uk en Gavin MacFadyen (1940-2016): Why investigative journalism matters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The inspirational founder of the Centre for Investigative Journalism died on Saturday 22 October, 2016. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Go out and tell the truth. . .More power to you all.” Gavin MacFadyen welcomes students to the Centre for Investigative Journalism Summer Conference, July 2016.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><i>Gavin MacFadyen founded and ran the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ), helping to train thousands of journalists in the pursuit of factual inquiry and in defence of the public interest. In tribute, we republish this MacFadyen piece, first published as “<a href="">In-depth Charger</a>” by the Frontline Club on June 27, 2006.</i></strong></p> <p>Serious, in-depth journalism may be unwell but it is still alive in Britain despite an almost complete lack of institutional support in television, and limited resources in print and radio.&nbsp;</p> <p>The definitions are many – but most would agree that investigative journalism is ‘normal’ journalism plus money and more importantly, plus time. Getting complicated, difficult or even dangerous stories through the commissioning process, struggling for sufficient time (and funds) for research, getting past the lawyers and on the air or in print requires intense and focused work.</p> <p>It needs not just more resources than simply phone-bashing or recasting an NGO’s research, but time to think, to read, to make careful preparation, and to read some more. Care, precision, scepticism and accuracy are the guiding principles here. Tenacity and a healthy paranoia are also essentials. It’s from these qualities that major investigative stories are born.&nbsp;</p> <p>Tenacity is essential because doors are frequently slammed in your face, unforeseen factual obstacles appear, there are legal problems, threats, less-than-heroic editors a shortage of money and frightened witnesses. Paranoia is needed because most investigative journalists have seen the resources a multi-national corporation, the state or the powerful can bring to bear against a journalist, the editor and, very often, against the witness or whistleblower themself. Editors and publishers rarely rise to the challenge, particularly if the object of the reporter’s attention has deep pockets.</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'>Gavin MacFadyen (Centre for Investigative Journalism)</span></span></span></p> <p>Investigative stories don’t, thankfully, require the inspiration of publishers or editors — most have little or none of that quality — but instead demand a reporter’s moral outrage at injustice, incompetence, brutality and misery. These qualities are the fuel of investigative engines around the world. Such interests and passions often make regular hacks uncomfortable. There is a longterm conflict between ‘campaigning’ journalism and ‘dispassionate’ and ‘objective’ reporting.</p> <p>To the investigative journalist, ‘objective’ is all too frequently shorthand for a stenographic account of information provided by the authorities. Witness the thousands of uncritical embedded reports during the Iraq war. Many of the most accomplished investigative reporters, such as John Pilger and the late Paul Foot, disliked the term investigative. They argued that all good journalism ought to be investigative.</p> <p>But for many journalists, work is simply a job. Their interest is in lapdog confidences and dining with the powerful. Those who passionately want to provide a voice for those without one, and who fight hypocrisy and exploitation are sadly rare. Between 1966 and the early 1990s British television produced some of the more extraordinary investigations in world television. It forced the resignation of senior government officials, exposed major pharmaceutical scandals, uncovered government corruption, corporate and financial crimes and brought images of slavery, child labour and torture into millions of home for the first time.</p> <p>Panorama and <a href="">World in Action</a> were the target of frequent government attacks and outrage but attracted whistleblowers, disgruntled witnesses, public complainants and a number of deranged obsessives. Filtering stories from these sources required sensitivity and time. Many of the journalists involved received their training in print and later in-house in television.&nbsp; BBC, Granada and other ITV companies brought younger journalists through a system of research apprenticeships in an environment where there were serious intellectual resources.&nbsp;</p> <iframe id="viddler-b9b1cb0" src="//" width="460" height="295" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>After navigating a decade of legal and political storms, editors and producers learnt the skills of investigative programme-making and, probably even most importantly, ways to defend those skills inside and outside the organisation. With audiences often over 12 million, programmes like World in Action and This Week, were not seen as unprofitable. In contrast to current affairs programmes today, World in Action had in-house research facilities, libraries, in some cases private planes. It also had the confidence that if the company, or their programme, was in difficulty, their journalism would not be abandoned.</p> <p>Editors, cameramen, sound-recordists, electricians, researchers and travel offices all worked in-house.&nbsp; A significant feature of in-house production was the implicit understanding that with high standards of evidence, some stories wouldn’t make it, despite months of work. The 20 percent of programmes that didn’t make it were compensated for by the successful programmes that did. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>None of these conditions apply today – almost all have been destroyed during the last 20 years. The result is an absence of institutional production and protection of investigative stories. Budgets have been reduced. The responsibility for lengthy, high-quality research and production values has been off-loaded by large profitable organizations to individuals journalists, small production companies and to resources like NGOs.</p> <p>In fact without the major research tools provided by the internet, which have shortened some research tasks from weeks to hours, there would probably be almost no investigative journalism on television and in the press. Without a long-term commitment from the BBC and the independent sector, the public will continue to be deprived of an in-depth understanding of current affairs, investigation of the abuse of the public trust by governments, scrutiny of corporations, corrupt practices, and the continuing failures to protect integrity in the public sector.</p> <p>A number of organizations have sprung up across Europe and the US to try and reverse these trends.&nbsp; In Britain, the non-profit <a href="">Centre for Investigative Journalism</a> has paired experienced investigative journalists with young reporters to encourage the raising of professional standards and the acquisition of skills. This has taken place in Britain and, perhaps more importantly, in countries where enquiry is often a dangerous, even deadly, pursuit. The Frontline Confidential series, co-produced with CIJ, has brought landmark investigations and leading investigative journalists into open discussion for the first time in London.</p> <p>CIJ runs annual international summer schools – last year at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. On July 21-23 [2006] at City University in London, <a href=";action=click&amp;contentCollection=timestopics&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=10&amp;pgtype=collection&amp;_r=0">Anna Politkovskaya</a>, an independent Russian journalist, and Chuck Lewis of the <a href="">Center for Public Integrity</a> in Washington will speak with 20 other trainers and technical experts.</p> <p>Participants from 25 countries are expected and fees are subsidised by the Lorana Sullivan Foundation. The emphasis will be on the practical.&nbsp; Details are available from&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p><p><a href=""></a></p><hr /><p><b>The next <a href="">#CIJSummer Conference</a>, training journalists, editors and researchers in investigative skills, will take place in London in July 2017.</b></p><p>&nbsp;</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 Shine A Light Gavin MacFadyen Mon, 24 Oct 2016 13:50:14 +0000 Gavin MacFadyen 106179 at Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 13px;">What kind of country treats migrants like this?</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="487" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Flickr/<a href="">SMA</a></em></p><p>As the Calais “jungle” migrant camp closes today, high profile controversy over the UK’s external borders are only one side of the story.</p><p>Three years have passed since Theresa May, then home secretary, committed to creating a “hostile environment” for so-called “illegal” migrants in the UK. Since then the UK has reinforced and multiplied its <em>inland</em> borders, making border guards of teachers, landlords, and healthcare workers. </p><p>The hostile landscape created by May is not just making life uncomfortable for migrants within the UK, it is deterring vulnerable people from accessing vital services, and endangering lives. </p><p>Earlier this month St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust announced that it was piloting new proposals to require women in labour who presented at the trust, to present photo ID or proof of right to remain in the UK. The move is purportedly to reduce the abuse of the health system by ‘health tourists’, though there are anecdotal reports from round the country that similar schemes are operating and British-born black women are being asked to produce their passports before accesssing care. </p><p>The proposals are frankly absurd. Women in labour who don’t have their documents will, according to a document revealed in the Health Services Journal, “<span><span><span>be referred to the trust's overseas patient team for specialist document screening, in liaison with the UK Border Agency and the Home Office” - </span></span></span><span><span><span>presumably whilst being sent out to labour in the carpark. </span></span></span> </p><p><span><span><span>T</span></span></span>hese proposals are just the latest in a series of dangerous changes that are preventing ill people from accessing healthcare because they are afraid of the consequences.</p><p>The 2014 Immigration Act saw the introduction of the ‘migrant and visitor cost recovery programme’, which has dramatically increased the presence of the Home Office and immigration enforcement within the health service. For those not ‘ordinarily’ resident in the UK non-emergency healthcare is now billed at 150% of the cost to the NHS, meaning that having a baby in the NHS can cost the individual up to £9000, depending on the complications of the birth. </p><p>After giving birth in an East London hospital, Efe received a bill for £9000. ‘I took no notice of the letter. I just left it there,’ she told me, ‘I couldn’t pay.’ But the letters did not stop coming and soon they became threatening, informing Efe that failure to pay the bill would be used against her in her asylum claim. </p><p>It is women like Efe who are put in this position, often trafficked or irregular entrants, women who have overstayed visas or entered legally and fled abusive relationships, and women who are not allowed to work and have no form of income. Is it worth the expense of seeking this ‘cost recovery’, when the financial gains are likely to be so small? And if not for financial gain, what is the point of this punitive scheme if not to identify illegal immigrants at their most vulnerable. Efe is paying £50 a month towards her bill, a bill she will probably never pay off with money she doesn’t have to spare. </p><p>Officially the introduction of this programme was introduced for financial reasons. But initial evidence being collected by campaigners suggests that overseas visitors teams are not even making enough money from these schemes to cover their overheads, hardly surprising when you consider the group of people they are targeting. And with figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showing that requests for patient data from the Home Office have recently tripled – from 725 in the first three months of 2014 to 2367 in the same period of 2016 – the suspicion is that although putatively aimed at ‘cost recovery’ the Home Office is increasingly using information gathered from hospitals to find and identify people of insecure immigration status. </p><p>Doctors of the World runs a clinic in Bethnal Green which sees many people who are terrified of accessing NHS services. Sarah, a doctor who ran the clinic last year, met a woman with sickle cell disease, a serious inherited blood disease, who had been paying for a previous bill by working illegally but due to tightening restrictions could no longer find work to support herself and two young children. </p><p>‘She wasn’t going to her specialist appointments and became dangerously sick, she wouldn’t even go to A&amp;E even though she is fully entitled to emergency care.’ The risks of untreated sickle cell disease include stroke, blindness, and death. </p><p>These are dangerous and frankly racist policies. They demonstrate that our government is more committed to its modern day witch-hunt of weeding out people it deems ‘illegal’ than it is to saving the lives of those resident in the UK, regardless of the colour of their skin or their place of birth. We are in danger of following in the footsteps of our Atlantic cousins, who deport hundreds of migrants from their hospital beds every year, <a href="">some as they lie in comas.</a></p><p>With the health service in turmoil, facing cuts, relentless privatization, and the imminent imposition of a discriminatory and hugely demoralising contract for junior doctors, this issue is in danger of being overlooked by the mainstream press. But we cannot let immigration officers hover around hospitals, we cannot allow politicians to make immigration informants of healthcare workers, and we cannot force vulnerable people to choose between their safety in the UK and their lives. That is not how universal healthcare works.</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/rayah-feldman/pregnant-women-bear-brunt-of-government-s-clampdown-on-migrant-nhs-care">Pregnant women bear brunt of government’s clampdown on ‘migrant’ NHS care</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/ruth-atkinson/brexit-and-nhs-we-need-to-fight-racist-discourse">Brexit and the NHS - why we all must fight the racist discourse</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/kailash-chand/stop-distracting-us-with-health-tourism-sideshow">Stop distracting us with the &#039;health tourism&#039; sideshow</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/kambiz-boomla/nhs-and-dog-whistle-politics">The NHS and dog whistle politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/greg-dropkin-karen-reissman/healthcare-in-britain-first-they-came-for-immigrants">Healthcare in Britain - first they came for the immigrants</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 Erin Dexter Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:03:43 +0000 Erin Dexter 106181 at Crying wolf? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A cavalier use of evidence in the UK’s latest Home Affairs Committee report is feeding a moral panic about antisemitism, rather than dealing with an increasingly racist, intolerant society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shami Chakrabarti (centre) takes her seat in the House of Lords, September, 2016. Press Agency Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The latest report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (HAC) <a href=""><strong>Antisemitism in the UK Tenth Report of Session 2016–17</strong></a><strong> </strong>, was released to great fanfare on Sunday 16 October. Its accompanying embargoed press release, headed “All Parties – And Media Giants – Must Address ‘Pernicious’ Antisemitic Hate”, led with the following note: “[T]he failure of the Labour Party consistently and effectively to deal with antisemitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.”</p> <p>Against a background of rising criticism of the Israeli state and its actions, attempts have been made in recent decades to redefine our understanding of antisemitism to include much of this criticism under the rubric of what is labelled “left antisemitism”. Genuine antisemitism and criticism of Israel which “oversteps the bounds” are rolled up into one and the same thing. In recent months the British Labour party has become the focus of attention as the exemplar, par excellence, of this “left antisemitism”. </p> <p>In this respect the publication of <a href="">the Chakrabarti report</a> at the end of June was an important moment not just for the Labour party. It was a model of careful language, civility and empathy. Chakrabarti didn’t accuse anyone of bad faith, and strove to engage with the real pain that has been caused to people involved on <em>all</em> sides in this issue so far. It seemed to herald the possibility of moving beyond the fractious and divisive use of antisemitism as a political football which has so dogged debate in recent years. That is why I am dismayed to see the direction and trend of the latest Home Affairs Committee report (hereinafter called “the Report” and its author referred to as “the Committee”; all references to “paras” are to paragraphs in the report).&nbsp;</p> <p>I want to comment particularly on the following areas of the Report:</p> <p>a) its obsessive focusing on Labour</p> <p>b) its shameful rubbishing of Chakrabarti</p> <p>c) its confusions over “Zionism”</p> <p>d) its attempt to (re)define antisemitism (including a <em>misrepresentation</em> of a definition it says it is endorsing)</p> <p>e) its insistence that antisemitism is special, not like other racisms.</p> <h2><strong>Demonising the Labour party</strong></h2> <p>“It should be emphasised that the majority of antisemitic abuse and crime has historically been, and continues to be, committed by individuals associated with (or motivated by) far-right wing parties and political activity. Although there is little reliable or representative data on contemporary sources of antisemitism, CST [Community Security Trust] figures suggest that around three-quarters of all politically-motivated antisemitic incidents come from far-right sources.” (para 7)</p> <p>Since obsessive focusing on Israel is taken by many as an indication of antisemitism, what do we make of the Committee’s obsessive focusing on the UK Labour Party, on Shami Chakrabarti, and on the world of student politics?</p> <p>We might expect that three-quarters of the report would focus on the “antisemitic incidents com[ing] from far-right sources”. But that paragraph is about the only attention paid to the right in its 66 pages. Only 6 paragraphs (paras 121-126) look at antisemitism in relation to any political parties, other than Labour.</p> <p>Further, there is no reference to the rampaging resurgence of all forms of racism in British political life, an openly racist Tory campaign for the London mayoralty, a Prime Minister referring to refugees in Europe as “<a href="">a swarm</a>” and accusing Labour of encouraging “<a href="">a bunch of migrants</a>” at Calais to come to Britain, and of course the <a href="">post-Brexit referendum surge</a> of hate crimes. Why is there no reference to this context?</p> <p>Instead the report aims to “differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism (Report, para 114)” arguing that they are two different kinds of animal. Why? </p> <p>As <a href="">Jeremy Corbyn pointed out</a>, in a mastery of understatement: “The report’s political framing and&nbsp;disproportionate&nbsp;emphasis on&nbsp;Labour&nbsp;risks undermining&nbsp;the positive and welcome recommendations made in it.”</p> <p>One area that does receive attention, the scale of verbal abuse on social media, Twitter in particular, is clearly disturbing, and the Report does well to draw attention to it. But again, the antisemitism which is found there cannot be an isolated concern. Other forms of racism, Islamophobia in particular, and a generalised culture of anti-immigrant hate speech, sexual harassment and bullying is passed over as of no particular consequence. Rather, the Committee simply seems to have assumed that a) abuse in this sphere all comes from the left and b) that it is somehow licensed by what it claims to be Corbyn’s light-hearted attitude to antisemitism. </p> <p>Nowhere is this clearer than with regard to Ruth Smeeth MP who is said to have experienced “more than 25,000 incidents of abuse, including being called a “yid c**t” and a “CIA/Mossad informant”, and who has said that she has “never seen antisemitism in Labour on this scale”. What percentage of the 25,000 were antisemitic we are not told, though Ms Smeeth’s own statement on television is reported: “It’s vile, it’s disgusting and it’s done in the name of the Leader of the Labour party, which makes it even worse” (Report, para 104). But was it done in Corbyn’s name? What’s the evidence for that assertion? How many of these tweeters were left-wing Labour? Did the Committee bother to ask? There is no evidence it did so. It seems to have operated on the generalised, taken-for-granted assumption that as antisemitism is rampant in the Labour party that’s where it must have come from. And it simply ignores the fact that Corbyn “<a href="">contacted Ruth Smeeth to express his outrage at the abuse and threats</a> directed against her” (or that <a href="">the <em>Sun</em></a> chose to headline this action as “Jeremy Corbyn grovels to race-hate row MP Ruth Smeeth”!).</p> <p>How can this explain what happened to Rhea Wolfson, a Jewish member of the party who stood for the NEC only to be (temporarily) blackballed on the grounds that she was supported by Momentum, allegedly “an antisemitic organisation”. Tweets sent to her in early October included: “1 way ticket to Auschwitz for you” and “Dirty kike she ready for the ovens” (Rhea Wolfson press release, 16 Oct 2016). It beggars belief that these tweets were sent to her by left-wing Labour supporters. </p> <p>This does not appear to be a mere a lack of curiosity in the Report. On the contrary. Its authors seem positively to want to lend support to the idea of Labour’s “institutional antisemitism”, mentioned in the very first paragraph of its press release. The 'Macpherson definition' of a racist incident is cited in para 13 – as though the Metropolitan police’s unwillingness to recognise racism in the past is equivalent to Labour’s relationship to antisemitism today. You wouldn’t guess from the Report that every allegation of antisemitism in the Labour party has resulted in the suspension of the Labour party member concerned within a matter of days and that its leader has repeatedly and unreservedly condemned antisemitism. Given this absence, which was compounded by the way the Report was presented to the media, it is no surprise that all outlets duly led with its attack on Labour and focused on Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged “lack of leadership” and “weakness” in dealing with the assumed scourge of antisemitism in his movement. </p> <p>Corbyn’s <a href="">immediate response</a> was a cautious, even gracious, welcome (“I welcome some&nbsp;recommendations in the report,&nbsp;such as&nbsp;strengthening anti-hate crime systems, demanding Twitter take&nbsp;stronger&nbsp;action against&nbsp;antisemitic&nbsp;trolling and allow users to block keywords, and&nbsp;support&nbsp;for Jewish communal security”), together with a clear recognition of what he politely calls “important opportunities lost” in the report.</p> <p>Corbyn also pointed out that: “Under my leadership, Labour has taken greater action against anti-Semitism than any other party, and will implement the measures recommended by the Chakrabarti report to ensure Labour is a welcoming environment for members of all our communities.”</p> <h2><strong>Critique of Chakrabarti</strong></h2> <p>The Home Affairs Committee seems to have been almost equally obsessed by a desire to discredit the Chakrabarti Report and some effort is made to discredit Shami Chakrabarti personally in circumstances in which she has no right of reply.</p> <p>She is, for example, shamelessly taken to task for having joined the Labour party and also for subsequently having accepted a peerage (which she should long ago have had for her public service if peerages mean anything at all). The Community Security Trust (CST) is quoted as saying it was “a shameless kick in the teeth for all who put hope in her now wholly compromised inquiry into Labour antisemitism” (para 108). “Wholly compromised” is strong condemnation indeed – but nothing in the Report suggests or even hints at how or in what way anything in her inquiry was compromised. The CST were not asked what had changed to undermine their <a href="">guarded welcome</a> for the Report at the time it appeared, which including saying, “Many of our recommendations are echoed in the final report’s language concerning Zionism, the term 'Zio' and Holocaust analogies”; and also made the point that “The final verdict on the Chakrabarti Report will depend upon its implementation.”</p> <p>The Committee’s report goes on to claim that the Chakrabarti inquiry was “ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitism (para 118). </p> <p>I’ll come to the separate issue of a definition of antisemitism below, including in the Chakrabarti Report. But Chakrabarti did, of course, provide a comprehensive set of recommendations and suggested ways of dealing with antisemitism. They need to be implemented and only then can their effectiveness at dealing with antisemitism over time by judged. How can it be anything other than partisan bias for the Committee to dismiss them at this stage?</p> <p>In particular, Chakrabarti was very explicit about the need for clear and transparent disciplinary procedures in the Labour party in order to deal with allegations – this in a context where there was widespread feeling that allegations of antisemitism were being used as weapons in a campaign to get Corbyn. A significant part of her report –as yet unimplemented – relates to issues of due process and natural justice. None of this is given more than a hint of recognition by the Home Affairs Committee (para 114).</p> <p>Yet this really does matter. A number of accusations of antisemitism, of varying degrees of severity, have been made against members of the Labour party who have been suspended as a consequence – without due process, without knowing sometimes what they are accused of, who by or why. The Report fails to take note of the strong evidence produced that at least some of the accusations of Labour party antisemitism were malicious and their timing, beyond a shadow of doubt, politically motivated. All these accusations against Labour party members are assumed by the Report and the media to be clearly established instances of the extreme antisemitism that Labour is riddled by. But some we know to have been <a href="">false</a> and some <a href="">exaggerated</a>. </p> <p>In the end, this selectivity of narrative and treatment does a disservice to any genuine fight-back against antisemitism. Here it is particularly concerning that the report was signed off by two members of the Labour party (who, by the way, have a clear anti-Corbyn agenda) without appearing to express any concern about the need to investigate and clear up the accusations of antisemitism in their own party as a matter of urgency. But that can only be done when proper procedures are in place – as Chakrabarti’s maligned report insisted. As Tony Klug pointed out writing in the <em>Jewish Chronicle</em> on 5 May in <a href="">The problem is real but exaggerated</a>: “While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.”</p> <p>On a different note, it is undoubtedly true that while a few of the reported instances of antisemitism in and around the Labour party relate to classic antisemitism, most would appear to be connected with Israel and/or the ongoing war over Gaza. This is something the Committee seems to have failed to look into at all – though its obsession with a definition of antisemitism (see below) suggests that it is happy to allow these key distinctions to be elided. </p> <p>Here the need to be able to have an open, wide-ranging and honest discussion about Israel and Palestine is clearly crucial. And here the Committee’s intervention is not at all helpful, asserting without evidence of widespread “unwitting” antisemitism on campus “and within left-leaning student political organisations in particular” (Report, para 93). I won’t comment on this alleged campus antisemitism section except to draw attention to the <a href="">Open Letter to Home Affairs Select Committee</a> sent within hours of publication of the report, signed by over 300 students, which claimed: “[W]e believe this report’s selective and partisan approach attempts to delegitimise NUS, and discredit Malia Bouattia as its president [by suggesting she does not take the issue of campus antisemitism seriously]. An attack on NUS is an attack on the student and union movements. This is completely unacceptable and we cannot allow these claims against us to go unchallenged.”</p> <p>Compare Chakrabarti’s lucid contribution in her report with that of the Home Affairs Committee: “This is not to shut down debate about what has been one of the most intractable and far-reaching geopolitical problems of the post-war world, but actively to facilitate it. Labour members should be free and positively encouraged to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East. But surely it is better to use the modern universal language of human rights, be it of dispossession, discrimination, segregation, occupation or persecution and to leave Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust out of it? This has been the common sense advice which I have received from many Labour members of different ethnicity and opinion including many in Jewish communities and respected institutions, who further point to particular Labour MPs with a long interest in the cause of the Palestinian people with whom they have discussed and debated difficult issues and differences, in an atmosphere of civility and a discourse of mutual respect.” (Chakrabarti p. 12) </p> <h2><strong>Opposing Zionism</strong></h2> <p>Curiously, the Committee report echoes much of Chakrabarti in relation to discourse, but while Chakrabarti is forward-looking and educational (see quote above), the Committee’s approach is punitive. </p> <p>Chakrabarti’s condemnation of the use of certain language inveighed, rightly, against any “bitter incivility of discourse”, including her insistence that there was no place for the use of the word “Zio” ever, nor for “Zionist” as a term of abuse (recommendations accepted by the Labour party’s NEC in September). These are snidely dismissed by the Report (para 102) as “little more than statements of the obvious”. And yet lo, in para 32 of the Report we have this: “The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society... [Their use] should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.” It is hard to tell the Committee’s and Chakrabarti’s formulations apart, as the words are transmogrified into no longer being “little more than statements of the obvious”.</p> <p>The Committee seems clear that “’Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel” (para 32). But not really. Rabbi Mirvis’s opinion is given that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”. Mick Davis of the Jewish Leadership Council is quoted as saying that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism for “if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves” (paras 26 &amp; 27).</p> <p>The report is insistent that in a recent survey, 59% of Jews saw themselves as Zionist. Assuming this is the case, it still does not make Zionism a protected characteristic of Jewish identity. What if opinion among these people changed? Would their becoming anti- or non-Zionist now become a heretical position which the Jewish community could use to exclude members from it as no longer adhering to “the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves”? What indeed to make of the current 41% of the Jewish population who don’t identify as Zionist? Are they not real Jews as far as the Chief Rabbi or Mick Davis are concerned? The Report just leaves these contradictory strands hanging – giving the overwhelming impression that these are too complicated for ordinary mortals. Better leave them as no-go areas. </p> <p>Surely it is self-evident that Jews see themselves in multiple and contradictory ways? So any attempt to let Jews self-define what is or is not antisemitic soon runs into an impossible impasse – which Jews are accorded the franchise to define where other Jews may tread (especially when some sections of that community find almost any criticism of Israel likely to cause offence)? </p> <p>At every stage, the Committee buys into the view that criticism of Israel is a dangerous place to go. “It is clear, “says the Report that where criticism of the Israeli Government is concerned, context is vital.” And how does the Report contextualize it? “Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy, in which the actions of the Government are openly debated and critiqued by its citizens.” (Conclusions, para 2). Does it follow that any criticism by outsiders is likely to be offensive? Whatever happened to treatment of minorities as a benchmark of a healthy democracy? </p> <p>Indeed the Report cautions not simply against using Zionism as a term of abuse (as did Chakrabarti) but against using the term at all. Criticise “the Israeli government” not Zionists”, it says (para 32). And sometimes, indeed, this might be good advice. After all, the right to give offence does not translate into a duty to do so. But sometimes the use of terms like Zionism is coolly analytical and can’t just be done away with. </p> <p>Palestinians – some 750,000 of them – were dispossessed by a movement calling itself Zionist. How can they, and by extension those who support Palestinian rights today, explain this history by criticising “the Israeli government”? How can they be expected simply to regard Zionism as the timeless essence of a Jewish right to self-determination, above and beyond critique? Can <em>anything</em> be done in the name of Zionism without those who oppose it being allowed to <em>name</em> it?</p> <p>Leaving aside the debate of what Zionism might or might not have been historically, ask what it has become. Only one strand of Zionism has any political purchase today, and it is not a pleasant one. Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank continues unabated. Green-line Israel’s discrimination against its increasingly second-class Palestinian citizens, and their physical displacement in the Negev, rolls on. What Israel now needs is to be judged by what it is doing. It is Israel’s actions that delegitimise it, not any antisemitism of the left. And these actions, carried out by and on behalf of the Israeli government, are called – by that government – actions on behalf of Zionism.</p> <p>Of course the word “Zionist” can be a surrogate for “Jew” (just as the same danger, only a much more extreme variant, arises when Muslims are expected to distance themselves from acts of violent political Islam). Of course it can be used in an antisemitic manner. But it needs to shown to be the case, not simply assumed to be likely or, worse, read off from the very use of the term. </p> <p>Of course holding all Jews responsible for what the government of Israel does is wrong – indeed antisemitic. But who makes the elision between Jews, Israel and Zionism more enthusiastically than the representatives of the Jewish Community when they stand by Israel, right or wrong and claim to support it in the name of all Jews?</p> <p>This is the minefield that discourse on Israel-Palestine now has to negotiate on a daily basis but unfortunately the Home Affairs Committee has very little to say on how this can take place productively. Yet surely this is essential, not just in the democratic socialist party Labour aspires to be, but in our wider society where the parameters of debate can no longer be defined by a narrow elite. Again, Chakrabarti seems to have got this right: “We can facilitate free speech, whilst acknowledging the evidence that we have received that there have been some instances of undoubtedly antisemitic and otherwise racist language and discourse in the past and at the same time encouraging a civility of discourse which is respectful of each other’s diversity and sensitivities.” (Chakrabarti p.7)</p> <p>This is simply good advice both to avoid giving unnecessary offence and to move forward. Incivility of discourse is to be deplored in its own right and because it is a counter-productive way of doing debate (and democracy), allowing discussion of the important issues to be sidetracked – and thus avoided. In this case it can feed a moral panic about antisemitism, rather than dealing with the real instances of antisemitism (in our increasingly racist and intolerant society), in a politically effective, open and productive way.</p> <h2><strong>Redefining antisemitism</strong></h2> <p>As already mentioned, one of the severe criticisms that the Report has now made of Chakrabarti is that she failed to define antisemitism (e.g. para 118). Leaving aside the fact that for most of the twentieth century what constituted antisemitism was not in doubt, the politicisation of the debate in recent decades has not helped and Chakrabarti might well have felt this minefield was better avoided.</p> <p>Not the Committee, which insisted on jumping straight in, continuing a more than decade-long debate about how and to what extent criticism of Israel must be incorporated into a definition of antisemitism.</p> <p>There has been a consistent attempt since around 2005, to get what was a draft of a “working definition of antisemitism” published on the website of the European Union Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia – one never endorsed by that body or its successor the Fundamental Rights Agency – adopted as <em>the</em> definition of antisemitism. I dealt with the <a href="">history of this disputed definition</a> at length some years ago in <em>openDemocracy</em>, and refer readers to the argument developed there.</p> <p>In summary, suffice it to say here this document produced a “working definition”:</p> <p><em>Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.</em>(emphasis in the original)</p> <p>For clarification, this was illustrated with eleven examples of what “could, taking into account the overall context” be antisemitic.&nbsp;About half of the examples cited were concerned not simply with Jews but with how Israel was referred to. </p> <p>The trouble is that the definition is so vague as to be useless as the practical operational tool that was being sought at the time by the EUMC. The eleven examples provided of what “could, taking into account the overall context” be antisemitic, don’t resolve the problem. If they could be antisemitic, equally they might not be… No EU member state adopted the document and the Fundamental Rights Agency quietly laid it to rest, removing it from its website.</p> <p>The All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism which in 2006 had pressed for the government to adopt the definition had, by 2015 decided otherwise (<a href="">Report, Feb 2015, paras 9-11</a>). It looked as though this highly controversial definition was recognised as simply unhelpful in the wider discussion of combatting antisemitism.</p> <p>But the draft EUMC “working definition” took on a life of its own – as an ideological weapon to beat those who criticise Israel “too harshly”. Although it included the qualifier “could, taking into account the overall context” be antisemitic, there is in it nonetheless an underlying presumption that criticism of Israel is likely to be antisemitic unless proved otherwise. </p> <p>Now the Home Affairs Committee has resurrected this draft working definition (in the form adopted almost verbatim by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and referred to as the <a href="">IHRA definition</a>). It notes the objections but simply says “We broadly accept the IHRA definition, (para 24. and recommend (Conclusion, para 4) that it “should be formally adopted by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties” with two caveats – see below)<em>.</em></p> <p>But the Committee distorts the document in a crucial way. It claims (para 17) that the list of illustrative examples <em>are</em> antisemitic. It simply drops the all-important qualification, that they might, “taking into account the overall context”, be antisemitic.</p> <p>Was this done deliberately? One hesitates to suggest it as it would then be utterly dishonest. Or was it simply incompetence? If so it is of a high order. In any event it is astonishing that no-one on the Committee, or commentators to date, have remarked on it.</p> <p>In deference to representations made by “the Friends of Palestine” (para 21, a vague identification not clarified further in the Report) the Committee proposes to add two caveats to its (misrepresented) account of the IHRA definition, and says:</p> <p>[T]o ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate, the definition should include the following statements: </p> <ul><li>It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent. 
</li><li>It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent. 
(para 24)</li></ul> <p>Unfortunately, this doesn’t really help. To take the second statement, for example, in what sense can it <em>ever</em> be antisemitic “to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies”? What kind of caveat is this? The first caveat is in principle more helpful, a clear recognition that there is a problem with the strictures of the EUMC working definition. But it is contradicted by the Committee’s obvious eagerness to define a broad range of statements as antisemitic when it comes to Israel (para 17 again), giving encouragement to those who think like it, to find antisemitic intent. The presumption throughout, that criticism of Israel is dangerous ground to enter, is if anything strengthened – as, I submit, those who favour the EUMC-now-IHRA definition have always intended. If nothing else, it chills the atmosphere for the serious debate about Israel and Palestine that is so urgently needed. Although it can’t be quantified, anecdotal evidence from a number of Labour party branches suggest that many members now find this whole issue too difficult to discuss. Similarly on a number of university campuses there is pressure not to raise issues around Israel-Palestine on the grounds that these make some students feel “uncomfortable”.</p> <p>It is clear, however, that the debate about Israel-Palestine won’t go away. If the Home Office Committee had recognised this and tried more carefully to elaborate ways in which it could be developed constructively, it might have contributed to defusing less constructive reactions – particularly on campus – when the realities of Israeli politics are raised. While the occupation continues, while Palestinians within Israel are subject to increasingly discriminatory laws, attempts to understand the reality by employing concepts like “apartheid”, “settler-colonialism” or simply “Israeli racism” are bound to flourish. So too will non-violent campaigns to oppose oppression on the ground by exerting pressure on the Israeli government – and on the British to act more decisively – by means of grass-roots boycott and divestment campaigns and calls for sanctions. Diverting attention back into a recycled version of a tired, politicised definition of antisemitism will not help. By rolling up so much of what is intended as political criticism into what is purportedly antisemitic it is far more likely to debase the currency.</p> <p>The outlines of a genuinely workable definition of antisemitism is easily to be found, and indeed Chakrabarti should perhaps have ventured here. Professor David Feldman (later co-vice-chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry) provides a good foundation in his <a href=""><em>Sub-Report for the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism</em></a> for its investigation into <em>Antisemitism in Public Debate during and after Operation Protective Edge (Jul-Aug 2014)</em>. He writes:</p> <p>Specifically, I propose two distinct but complementary definitions of antisemitism. One definition focuses on <em>discourse, </em>the other focuses on <em>discrimination.</em></p> <p>1. When we consider discourse we focus on the ways in which Jews are represented. Here we can say, following the philosopher Brian Klug, that antisemitism is ‘a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’ Accordingly, antisemitism is to be found in representations of Jews as stereotyped and malign figures. One such stereotype is the notion that Jews constitute a cohesive community, dedicated to the pursuit of its own selfish ends. It will be important to ask whether this or other malign stereotypes figured in public debate on Operation Protective Edge.</p> <p>2. In addition to antisemitism which arises within the process of representation there is also 
antisemitism which stems from social and institutional practices. Discriminatory practices which disadvantage Jews are antisemitic. Taking a historical view, we can say that British society and the British state became less antisemitic in past centuries as Jews were allowed to live in the country, to pray together, to work, to vote and to associate with others in clubs and societies to the same degrees as their Christian fellow-subjects. Discrimination against Jews need not be accompanied by discursive antisemitism, even though in many cases it has been. If we apply this definition of antisemitism to public debate on Jews and Israel last summer and autumn we will need to ask whether any aspect of this debate threatened to discriminate against Jews.</p> <p>It is a practical definition and operational in its approach. It can easily be reformulated to be independent of and to go beyond its roots around Operation Protective Edge. For reasons still not clear, the Home Affairs Committee sidestepped engaging with it in favour of a reversion to a definition in which criticism of Israel returns as a central feature in talking about antisemitism.</p> <h2><strong>Antisemitism is special</strong></h2> <p>Chakrabarti was very clear that antisemitism had to be investigated in the wider context of racism in general: </p> <p>[My] clear view is that there is not, and cannot be, any hierarchy of racism. This must stand regardless of perceptions, realities or stereotypes about which racial groups may, or may not, be more established or more or less discriminated against at any given moment. (p.4)</p> <p>Of course antisemitism has its own specificities but for the Committee’s Report to suggest that the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism (which it claims is unappreciated by Jeremy Corbyn) is that “unlike other forms of racism, antisemitic abuse often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force rather than as an inferior object of derision, making it perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express antisemitic views”. (para 113). What about the accusations of hoarding wealth and goods, deployed against Ugandan Asians in the sixties, that drove so many of them to seek asylum in Britain? What about the Hutu view of Rwandan Tutsis as an exploitative and controlling minority? And as for this being a distinctly post-Second World War trope the Protocols of the Elder of Zion and Nazi antisemitism clearly saw Jews as “a malign and controlling force”.</p> <p>The Committee goes further: “The Chakrabarti report… is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism” (para 114).</p> <p>I have to admit to being one of those who cannot see how (or why) to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism; nor how to oppose one without opposing the other. Or to put it differently, I understand antisemitism as a specific form of racism directed towards Jewish people. Like all racisms it has its own specificities and these need to be clearly taken into account in any strategy to combat this particular form of racism. But equally, as David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group put it in the <a href="">JSG response to this Report</a>: “There is no separate solution for the problems that Jews face in Britain today. A society that regards Jews positively and treats them properly will be a society that treats all minorities properly.”</p> <p>It is hard to see what the Committee believes follows from its rigid separation of antisemitism from racism, but coupled with its insistence on trying to define out of court certain criticisms of Israel, this is bound to be counter-productive. </p> <p>The Israel-Palestine conflict has, for good or ill, become one of the moral touchstones of our age. The British government and indeed the Labour party may well support a two-state solution. But is it credible any longer to maintain that the status quo is&nbsp;provisional and that the Palestinians will soon be exercising their national, political and civil rights in their own state? Not in any future that Israel is currently offering. So the question increasingly posed on campuses, in the Jewish community and elsewhere – in short, wherever this is debated – is whether or not to be complicit in the indefinite denial of&nbsp;fundamental human rights to millions of people? This is a denial of rights being carried out by Israel, with occasional criticism but no effective action to stop it by western democracies. As <a href="">Tony Klug and Sam Bahour</a> suggested a few years ago, western democracies should stop letting Israel off the hook: “The laws of occupation either apply or do not apply. If it is an occupation, it is beyond time for Israel’s custodianship – supposedly provisional – to be brought to an end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian.”</p> <p>To repeat the Committee’s words: “Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy, in which the actions of the Government are openly debated and critiqued by its citizens.” (Conclusions, para 2). It is precisely Israel’s claim to be a defender of liberal democratic values while carrying out its policies of oppression, expansion, suppression of the Palestinians that causes so much offence. Other countries may indeed be far worse oppressors, but which other country at the same time tries to elicit our complicity by claiming to act in defence of our liberal-democratic values? Of course those who take these values seriously are likely to be very critical of Israel. Trying to police the borders of this criticism in the name of fighting antisemitism smacks of a cynical political motivation. It is a poor substitute for dealing with any of the issues, whether it is defending Palestinian human rights or tackling antisemitism at its roots in Britain.</p> <h2><strong>A final note on the style of the report</strong></h2> <p>It’s impossible to read the report without being struck by its all-too-often snide and judgmental tone, its cavalier use of evidence, its cherry-picking of statements made by witnesses to it, its failure to challenge and test the assertions made, and indeed its failure to call or cite witnesses who might have been more challenging of some of the statements made by Rabbi Mirvis and Jonathan Arkush speaking on behalf of an allegedly united Jewish community. The feeling that this reader is left with is that this failure must be because the Report’s authors agree with the opinions expressed. But all too often, that’s all they are. Opinions. Not facts.</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="/richard-kuper/hue-and-cry-over-ucu">Hue and cry over the UCU</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jonathan-rosenhead/jackie-walker-suspense-mystery">Jackie Walker: a suspense mystery</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/vassilis-petsinis/what-does-anti-semitic-party-look-like-in-europe-today">What does an anti-Semitic party look like in Europe today?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening uk Palestine Israel EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Anti-Semitism and the left Richard Kuper Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:05:41 +0000 Richard Kuper 106164 at Portrait of the artist and The Confession, Part One <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">An interview with the director of <a href="">The Confession</a>, Moazzam Begg’s story commissioned by BBC Storyville and the BFI - one of the most resonant modern stories for our times.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><em><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'>Ashish Ghadiali,Tariq Ramadan and Moazzam Begg in studio conversation about 'The Confession', 2016. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (RB): This summer you have been on tour around Britain with showings of your documentary film, </em><a href="">The Confession</a>, <em>followed by studio chats with Moazzam Begg – what drew you to this man and this process?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish Ghadiali (Ashish)</strong>: I set out to make a cinematic documentary. I felt it was important to get this story and this character into a space where it wasn’t being cut down to 10-second soundbites. </p> <p class="Body">When I asked Moazzam if he would be interested in participating in this project, I said to him that my sense was that although he was ubiquitous, he had become a kind of cardboard cut-out within the framework of contemporary media, someone who was wheeled on to represent a point of view that was already pre-packaged and formulated. </p> <p class="Body">I thought it was important to give space to the experience and to the humanity of the man in order to understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’. <span class="mag-quote-center">It was important to… understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’.&nbsp; </span></p><p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> Is that something that has concerned you for a long time, Ashish?</em></p> <p><strong>Ashish:</strong> Yes, instantly. Because my life changed, maybe slowly from 9/11 to 7/7, but there was a sense of something in the air. After the July 2005 terror attacks, I was suddenly being stopped and searched maybe once, maybe twice on the way to work, and that was upsetting because it was very clearly racial profiling. I would go into work in situations where I was the only non-white person in the room, and express that feeling of different treatment, and find that there was often sympathy, but often something less than sympathetic, a sort of growing sense that maybe it was OK that extra precautions were being taken, and that it wasn’t the end of the world, was it? People were scared, and they thought it was an understandable reaction. I too understood all of that. But it was a rupture in my own sense of identity.</p><p>There I was, a very confident British citizen, being asked by my Oxbridge-educated peers, people with ambitions to be the establishment, to get my head around accepting this different sort of treatment. With that acceptance, of course, they were entering a different way of thinking that basically denies my equality. I reacted really strongly. I was working in television at the time and my job was to develop ideas within factual entertainment and I was the only brown face in the team. For me it became essential that we now started to reflect on these issues that were going on, on the ground. The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging. </p><p class="Body">Up until that point British multiculturalism was something that we were proud of. This was before Trevor Phillips, who was made Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality became a pioneer of the shakedown. I was close to that whole thing. I used to work for one of his close friends, the company that made the recent Trevor Phillips film about ‘what British Muslims really think’. At the time, I remember his criticism of multiculturalism seemed outrageous, the ambition of someone trying to work his way deeper into the establishment. But it didn’t feel threatening. It didn’t seem to threaten my multiculturalism, which was simply hegemonic.</p> <p class="Body">After 7/7, however, one instantly entered a different world, of living in someone else’s paranoia. I tried to push that experience through within my work and it was immediately bounced back at me as being ‘niche’. Token efforts not to shut it down would quickly descend into farce. The closest I did get to expressing anything on the subject, I remember, was talking to an Evening Standard reporter about it outside Whitechapel tube station on the way to work. That ended up with a photo of me in the paper and a strapline saying, “I feel like a pariah” – which then became a running joke.&nbsp; The response in the workplace was to get that, and stick it up on the wall! All in all, the experience of that time made me distrust the media establishment as a place where I would be able to express my voice. <span class="mag-quote-center">The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging.</span></p> <p class="Body">At this point, one has to foreground the fact that the BBC commissioned this film, <em>The Confession</em>. It would not have got off the ground had it not been for them!</p> <p class="Body">But in 2005 I quit my job in TV and left the UK, because of my very strong reaction to this. By chance, in between the two terrorist attacks I went on a holiday to India and there was another terrorist attack there. But nobody suspected me of being part of the problem in India. </p> <p class="Body">So up till then I had been speaking about this issue of race in optimistic terms – that is for 25 years – as a British Asian. It had always seemed to me that my identity was something that the culture embraced, as represented in the novels of Hanif Kuresihi or Zadie Smith, the works of Talvin Singh or Nitin Sawney. This was something I was very confident about – despite the fact that there had always been a whisper that says, “You are not the same as the white majority and they don’t think of you as the same.” But up till then it was not a voice I gave much time to. All of a sudden it was a takeover, a wakeup call, you know! It’s time to think about race – it really is time for me to understand myself through the lens of race. <span class="mag-quote-center">It filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world.</span></p> <p class="Body">And it filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world. There are many borders dividing them and it is a fragmented world, but it is one in which I can sit in a tourist site in Iran and until I speak, people are convinced that I am Iranian. In Egypt or Palestine, Singapore&nbsp; or India, it is the same. For ten years my experience was across all of those spaces, and I really needed that to build up a new rooted sense of self. That is what I had to do at the time. </p> <p class="Body">To be honest, it was probably an artist’s journey, in search of identity, much in the same terms that Moazzam Begg frames his story about travelling out across the Islamic world in quest of <em>his</em> own identity as a Muslim. And there were mirrors of the same sort of quest undertaken by relatively privileged people that I read along the way. </p> <p class="Body">At some point along that journey, I wasn’t sure if I was coming back to the UK. I could see the way that things were turning&nbsp; – like the concerted declaration of the failure of multiculturalism – that didn’t fill me with any sense that something good was going to come out of all this. The reports from back home were of the rise of the EDL, of UKIP’s progress across England, and I was thinking about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and wondering about an authentic way of living in the world.</p> <p class="Body">I went to film school in Singapore for three years and then I started looking around for opportunities. It was about economic opportunity as much as anything, and ambition, wanting to make the films I wanted to make, and looking around for a place to make those films where I wasn’t ‘niche’.</p> <p class="Body">I worked in Bollywood for a year. I set up a film unit in Jenin refugee camp. I was a peripatetic screenwriter for a while living between Berlin and the south of Italy and working on commissions for an Austrian producer, so there were various experiments. <span class="mag-quote-center">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up.</span></p> <p class="Body">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up. So in the year before I started this project with Moazzam Begg, I ended up living in the house that I grew up in and clearing it out, clearing out thirty years of ‘stuff’, and realizing how much more polarized things had become, how deeply undermined the language of multiculturalism had been, how real the rise of UKIP was. We didn’t know that Brexit was imminent, but we did know that there had been a material change.</p> <p class="Body">One thing that really did that for me was the 2012 Jubilee! Suddenly I lived in Royalist Central. That had never been the case previously – so much fanfare and flag-waving took place that summer. I felt kind of removed from it. But as I was really trying to understand that question of identity, it also became absolutely clear to me that Britain <em>was </em>my home, and that multiculturalism wasn’t just an idea, but a lived reality for all of us. Our ability or inability to digest that is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">It became very, very clear to me that my role, my artistic journey, demanded of me that my voice express that reality. And that actually if you looked at it with a long lens – that little blip – you know, Robin Cook’s <em>chicken tikka masala</em> moment, switched off by Cameron’s ‘failure of multiculturalism’, is simply not the story. <span class="mag-quote-center">Our ability or inability to digest diversity is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="Body">The story is ultimately the story of human history, and the migrations of the twentieth century are really only the seeds of a new way of living collectively, that must emerge. But the culture for that process hasn’t yet been created, and that is our job.</p> <p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> I have been talking to Nando Sigona from Birmingham University about </em><a href="">superdiversity</a><em> in the UK and everywhere else. It seems remarkable, given the rapidly evolving levels of mixture by no means confined to London, that we are so in denial, and trapped by an ascendant, monocultural National Us.</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish: </strong>There is a direct line, I think, from the rhetoric of ‘integration’ to the bombing of civilians in Syria. That kind of liberal interventionist muscle comes from the same place as that call for ‘integration’ meaning assimilation. Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do! – but the sheer arrogance of that call for you to ‘integrate’ with me – this is obviously not a viable offer, and so it is always going to be disappointed, and so the result is always going to be violence. </p> <p class="Body">Anyway, I spent that year in the house of my childhood, and in the summer of 2014, at exactly the same time, ISIS conquered Mosul. Videos started to appear of British foreign fighters in the Middle East and a new wave of hysteria rose up. And I had a different lens on it. I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</p> <p class="Body">Let’s be clear, the war on terror was an utter failure. Terrorism is a much much greater problem now than it was in 2001, and there is a fairly clear line of causality running from the responses of the American and the British governments to the roots of the terrorism on the ascendant now. Why this is, is a difficult thing to talk about, because we live in an era of epic secrecy. We don’t know. And it is very important not to be mistaken for a conspiracy theorist when dealing with this material. But it is also really important to my bigger project that I don’t want more polarisation. I want more collective thinking and more rationality. <span class="mag-quote-center">Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do!</span></p> <p class="Body">So there are two ways of looking at it. There is the great conspiracy theory that a bunch of neocons sat around and realised that if they go for the oil, create chaos in the Middle East, then that is basically an opportunity to consolidate the military industrial complex and dominate the twenty first century.</p> <p class="Body">There is a second way of looking at it, which is that in a unipolar world, asymmetrical warfare was always likely to escalate as a strategy, and that you are dealing at some level with consciousness, and degrees of consciousness. </p> <p class="Body">On the project I was working on in the Jenin refugee camp where I lived, the idea was to give an opportunity for self-expression and voice to a community that had been devastated by the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, which was, at the time, the location of the highest concentration of suicide bombers in the world. </p> <p class="Body">In a place like that, what is it that appears to a young teenage boy living in those conditions as a political act ? What it is might be entirely counter-productive. It might sow the seeds for the total decimation of his people, of his way of life, and it might feed into the spectacle that counter-insurgency requires to justify its own excesses. </p> <p class="Body">But the fear that comes from terrorism, while it is also manufactured, is also real. And so it simply leads to a process of escalation. This account says that there is no great mind behind it all. But that what we are witnessing is actually a failure of mind.</p> <p class="Body">So my conclusion is this. Let’s assume the latter. Because the problem with the war on terror and the problem that it has made dominant, is that too many people make unfounded accusations, accusations not founded in evidence. <span class="mag-quote-center">I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</span></p> <p class="Body">Let’s assume it is the latter and that one thing has led to another and is spiralling out of control. What do we as concerned citizens need to worry about? What is the course of action that we need to start pursuing ? </p> <p class="Body">To my mind what we need to address is that this is leading towards the destruction of our civil liberties and our basic freedoms, and the rise of a new authoritarianism that is increasingly taking over aspects of western democracy, Donald Trump not being the least of these threats. </p> <p class="Body">That new authoritarianism is seeking in all kinds of ways to limit the space for political oppositional forms, whether it is through trade unions, forms of freedom of expression in schools or universities, whether it is the right of health workers to maintain the confidence of their patients, or social workers to maintain the confidence of their clients. All of these aspects of civilization as we know it are up for grabs at the moment. </p> <p class="Body">And so the rational attitude that I feel we need much more of now is just to look at that and say – OK, well, first of all, is this what we want? I believe that the majority of British citizens don’t want to live in a world where they are less free. That this is not the arc that is desired for the twenty first century. So, then we must ask, what is the narrative that has been driving this? And why? And I think art might be a key protagonist in all this. </p> <p class="Body"><em>Next week: Moazzam Begg and </em>The Confession.</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="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-thomas-ted-cantle/prevent-and-antiextremism-education">Prevent and anti-extremism education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-mills-narzanin-massoumi-david-miller/apologists-for-terror-or-defenders-of-human-righ">Apologists for terror or defenders of human rights? The Cage controversy in context</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-institutions_government/moazzam_begg_3328.jsp">Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/democracy-and-belonging">Democracy and belonging </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"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? Arab Awakening uk EU Syria Iraq UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Rosemary Bechler Ashish Ghadiali Sun, 23 Oct 2016 10:48:46 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Rosemary Bechler 106158 at Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Children seeking asylum in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes. The culture of disbelief so often criticised in the Home Office has now seeped into some local authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>&nbsp;“The only concern held by the assessors was that his shyness and apparent uncomfortable disposition may have been due to his being an adult attempting to hide his physical appearance and project an image of a young person.”</em> (Quote from a local authority age assessment)</p> <p>Two years ago, Coram Children’s Legal Centre <a href="">secured a victory</a> in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales for a victim of trafficking, known as ‘Y’. The case centred not on convicting Y’s traffickers of a criminal offence, nor on securing damages for the years of systemic abuse she had experienced having been kept as a domestic slave since the age of five. Instead, the legal battle centred on the decision taken by the local authority, to whom she had turned for support and protection, to dispute her age. </p> <p>Y knew her date of birth, but like many other asylum seekers and victims of trafficking who come from countries that do not register all births, or who have had to destroy their documentation while fleeing to the UK, she had no passport, birth certificate or other documentation to prove how old she was. Rather than accepting her account, the social workers carrying out an assessment of Y concluded that she was over 18, not 16 as she claimed, and moved her into accommodation with adults.&nbsp; That assessment could only be challenged in court, by initiating a judicial review of the local authority’s decision, and by spending three days in a ‘fact-finding’ hearing so that the judge could come to their own view with regard to Y’s age. In the event the judge believed Y and held that she was the age she claimed to be. </p> <p>After the case, Y pledged to ‘make the most of my life’ and went on to study child care at college. But the process of being disbelieved and of having to challenge the local authority legally had taken nearly three years: yet more time wasted on top of the ten years of her childhood she had already lost. Crucially, while the dispute was ongoing, she was also denied the <a href="">protection to which she was entitled as a victim of trafficking</a>, such was the focus on her chronological age rather than her needs and vulnerability.</p> <p>Each year, <a href="">at least one quarter</a> of all unaccompanied children claiming asylum in the UK have their ages disputed. These children are alone, without family, trying to rebuild their lives, often while <a href="">dealing with</a> bereavement, trauma, experiences of exploitation and abuse, and mental health problems. Their age is fundamental both to their access to local authority care and to the proper determination of their asylum, immigration or trafficking case, but these children are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes, during which they frequently do not receive the support and protection to which they are entitled. </p> <p><strong>A long, costly and damaging system</strong></p> <p>Assessing age is <a href="">extremely difficult</a>. Within different ethnic and national groups there are wide variations in young people’s growth and ages of puberty, and children may look and act older as a result of their experiences in their country of origin. Even when using medical evidence, it is impossible to identify a child’s exact chronological age, and a <a href="">margin of error of up to five years either side</a> applies. While the UK government has <a href="">focussed</a> on dental x-rays as a means of determination, the simple truth is that there is no magic bullet for establishing precise age. The system that has developed in the UK involves an age assessment conducted by social workers, with the only guidance being the criteria developed through jurisprudence as these assessments have been challenged in the courts. There is no appeal process; as demonstrated in the case of Y, the only way a child can challenge the outcome of the assessment is by judicial review.</p> <p>As a <a href="">new report</a> published by Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights, the age assessment process is long, costly and most importantly damaging to the children involved. In the 35 age dispute cases reviewed for the report, the length of time taken to resolve the issue of the child’s age ranged from ten months to over four years, with many children denied access to support, accommodation and appropriate education during that time.&nbsp; As one judge in a recent age assessment case in the Court of Appeal <a href="">stated</a>: ‘These appeals show how disputes as to age assessments can generate prolonged and costly litigation. The expense is bad enough. But even worse is the damage that delay and uncertainty may cause to the interests of children’.</p> <p>The case of ‘H’ highlights the many problems and safeguarding concerns raised by age disputes. Arriving in the UK at aged 16, having suffered years of abuse in Afghanistan, H was assessed to be an adult and dispersed to Home Office accommodation. The social workers had concluded that he looked older than 16 and that he was ‘deliberately trying to make himself appear younger’. Months later, despite concerns raised by a nurse&nbsp; working with H regarding his mental health and her firm belief that he was a child for whom it was dangerous to be housed with adults, H was assessed again to be over 18. Eventually he was detained in an immigration removal centre. Following a court order ordering his release, he was assessed by a third local authority, who found him to be the age he claimed to be.&nbsp; In all it took a year, three assessments, and costly legal action to resolve his case, during which time he was detained for nearly a month. </p> <p><strong>Unnecessary disputes</strong></p> <p>A principal problem is that, instead of accepting the child’s age where there is no reason to doubt it and applying the benefit of the doubt <a href="">in line with case law</a>, immigration officials and social care professionals regularly dispute age and put the children through unnecessary age assessments. The <a href="">culture of disbelief</a> so often criticised in the Home Office has seeped into some local authorities, and this, as well as conscious and unconscious attitudes to asylum, immigration and race, affects how assessments are conducted.&nbsp; Many assessments examined for the report showed unsound conclusions frequently based solely on the child’s appearance and demeanour. If one child is aggressive this is deemed to be ‘adult behaviour’; if another child is passive it is used to draw the same conclusion.</p> <p>More worryingly, the focus on protecting the child and determining their needs is often lost entirely, and the risks and potential damage of treating a child as an adult overlooked. While it is important to be vigilant so that adults claiming to be children are not placed in foster care or in schools with younger children, it is equally important to ensure that <em>every</em> child is protected and that children do not end up placed in immigration detention, or at risk of abuse in unsupervised accommodation with adults.</p> <p><strong>A less contentious and distressing process</strong></p> <p>What is needed is a shift in the default position of the Home Office and local authorities so that the age of a child is disputed only when there is clear reason to doubt their account of how old they are or the evidence they provide. Where an assessment is necessary, it should be conducted in a fair and lawful manner, with the views of independent professionals feeding into a holistic, multi-agency assessment process. While supporting migrant children imposes sometimes unwelcome financial burdens on cash-strapped local authorities, the financial burden of protracted legal challenges is significant too. Rather than litigation, an alternative, less distressing resolution process should be considered to reduce the contentiousness and costs of disputes and enable faster resolution. In addition, the Home Office, as a matter of urgency, must take further action to ensure that no unaccompanied child is placed in immigration detention, an ongoing concern <a href="">raised</a> by charities such as the Refugee Council.</p> <p>The vulnerabilities of young refugees and migrants can often be forgotten in the race to prioritise immigration control over individual rights. No organisation working with children in the immigration system would deny that there may be occasional cases of people claiming to be younger than they are. Nor can it be ignored that some children will be briefed by smugglers who facilitate their journeys to this country. But these exceptional cases should not shape the whole system for children who do not have proof of their age, and should not excuse a process that does not adequately consider the needs and rights of children within it.</p><p><em>This article was first published in June 2013</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/us-immigration-bill-silence-on-deportation-of-children">US immigration bill: silence on the deportation of children </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nando-sigona/life-in-limbo-for-uk%E2%80%99s-irregular-migrant-children-and-families">Life in limbo for UK’s irregular migrant children and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/triple-vulnerability-lives-of-britains-undocumented-migrant-children">Triple vulnerability: the lives of Britain&#039;s undocumented migrant children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/usa-dreaming-comprehensive-immigration-reform">USA: DREAMing comprehensive immigration reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lorena-cotza/who-does-this-world-belong-to-unaccompanied-immigrant-children-in-italy">&quot;Who does this world belong to?&quot; - unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zubair-gharghasht/afghan-voice-radio-frontline-of-%E2%80%98new%E2%80%99-afghanistan">Afghan Voice Radio: The frontline of a ‘new’ Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-sachrajda/uk-immigration-policy-more-than-enforcement-issue">UK immigration policy: more than an enforcement issue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/deconstructing-detention-in-britain">Deconstructing detention in Britain</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"> England </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk England europe voices from exile institutions & government Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Kamena Dorling Thu, 20 Oct 2016 02:45:33 +0000 Kamena Dorling 73132 at The NHS - is it all about the money, money, money? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens appear before the Health Select Committee in an emergency session on NHS finances, Paul Hobday explains why 'where's the money coming from' is the <em>wrong question</em>.</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="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Surprise! The UK has discovered it has some older people.</em></p><p><span>Whenever NHS funding is debated – as it will be this afternoon when </span><a href="">health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS boss Simon Stevens appear before the Health Select Committee</a><span> - the first question asked is “where is the money coming from”? That seems to be the only NHS question new Prime Minister Theresa May is interested in – and it is </span><a href="">rumoured she has already made it clear the answer is “not from government”.</a></p><p> <span>“<span><span><span>Where is the money coming from”</span></span></span><span><span><span> is an understandable and obvious question </span></span></span><span><span><span>to ask - </span></span></span><span><span><span>but </span></span></span><span><span><span>it is also </span></span></span><span><span><span>the wrong one.</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>Political debate about the NHS at the 2015 General Election was pathetically superficial. All the main parties tried to outdo each other by claiming they would “spend more”. The waste of the “market” system wasn’t mentioned, as all had colluded in its conception. Rather than intelligent offerings, the public was offered unexplained slogans – notably, “a seven day NHS” without any explanation of how it would cost or how it would be staffed. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span><span>Curiously, few in the media asked wh</span></span></span><span><span><span>ere the money for </span></span></span><span><span><span><em>this </em></span></span></span><span><span><span>was coming from. </span></span></span><span><span><span>Not before the election, anyway!</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>Only the Government thinks the NHS is adequately funded. Everyone else lives on Planet Earth. So <a href="">the Liberal Democrats revive the corpse of a hypothecated tax</a>, while <a href="">enemies of Bevan’s NHS want to get ‘co-payments’ on the agenda</a>, saying we have too many elderly for the NHS to cope and “we” can no longer afford a comprehensive and universal service.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>Strange where all these “elderly” have suddenly appeared from , and that it seems to be unique to England.</span></span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span><strong>What does it mean to say “we can’t afford it”? And </strong></span></span></span><span><span><span><em><strong>wh</strong></em></span></span></span><span><span><span><em><strong>o </strong></em></span></span></span><span><span><span><em><strong>exactly </strong></em></span></span></span><span><span><span><strong>can’t afford it ?</strong></span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>If the NHS is “unaffordable” <em>to </em><em>Britain </em><em>as a whole </em>then the claim is that the sixth richest country in the world cannot look after the health of its citizens.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>If the claim is that the NHS is unaffordable <em>to the Exchequer, </em>then this merely exposes its political priorities as to what <em>is </em><em>and isn’t </em>publicly funded (in over-simplistic terms, what our taxes are spent on). </span></span></span> </p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>Other systems are even less “affordable”. Public funding of healthcare is the fairest, most efficient <em>and cheapest</em> way of paying for it. Moving towards an alternative system is a political choice – and a neoliberal one.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>After all, if the State “can’t afford” healthcare for all, the cost must be devolved down to the individual citizen. Assuming the Government leaves us with a basic core safety-net NHS for the poor, then top-up or full health insurance would be needed for good healthcare provision. </span></span></span> </p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>It probably won’t bother the super-rich who would pay direct. They wouldn’t trouble themselves with insurance, although even they are in for a nasty shock when it comes to emergency care.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>The rest of us would be paying from one pocket some general taxation towards what is left of a decimated NHS, like Medicaid in the USA, and from the other pocket insurance premiums. But the money all comes from the same pair of trousers. And both pockets would have to fund bloated administration costs of this inefficient system.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>Those without money in their pocket would go without. And even those lucky enough to be able to pay for the best insurance possible would soon learn that they need a third pocket - to fund the insurance companies “excesses” and the claims they reject.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>So rather than healthcare being delivered based on clinical need rather than ability to pay—one tier—we will end up with three tiers. The elite would just spend their wealth and bonuses directly on healthcare for themselves – but not for anyone else. The next tier would get their care through insurance, and the third poor tier would rely on the new Medicaid NHS. </span></span></span> </p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>Add all that up and the nation’s total expenditure on health would be much more for a worse, more inefficient and wasteful system where people at the top end will get things done that aren’t even necessary, but the poor folk at the bottom will die through lack of care.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>Those who have never liked the NHS , have peddled this “we can’t afford it” nonsense since 1948. What they really mean is they don’t </span></span></span><span><span><span><em>want </em></span></span></span><span><span><span><em>t</em></span></span></span><span><span><span>o pay for it. But it’s worse than that. They don’t want to help others in a time of need. This argument has prevented, from chronic underfunding through its entire history, the NHS from blossoming from the struggling duckling that many tried to strangle at birth into the wonderful healthy swan it should be.</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>When politicians want to sell us an idea like HS2 Railway, the Millennium Dome or new airport runways they bang on about the economic benefits of such projects outweighing the costs and always dodge the question “<strong>Where will the money come from?”</strong></span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>But </span></span></span><span><span><span>every £1 spent on healthcare actually benefits the Nation’s economy by a return of more than £3. </span></span></span><span><span><span>Why don’t we hear this more often? It seems some</span></span></span><span><span><span> politicians have another agenda, </span></span></span><span><span><span>simply to get</span></span></span><span><span><span> rid of the NHS. After 68 years they argue more forcefully than ever we can’t afford an NHS.</span></span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>But they are wrong.</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>The right question is “<strong>Can we afford </strong><em><strong>not </strong></em><em><strong>t</strong></em><strong>o have an NHS?”</strong></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span><strong>And the answer is undoubtedly no.</strong></span></span></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> ourNHS uk ourNHS Paul Hobday Tue, 18 Oct 2016 12:46:40 +0000 Paul Hobday 106042 at We can't allow the Co-operative movement to be implicated in racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May is using co-ops as part of her divide and rule strategy. And the Co-operative movement must fight back.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Textbody"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Leaf members.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Leaf members.jpg" alt="" title="" width="369" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Members of the New Leaf Co-op, Edinburgh. Image: New Leaf Co-op.</span></span></span></p><p class="Textbody">Theresa May’s Government has been putting forward proposals that you might expect to be music to the ears of the left. These have included strengthening communities’ abilities to buy important assets, putting workers’ representatives on boards, a right to mutualise – to turn ordinary companies into John Lewises – in certain circumstances, more investment for small businesses.</p> <p class="Textbody">Like the ‘Big Society’, they are the latest in a trend in the right wing’s appropriation of ideas from the left and the co-operative movement. They have been met with a mixed response from both left and right, and from small and big business, and with a <a href="">cautious, limited and sceptical welcome</a> from the major UK co-operative sector body, Coops UK. Others have called out the mutualism agenda as a way to <a href="">privatise the NHS</a> and <a href="">dismantle the public sector</a>.</p> <p class="Textbody">However, there's another big-picture reason to be sceptical about the government’s proposals on a right to mutualisation and putting workers on boards, than that it's not as good as proper cooperative workers' control.</p> <p class="Textbody">These proposals are part of a populist narrative the government is constructing of ‘Taking Back Control’. It’s a grand narrative which brings together their appeals across the spectrum, to the working class, small business, Brexit voters and the far right. It makes sense of how their proposals on mutuals, worker representation and community ownership, work alongside their racist populist policies on employment, migration and Prevent. They are two sides of the same coin.</p> <p class="Textbody">If we just cautiously welcome their talk of mutualisation and community control, and don't link it to their racism and scapegoating of non-UK nationals, we are complicit with this divide and rule policy. White British people will be touted more employment rights, non whites and non-UK nationals will get harrassed and victimised, and we will be complicit.</p> <p class="Textbody">I work for an independent food retail co-op in Edinburgh. I think that co-ops have an important role to play, by stepping up and calling the government out on this, and supporting anti-racist activists in our communities. I’m mainly writing to others in the co-operative movement, because that’s where I work and because co-ops are fundamentally based on values of democracy, internationalism and concern for our communities. But I hope what I’m saying will be of interest to anyone who shares these values.</p> <p class="Textbody"><strong>Taking back control</strong></p> <p class="Textbody">The promise of “taking back control” is the grand narrative which May hopes to convince us all to play our allotted roles in the government’s basic divide-and-rule strategy. It is a dog-whistle, vague enough to cover the hopes and fears of anyone who feels they have little control over their economic circumstances or their communities. In some ways it is a mutation of the ‘Big Society’ narrative, but as a big picture story it is, suddenly, far nastier and divisive. It doesn’t say ‘we are all in it together’ – it says that foreigners have taken our power away, and now we need to take it back. It draws on a chauvinist nationalism which is at odds with co-operatives’ traditions of openness and internationalism.</p> <p class="Textbody">But divide-and-rule strategies come with carrots as well as sticks. May’s raft of proposals such as putting workers’ representatives on company boards, a Right to Mutualise, increased support for Community Rights to buy assets, more investment for new or growing businesses, and her talk of <a href="">“reforming capitalism”</a> is definitely a carrot. Clearly from a co-operative’s point of view, all of these have big flaws – <a href="">as Co-operatives UK has been good at pointing out</a>. And as a sector I think we’ve been good at engaging critically with this Conservative approach. However as a sector I believe we have not been thinking big enough and living up to our open, democratic, internationalist principles.</p> <p class="Textbody">For example, when Coops UK’s Secretary General Ed Mayo wrote recently for the Huffington Post, <a href="">cautiously welcoming and critiquing</a> these policies, he sounded far too supportive of a government whose overall direction is so destructive to the social values of mutual aid and solidarity that are key to our movement. It is hard to come away from the article without feeling that it is broadly supportive of this government. We need our sector bodies to be looking at the bigger picture and not missing opportunities like this (which came in the middle of a news cycle about the government’s racist employment proposals) to speak out for co-operative values, not just our business interests.</p> <p class="Textbody"><strong>They go low, we go high</strong></p> <p class="Textbody">If we’re going to engage with these carrots, it’s up to us to also engage with the sticks. Because the point of a divide-and-rule strategy is to give chosen in-groups enough of a buy-in to not rock the boat. We must not be complicit as our society is set against each other.</p> <p class="Textbody">On the one side of the political landscape of “Taking Back Control” are promises to UK-national workers, including support for rights to representation, mutualisation and community ownership. But scapegoats are needed from whom to “take back control”. And so the Tories, who previously scapegoated asylum seekers, migrants, and Muslims, have now turned on all “foreigners”.</p> <p class="Textbody">Things have become very frightening. We have become used to the government <a href="">using the language of the National Front</a>, normalising Islamophobia, and refusing to take serious action against the wave of attacks on Eastern Europeans, Muslims, gay people. And if we take back the slice of control we are offered, and don’t speak out for those the government is scapegoating, we are complicit – it is as simple as that.</p> <p class="Textbody">As the co-operative sector, we can’t let ourselves be complicit. There are some in the business sector who will speak out against the government’s scapegoating of ‘foreigners’ on economic grounds – but realistically very few businesses and business leaders are going to speak out on the grounds of basic human solidarity. If anyone is going to, it will be the co-operative sector – if we want anyone to speak out, we need to rise to the occasion.</p> <p class="Textbody">We can support our local anti-racist campaign groups, asylum seeker and migrant support <a href="">organisations</a>, speaking out in our personal lives, our workplaces and supply networks. We need to <a href="">support those challenging</a> the <a href="">Islamophobic Prevent agenda</a>, and <a href="">racial profiling in schools</a>. We could donate some of our time or our money to local voluntary groups. We could close our businesses on February 20th to support the <a href="">Migrants’ Strike</a>, <a href="">“A Day Without Us”</a> (and also symbolically assert the right to secondary action). We could collectively refuse to give the government data on our non-UK national employees – a sinister threat <a href="">even if we will not be obliged to publish the data</a>. Just some ideas for starters!</p> <p class="Textbody">We can also make sure the organisations which speak for us, such as <a href="">Co-operatives UK</a>, <a href="">The Plunkett Foundation</a>, and <a href="">Students for Cooperation</a>, know that we want them to speak out for those who are being targeted by this frightening strain of racist populism – even if it makes it harder to speak up for our own sector. Our sector bodies have a mandate to look after our interests, but right now we need to let them know we want them to be actively speaking up for others too.</p> <p class="Textbody">Co-ops have always lead the way on speaking out for the open, democratic values of internationalism, solidarity, and concern for all in our communities, which our modern movement was founded on. Theresa May is trying to play us – so we need to “go high”, remember <a href="">what we believe in</a> – speak out against the government and get involved in anti-racist activism.</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 Richard Shore Tue, 18 Oct 2016 09:57:15 +0000 Richard Shore 106031 at High-wire politics, the SNP after conference and the next independence campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The SNP membership see the vast challenges in front of them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-17 at 17.42.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-17 at 17.42.54.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nicola Sturgeon addressing SNP conference - Peter Murrell.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The SNP’s rise to become Britain’s third party – in parliamentary seats and mass membership – has corresponded with its annual conference adopting the importance, scale and feel of one of the two UK big parties.</p><p dir="ltr">This is of course fitting and appropriate, but still something of a transition given the SNP are obviously a Scottish-only party, and in places maintain the feel and ethos of a party which for decades has defined itself as a family and community.</p><p dir="ltr">The mood of a party of 120,000 plus members and such a large conference gathering is difficult to tell – but what can be gauged is that it is a complex one. Many, if not most, members have a whole host of different emotions – a sense of pride at the SNP’s successes and achievements, a qualified upbeatness about some of the challenges ahead, and awareness of the huge storms gathering post-Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">It is self-evident that Nicola Sturgeon as leader, and the leadership of the party in general, are trusted by the party’s grassroots to make the right calls and judgements navigating the wreckage of Brexit and deciding the timing of indyref2. </p><p dir="ltr">It goes without saying that Nicola Sturgeon is enormously popular with party members, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t shades of doubt. Beyond public pronouncements and debates at conference, party members talked openly about the difficult choices on independence post-Brexit, framing and winning indyref2, and at the same time, governing and attempting to protect public services while having a coherent legislative programme.</p><p dir="ltr">Nicola Sturgeon has been careful and considered in her statements – on Brexit and indyref2 – doing so to such an extent that some can misconstrue her seriousness and steel. One example being Jason Cowley, editor of the ‘New Statesman’, mistaking Sturgeon’s tone on the BBC ‘Marr’ Show for meaning that ‘she clearly doesn’t want indyref2’. Less than one hour later on ITV’s ‘Peston’, Sturgeon confirmed that it was ‘highly likely’ that indyref2 would take place before 2020.</p><p dir="ltr">But there are tensions in the party which isn’t surprising given the stakes. Newly elected depute leader Angus Robertson ruffled some feathers when he said to CommonSpace that ‘ideology’ should have no part in the winning of independence. That did seem to be taking John Swinney’s ‘centre ground’ strategy to ridiculous levels and begged many questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Sturgeon’s keynote speech on Saturday was a daring one for her – and any Scottish or British party leader. It was, while light on policy, powerful written in its outlook, and contained passages it would have been unimaginable for Alex Salmond to have uttered.</p><p dir="ltr">Large sections of her speech were shaped by an emotional literacy about policies, politics and society, which was audacious. To talk of the importance of love in terms of the oft-mistitled ‘care industry’ was moving to those in the hall, and clearly Sturgeon herself, but carried a wider message about the higher purpose of what politics and government is meant to be about, of which the symbolism of the Baby Boxes was but one part.</p><p dir="ltr">The most important passages came when she said that there is much more which ‘unites us as a country than will ever divide us’ and explicitly challenged the political divisions of recent years and referendums. In particular, there was a daring quality to admitting that not only do No voters have feelings and emotions, but their sense of being threatened by independence had to be recognised.</p><p dir="ltr">Here Sturgeon drew on her experience of Brexit to say she awoke in the Scotland of June 24th to find that ‘I felt as if part of my identity was being taken away’ and then connected this to the experience of the indyref, where many No voters felt the same, stating ‘it gave me a new insight into how those who voted No might have felt if 2014 had gone the other way.’</p><p dir="ltr">This may seem obvious to those of the non-independence persuasion, but it was all the more powerful for it, if a bit belated coming over two years after the indyref. I have consistently argued that independence doesn’t win by its most partisan zealots berating, hectoring and questioning the motives of No voters in 2014. Such an approach is even evident in the ‘Are You Yes Yet?’ as if No voters are expected to recant for their sins and responsibly for every supposed crime committed by those evil Tories.</p><p dir="ltr">It is still not clear how the SNP will reframe and recalibrate the politics of independence, but this is an important first step. It has to in tone and content be consistently held to and inform a different kind of strategy and offer. This will be one which is empathising of No voters in the past and now, and has an honesty, humbleness and humanity, rather than populist, challenging and sometimes cantankerous qualities of 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">SNP members and activists are aware that lots of work needs to be done. They are aware that with success and dominance comes the problems of expectation, discipline and proper opposition and scrutiny. They recognise that nine years into the SNP in office they have often escaped from much rigorous opposition or proper scrutiny, and eventually, that this comes back and hurts the SNP.</p><p dir="ltr">There are even in places soft anxieties about the cumulative effect of too much centralisation and scooping up powers into the hands of Scottish government ministers. And there is a growing awareness that the relationship between the party and wider movement, often alluded and referred to by the leadership, has to become more than just tokenistic, where the latter are only trawled out for a tokenistic reference point.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, as we come up for a decade of Nationalist Scotland, there is a widespread feeling that both independence and wider policies need a richer hinterland than just ministers and special advisers, with once or twice yearly party debates the only other input. The question of pro-independence independent resources, whether it is the absence of a conventional think tank and other research institutes, has become more widely talked about. That is at least some sort of progress, but action is urgently needed, particularly if any indyref2 is merely a couple of years away.</p><p dir="ltr">The Scotland of 2016 is a very different country from that of only two or three years ago. But nothing lasts forever and no political mood or party dominance goes on into the future. Scotland has gone through huge waves of change: politically, economically, socially and culturally in recent decades and that isn’t going to stop. One SNP member reflected at a fringe that: ‘Labour’s 1979 referendum shafted the SNP, whereas the SNP’s 2014 referendum shafted Labour’, touching on some of what has happened has been unexpected and unpredicted, and that this might be the same for the future.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />There was an awareness of that around SNP conference and an understanding that the party leadership has a window of opportunity to flesh out a strategy an approach to independence and the future politics of Scotland. In all likelihood, some of this will disappoint some of the more left-wing elements in the SNP and beyond. Already the talk of ‘Red Nicola’ (which was always ridiculous) has gone away, but others have shown disillusionment that independence will be presented as ‘a new normal’, as Theresa May and her Brexiteer government burn down the house in pursuit of a xenophobic, insular nationalism. This latter phenomenon is both an opportunity and threat to the SNP and cause of independence.</p><p dir="ltr">A second indyref is even more of a high wire risk for the SNP than first time, because until the very end of the first campaign, few expected Yes to win. Next time, assuming there is a next time, independence will be the favourite to win, and that changes everything: the nature of the offer, scrutiny and debate of it, and how the British state and No voters respond and react.</p><p dir="ltr">No doubt some of this future will involve the same or even more noise and hysteria than 2014, but in places, it requires a politics of mutual respect, of the kind articulated by Sturgeon on Saturday. For if Scotland has a more than even chance of becoming independent in the next few years, it has to happen by not insulting half the voters as our equivalent of ‘deplorables’. Instead, we have to win by acting now with the decency, humility and honesty, as if we were already independent today.</p><p dir="ltr">There are numerous convulsions ahead. There is the role the Scottish Parliament has in any Brexit negotiations – which might not constitute a ‘veto’ but involves the prospect of a legislative consent or Sewel motion. Is it really possible that Brexit’s clarion call of ‘Taking Back Control’ is really going to end up with the empty theatre of the Great Repeal Bill, lots of UK executive diktat, and the Scottish and other devolved parliaments and assemblies being marginalised? Maybe such is the reality of British parliamentary sovereignty.</p><p dir="ltr">What happens if the UK negotiates a soft Brexit that respects Scotland’s interests? Angus Robertson says it would mean ‘we would not go ahead with a referendum’. Then there is what happens to the powers coming back from the EU to the UK which will mean enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament on agriculture, fisheries and the environment: devo max Brexit or devoexit.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps most critically, if a hard Brexit emerges there is the question of what the nature of the UK/rUK will be across these isles – which extends far beyond the media and political elite obsession with the single market. From this stems the huge democratic question, of whether Theresa May, if push comes to shove, would grant the Section 30 order of the Scotland Act 1998 (as David Cameron did in 2012) to allow a binding second referendum. </p><p dir="ltr">At the moment, we have no signs either way on May’s intent, but to refuse Scotland’s claim would be an act of constitutional vandalism and one which in effect ripped up the ‘equal partnership’ of the UK. That would give the cause of Scottish independence (as in Catalonia) the democratic mantle, and provide a bumpy, but surely inevitable road to eventual independence. These are dramatic and historic times, and Nicola Sturgeon’s step-by-step diplomacy is sensible, but the SNP are going to need to find new allies and aid a deeper culture of pluralism and debate if they are to convincingly win indyref2: and that will require multi-tasking of the highest order. The SNP have travelled far and taken Scotland far, but some of the biggest challenges yet await it.</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 Gerry Hassan Mon, 17 Oct 2016 16:47:13 +0000 Gerry Hassan 106021 at Is Corbynomics a return to the socialist past or a vision of the progressive future? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn's economic programme isn't about taking us back to the past, but embracing the challenges of today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, by David Holt.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">After months of a very public civil war and heated campaigning, &nbsp;Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as Labour leader with an even greater democratic mandate. His victory signals a potentially radically new direction for the party. Yet is this a return to an unelectable socialist past or a the first step toward an exciting progressive future?</p><p dir="ltr">In this spirit, Corbyn last month introduced a “<a href="">10 point vision for Britain</a>” that promises to “<a href="">rebuild and transform</a>” the country. Specifically, it promises full employment, homes for all, security at work, a renationalized NHS,&nbsp;free education, progressive taxes, and end to excess pay to executives and reduce economic inequality.</p><p dir="ltr">These ideas are quite modest when compared to social democratic programs throughout much of northern Europe. Free childcare, protected workers’ rights and strong social safety net are far from radical outside the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, this so-called “<a href="">Corbynomics</a>” offers a profoundly different vision of society and the purpose of government than what has been advocated by either the Conservatives or New Labour. It updates a once cherished ideal that ‘freedom from want’ is necessary to ensuring personal dignity, individual freedom and collective democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">It is an economic and social commitment to equality and public welfare that resuscitates 20th century social democratic ideals for the new millennium. It is a full scale effort to once again put these values at the heart of economic and social policy in the 21st century. </p><p dir="ltr">The specifics of this agenda makes clear that Corbynomics is much more than a standard plan to improve economic growth or reduce the debt. The offer of free childcare eases the financial hardship of having a family while giving children from all backgrounds a shared social starting point. The commitment to stronger worker’s rights reduces the anxiety caused by precarious employment and returns to employees a real democratic voice within a rapidly changing economy. The renationalization of the railways reflects how essential “services” like transportation should once again prioritize people over profits.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet it is also a updating of these ideals for meeting modern challenges almost wholly unimaginable in the past. The bold “green economy” initiative recognizes the looming threat posed by climate change and the opportunity it presents for transforming our energy usage and economy. The pledge to end “aggressive wars” speaks to a new foreign policy that emphasizes shared development and international solidarity to combat corporate globalization, rising xenophobia and perpetual international conflicts over power and resources.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbynomics is therefore a <a href="">fundamental rethinking</a> of contemporary economic “truths” and ideologies. It wants to replace the “neo-liberal” consensus that has been in place since Thatcher and Reagan. It proposes a social democratic solution for ending “boom and bust” economic cycles. The goal is to unite these old and new socialist principles with the creation of a sustainable progressive economy. </p><p dir="ltr">Shadow Chancellor John Mcdonnell has been the public face of these efforts to challenge outdated &nbsp;“<a href="">Westminster dominated views</a>”. He has been a forceful advocate for renewed socialist policies like “<a href="">people’s quantitative easing</a>” that would require the Bank of England to produce money for needed public investment. He has also spearheaded the “<a href="">New Economics</a>” lecture series that aims to bring fresh perspectives from top economists to citizens across the country. </p><p dir="ltr">These measures are meant to infuse government with a reinvigorated sense of socialist experimentation. Corbynomics is not merely a set of dry policy prescriptions. Instead, it is trying to give public policy the same excitement and innovation that is presently usually associated with the marketplace.</p><p dir="ltr">The immediate hope is that “Corbynomics” can win over those dissatisfied with austerity and Tory rule and deliver an eventual Labour victory in the general election. By providing a coherent and positive alternative to both new Labour and the Conservatives, it has the potential to take advantage of the <a href="">anti-establishment mood</a> of many voters and direct it in a more progressive direction.The real challenge, though, is whether Corbyn and his supporters can shift the national “center ground”. The leftwing proposals of Corbyn continue to be seen by many as “<a href="">too good to be true</a>” – nice ideas but unaffordable. This is the exact opposite of Conservative policies such as the financial bailout and austerity that were presented as “undesirable” but “necessary”. </p><p dir="ltr">Corbynomics threatens to reverse this, highlighting public investment as essential to national survival and prosperity that is imperiled by radical “free market” thinking. It is a new story of economic and social progress. It is cuts not investment that is destroying Britain and it is neoliberalism that is endangering the welfare of nation and the majority of its population.</p><p dir="ltr">Crucial, in this respect, is showing that 20th century social democracy can be updated to meet 21st century challenges. That Corbynomics points the way to a better future and is not just nostalgia for a long since gone past.</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/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/dont-believe-corbyn-bashers-economic-case-against-public-owners">Don&#039;t believe the Corbyn bashers - the economic case against public ownership is mostly fantasy</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 Peter Bloom Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:54:06 +0000 Peter Bloom 106010 at Nonlethal security – supporting peace by reducing the damage of war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Military technologies are becoming increasingly lethal and unpredictable year by year and month by month. There’s more than one alternative.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kashmiri man and child watch as Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard at an temporary checkpoint during curfew in Indian controlled Kashmir, Oct.10, 2016. Dar Yasin/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Quite rightly, most efforts to stop war focus on its causes. If the problems can be resolved and war prevented, so much the better. Of course stopping a war doesn’t ensure the end of injustice or oppression and on occasion a ‘just’ war may be the only way to end a tyranny.</p> <p>But in all too many wars the death and damage soon far outweigh the original hurt. The process of lethal warfare generates new reasons for conflict. War is not a great way of managing international security and without such security, it’s hard to create a just and equitable world.</p> <p>I agree totally that to avoid warfare in the future we must improve our current political and economic systems. openDemocracy is <a href="">concerned with these very issues</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Constraining aggressors</strong></h2> <p>But even under the most optimistic scenario armed conflict is not going to disappear overnight. Unprovoked aggression can always be expected. I’m suggesting therefore that we accept that physical conflict between nations is at times inevitable but try to reduce and even eliminate its damage. We can do this by constraining aggressors with nonlethal devices.</p> <p>I’ve found that a number of peace activists are suspicious of this approach. They argue that it distracts from the main aim of doing away with war. They also say, with some justification, that any kind of warfare – even without death or injury – is a manifestation of violence.</p> <p>Bearing these objections in mind, let’s look at the possibilities of a nonlethal approach to international security. </p> <p>Towards the close of the twentieth century, we were quite optimistic about the state of conflict around the world. The USSR crumbled away, the nuclear stockpile diminished and democratic government appeared to be spreading. </p> <p>Today, the mood is much more sombre. War in the Middle East and Africa continues while cities around the world are threatened with terrorist bombings. Nuclear disarmament limps along and remote warfare poses new threats. </p> <p>But we don’t seem to have changed the way we try to solve these problems. When conflict breaks out, nations still respond with technologies that kill or injure humans. Despite the mighty failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States coalition boasts the killing by airstrikes over the last several years of more than 30,000 ISIS combatants in Iraq and Syria. Leaving aside all the civilians who must have perished, this crude slaughter has not resolved the conflict and has probably made matters much worse. Not surprisingly death and injury generate anger as well as sorrow. Leaving aside any moral concerns, making peace becomes much harder.</p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>Non-lethal protection</strong></h2> <p>A completely different approach - the development of nonlethal technology - could offer us a major opportunity to break out of the deadly spiral in which we are trapped of creating ever more lethal weapons.&nbsp; </p> <p>The concept is not new. Nonlethal protection has been around almost as long as warfare – think of shields and armour – or even of a thorn fence around the tribal compound. Nonlethal tactics have been with us for as long as we’ve been taking prisoners of war.</p> <p>New interest in the notion of nonlethal warfare emerged in the USA in the 1960s, supported by such figures as American marine John Alexander and peace activists Janet and Chris Morris.&nbsp;Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1993 book ‘War and Anti-War’ gave further publicity to the idea. </p> <p>Progress since then has been uneven. Initially there was great enthusiasm. At last, it was thought, we could have a ‘war without blood’. The US Defence forces became involved and invested substantial resources. Other military agencies across Europe set up Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) development units. Academic institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Bradford, established NLW Centres.</p> <p>Before long though, as with many innovations, problems soon emerged and some of the glamour faded. One major problem was the lack of effective nonlethal devices – a chicken-and-egg situation. If you don’t have nonlethal devices it’s hard to develop nonlethal strategy. If you’re not practicing nonlethal techniques, there’s no market for the devices. </p> <h2><strong>Tasers instead of guns</strong></h2> <p>In recent years there’s been a renewal of interest. Various military establishments across Europe have been developing nonlethal research units. So also have a number of civilian organisations such as the British Home Office, which looks at the use of nonlethal devices by the police. As you might expect, the largest nonlethal weapons agency of all is in the USA – the Department of Defense Non-Lethal Weapons Program. This is run by the US Marine Corps at Quantico in Virginia. It carries out significant research on nonlethal approaches and develops and tests a range of devices. </p> <p>The 2013 budget for the Non-Lethal Weapons Program was US $140 million. The exact amount is hard to assess but the total yearly investment in nonlethal security research around the world probably runs to only a few hundred million dollars. (In contrast, our global annual investment in the development of lethal weaponry is many hundreds of billions of dollars.)</p> <p>Do nonlethal security devices work? The evidence to date is that they do. Certainly where police have used tasers instead of guns many potential deaths have been avoided.&nbsp;Military data is sparse, but the US Non-Lethal Weapons Program has documented a number of successful applications, such as the flashing green tasers used at road blocks in Afghanistan. Devices like the millimetre wave ‘Active Denial’ systems have not (to my knowledge) been used on a battlefield, but they have apparently been proved effective and safe in immobilising volunteer ‘combatants’</p> <p>We can say that every car at a road-block halted and not machine-gunned by soldiers represents lives saved. Each citizen tasered instead of being shot dead by police is another success for nonlethal security.</p> <h2><strong>Tricky gadgets?</strong></h2> <p>There’s a long way to go of course. It may take time before we can deter well-armed fanatical combatants without employing lethal force (or, for that matter, to persuade them to trade in their AK47s for stun guns).</p> <p>There are other problems. Quite frequently, used in the wrong way, so-called ‘nonlethal’ devices can cause severe injury and – yes – death. Often, they do not deter aggressors. Baton rounds (aka ‘rubber’ bullets) have killed a number of people. Although the majority of the 900 hostages survive, 128 people died in the Moscow theatre siege by Chechnyan terrorists in 2002. The authorities employed a paralysing gas but did not make proper arrangements for the antidotes.</p> <p>As mentioned earlier, it has been argued that a focus on nonlethal approaches distracts from the central problems in society of inequity and structural violence. I make two points:</p> <p>First, if no one is killed there’s always an opportunity for justice and reconciliation. But once there’s a death, there’s no going back.</p> <p>Second, the elimination of death and injury in war could quite possibly set the scene for a less violent culture across the whole spectrum of human activity.</p> <p>At present, a major obstacle to any advances is lack of money. If society were to make a determined commitment to nonlethal security, the resources to develop the technology would be found. </p> <p>But of course we would first need the commitment. Governments would have to be persuaded to reallocate a portion of their military budgets to nonlethal technology.</p> <p>There’s no question that humans have the all skills required to develop the technology. We are incredibly clever and resourceful when we want to be. For example, the scientists who very recently proved the existence of gravitational waves used instruments that could theoretically detect whether our sun had moved in space by the breadth of one human hair. In contrast, police officers in many countries are still equipped with primitive handguns. </p> <h2><strong>Lethal arms race</strong></h2> <p>To date, there’s very low awareness of the concept of a nonlethal approach. For many people ‘nonlethal protection’ means tricky gadgets used by civil authorities to subdue the public.</p> <p>There’s probably even less awareness of the idea of military nonlethal force. That there could be a nonlethal approach to warfare is for most people still science fiction. </p> <p>Overall, progress has been slow, Does this matter?</p> <p>You might argue that it’s more important to change the world order to a more democratic equitable structure, to tackle climate change and to eliminate nuclear weapons. Warfare will then disappear by itself.</p> <p>In an ideal world, political processes would improve and we’d eventually achieve lasting world peace. I believe that we do not have the luxury to delay. Military technologies are becoming increasingly lethal and unpredictable year by year and month by month. If we do not soon halt today’s lethal arms race, there’s the risk that war could spill over into a nuclear conflict and all the carnage, radioactivity and long-term damage that would entail.</p> <p>To conclude, nonlethal security is not only about technology. It’s about a different mindset.</p> <p>Looking at another major issue for humanity: to arrest and reverse global warming, we’ll need to employ various new technologies for generating fossil free energy and removing carbon from the atmosphere. We’ll also require massive alterations in human behaviour and in the political and economic processes which govern it.</p> <p>I suggest that to achieve a just and peaceful world we’ll need to transform the current technology of war and of course in this area, too, we’ll have to achieve substantial changes in human behaviour and in the way we manage it.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <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"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk UK EU United States Conflict Ideas International politics Andrew Greig Fri, 14 Oct 2016 15:38:06 +0000 Andrew Greig 105970 at Lancashire fracking go-ahead prompts UK-wide opposition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Direct action against the industry set to escalate.</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="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Frack Off</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">After years of being pushed back by community efforts to oppose fracking, the extreme energy industry is pressing ahead with plans to extract unconventional fossil fuels across the UK. In Yorkshire, Third Energy were given the go ahead in May to frack at Kirby Misperton, although local campaign group Frack Free Ryedale and Friends of the Earth have stalled the process by forcing a judicial review. This week’s decision to approve fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire, by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, came as no surprise to the anti-fracking movement. A decision on a second site at Roseacre Wood was deferred and may still go ahead. With petitions, marches and legal appeals almost exhausted, we can expect to see an escalation in direct action tactics to stop the shale gas industry in its tracks. </p><p dir="ltr">Many other petroleum exploration development licences (PEDLs) have been allocated, with around 13,000 square miles of the country earmarked for potential fracking and some exploratory wells already drilled. Other threatened areas include Surrey, Sussex, Cheshire, Somerset and Lincolnshire. Scotland and Wales have imposed moratoriums and Northern Ireland banned fracking last year. </p><p dir="ltr">At its recent party conference, the Labour party announced it would ban fracking if it came to power, taking the same position as the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. Although political opposition is increasing, the Conservative government is moving in the wrong direction, with huge subsidies and generous tax breaks offered to the oil and gas industry, while support for renewables is scrapped. David Cameron said his government was going “all out for shale” and during his time as prime minister, changes were made to the legal planning process to facilitate fracking. Theresa May has sought to grease the wheels by offering households cash payments of up to £10,000 from the tax revenues that fracking could generate. Kickstarting fracking is senseless, when we have cleaner, more viable long-term alternatives such as wind, solar and tidal energy. UK residents have seen what has unfolded in America and Australia and want to prevent this destructive industry from taking hold here. </p><p dir="ltr">Fracking pollutes the air and water and has caused serious health issues for people and livestock. The industrialisation of rural environments, increased traffic and noise can be very disruptive. There is also the danger of earthquakes. Tremors at Preese Hall in Lancashire, in 2011, resulted in a temporary moratorium on fracking in the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">Unconventional gas exploration has serious consequences for the planet’s climate and all fossil fuels need to kept in the ground to prevent runaway climate change. The UK needs to decarbonise in order to meet its EU targets and commitments reached at last December’s COP21 Paris summit. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and when emissions from methane leakage are taken into account, fracked gas has a carbon footprint comparable with coal. A recent Oil Change International report outlines the scale of the challenge facing the planet. Burning all the coal, oil and gas currently in production or development is extremely likely to take global temperature rises beyond two degrees centigrade. In order to meet the 2C target, we can only use 85% of current reserves. To meet the 1.5C target that the Paris agreement referenced, we can only burn 37%. Opening up new fronts of fossil fuel extraction is simply untenable. </p><p dir="ltr">When conventional activist approaches have failed to stop fracking, non-violent direct action is seen as the last chance. Direct action has become necessary because our current government has failed us. It’s up to us to oppose fracking, wherever the industry attempts to impose itself. It will be crucial to prevent the industry gaining a foothold, as one fracking well will inevitably lead to many, many more. People will need to mobilise and work in solidarity with local groups, at whichever site or sites go live first.</p><p dir="ltr">Direct action requires the open defiance of existing laws and restrictions. When facing unjust power it means acting freely, as if the state does not exist. It’s being the change you want to see and attempting to build a new system within the shell of the old. There will be plenty of roles within this culture of resistance – those who cook, or offer legal support are as important as those risking arrest.</p><p dir="ltr">Previous direct actions that have been effective in resisting fracking include protector camps to occupy threatened locations, blockades, locking on to machinery and any attempt to slow down or impede progress. A rolling blockade or occupation, aims for a constant rotation of new people into and out of the action every few days. Participants would be offered training, take action and be given post-action support if necessary. This tactic aims to scale down the individual level of commitment, hopefully encouraging more people to take action. Research has shown, that when large numbers of people pledge to take action, it helps legitimise the action socially, resulting in more volunteers and a lower individual risk of arrest. Such a rolling blockade was successfully used by the Australian environmental movement to stop construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania in the 1980s.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s clear the environmental movement is up against some very powerful interests but people power is effective when sufficient numbers are mobilised. Direct action protests at Balcombe, in the summer of 2013, brought the issue of hydraulic fracturing into the mainstream and were instrumental in Cuadrilla’s decision to suspend operations at the site. </p><p dir="ltr">In Australia, the successful ‘Bentley Blockade’ of 2014, which mobilised against fracking company Metgasco, is proof that strength in numbers really works. Hundreds of people camped out each night and formed physical barriers to prevent heavy machinery from entering. As the protest escalated, numbers at the protector camp swelled to around 2,000. The blockade lasted for almost three months and was notable, in that an entire region stood up en masse to take part in mass civil disobedience.</p><p dir="ltr">Post Paris, increasing numbers are willing to take part in mass civil disobedience to resist the fossil fuel industry. In May the global Break Free campaign mobilised activists across six continents in a two week wave of escalating actions. <a href="">Reclaim the Power</a> teamed up with United Valleys Action Group to shut down the UKs largest opencast coal mine at Ffos-y-Fran and thousands descended on a vast lignite coal mine in Lusatia, Germany, stopping operations for a weekend. Both actions were notable for a safety in numbers with no arrests in Wales and minimal arrests in Germany, where police reported they were overwhelmed.</p><p dir="ltr">In five years of protests against fracking, several flashpoints across England have resulted in arrests, however, including protests at Balcombe, Horse Hill, Barton Moss, Crawberry Hill and Upton. Some arrests have yielded convictions, whilst many were thrown out of court – but none of the environmental defenders have been jailed. </p><p dir="ltr">With anti-fracking struggles taking shape on multiple fronts, grassroots action network Reclaim the Power are calling for people to step up to take non-violent direct action in support of local communities and to protect the climate, water, air and countryside for future generations.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to mobilise resistance to the fracking industry, we will be running our Keeping It In The Ground <a href="">Direct Action Mobiliser Tour</a> from 10-20th October. With events in Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston, Sheffield, Ellesmere Port and Lancaster, we’ll be teaming up with local frack free groups and discussing strategies to resist the extreme energy industry and fight for climate justice. Visit <a href=""></a> for more details.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, Stop Barclays Fracking week (24-29th October) will highlight the company’s ownership of Third Energy, who are planning to frack in Ryedale, Yorkshire. Nationwide protests will be aim to shame Barclays and encourage people to move their money to greener, more ethical alternatives.</p><p dir="ltr">The shale gas companies have not only been prospecting for hydro-carbons under the soil, they have also been testing public opinion. Through widespread civil disobedience, we will make it loud and clear that the fracking industry has no social licence to operate; not in Lancashire, not in Yorskshire, not anywhere.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/my-environmentalism-will-be-intersectional-or-it-will-be-bullshit">My environmentalism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Al Williams Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:00:33 +0000 Al Williams 105934 at The lynching of Jackie Walker <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The attacks on Jackie Walker and others are political, a determined effort by the Israel lobby to make Britain’s Labour Party safe for Israel and Zionism.&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="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour anti-Semitism Inquiry chair Shami Chakrabarti speaks on Labour's anti-Semitism inquiry findings, London, June 2016. Jonathan Brady/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the end of last week Jackie Walker, who was Vice Chair of Momentum’s Steering Committee, was suspended from the Labour Party.&nbsp;Although no reasons were given there is little doubt that it was as a result of allegations of anti-Semitism made by the Jewish Labour Movement [JLM].</p> <p>The Jackie Walker affair began in May of this year when a private Facebook discussion between Jackie and a friend of hers was broken into by the <a href="">Israeli Advocacy Movement</a>.&nbsp; The IAM, which describes its purpose as to ‘<em>counter the increasing hostility Israel suffers at the hands of the British public’</em>, has no visible means of support.&nbsp; It is likely that its operations, including two staff, are funded as part of the campaign against Boycott Divestment and Sanctions run by the <a href="">Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs</a> [MOSA].&nbsp;MoSA’s remit includes co-ordinating and organising anti-BDS activities globally.&nbsp;It has a $50m budget.</p> <p>Jackie was suspended in May and after an outcry was quickly reinstated about three weeks later.&nbsp;This was a decision that the Zionist movement and the JLM have never accepted.</p> <h2>What was Jackie Walker’s offence?&nbsp; </h2> <p>In the course of a complex and nuanced Facebook conversation Jackie Walker declared, ‘<em>I will never back anti-Semitism but neither am I a Zionist’</em>.&nbsp;The friends spoke about her combined Jewish-African heritage, the suffering involved in the slavery movement, and ‘<em>the Holocaust’ </em>as a debt owed to the Jews, to which Jackie responded:</p> <blockquote><p>I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust?&nbsp; My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides… millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues to this day on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews and many Jews, my ancestors too, were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade… so who are the victims and what does it mean .&nbsp; We are victims and perpetrators, to some extent by choice.&nbsp; And having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator. </p></blockquote> <p>In the light of subsequent accusations it seems clear that Jackie wasn’t saying that only<strong> </strong>Jews were financiers of the slave trade, but acknowledging that her Jewish ancestors were amongst those prominent in financing the African slave trade. One side of her family had been involved in the enslavement of the other side of her family.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Israel lobby in Britain doesn’t do nuance.&nbsp;Their role, with the aid of the mass media, is to shout down all opposition with megaphone propaganda. &nbsp;The Jewish Chronicle which was handed the transcript of Jackie Walker’s Facebook comments went to town in the best traditions of the tabloid press, leading with the <a href="">headline</a> ‘<strong>Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused ‘an African holocaust’.</strong></p> <p>On the basis of this egregious lie, the campaign against Jackie Walker, a dedicated and long standing anti-racist activist, began. Stepping up the hype, the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich claimed in <a href=";pg=PT162&amp;lpg=PT162&amp;dq=dave+rich+the+left%27s+jewish+problem+%22according+to+eugene+d.+genovese%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=1kwIArXYaE&amp;sig=QfYL-N5rajvJXe4bHVCEdhM0TmI&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;sqi=2&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiHrrD1-87PAhXFDMAKHcXVCS">The Left’s Jewish Problem</a>, that what Jackie Walker wrote was an echo of a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, <em>The Secret Relationship - Between Blacks and Jews</em>. In an act of calculated hyperbole, he quotes the American&nbsp;historian of slavery, Eugene D. Genovese, when Genovese says that this book “rivals in… fantasy and gross distortion”, the <em>Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em> – rightly termed a ‘<a href="">warrant for genocide</a>’.</p> <p>There is a longstanding academic debate on ‘Jewish involvement in slavery’ and it too has been the focus of&nbsp; ‘anti-Semitic’ allegations. Of Tony Martin’s <em>The Secret Relationship,</em> the late Professor Winthrop, renowned historian of the slave trade, <a href="">reviewing the book</a> for The Atlantic in 1995, observed:</p> <p><em>'Ironically, Martin's assertion that "Jews were very much in the mainstream of European society as far as the trade in African human beings was concerned" was very close to what many Jewish scholars had claimed some thirty years before.’ &nbsp;</em></p> <p>Criticising the book’s selective approach to evidence, he wrote:</p> <p><em>‘If one were to inquire more neutrally into what role Jews played in the Atlantic slave trade, one would find that it was a considerable one during the formative years of the trade, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and a very small one when the trade reached much greater volume, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries</em>.</p> <p>Another more recent contributor to this debate, Dutch Orthodox Rabbi Lody van der Kamp, in an article in <a href="">The Jewish Journal</a>, the<strong> </strong>largest Jewish magazine in the USA outside New York,&nbsp;wrote in December 2013, </p> <p><em>“Money was earned by Jewish communities in South America, partly through slavery, and went to Holland, where Jewish bankers handled it,” he said. “Non-Jews were also complicit, but so were we.”</em></p> <p>By this definition of ‘anti-Semitism’, Jackie Walker and the Rabbi are equally culpable.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Round two</strong></h2> <p>The Jewish Labour Movement, having refused to accept Jackie Walker’s reinstatement in May,&nbsp;the accusations of anti-Semitism against her were ongoing.&nbsp;When John McDonnell was announced as a speaker at a JLM meeting at&nbsp;Labour Party conference, there were calls for him to be disinvited when he spoke on the same platform as Jackie at a TUC Conference fringe meeting.&nbsp;The <a href="">Jewish Chronicle</a> quoted Jeremy Newmark, Chair of the JLM as saying that McDonnell ‘"<em>must explain his defence of Walker which is inconsistent with his call for zero tolerance. This raises serious questions. Our members expect him to explain himself.’</em>&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite her being a long-standing anti-racist activist, regardless of her remarks having been made in the context of a private Facebook conversation, Jackie Walker was hounded. She received a torrent of racist tweets, the main thrust of which were questioning her own Jewish status.&nbsp;At no time has the JLM ever condemned the abuse Jackie received.</p> <p>When Jackie went to a JLM ‘training event’ at Labour Party conference, she walked into a honey trap.&nbsp;The event was secretly recorded and the video footage was passed to the press.&nbsp;On the basis of remarks by Jackie Walker which questioned whether Holocaust Memorial Day was open to other holocausts, such as the millions of Africans who died in the slave trade; and whether the security precautions around Jewish schools were likely to exaggerate the fears of anti-Semitic attacks in the Jewish community, Jackie was further accused of anti-Semitism.&nbsp;</p> <p>When Jackie challenged the assertion by JLM’s Vice Chair Mike Katz, that the EU Monitoring Committee’s Working Definition on Anti-Semitism was the standard definition of anti-Semitism, she was making an important point. The successor agency to the EUMC, the Fundamental Rights Agency, removed this ‘Working Definition’ from its website in 2013, as even the Times of Israel <a href="">accepted</a>, on the grounds of its inadequacies.&nbsp;That a training session conducted after the <a href="">Chakrabarti Inquiry</a> could once again be based on these discredited premises does not augur well for a cessation of hostilities.</p> <p>The volume of the attacks on Jackie increased: by this point, the aim was clearly to have Jackie Walker suspended from the Labour Party.&nbsp;Momentum which is chaired by Jon Lansman, instead of standing up for the Vice Chair’s right to debate these issues, was described in the <a href="">Jewish Chronicle</a> as having <em>‘reached the end of his tether’.</em>&nbsp;In an interview with the <a href="">Independent</a>, Lansman reported that the chair of JML, Jeremy Newmark, with whom he worked ‘very closely’ had been made <em>‘very upset’</em> by Jackie’s remarks<em>.&nbsp;</em>The Independent article concluded that it was ‘<em>widely expected’</em> that Jackie would be removed as Vice Chair at the next meeting of Momentum’s Steering Committee.&nbsp;Sure enough, on Monday October 3, Jackie Walker was so removed, by a vote of 7-3.</p> <p>Momentum’s Steering Committee released a statement in which they accepted that nothing Jackie had said was anti-Semitic.&nbsp;Nonetheless the Steering Committee had <em>‘lost confidence’</em> in her.&nbsp;Reacting to this obscure decision, Brighton &amp; Hove Momentum’s AGM voted by 56-6&nbsp;to condemn the removal of Jackie Walker.&nbsp;Camden Momentum voted by a similar majority as have other Momentum groups. At the very least, this raises some questions around the internal democracy of Momentum.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite all the talk of ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party there has been a sparsity of evidence.&nbsp;As Asa Winstanley argues in <a href="">How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis</a>, many of the alleged instances of ‘anti-Semitism’ have been fabrications.&nbsp;The attacks on Jackie Walker and others represent a determined effort by the Israel lobby to make the Labour Party, in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, safe for Israel and Zionism.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This article has been amended since publication to make clear that the comparison of</em><em> </em>The Secret Relationship <em>and </em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, <em>was not made by Dave Rich but by Eugene D. Genovese, whom he was quoting.</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/avi-shlaim-gwyn-daniel/labour-party-israel-and-antisemitism">The Labour Party, Israel, and antisemitism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/luke-davies/re-examining-corbyns-dangerous-friendships">We need to re-examine Corbyn&#039;s so-called &#039;dangerous friendships&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arun-kundnani/way-out-of-labour-party-anti-semitism-crisis-requires-politics-of-solidarity">The way out of the Labour Party’s ‘anti-Semitism crisis’ requires a politics of solidarity</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"> Israel </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 class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Israel UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Anti-Semitism and the left Tony Greenstein Wed, 12 Oct 2016 19:19:08 +0000 Tony Greenstein 105928 at Channel 4: a national treasure? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Channel 4 has been named Channel of the Year at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. But what does the future hold?</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="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road, London. Philip Toscano / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span>Channel 4’s new drama series, National Treasure, strikes familiar notes: politically engaged, contemporary, challenging. An ageing comedian, played by Robbie Coltrane, now reduced to presenting a daytime show on Channel 4 (where else?), is accused of sexual crimes in the distant past. A pair of odiously fashionable commissioning editors at Horseferry Road tells him his hosting duties will not be needed for the time being. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Channel 4’s own transition from national institution to national treasure was reinforced by the TV industry’s accolade of Channel of the Year, bestowed at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August. That vote may have been influenced by the industry’s instinctive support for any of its key players seen to be under threat, which has been the perception of Channel 4 ever since a civil servant was photographed last September carrying a document referring to possible privatisation of the channel. </p><p dir="ltr">The EU referendum seemingly put paid to that risk, as the Secretary of State who had initiated the process, John Whittingdale, was unceremoniously booted out of his job by Theresa May. His successor, Karen Bradley, is an unknown quantity in terms of media policy, but most commentators doubt her interest in the issue, not least because Channel 4 has nearly always enjoyed a remarkably wide level of political and public support. Its editorial stance has long appealed to Guardian readers and parties of the left, whereas its championing of independent television production resonates with Conservative free marketers.</p><p dir="ltr"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&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 dir="ltr">This dual attraction is rooted in Channel 4’s creation. Through the 1970s, two versions of a fourth TV channel had been espoused: an ITV2 – which would have allowed ITV to compete head-to-head with the BBC’s two channels – and an independent alternative, publicly owned, commercially funded and encouraging new entrants to television (guess which version the BBC supported).</p><p dir="ltr">In 1977, heavily influenced by one of its members, the Labour MP Phillip Whitehead, a Committee of Inquiry into broadcasting chaired by Lord Annan recommended an Open Broadcasting Authority to occupy the vacant fourth terrestrial channel: a variation of the idea for a National Television Foundation conceived by Whitehead’s former colleague at BBC TV Current Affairs Group, Anthony Smith, latterly ensconced as an academic at Oxford.</p><p dir="ltr">However, the OBA found few political friends, not least because of the difficulty of financing it, and the Conservatives entered the 1979 election with a manifesto commitment to launch ITV2. Yet within days of Margaret Thatcher’s first victory at the polls, the left-wing TV union, the ACTT – a natural supporter of an ITV2, with its promise of entrenching ACTT power within the industry – surprisingly voted for an independent Channel 4. </p><p dir="ltr">Encouraged by this, a small group of would-be independent producers (whose numbers then could be counted on the fingers of two hands, such was the hostility to the idea of independent production from within the established broadcasters) launched a lobbying effort. The primary targets were the new Home Office ministers, Willie Whitelaw and Leon Brittan, as well as the Tory free market guru, Sir Keith Joseph, to whom they outlined their model of a lean publisher-broadcaster, funded by advertising sold on its behalf by ITV, and gathering much of its programme supply from low-cost, fresh-start production companies, who would bring new ideas and new techniques to the industry.</p><p dir="ltr">The ministers were persuaded. So, too, was the regulator that would supervise the fourth channel, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (which had previously endorsed ITV2). By 1980, a bill was ready, which set out the new broadcaster’s remit as essentially being innovative and educative, providing an alternative to ITV (and only ITV), and sourcing a “significant proportion” of its programme supply from the nascent independent production sector. “Significant” was taken to mean at least 15%, with the rest presumed to come from the ITV companies – nobody, including Jeremy Isaacs, Channel 4’s first Chief Executive, imagined that independents would become the predominant supplier of content.</p><p dir="ltr">To begin with, Channel 4 was funded by a subscription from the ITV companies, in return for their retention of the monopoly on TV advertising. As the subscription was deductible from ITV’s penal special taxation system, the levy, the cost of Channel 4 in its initial years was actually primarily borne by the Treasury. Flourishing under the Thatcher and Major governments, Channel 4 saw off the first suggestions of privatisation. This was thanks to its Tory chairman, airline entrepreneur Sir Michael Bishop, inveighing to a Tory premier against the wicked desire of private companies to pay dividends – an argument still being deployed 20 years later.</p><p dir="ltr">Channel 4 managed to escape from the unhelpful embrace of ITV and win the right to sell its own airtime (whose value had been cynically suppressed by the ITV sales teams). With ambitions to expand its operations, it also persuaded the incoming Labour administration to release it from the statutory constraints preventing it from spending its surpluses on anything other than the core channel. </p><p dir="ltr">Soon it was splurging hundreds of millions of pounds on buying and launching new businesses – such as film distribution, subscription-funded TV channels, radio stations and horse-racing ventures. Most of the money was lost, but by 2002, the newly invented Channel Four Corporation had settled on a portfolio of free-to-air channels – Film4, E4, More4 – to supplement its public service offering. Channel 4 itself had developed its rudimentary original statutory duties into a complex remit of programming quotas, enforced by its regulator, the Independent Television Commission (successor to the IBA).</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************************</p><p dir="ltr">This set of obligations – much more detailed than the three objectives set out in the original legislation – became the famous Channel 4 “remit”, developed over 20 years by successive management teams, of which the most influential was the first. The emphasis on education (which was allocated 15% of the total budget), on multiculturalism and on support for the arts and film (though these two were not expressed directly in quota terms) came from Isaacs. Not just ethnic minorities, but social minorities – especially the gay community – came to see Channel 4 as their natural home. Channel 4 is now famous for its coverage of the Paralympic Games, but Channel 4’s opening night in November 1982 was built around its first Film on Four, Walter, starring Ian McKellen in a drama about a man with a learning disability.</p><p dir="ltr">The quota regime evolved organically as a formalisation of Channel 4’s actual output. The template for a long-form early evening news, controversial current affairs programmes and documentaries, high-falutin’ arts and discussion programmes (Brook’s Mahabharata, Ignatieff’s Voices), feature films (My Beautiful Laundrette, Four Weddings And A Funeral), in-your-face entertainment (The Comic Strip Presents..., The Tube), a range of multicultural programming (Desmond’s, The Bandung File) and swathes of peak-time education (4 What It’s Worth, Equinox) was set in that first decade and consolidated in the second, which actually saw broadcast operas supplemented by specially commissioned ones, such as Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face and Jonathan Dove’s When She Died: Death Of A Princess.</p><p dir="ltr">Because Channel chose to invest in training (committing a higher proportion of its revenue than the BBC managed), that became a licence obligation, too. Eventually, the huge success of out-sourcing nearly all production (apart from Right to Reply) led to the enshrining in legislation of the publisher-broadcaster model for Channel 4. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">By 2001, Channel 4 was required to broadcast every week 4 hours of peak-time news, 4 hours of current affairs, 7 hours of formal education, 3 hours of multi-cultural content and 1 hour of religion. Most of these quotas were comfortably exceeded (education by 5 hours a week): the obligation to supply 330 hours of schools programmes a year was over-subscribed by 235 hours. </p><p dir="ltr">60% of its output had to be UK origination (70% in peak-time hours): Channel 4 delivered 69% (82% in peak). 60% had to be first-run (80% in peak). En route to an obligation in 2002 to spend 30% of its budget outside London, Channel 4 spent 29% in 2001. </p><p dir="ltr">Like all public service channels, Channel 4 was required to meet a quota of 50% for European productions (of which 10% had to be from independent producers, as part of its wider obligation to commission 25% of its output from such producers): its delivery of these quotas was 73%, 42% and 61% respectively. The unique obligation to spend 0.5% of its revenue on training and development was significantly over-delivered, at 0.7%.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast forward to 2016, and we find a very different version of “the remit” on offer. Most of the fixed quotas have disappeared: education, multicultural, religion and training. News and current affairs remain (4 hours a week of each), and Channel 4 claims to deliver 5 hours of current affairs (I defy anyone to find these hours: I have scoured the listings, to no avail). The schools obligation has been reduced to a token 1 hour a year: Channel 4 reports delivery of 27 hours (better than 2014’s 4 hours), but it is not clear where these hours are to be found (certainly not on Channel 4 or any of its portfolio channels). </p><p dir="ltr">The origination requirement has been cut from 60% to 56% (but still 70% in peak). There is no longer any obligation to broadcast even a single hour of first-run material, so not surprisingly the proportion of repeats has risen from 39% in 2001 to 60% last year. </p><p dir="ltr">The only quota that has increased since 2001 is that for out-of-London production (now 35%, instead of 30%, with delivery at 39%); of which there is now a requirement for production in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to constitute 3%. This minimal obligation (the three nations constitute 18% of the UK population) will rise to 9% by 2020 (2015 delivery was 7%). After 33 years of operations, Channel 4 managed to commission just 7 hours of material from Northern Ireland last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, a book of essays was published (What Price Channel 4? Abramis 2016), discussing possible privatisation of Channel 4. It included a contribution from Farrukh Dhondy – one of the earliest of Isaacs’ recruits as a commissioning editor – entitled “Remit, Schmemit”. He observes that “a few weeks watching Channel 4 in 2016 leads inexorably to the conclusion that the ‘remit’ does not exist – I must have missed the Act of Parliament that changed or relaxed it”. Indeed he did: so did most of the rest of us.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ********************************</p><p dir="ltr">In 2003, the Labour government passed the Communications Act and created Ofcom, which replaced not just the ITC, but three other content regulators, along with the telecoms watchdog, Oftel. The thinking behind this change was that telecoms and broadcasting were converging as technologies, and a converged regulator was therefore needed. In truth, virtually no issue that has emerged since 2003 has required Ofcom to exercise both sides of its supposed expertise. Even with some of the largest clashes on which it has had to adjudicate – such as the complaint from BT (and others) about the wholesale prices Sky charged for its sports channels – Ofcom acted purely as a competition regulator, regardless of the fact that the protagonists were the UK’s leading commercial players in telecoms and broadcasting.</p><p dir="ltr">As far as public service broadcasting (PSB) was concerned, the Act has proved to be little short of a disaster. Anticipating that digital technology would enable hundreds of new channels to be launched, greatly increasing competition for the incumbent PSB providers, the Act provided for relaxation, or abolition, of most of the specific content quotas previously imposed on the commercial PSBs (ITV, Channel 4 and Five). They had accepted these in exchange for privileged access to scarce spectrum, “must-carry” status for their PSB services on cable and satellite, and the top slots in the electronic programme guides that featured on all digital televisions.</p><p dir="ltr">It was certainly true that the old analogue spectrum had room for only five terrestrial channels, and that Whitehall was keen to retrieve that spectrum, so as to auction it for telecoms use. This would force all broadcasting into a purely digital mode, but the level of risk for the old PSB channels would be mitigated by the launch of a new digital terrestrial transmission (DTT) system, to counter-act the threatened dominance of cable and satellite platforms.</p><p dir="ltr">The practical result of this concerted effort by ministers and the old PSBs was to create a new scarcity, in terms of DTT capacity. The PSBs – the BBC and the three commercial providers – were granted special access to the most favourable DTT multiplexes. They used that capacity to wrap a dozen or more digital channels round their original PSB services: remarkably, nearly all the audience losses that the old channels suffered from new competition were recovered by the portfolio channels. Since digital switchover was completed in 2006, the hundreds of satellite and cable channels have actually lost a fifth of their audience share to the PSBs and their portfolios.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************************</p><p dir="ltr">Within the PSB sector, there was an anomaly. The ratio of audience share between Channel 4 and its portfolio channels is almost 50:50 (by comparison, the ITV ratio is 70:30 and Five’s is 75:25). Quite why this has happened is not clear: cross-promotion between the main channel and its siblings inevitably favours the latter, but the balance of content spending between them is roughly 5:1, so the outcome is surprising. Whatever the cause, the result has two troubling consequences. </p><p dir="ltr">First, although Channel 4 claims that its remit applies “across all genres and all channels”, it is perfectly obvious that the public service element in its output is overwhelmingly to be found on the main channel. As its audience declines, the effectiveness of Channel 4 as a public service provider diminishes. The abandonment of most quotas has allowed Channel 4 anyway to run down its supply of the programme genres that in the past – before 2003 – it acknowledged were the most important in PSB terms: news, current affairs, documentaries, education, religion, arts, children’s and multi-cultural, on which it used to spend about £150 million a year, or 35% of its programme budget. These days, it tries to pass off drama and comedy as public service genres, but if we ignore this blatant fudge, we can see that spend on core PSB is now about £85 million a year, less than 15% of the programme budget, delivering about 10% of all programme hours. As Channel 4’s audience declines – it is now viewed on average for 10 minutes a day per person – we can calculate that its contribution to consumption of public service content has fallen to less than 1 minute a day per person.</p><p dir="ltr">The second problem is Channel 4’s increased reliance on the entertainment channel, E4, as a financial support. E4’s appeal to the 16-24 age group is very strong (it scores fifth out of all channels with that audience), helping it to win an audience share of nearly 2% (compared with the main channel’s 5%). However, it achieves this with perhaps the most cynical schedule of any in public ownership: 75% US acquisitions and 95% repeats. In some weeks it broadcasts up to 150 US sitcom episodes, including up to 70 of The Big Bang Theory alone. </p><p dir="ltr">This schedule is in clear breach of E4’s Ofcom licence, which – like all Ofcom licences for broadcasters operating in the UK – requires at least 50% of transmission hours to be European works. The obligation derives from EU directives aimed at supporting European production, and has been incorporated for nearly 30 years into the UK regulatory regime.</p><p dir="ltr">When I asked Channel 4 Chief Executive David Abraham about this persistent and deliberate breach of the E4 licence, he murmured words to the effect that Channel 4 “needs the money”. When I pressed Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White on the issue in August, she just shrugged. One of her predecessors put this down to “favourite child” syndrome, a verdict shared by a former member of the ITC. What Channel 4 does is too important for the regulator to worry about such peccadilloes. </p><p dir="ltr">A source at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport wondered whether Ofcom was relying on the exception to the 50% rule written into the directives, whereby they only apply “where practicable”. For instance, Ofcom-licensed UK-based channels relying by definition or default on US content, such as PBS, CNN, CBS Drama, Sky Atlantic and virtually all film channels, including Film Four, would be exempt. But that clearly does not apply to E4, which actually had no difficulty meeting the 50% rule in its early days, when its limited transmission hours included endless amounts of Big Brother spin-offs. After that show ended, and 24-hour transmission started, it just ignored the rule.</p><p dir="ltr">Ofcom itself responded in 2015 to the EU consultation on the current directive thus: “the requirements for European works have helped to foster growing investment in European content for a wide range of linear and on-demand television services...without the flexibility the arrangements provide [ie, the “where practicable” exemption], new market entrants would find it much more difficult to establish themselves, and then build investment in European production...we therefore consider the provisions in the directive remain relevant, effective and fair for promoting cultural diversity and European works”.</p><p dir="ltr">By no stretch of the imagination can E4 – which launched in 2001 – be described as “a new market entrant”. Indeed, its predatory scheduling and the audience and revenue it generates must add to the difficulties genuine market entrants face in trying to reach the 50% threshold. Arguably, one of the reasons BBC3 failed to achieve wider penetration of the crucial 16-24 market was the difficulty of breaking young people’s addiction to The Big Bang Theory. </p><p dir="ltr">Despite their collective success in fending off the challenge of digital competition, the old PSBs have been allowed by the 2003 Act to let their old obligations wither away. ITV has effectively abandoned children’s programmes, arts, adult education and religion, while its documentary and current affairs output is a shadow of its former output. Even drama has been cut back by two-thirds (not that it was ever subject to a quota). </p><p dir="ltr">What was once ITV’s core strength – its regional news service – had its budget slashed, during the post-2008 advertising downturn, with ITV effectively telling Ofcom it was walking away from its licence terms, leaving the regulator to choose between ITV merging services across its regional network, or reducing resources in each and every region. Ofcom did not have the wit to demand that ITV re-instate the lost provision once profitability was restored. ITV currently makes profits of over £800 million a year: there has been no re-instatement.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ********************************</p><p dir="ltr">Displaying an unexpected sense of irony, Parliament also charged Ofcom in the 2003 Act with the duty of monitoring all PSB output (including the BBC’s) and reporting its findings every three years (the results have been so depressing that the coalition government eventually decided to abolish the triennial reporting duty).</p><p dir="ltr">In practice, of course, Ofcom has no powers to influence the level of output from the BBC – and even when it becomes the BBC’s external regulator next year, will still lack such powers. But what Ofcom has done is track what it sees as the key indicator of PSB provision – spending on original UK content. This has declined by 20% in the last decade, as much at the BBC as within the commercial sector. Excluding sport, investment in new UK content has fallen from £2.5 billion a year to £2 billion a year. Yet in that decade, the combined revenues of the BBC and the commercial companies have actually risen.</p><p dir="ltr">When Ofcom addresses the detail of which genres have suffered most, it lays the blame equally on both sets of broadcasters (although it mostly exonerates the BBC on provision of children’s content, where it is now effectively the sole supplier). In all the other areas of what has traditionally been seen as the key public service genres, Ofcom reports dramatic declines: including a 25% reduction in spend on arts and classical music since 2008, a 77% reduction in formal education, and a 26% reduction in religion and ethics (“provision has all but ceased”). &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Until recently, the BBC treated Ofcom with ill-disguised contempt. When I used to read out sections from these PSB reports at industry conferences, BBC executives would ask me, in all innocence, where such information came from. Next year, Ofcom will take over from the BBC Trust the role of external regulator, overseeing the various service remits for BBC television and radio, as well as enforcing compliance with broadcasting codes. As it happens, Ofcom has built up a good track record in judging code breaches, including those at the BBC, though taking over adjudicating BBC impartiality may stretch its resources. </p><p dir="ltr">Where Ofcom has simply no capacity is in performing the role of quality controller. The old ITC – and its predecessor, the IBA – had a cadre of professionals who judged performance at the licensee and individual programme level. Ofcom employs none. It has tried to beef up its content board in anticipation of taking on quality control at the BBC, but that board has just lost its newly appointed chairman, Bill Emmott (former editor of The Economist), because he declined to give up expressing his trenchant views on political issues in print – something Ofcom feared would undermine its rulings on impartiality. Now it must hire at least 60 experienced professionals – perhaps the entire staff of the outgoing BBC Trust? – before the end of April 2017, to carry out its proposed new duties.</p><p dir="ltr">Will it use its new powers to encourage, or induce, the BBC to invest more in new programming, especially in the “endangered species”? Judging by its past behaviour with Channel 4, that seems unlikely. Even as it bemoaned the steady decline of PSB, it failed to use its role as licensor and regulator of Channel 4 to bring about change in its programming priorities in any significant way.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; *******************************</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, the 2003 Act did not actually erase public service obligations for Channel 4: indeed, an enlarged version of the original 1981 formula was put in place. Channel 4 was required to provide “a broad range of high quality and diverse programmes which, in particular, demonstrated innovation, experiment and creativity in the form and content of programmes, appealed to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society, and made a significant contribution to meeting the need for programmes of an educational nature, and other programmes of educative value; all whilst exhibiting a distinctive character” (section 265 Communications Act 2003).</p><p dir="ltr">Ofcom was required to insert this public service remit into the Channel 4 licence. But the primary mechanism for ensuring compliance was no longer quotas (though a few remained), but an annual “statement of programme policy”, formalised in the 2010 Digital Economy Act. The first such statement from Channel 4 ran to 5,000 words. These days, reporting on “media policy” can take up to 100 pages in the channel’s annual report, sometimes to comic effect, as every last nomination for every obscure award is slavishly documented.</p><p dir="ltr">Essentially, this is – outside the fixed quotas – self-regulation. Channel 4 helpfully designs and commissions special opinion surveys to establish how well it does, compared with the other public service channels, in perceptions of “innovation, experiment and creativity”. Not surprisingly, Channel 4 performs rather well in these tests, as the other four public service channels are not normally in the business of innovation and experiment.</p><p dir="ltr">Equally unsurprising is that these programme policy statements rarely include any quantifiable measures of performance. Sometimes targets are set: but there are no consequences for missing them. As Sam Goldwyn might have put it, these are verbal promises, not worth the paper they are written on. Even those achievements claimed can seem absurd: so the broadcast on the Film4 channel of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” – 60 years after its first release – is cited as a contribution to “diversity”. That category itself has been expanded from the statutory reference to cultural diversity to a catch-all that includes ethnicity, disability, sexuality and even religion.</p><p dir="ltr">Small wonder that Dhondy – Channel 4’s first commissioning editor for multi-cultural programming – ruefully acknowledges that “there are reasonable arguments on both sides for reviving a multicultural remit or for re-defining it and calling it something else – but please not DIVERSITY!”</p><p dir="ltr">The most egregious breach of the letter and spirit of the Act is the abandonment of educational programming. In the old days of the IBA and ITC, Channel 4 would broadcast a dozen or more adult education series every year, and be required to demonstrate to the regulator their formal educational content. At that time, I had the same task at ITV, as the Director of Programmes for Thames TV, which managed the weekday schedule for the network: the regulator was no soft touch.</p><p dir="ltr">Channel 4’s last head of education, Janey Walker, was made redundant in 2010. Schools programming had been successfully finessed out of the broadcast schedule, on the grounds that there were more efficient ways of distributing such content. The statutory duty to “make a significant contribution to meeting the need for...programmes of an educational nature and other programmes of educative value” has been evaded much more cynically. </p><p dir="ltr">The education budget has been decimated since the 2003 Act. Nominally, £5 million is allocated to in the Channel 4 budget, and 16 hours of content is shown across the Channel 4 portfolio of channels (compared with well over 1,000 hours a year on Channel 4 alone previously). The executive now in charge of what is deemed education is the head of formats, Dominic Bird, who inherited a teenage-oriented education strategy that was “online and game-focused”, and – using a “Trojan horse approach” – has inveigled some programmes into main channel peak-time (“which requires them to be “not overbearingly ‘educational’”). He is reluctant to attempt infiltrating E4, as “anything that felt too obviously educational would sit particularly uncomfortably on it”. Even so, in a verdict that might surprise Jeremy Isaacs, he enthuses: “I don’t think we have ever been so bold and ambitious with our education content”.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps Channel 4 is embarrassed by these musings. Astonishingly, in its Annual Report, it claims to have broadcast on the main channel last year, not just the 16 hours of designated education, but 2,757 hours of “education” – which a footnote tells us consists of “programmes (originated or acquired) that are educational in nature” – without specifying how many of them fulfil the statutory requirement that they be “of educative value”. </p><p dir="ltr">2,757 hours a year translates into 55 hours a week, over and above news, current affairs and documentaries (which are separately listed). What are these hours? For once, Channel 4’s love of lists and exhaustive exposition of all its achievements fails us. Clearly, a list of these hours exists, but Channel 4 declines to publish it (no doubt fearing endless ridicule by Private Eye for ever after). Ofcom could ask it to publish the list. Silence reigns.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **************************</p><p dir="ltr">Does any of this matter? Even Liz Forgan – one of the stalwarts of the early Channel 4 – believes that the age of box-ticking is over, and more sophisticated ways of judging Channel 4’s role as a PSB are needed. I don’t agree with her – look at the outcomes – but I am in a very small minority. The last time Ofcom held a consultation on the Channel 4 licence, primarily focused on the out-of-London quota, barely three dozen people and organisations responded.</p><p dir="ltr">And the truth is that Channel 4 still stands out from the broadcasting crowd, with brave, provocative and ground-breaking programming. National Treasure offered a highly intelligent script, fine acting, remarkable cinematography and music, and a persuasive set of outcomes. The channel has built a brand that has particular resonance with younger audiences, including a strong online presence. It may have dropped its licence obligation for spending on training, but this year has invested £1.6 million in its indie growth fund and donated £1.5 million to the National Film and Television School (one of the key driving forces of our creative economy). Even E4 has managed to win an award for a rare venture into experimental comedy with Michaela Cole – Chewing Gum.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************************</p><p dir="ltr">What has placed Channel 4’s performance – especially compared with the pre-2003 era – centre stage has been the revived idea of privatisation, and the promise from ministers that this would only be pursued if it delivered a strengthened Channel 4 remit.</p><p dir="ltr">This pledge has provoked disbelief – even hilarity – amongst Channel 4’s many supporters. After all, if the government is trying to extract some cash from a sale of the business, from a new owner who will want to make a profit, what room could there be for investment in the least commercial, public service, part of Channel 4’s output? As the current management succinctly put it – echoing the arguments from Sir Michael Bishop in 1996 – a new owner would want to make a 20% return, which would surely come at the expense of the programme budget.</p><p dir="ltr">Curiously, fifteen years ago, the Conservative Party, whilst in opposition, had made a similar pledge as part of its then proposal to privatise Channel 4, using some of the proceeds for “an enhanced remit to deliver high quality drama, current affairs, news and minority programming on its core channel”. The rest of the sale revenues were reserved for a trust to support the arts more generally. Given that the remit in 2001 was far more demanding than it is today, that promise was pretty challenging.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, at the time, I was inclined to believe it. In 2000, when I was Chief Executive of Channel 5, I proposed to Channel 4 that we merge our back office functions, leaving the programme and marketing teams otherwise completely free to fulfil their respective licence obligations. By combining our teams for finance, airtime sales, HR, administration, transmission and acquisition, there were savings of at least £130 million to be made, with which each channel could strengthen its schedule.</p><p dir="ltr">Channel 4 rejected my approach at the time, but soon afterwards, a new Chief Executive there – Mark Thompson – raised the issue again, only to be blocked by his board. That was a political decision: what was beyond argument was that two broadcasters of a similar size could obviously make large savings by merging, as well as generate significant synergies. So it was no surprise when Channel 4, a decade later, offered £100 million to buy Channel 5 – only to be marginally outbid by Richard Desmond – and then the same amount to buy the Living TV portfolio of channels, only to be massively outbid, this time by Sky. The economic logic of scale is simply too glaring to ignore.</p><p dir="ltr">So it is easy to see how Viacom – the current owners of Channel 5 – could pay between £500 million and £1 billion for Channel 4. The level of savings I envisaged in 2000 would have grown simply as a result of inflation, and Viacom would reap the additional benefit of gaining an airtime sales team, so no longer needing to pay fees to Sky. The savings and synergies would run to at least £200 million a year, and Viacom would also derive the benefit of the £250 million of Channel 4 reserves (no longer needed once Channel 4 is owned by a major media corporation) and a building worth £100 million. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Such a level of savings would give the government the chance to impose strong new remit requirements: for the first time, the Channel 4 budget could be guaranteed and inflation-proofed, with key ingredients within it, such as news and current affairs, ring-fenced with their own guarantees (the present Channel 4 licence has no actual spending obligations at all); specific commitments to arts, children’s, education and programming for minorities could be created and enforced; a requirement to commission from at least 300 qualifying independent production companies each year, especially those with turnover below £5 million a year, would re-invigorate that sector (currently, Channel 4 commissions from just 164 of them, compared with over 500 in the 1990s); there could be a weekly quota for programmes created by ethnic minority producers and directors.</p><p dir="ltr">Whereas fines for failure to perform by a publicly-owned Channel 4 make little sense (they just reduce ability to invest), penalties are entirely realistic to keep a commercial operator in line: perhaps £10 million for a first offence, and £20 million thereafter. </p><p dir="ltr">A new owner would have to make sense of a programming paradox. It is a reasonable assumption that “remit programming” attracts fewer viewers than straightforward entertainment, so pushing the overall audience share for Channel 4 closer to 7%, with a stronger mainstream offering, would be as much of a spending priority as fulfilling a tougher remit. Indeed, there is little point in delivering improved public service content if viewership of it continues to fall. That kind of strategic approach – reversing the long-term decline in Channel 4’s audience share – is something a change of ownership could more easily accomplish.</p><p dir="ltr">Would a Viacom – or anyone else – take on a tougher remit? Oddly enough, when Viacom bought Channel 5 (now called Five), it volunteered the strengthening of a number of its licence obligations, perhaps to the surprise of Ofcom. The reality is that nearly all the potential buyers of Channel 4 pay little or nothing by way of dividends (something the Conservative document of 2001 also pointed out) – the issue is, not squeezing money out of the Channel 4 programme budget, but growing its revenues and public service salience by re-investing savings achieved through greater operational efficiency.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps fortunately for the present Channel 4 management, the government has been somewhat half-hearted about privatisation, has never taken up the challenge of issuing a tougher version of the remit and inviting bidders to respond to it, and has lately retreated to a notion of part-privatisation – a concept which delivers none of the benefits of cost savings and synergies, whilst only complicating the task of actually running the channel.</p><p dir="ltr">Part of the Conservative problem with their privatisation project has been its supposed rationale: a claimed problem with Channel 4’s sustainability. Yet this diagnosis collapsed at the first hurdle. Not having checked the current status of the remit, ministers failed to realise that it was so perfunctory that it required virtually no cash spend to fulfil – perhaps £25 million a year for news. The history of the last 13 years shows that Channel 4 can reduce its spending in every area of programming if it so chooses, abandon any category of output except news and current affairs, reduce first-run programming to minimal levels, increase the volume of acquired material and place as much cash in its reserves as it likes without fear of any regulatory intervention. By definition, Channel 4 is almost infinitely sustainable.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, in the absence of ministers forcing Ofcom into a full re-consideration of its relationship with Channel 4, it is hard to see what the regulator would choose to do in order to secure a stronger delivery of public service content from the current management. Ofcom has the power to replace Channel 4’s non-executive directors, but has never used it – indeed, it explicitly declined to become involved in appointing non-executive directors to the new BBC board, ostensibly on the grounds that this would clash with its duty to regulate BBC performance in the future (which is puzzling, as it is already supposed to regulate Channel 4’s performance).</p><p dir="ltr">A stronger regulator is the key to delivering a Channel 4 that provides a much better version of public service broadcasting. This month, Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer, Jay Hunt, revealed that she “cannot imagine” a privatised Channel 4, and its finance director, backing a “genuinely shocking” documentary. Yet for decades tightly regulated, profit-seeking ITV companies delivered hundreds of powerful documentaries and current affairs programmes, because that is what was required by their regulator in order for them to stay in business. It is the idea that any finance director at Granada TV, Thames TV, LWT, Central or Yorkshire TV would have been consulted before the commissioning of episodes of World In Action, This Week, Weekend World, The Cook Report or First Tuesday which is “genuinely shocking”.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; *****************************</p><p dir="ltr">After a year of procrastination by the government over what to do with Channel 4 – a year which Channel 4 claims has destabilized its commercial relationships and undermined staff morale – the pursuit of any kind of privatisation appears to have stalled, with the only rumour emerging from Whitehall relating to a possible re-location of the channel, perhaps to Birmingham, as a counterbalance to the dominance of London in broadcasting (and perhaps a snub to a management deemed uncooperative). &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Then, in September, Channel 4 managed to score a spectacular own goal, by capturing a BBC programme that was approaching “national treasure” status. The Great British Bake Off has – improbably – become BBC1’s most popular series, attracting as many as 15 million viewers for the final stages of its elimination process, in search of the UK’s supposedly top amateur baker.</p><p dir="ltr">In the past, Channel 4 has occasionally intervened in the sports arena, taking over England Test Matches, the Paralympics and terrestrial coverage of Formula 1 motor-racing when the BBC was either faltering, or exiting. However, it has – for obvious reasons, given its remit obligation to innovate and experiment – never attempted to poach a rival broadcaster’s established ratings winner. </p><p dir="ltr">It had long been known that the indie providing GBBO to the BBC, Love Productions, had very much fallen out of love with the broadcaster that had nurtured the show from its early tentative forays on BBC2. The BBC contract was running out, and Love was perfectly entitled to seek better terms or an alternative outlet (that it is 70% owned by Sky TV suggests that it would always have found a home on Sky 1 in the absence of a satisfactory deal elsewhere).</p><p dir="ltr">It is not clear if ITV was invited to bid, but Love decided – in the midst of the current run of the show – to declare dealings with the BBC at an end (despite the Corporation’s offer to double the value of the contract). A call to Channel 4’s Jay Hunt invited an urgent sign-off on a three-year deal at £25 million a year – a stupendous amount for a production that had previously delivered a solid profit when priced at £7.5 million.</p><p dir="ltr">What Ms Hunt failed – or never tried, or did not think worth bothering – to establish was whether the foursome of presenters and judges who were an integral part of the production had agreed to transfer to Channel 4. Quickly, the two presenters, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, announced that they would not be “following the dough”. A week later, one of the judges, the veteran TV cook Mary Berry, also withdrew, citing loyalty to the BBC. As Channel 4 will not be able to broadcast a full series of GBBO till 2018 – thanks to a holdback clause in the BBC contract – there is every likelihood that a BBC baking show involving the three female members of the old team will air in 2017, a full year earlier, further taking the wind out of Channel 4’s sails.</p><p dir="ltr">It is not the ineptitude of the capture which is most damaging to Channel 4, however much schadenfreude it might occasion amongst BBC loyalists. It is the scale of the investment – so lavish, so unnecessary, and in pursuit of some other channel’s hit – which has provided fuel for supporters of privatisation such as Lord Grade (who had determinedly fought off any sale when he was the channel’s Chief Executive in the 1990s). How can it make sense to allocate £75 million to a pre-existing format when so much of Channel 4’s old, distinctive remit has been jettisoned on grounds of cost?</p><p dir="ltr">The argument might be that the revenue GBBO can generate would recover the investment, over time, and that the programme would deliver a “halo effect” to the rest of the schedule, boosting audiences for the programmes transmitted before it and after it. Even a modest rise in Channel 4’s overall ratings performance would add saliency to its offer to advertisers.</p><p dir="ltr">Against that must be measured the risk of the show’s audience falling so far below the old BBC level that it becomes identified as a failure. Even the modest decline in ratings for Top Gear on the BBC since its old presenting team departed has been seized on by the Corporation’s critics, who blamed it for going too far in firing the lead presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, for assaulting a producer who failed to ensure that there was a hot meal awaiting the crew after a long day’s filming.</p><p dir="ltr">Ms Hunt could scarcely have chosen a less opportune political time to shower largesse on the producers. Her rationale – that she was “saving the show for free-to-air viewers” – rang particularly hollow, as the pay-TV company that owns a majority of Love could have secured that status by simply instructing Love’s executives to accept the BBC offer of £15 million.</p><p dir="ltr">Even Ofcom’s eyes must have been opened by the lavishness of the GBBO contract. Only two years ago, Channel 4 had assured Ofcom that it could not afford to commit to spend anything more than 9% of its budget in the Nations. When even Ofcom’s Northern Ireland advisory body demurred at this, Channel 4 insisted that there were simply not enough suppliers in the province to justify more than the £1.2 million it spends there each year.</p><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland, of course, basks in the fame of being selected by the US pay-TV giant, HBO, as the primary base for Game of Thrones, the most successful and expensive drama series in television history. BBC2 managed to base two of its most acclaimed recent drama series – The Fall and Line of Duty – in Northern Ireland, without sacrificing any technical or creative quality. Indeed, one of the earliest of Channel 4’s drama successes, the very fine Lost Belongings by the late Stewart Parker, was based there too.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the result of this fiasco will be a decision from Karen Bradley to require Channel 4 to move, not to Birmingham, but to Belfast. If Viacom were to buy Channel 4, probably 500 out of the 800 staff would lose their jobs, but most would quickly find alternatives in the buoyant London media market. But Belfast?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/anthony-smith/twenty-year-gestation">The history of channel 4: a twenty year gestation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/channel-4-case-for-privatisation">Channel 4: the case for privatisation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-elstein/great-british-bake-off-defects-to-channel-4-what-does-it-all-mean">The Great British Bake Off defects to Channel 4 - what does it all mean?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK David Elstein Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:27:07 +0000 David Elstein 105918 at After a summer of crisis and opportunity, can Labour’s progressive NHS policies be sustained? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What does the Labour reshuffle mean for the development of its NHS policy?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// ashworth_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// ashworth_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Jon Ashworth, appointed last week as shadow health secretary.</em></p><p><span>For the first time </span><span>since June</span><span> the Labour Party has a</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>full Shadow health team for England. Only Justin Madders MP continued in post throughout the chaotic summer period that included a failed coup and a similarly unsuccessful challenge to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. </span><span>Post-reshuffle, and with Diane Abbott promoted to shadow home secretary, w</span><span>hat can we expect from </span><a href=""><span>the new health team</span></a><span> led by Jonathan Ashworth?</span></p><p><span>Corbyn's re-election as Labour leader with an increased mandate of almost 62% of those voting, followed an extraordinary window in Labour Party governance. </span><span>With most of his </span><span>shadow cabinet </span><span>resigning en masse, </span><span>Corbyn </span><span>was obliged </span><span>to promote many of his less experienced parliamentary supporters to shadow cabinet roles. The result was both paradoxical and positive - a thinly populated but enthusiastic and very progressive opposition front bench.</span></p><p><span><a href="">The first front bencher to resign</a> in the coup was shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander, who subsequently criticised both <a href="">Corbyn’s leadership style</a> and also <a href="">the actions of shadow chancellor John McDonnell</a>.</span></p><p><span>Alexander’s replacement as shadow health secretary was Corbyn ally Diane Abbott. During the next three months Abbott published a series of speeches, <a href="">articles</a> and <a href="">blogs</a> very much more radical and progressive than those of her </span><span>predecessor</span><span>, in terms of supporting the NHS workforce and of reinstating a publicly provided, national health service. This culminated in <a href="">her speech to the Labour Party conference</a> on September 27. </span><span>Abbott told us that </span><span>Labour stands with the junior doctors. </span><span>She said that </span><span>NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) “seem like a vehicle to drive through cuts and closures” and that “where they are purely about cuts, Labour will fight them.” </span><span>She pledged that “u</span><span>nder Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership the Labour Party will be committed to halting and reversing the tide of privatisation and marketisation of the NHS… Labour in government will repeal the Health and Social Care Act”. </span><span>And she stated that </span><span>“The NHS will be returned to a publicly owned, publicly funded, publicly accountable universal service, as outlined in the NHS Reinstatement Bill now being piloted through Parliament by my colleague Margaret Greenwood MP, with the support of the Labour leadership.”</span></p><p><span>While there was disappointment that neither in Abbott’s speech, nor in the <a href="">composited motion on the NHS</a> passed by the conference, was there an explicit commitment to fully public provision of the health service, this nonetheless represented great progress for Labour. </span> </p><p><a name="_GoBack"></a> <span>Also,</span><span> on the same day as Abbott’s speech Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) put to the conference a series of policy statements entitled What Labour Stands For, based on Corbyn’s pre-leadership election pledges. These will form the basis of a plan which will be put to Labour’s National Policy Forum as the framework for policy making over the coming months. <a href="">The statement ‘A secure NHS and social care’</a> states “We will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board, and ensure parity for mental health services.”</span></p><p><span><span><span><span>To what extent this positive progress will be sustained is now however somewhat uncertain. Although Corbyn’s post conference reshuffle retained his supporters in most of the senior shadow cabinet posts, the exception was health, where Jonathan Ashworth MP replaced Diane Abbott. This was apparently <a href="">the result of a deal </a>whereby in exchange for the health brief, Ashworth's place on the NEC was taken by Corbyn-supporting Kate Osamor. While this is important in bolstering Corbyn’s political influence over the Labour Party, the impact on health policy remains to be seen. To date, Ashworth has not been seen as a Corbyn supporter and his views on health policy are as yet unclear. It can only be hoped that, should his views on health policy differ from those of Corbyn and Abbott, Ashworth will nonetheless continue to work within the framework which they and the NEC have set.</span></span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/only-article-about-leadership-campaign-i-ll-write">Labour leadership, the NHS, and &#039;honest politics&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Alex Scott-Samuel Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:46:21 +0000 Alex Scott-Samuel 105910 at Seven things Momentum should do now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Momentum celebrates its first birthday, it can boast of significant victories. But to win the country, it needs an ambitious plan for what next...</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="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Momentum.</span></span></span></p><p>Momentum, the organisation now synonymous with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, turned one year old on Saturday. Its list of achievements after only twelve months is already impressive, from forming the backbone of the Jeremy for Labour Campaign this year, providing infrastructure and activists to oversee a truly world class operation, to helping a slate of six grassroots activists be elected to the party’s NEC. In addition, it’s organised blocs at numerous demonstrations as well as overseeing ‘The World Transformed’, a four-day event that ran concurrently with last month’s party conference.&nbsp;</p><p>Momentum is one of the most exciting political developments of my lifetime. It currently has over 150 groups across the UK with 20,000 full members – a staggering number given it only became a membership organisation this Spring. As well as that it currently has 170,000 supporters – a number which belies the possibilities the organisation now faces. It’s not impossible that Momentum could have more members than party rivals to Labour in the not-too-distant future.</p> <p>While, to a large extent, the fate of Momentum is tied with that of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, its aspirations go beyond any single politician. Any potential success will be judged not only by the growth of the left within Labour, but also whether the party can be modernised for the Twenty-First Century. However unlikely it might seem to the naysayers, Momentum will play a key role in that respect. A party machine which has not won a general election since 2005 will be modernised by its left, if it is to be modernised at all. You only need to look at the shambolic Owen Smith campaign this summer to know as much.</p> <p>During this summer’s leadership election I wrote ‘<a href="" target="_blank">Eight Ideas for Labour’s New Media Strategy</a>’. Those proposals had an expanded understanding of new media – not only in relation to circumventing broadcast and print, but also in mobilising activists and generating money for grassroots initiatives. It’s in the same spirit that I’ve compiled seven proposals for Momentum and how it can continue to grow, meeting its objectives. This list is by no means exhaustive. What’s more it is done with gratitude and humility to those around both it and this summer’s leadership campaign. The aim here, at the organisation’s one-year mark, is to begin a debate around where it goes next. How it transforms not only the politics of the left, but of Britain. While there is something of a binary debate about whether Momentum can transform the Labour party or build a broader national movement, I believe it can do both. And all ahead of 2020. That takes resources, but also a plan. So let’s create one.</p><p>1) <strong>Launch a Network of Regional Organisers. </strong>This needs to be happening before anything else, with these regional organisers – all of which would be full-time – integrating an increasingly coherent central effort with extant and under-networked local ones. In essence these organisers would be the channels between local groups as much as between London and the regions. Furthermore, they would be the interface between local campaigns beyond both Labour and Momentum – around food poverty, racism, low pay and more besides – and local groups. While connective action allows for large groups of strangers to come together, that needs cement: that’s where regional organisers fit in, bringing together branches, CLPs, regions and external activism. They would also be charged with increasing not only Momentum’s membership, but Labour’s – especially among working class communities and minorities. </p><p>2) <strong>Launch a Campaigns Team</strong>. One of the main ways to bring people into Labour – not only as voters and supporters, but as members – is through campaigns. Initially these would focus on anti-racism, living wage and low pay activism, women’s rights and disability activism. That is not to say that such efforts would seek to overpower already excellent organising, such as that of DPAC, Sisters Uncut, the IWGB and Black Lives Matter UK, but rather reinforce them, with each Momentum campaign looking to be part of a broader coalition around each issue. In the long term, this is fundamental to Labour becoming a campaigning organisation. For now, however, Momentum is the perfect place to start. The campaigns team, which like the regional organisers would be full time, would look to do the following: roll out national campaigns among Momentum locals as well as CLPs and branches; run national ‘days of action’, highlighting issues and facilitating protest across communities; and providing locally specific events, offering skills or legal advice in response to things like planned fracking sites or racist attacks.</p> <p>3) <strong>Launch MomentLab</strong>. This would be similar to the <a href="" target="_blank">previously proposed LabourLab</a>, itself modelled on the Republican Party’s Para Bellum Labs. What specifically would this incubator do? It would take data and figure out how to harness it in order to change outcomes in elections; work on tools that empower local party democracy; upgrade the digital infrastructure of Momentum; and create processes and technologies by which Momentum activists could communicate better among themselves, with other civil society actors and the electorate. It would help create many of the tools and processes necessary to any disruption to British politics, and would be the technological underpinning for Momentum’s campaigning efforts as well as voter registration drives and electoral activism.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the first things MomentLab would work on would be <em>BeRed, </em>a disintermediated platform for financing activism. As I have written previously:</p> <blockquote><p>“While rules around party spending are different this side of the Atlantic, crowdfunding has already played a significant role in internal party elections (Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 and 2016,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">as well as Tom Watson last year</a>&nbsp;and recent NEC elections);&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">paying the costs for a recent legal challenge</a>&nbsp;by five new party members who chose to contest the NEC decision to exclude them – and 126,000 others – from this month’s leadership election; and by Momentum, most recently in paying towards some of the costs for their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">‘The World Transformed’ event at Labour party conference</a>. Elsewhere the recent Deliveroo Strike in London&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">saw its strike fund entirely crowdfunded</a>. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Just as the Democratic party has ActBlue, Labour now needs BeRed: a crowdfunding and donation platform for Labour party candidates, projects and various efforts undertaken by allied organisations and actors in the party’s orbit. Each party member – in addition to enjoying a membership number – would also automatically get a BeRed number and identity as well as be added to its mailing list. Were the party membership to reach one million before the next general election this would be a huge, instant community for crowdfunding and fundraising. Not only would it pay for various electoral efforts at local, regional and national levels, but it would also help resource the kinds of projects which are now fundamental to Labour becoming a genuine social movement at the local level: food banks, literacy classes and breakfast clubs.” </p></blockquote><p>As with many urgently necessary projects at the moment, Labour HQ – for now mired in organisational inertia and opposition to Corbyn’s leadership – remains unlikely to opt in. That’s why Momentum, specifically MomentLab, needs to do it instead. This project would have potentially massive returns, funding a currently under-resourced organisational architecture as well as the future campaigns team and regional organisers. In an ecology that focuses on locals, and how they engage with CLPs and other activist efforts, BeRed, would be vital. It is the single most important thing Momentum can now pursue in the medium-term. Funding much of what is proposed here, will depend on it.&nbsp; </p><p>4) <strong>Launch a National Program of Political Education</strong>. Changing how political education works in the Labour party is a <a href="" target="_blank">major challenge for the medium-term</a>. As James McAsh writes, “Labour needs a programme of political education to&nbsp;empower members to better persuade those around them and to participate more confidently in internal debates on&nbsp;Labour’s&nbsp;policy&nbsp;and direction. It can also contribute towards building more participative&nbsp;and less fractious&nbsp;local parties, where members better understand one another’s perspective.”</p> <p>Right now every CLP can appoint a ‘political education and training officer’ as additional functional officers. Momentum should provide a national – and free – training program for anyone who holds that position or would like to, regardless of whether or not they are Momentum members. Trainings would not just include teaching around ideology, economics and policy, but also pedagogy – and how political education officers can learn to pass on the skills they have acquired in training. What is key here is not just educating people around the facts and how to persuade members of the public, but how they can teach others to do it as well. Such skills are of particular importance in so much as they comprise meta-learning as well as acquisition of knowledge.&nbsp; </p><p>5) <strong>Hold Regular Events Which Bring Together Members, Activists and the Media. Nationally and Locally. </strong>The idea here would be to approximate ‘NetRoots’ as it exists in the US. Given the networked politics of Momentum, along with the fantastic success of ‘The World Transformed’, regular events like this should be simple enough. The point? To turn the ‘weak ties’ of online interaction into the stronger ones of offline association. Responsibility for these events would primarily fall across the regional organisers and the campaign team.</p> <p>6) <strong>Build Networks Beyond England and Wales</strong>. <span>While it is impossible for more formal actors to do this, given the dynamics of Scottish Labour</span>, Momentum must establish ongoing channels of communication with the Scottish left, particularly around the Radical Independence Campaign, with a joint event planned for Autumn 2017. In addition, Momentum must immediately set up a working group to examine what can be learned from the 2014 referendum campaign, the aim being to apply any findings to the next general election. The basis of the surprisingly close vote in Scotland two years ago was the record-breaking turnout of 84.5%. Ultimately this handed victory to ‘No’, with turnout highest among those who favoured remaining in the UK (in some places it hit 90%). Nevertheless, while turnout was lower in places which voted Yes, like Dundee and Glasgow – large, working-class cities – it still exceeded what anyone expected and was completely at odds with data for recent general elections. According to Ipsos MORI, 65% of those living in one of the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland voted Yes, compared with just 36% of those in the one-fifth most affluent. While they didn’t turn out like the middle classes did, such a turnout among Scotland’s poorest voters was genuinely remarkable. For Corbyn to stand a chance in 2020 – or before – something similar would have to transpire in England and Wales.</p> <p>I’ve spoken before of how the difference between Gore losing the 2000 presidential race and Barack Obama sweeping to victory eight years later, was a seven percent increase in turnout. Something similar would have to happen at the next general election for Labour to stand a chance, particularly as it looks to build an Obama-esque coalition of the young, the relatively poor, women and BME voters (three of those tend to have below average turnout). But rather than looking stateside, Labour and Momentum strategists need to be talking to those involved in the Radical Independence Campaign and the likes of Common Weal. What specific strategies were used to mobilise poorer voters who don’t usually turn out? What key frames or messaging were deployed on the doorstep? How did it interact with social and the mainstream media? And, most importantly, what would you change and improve looking back? If Labour wants to get the vote out among poorer voters in England and Wales, it would do much worse than to model its campaign along the lines of left elements within ‘Yes’ two years ago.&nbsp; </p><p>7) <strong>Help Establish a think tank. Or three. </strong>Staying with the Scottish vibe, campaigning during the referendum saw an outpouring of not only new media&nbsp;– Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland and others – but also new sources for strategic policy interventions, particularly the Jimmy Reid Foundation and, more recently, Common Weal. The latter started as a high profile project within the former, only becoming independent in October 2014. The ambition of Common Weal since then mirrors the scope of the challenges an independent Scotland would face on achieving independence. Its proposals are remarkably strategic, and often capable of implementation ahead of, or after, independence. Some are tailor made to deal with the shortcomings of the defeat of 2014, such as the demand for a national investment bank which could become a protean central bank ahead of any second referendum on independence (a nice fit with Labour policy here). Another one, my personal favourite, is the call for policy academies which would be “centres of excellence of new thinking in key areas of public policy, both to improve national debate and to act as a substantial resource to the civil service and others”. This is a very smart idea and foresees the inevitable: Whitehall trying to make independence as undesirable, slow and intractable as possible. As with an investment bank, it is clear that the thinker behind it – Robin McAlpine – also views it as the embryo of a Scottish civil service when the time comes. Just like that, questions of currency and new bureaucratic institutions&nbsp;– which so plagued independence campaigners last time – would have credible solutions at the doorstep.</p> <p>There is clearly a pressing need for something similar in relation to Labour under Corbyn, specifically around policy – both in generation and later implementation. One observer at Labour party conference told me how the worst case scenario for the Labour left would be Corbyn winning a general election in the near term with Whitehall and elements of the PLP jointly undermining any radical agenda. Let’s not kid ourselves, as unlikely as any snap election is – and I think it is – that would be inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>So what can we do in anticipation of that? Well, ahead of time we need a new think tank. Preferably several. These would operate in a number of policy areas. Firstly, the economy, tax justice and financial regulation; secondly, social innovation and public service provision; and finally foreign policy. Their task? To generate concrete, radical policy for the next Labour government, successfully selling it to the electorate and disseminating it within the mainstream media. Equally as important, however, these think tanks would create a cadre of individuals capable of offering significant resources to Labour both in opposition and government. There would be regular secondments from them to not only the leader’s office but across the parliamentary party. These people would not only furnish Labour with serious policy nous but would also, in the event of Labour forming a government, be able to guide it through the inevitably difficult opening skirmishes with Whitehall. For some of Corbyn and McDonnell’s more radical polices – like a National Investment Bank – the mandarinate would in effect go on an industrial go-slow. The wonks from these particular think tanks would be able to help respond to that intransigence. Consequently, these institutions – and the people they will train and employ – will prove crucial in not only advancing and persuading the public of a radical agenda, but, more importantly, implementing it. Liaison with Common Weal about how to get such a process started isn’t just desirable, its entirely necessary. Again, a decent prototype is relatively close to home for Momentum. If they aren’t able to start three organisations of the requisite size, which is unlikely, they should look to incubate them in collaboration with partner organisations in policy and new media, with them later developing externally.</p> <p>In the last twelve months Momentum has done remarkable work, overseeing what would have seemed impossible before last Summer. Nevertheless, the challenges ahead of it remain monumental. And yet it has to meet them, the renewal not only of the left – but of the Labour party – depends on it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/labour-can-only-win-with-jeremy-corbyn">Labour can only win with Jeremy Corbyn</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Aaron Bastani Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:49:06 +0000 Aaron Bastani 105884 at The problem with politicians and democracy… <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Opening up new forms of political participation to hear the voices of the politically marginalised is critical for the well being of our polity." Interview in the run-up to the <a href="">World Forum for Democracy 2016.</a></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="37" 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 caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former prime ministers Sir John Major (left) and Tony Blair share a platform for the Remain campaign event at the University of Ulster in Londonderry. Jeff J Mitchell /Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><i>oD: There is a lot of talk about democracy at the local level – what did you find out in <a href="">Democracy Matters</a> about what citizens in these areas of Britain, north and south, make of the decisions being made in their name? What forms of regional power would be supported by the people who live locally?</i></p> <p><strong>Graham Smith (GS):</strong> It is striking that in both Assembly North and Assembly South, participants were supportive of the idea of devolution of power, but were not happy about the particular set of structures and powers that were being proposed for their localities. </p> <p>In both Assemblies we were surprised that citizens preferred an elected assembly: they were concerned about the accountability of the structures being imposed by government (elected mayor with combined authority made up of leaders of local councils). It is assumed that citizens do not support elected assemblies (harking back to the rejection of a North East Assembly in the early days of New Labour), but our experience indicates the opposite. </p> <p>This may expose a tension between more deliberative processes where citizens have the chance to learn and discuss options in depth, compared to a referendum where citizens do not have this level of information, knowledge and time to reflect.</p> <p>There were some differences in the judgements of the two assemblies. Assembly North pushed for a larger assembly covering the whole of Yorkshire with more extensive powers (akin to Scotland). Assembly South was supportive of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight area, but prioritised integration of health and social care – an issue that was not included in the negotiated agreement at the time. Citizens’ priorities are not necessarily the same as those of their political representatives. In the end, the government appears to have made a deal with the Solent region, leaving out most of Hampshire, because local political leaders in Solent were willing to accept an elected mayor. Of course, this could all change with the new government. <span class="mag-quote-center">Citizens’ priorities are not necessarily the same as those of their political representatives.</span></p> <p>What is clear is that citizens are willing and able to deliberate on complex and contested political issues. The question is whether they will be listened to by local and national political leaders. The evidence is not promising.</p> <p><i>oD: Where, if anywhere does this sync with concepts such as <a href="">George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’</a> – or are these actually conflicting notions of devolution?</i></p> <p>There is a shared agenda of devolving power. The Northern Powerhouse goes much further than devolution to Hampshire, for example, in that it aims to better connect the economies of the large northern cities. Both are primarily driven by concerns around regional economic development rather than democratic renewal.</p> <p><i>oD:</i> <i>Given the problems of representative democracy around the world – how important is the ‘mixed model’ of citizens’ assemblies for getting buy-in from citizens and politicians?&nbsp; Could you explain what that is, and what we learned about it from the contrast between Sheffield and Southampton?</i></p> <p>One of the major problems facing citizens’ assemblies and other participatory democratic processes is ensuring that outcomes have an impact on decision-making. Too often politicians either ignore or cherry-pick those recommendations that reinforce their existing views. </p> <p>As a response to this situation, politicians made up one third of the <a href="">Irish Constitutional Convention</a> alongside randomly selected citizens: a ‘mixed model’. Politicians would act as an important link between the Convention and final decision-making and would bring significant knowledge of political practice into the deliberations. The evidence on parliamentary buy-in is weak however. Much has been made about the impact of the recommendations of the Convention on same-sex marriage on the successful national referendum in May 2015. But none of the other recommendations of the Convention have had significant impact on political decision-making. The presence of politicians did not generate the systematic political impact hoped for by organizers. <span class="mag-quote-center">The evidence on parliamentary buy-in is weak however. </span></p> <p>One of the concerns about the ‘mixed model’ is that politicians are more experienced and confident in political discourse and as such they may dominate the Assembly’s deliberations. There is no systematic evidence on this issue from Ireland, so we decided to test this as part of the Democracy Matters project: Assembly North was the classic citizen-only model; Assembly South was mixed, with a proportion of local politicians alongside citizens. We are still analyzing the data, but we have some interesting early findings. </p> <p>Citizens in Assembly South liked having politicians present: they were seen as helpful to participants in understanding issues and citizens did not feel that they were overly partisan in their behaviour. Citizens preferred their presence compared to the option of a citizen-only assembly.</p> <p>That said, there is clear evidence that in the first weekend of the Assembly, politicians were a quite dominant force. We asked citizens whether anyone had dominated discussions or influenced their thinking: in both cases politicians were named.&nbsp; While domination is obviously problematic, influencing could be seen as a good thing: after all, politicians are experienced and have greater knowledge of politics. This is certainly what the citizens appreciated. But one of the key arguments for citizens’ assemblies is the belief that they come to different sorts of judgments to politicians and experts. <span class="mag-quote-center">While domination is obviously problematic, influencing could be seen as a good thing.</span></p> <p>If politicians are shaping the ideas of citizens, either through processes of domination or influence, then the judgments that are likely to emerge will be ones that reflect the perspectives and interests of politicians rather than citizens.</p> <p>The perception of domination and influence was reduced in the second weekend. This could be put down to the growing confidence of citizens, but also is likely to be related to the lower attendance of politicians in the second weekend. There were less of them about. Ireland has had similar problems ensuring attendance: an indication of the priority that politicians give to meaningful engagement with citizens?</p> <p><i>oD: How are we doing with convincing our political class that citizens’ assemblies&nbsp;can be organised effectively in the UK? What impact is the Brexit vote likely to have if any on this narrative?&nbsp;How has Brexit changed our notions of ‘citizen-led’ – or what do you think might be the debates about this in the period to come?</i></p> <p>I am not sure how much support there is amongst the political class for such assemblies. Most Conservatives have always been reluctant and sceptical at best. There is still interest in Labour and other parties, but it is not clear what form citizen engagement will take. Citizens’ Assemblies remain only one model on the table. There are other voices more interested in mass mobilisation, that are suspicious of random selection. <span class="mag-quote-center">My sense is that there is little interest amongst the governing class.</span></p> <p>Brexit offers a real opportunity for one or more assemblies to consider in depth pertinent constitutional and other issues related to leaving the European Union. But my sense is that there is little interest amongst the governing class. </p> <p>There is a real danger that the negative perception of the Brexit referendum amongst the majority of the political class (both in terms of the nature of debate and the outcome) will cloud discussions of, and commitment to, all forms of citizen participation. This would be a mistake on two fronts. First, the Brexit referendum was poorly organised – the legal and institutional architecture for referendums in the UK is particularly weak – and it is thus a poor exemplar of direct democracy, let alone other, very different forms of public participation. </p> <p>Second, if the Brexit result tells us anything, it is that large parts of the population feel alienated from the political process. Opening up new forms of political participation to hear the voices of the politically marginalised is thus critical for the well being of our polity.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>oD: You </i><a href=""><i>once wrote for us</i></a><i>: “It is a prudent principle of constitutional design that those who are privileged within the current system (and who have strong interests in any alterations to the institutional architecture) should not hold [such] agenda-setting power. In other words, politicians should not have power over a process that could well further advantage their position within the system. (This is also a central argument as to why citizens rather than politicians or their surrogates should participate in a constitutional convention.)”</i></p><p><i>Would you care to comment on the Brexit referendum in relation to this premise?</i></p> <p>I still hold this view strongly. For various reasons, the Brexit referendum was not a good example of how to engage the public in a meaningful way on a complex political issue. This is not just bitter politics because of the result – rather the way that the referendum was conducted. I have <a href="">written elsewhere</a> about the role that a citizens’ assembly could have played in the process.</p> <p><i>oD: Are there any particular projects/ experiments present at WFD2016 that you will be looking out for (we know you have a much more general brief – but still…)</i></p> <p>I am a rapporteur for WFD2016 and so do not want to single out any particular project – I want to hear more from the participants. I am always excited about hearing about practical developments. Academics can too easily be divorced from the field.</p> <p><i>oD: Is there anything you’d like to flag up in your most recent work?</i></p> <p>I am involved in two interesting initiatives at the moment. The <a href="">Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development</a> that I currently chair continues to shout about the need to think creatively about democratic engagement in response to the contemporary challenges we face, such as climate change. The short-termism that dominates politics means that critical issues around sustainability lack resonance, but are nonetheless vital to our long-term well-being.</p> <p>And keep an eye on <a href="">Participedia</a>. In the coming months, we will be launching a much more user friendly and accessible site that will make it easier to learn about democratic innovation across the world. We have some very cool tech people doing great work!</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy with a citizens’ newsroom. <a href="">Register here</a>.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" />Participation at the <a href="">World Forum for Democracy 2016 </a>- on the relationship between education and democracy - is free, if you arrange your own travel and accommodation for 7 - 9 November in Strasbourg. If you would like to go, <a href=""><strong>online registration</strong></a> is open until 21 October (see the <a href="">programme</a>). </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/graham-smith/experimenting-with-citizens%E2%80%99-assemblies-in-uk">Experimenting with citizens’ assemblies in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/colin-crouch-alex-sakalis-rosemary-bechler/educating-for-democracy"> Educating for democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/titus-alexander/7-steps-to-education-for-democracy-for-all">7 steps to education for democracy for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/graham-smith/citizens-should-have-power-to-call-constitutional-conventions">Citizens should have the power to call constitutional conventions</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"> Ireland </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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </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> Can Europe make it? uk Ireland UK Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2016 Alex Sakalis Graham Smith Mon, 10 Oct 2016 21:43:19 +0000 Graham Smith and Alex Sakalis 105872 at Dear Jeremy: it's time to speak out on Syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter to the Leader of the Labour party from concerned Labour party members, Momentum activists and socialists. To add your name,&nbsp;please email&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.37.30.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.37.30.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from Aleppo, Syria, public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Dear Jeremy,</p><p>We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other&nbsp;supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.</p><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>We share your scepticism about kneejerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn. We are not asking you to back Western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account.</p><p>We applaud your efforts, over decades, to end the crimes of brutal regimes supported by Western powers. But we do not believe that this exhausts the duties of anti-imperialists, socialists and peace activists in Western countries. The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that Western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.</p><p>We know only too well that there are those in the anti-war movement who will denounce any move critical of Russia, Iran, or Assad as tantamount to support for Western imperialist intervention. We also know that there are those on the right of British politics who will claim any such move as a concession to their policy of militaristic grandstanding. The debate on Syria has been polarised between these two positions – scrupulous “non-intervention” in the face of massive carnage enabled by Russian intervention, versus support for bombing campaigns as part of a Western “war on terror”. We have all been asked to take up a position in these terms. But the terms are false.</p><p>We appreciate your concern not to lend support to right-wing calls for fruitless bombing campaigns.&nbsp;But in the face of the horrors being perpetrated across Syria, with impunity, and above all by Russian and Assad-regime forces, we believe socialists and anti-war activists cannot simply look on in silence. We ask that you condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis.</p><p>We also urge you to lend your wholehearted support to practical measures to support civilians and pressure the regime to end its attacks, such as airdrops of aid to besieged civilians by British military forces. Guaranteeing delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians is not only a way to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk of disease and starvation. It is also a non-violent and humanitarian way to pressure the regime into a negotiated political solution to the conflict, by undermining a key part of its strategy: the “kneel or starve” campaigns deployed against opposition areas since 2013. “Food not bombs” should be the rallying cry, not “Hands off Syria”, which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.</p><p>Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of&nbsp;the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities.</p><p>Yours fraternally,</p><p>Peter Hill, Oxford University UCU Hon. Secretary (personal capacity), Oxford and District Labour Party and Momentum</p><p>Mark Boothroyd,&nbsp;Unite Health National Industrial Sector Committee (personal capacity), Camberwell and Peckham CLP</p><p>James Nowlan, Labour Party and Momentum member</p><p>Luke Cooper, academic and campaigner</p><p>Andy Forse, Oxford Labour Party, Momentum National Committee</p><p></p><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>Roland Rance,&nbsp; Jews Against Zionism, founder member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign</p><p>Mike Rowley, Labour City Councillor for&nbsp;Barton, Sandhills and North-East Headington (Oxford)</p><p>Adam Ramsay, journalist</p><p>Chris Fox, Wimbledon CLP, Thee Faction member</p><p></p><p>Christopher Roche, Bath UCU Vice President (personal capacity),&nbsp;<span class="m_-8916292543320086822m_-5640830423369375729gmail-m_7387417858527217593colour">Bath Trades Union Council President (personal capacity),&nbsp;</span>Bristol West CLP</p><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>Becky Boumelha, Labour Campaign Against Prevent</p><p>Ashley Inglis, member of the Labour Party and Stop the War Coalition</p><p></p><p>Mark Price, Labour Party member, Momentum member (Welsh Labour Grassroots) and Community Councillor for Croesyceiliog</p><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>Chris Strafford, Communications Officer, University of Manchester UNISON</p><p></p><div><div>Vijay Jackson,&nbsp;Hastings and Rye CLP,&nbsp;Scottish Labour Young Socialists,&nbsp;Treasurer, Momentum Edinburgh,&nbsp;BAME Officer, Edinburgh Labour Students</div></div><div><div><p dir="ltr">William R Rolfe,&nbsp;Labour and Momentum member,&nbsp;Branch Secretary PCS Revenue and Customs South East Valuation Branch</p></div></div><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>Bill MacKeith, member of Labour Party, Momentum, National Union of Journalists</p><p>Liz Peretz,&nbsp;Labour Party and Momentum member, Oxford</p><p></p><p>Padraic Finn,&nbsp;Brent Stop the War</p><div><div><p>Lisa Dempster, Unison Knowsley branch and National disabled members committee, Momentum member</p><p>Patrick Murphy, NUT Executive member for West Yorkshire</p></div></div><p><span class="im"></span></p><p>Merlin Gable, Monmouth CLP</p><p>Andy Wilson, Hackney CLP</p><p>Steven Ellis, Streatham CLP</p><p>Alison Lord, Walthamstow CLP</p><p>Tony Aldis, Labour Party and Momentum member</p><p>Kris Stewart, Socialist activist</p><p>Neil Rogall, member of rs21 and UCU</p><p>Brian Parkin, member of rs21 and UCU, University of Leeds</p><p>Tom Cutterham, Labour Party, Momentum and UCU member, University of Birmingham</p><p>Miriyam Aouragh, academic and campaigner</p><p>Bethan Jones, Labour Party and Momentum member</p><p>Max Leak, Labour and Momentum member</p><p>Gary Budgen, Walthamstow CLP</p><p>Tom Travers, Labour Party member</p><p>Sam Doherty, Manchester Momentum</p><p>Kat Burdon-Manley, rs21 member, Unison</p><p>Emily McDonagh, Unite</p><p>Ed McNally</p><p>Barnaby Raine</p><p></p><p>Christopher Ford, Walthamstow Constituency Labour Party</p><p>Edd Mustill, Liverpool Riverside CLP and Momentum member</p><p>Tom Harris, Lewisham West and Penge CLP, Lewisham Young Labour</p><p>Christian Hill, Socialist Activist</p><div>Jaskiran Kaur Chohan, Labour Party and Momentum Member</div><div>Lynton North, Torridge &amp; West Devon CLP / Momentum</div><div>Hannah Fox, Labour Party member</div><div>Omar Raii, Hornsey &amp; Wood Green CLP</div><div>Tom Dale, Labour Party member, Hackney South &amp; Shoreditch</div><div>Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Momentum</div><div>Nathan Roberts, Lambeth Momentum</div><div>Sue Shaw, Labour and Momentum member, Henley CLP</div><div>Susan Pashkoff</div><div>Daniel Nichols,&nbsp;Romford CLP</div><div>Nick Hostettler,&nbsp;Streatham CLP,&nbsp;Lambeth Momentum</div><div><p>Phil Vellender, Hackney Labour Party, UCU HE member, Senior Lecturer</p><p>Tom Davies, Walthamstow CLP and NUJ member</p><div id="m_-8916292543320086822m_-5640830423369375729gmail-m_1829390618669307177yiv9974910538yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1475858935494_4253">Les Hearn,&nbsp;Holborn &amp; St Pancras CLP,&nbsp;NUT member</div></div><div>Gabriel Pogrund</div><div>David Moynihan, Hackney Labour Party</div><div>Pete Firmin, Hampstead &amp; Kilburn CLP and Momentum member</div><div>Jane Connor, Walthamstow West Labour Party</div><div>Sheen Gleeson, Hackney</div><div>Vivien Green</div><div>Mags Gainsborough</div><div>Tony Benson</div><div>Stephen Wood, Hayes &amp; Harlington CLP, Hillingdon LG Unison</div><div>Nicholas Sebley, Labour Party member and Corbyn voter</div><div>Hannah Davies,&nbsp;Labour supporter</div><div>——–</div><div><strong>To add your name to this letter,&nbsp;please email&nbsp;<span><a href="" target="_blank"></a></span></strong></div><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk various Fri, 07 Oct 2016 23:00:01 +0000 various 105823 at £190K payoff for ex-chief of NHS Trust that failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why Katrina Percy had to go.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;"><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="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Katrina Percy</span></span></span></p><p style="text-align: left;">In August, Southern Health NHS Trust’s Board invited failed chief executive Katrina Percy to step sideways into a £240,000-a-year job created specially for her. Today, under pressure from the public, patients and families bereaved by the Trust’s neglect, Percy stepped down from that role with a £190,000 payoff.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Percy presided over neglect, cover-up and cronyism at Southern Health. The Trust failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths, defamed bereaved families who fought to expose malpractice, and&nbsp;<a href="">handed contracts worth millions of pounds</a>&nbsp;to companies owned by Percy’s past associates.</p><p style="text-align: left;">In an agreed statement, Percy said today: “I reflected on the responses to my remaining employed by the Trust working as a regional strategic adviser.&nbsp;After discussing the current situation with colleagues, we have come to the conclusion that it is not possible for me to continue with my work supporting GPs as they develop new ways of working in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”</p><p style="text-align: left;">Today we republish my piece from April 2016 which revealed that:</p><ul><li>• the Trust knew of failings at least 10 months before a young man called Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in its care;</li><li>• senior management suppressed the fact that <b>before</b> Connor died another patient had drowned <strong>in the same bath</strong>;</li><li>• while Southern Health failed to safeguard Connor Sparrowhawk, staff had devoted time and resources to monitoring his mother’s blog.</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2 class="entry-title">On Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death</h2><h2 class="entry-title"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal;">A leaked document reveals that an NHS England Trust knew of failings 10 months before a young man died in its care.</span>&nbsp;</h2><p style="text-align: left;">first published 14 April 2016&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">Tuesday morning brought fresh shock to the family of Connor Sparrowhawk, a quirky, funny young man who drowned following a seizure in a bath at an NHS facility nearly three years ago.</p> <p class="Body">On Tuesday Connor’s mother, Sara Ryan, received a copy of a leaked NHS document, dated August 2012, that noted failings at the facility, failings that might have set alarm bells ringing a full 10 months before Connor’s death.</p> <p class="Body">Late last year an inquest jury at Oxford Coroner’s court determined that Connor, who had learning disabilities and epilepsy, had drowned following a seizure in the bath at the Southern Health NHS Trust unit knows as STATT (short-term assessment and treatment team) in Slade House, at Headington, near Oxford. He was 18 years old.</p> <p class="Body">The jury said that Connor’s death, on 4 July 2013, had been “contributed to by neglect”, that there was a lack of training and leadership at the unit and poor communication between staff and the family.</p> <p class="Body">Connor was known to be epileptic, and his mother had warned staff —&nbsp;in writing — that he had an injury to his tongue that suggested a recent seizure. Yet Connor was allowed to bathe unsupervised and behind a closed door. (A support worker at Connor’s inquest said she used a key to open the door which suggests it was locked.)</p> <p class="Body"><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="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor with his stepdad, Rich, and brothers Owen and Tom 2 weeks before his death (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">The document leaked this week, dated 22nd August 2012 and headed “Quality and Safety Review Update”, suggests that Southern Health NHS Foundation was aware of failings at the unit 10 months before Connor died and three months before they officially took over the provision in November 2012.</p> <p class="Body">Among detailed criticisms of the short term assessment unit, the document notes a “lack of clarity” in patient care plans. It was “difficult to track care for patients, identify the reason for admission”.</p> <p class="Body"><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="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Extracts from document dated 22 August 2012</span></span></span>The move of information onto an electronic record system (known as RiO) was “limited”. The document identified “a gap between what is up to date in paper form and what is now being recorded on the RiO.”</p> <p class="Body">(Or rather, it noted: there “seems to be a gap”. Either there was or there wasn’t a gap. The lack of clarity and rigour in the document itself is revealing).</p> <p class="Body">Clinical team meetings, held each week, lacked information. Staff were aware that there had been an audit of care plans on the RiO system, but “they were not aware of any results or action plans to make improvements”.</p> <p class="Body">There were concerns about cleanliness, maintenance and repairs, particularly in the bathrooms “where floors, tiles and units are worn or damaged.” And: “Some items such as broken floor tiles would represent a risk, particularly if a patient might self harm.” </p> <p class="Body"><a href="">Connor’s brother Tom</a>, now 16 years old, read the leaked document on Tuesday. He said: “This latest news is really sad. It’s not like they were crap because they didn’t check what they were doing. They checked and they didn’t care.”</p><p class="Body"><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="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Connor and his brother Tom (Sara Ryan)</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">This is only the latest in a series of shocking discoveries for Connor’s family, who were initially informed by Southern Health that he had died of “natural causes”.</p> <p class="Body">Connor’s mother Sara Ryan has recorded <a href="">on her blog</a> that during the inquest “the big shocker (and there were several)” was the revelation on Day 4 that a patient had died in 2006 in the same bath in which Connor drowned.</p> <p class="Body">Ryan wrote: “The Responsible Clinician let it be known, through her counsel, that she had been actively discouraged by members of . .&nbsp; senior management from raising the issue of this earlier death. In the same bath . . . Ground spinning stuff.”</p> <p>In the aftermath of Connor’s death, and in response to his family’s relentless campaigning, NHS England commissioned an audit of deaths at Southern Health from the audit, tax and advisory firm Mazars. </p> <p>Their report, published in December last year (there’s a PDF <a href="">here</a>), found that Southern had failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths, and that the likelihood of a death being investigated depended heavily on the patient’s profile. Deaths of learning disabled people were least likely to be investigated. When investigations <em>were</em> carried out, said Mazars: “There was a very poor quality of written investigations at all stages.”</p> <p>Mazars wrote: “A culture across the Trust has developed that means there was an absence of mortality review in Mental Health and Learning Disability which results in lost learning, a lack of transparency when care and delivery problems occur as well as a lack of assurance to families and commissioners that a death was not avoidable and has been properly investigated.”</p> <p>The morning after Connor’s death, according to an internal document dated 5 July 2013, Southern Health took the trouble to note “potential media interest” in the incident. That document holds yet another disturbing revelation. The Trust that so thoroughly failed to safeguard Connor Sparrowhawk had, for months, devoted time and resources to monitoring his mother’s blog.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// blue.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// blue.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Notes</h2> <ul><li>• Sara Ryan blogged throughout Connor’s time at Slade House and has continued to do so since Connor’s death.&nbsp;<a href="">Here is her blog</a>.</li><li>• Connor Sparrowhawk’s family is supported by the charity <a href="">INQUEST</a>, and represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Charlotte Haworth of Bindmans solicitors.</li><li>• Details of the Care Quality Commission inspection report of December 2013 can be found&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</li><li>• The Verita report, commissioned by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which confirms&nbsp;that the Connor’s death could have been prevented,&nbsp;can be found&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>, along with a statement of regret from Southern Health’s chief executive Katrina Percy. (February 2014)</li><li>• The Mazars review: Independent review of deaths of people with a Learning Disability or Mental Health problem in contact with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust April 2011 to March 2015 <a href="">PDF here</a>. (December 2016)</li></ul> <p class="Body">&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="/ournhs/imogen-tyler/connor-sparrowhawk-erosion-of-accountability-in-nhs">Connor Sparrowhawk: the erosion of accountability in the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/sara-ryan/ministry-of-justice-says-you-don%E2%80%99t-need-lawyer-at-inquest-trust-state">Ministry of Justice says you don’t need a lawyer at an Inquest. Trust the State</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/tom-ryan/since-my-brother-s-preventable-death">Since my brother’s preventable death . . .</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 ourNHS Care and justice Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Fri, 07 Oct 2016 17:34:46 +0000 Clare Sambrook 105831 at The draft BBC Charter is “distinctively” fishy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest twist in the Bake Off<em> </em>saga is a reminder of why we should be suspicious about the draft BBC Charter’s emphasis on “distinctiveness”</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="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Great British Bake Off wins Best Feature at the BAFTAS. Ian West PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>One of the most significant differences between the recently published <a href="">draft BBC Charter</a><strong><em> </em></strong>and the current one is a new requirement for the BBC to be “distinctive”. The most recent development in the Bake Off<strong> </strong>story served up by <a href="">Damian Collins MP,</a> Acting Chair of the <a href="">Select Committee for Culture Media and Sport,</a> is<strong><em> </em></strong>a timely reminder that this “distinctiveness” requirement has the potential for long-term damage to the BBC. </p> <p>According to<strong> </strong><a href=""><em>The Times</em></a><strong> </strong>Collins has warned that if the BBC should choose to retaliate to the loss of its biggest hit show by scheduling a new cookery series against the refried Channel 4 version, Ofcom might have to investigate. Then, he suggested: “I think it would be fair to say that it wouldn’t be a distinctive programme.”</p> <p>Under the new Charter it’s proposed that all BBC programming and services on TV, radio and online must be “substantially different” from those available from “other providers…both in prime time and overall”. This is new. Search <a href="">the current BBC Charter f</a>or the word” distinctive” and you will draw a blank. Distinctive is set out in terms of” “the mix of different genres, programmes and content; quality; proportion of original UK output; level of risk-taking, innovation, challenge and creative ambition; and the range of audiences it serves.”&nbsp; </p> <p>On the face of it, this must be right. The criterion appears unexceptional and perhaps even overdue. Why have a BBC, and why pay for it with a form of hypothecated tax if it doesn’t offer something distinctively different from the commercial alternative? We want to taste the difference. If the market can provide then who needs public service media? </p> <p>Yet Damian Collins’ remarks on <em>Bake Off</em> illustrate, and as <a href="">LSE’s Damien Tambini</a><strong><em> </em></strong>has argued, the concept of distinctiveness can be used in an attempt to “constrain and diminish the BBC”. </p> <p>The thorny question is how to measure and implement the new “distinctiveness” criteria.&nbsp; From next April that task will fall to the media regulator Ofcom. In the first instance, the BBC itself will make a judgement, and then in the event of further challenge it will be up to Ofcom to decide. &nbsp;Its Chief Executive Sharon White has indicated that true to the regulator’s consumerist remit she will look to the audience to guide <a href="">Ofcom’s interpretation</a> of “distinctiveness”. </p> <p>What this may mean in practice is not entirely clear. And Damian Collins’ intervention makes it less so. The devil lies in the detail. So Damian Collins may have been speaking prematurely; but the charm of “distinctiveness” from the point of view of the BBC’s rivals is how convenient the term may prove if you’re looking for a BBC-bashing weapon. </p> <p>Is the BBC which has been in the business of making successful cookery shows since time immemorial to get out of the business altogether, in prime time, or only at a point in the schedule when it will/might directly compete with a commercial rival’s programme? And what about other hit shows which have been poached, or cloned? ITV, always the worst offender when it comes to copycat shows and scheduling complaints, has announced a <em>Strictly-alike </em>celebrity talent show, to be called <em>Dance, Dance, Dance</em>. Under the new Charter will the BBC be obliged to get out of the way, and demote <em>Strictly</em> to some backwater of the schedules to protect ITV’s sovereign right to prime time? What of the new Clarkson vehicle? When that comes on stream on Amazon later this year, will the BBC be asked to pull <em>Top Gear</em>? </p> <p>This is what happens when you start to measure public service output by market criteria, and the more you do so the worse it gets. The problem arises because for the past twenty to thirty years the BBC has increasingly been called upon to retreat from areas the market would like to exploit. The once common and taken-for-granted understanding of what we mean by “public service” has become problematic, under assault from proponents of marketisation. And the familiar Catch-22 has begun to operate: if the BBC has a hit it is accused of duplicating the market and dumbing down; if its programming is unpopular, usually because too highbrow- arts, current affairs, education – the public and the critics ask how it can justify the Licence Fee.&nbsp; But as &nbsp;<a href="">Patrick Barwise</a> has argued the chief risk of the distinctiveness criterion is that it smuggles in a market failure definition of public service that could in time reduce the BBC to a marginal role. &nbsp;He makes the case that the BBC should be able to compete on quality, at the very least to keep its commercial competitors up to the mark. Or as Lord Grade says he put it when he was Chief Executive at Channel 4: “It’s <a href="">the BBC that keeps us honest</a>.” </p> <p>&nbsp;The very vagueness of the term is a potential bear-trap for the BBC. How can we be sure? Because we have been here before. As <a href="">I pointed out</a> on the publication of the May White Paper, the last time the BBC had to face a test of “distinctiveness” was when it launched its ambitious Digital Curriculum service in 2006. Within months competitors had complained, and the very ambiguity of the term made the BBC output impossible to defend. The result was that the BBC abandoned its flagship schools project and became far more risk averse when launching new projects, with <a href="">a chilling effect on</a> new service and new media innovation, in particular its capacity to offer audience participation; an issue as <a href="">Becky Hogge</a> has argued that remains as relevant as ever.</p> <p>&nbsp;If anything could inhibit the BBC from engaging in “risk-taking, innovation, challenge and creative ambition” as it is bound to do under the disinctiveness provisions of the new Charter, it is the liberal use of the same distinctiveness criterion to put the squeeze on the BBC every time it creates a hit. Innovation is risky. The BBC has nurtured these hit shows in the face of fierce competition, the usual stumbles and failures and some industry scepticism. This illustrates Mazzucato’s point that we have a long tradition of the public sector taking the risk and the private sector (in this case Love Productions) reaping the reward.&nbsp; </p> <p>But as the recent <em>Bake Off</em> example highlights the BBC Is now on a hiding to nothing: if it takes a risk and fails, then that’s an example of a waste of public money. Nurture and create a hit show, create a valuable property, and it will only be a matter of time before someone poaches it. At which point the private sector cleans up, and the BBC is prohibited from launching another. </p> <p>&nbsp;Damned if you do….</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="/david-elstein/great-british-bake-off-defects-to-channel-4-what-does-it-all-mean">The Great British Bake Off defects to Channel 4 - what does it all mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/julian-petley/bbc-charter-renewal-invisible-actors-and-critical-friends">BBC Charter renewal: invisible actors and critical friends</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/lis-howell/over-by-christmas-%E2%80%93-non-debate-that-is-bbc-charter-renewal">Over by Christmas – the non-debate that is BBC Charter renewal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb uk UK what is public service? Mike Flood Page Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:01:22 +0000 Mike Flood Page 105826 at Why Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party should reach out to non-voters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Non-voters aren't apathetic, but alienated. Corbyn needs to mobilise them to win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, by David Holt.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“We’ve got to win in Cardiff North. We’ve got to win in Nuneaton. We’ve got to win in Milton Keynes”, <a href="">asserted</a> Owen Smith in the recent leadership campaign. “We’ve got to get Tories and Greens and Liberals to vote Labour.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the mainstream commentary surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, one thing is clear – he must claim the centre ground of politics and reach out to Tory voters. The BBC’s political coverage is often based on this assumption, with the corporation deciding to hold its 2015 televised Labour leadership debate in the well-known marginal seat of Nuneaton.</p><p dir="ltr">This has been the dominant, so-called pragmatic, way of doing parliamentary politics for my lifetime – what Professor Jeremy Gilbert from the University of East London <a href="">calls</a> “politics as marketing”. In this conception of politics, “there is only ever a very narrow range of opinions which can really be considered sensible, because they are predicated on an understanding of how the world really works.” Voters are rational, self-interested actors with fixed preferences. The politician is sold to the voters as likable and competent, much like a salesperson selling the party brand to customers. “The target market is almost exclusively floating voters in marginal constituencies”. </p><p dir="ltr">Writer Tariq Ali argues this endless battle for the mythical, ‘sensible’ centre ground has led to the creation of an “extreme centre” in British politics, with Tory-Labour bipartisanship leading to destructive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the financial crisis, privatisation, rising inequality and nasty and dangerous narratives being pushed on welfare and immigration. </p><p dir="ltr">As well as being <a href="">tone deaf</a> to radical social movements, this focus on a tiny number of voters in marginal seats ignores what has been called the largest party in British politics – the <a href="">15.7 million</a> who didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election. </p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn himself has repeatedly <a href="">said</a> he wants to reach out to those who don’t vote, especially young people. Noting that turnout went down from 84 percent in 1950 to 66 percent in 2015, Professor Danny Dorling from the University of Oxford agrees, <a href="">arguing</a> “the best strategy for Labour to increase its share of the vote is to target people who vote for minor parties and the much larger groups [who] have given up voting or even registering to vote.”</p><p dir="ltr">So, who doesn’t vote and why don’t they bother? Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary university, <a href="">notes</a> the people who don’t vote tend to be “the poor, the poorly educated, the young, the transient, the newly arrived, and the less politically knowledgeable and interested.” Speaking to voters in Manchester before the last general election, the BBC’s Emma Ailes <a href="">reported</a> that “it seems anger not apathy is turning people off voting” – an observation <a href="">highlighted</a> by polling. <a href="">According</a> to a 2013 poll by Survation the top reasons given by people for not voting were a belief that their vote will not make a difference; that the parties and candidates are all the same; a lack of interest in politics; not enough information or knowledge to choose; and that their beliefs are not represented by the parties and candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">This deeply concerning reality is neither natural nor inevitable. As I note above, in the 1950s, general election turnout was around 20 percent higher than it is now. The <a href="">Nordic countries</a> have very high levels of voter turnout. Indeed there have been British votes recently with very high turnouts – the Scottish referendum (85 percent – the highest turnout in any British election since universal suffrage) and the EU referendum (72 percent). Arguably, in contrast to most of the elections of the past 35 years, these two votes actually meant something – there was actually a real choice for voters to make.</p><p dir="ltr">This gets to the heart of the issue. Citing British Social Attitudes survey data, in 2010 Alison Park, the Research Director of the National Centre for Social Research, <a href="">noted</a> one reason for the low turnout in recent elections “is that New Labour’s move to the political centre in the 1990s has led to voters thinking there is relatively little difference between the two main parties.” Professor Bale <a href="">explains</a> turnout goes down when “the connection between who makes it into office and the policies they pursue is vague”. </p><p dir="ltr">To counter these common criticisms of modern politicians, Corbyn needs to position the Labour party as a clear and easily understandable alternative to the Conservatives and make sure the party follows through on any promises it makes. In addition, Labour needs more working-class MPs, a problem Corbyn’s 2015 <a href="">proposal</a> to provide grants to less affluent parliamentary candidates would help alleviate.</p><p dir="ltr">To mobilse non-voters commentator Owen Jones has <a href="">suggested</a> Labour carry out the biggest registration drive in history. And with Labour membership standing at over 600,000 and Corbyn attracting crowds of thousands of people, journalist Paul Mason <a href="">believes</a> Labour supporters can play a key role by being ambassadors in their communities, engaging with the wider electorate. Trade unions, which have traditionally encouraged the working-classes to vote, also have an important role to play.</p><p dir="ltr">However, it is important to note the first past the post system means significantly expanding the electorate will not, on its own, win the election for Corbyn. This is <a href="">because</a> the people who don’t vote tend to live in Labour dominated seats, meaning a higher turnout in most constituencies would simply mean a bigger win for the Labour MP. However, it would still lead to some gains, with a Fabian Society analysis <a href="">showing</a> a 7.3 percent boost in turnout in marginal seats would lead to Labour winning 52 seats if each new voter backed Labour.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn, then, will almost certainly need to attract significant numbers of people who had voted Conservative. This isn’t as unbelievable as the mainstream media would have you believe. Polling suggests many of Corbyn’s political positions – on the NHS, on railways, on housing and foreign policy – have the <a href="">support</a> of large sections of the British public, sometimes the majority of Tory voters.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond the narrow electoral math, there are a number of reasons why Corbyn’s Labour Party (and other political parties) should work hard to engage with non-voters – for their party’s own benefit and for the nation as a whole.</p><p dir="ltr">First, though it may not translate into immediate electoral gains, getting the support of non-voters would increase the popular vote for Labour, one source of legitimacy in political debates. In addition, it would increase the number of the poorer people who are interested and involved in Labour politics, and politics more generally. This process would hopefully mean Labour increasingly becomes more responsive to working-class concerns (such as <a href="">income inequality</a> and <a href="">social housing</a>) and begin once again to seriously represent the working-class communities who have been effectively <a href=",-not-Corbyn,-is-to-blame-for-Brexit#.V-_XiKUVDIU">ignored</a> by New Labour and the Tories for decades. </p><p dir="ltr">More broadly, this could be the starting gun for a mass re-engagement with the political system, with previously disheartened and unrepresented sections of society becoming invested in parliamentary politics and the outcome of elections. The importance of this should not be underestimated. It is clear the Brexit vote was <a href="">decades in the making</a>, the product, in large part, of the politics of the ‘extreme centre’ that the UK has endured since New Labour was established. For example, a recent Oxfam report <a href="">noted</a> the UK’s extreme level of inequality was a likely contributing factor in the vote to leave the European Union. Similarly, focus groups run by Britain Thinks <a href="">found</a> “Britain is divided – a nation of people who describe themselves as ‘haves’ and ‘have nots'”. The research found the ‘have nots’ – who were much more likely to vote Brexit – described “a powerful sense of injustice about their situation in life” and “the feeling that systems are in place which work in favour of elites and against their best interests”.</p><p dir="ltr">In a similar vein the 2011 riots that swept England were informed by social and economic issues coming out of ‘the extreme centre’. In addition to difficult relations with the police, an extensive LSE-Guardian study <a href="">noted</a> rioters identified a number of motivating grievances, “from the increase in tuition fees, to the closure of youth services and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance.” The report continues: “Many complained about perceived social and economic injustices.” </p><p>If the UK is to move forward and build the progressive, more equal, tolerant, just society that Corbyn supporters and many others want, then the political system has to sincerely engage with, and listen to, all of society – not just swing voters in Nuneaton.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alex-goodman/hijack-or-mutiny-labour-leadership-and-left">A hijack or a mutiny? Labour, leadership and the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Ian Sinclair Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:14:43 +0000 Ian Sinclair 105822 at Why we protested at Heathrow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Aviation expansion must be stopped.</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 class='image_title'>Reclaim the Power leaflet</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of activists took part in a day of mass action on October 1st at Heathrow and its surrounds to protest against aviation expansion and to tax frequent flyers to encourage other means of transport that is more environmentally friendly.</p><p dir="ltr">The mass day of action against airport expansion was organised by Reclaim the Power [RTP] – a grassroots direct action group for social and environmental justice. The background to the action takes place within the context in which the proposal for airport expansion at Heathrow now has <a href="">support of a majority of MPs</a> in the House of Commons. Moreover the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] were meeting in Canada to discuss a plan to provide carbon offsetting for international flights as proposed by the UN climate agreement. This means that the carbon released into the atmosphere by the long-haul flights will be ‘offset’ by money going into ecological projects that, they say, would restore the balance in the atmosphere.</p><p dir="ltr">There are grave problems with the plan and NGO’s have expressed their concern over the loopholes in the proposed deal. For instance the plan indicates that the carbon offset could happen by planting as many trees as it would take to restore the balance in the atmosphere caused by airline emissions in a given amount of time. The trees however would take many years to grow and restore the balance in the atmosphere making this an impractical solution as the non-reversible environmental damage has already taken place.</p><p dir="ltr">The proposals by the Aviation Environmental Federation [AEF] to modify the plans only ask that the voluntary commitment to the plan is non-negotiable once committed and that the environmental situation must not be made worse. The plan also emphasises that reduction in emissions is on par with sustainable development to counteract the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This is wrong. The idea of sustainable development is a long term process and an unattainable ideal. What is needed is sustainable development as well as a reduction in carbon emissions to safeguard the environment. Moreover the offsetting plan does not come close to the aims of the Paris agreement formulated earlier this year. It could be said that the plans for green washing are an excuse for aviation expansion.</p><p dir="ltr">RTP’s mass day of action consisted in a flash mob where 100+ protesters were involved in a “die in”. Wearing gas masks they symbolised the deaths caused by air pollution from the aviation industry. Simultaneously there was a bike block where over a hundred protesters on bikes in red boiler suits circled the airport. The flash mob started with testimonies read out from the Pacific islands and the horn of Africa from communities that had been affected by climate change. Then wealthy frequent flyers responsible for most flights walked over the “die in” to pass a red tape symbolising the red line crossed by the aviation industry in their effort for airport expansion to the check-in desk where the flyers were handed flutes of champagne and revelled in their prosperity and privilege. The action came to a close with some facts about pollution being read out and a choir spoofing popular songs highlighting the plight caused by climate change.</p><p dir="ltr">The bike block circled the airport and visited Harmondworth detention centre to emphasise the close connection between climate change and damaging phenomena such as drought causing mass migration problems. The bike block also visited a local village that would be affected by the expansion as another runaway would mean more traffic causing noise and air pollution. Finally all participants congregated at Grow Heathrow with reports from the day of action as well as affiliate groups such as The London-Mexican Solidarity Network and the ZAD.</p><p dir="ltr">Climate change is happening everywhere. The Earth’s temperature is rapidly increasing because of human activity. The government’s plans for intervention are simply inadequate, putting the ecosystem and humanity under threat. It is up to us to take action to make the government see that drastic measures need to be taken now! Flying is becoming the fastest human driver of climate change. The growth is incompatible with UK targets as set by the Climate Change Act 2008.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Uzma Malik Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:00:04 +0000 Uzma Malik 105820 at Theresa May, the end of Empire State Britain and the death of Unionism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The old British state is crumbling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 11.00.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 11.00.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="391" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By James Gillray, 1793 - Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Tory conference tried to sail on as if the sea wasn’t turbulent and choppy, with the ship heading for the rocks.</p><p dir="ltr">Tory statecraft, élan, even class confidence, have all contributed to this – along with the vindication of the long held faith and religious zeal of those of a Brexit disposition. Many have come late to the latter, while Theresa May has embraced this dogma with the passion of the new found convert.</p><p dir="ltr">You don’t have to look very far from the Tory bubble to find a very different mood and Britain. The pound at a 31 year old low, economic and financial jitters, Renault-Nissan warning about future investment in North East England, and wider business decisions being mothballed. </p><p dir="ltr">Tory chutzpah won’t be enough this time for the Theresa May land grab on UKIP and Labour territory. There is a new populism in town, alert to the concerns which produced the Brexit vote, but one which attempts to promise certainty, stability and security in a world of uncertainty – part of which was created by the Brexit vote. </p><p dir="ltr">Traditional Tory unionism – as articulated by Disraeli, Churchill and Macmillan – had an innate understanding of the patchwork nature of the United Kingdom. It had its blind spots (Ireland obviously) along with its elitism, patrician qualities, and limited democracy, but it told a story of working class incorporation into citizenship and institutions that had a popular resonance. </p><p dir="ltr">That Tory story of Britain was a nationalism – a quiet, self-confident, self-assured nationalism of an elite which knew its place, power and importance – that has withered now to a faint echo. Its age is really that of a Britain of the past – pre-Heath, pre-Thatcher – irrespective of the continual, but empty, referencing of it by every Tory leader before and since. </p><p dir="ltr">Theresa May is trying to invoke this tradition but it is threadbare, lacking a popular touch, and ill-equipped for modern Britain. Unionism is a form of British state nationalism, and a nationalism without the sure touch of a union vision is even more obviously nationalist. The discovery that Tories are British nationalists, unambiguous in rhetoric like ‘British jobs for British workers’, came as a shock to The Spectator’s Alex Massie, who <a href="">finally woke up</a> and realised that he was living under an apologetic ‘new nationalist government’. He always has been. </p><p dir="ltr">Something profound has shifted in this nationalism. It has become an expression of a defiant, out and proud ‘little Britain’ which can now be seen in every walk of life – from politics, to media, and public life. This is explicitly no longer in most respects a British nationalism, but an English nationalism. And the future of British politics will turn out to be determined by the different expressions, forces and dynamics within that nationalism.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a forgetful English nationalism – which has a collective amnesia about the nations and regions of the UK and which is driven by the insider class and elites. The other is a populist, vengeful English nationalism which utilizes feelings of hurt, loss, anger and betrayal – and which could turn into something much more poisonous and nasty than we have seen so far. </p><p dir="ltr">The first sits at ease within the mainstream of the Tory coalition and establishment, and taps into the absent mindedness and forgetfulness which always characterises power and elites in Britain. This has showcased its ad-hoc nature and pragmatism, and was evident in how the UK gained and then lost an Empire. But the second is inarguably the much more potent, powerful force – evident in the Brexit vote, UKIP’s near four million votes in 2015, and the Corbyn revolution. And in a different context, such dismay and discontent gave force to the powerful coalition which nearly won the 2014 Scottish indyref.</p><p dir="ltr">In an age of disruption and anger, Scotland’s ascendant SNP might seem an anomaly. So far they have managed to ride the twin horses of incumbents and insurgents, first, under the populist Alex Salmond, and now under the popular Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP government are playing a canny, waiting game waiting for the UK government to play its cards on Brexit before it decides to act and make a decision at some point on the possibilities for indyref2.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, pressures and constraints are evident in the SNP – in office for what will be coming up for ten years in 2017 – a political timescale that normally exhausts sitting governments – and by which point Thatcher and Blair were heading out their respective doors. The SNP is not immune to the laws of political dynamics and is fast becoming a new class and establishment vehicle, while Sturgeon’s many qualities may play well on Brexit, but now seem less well-suited for a substantive domestic policy agenda. That may seem too harsh, but as she comes up for two years as Scotland’s first minister her domestic legislative and policy record and programme seems thin. And at some point in the future that lack of substance will eventually matter. Politics is always about more than symbols.</p><p dir="ltr">In bygone days, at least in the mythological version of British constitutionalism, the multiple crises of government and what passes for democracy would be met by a whirlwind of establishment initiatives, many, if not all of which, would be holding operations or mere window dressing. This would then be presented as enlightened elite rule and as good old-fashioned British compromise. Now the crises are so deep, and the rot in the system so profound, that such time honoured ways no longer suffice.</p><p dir="ltr">It is also that the mythology is just that: the mumbo-jumbo and superstitions that have been invented and forged to keep the British state show going. Thus, prime exhibit number one here has been the fetishizing of parliamentary sovereignty – something invented to give the whole project meaning and coherence, and yet without any real legal meaning, and shorn of any even passing semblance of relevance since the UK entered the then EEC in 1973 (and subsequently limited further by Labour’s half-complete constitutional reforms from devolution to the Supreme Court). </p><p dir="ltr">Absolute sovereignty as a mantra has played a significant part in two of the most brutal humiliations of Britain’s establishment in its history – the loss of the American colonies and Ireland. The debacle of Brexit and the near-loss of Scotland – the last of which has now been put back into play – can be seen as equally historic and disastrous to the prestige and power of the UK and for similar reasons; hoist on the wreckage of the shibboleth of sovereignty.</p><p dir="ltr">Several powerful forces are heading for an almighty collusion. A Tory Brexit is emboldening a Tory party which thinks it can win absolute power with 24% of the electorate and then jettison large parts of the Cameron-Osborne agenda and head off in the opposite direction. The May moment is truly making a drama out of a crisis and ruthlessly using it to fashion a new politics claimed as ‘the centre ground’ – but which is equal parts Thatcherite, Blairite, Farage and Daily Mail with a dash of Ed Miliband’s concerns about predatory capitalism for good measure. That’s a remarkably Big Tent in aspiration and rhetoric, but it disguises how thin and narrow Tory England really is.</p><p dir="ltr">Faultlines abound. British politics for one no longer exist as a national entity, campaign and set of debates. This was evident in the 2015 UK election, but it carries huge consequences when Westminster still claims its supreme place and power in national life, and the Tories swagger, walk and talk and claim their unrepresentative tribe as the one true national party and voice. Scotland has already left the building that is Britain, and Northern Ireland has placed itself in some kind of limbo. </p><p dir="ltr">Unionism as we used to know it is dead. It was of its age: benign, supposedly wise, but deeply problematic, championed by anti-democratic forces who we were meant to trust and respect and leave to get on with the big decisions. A naked British or English nationalism, or indeed, more benign Scottish, Welsh or Irish minority nationalisms, do not provide any kind of adequate road maps for Britain or their respective countries. For all the plaudits the leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson gets there is very little behind her and very little strategy, and it is even beyond her to single-handedly reinvent a political tradition in terminal decline; providing a tactical, populist opposition to the SNP may prove to be a different thing.</p><p dir="ltr">Equally, the Tory and Labour tribal accounts of Britain, whether in their traditional garbs or more recent modernisation versions, or the Corbyn revival show, have shown themselves to be inadequate for the times and crises we live in. What then comes after Thatcherism, New Labour and the battering of social democracy? What set of common values and over-arching political values and philosophies can we find to reassert some humanity, decency and public good across these isles after three decades of vandalism and asset-stripping?</p><p dir="ltr">Even to ask the question is to illustrate the scale of the task, but the multiple crises we face: economic, social, cultural, democratic and geo-political, to name the most obvious, mean that the establishment order of Britain, old and new, has been revealed transparently as rotten, deformed and inadequate. All of Britain’s political elites have been tainted and tarnished by it, and somehow, Brexit and the reconfiguration of the relations of the peoples’ and nations of these isles, has to involve finding new collective voices and vessels. </p><p dir="ltr">The Empire State Britain – which ran this country for so long and gave us the welfare state, Thatcherism and New Labour via its lack of democracy and ‘we know bestism’ – while clinging on to the illusions of Great British Powerism, is slowly but brutally coming to an end. Politics from now on will be much more bumpy, unpredictable and messy, and while there will be many difficulties to come, there is a profound opening and opportunity for ultimately, a much better politics and society. The road ahead will undoubtedly be filled with hazards, but at least there will be no false illusion that the British state can be reformed or used to bring about enlightened progress. </p><p>The end of Empire State Britain isn’t just the end of that version of Britain, but the UK as we have known it, and potentially the UK as a state. Huge questions face us about whether an emasculated, discredited political class can navigate its way out of this mess of their own making to a new constitutional and political settlement – which in all likelihood will be a post-British one.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/it-s-england-s-brexit">It’s England’s Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/forever-blowing-bubbles-why-corbyn-won-labour-and-how-he-can-change-britain">Forever blowing bubbles: why Corbyn won Labour and how he can change Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Gerry Hassan Fri, 07 Oct 2016 10:06:01 +0000 Gerry Hassan 105819 at Forward Wales: five ways Welsh progressives need to take back control <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">The fallout from Brexit is an existential crisis for the future of devolution and Wales’ so-called ‘progressive’ identity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><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'> The Welsh Assembly, by eNil, Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Standard">On the morning of the 24th June 2016 the wound inflicted on Welsh progressives was doubly sore.</p> <p class="Standard">Despite a legacy of industrial decline, in the post-devolution era Wales had sought to forge a new path, eschewing the public sector reforms of the New Labour period and managing to curtail the worst excesses of Tory cuts. The struggle to access EU funding was the defining issue in the early days of the Welsh Assembly and the eventual funds were used to pour money into much needed social programmes and infrastructure projects.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Although we were always to some extent eclipsed by our more rebellious (and self-assured) Scottish neighbours, we made much of our apparently outward looking civic nationalism, a patriotism based not on race but on comradeship, community and belonging. Whilst there has always been some truth to such claims, this was always based on a romanticised, often rose-tinted view of our industrial past. To those familiar with the devastating impact of industrial decline in the parts of Wales most eulogised by the defenders of civic nationalism, the unprecedented breakthrough of UKIP in the 2016 Assembly elections came as no surprise.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Suffice to say, the news that the majority of the Welsh electorate had voted to the leave the EU, sent shock waves through the hearts of anybody who considered themselves a 'progressive' or any such deviation of the term – 'socialist', 'leftist' or 'social democrat'. For many the EU – despite its many faults – became symbolic of the internationalist cause, a rallying cry for a working-class culture that had sadly eroded long before the construction of the Senedd.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">How could Wales – a net beneficiary of the EU – vote so overwhelming for its overthrow? As Richard Wyn Jones wrote a few days later “Turkeys it seems do vote for Christmas – at least if they are Welsh”.</p> <p class="Standard">In the wake of Brexit and with the possible secession of Scotland, the very existence of the UK as we know it is deeply uncertain<strong>. </strong>For Wales there are two distinct futures. One possibility is that we grow ever closer to England, become a sort of super-metro region with devolved powers, but effectively still in the political and culture sphere of influence of Westminster and London. The other option is that we seek to build a progressive society in which we implement in practice the ideals we have become so good at giving lip service to.</p> <p class="Standard">We should be under no illusion of the enormity of the task. We are not Scotland – in so many important ways our economic and civic institutions are underdeveloped and building the necessary civic infrastructure needed for change will be no mean feat. Make no mistake, this is a colossal national project and progressives of all stripes will have to put aside entrenched tribal differences or risk defeat at the hands of a resurgent populist right.</p> <p class="Standard">Across Wales, voters have become disillusioned, they desperately want to feel included in the decision making process. It's not surprising that one of the most devastatingly effective arguments made by the Leave camp, was the need to 'take back control'. Following in this frame, Welsh progressives should examine carefully the experiences of our Scottish counterparts and seek to regain the political agenda.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">The following is not an exhaustive list of solutions, but merely a few suggestions about some of the places we could start.</p> <h2><strong>1) Reversing the disastrous decline in Welsh local media</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Depending on how you square it, Cardiff can make a decent claim to be the UK's biggest media centre outside of London. Despite this, bemoaning the decline of local media in Wales has become something of a national sport for politicians and the chattering classes, but so far very little has been done to address the issue.</p> <p class="Standard">At the centre of the problem is the nation's over reliance on a London-centric English media. Polling by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University has shown that only 61% of respondents knew that the Welsh Government was responsible for education in Wales and even less, 48%, knew the Welsh Government was responsible for the NHS.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">This is not that surprising when you consider the shocking lack of coverage given to the Assembly. Declining newspaper sales has exacerbated this trend – the only organisation to have a full time correspondent in the Senedd is Golwg, a Welsh language current affairs magazine that virtually no-one outside the Cardiff Bay bubble has heard of.</p> <p class="Standard">Trinity Mirror dominates the local newspaper scene in Wales, and owns the Western Mail, the closest thing we have to a national newspaper. Its online presence WalesOnline is a fairly formidable player, however there is a notable lack of the kind of in depth coverage of the sort found in the Scotsman, Daily Record or The Herald.</p> <p class="Standard">Broadcast media has an incredibly important function in Wales. The vast majority of English speakers in Wales get most of their Welsh news from BBC Wales. This is an incredibly&nbsp; important resource but one that is constantly under-threat from extinction. Meanwhile since HTV Wales became ITV Wales in 2002, coverage of distinctly Welsh issues outside of local news bulletins have become increasingly rare and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">S4C is undoubtedly a huge national asset, the best analysis of current affairs is often done by Welsh language programmes such as CF99, unfortunately&nbsp; this is totally unaccessible to the people who most need to be engaged in the national debate.</p> <p>There are a number of things which could be done at a government level, giving the Welsh government more power over media could open up many interesting opportunities, particularly in the broadcast sector. On the other-hand the time for trying to establish new newspapers is probably over – it’s time to build a serious online alternative media along the lines Scotland's Bella Calledonia and The National. It's important to recognize that new digital content platforms can become important and influential players in a relatively short about of time.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Representation is about much more than news and current affairs. The Welsh television sector has been instrumental in holding up a mirror to the nation with international hits such as Doctor Who, Torchwood, Gavin and Stacey, not to mention recent additions such as the ambitious Hinterland. We should never under-estimate the role of creatives in shaping the national debate.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>2) A long (ish) march through the institutions. Set up some truly independent civic institutions</strong></h2> <p>Welsh civil society has historically been pretty weak. This is perhaps a function of a century of economic centralisation and the dominance of the Labour party. Traditionally if you wanted to get on in Welsh politics then Labour was the only game in town. No matter what your views on the relative merits of Welsh Labour, most reasonable people would agree that the dominance of the party in so many parts of civic life is an unhealthy relic of its historic hegemony.</p> <p>Despite being widely mocked, think tanks serve an important function in helping governments form policy. They do this either by advocating for specific proposals or conducting research that helps ministers come at problems from a radically different perspective to those presented by their party advisers and civil servants. Wales has surprisingly few such institutions, the most influential of these is the Institute for Welsh Affairs, although important to the national debate, its reputation as <em>the </em>Welsh think tank has meant it has functioned largely as an ideas smorgasbord, reinforcing the managerial focus of Welsh politics, rather than acting as an agent of progressive change.</p> <p>Then there’s the Bevan Foundation. It’s unashamedly progressive, and the only organisation really trying to signpost the way for politicians rather than being indivisible from the Senedd corridors. Though it remains small and is again aimed at influencing politics with an insider strategy, rather than organising communities to demand change.</p> <p>Adam Ramsay has <a href="">often said that</a> whilst the English left spent the last century running around getting lost in the corridors of Westminster, the Scottish left was quietly building the civic institutions that gave the independence movement the infrastructure it needed to become a mass movement so quickly. We do not currently have anything that resembles the Jimmy Reid Foundation or Common Weal, but we desperately need it if we are to conceive of a progressive Wales that goes beyond the Labour party’s limited field of vision.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <h2><strong>3) Disentangle the cause from the Welsh language</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">The Welsh language is a massively important part of Welsh culture. Unfortunately the world of Eisteddfodau and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg is a million miles away from the Wales that people in Merthyr Tydful identify with.</p> <p class="Standard">And this is why Plaid Cymru cannot be – certainly not in the near future – the only rallying point for the new politics we need to create. If they were to be successful in emulating the success of their sister party in Scotland, Plaid would need to grow its base substantially&nbsp; beyond their historic heartlands in Caernarfon and Pwllheli. Regardless of their intentions, Plaid has become (at least in the eyes of most of the electorate) not so much the party of Wales as the party of Welsh speakers.</p> <p class="Standard">Plaid Cymru's pro-independence line is also wildly out of sync with that of the electorate. In the wake of the Brexit vote, Welsh nationalists staged a number of small pro-independence rallies in Aberystwyth, Conwy and Cardiff. This rather puts the cart before the horse and emphases the chasm opening up between Welsh nationalists and the 53% of the Welsh electorate which voted for Brexit.</p> <p class="Standard">Defending Welsh speaking communities in the north and west of Wales is hugely important, but the movements that have sustained them are simply not capable of building the much broader identity needed to steer Wales in the direction we need.</p> <h2><strong>4) Grassroots organising to save Welsh communatarianism</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Back in their industrial prime, areas like the South Wales Valleys were working models of a successful proletarian culture. A camaraderie forged underground in the dangerous, often deadly mining collieries gave birth to a rich culture of mass worker education and collectivist communities. The politicians that came up from these communities, were pragmatic, practical radicals who took on the establishment and won.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">This strong community spirit still exists in a lot of Wales, but as society becomes more atomised and the memory of the industries that sustained it fade, we are at risk of losing something very special and crucial for delivering progressive change. There are warning signs already, such as the so far ephemeral “Welsh Resistance” anti-refugee and Islamaphobic group.</p> <p class="Standard">We need to re-mobilise our communities, not least since it’s the only way to sustain the kind of shift in politics we are discussing. Whilst we don’t yet have an independence campaign to get behind, we need to start knocking on doors, bringing people into rooms together to talk about what’s affecting their lives, communities, and how it needs to change. This won't change the macroeconomic forces shaping people’s circumstances, but it can provide a basis for action, resistance and political education. With levels of poverty as they are in some parts of Wales (some have been in permanent depression since the 1930s), we also need to look towards the Greek solidarity movement and Syriza’s crucial role in mobilizing the poorest parts of the electorate to action . It’s time to flex those solidarity synapses again.</p> <h2><strong>5) Wales needs a progressive outlet for anti-establishment feeling</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">One of the most interesting things about the referendum result in Wales was the additional axis that influenced how people voted. Cosmopolitan Cardiff and it’s affluent hinterland voted Remain. As did well-heeled (and ever so slightly English looking) Monmouthshire, but so did most of Plaid Cymru’s western heartland.</p> <p>Ceredigion and Gwynedd, are easily as deprived as many of the counties that voted Leave. The difference is in these areas there has existed a progressive outlet for people’s alienation from neo-liberalism in the form of Plaid Cymru. In this region the dynamic is strikingly&nbsp; similar to Scotland, where people who would have voted Leave in England voted to stay, having expressed their political control through voting SNP. </p><p class="Standard">Wales briefly had a taste of this in the first Assembly elections in 1999, where Plaid snatched several of Labour’s valleys strongholds and actually did better than the SNP that year. Turning that moment into a longer term project wasn’t to be, with Welsh Labour managing to hit the reset button in 2003.</p> <p class="Standard">Just as in England, communities across Wales have been devastated by neo-liberalism and may people feel that the Welsh Government has made little difference to their lives. This is not a story unique to Wales; politicians everywhere would do well to understand that the electorate base their vote on the overall 'temperature' of the economy. Too cold and no amount of promises to adjust the thermostat slowly, after a careful consideration of all the options will cut mustard. At sub-zero temperatures politics ceases to function. The voters at some point will scream 'turn up the damn heating' and they will be right!</p> <p class="Standard">Unfortunately UKIP is as much the vehicle for this kind of alienation as anywhere in England. Progressives may sneer at what are undoubtedly a fairly undisciplined, ragtag bunch of carpetbaggers, but this rather misses the point, people were voting to send a message.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">So, Welsh progressives urgently need to start building an alternative outlet for this feeling. This doesn’t need to be a political party, it doesn’t need to push people towards independence right now, but we do need a way for people to express their anger and hurt at the tragic injustices suffered at the hands of a cruel and rigid economic dogma. We also need an added ingredient, hope. Hope for the possibility of a new Wales, based not on the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many, but in the progressive values we have always claimed to be central to our identity. </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="/hywel-ceri-jones/wales-and-changing-union">Wales and the changing Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-moon/same-but-different-wales-and-debate-over-eu-membership">The same, but different: Wales and the debate over EU membership</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 Wales reset Paul Atkins Sam Coates Thu, 06 Oct 2016 16:45:15 +0000 Sam Coates and Paul Atkins 105811 at Can the fabric of a diverse society be undone? Diary of an EU citizen in the UK <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“A few days later the PM and the Health Secretary, Hunt, have ready a proposal to train more British doctors - the same Hunt who has upset the majority of British doctors.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nigel Farage in front of his Breaking Point poster. Philip Toscano/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>If you woke up this morning in a British city, you can see this happening right in front of your eyes. From the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham – one of the most diverse cities in the UK – &nbsp;the Tories are feeding the press with anti-immigration soundbites relentlessly, competing among each other for who upsets the <a href="">liberal</a> Guardian readers the most.</p> <p>Nearly <a href="">all major newspapers</a> open their front pages this morning on immigration, often with direct quotes of their favourite minister. The message is clear, this government will give to the people (or more precisely the British voters) what they want and ‘we must not ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration’ explains Amber Rudd.</p> <p>And if you are ‘a foreigner’ (the definition these days is rather flexible and for some includes also BME), you are likely to be asking yourself: do I really have to stay here? Unfortunately, disentangling oneself from a place is not as easy as asking the question.</p> <h2><strong>Cutting immigration</strong></h2> <p>‘Cutting immigration’ has become the new mantra of British political life, the tune everyone in politics and media has to dance to. It looks as if nothing else count these days and everything is framed through the prism of controlling immigration. This happens to be a malleable and multitasking tool in the hand of our politicians – an incredibly bright spotlight that leaves them immense policy opportunities in the darkness, away from public scrutiny.</p> <p>At the beginning of the week, the <em>Daily Mail</em> launched a vicious (and unsubstantiated) attack from its front page on EU doctors working in the NHS for allegedly posing a threat to UK patients, a few days later the PM and the <a href="">Health Secretary</a> have ready a proposal to train more British doctors. Yes, the same Jeremy Hunt who has upset the majority of British doctors. No, don’t expect the Daily Mail to appreciate the irony. This is the newspaper who strangely enough never castigated Theresa May&nbsp;for failing her own immigration target for five years as Home Secretary. <a href="">Liam Fox</a> instead has talked of EU nationals currently living in the UK as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations. </p> <p>On her part,&nbsp;<a href="">Amber Rudd</a> wants firms to publish a list of foreign workers and to name-and-shame those firms who employ too many foreigners and,&nbsp;as if this was not enough, she also wants to restrict access to international students, who are the ambassadors for Britain and its HE system in the world (they also bring a lot of money but I leave this argument to Universities UK).</p> <p>Many this morning felt a sense of shock. Journalists have queried Theresa May, expecting some kind of reassurance or clarification. And she responded, reassuring EU workers living in the UK that they are welcome… for now, that is until they can be disposed and replaced by the new breed of Brits.</p> <h2><strong>Cutting migrants</strong></h2> <p>Literally cutting migrants is how this new ‘centre ground’ of British politics is translated on the street, with verbal and physical abuses against foreigners at an <a href="">unprecedented level</a>. But this is Brexit Britain and Tory politicians keen to launch a hostile takeover bid on UKIP and its voters are unwilling to speak out. </p> <p>And others follow suit. According to the <a href="">European Commission against Racism and Intolerance</a> (ECRI), police, prosecutors and the courts are “filtering out” racial elements in hate crime cases, half of reported hate crime is not prosecuted and judges are under-using heavier sentences for hate crime.</p> <p>So the short answer is: unfortunately, yes.</p><p><em>This blog was originally published on </em><a href=""><em>Postcards from</em>...</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/Can-europe-make-it/nando-sigona-rosemary-bechler/on-superdiversity-in-crisis-mood">On superdiversity in a ‘crisis mood’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Nando Sigona Wed, 05 Oct 2016 17:05:05 +0000 Nando Sigona 105796 at Introducing Open 2017 – what are platform co-ops? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Open 2017 is a two day conference on Platform Cooperatives being organised in conjunction with Goldsmiths, University of London on 16 - 17 February 2017. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Platform co-ops, and the burgeoning movement behind them, are big news. For the first time since the inception of the internet a consensus is forming around a new model of economics and governance. At <a href="">The Open Co-op</a> we have been working on this concept <a href="">since 2004</a> and continue to advocate that the internet provides the ultimate tool to help reorganise society and facilitate the transition to a collaborative sustainable economy.</p><p>It is refreshing to see some big names articulating the vision of a world beyond capitalism, not through fanciful idealism, but by explaining the concepts using the examples of existing platform co-ops. Paul Mason’s article from July 2015 “<a href="">The end of capitalism has begun</a>” draws on Marx and explains how what Paul calls “Postcapitalism” should</p> <blockquote><p>“...expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance”.</p></blockquote> <p>In <a href="">Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus</a>, Douglas Rushkoff explains how the digital economy has gone wrong and how we can reprogram it and our businesses from the inside out to promote sustainable prosperity for everyone. Rushkoff calls on business to accept that the era of extractive growth is over and to eschew platform monopolies like Uber in favour of distributed, worker-owned co-ops. </p> <p>This is not a vague and incoherent collection of ideas or proposals for some kind of left-wing campaign <em>against </em>the existing paradigm. It is a clear and consistent road-map, featuring useful sign-posting and case studies, <em>for</em> a completely new and truly democratic economy.</p> <p>In <a href="">6 Ways We’re Already Leading an Economic Revolution</a>, Gar Alperovitz argues that “we’re well on our way to a more democratic, cooperative, and people-centered economy” and in “<a href="">Transnational Republics of Commoning</a>” David Bollier quotes Jeremy Rifkin saying:&nbsp; </p><p><em>“We are glimpsing at the outlines of a new economic system based on sharing and the collaborative commons. It is the first new paradigm-shifting system since the introduction of capitalism and communism.”</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// co-op networks.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Paul Baran, On Distributed Networks, Institute for the Future, 1968"><img src="// co-op networks.jpg" alt="lead " title="Paul Baran, On Distributed Networks, Institute for the Future, 1968" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Paul Baran, On Distributed Networks, Institute for the Future, 1968</span></span></span><br /></em></p><div><em><br /></em></div> <p>Rifkin points out that this new economic system:</p> <blockquote><p>“ already flourishing alongside the exchange economy of the capitalist market. These two systems are still largely intertwined. But by mid-century, the new system will be the predominant one”.</p></blockquote> <p>To speed up this transition, the platform cooperative movement must bring together the age old, well established and highly principled cooperative community and the young, creative and dynamic open source community. </p> <p>The cooperative world should utitlise and help to fund open source software in order to generate an ‘open app ecosystem’ on which further co-ops and platform co-ops can thrive. New, open source apps could enable mass collaboration, production and transactions in co-operatively owned organisations at a scale we have yet to imagine. If that were to happen then perhaps collective ownership and networked member control could out-evolve the extractive economy.</p> <p>The Open 2017 Platform Cooperatives conference will bring together the open source and the cooperative communities, together with practitioners, legal experts, systems architects and developers with an interest in this growing movement, to promote the possibilities within the platform co-op movement and to accelerate the transition towards a collaborative, sustainable economy. It is a chance to meet and discuss the structure, challenges and opportunities of a truly collaborative internet. If you are interested in co-creating our collective future please <a href="">join us</a> and be part of the solution.</p> <h2><strong>What are ‘Platform Co-ops’?</strong></h2> <p>Platform cooperatives are online organisations which are owned and managed by their members. Platform co-ops follow the<a href=""> principles</a> of the<a href=""> International Co-operative Alliance</a> (ICA). They are democratically governed and support the development of informational and material commons. They provide a viable alternative to the standard internet model based on monopoly and extraction to facilitate the transition to a collaborative, sustainable economy.</p><p> <a id="where"></a></p> <h2><strong>Where did the term ‘Platform Co-ops’ come from?</strong></h2> <p>The term ‘Platform cooperativism’ was first used by Trebor Sholz in an article entitled “<a href="">Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy</a>” on December the 5th 2014. In his article Trebor argued that the sharing economy, as it has developed so far, has not delivered huge benefits for workers and suggested that:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“platform cooperativism can invigorate genuine sharing, and that it does not have to reject the market. Platform cooperativism can serve as a remedy for the corrosive effects of capitalism; it can be a reminder that work can be dignified rather than diminishing for the human experience.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>In his article Trebor not only highlighted a problem that many people were aware of, through detailed analysis of the issues of the so called ‘sharing economy’, but he went further by suggesting an alternative model and wrapping it up with a name: ‘Platform cooperativism’.&nbsp; </p><p>Trebor’s analysis, and rejection of the sharing economy in which large corporations benefit from individual’s efforts to share, echoed the sentiment of many others. In the same month, Nathan Schneider published his article “<a href="">Owning Is the New Sharing</a>” in which he draws on his extensive work and knowledge of alternative economic systems to explain the problems with the standard VC backed model of finance and points to the ‘resurgent co-op model’ as a possible, albeit difficult to implement, alternative. He concluded then that:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“Simply giving up on ownership, however, will mean that those who actually do own the tools that we rely on to share will control them. People who want an economy of genuine sharing are coming to recognize that they must embrace ownership — and, as they do, they're changing what owning means altogether.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Like all good concepts which lack a catchy name, the term Platform Cooperativism helped solidify a range of associated ideas as other authors expanded on theme.&nbsp; </p><p>Caitlin Dewey wrote “<a href="">You don’t know it, but you’re working for Facebook. For free.</a>” in <em>The Washington Post</em>. Shoshana Zuboff published “<a href="">Disruption’s Tragic Flaw</a>“<a href=""> </a>in <em>FAZ</em>, Neal Gorenflo joined the debate with his excellent article “<a href="">How Platform Coops Can Beat Death Star Platforms to Create a Real Sharing Economy</a>” and Karen Gregory added to the debate with “<a href="">From Sharing to Cooperation: Lessons from-Mondragon in the New Economy</a>”. In October 2015 Scholz and Schneider co-authored “<a href="">The People’s Uber: Why The Sharing Economy Must Share Ownership</a>” in <em>Fast Company</em> in which they concluded that:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“The way future generations work need not be determined solely by the bottom line of Silicon Valley investors. It is still possible to create a future in which technology nurtures democracy and cooperation, rather than obscuring them. We need only say "yes" to it.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>In November of the same year they organised a two-day event billed as “<a href="">A coming-out party for the cooperative Internet</a>” in New York which placed the concept and growing movement behind Platform Co-ops firmly on the map.</p> <p><em>To stay up to date with the latest news about platform cooperatives and the new collaborative sustainable economy follow </em><em><a href="">@open_coop</a></em><em> and join the mailing list at </em><em><a href=""></a></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 open2017 Oliver Sylvester-Bradley Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:54:54 +0000 Oliver Sylvester-Bradley 105794 at Can there be an 'English Islam'? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>'Englishness' is often set at odds with Islam, but in reality both these identities are malleable and porous. We must follow in the footsteps of Muslims throughout history in embracing new cultural formations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Baroness Warsi, first Muslim woman to serve in a British cabinet, outside Downing Street. "><img src="//" alt="" title="Baroness Warsi, first Muslim woman to serve in a British cabinet, outside Downing Street. " width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Baroness Warsi, first Muslim woman to serve in a British cabinet, outside Downing Street. Photo: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Each year, the pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca takes place – millions of people from various nationalities descend, and perform the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage. As usual, thousands of Muslim Britons joined their co-religionists, and the UK Foreign Office has a consular office in Mecca that assists them. This year, the UK’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia accompanied them – as a pilgrim himself. Her Majesty’s representative, Simon Collis, happens to be a Muslim – an English one, which seemed to take the media thoroughly by surprise. But is it actually as unusual as it seems?</p><p dir="ltr">Britain has British Muslims, and Muslims are integrated into British society. Their loyalty might be contested by parts of the right (and the left), regrettably – but generally, it’s now longer controversial to make the argument that Britishness and Islam can be strongly related. After all, there is an established history in the UK around speaking of Britishness as a modern, civic, and less essentialised nationalism – and, as such, can easily incorporate a variety of identities under the rubric of multiculturalism, which often relates identity to institutions and language. In that regard, Britishness is far similar to an American style of civic nationalism – and it’s relatively easy for Muslim identity to exist in that kind of universe.</p><p dir="ltr">But, there’s another kind of relationship to explore, which was raised inadvertently by our ambassador’s pilgrimage, as well as two recent conferences held by ‘British Futures’ (‘<a href="">A Very English Islam’</a>) and in Cambridge, by <a href="">Cambridge Muslim College</a>. That is the relationship between Englishness and Islam – which, according to people such as the former chair of the Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi, and Cambridge University theologian, Dr Timothy Winter, is a very strong relationship indeed. Claiming a positive relationship between Englishness and Islam, rather than simply Britishness and Islam, is a far bolder statement – because traditionally speaking, Englishness hasn’t been conceived as a kind of civic citizen-based nationalism at all. It’s been interpreted far more as an essentialized identity – one that relates to race, and also religion. And in England post-Brexit referendum, particularly with the noticeable rise in anti-Muslim sentiment via right-wing nativist populists, suggesting that Muslims of England could not only be considered British, but English, could be ever more intriguing.</p><p dir="ltr">As far as the likes of Winter and Warsi are concerned, there is no intrinsic or philosophical quandary to speaking of an English-Muslim expression of culture. Historically, there were many English Muslims, who were either converts or descendants of them, similar to Christians and socially, they were deeply embedded in English culture. It is an interesting perspective – and one that becomes more pertinent in the UK post-Brexit, and the rise of even deeper identity politics among the English, and also the increasing of anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK and beyond. </p><p dir="ltr">The question then arises – can Islam be accepted in the UK only as part of and via that multiculturalist discussion and civic nationalism of Britishness? Or can Islam be more embedded and indigenous – can it become intrinsically connected to Englishness, for example, in the same way that English Jews and English Catholics are English? It is not simply a question pertaining to whether or not Islam has that capacity of openness – but whether England does as well. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">There is a cultural question to be considered here. The majority of British Muslims today were born in the UK – but they descend from either expatriates or are the grandchildren of expatriates. Those original migrants were not, by and large, expecting to stay in the UK – but that has already changed for that generation, let alone their children and grandchildren. Their children and grandchildren have no such doubt. They’re not ‘staying’ anywhere – this is their home. This is why so much cultural creativity is taking place already in Muslim communities around the UK, even if more can be done. </p><p dir="ltr">Nonetheless, those migrants came from a different ethnicity from the majority of Britons – and pluralism has not exactly had an easy time in Europe until the latter half of the 20th century. The upsurge of populist politics, and the mainstreaming of racist tropes, which we have seen across the continent, as well as across the Atlantic Ocean, is not something to be taken lightly.</p><p dir="ltr">That issue of pluralism remains pertinent – not simply in terms of rejecting racism in the context of our laws and policies in the UK. But also on a deeply internal, cultural level – are we, as English men and women, willing to conceive of Englishness as a more open construct that could not only incorporate Muslims as British citizens, but as English, and Islam as an English religion? It’s not a foregone conclusion – but it does have serious ramifications for how we consider identity in England, the UK and Europe today.</p><p dir="ltr">As for Muslims, there is also the question of not only ethnicity, but religion. Is Islam a barrier to this kind of ‘indigenous’ exercise? Or are there resources within the Islamic tradition to allow for the indigenization of religious expression in ‘new’ countries? </p><p dir="ltr">Where Islam’s adherents are a majority, cultural embeddedness is plainly not an issue – otherwise, for example, Nigerian Islam would look, culturally, like Moroccan Islam. It patently does not – even though, on a religious level, they are the same in terms of their approach to Sunni doctrine, law and spirituality. But what about in a minority context? Is it the same? Or is Islam impervious to becoming connected to the land, except where Muslims run the show?</p><p dir="ltr">Winter argues in his own writings that Islamic tradition isn’t a barrier to a minority cultural expression of Islam – indeed, he considers Islamic tradition to enforce an imperative behind forming an English Islamic cultural expression. There are certainly historical precedents for that - in China, for example, where Muslims have lived for more than a millennium, without political supremacy, and a profoundly Chinese expression of Islam is incredibly evident. The same can be said for South Africa, where Muslims, including the most deeply traditional and orthodox, are intrinsically South African. Other illustrations abound. If history is anything to go by, Muslims have proven culturally extremely malleable historically, while maintaining Islamic creedal and canonical traditions.</p><p>Far beyond England – in Wales, across the European continent – the issues of Islam and being indigenous is a poignant one. The resources and ingredient for organic, localized and culturally embedded forms of Muslim religious expressions in England are all there. The real question is whether we’ll prefer to see that kind of future in Europe – or one where we are far more separated from each other, or, as both the populist right and religious extremists would prefer, worse. The choice is really ours.</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/philip-wood/are-british-values-really-islamic-values">Are British values really Islamic values?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/berenice-scandone/experiences-of-british-muslim-women-defy-lazy-stereotypes-about-islam">The experiences of British muslim women defy lazy stereotypes about Islam</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 H.A. Hellyer Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:48:25 +0000 H.A. Hellyer 105792 at The BBC must improve its religious affairs coverage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The BBC looks set to keep its religious coverage, but in a society where people increasingly identify as irreligious, how can it remain relevant?</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="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Religious leaders discuss the refugee crisis. Picture by Daniel Leal-Olivas PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When the BBC white paper was released earlier this year, much of the national discussion concentrated on the fairness of the broadcaster’s political coverage. Whether it was giving attention to under-reported social issues, or reporting on the ongoing issues in the Labour party fairly, the case for both reforming, and privatising the broadcaster seemed to rest on its benefit to the public on a political level. </p><p>There was no doubt that the white paper had made some feel alienated. And one of those just happened to be a national institution : The Church of England. A few days after the white paper was published, the CofE expressed “concern that the coverage of religion and other beliefs is barely mentioned in the White Paper and only in passing in the draft Agreement” &nbsp;adding that “Christian churches and other faith communities play a key role in our national and international life. “The BBC needs to depict this contribution fairly across its output, including by recognising the role religion plays in world affairs and reflecting this in news, current affairs, documentary and drama.”</p><p dir="ltr">The role of religion at the BBC has always been a contentious one, and in recent years, the case of cutting- or even scrapping- the department for religion and ethics has gotten stronger. According to the BBC Charter, the organisation is bound to broadcast at least 110 hours of faith-based content per year, spanning across television and radio- considerably larger than it’s rivals at ITV and Channel 4. And while BBC religion coverage <a href="">has been criticised</a> in recent years by many Christian bodies, not least the Church of England, for treating Christianity as a “rare species”, others have argued that the department is “too Christian,” leading its current head Aaqil Ahmed to <a href="">announce his desire</a> to produce more content focusing on Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and other minority faiths. </p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Around half of Britons declared themselves to be ‘irreligious’, outpacing the number of those identifying as Christians.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the <a href="">British Social Attitudes survey </a>published this year, around half of Britons declared themselves to be ‘irreligious’, outpacing the number of those identifying as Christians for the first time. At the same time, many religious institutions claim that restrictions on their ability to broadcast information has ultimately hindered their ability to prove themselves to be a public good. Just last year, the Christian Institute think tank <a href="">criticised OFCOM’s</a> strengthening of the communications act 2003, which it claimed had &nbsp;“banned [religious organisations] from holding many types of broadcasting licences,” adding that the OFCOM code “singles out specialist religious channels for targeted prohibitions against “exploitation” of audience susceptibilities and “abusive treatment” of other beliefs” - a condition which “didn’t apply to secular organisations”.</p><p dir="ltr">The apparent double-edged sword puts the BBC in a precarious position when it comes to broadcasting issues of faith: How should the broadcaster cover issues to do with religion, in a society that is becoming increasingly irreligious? Is there a justification behind cutting faith-based broadcasting, even as a portion of license fee payers believe faith is core to their identity? And, if the BBC does continue to devote part of its budget to faith-based broadcasting, how does it go about this in a way that benefits both the religious and non-religious?</p><p dir="ltr">In the course of writing this article, I spoke to a number of current and former BBC employees familiar with the religion and ethics department. Naturally, few would speak on record, but nearly all said that the department had long struggled with these questions. “You have various problems when it comes to delivering value-for-money on religious programming,” one staff member told me. “When people talk about getting value for money, it’s generally rooted in their own opinions or values, and in religion its very much the case. You’ll have Christians who’ll say there isn’t enough Christian content, Muslims who say there isn’t enough Muslim content and so on. And then you have the second issue of more people becoming sceptical of religion itself, and wondering why the BBC, which in their mind is often a ‘progressive’ institution, is giving airtime to what they consider to be regressive belief systems. And the third is a bureaucratic problem- ie. as a state broadcaster, complaints from license fee payers must be addressed - and [Religion &amp; Ethics] gets a considerable amount of complaints- not just about the nature of the content, but the perceived value of the content itself.”</p><p dir="ltr">For other media personalities in Britain’s faith based circles, the problem isn’t with the department representing religion, but a lack of diversity or intellectual conversation when entering conversations about faith. One of the programmes that receives this criticism the most is the BBC’s “Big Questions”, a Sunday panel show that discusses issues to do with religion in contemporary British society. &nbsp;After appearing on the programme in May, TLS religion editor <a href="">Rupert Shortt wrote</a>: “While not censored entirely, faith-based perspectives [on the BBC] tend to be confined to special zones such as Songs of Praise and “Thought for the Day,” adding: “The unacknowledged assumption here is plain: atheism is the default neutral stance for grown-ups; religious voices, even highly self-critical ones, are biased.” &nbsp;Meanwhile, In<a href=""> the New Statesman</a>, Willard Foxton calls the show “the worst thing that the BBC airs.” Later in the essay, he highlights the criticism that many viewers- and even those working in the department- have about faith based broadcasting: “The Big Questions format is just terminally broken – answers to these points, by definition, are big, complicated ideas – and you can’t articulate a complex, nuanced position in a 30-second soundbite.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Could more intellectual, high brow broadcasting be the key to making BBC religion and ethics have more value for money?</p><p dir="ltr">Could more intellectual, high brow broadcasting be the key to making BBC religion and ethics have more value for money? Elizabeth Oldfield, a former BBC journalist and now director at the <a href="">Christian think tank Theos</a>, says that ‘devotional content’ - programmes like Songs of Praise, are of “High value to older audiences and will continue to be part of the BBC’s charter obligations.”</p><p dir="ltr">“However, factual output has seemed to decline somewhat in recent years, both in prominence and quality. It is one of the few areas which could have the resources to cover religion in a world class manner, but too often treads predictable paths- probably due to under resourcing and a continuing lack of understanding of its importance across wider management.”<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Though Oldfield says the department could prove its worth by “taking more risks”, she admits this could be challenging under the charter- especially as religion has the capacity to “offend people more than other areas of public life”. More importantly, she says that delivering high quality religion broadcasting- be it in devotional or factual content, requires more religion-literate journalists:<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />“The media industry is slowly waking up to the need to cover religion as part of general news, although pressures on resources have meant most specialist reporter posts have been cut. This means huge pressure on already stretched non-specialist journalists to cover a complex area well. Compared with the 2011 census, where &nbsp;28% of Britons declared they practiced no religion, 61% of journalists claimed &nbsp;<a href="">no religious affiliation</a>. This may make it more difficult for them to build understanding and contacts quickly, and to comprehend the role it plays in people’s lives. The combination of these things means much religion coverage is ill-informed and lacks depth.”</p><p dir="ltr">These could be addressed if programme production was all in house. But as a number of BBC staff members told me, decentralisation and the inclusion of independent production houses “has made addressing these problems even more difficult”, as production companies bid for money using “glossy pitches appealing to mainstream vices- some of them are really interesting programmes, but programming that attempted to appeal to actual religious communities were pitched considerably less. I can only imagine it’s because they knew they were unlikely to recieved the funding they needed.”</p><p dir="ltr">A report commissioned by the <a href="">University of Glasgow</a> in 2008 hits on how some of the wider BBC changes have affected the department too : “As the definition of the ‘public interest’ changes, and there is a subsequent change in the organisational culture [of the BBC], these have affected the position and formed many of the disputes at the heart of public religion broadcasting”. While the research showed the BBC was still committed to producing religious based content, it added that, in an effort to appeal to the mainstream, religion and ethics programming had undermined “traditional worship formats, serious journalistic approaches to religious themes particularly on television and institutional representations of religion. The cumulative effect of this is that although certain religious programmes may still be viable it is from an increasingly narrow range of entertainment-based formats. </p><p dir="ltr">Despite these structural changes though, it’s unlikely that commitment to religious broadcasting will be removed from the BBC charter, and if the white paper is anything to go by, there is a chance that its budget may increase. It’s also likely that the BBC will continue to lead its competitors in faith-based coverage, especially as many channels face greater cuts and more demand for viewers. But if it is to assert relevance to a society that becomes increasingly suspicious of religious institutions, it won’t just have to be innovative with its programming - it will also have to embrace taking more risks than its counterparts. <br class="kix-line-break" /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/elizabeth-poole/how-is-islam-represented-on-bbc">How is Islam represented on the BBC?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/aaqil-ahmed/bbc-must-lead-effort-against-religious-illiteracy">The BBC must lead the effort against religious illiteracy </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK what is public service? Hussein Kesvani Wed, 05 Oct 2016 14:29:37 +0000 Hussein Kesvani 105678 at The Daily Mail takes power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where does Theresa May's ideology come from? <em>The Daily Mail</em>, says Anthony Barnett in a taster from his forthcoming book <a href="">WHAT NEXT: Britain after Brexit</a>.</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="615" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>What kind of Tory is Theresa May? She has driven her predecessor as prime minister out of politics with brutal élan, declaring a different direction. But what sort of Conservative is she? What does she stand for; what tradition, if any, does she represent in contrast to David Cameron’s?</p> <p>The mystery is how someone who is obviously superficial appears to have a well-thought out and distinct ideology. For while she likes to be projected as a new Thatcher the dissimilarity is striking. When Thatcher bid to take over her party she was the candidate of a significant network of strategists, supported by new think tanks. She carried Hayek in her handbag. She spent her years as leader of the opposition in constant meetings discussing the country’s decline and how to reverse it, generating what her official biographer calls “wonderment at the phenomenon of a party leader in search of ideas”. </p> <p>After 25 years in politics Theresa May has no obvious connections to any think tank. She shows no interest in ideas. Asked by <a href="">Conservative Home</a> in a Quick Quiz session to choose between Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” or Louise Bagshawe’s “Desire”, she replied, “I wouldn’t read either of them, sorry.” The prime minister who faces arguably the Kingdom’s deepest constitutional predicament since George III was driven from the Cabinet by the loss of the American colonies dismissed <em>out of hand </em>the idea that she might ever turn to the pages of Burke, even though as a student she had chaired a society named after him. </p> <p>As the country faces an unprecedented concatenation of economic, strategic, diplomatic and constitutional uncertainty, the woman at the helm seems devoid of intellectual resources. The one decision she has definitely taken is to give the go ahead to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, a boondoggle incapable of justification by any criteria of integrity. The Pharaohs built their own pyramids, Theodoric built his own mausoleum. But these were designed as monuments to generate the admiration of posterity. Surely only an idiot would make their first decision the go-ahead for a colossal radioactive tombstone to her regime. </p> <p>But Theresa May should not be dismissed as an idiot. There is a striking and potentially formidable coherence to the general direction she has set for her new government, evidenced by the self-confidence of her ministers who remarkably quickly are singing from the same song-sheet. She does seem to have a clear ideology refreshingly different from her predecessors. Where has it come from?&nbsp;</p> <p>The answer is <em>The Daily Mail</em>. On Sunday in her first speech to her party as its leader, she set out her view of Brexit and announced that she intends to trigger Article 50 to start the UK’s withdrawal from the EU before March. This was a moment of upmost gravity, to recognise and measure the immense divisions that have been opened up within the country, and consider the implications for the entire continent that Britain once helped liberate from fascism. Instead, her tone, brevity and apparent practicality were drawn as if directly from a <em>Daily Mail</em> editorial.&nbsp;</p> <p>Theresa May is the living incarnation of an ideology worked out over three decades in the pages of that paper since 1980, by its now Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre. This is her hinterland, her strength and, naturally, her weakness. May herself is not going to create a new ‘ism’ like Thatcherism or Blairism. She does not have that kind of capacity or originality. Instead, the contemporary political philosophy she has adopted and that is now carrying her – and the country – into the mouth of Brexit is <em>Dacreism</em>. It’s a novel variant of conservatism, one which proved to be brilliant at selling a mid-market tabloid newspaper. But as the Mail group <a href="">faces cost-cutting</a> under the pressure of structural changes to its revenues, will its ideology stand the test of governing the country?&nbsp;</p> <p>That a newspaper should be the source of a government’s approach to its policy priorities, public appeal and global strategy, is not a surprise in what can be called ‘Late Great Britain’. Since Margaret Thatcher broke the post-war establishment and its consensus politics, Westminster has been dominated by a narrow, grasping political-media caste. Its presiding maestro, Rupert Murdoch, was for thirty years the arbiter of its fortunes.&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept of the political class was first developed in a brilliant account by <a href=";ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-b&amp;gfe_rd=cr&amp;ei=tozzV7DKO-vW8gfv1KSYBw">Peter Oborne</a> who included media figures in it – a notable pioneer being Alastair Campbell who moved from the Mirror to being Blair’s presentational hit-man. But the term ‘political class’ has since been misused to deride politicians alone, and it has even fed the fake populism of tabloids pillorying all politicians as a group. In fact, a relatively small number of journalists, TV and radio presenters and editors, all far better paid than MPs, are crucial participants in the governing London clique while most MPs are excluded from it. Hence my tweaking the concept to make it clear it refers not to politicians as a group (many being both honest and marginal) but to a governing caste forged out of an alloy of politicians, PR fixers, journalists, editors and media proprietors. </p> <p>Murdoch was its most important member. Newspapers have always been opinionated and conscious of their influence. But under his baleful inspiration they have become relentlessly partisan. In the referendum they functioned as self-conscious players hardly bothering to cover up their role with occasional touches of semi-objective reporting. Instead, they shaped and strategized their coverage to defeat those they opposed. A careful, quantitative analysis of 2,378 articles on the referendum by the <a href="">Reuters Institute</a> concluded that the press was skewed, highly partisan, treated the vote as a game or contest, and marginalised voices outside politics, ensuring that the undecided were uninformed. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The smaller the universe, the more acute the divisions within it can become and the London Political-Media caste divided over Europe and not just Europe. A small but telling example of the interweaving of media and government is the marriage of Michael Gove and <a href="">Sarah Vine</a>. Gove was a columnist for Murdoch’s <em>Times</em> before being recruited into politics by David Cameron, for whom he added jokes and jests to his preparation for his weekly Prime Ministers Questions, while being promoted to Lord Chancellor. Vine has a weekly pulpit of gossip and comment in the <em>Daily Mail</em>. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">After the Leave vote won the couple strategized about how to hold Boris Johnson to their version of Brexit in the coming campaign for the Tory leadership. Vine sent an email to her husband to sum up her views and copied it to someone else by mistake (we all do it). It went public. At one point she wrote, “Crucially, the [Tory party] membership will not have the necessary reassurance to back Boris, neither will Dacre/Murdoch, who instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris Gove ticket”. She rightly put Dacre/Murdoch in equivalent importance to the party electorate. She worked for Dacre, they both had recently attended Murdoch’s wedding.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">When Gove was unable to get the reassurances from Johnson that his wife urged, he torpedoed his bid and stood himself. But Dacre promptly threw the <em>Mail</em> behind Theresa May with an <a href="">editorial</a> and <a href="">a profile</a> that dug out everything positive about her that could be found. (The profile also highlighted a chronic inability to delegate – between the lines of praise the reader could discern a person who while determined is unsuited to the larger demands of the premiership). Dacre himself had lunched with her before his endorsement. Doubtless he established her unequivocal commitment to the Brexit that was and remains his priority. His editorial shows an appreciation of the contender’s background, her belief in achievement, seriousness and dislike of treating politics as a game. All views that uncannily duplicated his own. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The point is not that Theresa May was wrong to seek the <em>Mail’s</em> endorsement or that the paper should not have the freedom to make its preference between the contenders known. The best way of understanding what has happened is to consider what it would have meant had Dacre backed Gove instead. This would have been a coup for Gove. But both as a journalist who had declared his love for Blair, and as a minister who read deeply and proved himself capable of original policies, first in education and then with respect to jails, it would have been clear that he was his own man. He would have won over the <em>Mail</em>.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">With Theresa May it was the other way around. She is supporting the <em>Daily Mail</em>, its voice, views and priorities. With no record of originality, her version of profound reflection is to declare that she “gets things done” and “just gets on with the job”. The job being, well, precisely who decides this is who rules. I’m not suggesting that May is being cynical. On the contrary, what is alarming is her sincerity. She spouts the well-honed worldview of Dacre because she does not have another way of being herself. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">One result is a significant shift within the political-media caste. The 67 year old Dacre has replaced the 85 year old Murdoch as its chief hegemon. It's a dangerous spot for Dacre as he is only an employee and not the owner of his paper, and if the costs of Brexit prove too great the pressures on his proprietor from the city to remove the troublesome Brexiteer may become irresistible. </p> <p>So what is Dacreism? In one way it is a distinct improvement on Murdoch’s grotesque outlook. Both embrace forms of Late Great Britishness, but Murdoch is a global warrior encouraging war, while Dacre was sceptical of the Iraq adventure and has been a ferocious critic of Blair and the corruptions of his foreign policy. Murdoch does not really give a toss for the Brits, while Dacre wants a government that works for all those who strive to improve their lives. The concept of a country fit for all “hard-working, ordinary people” is pure Daily Mail. Behind it lies the backwardness of the UK. There is no such thing as “ordinary people”, there are citizens. The notion of most of us being “ordinary” implies that some of us are extra-ordinary. Hovering above the appeal of the ordinary is deference to royalty, those special not-in-fact ordinary people about whom we read stories that say, "gosh aren't they quite like us".&nbsp;</p> <p>While skilful enough to publish prurience and manipulate popular fascination, Dacre is a moralist in a way that Murdoch is not, and a believer in royalty in a way that the Australian-American-republican certainly is not.&nbsp;</p> <p>But then Murdoch is a man of the world while Dacre is unhappy with globalisation. In his pioneering analysis of Thatcherism, Stuart Hall nailed its “regressive modernisation”. Thatcher sought a way forward to a new form of capitalism but to do so she mobilised reactionary visions of Victorian values. The contradictory tensions were part of Thatcherism’s energy and kept her opponents off balance. Dacreism is also a peculiar knot of conflicting desires. He wants to combine the conviction and clarity of Thatcherism with the inclusiveness of Churchillism. As a formula for appealing to middle-class readers nostalgic for the lost world of post-war greatness, yet fearful of anything that smacks of the collectivism of those years; relishing the individualism and dominatrix sexuality of the Falklands afterglow but disapproving of the corruption and permissiveness of the globalisation it entailed, Dacreism became an astonishing formula for readers and advertisers.&nbsp;</p> <p>But can it work as a politics? Is it capable of carrying forward an industrial and financial policy? The answer is surely not. It is not a consciousness that concerns itself with the integration of supply chains, scientific research and multi-national ownership neatly summarised by recently by <a href="">Nick Pearce</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, at its heart is a Late Great British nationalism, desperate to be contemporary but unable to escape from its loyalty to the past. Its form of identity is an English consciousness and resentment expressed in a passion for the British Union. This creates a fraught English-Britishness that holds a passion for Thatcher and her English conviction politics and for Churchill and his British consensus politics at the same time. It was perfectly captured by Dacre’s <a href="">raging editorial</a>, across the front page of his paper, asking “<strong>Who will speak for England</strong>?” when, in the run up to the referendum, it seemed no senior Tory politician would support Brexit. Buried in the depth of his alarm call Dacre noted, “and, of course, by 'England'…&nbsp; we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”.&nbsp;</p> <p>At once hugely ambitious and profoundly uneasy with itself and the weakness this “of course" buries. Such Anglo-British nationalism can rise to the challenge of competition but is deeply threatened by any call for collaboration. The latter risks exploding its equilibrium. Hence a visceral opposition to membership of the European Union, to the cultural impact of immigrants and the rise of Scottish nationalism.</p> <p>I want to stress both the irrationality and authenticity of this fear of becoming European, this desire to remain true to ‘ourselves’. It means that Dacreism is not capable of embracing the deep partnerships and sharing of sovereignty that European economic and scientific development now entails. Instead, Dacreism takes it as a given that British decline is in the past and no problems of structural development confront the country that cannot be resolved by the application of will.</p> <p>Today, Dacreism has found its Premier. Someone who will “get on with the job” and speak for England: Theresa May. Tellingly, she comes not from a department of state dealing with welfare, industry or education, nor from the Treasury and dealing with finance, the city and global players, but from an unprecedented length of time running the Home Office. Here, Theresa’s job was to manage the control mechanisms of British society. She took on the Police Federation to try and drive corruption out of the constabulary and pushed through the Investigatory Powers Act that has legalised the country’s mass surveillance. The two go together even for the elite these days given the dangers of blackmail inherent in the intrusive powers of modern technology. To impose itself on British society as a whole as it implements its attempt to break away from the European Union, Dacreism has found… a good police officer. </p><p>“The British people have spoken”. “Brexit means Brexit”. These short, sharp phrases suggest the drumbeat of truncheons on shields. What lifts the spirit of readers as they struggle with the news over breakfast may prove less inspiring as the country is handcuffed to Dacre’s Brexit chariot.</p><p><strong><em>Anthony Barnett is currently writing WHAT NEXT: Britain after Brexit which will be published in the new year. Pre-order a hardback and join your name to its subscribers <a href="">here</a>. <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="/uk/anthony-barnett/leave-may-have-lied-but-it-was-bush-blair-and-cameron-who-killed-political-honest">Leave may have lied, but it was Bush, Blair and Cameron who killed political honesty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Anthony Barnett Wed, 05 Oct 2016 12:03:10 +0000 Anthony Barnett 105782 at Is there a connection between Muslim 'superdiversity' and sectarian violence? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What lies behind two intra-Muslim killings in Britain? The question is timely at the unifying moment of a new Muslim year.&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="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>East London Mosque, Whitechapel, London. Steve Parsons PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The start of the new Islamic calendar year falls this time round on 2<span>–</span>3 October, depending of course on global location. The Islamic year 1437 has just ended and 1438 begun. Unlike the Christian new year, which is closely associated with the birth of Christ, the Muslim new year commemorates the migration journey of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. In Islam, the day begins with the sighting of the new moon.</p><p>The Islamic new year, also known as <em>Hijiri</em> (after the <em>hijira </em>or migration) also marks the first day of the month of Muharram, the second holiest month of the Islamic calendar after Ramadan. It marks the anniversary of Karbala, the battle in which much of the Prophet’s family was killed, including his grandson Imam Hussein Ibn Ali. The battle of Karbala was about the Caliphate, defining the identity of the rightful successor to Muhammad, and it is here where the sectarian divisions between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims have their origin. </p><p>Shi’ites believes that Imam Hussein was denied the Caliphate, which would not have happened if Imam Hussein’s father, Ali (the Prophet’s son-in-law) had succeeded Muhammad after his death. Instead, the mantle passed to Abu Bakr Sadiq.</p><p>This background indicates that the new year in Islam carries symbolic importance in relation to both migration and sectarianism. In Britain in the passing year, whether the Islamic or Gregorian calendar is referred to, these themes have been prominent in two separate murders where a Muslim was killed for being the 'wrong' kind of Muslim.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As Muslim communities in the UK and western Europe become more diverse, such sectarian killings could become more commonplace.</p><p>The first victim, Asad Shah, was an <a href="">Ahmadiyya</a>. He was <a href="">murdered</a> by a Sunni Barelwi for 'disrespecting' the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The second target was himself a Sunni Barelwi, killed by a Salafi who believed his practice of <em>ta’widh</em> (amulets) took him outside the fold of Islam. The worry is that as Muslim communities in the UK and western Europe become more diverse, such sectarian killings could become more commonplace.</p><p>In recent years, key policy and scholarly debates about Islam in the west have centred on questions about the compatibility of the respective values and lifestyles of Muslim and non-Muslim populations in western liberal states. The two murders point to the need to examine the reality of and potential for sectarianism within Muslim communities in the west. </p><h2><strong>The routes of belief</strong></h2><p>In August this year, Tanveer Ahmed, a Muslim taxi-driver from Bradford, was <a href="">sentenced</a> to 27 years in prison for the murder of Asad Shah, a Glasgow shopkeeper. Ahmed had driven to Scotland to confront Shah about his beliefs. The Ahmadiyya do not believe that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was the last and final prophet, a view that is considered heretical by many Muslims and blasphemous by Sunni Muslims. In a statement released by Ahmed after his conviction, he asserted that the murder was in defence of the Prophet: "Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him".</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Migration to western Europe is forcing Muslims to confront different ways of practising Islam.</p><p>Ahmed’s actions were inspired by another, in Pakistan in 2011: the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab. The man convicted of the crime, Mumtaz Qadri, a police officer and Taseer’s former bodyguard, was sentenced to death and <a href="">hanged</a> in February 2016. Taseer had supported reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and backed Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet. In murdering the Punjab governor, Qadri believed he was defending the honour of the Prophet. His own funeral was <a href="">attended</a> by thousands of mourners and today, Qadri is revered by some Sunni Muslims as a martyr and a saint. </p><p>Transnational connections add further dimensions to these incidents. The Bradford murderer Tanveer Ahmed was one of those who considered Mumtaz Qadri a martyr, writing to him in prison whilst Qadri was awaiting execution. Both men were Sunni Barelwi, who are ordinarily associated with the spiritual aspects of faith. Indeed, they are often the ones persecuted for not being 'proper' Muslims because their populist branch of Islam includes practices such as devotional <em>Qawwali</em> music and the following of saints, rituals both considered <em><a href="">shirk</a></em> (or out of the bounds of Islam) by literalists such as Wahhabis and Salafis. </p><p>The second sectarian killing in Britain this year was of a Barelwi, the 71-year-old Jalal Uddin, originally from Bangladesh. He was targeted by two men in their early 20s and murdered as he made his way through the streets of Rochdale. One of the assailants was sentenced to prison for a minimum of <a href="">24 years</a>, whilst the other man fled to Turkey and is believed to have crossed the border into <a href="">Syria</a> to fight for Islamic State.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This sectarianism within Islam... can be traced to two key factors: greater diversity of Muslims settling in Europe, and the mobilisation of sectarian divisions via the internet.</p><p>That the faith of the perpetrator in the Asad Shah murder was the faith of the victim in the Jalal Uddin case highlights the complexities of sectarian divisions within Islam. Barelwis revere the Prophet and have killed to defend his honour. Salafis detest such reverence as false idolisation and link Barelwi customs to 'black magic'.</p><h2><strong>The effects of change</strong></h2><p>This sectarianism within Islam in the west is a recent development. It can be traced to two key factors: greater diversity of Muslims settling in Europe, and the mobilisation of sectarian divisions via the internet.</p><p>Migration to western Europe is forcing Muslims to confront different ways of practising Islam. Muslim communities in the UK, for example, have changed rapidly in the past twenty years. Changes in migration <a href="">patterns</a> have contributed to the development of a highly diverse Muslim population.&nbsp; </p><p>Between the 1950s and the late 1980s, migration of <a href="">Muslims</a> to Britain consisted of many&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;</span>primarily economic&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;migrants from a few former colonial countries, who settled in specific industrial urban locations. Uncertain in their status, these Muslims were content with a less visible faith. In the last two decades, fewer migrants from a larger number of countries&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;as diverse as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia and Nigeria&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;have made these urban centres their home. These new Muslim migrants share mosques, halal butchers, Islamic bookshops and community centres. This process of the diversification of diversity, or "<a href="">superdiversity</a>", as Steven Vertovec calls it, is not limited to Muslim migrants, but reflects a wider development of super-diverse migration patterns.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;There is a real internal debate within communities, often with a streak of intolerance.</p><p>There has, of course, always been diversity amongst Muslims in the UK along sectarian and theological lines. However, post-war migration resulted in the establishment of significant Muslim communities drawn largely from the Indian subcontinent (India,&nbsp;<a href="">Pakistan</a> and Bangladesh) whose key dividing lines were ethnic, reflected in 'Pakistani' and 'Bangladeshi' mosques. What is novel about the present situation is the combination of the pace and scale of difference, with the availability of religious information and sectarian mobilisation on the internet.&nbsp; </p><p>Unlike many of the pioneer generation of post-war Muslim migrants, the descendants are fully literate and able to access theological material, especially on the internet. They are also much more aware then their parents’ generation of the differences within Islam. There is a real internal debate within communities, often with a streak of intolerance.</p><p>Research on established Muslim communities finds that <a href="">"the diasporic encounter with other Muslims"</a> is crucial in the development of the religion, since the <a href="">"experience of meeting other modes of Islamic cultural expression with equally strong claims to validity as one’s own raises questions as to the exclusive legitimacy of any one particular mode"</a>. Mixing with other Muslims can inspire theological debate and has the potential to bear significantly on religious identity and a process of transformation, as <a href="">Vertovec</a> states. But it can also, as demonstrated by the cases above, lead to sectarianism and violence.</p><p>The month of Muharram and the beginning of the new Islamic year is traditionally a time of prayer and contemplation. One prayer that Muslims may want to consider is that Muslim 'superdiversity' in Europe does not lead to greater sectarian violence.</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>Parveen Akhtar, <a href=""><em>British Muslim Politics: Examining Pakistani Biraderi Networks</em></a> (Palgrave, 2013)</p><p>Humayun Ansari, <a href=""><em>The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800</em></a> (C Hurst, 2004)</p><p>Jørgen S. Nielsen &amp; Jonas Otterbeck, <a href=""><em>Muslims in Western Europe</em></a> (Edinburgh University Press, 4th edition, 2015)</p><p>Pnina Werbner, <a href=""><em>The Migration Process: Capital, Gifts and Offerings among British Pakistanis</em></a> (Bloomsbury, 2015)</p><p>Simon Cottee, <a href=""><em>The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/parveen-akhtar/bradford-west-politics-comes-alive">Bradford West: politics comes alive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/idea/parveen-akhtar/british-muslims-and-local-democracy-after-bradford">British Muslims and local democracy: after Bradford</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/parveen-akhtar/bradford-west-democracy-in-technicolour">Bradford West, democracy in technicolour</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization/british_muslims_4048.jsp">British Muslims: ends and beginnings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-terrorism/british_sufis_2786.jsp">British Muslims must stop the war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-terrorism/identity_2721.jsp">Muslims in Britain: generations, experiences, futures</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nile-green/from-dudley-to-detroit-tale-of-two-mosques">From Dudley to Detroit: a tale of two mosques</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> Can Europe make it? uk democracy & power Parveen Akhtar Wed, 05 Oct 2016 11:40:47 +0000 Parveen Akhtar 105725 at What would a Corbyn government mean for LGBT people? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour's new LGBT manifesto promises to meaningfully tackle some of the problems faced by a community on the frontlines of government cuts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="London Gay Pride parade makes its way down Whitehall. Photo: PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="London Gay Pride parade makes its way down Whitehall. Photo: PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="London Gay Pride parade makes its way down Whitehall. Photo: PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London Gay Pride parade makes its way down Whitehall. Photo: PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Austerity cuts may be broad-reaching, but their impact remains uneven. The increased dependency of LGBT people upon public services such as housing and healthcare means that the decimation of such services disproportionately affects the these communities. A <a href="">study by the Albert Kennedy Trust</a> estimates that roughly 24% of the youth homeless population is LGBT, a problem compounded by <a href="">proposed cuts to housing benefits for under-21s</a>, which could further disadvantage those who may lack support and shelter from their family. Despite speculation that Cameron’s administration saw Westminster become the <a href="">“gayest parliament in the world,”</a> the above figures suggest that a legacy that has failed LGBT communities.</p><p dir="ltr">So, the pressure is on for Jeremy Corbyn to provide a convincing counter-vision to the current challenges faced by LGBT services and spaces. The launch of Labour’s LGBT manifesto, <a href="">‘Proud of our Diversity’</a> on the eve of the leadership voting deadline, promises exactly that, forecasting in its introductory pages that “there is still much to do to build a society that is equal for all.” In a climate in which press-friendly gestures towards LGBT-friendliness are rarely followed by material benefit to these communities, it's important to peer into the meat and potatoes of Corbyn's policies. Here is a run-down of six key areas from the manifesto, and the challenges these policies may face:</p><h3>Protecting gay spaces</h3><p>Corbyn’s LGBT manifesto recognizes the role that LGBT nightlife spaces play in the lives of their communities. Gay bars often serve as sanctuaries and important community hubs where alienated people can come to feel safe, welcome, and not in the minority. &nbsp;These spaces are not only vibrant centres of LGBT life, but often also sites of DIY welfare support. Punters of the Joiner’s Arms notably came together <a href="">to fund treatment for asylum seekers with HIV</a>.</p><p>Sadly, however, the wholesale closure of gay bars has followed the gentrification of traditionally gay areas of the UK’s major cities. The Joiner’s Arms, Hackney and the George and Dragon, Shoreditch are only two examples of key gay bars condemned to demolition. The future of the Vauxhall Tavern, Britain’s oldest gay bar, is also unclear, having recently been purchased by property developers. When a gay bar is shut down, it leaves a scar on its community, more so than if a mainstream bar has to relocate. Corbyn’s promise to expand the Asset of Community Value status of gay bars therefore reflects a position of solidarity that has not been seen in Parliament previously.</p><h3>Enshrining rights for LGBT workers and renters</h3><p>According to LGBT charity Stonewall, <a href="">approximately 26% of LGB staff</a> have experienced bullying and abuse in the past five years, while a recent government report indicates that a staggering <a href="">88% of transgender employees</a> experience harassment in the work place. Although workplace equality and diversity programmes on the whole tend to nominally speak out for greater LGBT inclusion and protection, Corbyn’s LGBT programme uniquely makes strides to intervene in the real blockages to equality. In practical terms, this constitutes a promise to abolish Employment Tribunal fees, making it easier for LGBT workers to bring discrimination claims where discrimination has occurred. Additionally, Corbyn plans to strengthen trade union rights in order to protect all British workers, which in practice will safeguard the LGBT workers who rely on these forms of union protection to a greater degree than their heterosexual and cisgendered counterparts.</p><p dir="ltr">Similarly, Corbyn’s LGBT manifesto recognises the greater degree of dependency experienced by LGBT folk upon social housing and welfare. Thus, Corbyn’s pledge to build one million new homes in five years represents a lifeline for the communities suffering housing precarity.</p><h3>LGBT rights in education</h3><p>One of the most interesting components of the LGBT manifesto is its commitment to reforming British education to include on the National Curriculum a comprehensive history of LGBT lives and struggle. Corbyn promises to make Sex and Relationship Education compulsory in schools, focusing largely on sexual health, and creating positive attitudes towards sexual minorities.</p><p dir="ltr">The manifesto explicitly acknowledges that education in these issues is key to providing the knock-on effect of reducing other manifestations of discrimination. These proposals could serve to reduce harassment in the long-term, due to a widening of awareness in society at large.</p><h3>Fighting for sexual and mental healthcare provision</h3><p>The manifesto further recognises LGBT reliance on public sexual and mental health care provisions, along with the health care services for trans people who wish to medically transition with Hormone Replace Therapy and various surgeries. The core of Corbyn’s healthcare pledges is to wrest control of the NHS back into public hands. Along with a substantial increase in funding for the NHS, this will drastically ameliorate the provisions that can be provided for LGBT people.</p><p dir="ltr">LGBT people, and LGBT youth in particular, suffer from a disproportionate amount of mental health problems due to harassment, abuse and isolation. Trans youth especially, who suffer from gender dysphoria as well as the accompanying societal pressures, require a large amount of mental health care. A Stonewall study reported that 48% of trans people under 26 have attempted suicide, while 59% have considered doing so. The same community has historically experienced a greater vulnerability to sexual health issues. Thus, Corbyn’s promise to support the right to access 'PrEP', a preventative medication for those at risk of contracting HIV - notably including LGBT sex workers - represents a substantial step forward. Such healthcare polices would spell long-overdue comprehensive care for LGBT health issues, and seek to meaningfully remedy the problems exacerbated by the Conservatives’ healthcare cuts.</p><h3>Tackling violence</h3><p dir="ltr">Street and domestic violence is a daily reality for LGBT people. LGB people suffer disproportionately high levels of domestic abuse, and <a href="">one in five trans people experiencing</a>&nbsp;domestic violence. Street violence against LGBT people rose by a horrifying 22% in 2014-2015 and in light of atrocities such as the Orlando massacre, this is only expected to continue rising. Corbyn pledges to implement the Stonewall’s recommended programme to work with schools, police and local authorities to tackle not just the the perpetrators of this violence but the root causes of societal hate and prejudice which lead to discriminatory violence.</p><p>Corbyn’s policies also include greater funding for LGBT tailored domestic violence services which have been axed almost completely during the last few years of the Conservative party’s austerity regime, demonstrating a clear receptivity to the voices of grassroots activist groups such as <a href="">Sisters Uncut</a>. This constitutes a vast improvement on provisions currently available for survivors of LGBT hate crimes and indicates a proactive vision for tackling immediate forms of oppression.</p><h3>Democratic representation</h3><p dir="ltr">The last key area addressed in Corbyn’s LGBT manifesto pledges to further “promote diverse representation at every level of our democracy and society.” Included in this vision is a plan to build implement the recommendations of the Shami Chakrabati Inquiry, to consult on and introduce a wider equal opportunities policy for recruitment opportunities internal to the Labour party, and create advisory boards for all equality strands within the party.</p><p dir="ltr">Importantly, democratic representation features last in Corbyn’s list of key focus areas for improving LGBT life in Britain. Representation is usually the first port-of-call for mainstream LGBT politics, treated as a benchmark from which equality and diversity will inevitably trickle down. Yet this positioning of representative politics indicates that Corbyn’s conception of “diversity” reaches beyond representation and seeks to address structural inequalities first, deeming representation a logical conclusion of a comprehensive reform of social attitudes and policies. &nbsp;</p><h3>Conclusions</h3><p dir="ltr">Moving forward, then, what conclusions can we draw from the publication of Corbyn’s LGBT manifesto? Firstly, it is clear that in the twice-elected leader of the opposition, British LGBT communities appear to have a genuine ally, whose policies are receptive to the needs of the country’s marginalised queer proletariat. It is a testament to the arduous campaigning efforts of LGBT grassroots groups that their demands have now gained representation in a viable parliamentary platform. Although the Labour party has long proclaimed itself a friend of the LGBT community, this has often failed to manifest in authentic championship of the welfare provisions and social spaces that the queer impoverished depend upon. New developments within the party, however: the breaking away from the centre ground with the rise of Corbynomics and exponential growth of a grassroots membership, offer the potential of a genuinely productive relationship that could add serious gravity to our struggles in the coming few years.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&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="/ellie-mae-ohagan/large-dysfunctional-family-reflections-on-labour-party-conference">&quot;A large dysfunctional family&quot;: reflections on the Labour party conference</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/jeremy-corbyn-labours-gift-to-british-women">Jeremy Corbyn: Labour’s gift to British women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jonathan-cooper/lgbt-security-and-equality-europe-and-usa">LGBTI security and equality: Europe and the USA</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 Sophie Monk & Joni Cohen Wed, 05 Oct 2016 10:11:07 +0000 Sophie Monk & Joni Cohen 105776 at When UK care workers fight back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Workers who provide essential services and compassion to vulnerable people are being forced to fight for the minimum wage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// care abt care workers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// care abt care workers.jpg" alt="lead lead lead " title="" width="460" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mitie marketing (</span></span></span></p><p>Anne’s first call started at 7am and her last finished at 10pm. She went from house to house, calling in on vulnerable clients, 15, sometimes 20 calls each day, helping clients to wash and dress, emptying and cleaning their commodes, administering their medicine, preparing their meals, keeping them company —&nbsp;the only person they might see all day. </p> <p>Anne worked for MiHomecare, one of the corporate chains that dominate the UK home care market. She was one of 220,000 care workers in the UK last year <a href="">being paid less than the minimum wage</a> — (then £6.70 per hour, now £7.20). </p> <p>Facing <a href="">legal challenges</a>, negative publicity and reputational damage, MiHomecare’s parent company Mitie&nbsp;<a href="">stated early this year</a>: “We have found some errors in calculating travel time pay and we have decided to make a one-off payment to all affected people. Additionally we took steps in June 2015 to ensure that this should not be an issue in future by revising some pay rates and amending care rosters.”</p><p>Mitie (pronounced&nbsp;<em>Mighty</em>) had “completed a comprehensive review of payments for all of our care workers to be absolutely certain that they are treated fairly and that we comply with wage legislation”.</p> <h2>Good news?&nbsp;</h2><p>This was a rare positive story from a market usually in the news for substandard care or chronic under-funding. But, according to Anne and other care workers who have called <a href="">Corporate Watch</a> since, this wasn’t quite the good news story it first appeared. </p> <p>Anne, who worked in MiHomecare’s Eastbourne branch, has been offered no compensation. Nor have colleagues, who appear to be owed it.</p> <p>Anne’s rotas, seen and analysed by Corporate Watch, suggest that she was being paid significantly less than the minimum wage —&nbsp;approximately £40 a week less. Her stated pay rate was £7.50 per hour on weekdays and £9 on weekends but she was not paid for her time travelling between appointments, as she legally should have been. In the week analysed her actual pay worked out at just £5.70 an hour. If that was the case across the year, as she says, Anne could be owed over £2,000 from just one year. </p> <p>“Some weeks were even worse than that one,” Anne told us. “I felt so down by the end of the week. It was affecting the rest of my life. I care so much for the clients but the company just run you straight into the ground.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// care about quality.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// care about quality.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="199" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Other workers in the branch told us of similar experiences. Karen said she regularly worked between 7am and 1pm without a break, but that she would often be paid for just two or three hours. Jane’s rotas suggested she was still being paid less than the minimum wage in February – after Mitie’s guarantee that care workers would never again be illegally underpaid. </p> <p>According to reports from other branches where compensation was offered, most workers accepted it, glad of the unexpected and much needed cash. But many people we spoke to were sceptical that the amounts offered covered everything they were owed. </p> <p>One problem was that the compensation letters gave no breakdown or calculation showing how amounts had been worked out.</p> <p>Some care workers, told that if they queried the amount they may be offered even less, were understandably reluctant to do so.</p><h2>Emma won’t budge</h2> <p>One MiHomecare worker in London did challenge her offer. We’ll call her Emma. After working for the company below the minimum wage for over three years, Emma was offered just over £250. She refused to sign the settlement. In response MiHomecare reduced the amount. Emma asked the company to send documentation showing the hours she had worked. Calls started coming in from head office asking her to accept the original offer. Emma wouldn’t budge. </p> <p>Instead, Emma went through the timesheets she had requested and worked out that she had actually been paid around £900 less than the minimum wage once travel time and gaps between appointments had been taken into account — that’s more than three times the original offer. Perhaps worried about the prospect of another high profile legal claim, MiHomecare relented and even paid slightly more than she had demanded. </p><p>Emma says: “It took a long time but I got what I was owed. I knew it wasn’t enough. It’s just a shame all those other people accepted theirs when they could have challenged it.”</p> <p>The typical strategy of the corporate chains that increasingly dominate home care is to buy up smaller rivals while cutting costs. Staff wages make up by far the biggest cost. Severe cuts in council funding have put financial pressure on home care providers: but there’s a limit to how much the increasing number of home care companies owned by big businesses or investors can blame inadequate public funding for not paying their workers properly. </p> <p>Home care hasn’t been the money-making business Mitie hoped it would be when it paid £111m for the home care company Enara in 2012. At the time, Mitie chief executive Ruby McGregor-Smith <a href="">told Reuters:</a> “We have a very rapidly ageing UK population and the care market is highly fragmented. We think the opportunities coming out will get much bigger in scale in the next few years with maybe some adjacent services, for example looking after community care as a whole for a local authority.”</p><div>Four years on things haven’t turned out as planned.&nbsp;Homecare was part of the reason Mitie sprang a nasty surprise on shareholders last month with the&nbsp;<a href="">announcement</a>&nbsp;that&nbsp;this year’s group profit would be “materially below management’s previous expectations”.&nbsp;MiHomecare’s&nbsp;accounts show that it has turned a profit only once in the past four years, with its most recent accounts showing a loss of £7m.</div><h2>Whackingly different</h2><p>Back in October 2010, Ruby McGregor-Smith was one of 35 business leaders who signed a&nbsp;<a href="">letter in the Daily Telegraph</a>&nbsp;urging the government to press on with public spending cuts. She was made a CBE in the 2012 New Year’s&nbsp;Honours List. Then, in August 2015, the government made her a&nbsp;<a href="">member of the House of Lords,</a>&nbsp;at the same time as her company was&nbsp;<a href="">under investigation by HMRC</a>&nbsp;for failing to pay the minimum wage. In December last year she was appointed a&nbsp;<a href="">non-executive board member</a>&nbsp;of the Department for Education.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// MCGREGOR-SMITH720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye)"><img src="// MCGREGOR-SMITH720.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye)" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye)</span></span></span></p> <p>While her workers were being paid less than £6 an hour, how did Mitie’s chief executive fare? </p> <p>The answer is on page 86 of&nbsp;Mitie’s Annual Report &amp; Accounts. In the year to March 2016, Ruby McGregor-Smith’s basic annual salary was £565,950. </p><p>Plus £25,855 in “benefits”. Then a bonus: £659,332, won in part thanks to “Implementation of the MiHomecare business plan”. </p><p>On top of that, something called a “long term incentive plan” or LTIP award: £1,167,006. Plus, pension contributions: £152,577. And then £1,692 listed under “other”, taking the grand total to £2,572,412. Or £7,000 per day.</p> <p>“The job I’m paid for is whackingly different to the job everyone else does,” McGregor-Smith&nbsp;<a href="">told the Financial Times</a> late last year.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// 2016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// 2016.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="59" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>McGregor-Smith remuneration, year to March 2016 & 2015 (Mitie Report & Accounts 2016)</span></span></span></p><p>Questioned about Mitie’s decision not to pay home care workers for travel time between jobs, she said: “That was down to the interpretation of travel time. We’ve dealt with that. If there’s any historical issues on pay we deal with them.”</p> <h2>Quality of care</h2> <p>All the care workers we spoke to said they cared deeply about providing a decent service to the people they look after, with many going over and above their paid hours to do so. They also described coming into clients’ homes to find medicines not given, commodes left unemptied and incomplete care records. </p> <p>Inevitably, if a company hasn’t been investing in a service as much as it should, the quality of care will be affected.</p> <p>Published statistics, reported here for the first time, show almost half of MiHomecare branches assessed in the past two years have been found unsatisfactory by the Care Quality Commission. </p> <p>Out of 28 MiHomecare branches assessed since April 2015 by the Care Quality Commission, 11 have been rated as requiring improvement, with the Poole and Wiltshire branches rated inadequate and placed in special measures. </p> <p>Some of these branches — branded not “sustainable” in the accounts — have since been closed to cut costs. According to a Mitie spokesperson, recent, as yet unpublished, inspections have rated two thirds of the remaining 23 as good, with none now inadequate.</p> <p>It remains hard to reconcile Mitie’s £57m payout to shareholders over the last year with the CQC’s inspection of the Wiltshire branch in June, which identified shortages in staff numbers and training, medicines not being “managed safely” and “little evidence that staff received support when requested”.</p> <p>None of this is unique to MiHomecare. Another major company, Sevacare, is <a href="">being taken to court</a> for failing to pay its workers minimum wage —&nbsp;while <a href="">paying its boss</a> £2.4m in 2014. </p> <p>The recent experience of MiHomecare workers shows that, with little regulation or collective organising, getting a fair deal out for home care will continue to be a struggle.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>In March 2016, when Corporate Watch sent Mitie’s press office questions about payments to care workers, we received a reply from Schillings, the heavyweight libel lawyers, insisting that we either drop our story or give prominence to the following statement:</p> <p>“MiHomecare prides itself on providing the highest standards of care and we are absolutely committed to paying our people correctly for their work. Whenever we receive payroll queries we review them and resolve them as soon as possible. HMRC is totally satisfied with our approach.”</p> <p><em>All care workers’ names have been changed. <em>If you have any information about a care company you would like to share, message Corporate Watch <a href="">here</a> or call 02074260005.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/fail-and-prosper-how-privatisation-really-works">Fail and prosper: how privatisation really works</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller/investigating-mitie-market-leader-in-uk-immigration-detention">Investigating Mitie, the market leader in UK immigration detention</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 Richard Whittell Tue, 04 Oct 2016 23:00:46 +0000 Richard Whittell 105704 at A Citizens' Wealth Fund <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A Citizens’ Wealth Fund is a state investment vehicle that invests a chunk of a community’s public wealth in global financial markets for a return. The returns of these funds provide an additional... </div> </div> </div> <span>A Citizens’ Wealth Fund is a state investment vehicle that invests a chunk of a community’s public wealth in global financial markets for a return. The returns of these funds provide an additional revenue stream for the state that can be used for a range of policy goals including tackling inequality, kick-starting growth or investing in local infrastructure. Thus, the public reaps the benefits of investing public assets. </span> <span>But to fully count as the citizens’ wealth, people must be able to directly influence the management of the fund as well as the use of its income. The UK’s recently announced '<a href="">Shale Wealth Fund</a>' looks set to become one of the world’s first fully-fledged citizens’ funds, with its commitment to localism, where citizens both retain control over and benefit from the fund. If realised in practice, Britain will be a pioneer of this citizen’s wealth fund model, offering a blueprint for the rest of the world to emulate. </span> <span>Around 80 governments worldwide already have a version of these funds, known as ‘Sovereign Wealth Funds’. Yet, the assets of sovereign funds are rarely described or managed as citizens’ wealth. This is despite the underlying capital of the funds originating from different types of collective state property. Whether natural resource revenues, privatization proceeds, fiscal surpluses or central bank reserves, all such windfalls ultimately belong to the people. But unless citizens directly benefit from, and exert control over the funds managing these windfalls, their assets remain </span><span>sovereign</span><span> rather than </span><span>citizens’</span><span> wealth. </span> <span>There are certain exceptions that, if not fully-fledged citizens funds, are at least promising steps in that direction. Israel’s newly created citizens’ fund for its natural gas revenues is a semantic exception. Created in 2014 and due to commence operations by 2020, it is the first fund in the world to explicitly label itself a ‘Citizens’ Fund’. But time will tell if it actually operates as such. The deal itself, as well as the <a href="">disputes</a> over the ownership of the natural gas fields, cast doubt on that possibility. Alaska’s ‘Permanent Fund’ can also claim citizens’ wealth status by virtue of its unique annual distribution of a portion of its investment returns directly to Alaskan citizens. These examples aside, no existing sovereign fund boasts mechanisms for direct community influence over </span><span>both</span><span> fund management and spending. </span> Until now. In 2014, the UK became the first country to embrace the term ‘Citizens’ Wealth Fund’, when Boris Johnson proposed combining the UK’s 39,000 public pension funds to create one large investment fund for Britain to invest infrastructure. Those plans have stalled. But the UK is still trail-blazing with another citizens’ fund. <span>The Chancellor’s 2015 Autumn Statement set out plans for a £1 billion Shale Wealth Fund, seeded with a portion of tax revenues </span><span>from shale gas production in the country’s Northern and midland counties.</span><span> A key</span><span> purpose of the fund is to benefit communities where shale gas sites are located and to engage the views of community members on how best to distribute that benefit to ensure that the industry leaves a positive legacy. </span> <span>A </span><a href=""><span>government consultation is under way</span></a><span> on the design and governance of the shale fund. Encouragingly, the consultation is heavily focused on issues of local control and benefit. Public views are sought on a range of questions around how the government can ensure local communities benefit from the Shale Wealth Fund and that decisions are directly influenced by local residents. This includes whether the fund should make direct payments to households; what decision-making bodies, new or existing, would be the most appropriate to oversight and administer the fund; and what level of community (local or regional) should be the primary beneficiary of the fund’s activities. </span> <span>Setting aside the thorny issue of whether the UK should pursue fracking at all, the drive to ensure residents of affected communities have a direct say on how the proposed shale fund is designed and managed, </span><span>and</span><span> how they can directly benefit from its operations may be a world-first. Almost twenty years after Britain became one of the first countries to grant its central bank operational independence, the UK is once again assuming a leadership role in the institutional innovation of key economic architecture. British citizens must not waste this opportunity to help shape their economic future, and the first genuine citizens’ wealth fund.</span><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 Angela Cummine Tue, 04 Oct 2016 11:01:44 +0000 Angela Cummine 105741 at Invest in farming technology <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It can take a thousand years to form an inch, which can be washed away in a moment. It provides 95% of our food, and yet we allow it to blow off in the wind. Civilisations rise and fall on how they tr... </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">It can take a thousand years to form an inch, which can be washed away in a moment. It provides 95% of our food, and yet we allow it to blow off in the wind. Civilisations rise and fall on how they treat it, and we treat it like dirt. </span><span class="s1">I am talking, of course, about soil. Researchers at Sheffield University concluded two years ago that <a href="">Britain's fields are so depleted</a> that our earth had a hundred harvests left in it. So make that ninety eight. </span><span class="s1">Other stats are even scarier. According to New Scientist magazine, if we don't slow the decline, all farmable soils in the world will be <span class="s2"><a href="">gone within sixty years</a>.</span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">There are lots of simple things which the government really should be doing to combat this. It has a unique opportunity to rethink our approach to farming, as Brexit will remove the UK from the EU 'Common Agricultural Policy' (CAP), repatriating regulatory powers. The government should better regulate or indeed curtail disastrous maize farming. It should encourage more crop-rotation and upland tree planting; support wetland restoration and beaver-reintroduction; ban heather burning on grouse moors; minimise soil compaction from livestock and machinery, and invest in a mass switch to organic farming.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"> But it seems to me that, whilst all of these policies are necessary, they are insufficient to tackle the global scale of this crisis. Adjustments to conventional farming methods help – but they don't tackle another great problem: that the extensive land use required by such practises means eating into ever more wilderness, wiping out ever more species. So as well as reforming our traditional land farming, we should look into alternative agricultural solutions, which will allow us to feed ourselves without asset-stripping the planet and dooming future generations to food scarcity.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Hydroponic and aquaponic farming allow for the growth of vegetables in water enriched with nutrients (in the latter case, through the presence of fish). Famous largely for its use by cannabis growers, many other kinds of crop can equally flourish without soil. </span><span class="s1">It's not a new idea: Francis Bacon referred to 'water culture' in his 1627 book 'Sylva Sylvarum', and there was an eruption of research immediately afterwards. Studies in the 1960s showed it to be no more efficient than growing food in good quality top soil. But with less and less good top soil around, those figures get more and more appealing. And that's without mass investment in research and development that could make these methods even more efficient.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Similarly, 3D ocean farming offers the opportunity to grow much more of our food in the seas, whilst at the same time replenishing our <a href="">life-bereft maritime ecosystems.</a><span class="Apple-converted-space"> S</span>eaweed doesn't currently form a significant part of the European diet. But it is delicious, and can also be used as livestock feed. </span>As the soil crisis hoves into view, it seems likely that new farming techniques along these lines will see ever greater demand. And just as those countries who got ahead of the game in renewable energy twenty years ago are reaping the rewards now, it seems likely that government backing for such agricultural innovations will reap long term dividends on the global market.</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">But if we are going to go down this road, it's worth asking another question: If the 1909 allotment act gave each of us the right to land on which to grow food, why not update it to give every family access to a space in a shared hydroponic tower? What about our numerous impoverished seaside towns? Why shouldn't councils lead investment into ocean farming co-ops?</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"> And if much large-scale modern agriculture is done by carefully programmed machines, why can't we equally automate the growing of our own food? Why can't Britain be the country which develops the technology by which your own veg, or seaweed, or shellfish, grown in your community allotment, can be picked by your community's automatic harvester and delivered to your home by a community-owned self-driven car or drone? Ownership of Britain's agricultural land is astoundingly unequal, and new technologies offer an opportunity to democratise food production, beginning to tackle a food poverty crisis whose icon has become a growing array of food banks.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The food and drink supply chain is the UK’s single largest manufacturing sector. It accounts for <a href=""><span class="s2">7% of GDP, employs 3.7M people and is worth £80Bn per year</span></a>. </span><span class="s1">Because of CAP, it has been protected from the global market for decades. As Britain leaves the EU, we must decide what role it will play in the future of our economy. We can allow it to be asset stripped like most of our industry, or we can accept that at a time of fast technological change and vast environmental challenges, we will have to embrace the former if we are to survive the latter.</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 Adam Ramsay Tue, 04 Oct 2016 10:38:40 +0000 Adam Ramsay 105739 at Leave may have lied, but it was Bush, Blair and Cameron who killed political honesty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Machiavelli to Cameron, there is a sad decline of truth in the age of Brexit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_Barroso,_Blair,_Aznar_at_Azores.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_Barroso,_Blair,_Aznar_at_Azores.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>George W. Bush with then Portuguese prime minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Pubic Domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Is the role of lies in politics getting worse? Have we entered a ‘post-truth’ era as it is claimed (just recently in <a href="">The Economist</a> among many examples)? Is the “brazen disregard for facts” that marked the UK’s recent referendum a qualitative shift, as Guardian Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner sets out, in <a href="">her argument</a> for asserting qualities of honesty and respect on the web. Or are such concerns a storm-in-the-elite stirred up to displace attention from the real issues posed, however demagogically, by the rise of a populist right? Issues that 83% of people want to be solved by policies that are evidence based, as Tracey Brown of <a href="">Sense about Science</a> argues eloquently in a recent<a href=""> Guardian</a> <a href="">article</a>. </p><p>I’ve a specific starting point. Working on the implications of Brexit I’m struck by the sheer venom of many on the Remain side directed at the lies of the Brexiteers for having won the vote fraudulently. Yes, they lied. Emphasising this aspect of Brexit, however, can imply that the Remain side was honest. True, vote Leave was more cunning in its deceit, but I’ll argue that the government with its greater power and authority was the more profoundly fraudulent – and it set the terms.</p> <p>For example, before he even called for a referendum, there was a key moment when Cameron echoed the way Blair told president Bush privately he would make sure the UK supported an invasion of Iraq but did not say this to parliament. In November 2012, prime minister Cameron told Chancellor Merkel in Downing Street how he planned to call for a referendum but that he was utterly committed to staying in the EU. He then explained to her that he would not tell the voters how strongly he felt, but would instead assure them it would be OK if they chose to leave. Just like Blair and Iraq, Cameron ‘spun’ the referendum with falsehood from the start.</p> <p>Since Machiavelli, there has been a secular argument for the necessity of deceit as an instrument of rule. The Florentine understood that claims of religious, royal and dynastic legitimacy could not be relied upon to generate and renew loyalty; rulers needed to exercise calculation as well. Was Cameron just very bad at being Machiavellian? Or is something new really taking place?</p> <p>I’m not convinced we are in a ‘post-truth’ era. Partly because the concept seems to presume that politics was previously a form of rational behaviour based on factual calculations. Be that as it may, there are three ways in which the early twenty-first century might be seen as ‘post-truth’.</p> <p>First, to go back to the Iraq war, Blair’s approach was defined by president Bush’s advisor Karl Rove. He scorned the New Yorker (and people like myself) as belonging to “the reality community”. “We're an empire now”, Rove claimed, “when we act, we create our own reality”. But Rove’s stark claim was enabled by the belligerent malevolence of Bush’s tabloid media supporters including Fox TV; and this is also a tradition that goes back to the end of the 19th century, with the birth of yellow journalism and the Spanish-American war.</p> <p>Second, neoliberalism: today’s dominant economic policy denies that it is a policy. Instead, it counterfeits itself as an expression of the market to which ‘there is no alternative’. To demystify the dishonesty of this is different from saying that austerity is wrong or that globalisation is being mismanaged. It concerns economic policy being a conscious masquerade. Neoliberalism has dishonesty and lack of responsibility built into it – it's systemic and central in a way it was not under Keynesianism.</p> <p>Third, there is the rise of data to replace facts, as argued by Will Davies of Goldsmiths, whose brilliant blogs led to a summary of his argument in <a href="">the New York Times</a>. Big data may allow our rulers to track sentiment, i.e. what different segments of the public are feeling, and to respond accordingly, bypassing engagement with the reality of actual problems altogether.&nbsp;</p> <p>For all this I’m unconvinced that we have entered a ‘post-truth’ era, if by this we mean realities no longer matter in the way they did. Rather, so far as the UK is concerned, I think that a political system, which historically was relatively honourable and principled, has been corrupted. Just as the City’s ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ was both efficient and profitable in its heyday but degenerated into post-war complacency and was then blown up by greedy maximisers after Thatcher’s ‘Big Bang’ in 1987, so its Westminster counter-part was wrecked in a longer parallel process which ended up with the MPs expenses scandal in 2009 – that fed into the rise of UKIP.</p> <p>The Brexit referendum from beginning to end was dishonest, contrived and rotten on both sides, with each defining its approach via focus groups. It takes a dishonest system to permit a country to be governed in such a way. In asking why this has come about there is another important question: are the British as a whole as delusional as their political masters? I’d say not. Relatively speaking, I think the different publics of the UK are not enamoured of lies and prefer to act with integrity, compared to some other countries at least (I leave you to name them).</p> <p>One of the many tragedies of the referendum was that only the Leave side successfully appealed to people’s sense of self-belief and self-worth. Michael Gove’s now notorious claim that, “The people of this country have had enough of experts”&nbsp;followed on from his saying, “I am asking the public to trust themselves” (<a href="">you can see it for yourself here</a>). Insisting that membership of the EU was economically destructive, when asked about his own interest in being prime minister Gove replied “count me out”. He could not have been more definitive. It proved to be one of the more glorious lies of the referendum.</p> <p>Brexit may mean Brexit but there was more to the referendum than the referendum. I was for Remain. As the evidence of the economic harm of Brexit becomes clearer so does the case for reversing it. But in terms of our politics and political culture I’m against wishing to return to the dishonesties of the situation before the referendum. After all, they got us to where we are now.</p> <p>The lies of the Leave campaign succeeded because they were rooted in the soil of deceit tilled and prepared by Blair, Cameron and their crews. A majority of the population said that they had enough of them. We should indeed say goodbye to that farmyard.</p> <p><strong><em>This reflection is feeding into my new book, WHAT NEXT: Britain after Brexit, which has to be crowdfunded by pre-orders to be published. Please <a href="">pre-order a copy</a>.</em></strong> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Anthony Barnett Mon, 03 Oct 2016 10:14:57 +0000 Anthony Barnett 105719 at England’s bonfire of children’s rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new bill threatens decades of carefully drafted laws designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in care.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// FRONT PAGE-14feb1945 CROP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// FRONT PAGE-14feb1945 CROP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mirror front page 14 February 1945</span></span></span></p><p>Twelve year-old Dennis O’Neill was pronounced dead on the afternoon of 9 January 1945. A <a href="">public inquiry by Sir Walter Monckton</a> reported the coroner’s finding that the child had suffered “acute cardiac failure following violence applied to the front of his chest and back while in a state of under-nourishment”. </p><p>Dennis had been seen once in six months by a local authority clerk, who recorded after her visit that he looked ill and frightened and kept his eyes to the ground when answering questions. </p><p>The coroner criticised the lack of local authority supervision. Foster carers Reginald and Esther Gough were convicted of manslaughter and neglect respectively. Terence O’Neill, aged 11, told the court of the starvation and beatings he and his brother endured, and recounted how Dennis had sometimes been so desperately hungry he would suck milk from a cow’s teat when the Goughs weren’t looking. </p> <p>In 1946, rules were introduced requiring six-monthly reviews of children in foster care. The duty to monitor individual well-being and progress was later extended to those living in children’s homes, with the requirement to take into account the child’s views added in 1991. </p><p>After sustained judicial concern, Parliament passed legislation in 2002 to make local authorities appoint independent persons to lead the review process. Independent reviewing officers must be qualified and experienced social workers and their statutory role includes checking the local authority has informed the children they look after about their rights to make a complaint and access support from an advocate, and helping the child obtain legal advice; they are also duty-bound to consider referring a child’s case to Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) when a local authority is failing to meet its legal obligations.</p><h2>Bonfire of children’s rights</h2> <p>Now, decades of carefully drafted laws designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in care are under threat of demolition.</p> <p>The <a href="">Children and Social Work Bill</a>, which reaches Report Stage in the Lords next month, contains an extreme measure to absolve local authorities of virtually all of their duties towards vulnerable children. More than 80 years of legislation is affected, encompassing child protection, family support and services to children in care, disabled children and care leavers.</p> <p>A fast-track procedure will enable local authorities, individuals appointed by ministers, and the education secretary herself, to seek exemptions from duties for up to six years. Parliament will have the chance to block orders, though constitutional convention means this is highly unlikely: the <a href="">Hansard Society reports only 0.01 per cent of all statutory instruments have been rejected since 1965</a>. Exemption orders will apply to one or more councils, leading to the fragmentation of child welfare law for the first time. Children in neighbouring towns and cities will have different rights. Siblings placed apart could be subject to different legal protection.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// not put aside CROP_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// not put aside CROP_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="223" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mirror, May 1945, quoting from the Monckton report</span></span></span></p> <p>No evidence has been offered to show that legislation stifles effective children’s services. On the contrary, <a href="">research for the department for education</a>&nbsp; discovered, unsurprisingly, that statutory duties had helped to shield services in the face of severe government cuts.&nbsp;<span>The researchers wrote: “statutory responsibilities limited the choices that local councils had available to achieve savings”.</span></p> <p>Exemptions will test whether “better outcomes under children’s social care legislation” can be achieved, or the same results reached “more efficiently”.</p> <p>Isabelle Trowler, the country’s chief social worker for children and families, urges the bill’s many critics to <a href="">“warm up a bit”</a> and claims “this is not some kind of sinister political plot to overthrow public authorities or a ruse to wipe out decades of children’s rights”. She’s avoided the head-scratching question, though, which is: how can legal duties work better for children when they no longer exist?</p> <p>Like Trowler, schools minister Lord Nash claims that independent reviewing officers are not necessary in every child’s case. <a href="">The minister has gone so far as to state that only around 20 of 400 children looked after by North Yorkshire County Council “require regular in-depth reviews”.</a> Latest government statistics show that a third of children looked after by this council who completed a psychological well-being assessment were a cause for concern. That’s 74 children. Borderline scores were reached by a further 38. The <a href="">official spreadsheets</a> reveal that 255 children are subject to full care orders, meaning a court in each case found the child had suffered (or was likely to suffer) significant harm. Every way you look, the proposition that 95 per cent of looked after children in this local authority can do without full reviews lacks credibility. </p> <p>The same civil servants who briefed the minister will presumably have responsibility for sifting exemption applications, should the legislation pass. They have not shown themselves to be rigorous.</p> <p>Schools were given the ‘power to innovate’ in 2002 but only 32 exemptions were made in seven years and 97 per cent of institutions managed without them. The department for education reflected some years later that schools <a href="">“often discover that the Power is rarely needed as the necessary freedoms and flexibilities already exist”.</a> Legislation was not a barrier to creativity, after all.</p><h2>Deregulation without consultation</h2><p> Unlike exemptions from education law, the bill before parliament empowers Whitehall to spearhead social care deregulation, independent of the wishes of local communities, children’s services professionals or councillors. Individuals sent by ministers into struggling local authorities will be able to seek exemptions after consulting locally. No such consultation duties are ascribed to the secretary of state or her nominated person. The children’s commissioner for England and Ofsted’s chief inspector will be asked their views prior to the drafting of regulations removing duties, but without any power to halt the process and there is no requirement to publish their advice. </p> <p>Moreover, there is a large question mark hanging over the appropriateness of such a task for the children’s commissioner, whose <a href="">primary statutory function is to promote and protect children’s rights</a>.</p><p> Education exemptions may have proven to be unnecessary, but they were followed by Michael Gove’s free schools programme. Since legislation was passed in 2010 all schools in England can apply to become academies, which are independent of local authorities and receive their funding direct from central government. Weeks before Justine Greening MP was appointed new education secretary, her predecessor was forced to <a href="">backtrack on the government’s plan to compel every school in the country to become an academy by 2022</a>.</p> <p>A vision for children’s social care, published in July, declares the <a href="">government’s ambition that more than a third of local authorities will be delivering (or preparing to deliver) their children’s services through a trust or other legal entity by 2020</a>.</p> <p>Are children’s legal entitlements to care and protection collateral damage in an ideological project to remove children’s services from local council control? You don’t have to believe in sinister plots to ask this question.</p><h2>Who needs social workers?&nbsp;</h2><p> The level of risk involved in deregulating social care is exponentially higher than in education. It interferes with human rights in a way that tinkering with school rules doesn’t. The most frequent type of education exemption involved a slight modification to the school day. Deregulation plans being mooted in social care include withdrawing independent reviewing officers and disbanding panels that provide vital safeguards in fostering and adoption.</p> <p>There has even been the suggestion that <a href="">children in foster care could manage without social workers</a>.</p> <p>The law as it stands requires that children who have lived in a foster home for 12 months or more can be visited by a social worker as little as twice a year, with the child’s agreement. This skeleton service was made possible through regulations introduced last year, which slashed the minimum number of yearly visits from four to two. Exemptions could reduce this to nil.</p><p> Andy Elvin, chief executive of TACT fostering and adoption charity, <a href="">says he would like to pilot</a> children in long-term foster care not having their own social worker, when this accords with the child’s wishes.</p> <p>I spent 12 years working directly with children in care and the most common refrain about social workers was that they didn’t visit often enough. One girl persisted to the highest level of the council’s complaints procedure in order to have a female social worker. She told me she had lost trust in men after being raped in her family, so she hardly spoke to her male social worker. Eventually the local authority was forced to do the right thing. (In case you’re wondering, the right to make a complaint could be exempted too).
</p> <p>Allowing a competent child to decide not to have a social worker could be construed as progressive and respectful. But this presupposes social workers have the time and the inclination to be constantly visiting children who don’t need their help. This just doesn’t happen. Moreover, Elvin’s trial of a handful of children in an area not having their own social worker (foster carers would still have one) would be so dependent upon individual circumstances, that the results would not be transferable to the wider population of looked after children. </p><h2>We must do better</h2><p> Those children who have had very poor experiences of social workers may, understandably, want nothing more to do with them. We can, and must, do better for children in these situations. As Elvin’s charity states in its <a href="">guide for children</a>, social workers “make sure you are OK, so you should think of them as someone who is there to help you”. The charity’s <a href="">advice to young people</a> is: “Please let your social worker know if you think someone is taking away any of your rights”.<br /> <br /> Children may fear electing to hold onto their social worker will be perceived by carers as an act of disloyalty or ingratitude. A small number could be punished for such a decision. <a href="">Research undertaken for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children</a> found that each local authority in England has an average of three confirmed cases of child abuse in foster care every year, slightly higher than in residential care. </p><p>Post-Savile, we should be doing everything possible to safeguard children who, for whatever reason, find it difficult to speak out about abuse. Rather than stripping back the law, it would be in children’s interests to focus energies on developing the skills and approaches of social workers, so the minimum two visits a year are experienced as helpful and enjoyable by all children. Putting the onus on children to ‘choose’ whether or not to have this basic safeguard is a betrayal of adult responsibility.</p><p>So too is branding deregulation as innovation, and pretending vulnerable children will get more with less. Social care exemptions are a unilateral break with the postwar professional and political consensus that vulnerable children need the law behind them. They require us to abandon lessons learnt from past inquiries and investigations into institutional abuse and the necessity of robust, universal safeguards. In concluding his four-month inquiry into the death of Dennis O’Neill, Monckton observed: “the duty to be sure in the care of children must not be put aside&nbsp;however great may be the pressure of other burdens”.</p> <p>This radical legislation was drafted in haste, without public consultation or manifesto pledge.</p> <p>Article 39 is a small charity set up in 2015 to promote and protect the rights of children living in institutional settings. We have joined forces with nearly 40 leading organisations and individual experts to reject this part of the Bill, which is to be debated again in the Lords in October 2016. Then the legislation goes to the Commons, though officials are already assessing proposals for exemptions. Now is the time to voice concerns loudly and clearly. Education secretary Justine Greening, appointed in July 2016, had nothing to do with drafting this Bill. We have to hope she will very soon disown this part of it.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Carolyne Willow has created a 38 Degrees petition <a href="">here: Protect the rights of vulnerable children and care leavers</a>.<br /></em></p><p><em>Keep up-to-date on the Bill, and add your name to those opposing the exemption Clauses, via the ‘<a href="">Together for Children’</a> site.</em></p><p><em>Find the Monckton Report in two parts <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>: <em>Report by Sir Walter Monckton KCMG KCVO MC KC on the circumstances which led to the boarding out of Dennis and Terence O’Neill at Bank Farm, Minsterly and the steps taken to supervise their welfare,</em>&nbsp;Home Office, May 1945.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/carolyne-willow/how-many-children-are-sexually-abused-in-prison">How many children are sexually abused in prison?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/carolyne-willow/five-more-arrests-and-another-critical-inspection-report-for-g4s-chil">Five more arrests and another critical inspection report for G4S child prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/carolyne-willow/when-children-s-home-is-one-stop-on-road-to-prison">When a children’s home is one more stop on the road to prison </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/shinealight/carolyne-willow/safe-place-for-children-g4s-pays-for-%E2%80%9Cindependent%E2%80%9D-report-on-">A safe place for children? G4S pays for “independent” report on Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/sex-abusers-guarding-britain%E2%80%99s-most-vulnerable-children">The sex abusers guarding Britain’s most vulnerable children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/carolyne-willow/mothers-and-sons-on-children-who-have-died-in-uk-prisons">Mothers and sons. On children who have died in UK prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/prison-treacherous-place-for-child">Prison, a treacherous place for a child</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/children-suffer-racist-abuse-and-%E2%80%98degrading-treatment%E2%80%99-by-guards-high-on-">Children suffer racist abuse and ‘degrading treatment’ by guards high on drugs at G4S Rainsbrook prison</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of-">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <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 Care and justice Shine A Light Carolyne Willow Thu, 29 Sep 2016 07:48:36 +0000 Carolyne Willow 105591 at