchester that former Chancellor Osborne will 'remain chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership', which 'he set up to boost the northern economy', but he will also become a Lecturer in Economics at the University of Manchester, where 'he will give a few lectures and masterclasses a year', 'building on his work on the “northern powerhouse”', 'a project to devolve the economy away from London to Manchester and the surrounding area that he initiated as chancellor three years ago.'</p><p>The former MP for Tatton 'is also an advisor to Blackrock, the American fund management firm, where he works one day a week for £650,000 per year.' George notably recalibrated pension legislation during his time as Chancellor to allow scheme members to access their funds early, something that will potentially net Blackrock a fortune. His position at the University of Manchester will not simply be in Economics then, but in Political Economy of a very particular sort. </p><p>Because of George Osbourne's annunciation of the Northern Powerhouse there, it is possible to read New Order's MIF performance in the Old Granada Studios as a commitment to the old public-private culture and economics game that was actually begun by Manchester City Council in the 1980s, something that swelled into a whole school of statecraft now codified under the shorthand of 'New Labour'. But the LSE report on Manchester is clear that this old spectacular game has led to the disenfranchisement of ordinary citizens: </p><p>'The Brexit result is a warning to Greater Manchester politicians who need to reconnect with their voters by renewing the civic offer. Instead of relying on property development as the accelerator in the centre, they need to rely on the foundational economy as the stabiliser in all ten boroughs. Because the quantity and quality of foundational goods and services is the social precondition of civilized life, and in activities like adult care, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority could start out on the road of social innovation and radical experiment to benefit all citizens.' </p><p>MIF is part of this, it does not sit on top of it via some magical diplomatic immunity. With £9m a year coming in, the voluntarism should stop, ticket prices should drop, local journalists should be guest-listed again and a new era of open and inclusive culture can begin, no? </p><p>Lara Williams' dream of a 'city unified' is actually now within reach for MIF in a way it isn't yet for the NHS, so let's make it a forerunner for much wider city change. Or are you telling us that you are ignoring the LSE research because you don't know how to play any other kind of game than the one you are used to playing? </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Powerhouse Steve Hanson Tue, 11 Jul 2017 10:24:11 +0000 Steve Hanson 112194 at Single market maze contains clues to complex Brexit puzzle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While political debate over Brexit sidestepped the complexities of the single market, domestic volatility makes replicating trading arrangements much more difficult.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Robotic surgery – state of the art in 2012,at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va. Flickr/US army image. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In many ways the hi-tech firm just outside Cambridge fits into a vision of an optimistic future for the British economy sketched out by breezy Brexit advocates. </p> <p>In a leafy business park, highly educated workers dart around a lab fine-tuning the operation of a robot that could soon be performing keyhole surgery across the globe. A technician wearing 3-D goggles grips a surgeon console that looks as if it belongs in a virtual-reality arcade, not an operating theatre, and guides a mechanical arm on his screen so an instrument plucks a suture. Health industry representatives from the UK and Europe are due to arrive later that day to cast their eye over the prototype.</p> <p>Brexit visionaries like Conservative European parliamentarian Daniel Hannan have <a href="">argued</a> that when the economy breaks free from the clutches of the European Union's overbearing bureaucracy, many such value-adding innovators will explore global markets from their newly deregulated, low-tax, UK base.</p> <p>Others, like Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Medical Robotics (CMR), Martin Frost, have somewhat more mundane views about impending departure from the EU. Those centre on what the separation will mean for the medical devices regulatory system, which ends in products receiving a CE (European Conformity) mark, allowing them to be sold across the <a href="">European Single Market</a> without further checks.</p> <p>"We always built our product to be relevant to Europe and the United States. And that's when we get concerned about what that regulatory regime will look like in Europe in 2020," he says.</p> <p>For a company like CMR, which is developing a complex device, the uncertainty is a problem, as it needs to know, for example, what safety features to design almost a decade in advance. A dramatic change in the regulatory environment could cost the company millions of pounds. Unfortunately for Frost, and thousands of businesses with similar concerns, certainty about what even the outlines of Brexit will amount to is in short supply. </p> <p>The reason for that is primarily because there has been precious little substantive national debate about the post-separation trade options that the government can pursue. The referendum was fought on political rather than economic grounds and the bitter divisions it exacerbated still very much shape media reporting and public attitudes. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>After the referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May's new government could have decided that, while it had to take the country out of the EU, leaving the Single Market was an unnecessarily daunting and risky challenge. However, May <a href="">embraced</a> the idea of a clean break in order to focus on controlling immigration and reclaiming sovereignty, which includes ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).</p> <h2><strong>The Single Market</strong></h2> <p>Since the surprise loss of a Conservative majority in the June election, that strategy has come under increased scrutiny. But the discussion of Brexit options in the interests of protecting the economy is poorly defined and ill-informed, partly because of the complexities of the multi-layered single market. </p> <p>The resulting lack of clarity from a weakened, divided, and distracted political class means even staunch Brexit supporters acknowledge the path to a smooth departure is increasingly strewn with obstacles. And a large proportion of those come from the ending of painstakingly constructed regulatory unions that are key to freeing up trade.</p> <p>The Single Market has been at the core of the European integration project since its inception. Today's arrangements stem from the creation of the <a href="">European Economic Community</a> (EEC) in 1957 which aimed to build a common market according to freedom of movement principles. The UK joined France, Germany and four others in the EEC in 1973 after the existing members had completed a Customs Union in 1968 to abolish internal tariffs. Successful efforts to revitalize integration in the 1980s led to the formal declaration of the Single Market in 1993. </p> <p>Superficially, the Single Market appears straightforward and finite. It facilitates borderless trade between member states by creating an economic zone for Europe as if it is one country. For example, it gives a printing cartridge manufacturer in Leicester as much right to set up an office and do business in Lyon as it has to do so in Liverpool. Crucially, participating countries have to accept in principle the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital.</p> <p>While that overview is accurate, the Single Market is also an evolving, fragmented, labyrinthine process to set rules and standards across almost all sectors in order to regulate economic interactions and thereby try and facilitate cross-border business in the EU and connected trade blocs. Despite considerable progress at harmonisation, the effort is continuous. For example, the EU Commission is trying to <a href="">improve</a> internal energy, capital and digital markets and is incorporating international plans to reduce corporate tax avoidance. Many EU standards stem from the work of other <a href="">multinational bodies</a>. </p> <p>To ensure the market's laws are followed there is an accompanying apparatus of organisations to inspect, verify and certify, while the ECJ is the arbitrator of disputes. Leaving means undoing this work and undertaking a laborious effort to replace it, rather than, for example, pushing ahead to try and establish common markets in significantly non-integrated service sectors like healthcare or construction.</p> <h2><strong>Regulatory union</strong></h2> <p>Although CMR's robot surgeon is indeed at the frontier of technological advances, the market for medical devices is well established, as is the EU regulatory system for them. The barriers to trade erected by leaving that system are just one example among thousands of the costly disruption that will be caused by leaving the Single Market.</p> <p>For CMR, the path to the CE mark is complying with the UK's <a href="">Medical Devices Regulations</a>, which stem from EU directives with instructions such as: 'the measurement, monitoring and display scale must be designed in line with ergonomic principles.' As it's a high-risk product, it would then apply to one of five EU 'notified bodies' in the UK who assess compliance and issue the CE mark.</p> <p>If Brexit occurs as planned, the UK will no longer have EU notified bodies, which means applying to one based in Europe. Frost would therefore like the status quo maintained, even if the UK exits the Single Market, but that appears to be impossible: ending membership means rupturing the regulatory union. There are comparable dilemmas for the valuable <a href="">chemicals</a> industry and many other heavily regulated sectors. </p> <p>One of the organisations responsible for medical devices is the British Standards Institute (BSI), which <a href="">said</a> it is confident a deal can be struck whereby UK assessors would be treated as equivalent to EU notified bodies. After negotiating trade deals, seven non-EU rich nations have similar <a href="">arrangements</a> for some industries. But despite the BSI's bullishness, which echoes the government's Brexit aspirations, this option has the same downsides as other Single Market alternatives: regardless of the existing convergence, negotiating and then implementing fresh regulatory regimes for all industries simultaneously as part of a UK-EU trade deal will probably take years, and the result will be less smooth trade anyway. It's also currently unclear what transitional arrangements could be set up in the meantime, especially without May relaxing her stance on the ECJ.</p> <p>While the BSI position elicits queries, Frost's notion that medical device regulations can be dealt with separately from the Single Market, which he sees as primarily about eliminating tariffs, is, at best, optimistic. Such views are symptomatic of a muddled debate about Brexit and the global economy, according to Matthew Bishop, a senior lecturer in international politics at Sheffield University.</p> <p>Bishop argues that modern trade deals are less about tariffs on finished products – it's <a href="">estimated</a>, for example, that 80 percent of global trade is within value chains controlled by multinationals – and much more focused on the arcane regulatory arrangements that govern market interactions, including associated issues like labour and environmental rules. </p> <p>And trade in Europe isn't shaped solely by Single Market rules. Instead it stems from a "fiendishly complicated cornucopia of bilateral and multilateral agreements", including the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Bishop said. The Brexiteer idea that deregulating will boost UK exports is therefore largely a fallacy, he believes, as market access through trade deals always means adhering to detailed rules.</p> <h2><strong>Massive risks</strong></h2> <p>Given this messy, precarious reality, Bishop is bewildered by the blasé approach from nominally pro-business Conservatives to the Single Market, which anchors the UK's position in the global trading system. "I personally just cannot believe that a Conservative government especially is taking such massive risks with the British economy," he said. <span class="mag-quote-center">"I personally just cannot believe that a Conservative government especially is taking such massive risks with the British economy," he said</span></p><p>As the onerous realities of separation loomed after the referendum, there was already uncertainty about the best way forward among Conservatives. Since the election, Treasury minister Philip Hammond has become prominent in stressing the need for a Brexit that protects the economy. But, so far, he has not proposed any tangible deviations from the government's February <a href="">position paper</a>. </p><p>This lack of clarity among Conservatives is matched by Labour under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn. In its election <a href="">manifesto</a> the party supported ending the freedom of movement of people while retaining the benefits of the Single Market. That is against the principles of the EU project, and nobody is suggesting Brussels will make a positive exception for the UK. Indeed, many people think European leaders want the separation deal to serve as a warning for others tempted to follow the UK's path.</p> <p>Still, the Labour leadership may maintain its fuzzy stance and let the Conservatives grapple with Brexit while it focuses on pressing home its domestic advantage by continuing to oppose austerity. A senior party source said the emphasis will be on opposing Conservatives’ efforts to use the excuse of Brexit to slash taxes and regulations in order to maintain competitiveness. </p> <p>Although Labour attracted many Remain voters, long-term Eurosceptic Corbyn has concerns about some Single Market rules, such as limiting state aid to industry and banning government procurement favouring local firms, the source said. That makes a change in approach unlikely, despite the growing pressure from other factions in the party. <span class="mag-quote-center">A senior party source said the emphasis will be on opposing Conservatives’ efforts to use the excuse of Brexit to slash taxes and regulations in order to maintain competitiveness.</span></p> <h2><strong>Gradual decoupling</strong></h2> <p>A long-term EU critic who has a clearer strategy is researcher, author and <a href="">blogger</a> Richard North. He has been plotting a practical decoupling for over a decade. North, a UK Independence Party candidate in northern England for European <a href="">elections</a> in 2004, exudes contempt for a London-centric establishment he says is incapable of learning from outsiders. </p> <p>He believes this elite's lack of detailed understanding of the EU has led to misconceptions surrounding Brexit snowballing. Some of his research illustrating this point is striking. For example, it became <a href="">received wisdom</a> that staying in the Customs Union was an option and that exiting it would mean the reintroduction of border checks. These claims are misleading, according to North, despite their being underpinned by research from the Treasury.</p> <p>Instead, while the Customs Union abolished internal tariffs, it was the development of other elements of the Single Market that eliminated border checks as regulations were standardized. So, if the UK left the Single Market, livestock exports, for example, would need inspecting at the border, unless regulatory harmonization was re-established. A Customs Union would not prevent that and, regardless, leaving it is set to occur automatically upon Brexit. US investment bank J.P. Morgan has arrived at similar <a href="">conclusions</a>, while the EU lead negotiator's comments also support this type of view.</p> <p>Still, despite such confusion, as the process staggers forward, North has at least planned for it. The thrust of his preferred approach is that because the current level of integration took 44 years to achieve, separation should be incremental. For him, this means leaving the EU, but not immediately exiting the Single Market. That can be done by applying to re-join the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). EFTA members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are part of the Single Market through the <a href="">Agreement on the European Economic Area</a>. If the EU <a href="">agreed</a>, the UK could re-join the EEA through EFTA. Some <a href="">commentators</a> think this option could form the basis of a transitional arrangement, but an EFTA source said that was unlikely.</p> <p>In North's opinion, other paths are riskier. The government’s plan to negotiate and implement a comprehensive trade deal is likely to take years, despite existing regulatory convergence. Trading on WTO terms means another complex period of <a href="">haggling</a> as, for example, the UK's duty-free import quotas are cleaved out of the EU's. And it would, again, also mean ending regulatory union, which would stifle access to an EU market that accounts for around 45 percent of UK exports, or £222 billion in 2015. Richard North worries that a failure to follow the EFTA/EEA strategy risks derailing Brexit entirely as the process gets bogged down in years of talks. <span class="mag-quote-center">Richard North worries that a failure to follow the EFTA/EEA strategy risks derailing Brexit entirely as the process gets bogged down in years of talks.</span></p> <h2><strong>Negotiating pain</strong></h2> <p>However, deciding to pursue that option, which has been lurking somewhere on the national agenda since the referendum campaign, would only be a baby step. The government would still have to sell the deal to Conservatives who want a clean break. That would be tough, as remaining part of the Single Market via EFTA/EEA means abiding by relevant EU regulations, contributing to the union's budget, accepting decisions of a non-British court, and accepting in principle the freedom of movement of people. </p> <p>Helping the cause would be the fact that once part of the EEA as an EFTA member, the <a href="">agreement</a> allows the parties to unilaterally take measures that could plausibly be used to control immigration. Uncontrollable movement from the EU, it should not be forgotten, was a significant factor in the referendum. </p> <p>Amid the fallout from the Grenfell fire tragedy, which highlighted the importance of effective regulation, May's minority government has begun negotiations with Brussels, but trade is not yet on the table. </p> <p>Instead, the parties are focusing first on the future rights of UK citizens living in the EU and vice-versa, agreeing the financial accounting of the separation, and the plan for the Irish border, which is currently relatively open, but is set to become the EU and single market frontier. If progress is made in these tricky initial discussions, talks on trade could occur this year, but it's unclear how much detail the EU is willing to go into before the UK departs. Meanwhile, a group of Labour <a href="">parliamentarians</a> have broken ranks with Corbyn to say the UK should stay in the Single Market. Included in that faction was Daniel Zeichner, the member for strongly pro-EU Cambridge, who resigned from the shadow cabinet in late June over the issue. </p> <p>On the fringes of this wealthy, liberal city, in the weeks after the shock election, Frost, an experienced tech entrepreneur, has been hosting busloads of Chinese health industry types, eager to scrutinize CMR's ground-breaking surgeon-robot. He's planning to tap into financing to get his device to market within a year or so and is confident the globally focused venture will succeed, whatever Brexit brings. Like many in the UK, he hopes that the hung parliament and a chastened government mean a less economically disruptive deal. </p> <p>But despite the reassuring noises from ministers and their opposition counterparts about seeking a separation that is in the interests of jobs and business, Frost recognizes that there is still a lack of clarity and lots of unhelpful uncertainty around. "Brexit is just a pain for us," he said.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/trade-access-unemployment-and-other-single-market-mythologies">Brits should remember the spirit of cooperation at the root of the EU single market</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Conflict Democracy and government International politics Brexit2016 William Davison Tue, 11 Jul 2017 08:04:51 +0000 William Davison 112190 at The UK outsourcing experiment: playing with vulnerable lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A review of Alan White’s&nbsp;<em>Who Really Runs Britain?</em>&nbsp;—&nbsp;the private companies taking control of benefits, prisons, asylum, deportation, security, social care and the NHS.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)"><img src="//" alt="" title="A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p><span>By any measure, the allegations of abuse by women imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood detention centre should be a public scandal, but despite a stream of reports prompting the Chief Inspector of Prisons to brand the centre </span><a href="">“a place of national concern”</a><span>, sustained campaigns and protests, there has not yet been a collective public outcry.</span></p> <p>Research into the plight of women at the centre is hampered by a lack of access to official information. In June 2016, the Independent <a href="">reported</a> that a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for further information about sexual violence against detainees was denied on the grounds that “disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests” of the company running it, Serco. </p> <p>The lack of transparency by both the government and Serco, and the obstacle this presents to those seeking accountability for crimes against the women held there, are twin themes at the heart of Alan White’s book on Britain’s outsourcing industry, Who Really Runs Britain?. </p> <p>Yarl’s Wood is just one of many case studies detailed in the book which illustrate both the vast scale of the outsourcing project and the devastating human cost when things go wrong and the lines of accountability are muddied. White examines key areas of the state where services are outsourced, including the NHS, Ministry of Justice, asylum services, social care, disabilities and unemployment — all arms of the state with which some of the most vulnerable people in society interact.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl&#039;s Wood, March 2015"><img src="//" alt="" title="Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl&#039;s Wood, March 2015" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still image, Channel 4 News investigation of Yarl's Wood, March 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>The book opens with a memorable case study and one of the few outsourcing stories to permeate the national consciousness, the mismanagement of the security project for the 2012 London Olympics by G4S, which resulted in the army standing in at the last minute. It’s one of the few stories that made a national impact, as the country and the world were focused on London in 2012. However, White notes that “while the implications of the scandal seemed severe for G4S at the time, they actually made little impression on it or the industry”. </p> <p>White goes on to reveal an industry enjoys lack of competition and oversight, meaning that companies like G4S will have multiple contracts and be constantly bidding for more, despite sometimes high-profile failures. </p> <p>Counter intuitively, some contracts are not particularly profitable for the companies involved. However, they are low-risk, as the state provides a safety net in the event of failure, and there are guaranteed inflows of cash.</p> <p>White returns repeatedly to the human cost of failure. As a society, we have to ask ourselves, what is an acceptable level of risk when lives are on the line? </p> <p>The major incentive for the state is supposed to be savings, but interestingly, sometimes outsourcing costs more.</p> <p>White underscores repeatedly that finding data on the details, merits and outcomes of the outsourcing projects is difficult, partly due to the confidential nature of some of the contracts but also because there is no one place that all the information is systematically retained. This is exacerbated by the fact that corresponding figures for comparison don’t really exist for the period when the state ran the services. In essence the British outsourcing project is an experiment with no systematic method of evaluation.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">In essence the British outsourcing project is an experiment with no systematic method of evaluation.</p> <p>The sheer scale of the outsourcing project is facilitated by settled political ideology on its merits. </p><p>Labour firmly adopted the Tory idea of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) while in power. White notes that in the political context of New Labour’s compromise between social democracy and neoliberalism, “outsourcing was considered a natural development in a corporate-led world”. The pace has increased markedly since the coalition government in 2010. Although outsourcing itself is not an ideology, White notes that it is borne of one, and this consensus hampers cross-party criticism and oversight.</p> <p>Despite the challenges in scoping the industry, White is at pains to point out that rather than a sinister plot, very often the problem is miscommunication or lack of communication between government departments. This book is not a polemic but a forensic and even-handed inquiry. </p> <p>It becomes clear that four companies dominate the sector: G4S, Atos, Serco and Capita. The biggest spenders are the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice, funnelling hundreds of millions of pounds to these firms, which are too big to fail. They cover everything from security, transport or waste collection to “human services” such as welfare, prisons and probation services to transport, waste collection. </p> <p>White’s book was first published last year with the title Shadow State, Inside the Secret Companies that Run Britain. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="240" height="369" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>This new edition carries an afterword given over to voices from these companies, who, perhaps understandably, are often reluctant to engage with a critical media. Nevertheless, there is an acknowledgment from some in the industry of the “accountability vacuum” that White so eloquently unpacks in this book —&nbsp;and which is apparent in the case of asylum seekers housed in a “fire trap” G4S-run hostel in Halifax, <a href="">recently exposed on Shine A Light</a>. Multiple actors including a private landlord, G4S, the Home Office and Calderdale Council all have some responsibilities towards the tenants in the hostel. Activist John Grayson found that “one dangerous consequence of the privatisation of asylum housing, apparent in this case, is the fog around who is responsible for what”.</p> <p>Companies like G4S are quick to point out that when things go wrong, they are often gagged from talking publicly about their contracts by the government on grounds of “commercial confidentiality”, while also being blamed for failures — adding to the confusion around accountability. They are also not allowed to trumpet their successes. </p> <p>There are quite a few points of agreement between White and the outsourcers who have spoken to him both on and off the record: “they want many of the same things campaigners do: more transparency, more innovation, a more competitive market.” </p> <p>But when it comes to figuring out why that hasn’t happened yet, we find ourselves in yet another fog of confusion with contractors and the government pointing fingers at each other. </p> <p>Another point of agreement is that White does not believe outsourcing is inherently wrong, but he does suggest that it can be done better, perhaps by social enterprises, which have different aims and focus to large for-profit companies. Currently, small providers are squeezed out of the broken market. White points to places where outsourcing has worked, using local knowledge, smaller scale and an emphasis on putting the humanity back into human services.&nbsp; </p> <p>A physicist friend of mine once asked incredulously, how the company running the physics laboratory where he worked could be expert at this and also in everything from leisure services to traffic lights and still maintain standards? </p> <p>White points to larger questions: is the for-profit incentive for private companies compatible with improving lives — a qualitative measure which does not sit in the neat margins of a profit/loss worksheet? Following lengthy interviews with advocates of outsourcing, he concludes: “Outsourcers will tell you how they can save money. But few can promise to make things better.” </p> <p>Although the chief executive of Serco makes an impassioned argument that for-profit companies can still work for the public good, &nbsp;a multitude of cases in the book illustrate that standards can fall in pursuit of profit, prompting White to explore whether the profit incentive encourages the contractor to do a good job or encourages them to game the system. For example, how does the need for repeat business square with targets of reducing reoffending rates in the prison system?</p> <p>And surely, this should be the point. How should we, as a society, be caring for those among us who are most in need of it and maintain their human dignity? </p> <p>There are clearly problems in the way that some projects are administered in that they do not take account of the complex needs of disabled or vulnerable people. White points out time and again that the human toll of failure is visited on groups that the public is least likely to care about, like asylum seekers, who are often out of sight and out of mind. </p> <p>But, given that profits are not currently ploughed back into the services (or necessarily staying in the UK), this concerns all of us a matter of social value and the potential effect on society’s social fabric.</p> <p>The outsourcing of public services without effective means of evaluation and rigorous oversight and accountability mechanisms is an experiment with very high stakes indeed.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Who Really Runs Britain?&nbsp;The private companies taking control of benefits, prisons, asylum, deportation, security, social care and the NHS</em>, by Alan White, is published by Oneworld on 6 July.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/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="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/sarah-uncles/fit-to-run-prison-g4s-dodges-difficult-questions">Fit to run a prison? 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Dvorzak inquest. Day 5</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Care and justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Kiri Kankhwende Sun, 09 Jul 2017 23:08:00 +0000 Kiri Kankhwende 112090 at Fox and Sky: what happens to media plurality now? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On June 29, the UK’s Culture Secretary stated that she would submit to a full competition review the 21<sup>st</sup> Century Fox bid for 100% control of Sky plc. Will it happen?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1998:Film critic Barry Norman with the then Sky TV's General Manager Elisabeth Murdoch for the launch of three new channels for Sky Movies.Peter Jordan/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>For those people passionately opposed to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the statement from Karen Bradley last Thursday would have aroused mixed emotions. One of the companies in which the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) holds a controlling 39% interest – the US-based 21st Century Fox, hereafter “Fox” – is trying to buy all of Sky plc, in which Fox itself already holds a controlling 39% share.</p> <p>After a 10-week review by the media regulator, Ofcom, Bradley was advised that there were presently no grounds for barring the transaction for reasons to do with commitment to broadcasting quality and upholding Ofcom standards: the “fit and proper test” had been passed. Anyone who thought that the still-running phone-hacking scandal or the recent reports of sexual harassment at Fox News in America might derail the bid, would have been disappointed. </p> <p>If so, they had misunderstood the “fit and proper” assessment process: this is continuous, and not confined to the period when a transaction is in process. If Fox had been vulnerable on that front, it would have lost its licences already – and that would have been all 54 of Sky’s Ofcom licences, not just that for Sky News. So tremendous an upheaval would have required long-term and persistent breaches of the broadcasting code and Ofcom licence conditions, with removal of licences only happening after clear public warnings. </p> <p>Indeed, there have been far bigger scandals at News Corp (the publishing company that owns Murdoch’s UK newspapers and radio stations, in which the MFT also owns 39%) than those that have afflicted Fox News (another Fox broadcaster), including the vast overpayment by News Corp for Shine, the production company created by Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth (the board of News Corp paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to disgruntled shareholders, and promised to amend its governance practices).</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>What continues to block the Sky deal is the verdict from Ofcom that there <em>is </em>a media plurality problem, in that 100% ownership of Sky would “reduce media plurality” and <em>may </em>provide an opportunity for the MFT to align the editorial approach of Sky News with that of the newspapers that the MFT controls through its 39% shareholding in News Corp. </p> <p>The Ofcom report emphasises that the threshold for recommending a full inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which could run for six months, is low<strong>. </strong>“The Secretary of State would need to hold the reasonable belief that it <em>may </em>be the case that the transaction<em> may </em>operate or <em>may </em>be expected to operate against the public interest” (their emphasis).</p> <p>Essentially, the Ofcom assessment of this risk is based on an analysis of the media market, on the position of Sky News and News Corp in that market, and the change that might flow from the enlargement of Fox’s shareholding in Sky.</p> <p>Perhaps to the disappointment of the Murdochs, the alteration in the structure of their empire three years ago – whereby they clearly separated the news and publishing company (News Corp) from the entertainment company (21st Century Fox), with each having a different set of outside 61% shareholders – has been effectively ignored by Ofcom. </p> <p>The regulator took the view that the MFT’s position in each of Fox and News Corp gave it material control, and so the two companies should be looked at together (which the Ofcom report says conforms with previous regulatory practice).</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>So in terms of media market share, the newspapers, the radio interests and Sky News have been lumped together. However, this approach raises a rather more subtle issue. If the combined share of news consumption of the two different companies is a problem, why was News Corp two years ago allowed to purchase the radio stations in the Wireless Group (TalkRadio, TalkSport and Virgin Radio), thereby unquestionably increasing the Murdoch companies’ share of news consumption? </p> <p>Indeed, where were all the objectors then? There was no inquiry, and no calling in of Ofcom to investigate, even though there was measurably a reduction in the number of media owners (just as there was when Northern and Shell bought Channel 5 – again, with no Ofcom inquiry).</p> <p>The Ofcom report this time concludes that buying out the 61% (a mass of small shareholders, with no collective identity as a “media enterprise owner”) would result in a reduction in the number of those with control of media enterprises – quite a stretch, as the 61%, despite the presence of independent directors on the Sky board, had always allowed Fox (and before the corporate split, News Corp) full operational control of the business. Whether Fox’s lawyers bother to challenge this ruling remains to be seen.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>But the important issue is really what difference a shift from 39% control to 100% control might mean in terms of one small part of the Sky business: the editorial policies of Sky News. </p> <p>To the best of my knowledge – and I was Head of Programming at Sky for four years – no-one from the MFT has ever tried to influence the output of Sky News during the 29 years it has been on air. Indeed, the only influence the MFT has brought to bear is an insistence on Sky accepting the on-going financial losses incurred by Sky News (cumulatively, at least £500 million). </p> <p>Remarkably, when the Murdochs made a similar bid for Sky in 2010 (that time through News Corp), the independent directors suggested closing Sky News if that would allow the deal to go through. It was the Murdochs who spent six months trying to find a structure for Sky News that would satisfy Ofcom and keep the service alive: only for the Milly Dowler revelation to force News Corp to withdraw the bid.</p> <p>There is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch from time to time influences the output of the newspapers in which the MFT holds a 39% shareholding: he can, and he does – but as far as I am aware, that is not the case where Sky News is concerned. During the last bid, Ofcom claimed that 100% control would allow Murdoch to select the editor of Sky News – I pointed out at the time that he had always had approval of such appointments, even with 39% control, and Ofcom has not advanced that argument this time.</p> <p>Instead, it explores the possibility of aligning the editorial policy of Sky News with that of the Murdoch newspapers. Ofcom acknowledges that this could not be explicit, as it would breach the broadcasting code, but suggests that omission of certain news stories, managing the news agenda and offering screen time to News Corp newspaper writers might achieve a similar effect. </p> <p>No doubt Fox will challenge this hypothesis: given the intense scrutiny to which all Murdoch activity is subjected, half a dozen university media departments would surely be tabulating every bulletin, every screen appearance, and every “missing” story. </p> <p>That such a policy might be implemented but not detected is scarcely likely, Fox might argue: more importantly, if such subtle tweaks could not be detected, how could it be shown they were influencing public opinion? Indeed, would such tweaking be permissible within the terms of the Sky News licence from Ofcom, or not? If not, then the licence could be revoked. If permissible, surely the problem lies with the licence terms, not with the Murdochs (assuming Ofcom is willing and able to flex its regulatory muscles). It would be very curious to block the transaction for fear of changes to Sky News which were perfectly proper within the broadcasting code and licence terms. </p> <p>Perhaps Ofcom might have created a simple matrix to frame its analysis. Absent the transaction, is there any evidence of the MFT trying to align Sky News with the editorial line in its newspapers? If not, is that because the Murdochs have no such intention, or because something is stopping them? Is the 39% ownership an inhibiting factor, where 100% would allow the alignment? That is clearly not the case with the newspapers: 39% seems more than sufficient to allow editorial interference. So why exactly is it assumed that 100% ownership of Sky would enable this supposed desire for editorial alignment to take place? After all, News Corp owned 100% of Sky during the first two years of Sky News, but there was no alignment then.</p> <p>Ofcom is entitled to speculate as to possible outcomes of the transaction: but it goes further in its report, talking of “concern”. Yet it seems not to have asked itself how the MFT would go about executing the nefarious plan it is “concerned” about. Which “commentators”, and from which News Corp newspapers (The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal all have somewhat different political slants and approaches)? If from The Times stable, would it be the fiercely anti-Brexit Oliver Kamm, or the strongly pro-Brexit Dominic Lawson? </p> <p>If there were even a glimmer of such an ambition within the MFT, why is it the <em>absence </em>of News Corp writers appearing on Sky News that currently seems most notable? Why is the most regular duo of commentators on Sky News Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror and Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail – two newspapers deeply hostile to News Corp and all its activities? Indeed, why is there no marketing co-operation between News Corp and Sky, or joint advertising sales arrangements, both of which would be perfectly legal under current ownership?</p> <p>Sometimes, one wonders whether the problem with Ofcom is not so much that it is a poor regulator, but that it lacks the confidence in its ability to do its job, or even in whether the job is do-able. <span class="mag-quote-center">Sometimes, one wonders whether the problem with Ofcom is not so much that it is a poor regulator, but that it lacks the confidence in its ability to do its job, or even in whether the job is do-able. </span>To recommend a full investigation of a transaction because it might either result in editorial changes at Sky News that were entirely permissible under the broadcasting code and the terms of the Sky News licence, or alternatively result in changes that were not permissible but which Ofcom did not feel able to prevent, tells us much more about Ofcom than about the MFT. </p> <p>For reasons best known to itself, Ofcom has chosen to echo the fears of the most committed opponents of the Murdochs, without expressing an iota of scepticism about them. Its report quotes repeatedly from a submission from Ed Miliband and Sir Vince Cable, without mentioning their extraordinary article in The Guardian claiming that Sky and News Corp were responsible for 45% of all radio news consumption in the UK (true figure: less than 2%), or Cable’s deplorable abuse of his then position as Secretary of State for Business in the coalition, when he was required to act in a quasi-judicial fashion in dealing with the original bid for Sky in 2010, only later to admit that he had referred the bid to Ofcom as part of his “war on the Murdochs” (an admission that forced his resignation). </p> <p>In some circumstances, absence of evidence is not deemed sufficient to constitute evidence of absence. In the case of Sky News, however, the CMA (the Competition and Markets Authority, which would examine the deal if Karen Bradley goes ahead with her provisional decision to refer the bid) would surely look for some clue from 29 years of experience as to why it should be assumed that the MFT nurses the ambitions that the Ofcom report warns against, and why Ofcom seems so lacking in confidence in its ability to handle the outcome. </p> <p>The threshold for concern at the first stage of inquiry was, as Ofcom concedes, low: for the CMA, the threshold will be a quantum higher – a probability rather than a possibility of the transaction proving contrary to the public interest.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>Having strongly criticised the previous Ofcom report on the 2010 News Corp bid for Sky, I must express some relief at the improvement in the quality of analysis this time. A series of errors I identified last time have, gratifyingly, not been repeated this time. There is no attempt to create a specific reach figure for radio news, and the attribution entirely to Sky News of a (wrong) total for commercial radio news consumption is withdrawn, with full acknowledgement of the role of Independent Radio News and the commercial stations themselves in managing news content and assembling the news bulletins.</p> <p>The role of broadcaster is now recognized as far as ITN’s supply of news to ITV, Channel 4 and Five is concerned: last time, all of Five’s news audience was attributed to the supplier (Sky News at the time), as if the broadcaster had no say in the matter – something that I, as a former CEO of Five, knew was a mistake.</p> <p>Nor does Ofcom come up with a grossly exaggerated figure for consumption of news supplied by Fox/News Corp: unlike its 2010 report, where it calculated the Sky/News Corp share of all news consumption at 23% (and the BBC at 43%), when the correct figures were 10% and 61% respectively. <span class="mag-quote-center">Nor does Ofcom come up with a grossly exaggerated figure for consumption of news supplied by Fox/News Corp: unlike its 2010 report, where it calculated the Sky/News Corp share of all news consumption at 23% (and the BBC at 43%), when the correct figures were 10% and 61% respectively.</span> I am sure the Fox lawyers will note, however, that the reason such errors have been avoided is that there are virtually <em>no </em>estimates of actual news consumption in the entire 134 page report. Instead, Ofcom is highly reliant on research into “resonance” and calculations of “reach” – something I pointed out last time as being both elusive and potentially misleading as a measure.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>Let me explain. Reach is a calculation of the number of individuals who have sampled a product (newspaper, TV channel, radio service, online website). The sampling threshold is variable – a minimum of three continuous minutes, or five minutes, or longer; or the qualifying minutes might be non-continuous; these minutes could be consumed within the same day, or over six days, or even over a month; or the reach might be based on “recall” and “”diaries” rather than metered usage. Trying to combine different measures of reach within a multi-platform assessment is difficult; indeed, questionable. Moreover, reach figures do not distinguish multiple uses of the same source within the measurement period from a single use. Most important of all, reach figures tell you nothing helpful about the real issue: actual consumption of news and current affairs.</p> <p>For instance, a news source might have a 100% reach, but the average usage might be just three minutes per individual. Another news source might have only 50% reach, but usage is 60 minutes per individual. In reach terms, the first source seems twice as important as the second; but in actual usage, the second source is ten times more important.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ********** &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not clear why Ofcom is so reluctant to use well-established industry figures for actual news and current affairs consumption. We have very accurate numbers for television from the industry research body; details of actual time spend reading print newspapers; highly reliable estimates of radio listening that can be matched to schedules to deliver good estimates of consumption of radio news and current affairs; only with online consumption of news do we lack robust figures (though some plausible estimates are available).</p> <p>Ofcom had commissioned last year another round of bespoke research by Kantar, which regularly asks a large sample of respondents what news sources they use “nowadays”, how they rate them, and which they rely upon. The latest findings have been published as part of the merger assessment process, and are useful, but do not of course act as a substitute for actual consumption statistics. Indeed, Kantar does not even refer to the radio research body, RAJAR, as a source, though it claims that it is delivering “quantitative data”.</p> <p>It is in the area of online news provision and consumption that the Fox team will puzzle longest over the Kantar findings. The most frequently cited measuring tool here, ComScore, shows The Sun doing modestly well online, but that excludes mobile devices, which Ofcom believes are increasingly used to capture news stories. </p> <p>Even as official newspaper industry statistics show sales of The Sun falling off a cliff (down 50% in just six years, part of the decline in newspaper circulation from 9 million sales a day to 5.6 million), Kantar suggests that there are 27 million mobile users who sample The Sun. <span class="mag-quote-center">Even as official newspaper industry statistics show sales of The Sun falling off a cliff (down 50% in just six years, part of the decline in newspaper circulation from 9 million sales a day to 5.6 million), Kantar suggests that there are 27 million mobile users who sample The Sun.</span> What that means in terms of actual consumption is hard to say – assuming it is true – but what is certain is that News Corp would willingly swap that 27 million for just half a million real customers, whose purchasing of print copies would stem the heavy losses the title now incurs (it was once the cash cow of the Murdoch UK empire). </p> <p>The Fox submission to Ofcom had argued that, even if the Sky and News Corp news provision figures were combined (ignoring the fact that the two providers were owned by separate companies), the huge expansion of online news provision from scores of suppliers meant that “those in control of media enterprises” (the legal definition of who was caught by the public interest provisions of the legislation) were steadily losing influence. </p> <p>Ofcom disagrees: it judges that traditional media owners have not lost their influence as a result of the online surge – even that papers like The Sun might be disproportionate beneficiaries (clearly not true of The Times, which charges for online access to its news). The Ofcom judgment may not be robustly supported by data, but it remains a key element in the way Karen Bradley is required to assess the proposed deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>Where the Fox lawyers might have more leverage, should the issue be referred to the CMA, is in attacking some of Ofcom’s weaker conclusions. For instance, Ofcom makes considerable play of the “unique” position of Sky/News Corp in being distributed across “all four” news platforms – TV, radio, newspapers and online: “the strength of this position may allow Fox/Sky and News Corp to exercise a greater degree of influence over public opinion than might otherwise be the case absent the transaction” (Ofcom Report para 8.27 – though how the transaction itself might enlarge that influence is not explained). </p> <p>Karen Bradley specifically cited this “unique” dimension in her Commons statement. Yet when we check the Kantar report, we discover that, of those consuming news from “all four” platforms, just 1% use newspapers in addition to TV, radio and online as a news source: that is the trivial margin of benefit of this “unique” advantage, as compared with media distributed over only three of these platforms.</p> <p>In fact, restricting the definition of platforms to “all four” is possibly misleading. Kantar tells us that 20% of news consumers obtain news from local and regional outlets – TV, radio and newspapers. These three sectors are all distinct, with 600 newspaper titles, scores of radio services and regional TV provision from the BBC and ITV. The circulation of Metro alone increases the reported “reach” of the Daily Mail Group from 10% to 15%. </p> <p>Neither Sky nor News Corp feature in these sectors – News Corp has no local papers or radio stations, and the Sky News supply of content to the commercial radio stations is just of national and international stories: the stations, or station groups, themselves assemble the bulletins, which only very rarely are solely dependent on the Sky supply.</p> <p>If the definition of platforms is revised from four to seven, we can see that the BBC uses five, News Corp three, Sky three (four between them) and everyone else at least two (three in the case of Trinity Mirror, Daily Mail Group and the Lebedev Foundation) : so, not that “unique”. And the Fox lawyers will also query the Ofcom claim (para 6.42) that the transaction will “close” the gap between Sky/News Corp and ITV in “cross-platform reach” (a metric itself open to query) and widen the gap to the Daily Mail Group, where the relevant charts in the Ofcom document show that the reported reach of the combined group is actually less than the sum of the two separate groups (which is not surprising). <span class="mag-quote-center">The Ofcom judgment may not be robustly supported by data, but it remains a key element in the way Karen Bradley is required to assess the proposed deal.</span></p> <p>Another query will relate to Ofcom’s “share of references” data – a specific piece of bespoke research tracking the possible influence of different news providers. Puzzlingly, the “share of references” for the combined group is greater than that for the Sky News and News Corp separately: no explanation is provided for this counter-intuitive finding.</p> <p>What the Fox team will also home in on is the “saliency” aspect of Ofcom’s research. Before the explosion in online news consumption, the combined share of news consumption attributable to Sky News and News Corp was about 10% – well below the level that competition authorities usually regard as a basis for intervention. Ofcom believes that the online surge will not have weakened the position of traditional suppliers: but clearly the share attributable directly to TV, radio and newspapers will have declined, so it is unlikely that the Sky/News Corp position is above 10%. </p> <p>The Ofcom report declines to offer any hard metrics on consumption, but figure 4.6 tells us a great deal about saliency: a chart showing “the single most important news provider”, as reported by consumers of news, and tabulated in the Kantar survey. Sky News comes in at 5% (a decline from 2014’s 7%) and News Corp at 2% (down from 2014’s 3%). The BBC tops the table at 49%.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>Of course, the BBC is ascribed special status in all these media plurality assessments. It is seen as having no political agenda, and being dedicated to impartiality (though the Ofcom research shows that the public views it as no more impartial than Sky News or ITN, and – oddly enough – much less so than Channel 4 News). Yet the legislation is designed to prevent <em>any</em> one voice having too much influence: it does not say influence for good or ill, just influence. </p> <p>In the United States, a 60% share of news consumption would be completely unacceptable, however admired and respected the supplier. In the US, the BBC would have had its many news distribution arms (BBC One, BBC News Channel, Radio 5 Live, Radio 1, Radio 4, national and regional news, local news) split up long ago. <span class="mag-quote-center">The BBC is ascribed special status in all these media plurality assessments... seen as having no political agenda, and being dedicated to impartiality (though the Ofcom research shows that the public views it as no more impartial than Sky News or ITN, and – oddly enough – much less so than Channel 4 News).</span></p> <p>Three years ago, Ofcom itself asked the BBC Trust how it was proposing to introduce internal plurality to mitigate its dominant position. Answer came there none. Now, Ofcom has replaced the BBC Trust as the BBC’s regulator. The issue of internal plurality at the BBC merits no mention in this latest report.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson responds to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley in the House of Commons. Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Despite – or perhaps because of – the many repetitions in the Ofcom report of its concerns about the potential interference by the MFT in the editorial policy of Sky News – and the additional fear that politicians will perceive damage to the public interest from such potential interference whether it occurs or not – the offer of undertakings from Fox seems, towards the end of the 134 pages, effectively to solve the problem (or “mitigate” it, in legal language). </p><p>Essentially, Fox proposes the creation of an editorial board for Sky News, with an independent majority and an independent chairman, which would prevent any attempt by the MFT to interfere in the service, whilst guaranteeing the maintenance of the Sky News budget at its present level for five years. Ofcom’s provisional view was that it would be preferable to lengthen the period of financial guarantee, and to tighten up the procedure for editorial board appointments: but it would be up to the Secretary of State to decide whether the offer was acceptable.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, Karen Bradley declined the offer, on the reasonable assumption that Fox had “more to give”. But there was an unexpected element in her Commons statement and letter to the merger parties. </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>In 2010/11, Ofcom and News Corp had wrangled for months over the nature of the undertakings on offer, with the solution being a structure whereby News Corp would buy all of Sky apart from Sky News, leaving in place a quoted company, operating independently, and with financial support from News Corp. </p> <p>At the time,<a href=""> I criticised this solution</a> as putting Sky News seriously at risk of decline and eventual demise: cut off from the “mother ship”, it would lose access to crucial content, marketing support, capital investment and the benefit of Murdoch’s personal commitment. Ofcom seems to have absorbed that criticism, arguing in its report this time that a structural solution is too risky for Sky News, which might suffer terminal damage if left to its own devices.</p> <p>Instead, Ofcom embraced what is called a “behavioural” solution, whilst leaving Sky News within the Fox business. The many critics of Murdoch (not just all political parties on the left, but some Tories, too) have warned against relying upon undertakings from Murdoch, citing previous bad experience at The Times and The Wall Street Journal, where promises to the vendors of those titles did not last long. The Ofcom report discounted those episodes, regarding legally binding undertakings (whether to Ofcom or the Secretary of State) as enforceable, on penalty of closing the service (by the way, many would argue that both The Times and The Wall Street Journal are significantly improved journalistic ventures under News Corp ownership, perhaps<em> because</em> of the broken promises). </p> <p>The joker in the pack turned out to be the CMA itself: its standard guidance is that behavioural undertakings, after a first stage competition review, are not normally acceptable. Yet its preference for a structural solution has already been undercut by Ofcom’s stated objections. How can this be resolved?</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>Both Ofcom and Karen Bradley have something to lose from just allowing the CMA investigation to proceed: a more hard-headed methodological approach to media plurality by the CMA could embarrass Ofcom, and if the resulting assessment established that the risks to plurality from the transaction were too minor to justify intervention, then even the undertakings currently on offer would fall away, leaving Bradley exposed politically.</p> <p>Fox has less to fear from a CMA process, though it would have to honour a pledge to make a large payment to the non-Fox shareholders in Sky if it failed to complete the transaction by the year end: a typical 24-week CMA process would almost certainly run past that deadline. On the other hand, if the CMA could be persuaded that a beefed up version of the current undertakings would satisfy Ofcom, and was preferable to any possible structural change, then Karen Bradley would be off the hook. </p> <p>Although theoretically she has absolute discretion, acting in a quasi-judicial capacity (that is, not as a member of the government, or according to party preferences), her position in practice almost certainly means adopting the advice provided by the competition authorities themselves. That is how Jeremy Hunt, in the same position last time, narrowly defined his discretionary space.</p> <p>The unusual aspect of this dilemma is that a structural solution to a competition issue usually involves requiring the bidder to spin off a valuable asset. In this case, Sky News has negative commercial value (though Fox recognizes its considerable brand value). In effect, there is no prospect of anyone else buying the loss-making service, so – as Ofcom now acknowledges – separation is a high risk option. </p> <p>Fox is unlikely to say so openly during the consultation period that Karen Bradley has launched (ending on July 14), but if there is a stand-off between Ofcom and the CMA, the nuclear option is simply to announce the planned closure of Sky News, thus removing all the media plurality issues in one ironic stroke.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********</p> <p>So the likelihood is that Karen Bradley will see how far Ofcom and Fox can get with UILs (“undertakings in lieu” of a reference to the CMA), and whether the CMA will sign off on them: then she can with a clear conscience approve the deal (no doubt to the non-assuaged anger of Murdoch’s many critics). But Fox will not want to spend months on such a process when it can be highly confident that a CMA investigation would clear the bid, requiring as it does a much higher threshold – probability, not possibility, as with Ofcom – of evidence that the transaction would damage the public interest. <span class="mag-quote-center">Tom Watson, for the Labour Party, in responding to Bradley’s Commons statement saying she was minded to refer the bid to the CMA, predicted that her seemingly strong words would quickly be overtaken by an improved offer from Fox. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Tom Watson, for the Labour Party, in responding to Bradley’s Commons statement saying she was minded to refer the bid to the CMA, predicted that her seemingly strong words would quickly be overtaken by an improved offer from Fox. Bradley protested at his cynicism: but the dynamics of the situation suggest that his forecast is likely to be proved correct. </p> <p>If so, then we must all at least hope that the independence and financing of Sky News are robustly established in any undertakings given, and then properly enforced. To lose or damage Sky News, especially by miscalculation on the part of those responsible for monitoring the bid, would be a serious setback: not least to the need for media plurality, which is ostensibly the issue at stake.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/sky-bid-battle-commences">The Sky bid: battle commences</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-media-plurality-ofcom-strikes-back-with-damp-cloth">The BBC and media plurality: Ofcom strikes back with a damp cloth</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk OurBeeb uk UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government David Elstein Sat, 08 Jul 2017 13:25:01 +0000 David Elstein 112160 at A giant step towards a nuclear free world is in reach – but will it be sabotaged at the last minute? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">A ground-breaking new UN Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty could be agreed tomorrow – or it could be consigned to the special purgatory of lost opportunities that could have saved the world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// missiles.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// missiles.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Image: <a href="">Flickr</a><a href="">/Daniel Foster</a>, some rights reserved.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal">Over 70 years since atomic bombs flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United Nations stands on the brink of achieving a ground-breaking new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Through negotiations open to all UN member states, a strong and effective text has been developed banning nuclear weapons and enshrining future disarmament obligations. Faced with some delaying tactics, conference president Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica explained the urgency of meeting the agreed timetable to conclude and adopt the treaty by 7 July. <span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">That deadline is important. It's the last day allocated for these negotiations in the <a href="">2016 UN General Assembly resolution</a> (UNGA 71/258) adopted last December. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Miss it, and the text goes back into the UN's labyrinth of resolutions trying to get extra time and money for further meetings, with the risk that the nuclear-armed states will manage to consign it to the special purgatory of lost opportunities that could have saved the world. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Why is this treaty so important? Because of the <a href="">powerful humanitarian case</a> that has taken this treaty process forward from meetings in <a href="">Oslo</a>, <a href="">Mexico</a> and <a href="">Vienna</a> to the <a href="">United Nations</a>, driven forward by the <a href="">International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)</a>.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The core obligations in Article I prohibit states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, deploying, stationing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, under any circumstances. It also makes it illegal to <span>assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this treaty, extending the prohibitions to non-state actors as well. <span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Other provisions lay out basic principles and pathways for how states that currently possess nuclear weapons or engage in nuclear deterrence alliances, policies and practices can join and implement the treaty. The treaty therefore underscores the necessity to eliminate as well as prohibit nuclear weapons, but recognises that conditions are not yet ripe to establish a fully comprehensive timebound programme immediately with all desirable bells and whistles in place. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>This nuclear prohibition treaty is a huge legal and normative step in the right direction. But it is also a pragmatic step, recognising that technically and politically evolving conditions mean that it is better at present to leave the precise </span>technical, verification and institutional requirements to be worked out between each acceding government, as well as involving existing organisations such as the <a href="">International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)</a> and the <a href="">Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO)</a>, so that the best tools can build mutual security and confidence as the treaty becomes further embedded in law and diminishes the role of nuclear weapons in the world.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>This is a stand-alone treaty, but will also connect with networks of agreements in nonproliferation, arms control and international humanitarian law. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">In keeping with the humanitarian imperative and the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, this treaty also for the first time establishes obligations on victim assistance and environmental remediation. It is also the first treaty to recognise gender-related aspects of nuclear programmes and the disproportionate harm nuclear weapons and testing have caused to indigenous people, especially women and girls. Nor could anyone observing these negotiations fail to be struck by how many women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds are providing active leadership and participation in these humanitarian disarmament strategies and negotiations, unlike the traditional arms control and non-proliferation establishments.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The devil isn't in the detail, but in the opposition that continues to cling to nuclear weapons in a handful of countries that together threaten the world with around 15,000 nuclear weapons. These are the ones that have chosen to hang self-serving theories of national and international security on the status they attach to the possession of, and threats to use, the most abhorrent weapons of mass destruction produced by military science. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">And these are the countries conspiring to kill the nuclear prohibition treaty before it can be adopted on Friday.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">So close, but not yet in the bag</p> <p class="MsoNormal">On so many levels, this nuclear ban treaty is historic. The culmination of years of humanitarian disarmament meetings and grassroots actions, it is just a day away from fruition. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">But that also means that people and institutions with vested interests - political, status or financial – in retaining nuclear weapons are mounting last ditch attacks to prevent its adoption. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">During the past few weeks, there have been ominous signs that some of the nuclear-armed states who failed to derail the UN talks are engaging proxies inside the room to weaken the text, and if that doesn't work, to run the treaty out of time with diplomatic versions of filibustering, likely to increase on the final day. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">As senior diplomats who have led pro-ban initiatives are suddenly side-lined or recalled by nervous capitals, no-one should underestimate the importance of this treaty, not least to the states that want to possess nuclear weapons in perpetuity. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Dirty tricks and time-wasting tactics notwithstanding, there is more than enough commitment and determination in the room to get the job done on Friday. Ambassador Whyte and her team have piloted through a strong treaty text that covers the most essential issues.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The time has come to accept this as the highest achievable compromise. Yes, most of us would no doubt like a bit more here and there, but these cherished wish-lists are not worth the risk of running the treaty out of time and losing everything we've achieved so far. <span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">A few tweaks may be necessary and possible. Apart from those, we need to start consolidating and protecting what we have, so that it gets adopted on Friday and can get opened for signature as soon as possible. Only then can it start to change the world. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">It enshrines the necessary principles and obligations, while creating a legal and normative base that can be added to and strengthened as technologies and politics evolve over time. <span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The text is as good as it can get at this stage, and will provide a huge step forward to efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and create peace and security without nuclear weapons. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Carping from the side-lines about what isn't in this treaty misses the point… unless their intention is to fuel doubts and opposition among those who need to pull the stops out to get the treaty adopted on Friday. <span>&nbsp;</span>It provides so much that governments and civil society can use to end reliance on nuclear weapons and build the peace and security of a nuclear free world.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">It doesn't do everything – no legal text does. But if we put everything we can into getting this treaty adopted on Friday, it will take the world much much further than we are today in delegitimising, stigmatising, and banning nuclear weapons – the vital next steps towards achieving their total elimination. </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-johnson/negotiating-global-nuclear-ban-treaty-nuclear-armed-states-versus-un"> Negotiating a global nuclear ban treaty: nuclear-armed states vs the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/nuclear-peril-and-its-silences">A nuclear peril, and its silences</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/will-nagasaki-be-last-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Will Nagasaki be the last use of nuclear weapons?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Rebecca Johnson Thu, 06 Jul 2017 12:48:37 +0000 Rebecca Johnson 112136 at Book: Liberalism in neoliberal times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new book, based on the openDemocracy series of the same name, is now available.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// neoliberal.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// neoliberal.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="685" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liberalism in a neoliberal world.</span></span></span></p><p>What does it mean to be liberal in neoliberal conditions? </p><p>In this collection of short essays, contributors from sociology, politics and media and communications argue for the continued relevance of liberals and liberalism in a seemingly illiberal age. The authors interrogate the theories, histories, practices and contradictions of liberalism in relation to four central areas of public life: human rights, ethnicity and gender, education and the media. They contend that liberalism in all its forms continues to underpin specific institutions such as the university, the free press, the courts and parliamentary democracy, and that liberal ideas are regularly mobilised in areas such as counter-terrorism, minority rights, privacy and the pursuit of knowledge. They grapple with the transformations in, as well as the transformative aspects of, liberalism and highlight both its liberating and limiting capacities. We may not agree on much but we can certainly agree that an understanding of liberalism is simply too important to be left to the liberals.</p><p>Buy the book <a href="">here</a>.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Liberalism in a neo-liberal world Goldsmiths Thu, 06 Jul 2017 10:45:18 +0000 Goldsmiths 112133 at Local councils, love and loathing – a life story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">From 80s municipal socialism to the Blairite ‘regeneration game’ and beyond – a tale of hopes betrayed, and dreams that still need to be fulfilled.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// school pic2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// school pic2_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Image: Caroline, Suzy, Costas, Debra and Neil, leaving school in Haringey in 1989.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal">From Kensington council’s <a href="">disastrous handling of the Grenfell tower tragedy</a>, to the Haringey councillors the Guardian this week dubbed ‘Zombie Blairites’ for exemplifying <a href="">how right-wing Labour councillors have also jumped on the social cleansing bandwagon</a>, councils are big news for the first time in years. This week Haringey Council approved the largest council house demolition-cum-privatisation in history, demolishing estates in deprived Tottenham with no real guarantees residents will be allowed to return to the newly ‘regenerated’ area, <a href="">as part of a £2bn partnership with private firm Lendlease.</a></p> <p class="MsoNormal">All of this news has set me to reflecting on councils – the councils of my childhood, and my adulthood - and asking, where did it all go wrong? And amidst a resurgence of left-wing politics, is there a future for municipal socialism once more?</p> <p class="MsoNormal">At my Haringey infant school, I was surrounded by a familiar media moral panic about the ‘far left’ – not Momentum and ‘Marxists’ back then, but their 80s incarnation, the so-called ‘<a href="">loony left</a>’. I was supposedly one of those small children banned from singing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, indoctrinated with copies of ‘<a href="">Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin’</a>, and not allowed to put rubbish in black bin bags.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Us kids didn’t have the term fake news back then, of course. Just wondered why the grown-ups were talking such nonsense.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">From my child’s-eye perspective that ‘loony left’ Haringey council was doing a lot of amazing stuff, and shielding us from the worst excesses of Thatcherism. It let me go on a week’s holiday to an adventure centre in Wales, for the princely sum of five pounds (as I was getting free school meals). Its local swimming pool was affordable and had <em>four</em> pools. The local park had a paddling pool and a park keeper and all kinds of free games you could borrow. The local library was a wonderful temple to books (though I did have to make a special request to borrow the Enid Blytons that were begrudgingly stashed in the archives). We still got our school free milk – despite Thatcher. We had the best firework display in London (amidst the “ooohs”, my mum said “This is what I pay my rates for”. “What are rates?” I asked).</p> <p class="MsoNormal">My teachers taught us about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, about the miners’ strike, about the truth of imperialism, that just because you read something in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true. They made sure we could spell and do our times tables too, without much fussing over ‘test results’.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Fast forward a few short years and Labour councils were running scared of the ‘loony left’ tag – and turning to a very different politics. In the process, they underwent a process of reinvention and ‘regeneration’ that has seen its culmination in the kind of social cleansing highlighted in Haringey’s ‘Development Vehicle’ scandal this week. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Even as I joined the Labour Party at 15, I was disillusioned about the way the party was reacting to council cuts. I remember watching the Labour Party conference in 1985 (l was a weird kid) and thinking that whilst Derek Hatton was clearly a toe-rag, there was something about the way the media were unanimously gloating about his <a href="">clash with Kinnock as an unalloyed triumph over lunacy</a>, that didn’t sit quite right with me (memories of the Baa Baa Black Sheep story, maybe?). </p> <p class="MsoNormal">In Haringey, as across London, things did get a bit weird quite quickly. My after-school club was scrapped when the <a href="">GLC was dismantled</a>. The squats I used to play in on Tottenham Lane were pulled down. The council houses started being sold. My friends came to school the day after the <a href="">Tottenham riots</a>, with tales of having to tape up their letterboxes. My secondary school – that they couldn’t easily redevelop into housing because it was a listed building – burned down (it’s houses now). The teachers started to bite their tongues before they talked about politics (the <a href=",_Wales_and_Northern_Ireland)">national curriculum was on its way in</a>, along with SATs and league tables). Just before we took our GCSEs, the new results-oriented head of year chucked out a bunch of my classmates – mostly black boys. Shortly afterwards I turned up for work experience at Haringey Council. They got me checking whether the signatures on the housing benefit giros looked forged or not. (It’s a dirty job….)</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Like most of London, not just Kensington &amp; Chelsea, Haringey was always a borough of extremes – stretching from Millionaires Row in Highgate to some of the most deprived wards in the country in Tottenham. But there’s no question that London’s housing bubble has worsened the problem. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">I moved out of Haringey a long time ago – the last time I was in a council building there was probably my mum’s remarriage in Wood Green Civic Centre – and like many of my cohort, private rented my way through shabbier inner London boroughs, priced out as those areas gentrified themselves, repeating the experience in outer boroughs. And then eventually, somewhat reluctantly, out of London altogether, fed up with the options of renting a pokey buy-to-let cladded cliché above a Tesco Express next to thunderous traffic, or keeping a low profile in a peaceful but shabby converted house or ex-council flat, not daring to ask the landlord for much needed repairs for fear he’d put the rent up or remember to sell his half-forgotten ‘investment’.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">And we were the lucky ones. For six years I was a housing officer in Islington and Hackney, and saw first-hand the social tenants who were being driven into stressful <a href="">rent arrears and in some cases eviction by the utter incompetence of the privatised housing benefit management</a> that both councils had signed up to. The tenants who were labelled and hounded with the <a href="">newly fashionable term ‘anti-social behaviour’</a> because their kids no longer had anywhere safe to play and hang out - though no-one accused the 4x4 drivers zooming dangerously through their communities of ‘anti-social behaviour’. The tenants who were being ‘decanted’ from tower blocks in the areas they’d lived in all their lives, some admittedly to beautiful riverside low rises – but plenty more out to Stevenage and beyond. And that was even before tenants had to deal with the bedroom tax, the benefits cap, and ever more penurious benefits systems and housing law.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">But I always kept an eye on Haringey. I kept in touch with friends fighting developments like <a href="">Tottenham’s Wards Corner</a>. I remember my dismay when I heard that my <a href=";pg=PT66&amp;lpg=PT66&amp;dq=haringey+outsource+libraries+instant&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=A_Ylgc9cyx&amp;sig=e-K3WMHg5nslW0kNmsMWIQhBMVY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjYos3xo_LUAhUHCMAKHRq0DFQQ6AEIQzAD#v=onepage&amp;q=haringey%20outsource%20libraries%20instant&amp;f=false">childhood book temple had been quasi-privatised</a> – a move that prefigured the full scale privatisation afoot for the borough’s main library now. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">I remember the powerlessness I felt when I heard Tottenham kids – quite possibly the children of my old classmates – telling the TV news that their youth clubs had all been cut, and that there would be riots. And when only months later, the riots did indeed kick off, local kids were back on the news saying ‘maybe we’ll get a new swimming pool at least, that’s what we got when the riots happened last time’. You can’t blame them. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Of course, not all of this is the fault of local councils themselves. Over the years I’ve met many councillors – Labour, Lib Dem, Green, even a few Tories – who were good people with a genuine sense of civic duty, trying to do their best for their constituencies. I’ve even – briefly – been a councillor myself. And I know it’s not an easy task. Part of the problem is the time it takes (particularly in the era of deliberately impenetrable contracting-out arrangements) for little reward. This means that - apart from those who see it as a stepping stone to a parliamentary career - the job is more often done by retired people, well-meaning but not necessarily au fait with the difficulties faced by successive generations.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">But my own stint as a councillor is also where I realised that somewhere along the line, too many<span> </span>Labour councillors had stopped seeing local residents needing services as potential allies, and started seeing them as feckless scroungers to be gate-kept and dehumanised. They had bought into the myths of ‘localism’ and the flattery that they could run things better than Whitehall, even as the reality was money and power given to unaccountable corporate ‘partners’. Their self-aggrandisement was left largely unchallenged, thanks to a dying local press no longer sending reporters to most council meetings, and by a national media uninterested, until very recently at least, in things like housing and social care. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">These bad habits were developed long before the 2008 financial crisis <em>really</em> made things tough. In the Blair years, being tough on services used mostly by poorer women and children became something of a macho rite of passage for ambitious New Labour councillors. The process was smoothed over by an increasing reliance on ‘consultants’, who were feted as sages then hidden behind when things went wrong. The adoption of cabinet council structures and mayors disempowered ordinary backbench councillors, whilst the adoption of top-down executive-style party organisation disempowered ordinary Labour party members. Councils’ scrutiny powers were watered down by successive central governments – and councillors appeared strangely reluctant to use those they were left with. Their leaders sat on unaccountable undemocratic regeneration structures – a plethora of ‘local enterprise zones’ and ‘local economic partnerships’ and the like. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Along with the kissing up, went the kicking down. Trade unions who protested against cuts and outsourcing were ignored. Community campaigners and minority groups were co-opted as volunteers and ‘community leaders’ where possible – or else treated with hostility and labelled as ‘troublemakers’ and ‘Trots’.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">In Waltham Forest – where I lived for 10 years – I saw the Labour council try to outsource school management to G4S – who suggested their experience of running prisons could be useful in terms of keeping the local youth in line – before giving up amidst controversy, and settling on <a href="">giving the running of schools to a warship manufacturer instead</a>. I went to ‘consultation’ meetings run by ‘consultation and regeneration consultants’ who had glossy leaflets and smiles but no answers for local residents angry about proposals to <a href="">build a school with a 'landmark' tower block on top of it, on a flood plain</a> (I kid you not). I saw <a href="">scandal</a> after <a href="">scandal</a> unfold around the fraudulent <a href="">mis-use of regeneration money</a> intended to help the poorest communities in a poor borough, whilst the council’s main priority seemed to be a <a href="">war on chicken shops</a>.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">I saw the Labour-run council <a href="">destroy or lose half the boroughs’ library books in their rush to ‘regenerate’ library buildings</a> – a feat they justified by claiming (somewhat dubiously) that they didn’t burn the books, just pulp them. When I tentatively asked the council leader if surely the decision to close our local branch library shouldn’t have been taken in a publicly minuted meeting, not just snuck through undebated in the budget and accepted as ‘the direction of travel’, he leaned over the table and shouted at me, “Don’t you tell me how to run a council, I’ve been running a council for years!”. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">I might have studied how politics is supposed to work at one of the top universities in the world, but I learned a lot more about how it really worked, that day.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Nostalgia for the Thatcher era is a funny thing – but at least back in those days we knew that Labour councils were mostly trying to be on our side. Not an insignificant thing. I remember seeing the Haringey star logo everywhere (the logo they’ve recently junked for something more appealing to private investors) and knowing I was home, safe, secure.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">I make no grand claims to explain the entirety of the withering of local democracy, which undoubtedly has many factors. There were times as a councillor, listening to my colleagues’ self-congratulation about how well they were ‘representing their constituents’, just before voting through massive rent hikes for social tenants without any real discussion, when I wondered whether ‘representative’, ie electoral, democracy itself was inherently flawed, and the only alternative an autonomist utopia of self-organised direct democracy. That’s a bit hard to envisage – perhaps I’m suffering from what Mark Fisher called ‘capitalist realism’ – but it’s certainly true that <a href="">autonomists organising in communities have sometimes been local people’s only effective allies in defending themselves</a> against the cruelty of local public and private bureaucracies, for example in anti-eviction defence direct actions. And that party loyalties and tribalism – as much as bureaucracy – sometimes seem to mitigate against honesty, speaking truth to power, and (just as important) confessing our mistakes.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">It remains to be seen whether Jeremy Corbyn will use his new-found authority to deal with some of the excesses of his right-wing councils, who are proving to be almost as much of an embarrassment to the Labour Party, as Kensington and Chelsea have been to the Tories, and certainly as much as the ‘loony left’ ever were. And whether left wing Labour party members new and old will gather the skills and courage to speak out as strongly as they need to. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">At last year’s Labour party conference, even as the left celebrated Corbyn’s re-election, its right wing mobilised a succession of rule changes that not only packed the ruling NEC with right wingers but banned Labour councillors from signing off ‘no cuts budgets’. Despite popular perception, it’s been a very long time since councillors faced jail for passing a ‘no cuts budget’, that old left demand – but, if this rule isn’t changed, they do now face expulsion from the Labour party. The rule change was reportedly to ease pressure on right wing labour councillors who might otherwise be facing threats of deselection for their implementation of cuts.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Both left and right of the Labour party are currently trying to mobilise members to back rule changes that could – on the one hand, democratise internal party structures and make it easier to hold councillors to account and even deselect them if necessary – and on the other hand, load the party’s governing body, the NEC, with existing councillors from the right of the party, and undermine attempts to drag its existing policy and structures leftwards.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">But whether inside or outside the Labour party, perhaps now is a good time for us all to think about who ought to be holding councils and councillors to account, and how we really want to see power and decision making distributed in our communities. If we don’t, we’ll probably end up with a takeover by more of the <a href="">government appointed taskforces of the kind Said Javid announced today</a>.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>While this might seem like a technical debate to some, I can't help but think of the children in schools in around the country today, about their insecure homes and their emptied libraries and their shabby parks, and suspect that these debates aren't so much about the future of the Labour party, or of local democracy, but of the kids they are supposed to be there for.</span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Caroline Molloy Wed, 05 Jul 2017 14:42:43 +0000 Caroline Molloy 112119 at Acid attacks are on the rise – the government must act now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-language: EN-GB;">Perpetrators of hate crime and gang violence are turning to easily available weapons. Muslim communities are frightened.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// khan_1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// khan_1.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="491" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Image: Resham Khan, <a href="">Go Fund Me</a>.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>There is something particularly heinous about acid violence – it’s an act which is not only premeditated but which has the sole intent to cause lasting disfigurement.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In East London on 21 June, Resham Khan and her cousin Jameel Mukhtar were subject to a horrific acid attack on Resham’s 21</span><span>st</span><span>&nbsp;birthday.&nbsp;<a href=";;sdata=%2B9BWr8Ex%2FLEGhPysBWYwyapgj%2F11roFip%2FzbBfXxxKs%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank"><span>The perpetrator has not yet been caught</span></a>, and after a&nbsp;moving appeal by Jameel the attack was classified as a hate crime.&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since the attack took place, there have been several reports on social media of acid attacks on ethnic minorities. Whilst not all the attacks have been substantiated by the police, there is a growing fear amongst Muslims that their community is being targeted. These fears are <em>completely</em> understandable – especially when placed side by side with attacks on mosques and <a href=";;sdata=BHIlkajCpMxllciuNq1M7IoI0c2lnq%2BMXf640xtMjCo%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank"><span>the rise in Islamaphobic hate crime</span></a>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>A recent freedom of information request to the Metropolitan police found that acid attacks are on the rise in London – a total of 1490 acid attacks took place in London between 2011 and 2016 with 431 attacks in 2016, compared with 261 in the previous year. This is a trend that is being replicated nationally.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Globally, acid attacks take the form of gender based violence with around 80% of attacks carried out by men on women. However, the UK seems to be bucking this trend and acid attack charities believe that corrosive substances are increasingly being used by gang members as an easily available weapon, with male-on-male attacks being more prevalent.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Acid Survivors Trust International UK has also raised concerns that acid attacks in the UK may go underreported, particularly as victims do not pursue criminal charges against attackers for fear of reprisals.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>As one of the cruellest and most callous crimes, it’s time that the Government took serious action to not only understand the rise in its use as a method of violence in the UK but to ensure that preventive measures are put in place to end acid violence. A first step would be to collect and collate data on the number acid attacks and detail its use in relation to hate crime, gang-related crime and youth crime.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>There is currently no legislation which prevents or controls the sale of corrosive substances - currently, sulphuric acid can be purchased from as little as £1 both in stores and online. In the context of a crackdown on knife crime, the Government must not forget that those who wish to cause harm will seek to find new, easily available and cheap weapons.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>I’ve tabled a series of Parliamentary Questions, asking ministers what plans they have to start collecting information on attacks so that we can start looking at a national strategy to end acid violence. These horrific attacks cannot be ignored, and it's crucial that ministers act swiftly to protect people from this particularly cruel form of violence.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Caroline Lucas Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:49:20 +0000 Caroline Lucas 112117 at The terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After Grenfell, it’s time for the government to urgently rethink its attitude to regulation.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In 2016, the department for Business, Innovation & Skills boasted that the UK had the lowest burden of regulation in the G7. Photo: David Mirzoeff/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>At Prime Minister’s Questions on 28 June 2017, Jeremy Corbyn described the fire at Grenfell Tower as the “<em>terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners</em>”. He referred to a 40% cut in local authority budgets, leading to fewer inspectors and 11,000 fewer firefighters, and said that “this disaster must be a wakeup call” to the “disastrous effects of austerity.”</p><h2>Cutting the Red Tape</h2> <p>Since 2011, consecutive governments introduced a “one in, one out”, then “one in, two out” and now “one in, three out” rule for any new regulations. Regulations costing businesses one, two and now three times as much <a href="" target="_blank">must be removed</a> before any new regulation imposing costs can be introduced. Regulations have been seen as bad for business, characterised as constricting and stifling “red tape” which requires removal. </p> <p>On 3 March 2016 a press release from the then department for Business, Innovation &amp; Skills <a href="" target="_blank">boasted</a> that the UK already had the lowest burden of regulation in the G7. Now that Britain is leaving the European Union, many are demanding even more de-regulation. Leading Brexiteers and now key figures in the government, <a href="" target="_blank">Michael Gove</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Andrea Leadsom</a>, have called for Brexit to be used as an opportunity to slash regulation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Now that Britain is leaving the European Union, many are demanding even more de-regulation.&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time of writing, <a href="" target="_blank">flammable cladding has been found on every one of the 120 tower blocks</a> so far tested, it is clear that we require more and / or better regulations in order to provide adequate protection, not less. Regulations are not introduced simply to obstruct and encumber businesses. They are there to protect people, property and our environment. Many important regulations have been created following disasters in order to prevent them from occurring again. </p> <p>It is vital that we have smart regulations which are proven to provide protection in the most effective way possible. It is important that we revisit and reconsider our existing regulations. But taking a blanket approach that it is better to have less regulation can lead to governments removing vital protection, and failing to introduce regulations that could make us all safer. </p> <p>Clearly this was the case in relation to fire safety. Concerns about flammable cladding <a href="" target="_blank">were raised following a fire</a> that quickly spread up Garnock Court tower block in Irvine, Scotland in 1999. After <a href="" target="_blank">six people died and more than 20 were hurt</a> in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, <a href="" target="_blank">the inquest that followed highlighted</a> the fact that cladding could make a fire spread more quickly. Since the Coroner’s Report into the Lakanal House fire in 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety &amp; Rescue Group <a href="" target="_blank">has repeatedly called</a> for a review of safety regulation to prevent any future tragedies taking place. Despite the continuing risk of tower block fires, highlighted by the Shepherd’s Bush fire in 2016, the government failed to do so.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compounding the failure to create or maintain adequate regulations is the fact that they are often not properly enforced.</p> <p>In a debate in Parliament in 2014, the then Housing Minister Brandon Lewis <a href="" target="_blank">rejected calls</a> to force construction companies to fit sprinklers into any new homes, citing the need to reduce regulation and reduce obligations on housebuilders. Mr Lewis <a href="" target="_blank">told MPs</a> that whilst he accepted that sprinkler systems could provide protection from fires, the government considered that instead of regulating for their use, the onus was on the fire industry to increase installation by marketing sprinkler systems more effectively.</p> <p>It is simply unacceptable that, following years of warnings, it may take a disaster on the scale of the Grenfell Tower fire to make the government reconsider improving fire safety regulations.</p> <h2>Enforcement of Regulations</h2> <p>Compounding the failure to create or maintain adequate regulations is the fact that they are often not properly enforced. The independence and importance of inspections has been reduced and government cuts have left regulators and authorities with less funding to check for regulatory compliance.</p> <p>Teresa May <a href="" target="_blank">has said</a> that flammable cladding such as that found on Grenfell Tower was not compliant with building regulations. If this is proven then it is staggering that every one of the 120 towers which have so far been tested has featured flammable cladding. We cannot accept a situation where regulations vital to protect public safety are simply ignored. The fact that nobody had even identified this until the tragedy at Grenfell Tower shows a shocking lack of oversight which is not compatible with a satisfactory fire regulation enforcement regime.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is no longer necessary to have a local authority inspector check for compliance.</p> <p>At Grenfell Tower <a href="" target="_blank">a large chain of companies was involved</a> in the refurbishment which led to the use of the cladding. In a situation where government cuts have contributed to the increasing growth of outsourcing, sufficient regulation and oversight should be in place in order to ensure that these private suppliers maintain the highest safety standards. </p> <p>However, it is no longer necessary to have a local authority inspector check for compliance. Companies are able to hire their own inspector to check that the construction meets the required standards. Under this system, in 2015 the <a href="" target="_blank">Cabinet Office boasted</a> that some businesses had had their fire safety inspections reduced from 6 hours to 45 minutes.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Serious attempts to regulate for safety often only seem to follow a disaster.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the absence of a central regulatory body, sector bodies such as the Building Control Alliance and the National House Builders’ Council <a href="" target="_blank">have provided advice</a> outlining how to avoid meeting the standards established in the regulations.</p> <p>Clearly the attitude that regulations are an unnecessary hindrance to business is endemic and has spread from the top. </p> <h2>Moving Towards a Better Regulatory System</h2> <p>Serious attempts to regulate for safety often only seem to follow a disaster. Changes were made following the Kings Cross Fire, the sinking of the MS Herald of Free Enterprise and the Paddington Rail disaster. The events that led to these disasters were foreseeable, and you have to wonder if deaths could have been prevented if proper attempts to regulate for safety had been made prior to these disasters occurring.</p> <p>Arguably, in the aftermath of the disaster at Grenfell Tower, the human cost of austerity cuts and the 'cutting of red tape' is laid bare for all to see. &nbsp;</p> <p>We need a transformation in attitude that rejects <a href="" target="_blank">David Cameron’s call</a> for his government to “<em>kill off health and safety culture for good</em>”. Laurence Waterman OBE, head of Health and Safety for the London Olympics observed that “<em>we talk of red tape but never white or gold tape, or that good Health and Safety is good business</em>”. This must change.</p> <p>Without adequate regulation, along with the funding and the political will to ensure compliance, people are left exposed to unregulated and potentially dangerous products, unsure whether their homes or the items within them are safe. Failure to adequately operate a regulatory system has been shown to have damaging consequences and we should not allow an aversion to placing obligations on business trump real and justified concerns about public safety.</p> <p>We need to ensure that the regulations necessary to protect us all are created and enforced, not just to prevent another disaster like Grenfell Tower, but to ensure such disasters never happen in the first 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="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ryan-osullivan-matilda-wnek/where-are-missing-how-tabloids-underplayed-deaths-at-grenfell-for-the">Where are the missing? How the tabloids underplayed deaths at Grenfell for their own gain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Roshan Croker Wed, 05 Jul 2017 10:10:30 +0000 Roshan Croker 112103 at Why BigData is running roughshod over the NHS - and what to do about it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The NHS is being treated as both a 'cash cow' and a 'data cow', a string of recent scandals suggest. And now there's another privacy-bashing tech bonanza on the way, as ID cards rise from the ashes of Brexit policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href="">Flickr/Jeremy Keith</a>, some rights reserved.</em></p><p> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE </p><p>It’s no secret. We all know we pay for the NHS through our taxes. But increasingly we’re also paying for health and care services with the invisible currency of our most sensitive personal data; our medical records.<span>&nbsp; </span> </p><p class="MsoNormal">As data companies insinuate themselves into every aspect of our private lives, in the global Information Gold Rush, we must ensure the founding principle of the NHS – healthcare for all, without discrimination, free at the point of delivery – does not fall prey to the curse of free services: “If you ain’t paying, you <em>are</em> the product.”</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Since long before the controversy, patients have been paying with their privacy, and it’s almost always the companies that define the terms of the deal. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">In a data-driven world, corporations run rings around the analogue administrators of the NHS. They siphon off resources and when it goes wrong simply walk away from their responsibilities – as <a href=""><span>we were reminded this week</span></a> when the NAO slammed the disastrous mess that a part-privatised company made of NHS letters.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">How can Google DeepMind continue copying the data of 1.6 million patients from the Royal Free Hospital, despite having <a href=""><span>no lawful basis</span></a> to do so? DeepMind paid negotiators to go to the meeting; the NHS sent doctors.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">How can <a href=""><span>GP IT provider TPP</span></a> get away with deciding that it knew better than GPs who should have access to GP records – and get away with refusing to implement adequate security measures, even when asked? And then, rather than spending engineers’ time fixing the problem, choosing instead to pay its lawyers, strenuously denying to all who would listen that it had done anything wrong?</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Because – as we’ve also seen in the fallout from the Grenfell Tower disaster – commercial interests are allowed to subvert the public good, whilst politicians and senior civil servants fail to reign in those interests, putting deregulation above people’s rights to safety, privacy, and due care.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Whitehall and Westminster seem locked into a failed model of ‘cutting red tape’ to ‘liberate’ commercial entities to exploit us as they see fit,<strong> </strong>despite the best efforts of clinicians and public-spirited technical staff. In the world of NHS IT, we’ve seen a long line of<strong> </strong>policy decisions, <a href=""><span>ignored warnings</span></a>, inexcusably delayed action and <a href=""><span>bodged responses</span></a>, such as when the WannaCry ransomware hit the NHS.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Meanwhile, the announcement last week that ID cards are effectively back on the table as Brexit Britain draws closer, offers the possibility of a massive bonanza for whoever gets the contracts – and a<strong> </strong>massive challenge to the fundamentals of what we believe as a country.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Having already introduced measures that try to make NHS staff <a href=""><span>hassle </span></a><a href=""><span>brown people</span></a><a href=""><span> for documentation</span></a>, the NHS now faces a three-way stand-off – a ‘Brexit Triangle’. In the simplest terms: does the Department of Health now direct NHS staff to hassle people with ‘foreign accents’<strong>,</strong> or to hassle everyone, or do we simply give in and issue everyone with ID cards?</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Do we want more cases like Dena Bryant – a <a href=""><span>deaf British woman</span></a> who struggles to communicate verbally, who turned up to A&amp;E with an injured arm only to be quizzed about her nationality after staff didn’t think she looked or sounded English enough?</p> <p class="MsoNormal">It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. The other option, the choice we first made 69 years ago today, when – having survived the horrors and deprivations of WWII, and when people’s now-defunct ID card numbers were used to generate the very first NHS numbers – we as one nation chose to all contribute to the provision of universal healthcare, free at the point of use, without discrimination. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><a name="_gjdgxs"></a>We heeded well the words of NHS founder Nye Bevan, who said: “<span>How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody.”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">So what can <em>you</em> do to break the stand-off? While forces far bigger and more complicated than anyone seems to have planned for steamroller on?</p> <p class="MsoNormal">It starts with something quite straightforward: inform yourself, so you can inform others. Get the facts; for, armed with facts, <em>every</em> patient can speak with the authority of their own lived experience of the NHS.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you <a href=""><span>have a login for your GP practice’s website</span></a>, go and look at the letters that have been scanned into your record, and count the logos. (If you don’t already have a login for online access, <a href=""><span>here’s how to get one</span></a>.) Then, as your NHS changes over the next few years, do you see more commercial logos or fewer? </p> <p class="MsoNormal">While you’re at it, you may also want to check who’s <a href=""><span>accessed your GP record</span></a>. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">And while everyone’s been distracted by Brexit, the latest reorganisation of the NHS – the “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” – is descending into a divide-and-conquer carve-up. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">With a democratic deficit in the NHS that does Theresa May proud, there is very little scrutiny of the process by which decisions are made locally around which services will be cut – the amounts of cuts having been decided centrally, with minimal regard for <a href=""><span>effects on services</span></a>. (Meanwhile, DH and NHS England still want to copy all your medical records into a <a href=""><span>data lake</span></a>, <a href=""><span>t</span></a>o<a href=""><span> </span></a>m<a href=""><span>i</span></a>c<a href=""><span>r</span></a>o<a href=""><span>m</span></a>a<a href=""><span>n</span></a>a<a href=""><span>g</span></a>e<a href=""><span> </span></a>h<a href=""><span>o</span></a>s<a href=""><span>p</span></a>i<a href=""><span>t</span></a>a<a href=""><span>l</span></a>s<a href=""><span> </span></a>o<a href=""><span>n</span></a> <a href=""><span>a</span></a> <a href=""><span>d</span></a>a<a href=""><span>i</span></a>l<a href=""><span>y</span></a> <a href=""><span>b</span></a>a<a href=""><span>s</span></a>i<a href=""><span>s</span></a>…) How would your experience of NHS care have been affected, had those cuts already taken place? </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Since its inception, reorganisation of the NHS has been an ongoing bureaucratic activity – with the expectation that the public and patients will continue to be passive observers. So, what if the public’s interest were to become an active ally to the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm? As STPs move forwards, whether you wish to be a passive observer of the NHS or not – based on your lived experience and that of your loved ones – is a decision only you can make, and talk about with others. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you don’t think your experience matters enough to speak up, who do you believe will speak up for you? </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="/ournhs/phil-booth/your-medical-data-on-sale-for-pound">Your medical data - on sale for a pound</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/jane-fae/your-medical-data-in-their-hands-concerns-mount-over-new-nhs-it-project">Your medical data in their hands - concerns mount over new NHS IT project</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/colin-leys/how-trustworthy-is-nhs-digital">How trustworthy is NHS Digital?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS digitaLiberties uk ourNHS Phil Booth Wed, 05 Jul 2017 08:31:38 +0000 Phil Booth 112099 at Fires disproportionately kill vulnerable people, and Grenfell is no different <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">We need more than just fire safety; we need fire justice, and a culture which takes stock of the fact that it is the poor and the disadvantaged who die in natural disasters.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smoke billows from Grenfell Tower. Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Anyone following the tragic events surrounding the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June will have been struck by the calls for justice made by the survivors as well as by many other groups in society. Justice may seem an unlikely value to invoke in such circumstances – especially in a western democracy like the United Kingdom – where a reasonable degree of social equality is assumed.</p><p dir="ltr">Fire has a distinctive profile among hazards in that it is a great destroyer of property but rarely proves fatal even in the highly flammable slums and informal settlements of the developing world. The Grenfell Tower fire is unusual in that the death toll is high. In fact, over two weeks after the event, the death toll appears still undetermined or at least unannounced.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Over 95% of deaths and burn injuries are in low-and-middle-income countries where they mainly affect the very poorest in society – and such fires rarely make international news.</p><p dir="ltr">Even a cursory glance at the faces of those confirmed dead and still missing presents a gallery of the most disadvantaged groups in British society: the aged, the disabled, the unemployed, single mothers, ethnic minorities and refugees. What makes this impression even starker is that Grenfell Tower is a public housing block standing in one of the most affluent boroughs in the country. Inevitably, in a city where the total number of fatalities from fire last year was 36, the loss of so many lives with such a pronounced socio-economic profile raises serious questions about what caused it, whom it affects, and why it was allowed to happen.</p><p dir="ltr">Urban fire is a singular hazard: it has a set of properties that distinguishes it from all others. Unique among hazards, fire is “owned” in that its source of origin lies within a person’s property and largely depends for its ignition on a range of factors: the actions or inactions of the owner; what has been placed in that space; and the provisions made to mitigate or suppress its ability to spread.</p><p dir="ltr">It is also, to all intents and purposes, the only “natural” disaster initiated entirely by humans, since the incidence of urban fire ‘auto-generation’ or self-generation (as opposed to wildfires) is so rare nowadays that it can be effectively dismissed. Yet these special properties of fire are seldom acknowledged, and their incidence passes largely unrecognised in international databases.</p><p dir="ltr">Urban fires, for instance, are the only major hazard not included as a category in the IFRC’s annual World Disaster Report. Yet fires still cause over 300,000 deaths annually and are the fourth largest cause of accidental injury. The reason for this partial invisibility, perhaps, lies in the fact that over 95% of deaths and burn injuries are in low-and-middle-income countries where they mainly affect the very poorest in society – and such fires rarely make international news.</p><p dir="ltr">This relative invisibility may explain why the social construction of fire is so poorly represented in the literature on disasters. While the emphasis in disaster studies has long shifted away from a simple agent-specific focus to a consideration of what renders people unsafe, a condition that is largely dependent on social structures and a person’s relative (dis)advantage, fire is still largely discussed in terms of its physical properties and and how it can be extinguished.</p><p dir="ltr">‘Vulnerability’ – the term mainly used to assess the nature and extent of people’s risk, as a gauge of a person’s exposure to hazard and a measure of their capacity to recover from its loss – is less frequently invoked in discussions about fires.</p><h2>Fire justice</h2><p dir="ltr">The calls for justice in the case of Grenfell Tower demonstrate the need to understand fire as more than simply a matter of fire load and heat release rate. Fire is also a question that touches upon the underlying social issues that leave some people more exposed to its effects than others. As the risk of fire is not evenly spread throughout society, it is left to the state to ensure that groups disadvantaged by physical limitations and disabilities or socio-economic factors are protected: government has a moral and legal responsibility to create a culture of “fire justice” as well as fire safety that safeguards all its citizens to a minimally acceptable level.</p><p dir="ltr">The notion of “fire justice” has its roots in a particular conception of the state and forms of governance in western societies that conform to liberal democratic models. According to the environmental lawyer Robert Verchick, the failure of the state to protect its own from this perspective can be regarded as nothing less than “a breach of democracy’s fundamental obligation to its citizens”.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Government has a moral and legal responsibility to create a culture of “fire justice” as well as fire safety that safeguards all its citizens to a minimally acceptable level.</p><p dir="ltr">The question of justice also inevitably raises the notion of blame: was there someone or some agency that failed in their responsibilities? Without some causative or blameworthy agent, one invested with power and authority and a duty of care, argued the political theorist, Judith Shklar, there cannot be an injustice.</p><p dir="ltr">In modern western societies, this accountability is invested in the state, which is charged both with ensuring social justice; that there is a level of equality in the distribution of benefits and burdens across all segments of society; and, with environmental justice, that the spatial distribution of hazard and risk is not unduly concentrated at any particular locations.</p><p dir="ltr">However, there have been some striking examples in recent years where western states have manifestly failed in their duty of care to their citizens and the shroud of invisibility that hid its victims has been rent asunder. Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 focused world attention on the enduring legacy of racial segregation and poverty in the American South where the storm impacted much more heavily on minorities, the poor, and the elderly. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011 (sometimes referred to as Japan’s “Katrina”) disproportionately impacted on poor, blue-collar workers who bore higher medical risks to radiation releases, were less adequately assisted and were not consulted in the cleanup and recovery operations.</p><p dir="ltr">The Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath raise similar issues as regards British society by making visible those poor and disadvantaged groups who disproportionately constitute most fire victims. In fact, there are “Grenfell Tower” fires every day in this country but the household scale of the event renders them largely invisible.</p><p dir="ltr">There has always been ample anecdotal evidence based on local fire service personnel’s knowledge that some groups and neighbourhoods are more vulnerable to fire than others. However, there is far less direct research to support this view – but there is some. A study commissioned by the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service found a direct correlation between types of neighbourhood and people most at risk of residential fires.</p><p dir="ltr">Authorities in Britain, however, seem reluctant to publicly admit the existence of underclasses of any denomination. A report to the Department for Communities and Local Government on attitudes towards fire risk in 2008 suggested instead that people may best be segmented according to lifestyle/lifestage, household type, and attitudinal characteristics, “rather than simple age or ethnicity categories”. Similarly, the shroud of invisibility was quickly drawn over the fatal fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell where six people died in 2009 by focusing on emerging issues of fire safety rather than fire justice.</p><p dir="ltr">The scale of the death toll in Grenfell Tower, however, suggests that it may be more difficult for British society to ignore the question of justice in this case. Certainly, the continuing media interest and the hundreds of angry protesters that descended on the offices of Kensington Town Hall or marched through central London to Downing Street chanting “no justice, no peace” seem intent to make it so.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london"> Fire in neo-liberal London</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/christine-berry/after-grenfell-ending-murderous-war-on-our-protections">After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell Tower Fire Greg Bankoff Tue, 04 Jul 2017 12:26:44 +0000 Greg Bankoff 112073 at