uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/front en Redefining the UK general election: it's time to move beyond Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/john-weeks/redefining-general-election-its-time-to-move-past-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britons are set to head to polling stations, but Brexit is still dominating debate. Is it possible to avoid a re-run of the referendum and champion social democracy instead?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562710/PA-31331218.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562710/PA-31331218.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>General Election 2017. Danny Lawson/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The Cameron (remember him?) government arranged to hold a referendum on membership in the European Union in June 2016, and the May government scheduled a general election in June 2017. The former caused the latter and the Prime Minister would have voters believe that the latter is overwhelmingly about the former, which it is not.</p> <p>Making negotiations with the European Union (aka Brexit) the central issue for the June election is key to the political strategy of the Conservative Party. The same holds for the Scottish National Party, whose astute leader is using Scotland’s relationship with Europe as the vehicle by which to revive and re-run the independence referendum that failed in 2014 by 44 to 55%.</p><p>Essential to convincing the UK public that the so-called divorce negotiations are the election’s central issue is to portray those negotiations as extremely complex and fraught with economic danger. Given this complexity and associated dangers, the nation requires a strong leader supported by a large parliamentary majority. The Conservative Party, we are repeatedly told, provides the leader we need in these perilous times. Our Prime Minister and her party stand in bold contrast to the bumbling, chaotic Labour Party and its bicycle riding leader.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"Focus on Brexit and leave it to Theresa" relies on the public accepting that negotiations will, in fact, prove complex and laden with peril for the British population.</p><p>The credibility of this narrative, “focus on Brexit and leave it to Theresa”, relies on the public accepting what gives it verisimilitude, that negotiations will, in fact, prove complex and laden with peril for the British population. The Labour Party finds itself in the unfortunate dilemma of seeking to refute this narrative while having contributed to the credibility of the “complex and dangerous negotiations” part.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the Conservatives, the anti-Corbyn wing of the party views the European Union first and foremost as a trading and investment group, being especially enthusiastic about the EU’s neoliberal Four Freedoms: “free movement” of goods, capital and workers, plus “freedom” to compete for provision of public services (a comparison with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/franklin-d-roosevelt-speaks-of-four-freedoms">Franklin D Roosevelt’s famous four</a>, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, shows the degeneration of politics over the past 75 years).</p> <p>The Corbyn wing of the party also stresses the complexity of negotiations, emphasising the need to protect employment, civil and human rights as specified in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (explained in <a href="http://www.rosalux.eu/publications/bringing-democratic-choice-to-europes-economic-governance/">report by Smith &amp; Weeks</a> supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation).</p> <p>By accepting that Brexit negotiations threaten the future of Britain, the Labour Party is left to defend one of two (or both) positions: 1) important as Brexit may be, other issues are more important (e.g. NHS funding); or 2) Labour would negotiate a better outcome than the May government. The first involves a difficult juggling act to prevent accusations of dodging the issue. The second is reminiscent of Labour’s position on deficit reduction for the 2015 election, accepting its necessity and promising to achieve it in a more equitable manner (cogently explained <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/22/jeremy-corbyn-labour-anti-austerity-manifesto">by Gary Younge</a>).</p> <p>Brexit lite in 2017 is unlikely to attract voters any more than the austerity lite of the two Eds (Miliband and Balls) did in 2015.&nbsp; Cameron and Osborne set the deficit trap and the Eds consciously fell into it.</p> <h2><strong>Avoiding the Brexit Trap</strong></h2> <p>The Labour manifesto provides the platform to redefine British politics if it replaces Brexit negotiations as the focus of the election campaign. The practical question is, how does Labour avoid the Brexit trap that May has set so carefully?</p><p>The answer is simple, and the deficit trap experience provides the guide. The imperative to eliminate the UK public sector deficit was pure political ideology with <a href="http://www.primeeconomics.org/articles/xekg5sckmh01k3o469u8ukb7xqclo6?rq=john%20weeks">no basis in economics</a>, accounting or sound fiscal management. Its political power derived from relentless Tory propaganda during May-August 2010 when the leadership contest neutralised the Labour Party as an effective opposition.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Labour manifesto provides the platform to redefine British politics if it replaces Brexit negotiations as the focus of the election campaign.</p> <p>Rather than give credibility to the budget balancing ideology by promising to achieve it slower and more equitably, the Eds should have denounced it as nonsense and proposed a rational, progressive fiscal policy in its place (as Gordon Brown did in the first of the three-way debates with Cameron and Clegg).</p> <p>The equivalent “cut to the chase” approach to Brexit involves clearing away the rhetorical fog: 1) it is in the interest of EU governments and businesses to reach an amicable settlement; 2) the negotiations involve simple, straight-forward steps; and 3) the final settlement can allow for Britain access to the single market and limitations on immigrations.</p> <p>As I discovered when in April giving evidence to the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union of the Bundestag <a href="http://theconversation.com/why-a-smooth-brexit-is-in-the-interests-of-germany-as-much-as-the-uk-76847">(discussed here)</a>, the German business sector favours a smooth settlement via a “transition agreement”, because of the substantial German trade surplus with the United Kingdom. A UK government could in effect purchase this transition agreement by agreeing to maintain its contribution to the EU budget, which is of paramount importance to Angela Merkel’s governing coalition.</p> <p>During the election campaign the Labour Party need not go into the details of an agreement. With Theresa May refusing to debate, Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit minister Keir Starmer could make an optimistic and positive assertion that an agreement mutually beneficial to Britain and the members of the European Union is not merely possible but almost certain when they replace Tory anti-EU rhetoric with respectful and responsible discussion.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Tory government marshals rhetoric of Brexit danger to avoid discussing its domestic policy failures. This rhetoric is the mirror image of the government’s pro-EU scare tactics that helped win the vote for the Leavers. It is unfortunate that Britain’s only left of centre newspaper has led the charge on Brexit hysteria. See, for example, the recent article on <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/21/brexit-coming-food-crisis-seasonal-migrant-labour-eu">disaster in British agriculture</a> due to shortages of cheap labour if free migration ends (a problem that could miraculously disappear were farmers to pay fruit and vegetable pickers a decent wage).</p> <h2><strong>It’s about social democracy</strong></h2> <p>The outcome of the voting on 8 June will have an impact on the agreement between the representatives of the British government and the European Union, but not because of the complexities and dangers of the negotiating process. Both a Conservative government and a Labour government would achieve an agreement. However, a Conservative agreement would differ substantially from a Labour agreement.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">For the right, Brexit means freeing business to pursue profit with minimal constraints.</p><p>For Conservative Leavers, the purpose of Brexit was and is to escape the EU treaty regulations that protect employment rights, guarantee human rights and protect our environment. To state it succinctly, for the right Brexit means freeing business to pursue profit with minimal constraints. Should the Conservatives win with a substantial majority, we can expect re-introduction of the severe more anti-union elements of the <a href="http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/tradeunion.html">Trade Union Act</a> that were discarded last year because they conflicted with EU law.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017">Labour Party’s manifesto</a> sets out a social democratic programme for Britain. Hardly radical, it none-the-less decisively alters policy debate. The manifesto endorses progressive taxation in which those with higher incomes pay a larger share. It would replace ineffective regulation with public ownership in sectors where monopoly or collusion undermines competition. Perhaps most important, the manifesto promises adequate funding of social services.</p> <p>Leaving the European Union is a serious and historic mistake. English and Welsh voters made that mistake last year. This election is not a re-run of the Brexit referendum. Rather, it offers another historic opportunity, for voters in the four nations to choose social democracy for 21<sup>st</sup> century Britain.</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/sunny-hundal/labour-mps-must-weaponise-hard-brexit-for-any-chance-of-defeating-tories">Labour MPs must weaponise Hard Brexit for any chance of defeating the Tories</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dylan-brethour/theresa-mays-brexit-speech">Theresa May lays out her 12 priorities for Brexit negotiations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/stephen-hopgood/brexit-and-human-rights-winter-is-coming">Brexit and human rights: winter is coming</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk John Weeks Fri, 26 May 2017 14:08:53 +0000 John Weeks 111123 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Peace is in the air: is it time to free pacificism from shame? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/tim-crook/pacifism-and-shame-binary-curse-of-consensus-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Enduring wars in the Middle East, sabre rattling between North Korea and the USA – how did pacificism become a dirty word, and is it time for the rediscovery of peace politics?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Apotheosis.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Apotheosis.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Apotheosis of War (1871) by Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin. Wikimedia commons. Public domain.</span></span></span>Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, felt compelled to assert that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/corbyn-im-not-a-pacifist">he was not a pacifist</a>&nbsp;when discussing his party’s policy position on defence. This rhetoric is a reminder of the prejudice and stigma attached to the pacifist and conscientious objector position in history.</p> <p>It could be argued that we are all pacifists until we demean ourselves by resorting to violence in any situation.</p> <p>Might it be the case that pro-nuclear deterrent politicians, and global figures with a bellicose disposition, are pragmatic pacifists even if they lack the ethic and ideology that underpins the concept?</p><p class="mag-quote-right">When a nation does commit to war, the ferocity of patriotic consensus is brutally unforgiving.</p> <p>When a nation does commit to war the ferocity of patriotic consensus is brutally unforgiving when men or women refuse the call to arms.</p> <p>In the peace-time rhetoric that problematizes pacifism the underlying imputation is that failing to bear arms to protect one’s country is cowardice, unpatriotic and potentially treasonous.</p> <p>It may not be a coincidence that a rise in global tension and anxiety about nuclear conflagration and super-power conflict has aroused interest in the extraordinary story of conscientious objectors during the Great War of 1914-18.</p> <p>This has led me to write an original full-length stage play produced by Goldsmiths College Acting and Film Making Society – “<a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/devils-on-horseback-conscientious-objectors-on-trial-in-deptford-tickets-34066222990">Devils on Horseback: the secret trials of conscientious objectors in Deptford.”</a></p> <p>It is not widely known that it was the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith in 1916 who pushed through the clauses to conscription legislation giving the legal right to conscientious objectors to be considered for non-combatant duties. In some cases they could also be exempt as absolutists with no obligation to do work in uniform or connected with war.</p> <p>When he rose in the House of Commons to speak for the proposal he was met with jeering and howls of derision from the all-male chamber. The cacophony of disrespect and hate was replicated in the British media, public opinion and operation of military tribunals that were constituted by local authorities. Municipal politicians and military representatives controlled what could be rightly described in many cases as kangaroo proceedings.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Men refusing to either enlist or seeking conscientious objection should experience deep personal and social shame.</p><p>One of those persecuted in Deptford was a local postal worker, Henry Albrow. He was forced to accept work in a non-combatant Labour battalion. His memorable memoir of confronting the brow-beating of a military tribunal is probably a description of his experience at Deptford where uniquely all the hearings were held in secret.</p> <p>The Quakers were organised and marshalled evidence and references for those who sought exemptions. People of other denominations, motivated by politics or simple socio-economics, were not so fortunate.&nbsp;</p> <p>Albrow&nbsp;<a href="http://lewishamfww.wikidot.com/person:albrow-henry-rivett">argued unsuccessfully that he was a socialist and moralist</a>, and could not kill in war because he believed every man to be his brother.</p> <p>Thousands of conscientious objectors were jailed during the First World War. A plot was enjoined to have a small group shot for disobeying orders in France, though fortunately it was frustrated by intervening politicians and campaign groups.</p> <p>Poster campaigns were just one aspect of an intensive propaganda campaign that used children and shameful emotional manipulation to make sure that men refusing to either enlist or seeking conscientious objection should experience deep personal and social shame.</p> <p>This was a global conflict that transformed the word propaganda into a pejorative concept. Total war engaged unethical industrial marketing and advertising practices in the black art of hate propaganda.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Men avoiding the patriotic consensus pressure would be constructed as unworthy of fatherhood.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was inevitable that men avoiding the patriotic consensus pressure would be constructed as unworthy of fatherhood. Hence the slogan: “Daddy, what did you do in the war,” demanded by a little girl sitting on her father’s knee. And: “what will your answer be when your boy asks you ‘Father what did YOU do to help when we fought for freedom in 1915?’”.</p> <p>Heterosexual emasculation was achieved through the poster headlined: “Women of Britain say ‘GO!’” The image implied men who don’t were unworthy of their mothers, sisters, wives, fiancés, and girlfriends.</p> <p>An even nastier “poster art” was directed at conscientious objectors. The social and cultural climate of homophobia was deployed to construct them in stereotypical prejudicial representations of homosexuals with effeminate build and affected mannerisms. The essential sub-text and message communicated without any notion of subtlety was cowardice.</p><p>The enduring civil war in Syria and instability in the Middle East, the sabre rattling between North Korea and the USA, and the undoubted engagement of an arms race by Russia and China vis-à-vis the West may well be contributing to a rediscovery and new exploration of peace politics.</p><p>The Imperial War Museum has a current exhibition “<a href="http://www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/fighting-for-peace">People Power: Fighting for Peace</a>” and it will also host a Peace History conference on 10th June called “<a href="http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/uploads/1/6/6/2/16622106/peace_history_conf_2017_for_email.pdf">Protest Power &amp; Change</a>.”</p> <p>This is also accompanied by performances of the much-acclaimed “<a href="http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/uploads/1/6/6/2/16622106/this_evil_thing_a5_waterloo_nobleed.pdf">This Evil Thing</a>” written and performed by Michael Mears.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Peace is in the air as much as the sulphurous odour of war.</p><p>Peace is in the air as much as the sulphurous odour of war.</p> <p>This increasing interest in researching, studying and dramatising the history of pacifism is significant.</p> <p>It could be argued that respect and toleration of those who put the intrinsic sanctity of life above the instrumentalism of killing for power are the essential benchmarks of human civilization.&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/greg-philo/is-britains-media-biased-against-left">Is Britain&#039;s media biased against the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/maxim-edwards/it-is-not-only-%27-fallen%27-who-deserve-remembrance">It is not only &#039;the fallen&#039; who deserve remembrance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-sorokin/pacifism-and-patriotism-in-russia">Pacifism and patriotism in Russia</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 Tim Crook Fri, 26 May 2017 11:59:12 +0000 Tim Crook 111148 at https://www.opendemocracy.net openDemocracyUK welcomes Laurie Macfarlane https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracyuk-welcomes-laurie-macfarlane <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracyUK's new economics editor starts next week.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Laurie photo 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Laurie photo 3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Laurie Macfarlane</span></span></span></p><p>Next week, Laurie Macfarlane will start in the new role of openDemocracyUK economics editor. Laurie currently works as senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, and is co-author of the <a href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/rethinking-the-economics-of-land-and-housing/" target="_blank">recent</a> and critically acclaimed book ‘<em>Rethinking the economics of land and housing’, </em>described <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ffa66898-fe7b-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30" target="_blank">by the Financial Times</a> as “a lucid exposition of the dysfunctional British housing market”. </p><p>Laurie has previously worked as an economist with various UK and Scottish government agencies,&nbsp;and with the Scottish think tank Common Weal. He has appeared as an economic analyst on a number of major <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Syb6G2kQHTQ" target="_blank">broadcasters</a> and written for publications including <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/23/brexit-banking-local-regional-jobs" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>, </em>and<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/author/laurie-macfarlane/" target="_blank"> openDemocracy</a>.</p> <p>Laurie’s arrival marks an expansion of openDemocracyUK in recent months. He will lead on our ongoing <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics" target="_blank">economics coverage</a>, where we are working to get to grips with the long running economic crisis unfolding in Britain and to bring people together to figure out an economic programme for the 21st century. He will also work on the <a href="http://www.civilsocietyfutures.org/" target="_blank">Civil Society Futures</a> project which we are delighted to be playing a key role in, exploring how civil society in England can flourish in a fast changing world, and will be working across oD-UK as we continue to try to get to understand the<strong> </strong>unfolding crisis in Britain's democracy, its root causes and the injustices which stem from it.</p> <p>We are excited to have Laurie joining our expanding team.</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 Thu, 25 May 2017 23:08:00 +0000 Adam Ramsay 111161 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This month in Manchester: the past is another country https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-hanson/this-month-in-manchester-past-is-another-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The default white western view of Islam as a sealed world is wrong. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/mosque 3_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/mosque 3_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The mosque is an intrinsic part of the red brick landscape of Manchester. Image, Steve Hanson.</span></span></span></p> <p>Three things happened this month that made me think long and hard about the cultural and political shifts currently taking place.&nbsp; </p><p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The first thing that happened was a visit to a mosque in Manchester. I met the Imam, heard the call to prayer, and then observed the prayers themselves. Here was a strong corrective to the default media image of mosques as closed, female-free worlds.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Upstairs, language classes were taking place for the young. Downstairs, people I had never met came in to pray and smiled and waved at me, the stranger. The building was ex-industrial, with its curved roof beams holding small arts and crafts flower motifs.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The scene upstairs served as a picture of the last 50 years of city history in many ways: The old white bearded men and their wives, teaching; those who arrived through the limbs of Empire as it passed away, and as industrialism waned.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Manchester, the prototypical globalising city, became just one more node in a globe it helped to create: it became globalised.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">My father tells a story of a back-breaking job he once did, lifting bales of raw cotton from a chute and loading them onto a wagon. The bales were from India and bore Indian writing on their packaging. Yet the Empire view of England as the 'centre' is usually portrayed, migrants 'come in' to this space to be organised by the ruling power.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Citizenship tests in Britain illuminate how this assumption clings on, that 'they', the others, must conform to 'us', although what 'us' means seems to lie in the past.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Many longstanding English citizens wouldn't be able to answer a lot of citizenship test questions. They are shot through with a pedantic, classed, schoolbook history, that makes the tests as old-fashioned as they are jingoistic.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The indigenous city and the alien city are completely meshed, therefore the terms themselves, 'indigenous' and 'alien', should no longer signify.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">My father, lifting cotton bales, was in a vortex that spun raw materials, goods and labour, around the world. He was not at a benign all-knowing centre of civilisation. He was just working at one of the countless terminals of global exploitation.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The second thing that happened this month was that my parents came out to visit me, in Manchester, England.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">We went to a café. The waiter in the cafe was Syrian. He spoke very good English, but he couldn't understand my father at first, when he tried to order. I had to do it for him. 'Nobody can understand me naa', my father said, as the coffee and cake arrived, in a Yorkshire so broad it may as well have been a foreign tongue.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">My father grew up on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border only a short drive from Manchester and worked the dying end of the cotton trade all his life. My great grandfather lived until he was very old, and I remember him speaking. His speech contained all the intonation of Methodism and the bible, of seventeenth century English. It lived on in him: 'Thee', 'thaa', 'thine' and 'thy' peppered his everyday speech.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Yet in the café, it struck me that the past is the thing that is often offered to us as a sign of 'indigenousness.' My family have lived in the same place for generations, and when they can be tracked away from there, via the first census data, it is only a little way up the valley.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">But here was my father, struggling to make himself understood, using English, in Manchester, not far from his home town. This is exactly the place where the far right might swarm into the discussion, aggressively asserting that 'the indigenous' are being swamped by difference.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">But it isn't just people from other countries who struggle to understand his broad accent, it is the young in the town he lives in, people from outside the area, in fact anyone not familiar with his dense 'isogloss', his regional patois.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The past is another country, but that foreign land is also always with us: The seventeenth century English my great grandfather's speech was riddled with was itself hybrid. It bore the presence of its struggle against Rome, and its earlier invasion by The Normans. Yet it is often seen as 'quintessentially English', the language of Shakespeare. There are no pure languages on earth: Language is all difference.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Augustine's City of God equally misleadingly presented Christianity as a split between the sacred and profane. But it was never the case. The holy city and the profane city always overlapped. In Manchester, the mosque I visited sits among the dereliction, crime, drug dealing and prostitution of an inner city slump zone.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Like Croydon for London, this area has long acted as a kind of arrival point for the city of Manchester. The Irish, then South Asian settlers made their marks on the cityscape as they came in and opened shops, bars and made places to worship. Some moved on, but some stayed, leaving a permanent trace.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">This journey mirrors the journey from the countryside to the town or city that my ancestors made when they travelled from the agricultural landscape to the industrial city. It is a journey made by black cotton pickers into Chicago, or by the Irish to mainland Britain and Manchester, during the time of the potato famine.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">All of these moves were triggered by the violence of capitalist accumulation, none of them were choices coolly made from an array of benignly offered routes. These upheavals create hybrid, meshed spaces.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">In the mosque we find a big, shared impulse of religious practice, to make order out of a chaotic cosmos. On the floors of the various prayer rooms in the mosque, all of the carpet designs point east, because this western building is oblivious to the alignment required by its current occupants.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">It was originally built facing the road that allowed materials to be imported and exported to and from it. There is a kind of disorientating cubist clash between the angles of the original walls and the new floor designs, which is not merely accidental. It seems to speak of the fundamentally meshed, but opposite geometries of the east and west.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The west is often crudely designated the place of Enlightenment rationalism and the east of mystical irrationalism. The Greenwich Meridian is where east meets west after all. But both meet in this mosque as people return from their businesses to pray.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Belief systems per se often have more shared characteristics than differences. For instance, the Islamic Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and sun, as are all calendars, whether made by Pagans, French Revolutionaries, Christians, Occultists, or in fact believers in 'Enlightenment'.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">After prayers, I drank tea with one of the community organisers in the library. In between books with Arabic script down their spines were several versions of The Bible. Having visited countless churches, I know that the Qu'ran is only occasionally found there. Muslims believe in the life of Jesus Christ, Moses and Abraham. Christian and Muslim traditions overlap, rather than bifurcate. Yet the teachings of Allah are not part of the Christian faith.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Again, this is a very different picture to that often given by the right wing media in Britain. The forced split in traditions can be traced back to Emperor Constantine and the Nicene Creed, which began to sieve the soup of fluid middle-eastern belief systems into 'Doxa', received opinion.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The New Testament sewed the ex-Roman Paul into the fabric of Christianity forever, as a kind of alibi for its own terror against Christians. Does this sound familiar, as America goes into another round of attempts to exterminate a terror it partly created?</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Of course, there are differences between Christianity and Islam. The Trinity is one big difference. For Muslims, there is One God and that is it. There is no Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are different versions of Islamic faith too, but the mosque I visited welcomes them all, a little like Christian Unitarianism.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">There are always things that can unite us, universals, and here is a big one: In Manchester, right now, whatever you believe, disbelieve, or express ambivalence towards, the city is being ripped up and laid down again as it desperately prepares to try to shift into a new round of capitalist accumulation.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">The past might be another country, but because of this, the country is also always just another kind of past. It is up to us to deny the bigoted dogma of ‘purity’ now emerging, emboldened and empowered, with these kinds of explanations, in order to more correctly diagnose the problems of the present.</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Because you know that I needn't tell you about the third thing that happened in Manchester this month. Or the fourth, that a mosque was firebombed in Oldham.</p> <p class="m_8984599402498291057p1">Every single Muslim I have met is for peace. Before you cast a single stone, verbal or otherwise, go and speak to one. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Powerhouse Steve Hanson Thu, 25 May 2017 11:32:04 +0000 Steve Hanson 111152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The five things the next government must do to rebalance our economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/five-things-next-government-must-do-to-rebalance-our-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK has one of the most imbalanced economies in the Western world. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The outcome of the coming election will be determined by the electorate’s view of which party will best negotiate the optimal Brexit deal. The danger is that with so much attention being paid to Brexit per se, not enough thought will be given to what we want for the future. Brexit should be taken as an opportunity to ask and answer the question ‘what sort of economy and society do we want to see developing in the nations and regions of the UK over the coming decades?’. The timescale will be decades because the imbalances that currently affect the UK have taken decades to unfold and the remedies will not be quick although the shock of Brexit could help galvanise more radical change. Questions regarding the future direction of the economy and society are not confined to the UK and recent political developments in other parts of the EU and the US point to an electoral &nbsp;reaction to economic and social changes that have adversely impacted many since the start of the millennium or even earlier. In the UK it has taken the Brexit vote to reveal the strong undercurrents of discontent that have been simmering for years. The causes of this discontent started well before the financial crisis of 2008 but that crisis had a cathartic effect on the thinking of many and its economic impact continues to be felt. Official forecasts for the UK suggest that GDP per adult in 2022 will be 18 per cent lower than it would have been had national income grown by 2 per cent a year since 2008 – broadly the rate of growth at that time<a name="_ftnref1" href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>. Put another way the UK economy by 2022 will be some £360bn lower than trend and the corresponding loss of tax revenue roughly £100bn at unchanged tax rates. Given the growth in the demand for public services arising from the ageing of the population, public spending will be under severe and increasing pressure. These trends were usefully summarised in a report by the OBR earlier this year which concluded that ‘in the absence of offsetting tax rises or spending cuts this <em>(trend)</em> would widen budget deficits over time and put public sector net debt on an unsustainable upward trajectory’<a name="_ftnref2" href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>. There are few signs of the loss of capacity in the economy being clawed back and thus the impact of the crisis will be long lasting and the consequent economic losses make the actual cost of rescuing the banks pale into insignificance. Given the loss of potential growth and flat productivity it is hardly surprising that after seven years of austerity, public spending is broadly back at the pre-crisis level when compared with national income. It can be argued that in the second half of the twentieth century many people, particularly those on lower incomes, acquiesced to the market based capitalist system because it delivered for them and their families: delivered in the sense that they could look forward to ever rising standards of living and had a reasonable expectation that their children would, in the future, enjoy a higher standard of living than theirs. Such a promise was an effective counterweight to concerns regarding the inequities and other drawbacks of the economic and political system. Will this acquiescence now prove to have been a Faustian deal for too many people? Recent political developments in the UK, the rest of Europe and the US indicate that the deal may now be broken. Average real wages in the UK have fallen by about 10 per cent over the last decade and productivity has stagnated. Superficially a bright spot has been the rise in employment rates but many of the jobs created have been insecure and poorly paid. For example, the number of workers across the UK on zero-hour contracts has grown from 120,000 in 2005 to over 900,000 in 2017<a name="_ftnref3" href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>. Put simply the UK economic model, if such a thing exists, relies excessively on growth in low paid, poor quality jobs. </p><blockquote class="blockquote--custom"><span class="blockquote__icon">&nbsp;</span>Put simply the UK economic model, if such a thing exists, relies excessively on growth in low paid, poor quality jobs.</blockquote><p> Citing statistics and trends for the UK as a whole fails to reveal many issues felt more acutely in many parts of the UK. Examination of regional disparities shows the overwhelming dominance of London and the South East of England. GVA per capita in London is 172 per cent of the UK average while it is 71 per cent in Wales and 75 per cent in the North East of England. The UK business model has over many years been one where power, both political and economic, has concentrated in London and the surrounding region. London has for centuries been the dominant centre but since the decline of extractive and manufacturing industries in the second half of the last century, this dominance has become even more pervasive. A major factor behind this increasing dominance has been the explosive growth in financial services. From 1970 to 2008 UK finance grew twice as fast as UK national income and most of this growth, particularly at the high value end, took place in the City of London<a name="_ftnref4" href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. As memorably described by Adair Turner, former Chair of the FSA, much of this activity is ’socially useless’ but it has distorted the economic balance of the UK to the detriment of other sectors such as manufacturing and also geographically with the concentration of financial services in London. As a result of this concentration both sectorally and geographically successive governments have been in danger of being captured by special interests. In 2012, four years after the financial crisis, more than 2,500 bankers in London were earning more than £1 million per year<a name="_ftnref5" href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>. Given that 27 per cent of income tax is paid by the top 1 per cent &nbsp;(300,000) of earners one can understand the nervousness of politicians in seeking to curb excessive dependence on banking and the power of the banking lobby. What should be done to start answering the question I posed: ‘what sort of economy and society do we want to see developing in the nations and regions of the UK over the coming decades?’ Here are some modest proposals to rebalance the UK economy both sectorally and geographically: </p><ol> <li><strong>Accept that Brexit will mean a reduction in financial services activity in London.</strong> The UK government should be bold and be prepared to negotiate away some advantages in the financial services sector in return for protecting other key sectors such as manufacturing and food. While posing some short-term challenges weaning the UK off its overdependence and overexposure to the financial service sector will enable the government to shift its priorities to other sectors and crucially to the other nations and regions of the UK.</li> <li><strong>Oblige banks to concentrate more investment into business other than real estate.</strong> According to the Bank of England bank lending in the UK is dominated by mortgages (65 per cent of total lending) followed by commercial real estate (14 per cent) and consumer credit (7 per cent). 14 per cent only of bank lending is to business for non-real estate investment i.e. investment in wealth generating capacity. Given such a skew in investment priorities it is hardly surprising that house prices have boomed and that business investment has lagged our international competitors. A way of nudging banking in the right direction would be to require more capital to be set aside for real estate lending compared with industrial investment. Such an approach could help productive business investment while also cooling down the overheated property markets both commercial and private.</li> <li><strong>Rather than concentrating on a further lowering of corporation tax across the UK why not discount the rate in poorer regions with the loss of revenue being offset by a higher rate in the more prosperous areas?</strong> Companies wishing to claim the discount would have to demonstrate economic activity in the region concerned. Corporation tax liability would depend on the allocation of business activity. Many countries have well-tried formulae for allocating tax bases across regions. One way is based on an enterprise’s headcount at various locations<a name="_ftnref6" href="#_ftn6">[6]</a>. The current government believes that lowering corporation tax is a powerful tool for helping business: let us use that power geographically to help rebalance the UK economy.</li> <li>If the UK is to overcome the current malaise <strong>the issue of low productivity needs to be addressed.</strong> Productivity is key because in the medium to long term prosperity is determined by productivity: growth in real wages is a function of growth in productivity. A number of factors drive productivity growth including; education levels; skill levels; pay structures; R&amp;D; business investment; and infrastructure. In the case of skills which many employers consistently complain are in short supply, we must stop neglecting the 60 per cent or so of school leavers who do not go on to university and ensure that they get a fair deal in terms of financial support for acquiring relevant skills. Note how much time and attention is devoted by politicians to those who do go to university and to such related issues as tuition fee policy. As recently as the end of the 1970s 100 MPs came from manual working class backgrounds and fewer than a third of Labour MPs were graduates. The number of graduates is now close to 90 per cent<a name="_ftnref7" href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>. Young people not going to university are largely forgotten by our politicians who overwhelmingly are graduates themselves and are divorced from the interests and needs of young people not going on to university. This neglect in turn starves industry of the skills needed to expand.</li> <li>It is widely agreed that <strong>infrastructure investment can facilitate productivity growth and wealth creation</strong>. At a time when interest rates are still at historically low levels the government should be bold in increasing infrastructure investment but it needs to be directed to stimulating growth in the poorer areas of the UK. This requires the UK government to stop being so London focussed. An example of this is HS2 which an analysis of the economic impact showed it brought most benefit to London and not to the Midlands and North of England whilst at the same time disadvantaging Wales, the South West and East of England<a name="_ftnref8" href="#_ftn8">[8]</a>. If the government is serious about a geographical rebalancing it would invest in HS3 joining up the cities of the north of England and dump HS2. London with Crossrail and other investment has taken too large a share of transport investment. Public expenditure per head on transport in London was 272 per cent of the level in the North East of England in 2014-15<a name="_ftnref9" href="#_ftn9">[9]</a>. Wales is one of two countries in Europe which does not have a single kilometre of electrified railway track. At a strategic level the government should embark on a major infrastructure investment programme of the order of an additional 1 per cent of GDP for each of the next five years making a total additional investment of more than £100bn. Interest rates are at historically low levels, often negative in real terms, which invested wisely could bring a short-term stimulus to the construction industry and in the medium to long term help boost efficiency and productivity.</li> </ol><p> This list is not meant to be definitive. It simply illustrates that Brexit as well as being a formidable challenge to the status quo could be a catalyst for fresh thinking and implementation of policies that more effectively address the needs of those who feel let down by the current system. Failure to address these issues could well lead to further disruptive politics in the years ahead. <strong>Eurfyl ap Gwilym.</strong> <strong>&nbsp;</strong> <strong>&nbsp;</strong> <a name="_ftn1" href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> IFS. Briefing Note BN199. May 2017. <a name="_ftn2" href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> OBR. Fiscal sustainability report. January 2017. <a name="_ftn3" href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> ONS quoted in Financial Times. 15 May 2017. <a name="_ftn4" href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Between Debt and the Devil. Adair Turner Princeton 2016. <a name="_ftn5" href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> European Banking Authority, High Earners, 2012 Data quoted by Adair Turner. <a name="_ftn6" href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Independent Commission on Funding &amp; Finance for Wales. July 2010. <a name="_ftn7" href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> The Road to Somewhere. David Goodhart. Hurst 2017. <a name="_ftn8" href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> KPMG. September 2013. <a name="_ftn9" href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2016. Cm 9322. HM Treasury. July 2016.</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 Rebalancing the British Economy Eurfyl ap Gwilym Thu, 25 May 2017 10:37:53 +0000 Eurfyl ap Gwilym 111151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net BitMania: why cryptocurrencies are having a bubble. https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/bitmania-why-cryptocurrencies-are-having-bubble <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest spike in the price of bitcoin has all the hallmarks of investor mania. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>The latest spike in the price of bitcoin has all the hallmarks of investor mania. </em> Kristoffer Koch is the hapless hero in the cryptocurrency version of the classic get rich quick fable. He bought some bitcoin in 2009 for $26.60 when researching an academic paper on encryption. Bitcoin fans know what follows. Kristoffer noticed Bitcoin was becoming something of a sensation in the media. After a few nervous attempts he remembered his password and discovered he had more than 5,000 bitcoin hidden away. <em>The Guardian</em> reported in October 2013 that this was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/09/bitcoin-forgotten-currency-norway-oslo-home">worth a staggering $886,000</a>. This treasure trove will have continued to appreciate at quite astonishing levels since then. On January 1 this year Bitcoin passed the <a href="http://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-price-1000-january-1-2017/">psychologically significant $1,000 price</a> – meaning Kristoffer would be celebrating the new year with $5m in the bank. And since then the value has more than doubled. He can sell 5,000 Bitcoin right now for $11,973,450. <strong>‘Bitcoin is a classic mania’</strong> Criminals selling drugs on the darknet will see the currency delivering the same kinds of profits today as the sale of cocaine. But will it deliver the same rush, and the same addiction –&nbsp;and will it end with cardiac arrest? There is no doubt that bitcoin is right now exhibiting all the signs of being a bubble. Indeed, this appears to be part of the attraction. Joshua Rosenblatt, a US based <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40021902">lawyer and bitcoin investor</a>, said:&nbsp;"The returns have been unreal and there's an aspect of <em>not wanting to miss out on a bubble</em>." Adam Button, a currency analyst with <a href="http://forexlive.com/">ForexLive.com</a>, is clear. "Bitcoin is a classic mania. There is no fundamental underpinning for it, other than it's a compelling technological story. But the only people using bitcoin are nerds and criminals, and far more the second category than the first category." <strong>The south sea bubble</strong> Charles Haytar, the CEO of market analysis platform CryptoCompare, agrees. "Lots of inexperienced investors are surging into the market, and it's causing a bit of a bubble” he said, before making a comparison to the South Sea Company. <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/062315/five-largest-asset-bubbles-history.asp">Investment bubbles are indeed as old as capitalism</a> itself. They have been a recognised menace since the Dutch Tulip Bubble ruined the foolhardy of Holland in 1637. The price of a tulip grew 20-fold and eclipsed the price of a grand manor house before suddenly collapsing and losing 99 percent of its value. Then followed the South Sea Bubble when a single firm was granted a monopoly in trade with South America by the British state. Shares in the South Sea Company lept from £128 in January 1720 to £1050 by the following June, before suddenly collapsing and causing an economic crisis. <strong>The value of an ounce of gold</strong> In living memory we have also experienced the dotcom bubble. The NASAQ Composite rocketed from 500 in early 1990 to 5,000 in March 2000. And then the index crashed in October 2002, causing a recession. And then of course the 2007 collapse of the housing bubble. The question for investors, large and small, is, where are we in the Bitcoin bubble cycle? Can money still be made? The question for the rest of us is, how important is bitcoin and how might all this affect us? The growth of Bitcoin in the last few months is phenomenal. In March, the price of a single coin exceeded <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39149475">the value of an ounce of gold</a>, according to the BBC. Since then it has <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bitcoin-value-surge-1.4127307">nearly doubled</a>. <strong>Inbound institutional interest</strong> Can this growth be sustained? There are some arguments being made that it can. Bitcoin, it is suggested, is only now coming of age. Get in while you can. Adam White, vice-president of GDAX, believes the latest spike is because institutional investors are increasingly involved because trade is about to get a lot easier. The hike is "really correlated very tightly with a lot of new inbound institutional interest." There has been a <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-price-spikes-as-japan-recognizes-it-as-a-legal-payment-method-2017-4?r=US&amp;IR=T">rush of investment from Japan</a> following the announcement by the government that the currency was now a legal payment method. Haytar notes that the “<a href="http://mashable.com/2017/05/22/bitcoin-price-surge/#ks.vyO4U9mqa">Japanese have given bitcoin</a> the green light as a currency and are looking to increase the rigour that their exchanges are subject to.” Ulmart, the largest online store in Russia, will also <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-price-shoots-past-1800-for-the-first-time2017-5?r=US&amp;IR=T">begin accepting Bitcoin</a>. <strong>Our industry is up for disruption</strong> Even the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/876ec06c-3f46-11e7-9d56-25f963e998b2"><em>Financial Times</em> is reporting on adopters of the Bitcoin craze</a>. The paper reported this week that Abigail Johnson, the chief executive of Fidelity, a 71-year-old firm holding $2.2tn in managed assets, was accepting Bitcoin in its canteen. “I am in a traditional financial services business, but” – she said – “the evolution of technology is setting our industry up for disruption.” Further, it seems Bitcoin may be about to solve a problem which is slowly leading to a potential crisis. 56 firms from 21 different countries have reached an agreement on how they will use the <a href="https://medium.com/@DCGco/bitcoin-scaling-agreement-at-consensus-2017-133521fe9a77">Bitcoin blockchain</a> in future. This is apparently hugely significant. These factors suggest that the Bitcoin journey is only at the beginning, that we are all early adopters and pioneers and like Kristoffer we can throw a disposable amount of cash and then in a few years buy a luxury home in the South of France and a yacht. <strong>Collapsing all the way to zero</strong> But. Abigail is elsewhere reported setting out the problems with Bitcoin. It has some technical problems – ledgers can and have been hacked. It could be made illegal, rival currencies are illegal in most countries. No overall authority is in control. And it’s not as useful as it might seem. "We need to come up with use cases for this technology,” she says. The main problem, clearly, is the price can drop. And it does. As CBS Money Watch reported: “The <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bitcoin-prices-rising-double-in-value-cryptocurrency/">bitcoin market crashed</a> three times between 2011 and 2014, plunging more than 50 percent each time.” In January, after passing the $1,000 line it almost immediately fell by $200. There are other very serious reasons to be concerned. Firstly, there is nothing to prevent the value of Bitcoin collapsing all the way to zero. There is no central bank ready to pump billions buying up currency when the market turns, as the Bank of England has done on many occasions to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2773265/Billionaire-who-broke-the-Bank-of-England.html">prop up the pound</a>. <strong>A simple transfer of wealth</strong> There is no regulation of the currency, no rules. Added to this, it is possible to trade the currency with almost total anonymity. Nobody knows who owns how much. This may be fine for the time being. But the introduction of larger investors changes everything: someone could short Bitcoin and then sell enough to cause a drop in price. What if <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2773265/Billionaire-who-broke-the-Bank-of-England.html">a major investor like George Soros</a> – &nbsp;“the man who broke the Bank of England” – went to war with bitcoin? The other issue is bitcoin does not and cannot create value: so value must be coming from somewhere else. In effect, every time the price of bitcoin rises the worth of all the currencies being sold falls. Your pound is worth ever so slightly less. The early investors have make their fortunes, but this is ultimately a simple transfer of wealth from everyone else. <strong>Will bitcoin be Myspace?</strong> Does this matter? The current spike means that the digital currencies combined are now worth a total of $79 billion. Bitcoin is worth $35 billion – reaching the same market capitalisation of Ford, at $45 billion, and Tesla, at $50 billion. A drop in the ocean in terms of currency. Where will it be in a decade’s time? And then there is the rise of rival currencies. The rise in price suggests there is more demand for bitcoin than there is supply – the magic of Bitcoin is the level of supply is more or less known (something that historically proved not to be the case with gold). But other companies can make the same gold, and that is an unknown. So how big is the cryptocurrency market, and will this market be saturated by other newer, better versions? Rival currency <a href="http://mashable.com/2017/05/22/bitcoin-price-surge/#ks.vyO4U9mqa">Ethereum has now reached $17 billion</a> and Ripple has surged to $13 billion in recent weeks. Will Bitcoin be the MySpace of digital money, with its value collapsing when a Facebook finally arrives. <strong>These blistering surges</strong> <a href="http://wolfstreet.com/2017/05/22/cryptocurrencies-alt-coins-ethereum-bitcoin-hedge-funds/">Wolf Richter</a>, an analyst, raises serious concerns about new versions of bitcoin, rings the alarm bell. He said: "After these blistering surges of thousands of percentage points in the shortest time, no one is even trying to pretend that these are usable currencies.” And when the price does fall, who are you going to sell to? It is likely that the fact bitcoin is used as a currency to buy drugs and illegal services on the darknet has provided something of a buffer. If you fear a drop in value, you can always get onto the latest version of Silk Road and “liquify your assets”. But if the price collapses by half in a day, will dealers still deal? These are all factors that suggest that Bitcoin is a very risky investment. But the most significant indicator is simply the rise in price itself. This is mania pure and simple. <strong>The Dotcom bubble as appetizer</strong> Haytar is very clear: "I would not advise anyone to buy right now. I’m worried that the lack of rationality at this point might hurt the market." Richter goes even further. He claims that the coming crash “will make the dotcom bubble look like an appetizer." So where does this leave us? I want to end with our old friend Kristoffer. He <a href="https://www.thelocal.no/20131029/student-buys-oslo-apartment-with-27-bitcoin-stash">cashed out most of his bitcoin to put a deposit down on a flat</a>. Clearly the sensible move. So, is he one of the luckiest people alive, landing almost a million dollars in free cash? Or is he the biggest loser, staring at the loss of a potential $10m jackpot? It’s a modern fable. And there is a moral. The problem with investment, as with all forms of gambling, is unless you know exactly when to jump on and when to jump off it always feels like you have lost out to someone else.</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 Brendan Montague Wed, 24 May 2017 18:23:16 +0000 Brendan Montague 111140 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The quiet revolution that could transform lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/rachael-mpashi-marx/quiet-revolution-that-could-transform-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Most people can't afford a transcript from their own trial even when it's the only thing that could prove their innocence. We need to move beyond the status quo.</p><p class="normal"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Locked_up_(8560043435).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Overturning wrongful convictions can rely on efficient and affordable court transcription services. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ivan Bandura. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p class="normal">For many people, campaigning to change the legal system conjures up images of high profile cases in the Supreme Court and photo opportunities on the steps of the Court of Appeal. Such public moments are important achievements for activists trying to bring about change in the way the law operates. However, they are not the only place where revolutions can happen.</p> <p class="normal">Behind the scenes there are a whole range of processes and procedures that unobtrusively take place every day which, if left unchecked and unchanged, allow inequalities to persist.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Embracing change across the system</h2> <p class="normal">The legal profession generally is beginning to understand the role new technology can have in eliminating inefficiencies. Lawyers are increasingly comfortable with e-discovery&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;the process of identifying electronic evidence for a case, and document automation&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;in which a smart piece of software automatically populates forms from information provided by clients.</p> <p class="normal">And there is much excitement about the potential of online courts. It is easy to understand why. They have the potential to streamline certain simple cases, freeing up time and resources, and offering a more efficient experience. However, lost in the excitement are the many, far more easily achievable changes that can be made to the processes and systems that deliver the administration of justice. Updating these does not rely on the computer literacy of vulnerable individuals, or the irreversible selling off of valuable assets, such as court buildings.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">By taking care of seemingly mundane, administrative tasks, services can free up the experts’ time to focus on the things that really need their attention. This is something that has yet to be embraced so enthusiastically by the judiciary and the court system.</p> <p class="normal">Take the production of court transcriptions. Not something that anyone, not even most lawyers, gives much thought to. And yet, it presents an incredible opportunity for behind-the-scenes change that has the potential to profoundly improve the justice system.</p> <p class="normal">In my work at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/" target="_blank">Centre for Criminal Appeals</a>&nbsp;we saw many clients for whom the transcript of the court hearing was a pivotal document. Mark (not his real name) was just 17 when he was convicted of joint enterprise murder. He is legally blind, and played no role in the fatal attack by two of his acquaintances that led to his conviction. His mother immediately began to fight for an appeal. She struggled to find a lawyer to take the case on. In the process, the original solicitors lost Mark’s case file. The transcript became the only potential record of what had happened in his case. The transcription company quoted her £6,000 for the transcript. In the time it took her to scrape together the money, the original recording was destroyed.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A client serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript.</p> <h2>Understanding the status quo</h2> <p class="normal">Currently, the Ministry of Justice contracts with private providers of transcription once every few years. The resulting service is relatively and inconsistently expensive and inefficient and too often results in poor quality transcripts with gaps and inaccuracies. The process has changed very little over the years. It still involves hard copy request forms and CDs being couriered around the country to teams of typists who laboriously hand type everything.</p> <p class="normal">The intellectual property for the transcripts sits with the private providers, as do the recordings. Many of these audio files languish in disparate storage units gathering dust until they are destroyed seven years later.</p> <p class="normal">Transcripts in this country can cost thousands of pounds to access. A client of the Centre for Criminal Appeals serving 34 years for attempted murder was quoted £20,000 for the trial transcript. There is little barrier to accessing them for those who have money - commercial clients regularly pay for their own stenographer to come to court and create a daily record of proceedings for them. Legal publishers commission transcripts of the judge’s summing up in major cases for their document libraries. These are available to those who can pay for a subscription.</p> <p class="normal">And yet, these arrangements preclude most normal people from being able to access the transcript of their own court hearing, even where it is an essential document for their case.</p> <p class="normal">As a result of seeing the impact of these arrangements, I teamed up with a lawyer and a developer to create a more efficient, more cost effective alternative which takes advantage of recent advances in technology. <a href="http://www.just-transcription.com" target="_blank">Just: Transcription</a> is speech-to-text tool that automates the creation of court transcripts and spoken legal advice records to promote more equal access. We bid during the most recent Ministry of Justice procurement rounds for one of the new transcript contracts. The process presented no real opportunity for change to the status quo, and as a result, the contracts have all been awarded to the same small group of private for-profit companies and the inequality of access continues.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts.</p> <h2>Considering the opportunity cost</h2> <p class="normal">One of the most striking aspects of this situation, however, is not just that barriers to accessing court documents are adding to delays and expense to the public purse. There is a huge opportunity cost in not having better systems in place for capturing and analysing the information that is held within and among these transcripts. Understanding the patterns and trends that would emerge were such rich qualitative data managed coherently would offer incredible and unprecedented insight into what is happening inside courts. There is little doubt that if the Ministry of Justice had this level of awareness about what is going on, it would have a wealth of evidence-based new ideas about improvements that could be made.</p> <p class="normal">For an institution on the scale of the justice system, achieving these kinds of changes requires a certain degree of culture change. Outside the system itself, however, there are many individuals and organisations with the skills and experience necessary to support this, and a real willingness to help. Much of the technology that would be required already exists, and has been proven in other settings. Together, such change is well within reach.</p> <p class="normal">It is easy to be attracted by the big ideas. The exciting, high profile initiatives, like online courts, no doubt have a role to play. And yet chances are being lost to improve the way the justice system administers itself. This is not a matter of mere bureaucracy. What is at stake are the fundamental principles of our world-renowned legal system - its fairness and equality. Technology is irrefutably part of the justice of the future - now is the time to seize all the opportunities it offers, and make them work for everyone.</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="/katherine-sirrell/what-would-true-court-modernisation-look-like">What would true court modernisation look like?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice digitaLiberties uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Rachael Mpashi-Marx Wed, 24 May 2017 14:34:48 +0000 Rachael Mpashi-Marx 110945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is the UK government wheeling back on legislation against caste discrimination? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/amrit-wilson/why-is-uk-government-wheeling-back-on-legislation-against-caste-discrimination <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Appeasing votebanks of the Hindu right, instead of legislation, a consultation has been launched which serves to obscure the ugly reality of caste-based discrimination which is alive and well in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-24731966.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-24731966.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is presented with a garland of blossoms in celebration of Hindu new year as he arrives at Heathrow Airport, London, for an official three day visit in 2015. Jonathan Brady/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Back in the 70s, when Bhangra – the popular Punjabi dance music – first hit the scene at South Asian parties and social events, it was about South Asian unity and fighting racism. Now all too often its inherent machismo is directed at glorifying Jats, a powerful farming caste in India, and often insulting oppressed-caste men and women.</p> <p>What has happened in Bhangra is only one aspect of the ugly caste prejudice and discrimination, which is now, more than ever, dividing South Asian communities – particularly Sikhs and Hindus (although caste prejudice exists among South Asian Muslims and Christians too). Since 2005, major campaigning by the UK's Dalit organisations has called for legislation outlawing caste discrimination.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result, such a law has effectively been passed, with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 imposing a 'duty' on the government to make caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act of 2010.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, ignoring all legal norms, the government has failed to comply with this duty. Instead it appears to be backtracking. Despite substantial evidence of the need for legislation it has launched a public consultation, which asks not whether the law is likely to be strong enough in its present form to be effective, but whether it might not “stereotype... certain ethnic groups” or “potentially have unintended consequences for members of those groups naturally associated with... caste”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The consultation also suggests that the law could be abandoned in favour of reliance on the development of case law, pointing to a case (Tirkey vs Chandok) where an adivasi (indigenous Indian) domestic worker, successfully brought a claim against her employer, for breaches of employment law and won damages under the Equality Act for discrimination on grounds of religion and race (<a href="https://academic.oup.com/hrlr/article-abstract/14/2/359/615752/Capturing-Caste-in-Law-Caste-Discrimination-and?redirectedFrom=PDF">Waughray, 2014</a>).&nbsp;</p> <p>However, as UK's major Dalit organisations wrote in a recent joint letter to the Minister for Equalities, Justine Greening, the assumption that case law would lead to a change is baseless “it is unlikely that case law will be developed because of the major risk of cases being unsuccessful... no one [including Ms Tirkey] has succeeded in a claim for discrimination specifically on the grounds of caste under the Equality Act.” The letter has so far received no reply.</p> <p>According to Satpal Muman of Castewatch UK, the largest Dalit organisation in Britain, the consultation, written as it is in impenetrable legalistic language, is a smokescreen by which to obscure the bitter everyday experiences of caste prejudice, 'untouchability', and other features of the ideology of the pre-modern caste system which is still alive and well in the South Asian diaspora in Britain. He directs me to his organisation's documentation of cases of elderly patients being refused care because 'upper-caste' medical professionals will not touch them, or workers being sidelined, or refused promotion, and school children being bullied for reasons of caste.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The consultation is a smokescreen by which to obscure the bitter everyday experiences of caste prejudice, 'untouchability', and other features of the ideology of the pre-modern caste system which is still alive and well in the South Asian diaspora in Britain.</p> <p>Dalit women in West London told me of sexualised casteist slurs thrown at them in supermarkets, beauty parlours and other public spaces. A law against caste discrimination could clearly be used to combat some of these incidents.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the numerous cases that occur in the private arena, the law will not be directly applicable but may act as a deterrent. In relationships and marriages, for example, where transgressing caste boundaries lead to emotional and sometimes physical abuse. As Manju (not her real name), a Dalit married to a man of a 'higher caste', put it: “it does not matter how much money you have in the bank or how many degrees you have under your belt,&nbsp;they see your caste as defining you… I was not allowed to go into the kitchen or to touch food because I was considered impure…".</p> <p>“In recent years, caste prejudice has, if anything, becoming more entrenched in this country,” says Meena Varma of the Dalit Solidarity Network. There appear to be two interlinked reasons for this. Firstly, in recent years and particularly since Modi came to power, there has been a horrific <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/muslims-dalits-religious-attacks-grew-in-india-narendra-modi-us-report/1/879370.html">increase</a> in violence against minorities (Muslims, Christians and Dalits) in India, with Hindu supremacist killer gangs and vigilante squads allied to the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) raping, killing and lynching with apparent impunity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, as I <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745318479&amp;st1=Amrit%2BWilson&amp;sf1=kword%5Findex%2Cpublisher&amp;sort=sort%5Fpluto&amp;m=1&amp;dc=3">wrote back in 2006</a>, Hindu supremacist organisations in the UK have built a solid base in Britain. Among these is the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the overseas wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the ideological heart of the Hindu right. The RSS's second Sarsanghchalak – or supreme leader – <a href="http://www.golwalkarguruji.org/">Golwalkar</a>, saw Hitler's treatment of Jews as a model of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_or_Our_Nationhood_Defined">'race pride'</a>, which India should emulate, and believed that Dalits should see their 'ascribed task' of cleaning toilets and sewers by hand as <a href="https://sabrangindia.in/article/sanghs-hypocrisy-dalits-its-time-read-bunch-thoughts-again">a 'selfless service' and a form of worship</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The HSS was investigated for hate speech and, in a meaningless gesture, asked by the Charity Commissioner to <a href="https://sabrangindia.in/article/keep-away-rss-uk-charity-watchdog-warns-hss">keep away from the RSS</a>, its parent body. At the same time, the RSS itself is considered so respectable in Britain that Treasury minister <a href="http://hssuk.org/priti-patel-congratulates-hss-uk/">Priti Patel</a> has openly expressed her admiration for it and MPs like Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East have been delighted to share platforms with <a href="http://bobblackmanmp.com/news/1167-hss-sanskriti-mahashibir-2016">RSS leaders</a> at HSS events.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since Narendra Modi came to power in India, a plethora of right-wing Hindu organisations&nbsp;– the Hindu Forum of Britain, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the National Hindu students' Forum UK, among others – have dug their tentacles even deeper into Indian communities. These groups, together with MPs like Blackman and a very small number of academics like Prakash Shah, Reader in Law at QMUL, have come together to lobby against the law.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“I was not allowed to go into the kitchen or to touch food because I was considered impure…"</p> <p>Blackman's views appear to rest on the fact that he depends on the bank of votes created by right-wing Hindu organisations in Harrow East. So powerful is this constituency that columnists in papers like the widely read Asian Voice can tell Labour MPs they will no longer be receiving votes, because Labour is a party whose <a href="http://issuu.com/abpl/docs/av_6thmay2017?e=1256050/48213371">“elected MPs attack the land of my forefathers, India'</a>’. In other words, they will brook no criticism of Narendra Modi's government, not on human rights, nor anything else. This may be why Blackman claims, with a confident disregard for logic, that legislation outlawing caste is likely to cause segregation.</p> <p>As for Prakash Shah, he is quite open about his political position. He recently invited Makarand Paranjape, an extreme-right Hindu ideologue and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi to speak at QMUL, and listened approvingly while Paranjape heaped scorn on his <a href="http://www.southasiasolidarity.org/2017/05/11/professor-makarand-paranjape-audio-extract/">Dalit students</a>. In his book 'Against Caste in British Law', Shah describes the legislation as <a href="https://www.academia.edu/30118111/BOOK_REVIEW_Prakash_Shah_Against_Caste_in_British_Law_A_Critical_Perspective_on_the_Caste_Discrimination_Provision_in_the_Equality_Act_2010_London_Palgrave_Macmillan_2015_pre-publication_text_published_in_South_Asia_Resear">a 'threat to Indian businesses and to the well-being and existence of the Indian communities'</a> which would cause distress and create “a climate of intimidation”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah's melodramatic language suggests that what is at stake here is not just the legislation outlawing caste discrimination, but a demonstration of the power of right-wing Hindu forces in Britain and their ability to get their own way.&nbsp;</p> <p>Post-Brexit, this is also a time when Theresa May is <a href="http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/theresa-mays-india-visit-to-give-new-opportunity-to-strengthen-ties/articleshow/55227773.cms">seeking trade deals with India</a>, and wanting to keep on good terms with the Indian CEOs in possession of multinational empires whose names frequently appear on UK ‘rich lists’ – men like Swraj Paul, Anil Agarwal and Laxmi Mittal who are full of adulation for Narendra Modi.</p> <p>Like them she is not interested in Modi's abysmal human rights record or his ominous silences in the face of atrocities like the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-3281581/Caste-fire-engulfs-house-Faridabad-killing-two-Dalit-children.html">burning alive of two young Dalit</a> children in their homes by 'upper castes' on the outskirts of Delhi. May is unlikely to want to rock the Hindu right's boat by supporting legislation that outlaws caste. But the campaigners say due process is on their side. “It will be a struggle,” says Satpal Muman, “but we are ready for it. We won't give up”.</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/amit-singh/caste-as-colonial-creation">Caste as a colonial creation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/india-gender-violence-is-at-heart-of-hindu-rights-agenda">Narendra Modi, gender violence, and the Hindu Right&#039;s agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/amit-singh/ignorance-of-lords-on-their-caste-legislation-shows-how-redundant-they-are">The ignorance of the Lords on their caste legislation shows how redundant they are</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 openIndia uk Amrit Wilson Wed, 24 May 2017 11:49:28 +0000 Amrit Wilson 111120 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Violent and dangerous places: the rise in prison suicides in England and Wales https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/lorraine-atkinson/prison-suicide-howard-league-theresa-may <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cuts, overcrowding and understaffing have created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/09_aylesbury_3768.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/09_aylesbury_3768.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>HM Prison Aylesbury (Andy Aitchison @prisonimage) </span></span></span></p><p><span>One hundred and six&nbsp;people have died in prison so far in 2017. This includes 28 people who have taken their own lives. Last year was the highest number of self-inflicted deaths since current recording practices began in 1978. 120 people took their own lives in prison in 2016. On average a prisoner died by suicide every three days.</span></p> <p>The rise in prison suicides has coincided with cuts to prison staffing and budgets and a rise in the number of people in prison, resulting in overcrowding. Some prisons introduced restricted regimes and many prisoners are spending hours each day locked in their cells with little to occupy them. Overcrowding and understaffing have created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery in our prisons. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/safety-in-custody-statistics">Data from the Ministry of Justice</a> reveal high levels of assaults and self-injury. Some prisoners were too frightened to come out of their cells, according to <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/07/HMIP-AR_2015-16_web.pdf">reports from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)</a>. </p> <p>The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health conducted a <a href="http://howardleague.org/what-you-can-do/transform-prisons/inquiry-into-preventing-prison-suicides/">two year inquiry on suicides in prisons</a>. We published four reports on suicide prevention in prison and submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry on mental health and deaths in prison. Our report on preventing prison suicides stated that a prison regime should be built around a normal life, where prisoners are able to get up each day, take a shower and have breakfast and then occupy themselves productively. Prisoners should also be able to exercise daily and go outdoors. Prisons need to become healthier, safer places for all in order to reduce the risk of death.</p> <p>In 2013 the prisoner incentives and earned privileges (IEP) scheme was revised, resulting in a more punitive regime for many prisoners. HMIP noted, in its <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/Wormwood-Scrubs-web2015.pdf">report on Wormwood Scrubs prison</a> in 2015, that “the very restricted regime and limited time unlocked rendered much of the [IEP] scheme ineffective as there was too little offered to encourage good behaviour”.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">A prison regime should be built around a normal life, where prisoners are able to get up each day, take a shower and have breakfast and then occupy themselves productively.</span></p> <p>On arrival at a prison, a high risk time for suicide, prisoners are placed on “entry level” and are deprived of basic coping mechanisms such as contact with their family or friends, at a time when they most need support. Prisoners who show “insufficient commitment to rehabilitation and purposeful activity” or have behaved badly can be placed on basic level with limited time out of cell and visits and are only allowed £4 a week of their own money to spend on necessities such as food, toiletries or phone calls. </p> <p>The most challenging prisoners are often the most troubled and the most likely to be placed on basic regime. Prisoners’ poor behaviour can be a sign of their distress but the response from prison staff is often the use of punishment including solitary confinement.</p> <p>In <a href="http://howardleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/3b_-_Frances_crook_smt_SIGNED.pdf">evidence to the Supreme Court</a> in 2015, the Howard League stated that prisoners in segregation “often tended to be the most disturbed and vulnerable prisoners, characterised by being young, institutionalised, with mental health difficulties or histories or self-harm or attempted suicide”. Segregation has been found to have a serious adverse psychological impact on prisoners and can cause irreversible damage. </p> <p>The Ministry of Justice does not publish data on the use of solitary confinement. Prisoners can be held under segregation conditions for weeks, months and even years. There are no limits on how long a prisoner can be segregated nor is there any requirement for the prisoner to be informed of how long he or she will remain in segregation. In April this year the <a href="http://howardleague.org/news/felthamsolitaryconfinementjr/">Howard League brought a judicial review</a> on behalf of a 16 year old boy who had been held in prolonged solitary confinement in Feltham prison. </p> <p>Concern about the rise in deaths in our prisons have been raised by members of parliament, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and coroners. Numerous recommendations have been made, with the aim of preventing further deaths.</p> <p>The <a href="http://iapdeathsincustody.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Harris-Review-Report2.pdf">Harris Review</a>, an inquiry into the self-inflicted deaths of 18 to 24 year olds in prison, was published in July 2015. It called for radical changes and stated “unless progress is made on the proposals that we have made, young people will continue to die unnecessarily in our prisons”. 22 young people aged 18-24 have taken their lives since the report was published less than two years ago.</p> <p>In the 2016 annual report, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Prisons stated that prisons had become “unacceptably violent and dangerous places” and described the picture in respect of self-harm and suicide as “shocking”. It made nine recommendations concerning the care of people in crisis in prison.</p> <p>The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigates every death in prison. In his <a href="http://www.ppo.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PPO_Annual-Report-201516_WEB_Final.pdf">2016 annual report</a>, the PPO described “a shocking 34% rise in self-inflicted deaths” and “steadily rising numbers of deaths from natural causes”. He noted that “improving safety and fairness is less about identifying new learning and more about implementing the learning already available”. </p> <p>In April, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) <a href="https://rm.coe.int/168070a773">published a report on the UK</a>. </p> <p>The committee was “deeply concerned” about the high levels of violence in prisons and noted that overcrowding and inadequate regimes were having a negative effect. The Committee stated: “the situation was particularly austere for those juveniles who were placed on ‘separation’ lists (denoted by vivid pink stickers of ‘do not unlock’ on their cell doors), who could spend up to 23.5 hours a day locked up alone in their cells.” The CPT concluded this amounted to inhumane and degrading treatment.</p> <p>In November 2016 the Ministry of Justice published a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565014/cm-9350-prison-safety-and-reform-_web_.pdf">White Paper on prison safety and reform</a>. </p> <p>It recognised the need to improve safety and security in prisons and announced there would be investment in staffing and an increase in the number of prison officers by 2,500 by 2018. It also announced plans to reform the prison estate to make it less crowded.</p> <p>Increasing staffing levels in prisons should help to prevent suicides. Positive staff/prisoner relationships are crucial in managing suicide risk in prisons. Prison officers need knowledge but also time to identify and support prisoners in crisis. Having a cup of tea and a chat with a prisoner might be the vital intervention that prevents a death.</p> <p>However urgent action is still needed to reduce the number of people in prison. <a href="http://wp.unil.ch/space/files/2017/04/SPACE_I_2015_FinalReport_161215_REV170425.pdf">Statistics published by the Council of Europe</a>&nbsp;<span>show that the prison population rate in England and Wales is 148.3 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than the European average of 133.8 and the highest rate in Western Europe. Prison should only ever be used by the courts as a last resort for the most serious offences and when someone poses an immediate risk to public safety. Reducing the number of people in prison will have a far more immediate impact than building new prisons, which takes time and resources and is likely to lead to an increase in the prison population in the long term.</span></p> <p>Prisoner safety should be a top priority for the new government following the general election in June. Reforms cannot be delayed or more lives will be needlessly lost; more families and staff will face bereavement.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/suicide-murder-despair-coalition-government-makes-its-mark-on-prisons">Suicide, murder, despair. Coalition government makes its mark on prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/juliet-lyon/rising-suicides-and-assaults-more-punitive-regimes-less-rehabilitation-no-pri">Rising suicides and assaults, more punitive regimes, less rehabilitation. No prisons crisis?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/laura-janes/playing-politics-with-prisoners%E2%80%99-access-to-justice">Playing politics with prisoners’ access to justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/who-is-that-man-in-lord-chancellors-seat">Who is that man in the Lord Chancellor&#039;s seat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/mark-day/filth-overcrowding-five-suicides-in-one-year-at-wormwood-scrubs-no-prisons-crisi">Filth, overcrowding, five suicides in one year at Wormwood Scrubs. No prisons crisis? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/peter-dawson/solitary-confinement-and-avoidable-harm">Solitary confinement and avoidable harm</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 Lorraine Atkinson Wed, 24 May 2017 07:32:00 +0000 Lorraine Atkinson 111104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Government austerity demands that we die within our means https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/vickie-cooper/government-austerity-demands-that-we-die-within-our-means <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Most people still don't fully understand the true scale of the human cost that government imposed austerity has unleashed</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/osborne.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/osborne.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BBC Parliament. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As we move towards the general election, we are paralyzed by what is probably the biggest single issue affecting ordinary people in the country: austerity. We are unable to fully understand both the economic madness of austerity and the true scale of the human cost and death toll that ‘fiscal discipline’ has unleashed. </p><p dir="ltr">Since coming into power as Prime Minister, Theresa May has made a strategic decision not to use the word ‘austerity’. Instead she has adopted a more palatable language in a vain attempt to distance herself from the Cameron governments before her: “<a href="https://leftfootforward.org/2016/07/pmqs-theresa-may-defends-austerity-while-preaching-social-justice/">you call it austerity; I call it living within our means.”</a></p><p dir="ltr">The experience of countless thousands of people is precisely the opposite: people are actively prevented from living within their means and are cut off from their most basic entitlement to: housing, food, health care, social care and general protection from hardship. And people are dying as a result of these austerity effects. In February, Jeremy Corbyn made precisely this point when he observed the conclusions of <a href="https://www.rsm.ac.uk/about-us/media-information/2017-media-releases/new-analysis-links-30000-excess-deaths-in-2015-to-cuts-in-health-and-social-care.aspx">one report</a> that 30,000 people were dying unnecessarily every year because of the cuts to NHS and to local authority social care budgets. </p><p dir="ltr">But this is really only the tip of the iceberg. The scale of disruption felt by people at the sharp end of these benefit reforms is enormous. &nbsp;Countless thousands of others have died prematurely following work capability assessments: <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13630395.DWP_reveals_benefit_claimant_deaths/">approximately 10,000 according the government’s own figures</a>. People are dying as a result of benefit sanction which has fatal impacts on existing health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. </p><p dir="ltr">Austerity is about dismantling social protection. The crisis we face in social care is precipitated by cuts to local authority funding. &nbsp;In the first 5 years of austerity, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/01/local-government-association-cannot-cope-further-cuts">local authority budgets were cut by 40%,</a> amounting to <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/5fcbd0c4-2948-11e5-8db8-c033edba8a6e">an estimated £18bn in care provision</a>. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">A decade of cuts, when added up, also means that some key agencies that protect us, such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency will have been decimated by up to 60% of funding cuts. Scaling back on an already paltry funding in these critical areas of regulation will lead to a rise in pollution related illness and disease and will fail to ensure people are safe at work. </p><p dir="ltr">The economic folly is that austerity will cost society more in the long term. &nbsp;Local authorities are, for example, housing people in very expensive temporary accommodation because the government has disinvested in social housing. &nbsp;The crisis in homelessness has paradoxically led to<a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-john-healey-housing-tories-8857369"> a £400 million rise in benefit payments</a>. &nbsp;&nbsp;The future costs of disinvesting in young people will be seismic. </p><p dir="ltr">Ending austerity would mean restoring our system of social protection and restoring the spending power of local authorities. &nbsp;It would mean, as all the political parties except the Conservatives recognise, taxing the rich, not punishing the poor in order to pay for a problem that has its roots in a global financial system that enriched the elite. It would also mean recognizing that the best way to prevent the worsening violence of austerity and to rebuild the economy is to re-invest in public sector jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">In our <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745399485">book published this week</a>, we bring together 31 leading authors to challenge this violent agenda. The book provides a comprehensive guide to the social violence that has been unleashed by austerity and shows, unequivocally, that austerity is not about ‘living within our means’ like some kind of fantasy household budget in Hampstead. &nbsp;Austerity is designed to punish already disenfranchised populations, in targeted and violent ways.</p><p>Both the economic madness and the vicious cruelty of austerity have been almost written out of this election. &nbsp;&nbsp;Come June, the next elected government has to produce a viable alternative strategy to austerity if it wants to reduce the death toll and properly protect its people. &nbsp;No matter how the politics of Brexit or the politics of devolution and independence play out in the future, austerity is the key political issues that will shape the lives and deaths of the British people.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81IKostVXZk">Violence of Austerity</a>, edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, is published by Pluto Press.</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 David Whyte Vickie Cooper Tue, 23 May 2017 15:24:23 +0000 Vickie Cooper and David Whyte 111103 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Senior Scottish Conservative Richard Cook is at the centre of a major Brexit funding scandal. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Richard Cook David Cameron.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Richard Cook David Cameron.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="249" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook and David Cameron. Image: voterichardcook.blogspot.com, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A modest, semi-detached house in Clarkston on Glasgow’s southside seems an unlikely source for a secretive, £425,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party’s Brexit campaign. But the occupant – Richard Cook – is the only person publicly connected with the Constitutional Research Council, a shadowy pro-union group that funnelled dark money to the DUP ahead of June’s EU referendum. </p><p dir="ltr">And Richard Cook is not just connected to Northern Irish unionism – he has links that go to the heart of the Scottish Conservative Party, the Saudi intelligence service and a notorious Indian gun running scandal. </p><p dir="ltr">Mr Cook is a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative party and Tory election candidate (for which he was fast-tracked through the selection, according to reports on <a href="http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2007/06/could_scottish_.html">ConservativeHome</a>). He has campaigned with <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ruth+davidson+richard+cook&amp;source=lnms&amp;tbm=isch&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwif7-a7nvfTAhWBDsAKHf4oC5oQ_AUICygC&amp;biw=1433&amp;bih=695#imgrc=uGOulAOP1UXBPM">Ruth Davidson</a> and David Cameron, and his Facebook friends list is a roll-call of prominent Scottish Tories. </p><p dir="ltr">Scottish politicians are now calling for the Scottish Tory leader to clarify her relationship with Cook, who in the 2010 general election lost out to Labour’s Jim Murphy in East Renfrewshire. Key activists in his team were subsequently found burning the EU flag and posting Northern Irish loyalist song lyrics on Twitter.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Goldie 2.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Goldie 2.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook with former Scottish Tory leader Annabelle Goldie. Image, voterichardcook.blogspot.com, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Cook is at the centre of a political scandal raging in Northern Ireland. Back in February, an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">openDemocracy investigation</a> found that donors had taken advantage of Northern Ireland’s secretive electoral laws to funnel hundreds of thousands of pounds to the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">DUP’s pro-Brexit campaign</a>. Under pressure, the DUP revealed that the party had received £425,622 from a group called ‘the Constitutional Research Council’. Over £32,000 of this money was spent on data analytics company AggregateIQ, a small Canadian outfit that has been linked to Donald Trump’s billionaire backer Robert Mercer and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/17/dark-money-democracy-billionaires-funding ">Cambridge Analytica</a>, who are now at the heart of an investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">by the Information Commission</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">We know almost nothing about the Constitutional Research Council. The outfit has no formal legal status. What we can say for sure is that it is chaired by Cook, and he has <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15114417.Business_chiefs_to_bankroll_fight_against_independence/">promised to fund the pro-union</a> campaign in any future Scottish independence referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">“More people with more money are ready to step up to the plate this time compared with the last referendum” Cook told <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bosses-boost-campaign-to-save-union-dtf8bjc6v">the Sunday Times</a> earlier this year. He didn’t reveal who those people are.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP has also refused to say who the backers behind the CRC are, and there is little to suggest that Cook himself is a major donor. Former Conservative colleagues describe Cook as “a nice guy but not a rich guy”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Warsi.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Warsi.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook with his "good friend" Baroness Warsi, former chairman of the Conservative Party. http://voterichardcook.blogspot.co.uk/, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Cook – who could not be contacted for this piece – appears to retain an interest in Scottish politics. He is listed as an advisor on Think Scotland, a conservative-minded website funded by Scottish unionist <a href="https://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/2017/04/interview-robert-kilgour/ ">businessman Robert Kilgour</a>. Think Scotland is owned by former Tory MSP Brian Monteith. Monteith was head of press during the referendum for Leave.EU, the campaign group run by Arron Banks and Nigel Farage. </p><p dir="ltr">Cook’s interests are not confined to politics. Since general election defeat in 2010, he has been involved in a number of international business deals. In 2012, his company Cook Consulting (UK) Ltd held <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-18829302">a press conference</a> in Glasgow announcing its involvement in a £640m water desalination project <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-18829302">in Pakistan</a>. The firm failed to submit accounts in 2014 and was dissolved by Companies House via <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SC426681/filing-history">compulsory strike-off in 2015</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Cook founded another company called <a href="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document-api-images-prod/docs/QKVar8w1wPlW5eJtRuFDk0wafr2rlZgyf7j1ajz9ie4/application-pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=ASIAJEQCM4VV5JS6QCQQ&amp;Expires=1487932267&amp;Signature=IR0R5NwT1QMgmxyqdzMWrFNeMP4%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEOn%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2FwEaDPFLtbx8Y8%2BsvWWMMiKcA9QqO34CQ4E5QACzqT2UeTUjNCa8mx9Os350PIC05eE04S7A4UfRWhUawQJNz2nUl9KBMSI6BIW7GvCJOQUjS0lhyjWT8SE6KWelVtrg%2FqTW9Y4rFC9b%2Bm160O2CPqIzFE7PBxdmS1GhvXGhkDd5et1WGLIxSaDfo3M%2Fz8yaBaZlJA1GGzGjrPQZne0LICeBK%2BXZf%2FvZLJtHIuVA%2BRrXFhwQuYnml7DLwaMGBGNl0ApGKdVxRE1FWBJvnMGklNcRFHMLJhyGSS8Dfc3Ib0M0BK9ApFHvrlo%2FifRiTIEKjFsKQlbygOhLZLMg%2Fdeju3eoXmT8p3Dco4bPNjAEsDw6dN1gXRsbkrobfoAIaXR0BX5hfO7DagUP8P09hapHPydNg7JwFU6lJgwu32HBORS65w9wRGqhztm%2FY4nBvgyibQK1aLPLPWUk1GwRsqB8fsCIkOYuXFzJ%2FEev7SiYt7FIv0SXGSIAORCceUS679zzcVjQARPV5GIF2PV7%2B8M3muvPLAS%2BoV0M3MkUPsf3DZM1Wkr4HIRqbvxF0T6u3U0onM2%2FxQU%3D">Five Star Investment Management Ltd</a> with the former head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz. The prince’s son is the Saudi ambassador to the UK. The other director of the company was Peter Haestrup, a Danish national who <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">has been connected</a> to the Purulia arms drop case, a long-running multinational scandal that involved weapons being dropped over the Indian province of West Bengal in 1995.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Carlaw.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Cook Carlaw.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook with Scottish Tory Jackson Carlaw. http://voterichardcook.blogspot.co.uk/, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document-api-images-prod/docs/QKVar8w1wPlW5eJtRuFDk0wafr2rlZgyf7j1ajz9ie4/application-pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=ASIAJEQCM4VV5JS6QCQQ&amp;Expires=1487932267&amp;Signature=IR0R5NwT1QMgmxyqdzMWrFNeMP4%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEOn%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2FwEaDPFLtbx8Y8%2BsvWWMMiKcA9QqO34CQ4E5QACzqT2UeTUjNCa8mx9Os350PIC05eE04S7A4UfRWhUawQJNz2nUl9KBMSI6BIW7GvCJOQUjS0lhyjWT8SE6KWelVtrg%2FqTW9Y4rFC9b%2Bm160O2CPqIzFE7PBxdmS1GhvXGhkDd5et1WGLIxSaDfo3M%2Fz8yaBaZlJA1GGzGjrPQZne0LICeBK%2BXZf%2FvZLJtHIuVA%2BRrXFhwQuYnml7DLwaMGBGNl0ApGKdVxRE1FWBJvnMGklNcRFHMLJhyGSS8Dfc3Ib0M0BK9ApFHvrlo%2FifRiTIEKjFsKQlbygOhLZLMg%2Fdeju3eoXmT8p3Dco4bPNjAEsDw6dN1gXRsbkrobfoAIaXR0BX5hfO7DagUP8P09hapHPydNg7JwFU6lJgwu32HBORS65w9wRGqhztm%2FY4nBvgyibQK1aLPLPWUk1GwRsqB8fsCIkOYuXFzJ%2FEev7SiYt7FIv0SXGSIAORCceUS679zzcVjQARPV5GIF2PV7%2B8M3muvPLAS%2BoV0M3MkUPsf3DZM1Wkr4HIRqbvxF0T6u3U0onM2%2FxQU%3D">Five Star Investment Management Ltd</a> was registered at Mr Cook’s Glasgow address. The firm filed no accounts with Companies House, and was dissolved in December 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook also has connections with right-wing pressure groups in the UK. He was Scottish spokesperson for <a href="http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/04/diary-of-a-ppc-richard-cook-east-renfrewshire.html ">Conservative Friends of Israel </a>and for the <a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/richard-cook-shouldn-t-making-sense-be-our-first-priority-1-1188787">Campaign Against Political Correctness</a>, a campaign allied to the Freedom Association, a right-wing Eurosceptic pressure group that supported apartheid in South Africa. Back in 2009, Richard Cook spoke alongside current Tory MSP <a href="https://www.flickr.com/search/?mobounce=1&amp;text=Freedomassociation%20Richard%20cook">Murdo Fraser</a> at a Freedom Association fringe event at the Conservative party conference in Perth to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 election victory. Freedom Association Chief Executive Simon Richards later <a href="http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/04/diary-of-a-ppc-richard-cook-east-renfrewshire.html">praised </a>Cook as “one of the hardest working PPC’s (Parliamentary Prospective Candidates) anywhere in the country”.</p><p dir="ltr">The Freedom Association has historical links with Northern Ireland. Among its original founders was Ross McWhirter, a controversial&nbsp; journalist who campaigned for strict restrictions on Irish people in Britain, including making it compulsory for all Irish people in Britain to register with the local police and to provide signed photographs of themselves when renting flats or booking into hotels and hostel. McWhirter was shot dead by the Provisional IRA <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_McWhirter">in Enfield in 1975</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The Freedom Association boasts of <a href="http://www.tfa.net/the-freedom-association-launches-in-ulster/">“friendly links”</a> with the Democratic Unionist Party. In 2007 and 2008, leading DUP politicians Jeffrey Donaldson and Sammy Wilson were involved in Freedom Association “fact finding” events in Northern Ireland. At the time, the Freedom Association said it had “taken a close interest in Ulster matters from its earliest days and is keen to strengthen its ties with the province and to demonstrate its support for the Union.” Donaldson was the chair of the DUP’s Brexit campaign – his name appeared on the election material that the CRC’s £425,000 donation paid for – and Wilson was a prominent pro-Brexit DUP voice throughout the campaign, regularly appearing in the media. </p><p dir="ltr">After his defeat in the 2010 general election, Richard Cook wrote: “I believe deeply in our party, its membership and in the need for a centre right party to represent the hundreds of thousands of Scots who believe in the same things we do.” Among the activists he singled out for praise during the campaign were Ross McFarlane and Colin Taylor. </p><p dir="ltr">McFarlane was <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13036188.Burning_the_EU_flag_amid_sectarian_abuse_Meet_the_election_agent_of_the_Tories____moderate_face/ ">subsequently sacked</a> as a Holyrood assistant by Ruth Davidson in 2011 after footage emerged showing him setting fire to the EU standard while dressed in the robes of Glasgow University amid anti-Catholic taunts. McFarlane had been Davidson’s election agent. Around the same time, it was discovered that Colin Taylor had posted song lyrics on Twitter <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13040028.Outrage_over_Davidson_aide___s_sectarian_tweet/">glorifying Northern Irish loyalist terrorist group</a>, the Ulster Volunteer Force, while serving as president of the student Conservative Association from 2009 to 2010. The social media posts were picked up when Taylor was working for the Tory Press and Research Unit at Holyrood. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on Richard Cook’s involvement with the CRC, Scottish Labour General Election campaign manager James Kelly said:</p><p dir="ltr">"This whole affair is like something from a spy novel and the East Renfrewshire Conservative Party is at the heart of it.</p><p dir="ltr">“Richard Cook isn’t just someone who happened to be a member of East Renfrewshire Conservatives. He’s been a leading figure in the local Tories for more than two decades... He’s close to senior elected Tories, including Jackson Carlaw.</p><p dir="ltr">“It simply isn’t tenable for East Renfrewshire Tory candidate Paul Masterton to maintain silence on this. Will Mr Cook play any part in his campaign? Will he refuse to take any funds from Mr Cook or anyone who has received money from Mr Cook? Will Mr Masterton make a statement about what he knew and when about these extraordinary allegations?</p><p dir="ltr">“This affair now risks tainting the Tory campaign to win the East Renfrewshire seat. It's clear that only Labour can beat the SNP here.”</p><p dir="ltr">An SNP spokesperson said:</p><p dir="ltr">"These are deeply concerning allegations The fact that we still do not know the source of such a significant amount of cash used to help bankroll the Brexit campaign is unacceptable, and cannot be allowed to continue.</p><p dir="ltr">"Just as concerning are the apparent links to the highest levels of the Scottish Tory party. Ruth Davidson must clarify what links she has with Mr Cook, and whether her party has helped itself to money from the same murky sources.”</p><p>The Scottish Conservatives haven’t yet got back to our request for a comment. Richard Cook could not be reached for comment.</p><p><i>openDemocracyUK will keep investigating this mysterious story. But it costs money. Please chip in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/donate">here</a>.</i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Fri, 19 May 2017 16:58:30 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 111040 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Facebook Election – what's really behind digital 'micro-targeting' is our flawed electoral system https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/katie-ghose/facebook-election-whats-really-behind-digital-micro-targeting-is-our-flawed-electoral <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are right to worry about how much companies and campaigns know when they target us with social media ads</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/facebook.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/facebook.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook website. </span></span></span>Micro-targeting voters isn’t just at the heart of British winner-takes-all politics - it has been happening here for decades. When we see stories in the media of people being targeted on &nbsp;Facebook and other social media, it is nothing new. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2015 just a handful of constituencies determined the result – a 12 seat majority for David Cameron. And with candidates only needing a plurality of the vote, the field of vision narrows. Parties know where their strongholds are and where undecided voters live. They spend most time and effort in the handful of hyper-competitive seats.</p><p dir="ltr">In this election, targeting is being taken to a new level of sophistication. Combining highly personal demographic data with social media behaviour, they evaluate voters through a psychological lens. They are honing their communications to new levels. </p><p dir="ltr">This isn’t all bad, of course. Digital campaigning can be more effective when it talks to people about their issues – joining their conversations rather than one-way broadcasts. </p><p dir="ltr">But a downside is lack of transparency – we have no idea who or how the parties are going after voters. Unlike public billboard or television broadcast, this type of communications is ‘for your eyes only’ – and could enable parties to pedal widely different messages without being held accountable. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It’s the latest trend of something rife in our politics. The Electoral Reform Society <a href="http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/penny-for-your-vote">found that</a> campaigns spend 22 times as much money in most competitive constituencies compared to the safest seats. That looks likely to be replicated when it comes to the new digital micro-targeting. The same happens in the US, which also uses the First Past the Post system.</p><p dir="ltr">Telling candidates and activists to put their energies into one group of voters and ignore the rest is a disturbing democratic tradition – all the more so given how distant many people feel politics is from their lives. </p><p dir="ltr">But there are tried and tested alternatives to the inevitable electoral wastelands our voting system creates. In Scotland, where the Single Transferable Vote (STV) method is used for local elections, all parties acknowledge the benefits of reaching out to all parts of a community. Candidates have an incentive to talk to the voters who might not put them first but are happy to consider them for second or third place. </p><p dir="ltr">One councillor told me: “I knock on doors and talk to voters in streets I never would have bothered with under the old system.”</p><p dir="ltr">But in England, we have a system that creates no-go areas or electoral deserts. It has caused the decades-long, under-representation of Conservative voters in the North, and Labour voters in the South. </p><p dir="ltr">The advent of under-the-radar online targeting more raises troubling questions. </p><p dir="ltr">Who is being left out? </p><p dir="ltr">What are they saying to one group that they aren’t saying to another? </p><p dir="ltr">How much do they know about you? </p><p dir="ltr">Where did they get the data from?</p><p dir="ltr">Even the Information Commissioner <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">is now looking into how</a> campaigns are using social media targeting. </p><p>But unless the root causes of all this are tackled – namely an electoral system which demands a laser-like focus on a floating few, while ignoring millions of others – we won’t get very far.</p><p>So yes – let’s review, investigate and debate the shift to social media as the electoral battleground. But then, we have to look at what’s really behind this.&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/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">Investigation launched into the &#039;secret world&#039; of how millionaires used Facebook and other data to push Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sunny-hundal/millionaire-is-planning-to-spend-around-700000-to-target-pro-remain-mps-at-election">A millionaire is planning to spend around £700,000 to target pro-Remain MPs at the election</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 Katie Ghose Fri, 19 May 2017 14:29:14 +0000 Katie Ghose 111039 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reimagining India in Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/openindia/l-k-sharma/reimagining-india-in-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Great India Show covers even science in India. It has been blessed by the two governments. Britain is out on a mission to rediscover India.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30304536.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30304536.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A projection designed for the UK-India Year of Culture by Studio Carrom, the Bangalore and London-based design studio, of a peacock and dancing figures on the facade of Buckingham Palace, London, February, 2017.Jonathan Brady/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Those wanting to take a condensed course in India’s heritage and contemporary culture would do well to spend this year in Britain.</p> <p>They will benefit from a massive exposition of a wide range of performing and visual arts, literature, films and rich collections from the national archives. The Great India Show covers even science in India. It has been blessed by the two governments. Britain is out on a mission to rediscover India.</p> <p>The UK-India Year of Culture coincides with the seventieth year of Indian independence. Even after seven decades, Britain lingers on in Indian public memory, though as the most-preferred destination for Indian students, it has been superseded by America. But in public discourse Britain figures more prominently. It gets blamed as well as admired more often. V. S. Naipaul noticed this at a meeting of writers in India and asked them with unsuppressed irritation to move on.</p> <p>In 1851, the Great Exhibition held in London during Queen Victoria’s reign sought to reassure the people about Britain’s industrial and cultural leadership of the world. In 2017 the Great India Show seeks to assure a shaken Britain that beyond Europe lies the Golden Hind!</p> <p>The jewel in the crown of the British Empire was given a disproportionately large space in the Great Exhibition. Of course, no indigenous industry or technology was displayed. The exhibits focused on the opulent trappings of empire.</p> <p>The Great Exhibition was actively patronised by Queen Victoria. This year the UK-India cultural exchange was given a grand start by Queen Elizabeth who hosted a reception in Buckingham Palace.</p> <p>The Great Exhibition of 1851 was seen as a pivotal moment when Britain sought to find a definition for itself or redefine itself. There was an undercurrent of anxiety about industrialisation and modernisation. While conscious of its power and reach, the country was “witnessing class inequality, a fear of foreigners, and a contempt for internationalism”. <span class="mag-quote-center">While conscious of its power and reach, the country was “witnessing class inequality, a fear of foreigners, and a contempt for internationalism”.</span></p> <p>The Great India Show comes in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave Europe. Britons feel this island nation has changed. Britain is not what it was, they lament and are gripped by a feeling of uncertainty.</p> <p>The Great India Show promotes multi-culturalism, thus countering the appeal of the UK Independence Party. The British politicians feasting night after night on the Chicken Tikka Masala at Tandoori Nights tend to dislike jingoism. Those exposed to Tagore’s works see the dangers of nationalism. Cultural exchanges moderate identity politics that is vitiating the atmosphere in many countries.</p> <p>The Great India Show involving several prestigious British institutions and cities will go on for a year. The celebration plan was announced in 2015 by the then British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated the commitment during her India visit in November 2016. </p> <h2><strong>Cultural diplomacy</strong></h2> <p>Cultural diplomacy does not come cheap but the British Government and the cultural institutions are not counting pounds. Culture has a commercial dimension for Britain which boasts of a unique institution called the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce! The Department of Trade and Industry has a strategy for the performing arts. Britain has lost its primacy in politics and manufacturing and sports but is still among the world leaders in terms of culture. It knows that cultural diplomacy is about tourist pounds also.</p> <p>The Indian High Commission and the Ministry of Culture are supplementing the British effort with India@UK2017. &nbsp;When it comes to cultural diplomacy, New Delhi does not think big. India is far behind China in the number of cultural centres abroad. China gets 200 works translated into foreign languages just to participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair. India mainly depends on Bollywood. <span class="mag-quote-center">China gets 200 works translated into foreign languages just to participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair. India mainly depends on Bollywood.</span></p> <p>The Jaipur Literature Festival, a private initiative, has done more than any official agency to promote India’s brand image. This time it teamed up with the British Library to spread the message that good writing is done in India also. The Science Museum will show that India is not poor in innovative skills and scientific talent. It is an unusual gesture because while China’s scientific prowess was highlighted through Joseph Needham’s monumental work, scientific India got ignored.</p> <p>Britain showed little interest in modern India while providing an audience for classical music and dances. India, for its part, was happy to see Ravi Shankar playing the sitar in London and Raj Kapoor being feted in Moscow. It failed to project its space programme. </p> <p>The British TV documentary-makers focused on the semi-naked Sadhus rolling up the hills and the raped girls of India. An eminent British writer and a noted film-maker focused on the carnival of public-defecation in India.</p> <p>This British way of seeing India was a legacy of the colonial era. The empire could be justified by portraying the subject races as inferior beings with no traditions of art, literature, thought or philosophy. Even the scholarly journals described Indian art as a monstrosity. Such people were, of course, incapable of governing themselves!</p> <p>Indo-British political relations during the cold war discouraged Britain from seeing India in a new light. The irritants included the differences over Kashmir and the official patronage given to the separatists agitating against India.</p> <p>With the end of the cold war and India’s emergence as an emerging economic power, relations improved. After 9/11 and the terror attacks in Britain, India’s concerns made more sense to British parliamentarians. Even those British MPs whose lofty pronouncements used to be inspired by the Pakistani migrants in their constituencies, toned down their criticism of India’s human rights record. <span class="mag-quote-center">This British way of seeing India was a legacy of the colonial era.</span></p> <p>The British Foreign Office took a cue from America which had started seeing India not as an enemy of its friend Pakistan but as a useful counter-weight to its enemy named China! British political leaders, pushed by the financial services sector, began courting India. Realising that India invested more in Britain than the European Union, they were happy to walk in Delhi in the mid-day sun.</p> <p>The profile of the Indian community in Britain changed over the years. Once Indians were seen sweeping Heathrow Airport or selling exotic Indian items from door to door. That was now a distant past. The newspaper headlines began to scream about the British billionaires of Indian origin! Indian business leaders came to the UK to lecture their British counterparts on using information technology. Little Indias had sprung up with shops blaring the Bollywood songs. The pavements got coloured by women in saris. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lalvani 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lalvani 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot, Sunday TImes</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Pissing into Britain</strong></h2> <p>This was not a sudden development. India, as Salman Rushdie would say, has been pissing into Britain for a couple of centuries. The Indian cuisine had entered Britain even before 1773 when a London café started serving it. Indian cooks were taken to Britain by those returning from a career in India where they got accustomed to a different kind of food. Indian curry powder started selling in 1780. </p> <p>From the 1870’s the Indian dishes served by Indian waiters became a regular feature on Queen Victoria’s dining table. Her personal life featuring an Indian functionary highlighted multiculturalism and solidarity with India! <span class="mag-quote-center">The popularisation of the Bhangra beats needed no governmental effort.</span></p> <p>Cultural exchanges were officially promoted periodically but cultural fusion took place in the normal course. The popularisation of the Bhangra beats needed no governmental effort. Britain could sell English language and literature even when the Indian market for its financial services was closed. Following economic liberalisation, the large Indian market gripped the imagination of the British corporate world. The time was thus ripe for heralding the UK-India Year of Culture in 2017 and for strengthening the multifaceted partnership underpinned by historical ties.</p> <p>Since the fare during the year will cover all areas of culture, a debate on the British Empire will get prominence. When Niall Ferguson went around publicising the benefits of the British Empire, no Indian academic pointed out the factual inaccuracy in his telling of the economic history of pre-British India. The challenge was belatedly taken up by a writer who joined politics after a successful career as an international civil servant. <span class="mag-quote-center">Shashi Tharoor launched a scathing attack on the British Empire, first in an Oxford union debate and then in his book <em>An Era of Darkness – The British Empire in India.</em></span></p> <p>Shashi Tharoor launched a scathing attack on the British Empire, first in an Oxford union debate and then in his book <em>An Era of Darkness – The British Empire in India. </em>Tharoor’s eloquence won him millions of social media fans. He will be in the UK to list the misdeeds of the British Empire. It goes to the credit of Britain that no gang has threatened to paint his face black or to ask the publisher to shred his books.</p> <p>Tharoor’s work largely covers the economic rape and destruction of the Indian handicrafts and industry. This is a field in which a lot of work was done even before independence. An investigation of the ‘evils’ of the British Empire requires a multi-disciplinary endeavour. </p> <h2><strong>Empire and political correctness</strong></h2> <p>Fresh material keeps coming to light. One comes across a reference to the adverse impact on the status of women as a result of the Indian male being oppressed and humiliated by the British. So he came home and took it out on his wife. Have the psychological scars been transmitted from generation to generation?</p> <p>Only last month, an activist pointed out that the policing of the performances during the British Raj banished the snake-charmers and street magicians. A significant cultural loss. Many rules and procedures set down by the British Raj continue and are often blamed for the ills afflicting today’s India.</p> <p>The historians may hit the jackpot if they discover some of the official files related to India that were presumed to have been burnt. A lot remains to be known about the British officials winning over some Indian princes by spying on their personal lives. So Tharoor’s work will perhaps be followed up. <span class="mag-quote-center">William Dalrymple is no admirer of the British Empire but that does not discourage the British Council from participating in the festival! That dispassionate approach will be unthinkable for the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.</span></p> <p>The <em>British Empire</em> figures regularly at the yearly Jaipur Literature Festival. Its co-director William Dalrymple is no admirer of the British Empire but that does not discourage the British Council from participating in the festival! That dispassionate approach will be unthinkable for the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.</p> <p>Of course, the view that the British Empire was rapacious will be challenged. The first blow was struck this year by the art critic of <em>The Telegraph</em> in his review of the V&amp;A’s “brave” exhibition, <em>Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London</em>. Rudyard Kipling’s father was “a polymath whose career as an artist, designer, teacher, journalist, and colonial servant flourished during the British Raj”.</p> <p>Alastair Sooke laments that not long ago “empire” wasn’t a dirty word but a source of pride, but not today. He says “British imperialism has become associated with jingoism, racism and exploitation of indigenous people for profit that lots of us find shameful.” He wonders whether this tendency has gone too far and the British Empire has been poisoned by political correctness!</p> <p><em>The Telegraph</em> review ascribes this “bellyaching and guilt in part to Britain’s current diminished stature and lack of self-confidence on the international stage”. Some in Britain support this art critic but many more are likely to agree with Tharoor’s criticism of the British Empire.</p> <p>But Tharoor would fail to convince an Indian immigrant, a technologist-tycoon Kartar Lalvani whose health food supplement advertisements cannot be missed in Britain. During his 50 years in Britain Lalvani was pained to see that Indians failed to acknowledge their cultural, political and economic debt to Britain. He wrote a book, <em>The Making of India</em>, to set the record straight. This volume by the native informer got extensive coverage in the British newspapers.</p> <p>Lalvani has spoken when some newly empowered Indian thinkers seem to justify Churchill’s grim forecast about the Indian leaders ruining their independent nation. These thinkers hold Nehru and others responsible for all the ills of the nation. They claim that India’s wasted years ended only when Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lalvani 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lalvani 1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Daily Mail</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Reimagine!</strong></h2> <p>The British Empire is not a fresh issue. <em>Reimagine</em>, the topic picked by the Arts Council England is a theme with great potential for a vigorous debate. In fact, the entire British project for reimagining India has already been dated since India is changing at the speed of light! Britain is belatedly trying to catch up with the modern India when India is being pulled back towards the medieval times! <span class="mag-quote-center">In fact, the entire British project for reimagining India has already been dated since India is changing at the speed of light!</span></p> <p>India is undergoing a transformation that is more radical than what has hit Britain. Culture’s vital role in international relations is acknowledged. But culture has got so entwined with politics in India that a large section of Indians fears the end of the very idea of India envisioned by the nation’s founding fathers.</p> <p>The governments of different hues came and went but this is the first time in 70 years that Indians are dreading the promised <em>transformation </em>that has caught the imagination of the Prime Minister Modi’s followers and the vigilante gangs violently enforcing their code of conduct in the states ruled by his party.</p> <p>The earlier imagined India of the rolling saints was an imperfect reflection of the reality. Now when Britain seeks to correct its perception through a literature festival and the science museum, it can’t keep pace with the changing reality. </p> <p>Britain is trying to project a modern throbbing self-confident nation that innovates, that generates wealth as well as world-class art, fashion goods, and literature and that has inherited civilizational values. </p> <p>However, it will be an incomplete image of India if the scenographers and designers skip some features of the contemporary scene. These are a polarised society, cow vigilantes, anti-Romeo and anti-love jihad squads, honour-killings, religious reconversion campaigns, sectarian strife, a tide of intolerance, an outbreak of contrived nationalism and religiosity, populism in politics, degraded public discourse, a frightened cringing media serving fake news, manufactured consent and manufactured dissent.</p> <h2><strong>This minefield</strong></h2> <p>All this is a rich material for an artist, a cartoonist, a film-maker and a writer who are ready to risk their limbs and are not afraid of mob violence. But this minefield is a no-go area for two friendly governments wanting to boost bilateral trade and investments. Cultural exchanges have a limit. Would India commission a British documentary on the Red Light District of Mumbai? Would the British Council sponsor an India tour by the tattooed pink-faced football hooligans pissing from the upper stands while watching a match in a Delhi stadium? Never. <span class="mag-quote-center">The new rulers in New Delhi are not favourably inclined towards Nehru and Akbar.</span></p> <p>Friendly relations between nations demand caring for each other’s sensitivities, ignoring principles. The British High Commissioner must have sent a secret cable to London cautioning against playing Nehru’s historic midnight speech in Parliament during the seventieth year of Indian independence. The diplomat might have also suggested that no reference be made to Akbar the Great in any presentation on India’s heritage. The new rulers in New Delhi are not favourably inclined towards Nehru and Akbar.</p> <p>Her Majesty’s Government is alert just in case someone demands the expulsion of Beefeaters from the Tower of London as their presence hurts the Hindu psyche! A religious group may seek permission to install a giant marble replica of the sacred Indian cow at the Trafalgar Square arguing that it would promote multiculturalism and attract tourists.</p> <p>With the spotlight only on sugar and spice and all things nice, at the end of the year of culture, India shall remain what it has always been, an <em>Imagined India.</em></p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Bollywood in london_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Bollywood in london_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Author's own portfolio.</span></span></span><br /></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="/l-k-sharma/trump-modi-hover-over-jaipur-literature-festival">Trump &amp; Modi hover over Jaipur Literature Festival</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/l-k-sharma/long-live-empire">Long live Empire!</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openindia/l-k-sharma/writers-get-bouquets-not-brickbats">Writers get bouquets, not brickbats</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/l-k-sharma/modi-at-wembley-empire-strikes-back">Modi at Wembley – the empire strikes back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </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> openIndia openIndia uk UK India Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Science L K Sharma Fri, 19 May 2017 11:47:39 +0000 L K Sharma 111033 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Britain would have been safer with Corbyn in charge https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-morrison/britain-would-have-been-safer-with-corbyn-in-charge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn consistently voted against wars of choice that Britain could have refrained from taking part in, now regarded as strategic failures, promoting, not reducing, international terrorism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/blair4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/blair4.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Centre for American Progress, CC BY-ND 2.0</span></span></span>In a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3422855/dont-feel-sorry-for-helpless-jeremy-corbyn-he-poses-an-enormous-threat-to-our-country/">tirade</a> against Jeremy Corbyn in <em>The Sun</em> on 26 April 2017, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson asserted that the Labour leader’s, </p> <blockquote><p>“ardent anti-military stances actually mean ‘the consequences would be calamitous’ if he ever gets the keys to No 10”.</p></blockquote> <p>And he went on to say that the Labour Party leader would pose “an enormous threat to our country if he gets into No 10”. Likewise, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC Today listeners on 11 May 2017 that the Labour leader “would be a very dangerous leader of our country” if he became Prime Minister.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>It is true that Jeremy Corbyn has a spotless record of opposition to British military intervention abroad in the twenty-first century – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – and he has consistently voted against these interventions in the House of Commons. By contrast, the Foreign Secretary has maintained what might be called an ardent pro-military stance and backed all of them – and so has Defence Secretary Fallon and Prime Minister May.&nbsp; </p> <p>The consequences of these military interventions have been disastrous for the Greater Middle East. The region has been destabilised and an environment created in which al-Qaeda linked groups, such as ISIS, have flourished. Without the invasion and destruction of the Iraqi state, ISIS would not have come into existence.&nbsp; In an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a01Rg2g2Z8">interview</a> with Vice News in March 2015, President Obama said:</p> <p>“ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.” </span></p><p>In the appalling environment created by these interventions, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more have been made into refugees. In March 2015, <em>Physicians for Social Responsibility</em> published a <a href="http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/body-count.pdf">review</a> of the various estimates of people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 12 years after 9/11 during the so-called “war on terror”.&nbsp; They estimate that “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq” and “220,000 in Afghanistan”.</p> <h2><strong>Wars of choice</strong></h2> <p>There was no compelling reason for Britain to participate in any of these military interventions. All of them were wars of choice. None of them was undertaken in self-defence in response to being attacked. None of them was undertaken to counter a credible threat to Britain. Indeed, as we will see, Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq greatly increased the threat to Britain from al-Qaeda, as the intelligence services warned in advance it would. </p> <p>Britain would have been safer if successive governments, beginning with Tony Blair’s in 2001, had adopted Jeremy Corbyn’s “ardent anti-military” stance and kept its troops at home. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10637526">179</a> British service personnel were killed in Iraq and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10629358">456</a> in Afghanistan and thousands more have been injured, many with injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives. These casualties would have been avoided if successive UK governments had refused to participate in these interventions.</p> <p>In his Chatham House <a href="https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/jeremy-corbyns-chatham-house-speech-full-text/">speech</a> on 12 May 2017, Jeremy Corbyn said:</p> <blockquote><p>“The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.&nbsp;Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.</p><p>“This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond.&nbsp;The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite.&nbsp;And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.”</p></blockquote> <p class="mag-quote-center">“The ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite…&nbsp; and destabilisation and devastation abroad.”</p> <p>It is difficult to disagree with any of that. As an MP, Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of these interventions. Prime Minister May, Foreign Secretary Johnson and Defence Secretary Fallon supported all of them and they haven’t shown any sign of recognising the calamitous consequences that flowed from them. So, it would be unwise to bet against a government headed by them engaging in similar disastrous operations abroad, while it’s a surefire bet that a government headed by the “dangerous” Jeremy Corbyn would not.</p> <h2><strong>A last resort - and only if authorised by the Security Council</strong></h2> <p>Throughout his political life, Jeremy Corbyn has taken the view that Britain should engage in military intervention abroad only if the action is authorised by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and even then only as a last resort. His stance is hardly surprising since the use of force by a state in other circumstances (apart from in self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter) amounts to aggression, for which Nazi leaders were convicted and hanged at Nuremberg.&nbsp; </p> <p>If asked, British governments would claim to apply the same principles but in practice they find ways of ignoring them or of stretching them unmercifully. A prime example of the latter was the Blair government’s assertion that the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (the purpose of which was supposed to be to disarm Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction”) was authorised by a Chapter VII Security Council resolution passed in November 1990 for the entirely different purpose of expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait. As a veto-holding member of the Security Council, Britain can engage in this kind of creative interpretation of Council resolutions without fear of a word of criticism by the Council, let alone of appropriate punishment for taking unauthorised military action.</p> <h2><strong>Afghanistan</strong></h2> <p>The US/UK invasion of Afghanistan, which began on 7 October 2001, wasn’t explicitly authorised by the Security Council. How then did the Blair Government justify its participation? Believe it or believe it not, the Government claimed that the UK was exercising its right of self-defence under <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/">Article 51</a> of the UN Charter “following the terrorist outrage of 11 September, to avert the continuing threat of attacks from the same source” (see House of Commons Library briefing <em>The legal basis for the invasion of Afghanistan</em>, p4). </p> <p>Since the UK hadn’t been attacked by Afghanistan or even by al-Qaida which had a base in Afghanistan at the time, it is difficult to see how it could claim to be acting in self-defence.&nbsp; Be that as it may, as required by Article 51, the UK notified the Security Council of its action, saying that it was directed “against targets we know to be involved in the operation of terror against the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world”.&nbsp; </p> <p>For what it’s worth, this argument relied on the UK being an al-Qaida target prior to the attack – and Tony Blair went to great lengths to prove that it was. </p> <p>On 4 October 2001, a few days before the bombing of Afghanistan began, the Government published a document entitled <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1579043.stm"><em>Responsibility for the terrorist atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001</em></a>. At the time, I remember being puzzled when I heard that the Government was about to publish a document about events which took place on American soil. What business was it of the British Government?</p> <p>The answer became clear on reading the document. It has four conclusions. The first two are that bin Laden and al-Qaida were responsible for the attacks and that they are capable of mounting further attacks. The third is the reason why the document was published: it is that “the United Kingdom, and United Kingdom nationals are potential targets” for al-Qaida.</p> <p>This was based on two statements by bin Laden (see paragraph 22 of the document). First, the declaration of war against the US military presence in Saudi Arabia from August 1996, which talks about the “aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed” on the Muslim world “by the Zionist-Crusader alliance and their collaborators”. Second, the fatwa issued in February 1998, which calls on Muslims “to launch the raid on Satan’s US troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them”.</p> <p>On the basis of these, the document concluded from this that:</p> <blockquote><p>“Although US targets are Al Qaida’s priority, it also explicitly threatens the United States’ allies. References to ‘Zionist-Crusader alliance and their collaborators’, and to ‘Satan’s US troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them’ are references which unquestionably include the United Kingdom.”(paragraph 24)</p></blockquote> <p>This was a doubtful conclusion since the UK wasn’t mentioned explicitly in either of the two statements – or in any other statement – by bin Laden.</p> <p>Sometime later when I looked up the document again, I discovered to my surprise that paragraph 24 had been extended to include the following:</p> <blockquote><p>“This is confirmed by more specific references in a broadcast of 13 October, during which Bin Laden's spokesman said: ‘Al Qaida declares that Bush Sr, Bush Jr, Clinton, Blair and Sharon are the arch-criminals from among the Zionists and Crusaders . . . Al Qaida stresses that the blood of those killed will not go to waste, God willing, until we punish these criminals . . . We also say and advise the Muslims in the United States and Britain . . . not to travel by plane. We also advise them not to live in high-rise buildings and towers’” (see amended report <a href="https://fas.org/irp/news/2001/11/ukreport.html">here</a>)</p></blockquote> <p>Readers were not told that the explicit threat to Britain in this amended paragraph was in response to Britain taking part in the bombing of Afghanistan (which began on 7 October 2001) and would not have been made if Britain had not taken part in the bombing of Afghanistan. Now, Britain certainly was on al-Qaida’s target list – and the Blair government used this to justify the military intervention that put it on. <span class="mag-quote-center">Readers were not told that the explicit threat to Britain in this amended paragraph was in response to Britain taking part in the bombing of Afghanistan. </span></p><p>The proposition that the UK had a right to attack Afghanistan in self-defence is, to say the least of it, farfetched. But, in any case, there was no compelling reason for the UK to participate alongside the US. Tony Blair chose to do so.</p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn was one of a handful of left wing Labour MPs, who along with nationalist MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland opposed participation.</p> <p>Tony Blair didn’t allow the House of Commons a say in the initial decision to participate, nor in the major deployment of troops to Helmand province in 2006. The House of Commons was finally allowed a say by David Cameron on 9 September 2010, when it <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100909/debtext/100909-0004.htm#10090911001688">voted</a> overwhelmingly (373 to 14) to “support the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan”. Jeremy Corbyn was one of only 14 MPs who voted against.</p> <p>Nearly 16 years after the US/UK invasion and the overthrow of the Taliban regime there is no sign of political arrangements being established that might allow the Afghan people to live in something approaching peace. And, far from countering a threat to Britain from al-Qaida – which was the reason given at the outset by Tony Blair and repeated by later prime ministers – British participation helped generate a threat from al-Qaida, a process that was greatly accelerated by British participation in the invasion of Iraq.&nbsp; </p> <p>Today, around 500 British troops remain in Afghanistan and their final withdrawal is not imminent. On 10 May 2017, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Prime Minister May and asked for more troops for Afghanistan.</p> <h2><strong>Iraq</strong></h2> <p>The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 alongside the US was another “war of choice” for Tony Blair. Iraq had not attacked the UK, nor did it pose a credible threat to the UK.</p> <p>Ostensibly, the objective of the invasion was to disarm Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction”. But the invasion on 19 March 2017 aborted a process of disarmament by inspection authorised by the Security Council at a time when a majority in the Council (and the inspectors themselves) wished the process to continue. As Sir John Chilcot said in his <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247010/2016-09-06-sir-john-chilcots-public-statement.pdf">statement</a> on 6 July 2016 when he launched his report:</p> <p>“… the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“… The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” </span></p><p>Furthermore, despite heroic efforts by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to prove otherwise, the Security Council never authorised the use of force to disarm Iraq of “weapons of mass destruction”. So, Britain’s military action against Iraq constituted aggression contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter. </p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn was one of the 149 MPs (mainly Labour and Liberal Democrat) who <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-48.htm">voted</a> against the invasion of Iraq on 18 March 2003. 412 MPs, including Boris Johnson (and Michael Fallon and Theresa May) and most other Conservative MPs voted for it. In the debate prior to the vote, Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith gave Tony Blair completely uncritical support in his determination to overthrow Saddam Hussein, as he had done for the previous year and more.</p> <p>Boris Johnson <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-20.htm#30318-20_spnew2">spoke</a> in the debate and said that his main reason for supporting the invasion was that:</p> <blockquote><p>“… the removal of Saddam Hussein will make the world a better place, but, above all, it will make the world better for the millions of Iraqis whom he oppresses”.</p></blockquote> <p>The future Foreign Secretary could hardly have been more wrong: the human cost of the invasion and occupation for the Iraqi people has been calamitous.</p> <p>President Bush justified the invasion of Iraq on the basis of two false premises (1) that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” and (2) that Saddam Hussein had connections with al-Qaida and had a hand in 9/11. The awful irony is that the US/UK invasion and occupation transformed Iraq from an al-Qaida free zone into an area where al-Qaeda flourished, so much so that a year after the invasion began George Bush <a href="http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/03/20040318-3.html">described</a> it as “the central front in the war on terror”. You couldn’t make it up.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/685px-Boris_Johnson_FCA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/685px-Boris_Johnson_FCA.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Wikicommons. UK Govt. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Britain less safe</strong></h2> <p>The British intelligence services warned in advance that military action by Britain against Iraq “would increase the threat from Al Qaida to the UK and to UK interests” (see Sir John Chilcot’s <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247010/2016-09-06-sir-john-chilcots-public-statement.pdf">statement</a> at the launch of his report on 6 July 2016). That warning, which Tony Blair kept from the British parliament and people, came true in the years following the invasion – al-Qaida activity in Britain increased “substantially” because of the invasion of Iraq, so much so that Tony Blair was persuaded to double the budget of MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence agency, in 2003.</p> <p>Irrefutable <a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/95374/2010-07-20-Transcript-Manningham-BullerS1.pdf">evidence</a> to that effect was given to the Chilcot inquiry on 20 July 2010 by Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was the Director General of MI5 from October 2002 until April 2007.</p> <p>Asked by one of the inquiry team:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p>“to what extent did the conflict in Iraq exacerbate the overall threat that your Service and your fellow services were having to deal with from international terrorism?”</p></blockquote> <p>in the years after the conflict began in 2003. She replied: “Substantially”.</p> <p>She said there was hard evidence for this, for instance “numerical evidence of the number of plots, the number of leads, the number of people identified, and the correlation of that to Iraq and statements of people as to why they were involved, the discussions between them as to what they were doing”.</p> <p>She added:</p> <blockquote><p>“The fact is that the threat increased, was exacerbated by Iraq, and caused not only my Service but many other services round the world to have to have a major increase in resources to deal with it. In 2003, having had an upgrade in resources after 9/11, which my predecessor agreed, and … another one … in 2002, by 2003 I found it necessary to ask the Prime Minister for a doubling of our budget. This is unheard of, it's certainly unheard of today, but he and the Treasury and the Chancellor accepted that because I was able to demonstrate the scale of the problem that we were confronted by.” (p26-7)</p></blockquote> <p class="mag-quote-center">“The fact is that the threat increased, was exacerbated by Iraq… by 2003 I found it necessary to ask the Prime Minister for a doubling of our budget. This is unheard of…”</p> <p>So, there is no doubt that al-Qaida related activity in Britain increased “substantially” because of Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq. This activity included the London bombings of 7 July 2005, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 were&nbsp;injured.</p> <p>If Britain had not participated in that invasion, it is almost certain that such an upsurge in al-Qaida related activity in Britain, including the London bombings, would not have occurred.&nbsp; Stating that is not a justification for the London bombings or other al-Qaida attacks. It is simply a statement of fact.</p> <p>Had Jeremy Corbyn’s “ardent anti-military” stance been adopted by the House of Commons on 18 March 2003, there would have been no British military casualties in Iraq and, most likely, no civilian casualties in London on 7 July 2005.</p> <h2><strong>Libya</strong></h2> <p>Had Britain opted out of the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US would probably have invaded, and destabilised, these states without Britain’s help. However, had David Cameron refused to back President Sarkozy in his ambition to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, the intervention in Libya wouldn’t have happened. David Cameron backed President Sarkozy enthusiastically, so Britain bears a heavy responsibility for the destabilisation of Libya and the other consequences of the intervention.</p> <p>The Security Council did authorise military action in this case. On 17 March 2011, it passed resolution <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1973(2011)">1973</a> by 10 votes to 0, with Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia abstaining.&nbsp; This resolution authorised military action “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas” and banned flights by the Libyan air force over Libya. It did not authorise military action to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, but that is how it was interpreted by Britain and France, the key players in the intervention. <span class="mag-quote-center">It did not authorise military action to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi, but that is how it was interpreted by Britain and France, the key players in the intervention.</span> </p><p>On 21 March 2011, two days after military action began, Prime Minister David Cameron allowed the House of Commons to have a say in the matter. In the debate, he <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110321/debtext/110321-0001.htm#1103219000001">assured</a> MPs that the object of the intervention was not regime change and MPs <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110321/debtext/110321-0004.htm#column_802">voted</a> overwhelmingly (557 to 13) in favour. Jeremy Corbyn was one of the 13 who voted against.</p> <p>A few weeks later on 15 April 2011, David Cameron signed a joint <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13090646">letter</a> with President Obama and President Sarkozy demanding that “Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good”.&nbsp; </p> <p>With NATO air support, the armed opposition achieved that goal six months later and Colonel Gaddafi was killed. The consequences for Libya and its people have been dire: plagued with factional warfare, Libya quickly ceased to be a functional state. ISIS and other terrorist groups have freedom to operate. Weapons belonging to the Gaddafi regime have fuelled terrorism and instability in other parts of North and West Africa.</p> <p>38 tourists (30 of them British) were killed on a beach at Sousse in Tunisia on 26 June 2015.&nbsp; Seifeddine Rezgui, the individual responsible for the Sousse attack, was trained in Libya. That would not have occurred had Colonel Gaddafi been left in power. The Tunisian Prime Minister, Habib Essid, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-on-isis-tunisian-pm-says-britain-has-a-responsibility-to-protect-nation-from-militants-10441631.html">told</a> <em>The Independent </em>on 5 August 2015 that “the UK is partly to blame for creating the violent chaos that allowed the extreme Islamist movement to flourish in neighbouring Libya”. That cannot be denied. <span class="mag-quote-center">“The UK is partly to blame for creating the violent chaos that allowed the extreme Islamist movement to flourish in neighbouring Libya”. </span></p><p>(For a comprehensive, and critical, appraisal of the UK’s role in the intervention, see the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmfaff/119/11902.htm"><em>Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK's future policy options</em></a> published in September 2016).</p> <h2><strong>RUSI</strong></h2> <p>In April 2014, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a study, <em>Wars in Peace</em>, on Britain’s military interventions since the end of the Cold War. It <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/23/uk-military-operations-costs">concluded</a> that these interventions have cost an extra £34.7 billion in defence spending. It suggests that a further £30 billion may have to be spent on long-term veteran care.</p> <p>Of the extra £34.7 billion, almost £10 billion was spent on operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2009 and almost £20 billion in Afghanistan from 2006 (when British ground forces were deployed to Helmand province) to 2013.&nbsp; </p> <p>The study concludes that these were "largely discretionary" operations, that is, wars of choice that Britain could have refrained from taking part in. Furthermore, RUSI judges these operations, and the air operation in Libya in 2011, to be “strategic failures”.</p> <p>For example, on the Iraqi intervention, it says "there is no longer any serious disagreement" over how the UK's role in the Iraq war helped to increase the radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain and that “far from reducing international terrorism&nbsp;… the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/theresa-may-donald-trump-and-wars-to-come">Theresa May, Donald Trump and the wars to come</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/david-held-kyle-mcnally/911-wars-reckoning">9/11 wars: a reckoning</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-morrison/bombing-is-in-syria-will-increase-threat-from-is-to-britain">Bombing IS in Syria will increase the threat from IS to Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/corbyn-crowd-and-its-message">The Corbyn crowd, and its message</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/robert-borosage/stunning-disappearance-of-candidate-trump">The stunning disappearance of candidate Trump</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> uk uk Libya Syria Afghanistan Iraq France United States UK Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics David Morrison Thu, 18 May 2017 16:03:26 +0000 David Morrison 111023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Investigation launched into the 'secret world' of how millionaires used Facebook and other data to push Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ICO has launched an investigation into how voters were targeted during the EU Referendum. Many say this is long overdue look at a "secret world"</p> </div> </div> </div> <p id="docs-internal-guid-aaa6c051-1736-10cd-1376-cc9f1995d14f" dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/facebook.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/facebook.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook website. </span></span></span>After much prodding and reporting the Information Commissioner's Office today said it was launching an investigation into how data analytics, especially from platforms like Facebook, is being used for political purposes.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The ICO's investigation could have huge consequences for how political parties conduct campaigning online. Guidelines so far have been so sparse that many see it as 'free for all' and money has poured into data analytics to influence elections.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The ‘formal investigation’, as the ICO calls it, will also look at the privacy implications that have arisen from companies spending millions of pounds to learn and understand the political habits of voters.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In a blog-post published today the UK Information Commissioner <a href="https://iconewsblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/information-commissioner-elizabeth-denham-opens-a-formal-investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-for-political-purposes/">Elizabeth Denham wrote</a>: “This will involve deepening our current activity to explore practices deployed during the UK’s EU Referendum campaign but potentially also in other campaigns. Given the transnational nature of data the investigation will involve exploring how companies operating internationally deploy such practices with impact or handling of data in the UK.”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>More interestingly she admitted the ICO will have to work with third parties for the investigation. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The investigation is certainly a big deal. Prof. Helen Margetts of the Oxford Internet Institute told Sky News recently that election regulations online were “totally non-transparent”.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>She added: “On a social media platform it's a secret world that's unique to a small group of people and we just don't know what those advertisements are saying or how they are targeting people or about their accuracy. And I think that's what's different and that's what's worrying."</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>It’s likely the ICO investigation was prompted by the excellent work <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr">Carole Cadwalladr</a> has been doing at the Observer in trying to uncover how American billionaires had poured a huge amount of money to influence the Brexit outcome.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Ms Cadwalladr told openDemocracy UK today: “It's great that the ICO is taking the subject seriously and a wider assessment of the use of data for political purposes is desperately needed. But, we also must get to the bottom of what happened during the EU referendum. Multiple British laws appear to have been broken. Yet there's no way of holding the campaigns to account.”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>She added: “It's profoundly troubling to me that Britain is plunging ahead with another election with so many questions hanging over the legitimacy of the referendum result. I really don't think this is about Leave or Remain, it's about the law. And our ability to enforce our laws.”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>She added that the ICO had been much more responsive than the Electoral Commission on the issue.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The Information Commissioner’s Office said they will present their report later this year.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sunny-hundal/millionaire-is-planning-to-spend-around-700000-to-target-pro-remain-mps-at-election">A millionaire is planning to spend around £700,000 to target pro-Remain MPs at the election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sunny-hundal/how-tory-mayor-spent-nearly-1m-on-his-election-by-bypassing-spending-limits">How a Tory Mayor spent nearly £1m on his election by bypassing spending limits</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 Sunny Hundal Wed, 17 May 2017 16:33:11 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110992 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Refuse, retract, resist: boycott the schools census https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/phoebe-braithwaite/refuse-retract-resist-boycott-schools-census <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the British state tries to make a register of foreign-born children, parents should question a liberal trust in government and reject borders in classrooms. An interview with Gargi Bhattacharyya.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-19457327.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-19457327.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Even the tiniest children are being used as these political footballs'. Children at the Windrush Nursery in Greenwich, south east London. John Stillwell/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On Thursday, 18th May, schools in the UK will be gathering personal data from children aged 5-19 for the National Pupil Database (NPD), which records information about children's nationality, ethnicity and country of birth. The further penetration of policing into schools builds on a systematic effort to create hostile environments in the lives of people the state seeks to remove.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Giving this information is not mandatory.</strong></p> <p>Before Thursday there are a few things parents can do:</p><ol><li>Refuse to give this information. You are under no compulsion to comply. Boycott the census.</li><li>Withdraw any information that has so far been gathered. You can retrospectively decide not to participate in the school census as long as it is before Thursday 18th May.</li><li>Resist the surveillance of children, migrants and all people, by getting involved in politics locally and <a href="https://www.schoolsabc.net/resources/">campaigning against state racism</a>.&nbsp;</li></ol> <p>Schools campaign group <a href="https://www.schoolsabc.net/">Against Borders for Children (ABC)</a> have already helped to successfully ward off attempts to collect data from children aged 2-5 in early years education. If enough people refuse to participate in Thursday’s census, the group will have helped to avert further invasions, rejecting stark militarisation in the lives of young people.</p><p>"'This is an important campaign," says Frances Webber of the Institute of Race Relations, a signatory of the campaign. "The danger is that once schools are implicated in immigration policing, they become places of fear, not learning and development for children.'</p> <p>In the words of sociologist Gargi Bhattacharyya, here is a far older activity of the state – paring back who counts as human. Policing the immigration status of children, and parents via their children, is a matter “of not only actively marking the border, but of fostering popular racism. It's as much about excluding some children, as it is encouraging others to think of themselves as settled, as potential racists, as having investment in the racist idea of a nation.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“In this country, certainly since the 60s there's been a whole series of ways of actively racialising children in schools,” she says. “As Bernard Coard famously says, West Indian children are made <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/schools-still-failing-black-children/">educationally subnormal</a>… that's sadly been a core aspect of UK schooling – probably since the institution of popular schooling in this country, certainly since the <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/livinglearning/school/overview/educationact1944/">‘44 act</a>,” says Bhattacharyya.</p> <p>Last year leaks revealed that the Home Office under Theresa May tried to enforce a policy which would <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38165395">de-prioritise children</a> on the basis of their citizenship, withdrawing places from children whose parents were seeking asylum in the country or whose documentation was otherwise irregular.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the wake of a massive hack of NHS computer systems, it is also clear that inadequately funded services cannot protect citizens’ intimate data – data the state is gathering more and more actively. But this is not to imagine that hackers would be using families’ information for any more harmful ends than immigration enforcement themselves.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Refusing to take part in the census gives a real-world meaning to a left-wing&nbsp;ideal&nbsp;of ‘not being complicit’ in the structures of oppression.</p> <p>It is especially important that parents of children who were born in this country or with secure immigration status boycott the census. This would make data unusable because it would mean that people were not identifiable purely on the basis of abstention. Refusing to take part in the census gives a real-world meaning to a left-wing ideal of ‘not being complicit’ in the structures of oppression: people in strong positions can quite literally lessen the burden on those made precarious by structural racism through refusing to take part.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2016/05/23/what%E2%80%99s-next-hostile-environment-immigration-act-2016-and-queen%E2%80%99s-speech">Immigration Act 2016</a> made border guards out of ordinary people. Employers of migrant workers can now report employees for the crime of “illegal working”; landlords are to check the immigration status of potential tenants and will face up to five years in prison for refusing to do so; newly invasive powers enable immigration enforcement to search property and seize documents, to stop migrants from driving, and to freeze or close bank accounts. Migrants across the board now have to appeal their case out of the country, which makes the task of appealing far harder.</p> <p>“I think this is clearly a larger technique of government to try and institute different public spaces, as if we're all under suspicion and the only way to show that you're not under suspicion is to become an informant.” This kind of “securitised logic,” says Bhattacharyya, “is extended beyond immigration and Prevent, and deeply embedded in issues around welfare now.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">For those that are really at the hard end of state violence it confirms their sense that you can't reach out to other people, that your space of operation gets smaller and smaller, that your life becomes more and more unseen.</p><p>Bringing the border closer to home “does in the day-to-day it makes people frightened, and it is designed to do that. The people who are most vulnerable feel most frightened because they're not hearing other people say, ‘Oh, this is just ridiculous, I can't do that’. They just hear the state injunction to shop people."</p> <p>“That is a core bit of it, that in some ways it doesn't matter so much that all of the rest of us are compliant or not, as long as that logic is repeated and repeated. Because for those that are really at the hard end of state violence it confirms their sense that you can't reach out to other people, that your space of operation gets smaller and smaller, that your life becomes more and more unseen.”</p> <p>"If you don't participate in state policing, then you yourself become the object of policing. And I think that sadly does work to corrode trust and solidarity between people. And it works unevenly,” she says. "Sometimes the overreach of the state can be helpful to us because they reveal themselves so openly. And I wonder sometimes if even Prevent has been a little like this, that it's been so overblown in its claims, of how broadly suspicion should be framed and how limited our knowledge of what it should be based on is."&nbsp;</p> <p>This campaign is vital in the short term, but, Bhattacharyya argues, there is also an opportunity here for “reckoning with what is actually going on... Bordering is already in our schools, including with the tiniest children, even if they've removed the early years reporting aspect now, this shows how absolutely children are being used as these political footballs in a poisonous debate about immigration… Although it's terrible, there's part of me that thinks: ‘Aha! we've revealed you as you are.”</p><p><em>With thanks to Ella Milburn for her work on the piece.</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/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kiri-kankhwende/we-all-bring-something-to-table-young-migrants-in-uk">&#039;We all bring something to the table&#039; Young migrants in the UK</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Deport Deprive Extradite Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Phoebe Braithwaite Wed, 17 May 2017 08:31:56 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite 110975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why HSBC’s indirect donations to the Conservatives (and Buzzfeed’s dismissal as a 'conspiracy') matters to our democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/joel-benjamin/why-hsbc-s-indirect-donations-to-conservatives-and-buzzfeed-s-dismissal-as-conspira <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are serious questions to ask about the links between HSBC and the leadership of the Conservative party. Dismissing them as conspiracy theories is dangerous for our democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">In late January 2010, a sleek Executive Jet landed at <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/details_of_private_jet_flights_f">RAF Northolt</a> in London, returning 6 passengers from Davos, Switzerland. Two of <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/100224/100224.pdf">the passengers</a> on the flight, donated by Tory Treasurer Michael Spencer’s IPGL Ltd, were then opposition leaders David Cameron and George Osborne. The identity of the four other passengers remains a mystery.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast forward to 28th April 2017. Metallic silver and blacked-out Mercedes shuttled HSBC executives to elevated pews <a href="https://twitter.com/moveyourmoneyuk/status/857926133169491974">at the QEII Centre</a> in London for HSBC bank’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). By this time both Conservative leaders had resigned from UK politics. One day prior, Osborne had recorded a <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/170502/170502.pdf">fee of £68,225.00</a> in his final parliamentary declaration form as a sitting MP, for a five hour speech in HSBC’s offices.</p><p dir="ltr">HSBC is the largest bank in Europe, the seventh largest in the world. For this year’s annual sermon, there was no controversy to attract the TV cameras: no Panama Papers, no Swiss Leaks or Mexican money laundering scandals. Two HSBC AGM regulars, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jan/20/whistleblower-wins-13-year-campaign-hsbc-excessive-credit-card-charges-nicholas-wilson">Nicholas Wilson</a> (Mr Ethical on Twitter), and <a href="https://twitter.com/Fionntsmith">Fionn Travers-Smith</a> from Move Your Money, were there to ask probing questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Part of their aim was to ask why, and under what circumstances, HSBC bailed out a troubled company run by a former Tory treasurer.</p><p dir="ltr">IPGL Ltd is a holding company, run by Michael Spencer – a former Conservative Party Treasurer and a leading fundraiser for Cameron’s 2010 election campaign. He remains chairman of the <a href="http://www.theconservativefoundation.co.uk/index.php?page=who&amp;win=board&amp;item=Michael_Spencer">Conservative Party Foundation</a>, which aims to strengthen the financial future of the party. IPGL Ltd has donated in excess of £4.2m to Conservative HQ and <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1e_6wKoxnvXcxvsVEVmv6xuEkiqiyISpO57qck2hZ14Y/edit#gid=922338025">leadership candidates</a>, including both Cameron and May, since 2005. There were additional donations of £1m from ICAP (CEO, Michael Spencer again), City Index and Michael Spencer himself, plus executive jet flights from Davos.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2008, at the height of the banking crisis, when most other UK banks stopped lending, <a href="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document-api-images-prod/docs/U6np2IuZoYh_WkNoLibrTHc-TIKonTDrC3OFOC7tj7s/application-pdf">HSBC extended a £214m loan to IPGL</a>, secured against shares in Spencer’s brokerage firm ICAP and <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/4807629/ICAP-boss-Michael-Spencer-pledged-Modigliani-painting-Cariatide-to-secure-loan.html">14 other public and privately listed companies</a> held by IPGL group. HSBC also extended the loan into 2015 instead of 2011 as initially agreed.</p><p dir="ltr">Taking shares as security, related to the company being lent to is risky, because if the company runs into financial difficulties, the collateral is unlikely to be worth much.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s the brief introduction sorted.</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2010, HSBC appears to have won a <a href="http://www.taxjustice.net/2016/02/16/hsbc-opts-to-stay-in-competitive-london-it-was-never-going-to-leave-anyway/">string of regulatory concessions</a> from George Osborne and the Conservative government. Since he was fired as Chancellor, HSBC has paid Osborne <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/170502/170502.pdf">a sum of £120,054.29</a>, for eight hours work, involving just two speeches.</p><p dir="ltr">At the HSBC AGM, Fionn Travers-Smith asked a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD33GCxKtLA">series of questions</a> of Chairman Douglas Flint regarding HSBC political lobbying activities. They included:</p><p dir="ltr">1) If HSBC is politically neutral as claimed – how does it justify senior directors such as former deputy chairman <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/hsbc-leaks-david-cameron-faces-grilling-over-party-links-with-scandal-hit-bank-10037157.html">Simon Robertson</a> donating large sums to the Tory party, or does HSBC consider personal donations made by its own highly-paid directors irrelevant?</p><p dir="ltr">2) Did HSBC comply with UK and EU policies and HSBC rules regarding lending to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) under Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer protocols – when extending credit to a company controlled by Michael Spencer; the chief fundraiser for the Conservatives 2010 election campaign and a close friend of David Cameron?</p><p dir="ltr">3) If HSBC is ‘<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD33GCxKtLA">politically neutral</a>,’ why was Tom Fairhead – a Conservative councillor at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and husband of former HSBC non executive director and former audit and risk committee chairman Rona Fairhead, <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/disclosure_of_rbkc_register_of_e">provided with gifts/ donations</a> – against HSBC policy on the use of company resources?</p><p dir="ltr">4) Why did HSBC roll over the IPGL loan, which was due for repayment in November 2011 until late 2015?</p><p dir="ltr">These are legitimate questions to which we the public deserve honest answers. Financial corporations play an oversized role in our politics and their lobbying is not always as transparent as the media likes to pretend.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, big banks can use <a href="http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/why-hsbcs-relationship-telegraph-guardian-press-story-time/1335446">threats to pull their advertising</a> to restrict negative coverage. This is the sad reality of our print media model. As former Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne put it in his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">classic resignation letter</a>: “HSBC is the one advertiser you can’t afford to lose.” </p><p dir="ltr">Enter Buzzfeed. A few days after our questions were raised and started circulating on social media, <a href="https://www.thecanary.co/2017/04/28/breaking-dark-money-hsbc-conservatives-2010-election/">the Canary</a> picked them up. Then the SNP <a href="https://twitter.com/rogmull/status/859425371141402624?lang=en">MP Roger Mullin</a> wrote to the Electoral Commission to raise the issue. The letter went viral.</p><p dir="ltr">Buzzfeed then rushed to shout “<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/how-politicians-and-journalists-pushed-a-dubious-conspiracy">conspiracy</a>” to their readers, in response to the Canary, without focusing on the substance of the claims made by Move Your Money and <a href="http://mailchi.mp/622989aa1a55/cash-for-conservatives-exposes-the-hsbc-dirty-money-running-the-tory-party?e=4c42e45da0">Debt Resistance UK</a>. It weaponised the language employed by Mr Mullin (that IPGL “laundered” donations to the Tory party) in an attempt to associate legitimate questions with a “theory which began on The Canary.” </p><p dir="ltr">Buzzfeed’s James Ball claimed this is a ‘conspiracy’ because in his opinion IPGL was not in serious distress in 2008 and 2009, and while IPGL did borrow money from HSBC, it paid it back. However, these are not the questions we asked of HSBC, and are not the main focus of Move Your Money’s investigations.</p><p dir="ltr">Our questions for HSBC ask how much the bank knew about IPGL’s close relationship to the Conservatives. What questions did HSBC ask of IPGL’s track record of generous donations to the Tory party when extending credit? Furthermore, we wanted to know about the close links HSBC developed with key Tory leaders. </p><p dir="ltr">The BBC’s Nick Robinson attempted to dismiss questions about the riskiness and purpose of the HSBC loan to IPGL, by simply parroting the phrase <a href="https://twitter.com/bbcnickrobinson/status/859700449426976768">“strong collateral”</a>. In fact, the loan was secured against <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/5220897/Tory-treasurer-Michael-Spencer-seals-200m-loan.html">shares in Spencer’s own company</a>, brokerage firm ICAP, which <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/7164041/Tory-treasurer-Michael-Spencer-attacked-over-45m-share-sale.html">issued a profit warning</a> shortly thereafter. </p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, Michael Spencer was<a href="http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-1149268/Michael-Spencer-quits-Numis-weeks-share-pledge-scandal.html"> forced to step down from</a> stockbroker Numis Corporation in February 2009, for failing to declare he had pledged shares of Numis Corp (where he was chairman) as collateral against the HSBC loan. </p><p dir="ltr">We have a long list of unanswered questions for HSBC, IPGL, ICAP and Michael Spencer, but here are a few worth considering:</p><p dir="ltr">1) On four separate occasions, David Cameron put forward <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3720880/Humiliated-Billionaire-crony-Cameron-sees-dream-peerage-shot-FOURTH-time.html">Michael Spencer for a peerage</a>, only to be turned down by the Cabinet Office Head of Ethics. Why was Michael Spencer so consistently denied a peerage if he has done nothing wrong? </p><p dir="ltr">2) Why did IPGL/ Michael Spencer sell off a £45m stake in ICAP shares (aka the “strong collateral”) to repay loan interest, a week before a profit warning prompted a 30% drop in ICAPs share price?</p><p dir="ltr">3) Was Michael Spencer a passenger in the IPGL funded executive jet flying from Davos to RAF Northolt in January 2009 and January 2010, along with Osborne and Cameron? </p><p dir="ltr">Obtaining answers to these questions is vitally important to the ongoing political discussion around financial transparency, electoral reform and addressing the shadowy bankrolling of political parties in this country that appears to occur with impunity. </p><p dir="ltr">Charges of political corruption should not be dismissed as “conspiracy” without due interrogation and analysis, something the Electoral Commission’s snap response to Roger Mullin MPs concerns, before additional evidence could be sought or interrogated failed to deliver.</p><p dir="ltr">My greatest fear is that as long as these questions remain unasked by the mainstream media and unanswered by those in positions of power – our democracy will continue to suffer.</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/sunny-hundal/millionaire-is-planning-to-spend-around-700000-to-target-pro-remain-mps-at-election">A millionaire is planning to spend around £700,000 to target pro-Remain MPs at the election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Joel Benjamin Tue, 16 May 2017 17:50:42 +0000 Joel Benjamin 110962 at https://www.opendemocracy.net DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Was it a coincidence that different Leave campaign groups used the same obscure Canadian firm? Or was there potentially illegal co-ordination between campaigns?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Jeffrey Donaldson.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Jeffrey Donaldson.jpg" alt="" title="" width="406" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP Brexit campaign manager.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Democratic Unionist Party politician Jeffrey Donaldson has said that he couldn’t remember why his party choose to spend more than £32,000 during the Brexit campaign on a controversial data analytics company linked to Donald Trump.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP paid £32,750 to Aggregate IQ, an obscure data analytics company based in British Columbia, Canada, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. This money was to target voters on social media during the Brexit referendum campaign. But DUP Brexit campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson could not tell us how he discovered Aggregate IQ, a company that had almost no online presence last June.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’m afraid I don’t have the files in front of me, so I’ll have to check the records for you,” the Lagan Valley MP said. “I think it was an internal recommendation,” Donaldson added.</p><p dir="ltr">Why a political party in Northern Ireland decided to spend more than half its budget for the 2015 general election with an unheard of data analytics company in Canada is not clear. But what we do know is that more money was spent with AggregateIQ than with any other company in any other campaign in the entire referendum. Vote Leave, the official leave campaign, spent £3.9m with the company. </p><p dir="ltr">An on-going <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">Observer’s investigation</a> has found that Aggregate IQ has very close ties to Cambridge Analytica and hedge fund billionaire and Donald Trump-backer Robert Mercer. Cambridge Analytica have been credited by some with “psychological warfare techniques” to help swing the US presidential election in Trump’s favour.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, openDemocracy revealed how more than £435,000 was funneled into the DUP’s Brexit campaign. Under Northern Irish electoral law, the source of this dark money has remained secret but we do know that money came through the Constitutional Research Council, a shadowy group chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.</p><p dir="ltr">Co-ordination between campaign groups is illegal under UK electoral law unless their expenditure is counted together – a law designed to ensure that no one can get around campaign spending limits by setting up front groups. Aside from the official Vote Leave campaign, three affiliated leave campaigns – BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the Democratic Unionist party – spent a total of £757,750 with Aggregate IQ. The Observer asked Veterans for Britain where they heard about Aggregate IQ. David Banks Veterans for Britain head of communications said: “I didn’t find AggegrateIQ. They found us. They rang us up and pitched us.”</p><p dir="ltr">Both the DUP and Vote Leave has denied any co-ordination between the two campaigns. Lee Reynolds, a DUP staffer in Belfast who took a break from the party to oversee the official Vote Leave campaign in Northern Ireland denied recommending Aggregate IQ to the DUP. “I wasn’t co-operating with the DUP I was working for Vote Leave at the time,” Reynolds told openDemocracy. DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds was a board member of Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation given to the DUP’s Brexit campaign has been the source of on-going controversy. In the run-up to March’s Northern Irish assembly elections DUP leader Arlene Foster denied knowing the size of the donation or the specific source. Jeffrey Donaldson has admitted to openDemocracy that he did not know about the links between Richard Cook and Saudi intelligence services.</p><p dir="ltr">Under Northern Irish electoral law, donor identities are secret but campaign spending is declared. Details of the DUP’s spending with Aggregate IQ were released by the Electoral Commission earlier this year. Privately, the DUP <a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/emails-reveal-dup-sought-to-delay-release-of-brexit-expensesm">lobbied the Electoral Commission against releasing this information</a>.<a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/emails-reveal-dup-sought-to-delay-release-of-brexit-expensesm"> </a>After the Brexit vote, the DUP <a href="http://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/02/25/news/dup-transferred-9-000-from-brexit-donation-to-party-funds-944576/">transferred £9,000 remaining</a> from the donation it received for its Brexit campaign into normal party funds.<a href="http://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/02/25/news/dup-transferred-9-000-from-brexit-donation-to-party-funds-944576/"> </a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 16 May 2017 16:37:26 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 110955 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Jeffrey Donaldson MP should have ensured that a £435,000 donation his party accepted came from a legitimate source. Did he?</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nApi-ZZ7l-s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p dir="ltr">As the Democratic Unionist Party’s Brexit campaign manager, Jeffrey Donaldson was in charge of making sure due diligence was done on all donations. But the Lagan Valley MP has admitted he didn’t know that the man who fronted a £435,000 donation to his party just weeks before the EU referendum had close links to the Saudi Arabian intelligence service. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />And he has claimed he ‘can’t remember’ how the party found out about the obscure Canadian company linked to Trump backer Robert Mercer and at the centre of a new Brexit campaign scandal.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">In February, on the back of an openDemocracy investigation into their extraordinary campaign expenditure, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was forced to admit it had been paid £435,000 by a previously unheard of unincorporated association called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). The money was used to help fund “Leave” advertisements across the UK ahead of last year’s referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, Jeffrey Donaldson MP has admitted to openDemocracy that he didn’t know that Richard Cook, chair of the Constitutional Research Council, had founded a company in 2013 with prince Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Prince Nawwaf is a former director general of the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency and father of the Saudi ambassador to the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">Donaldson’s admission – made when we called into his constituency office in Lisburn, Northern Ireland – raises further questions about whether the party did the proper checks required of it before it accepted the vast donation. </p><p dir="ltr">Under electoral legislation, the onus is on the recipient to ensure that a donation is permissible. “If they can’t confirm permissibility, then they need to return the donation,” the Electoral Commission told us, adding that “unincorporated associations can’t act as the agent for an impermissible donation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Jeffrey Donaldson’s name appeared on Leave advertisements and materials distributed across the UK, meaning he was legally responsible for the expenditure. The longstanding Democratic Unionist politician has previously said to openDemocracy that “we don’t need to know who made the donations”, a statement that seems to have been directly contradicted by the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">Being forced to return a donation of this size could leave the DUP at risk of bankruptcy.</p><p dir="ltr">Mr Donaldson had also previously complained that openDemocracy is investigating his party rather than its rival Sinn Fein, and said that he could tell why from our correspondent Peter Geoghegan’s Irish accent.</p><p dir="ltr">After the exchange took place, openDemocracy followed up with Jeffrey Donaldson to ask how the party found out about the obscure Canadian company Aggregate IQ. Aggregate IQ has been at the heart of<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy"> the Observer’s investigation</a> into the Leave campaign’s use of companies involved in ‘psychological warfare’ techniques, and was also used by a number of other Leave campaigns, despite the fact that co-ordination between campaign groups is illegal unless their expenditure is counted together. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Donaldson claimed he couldn’t remember how he heard about Aggregate IQ, to whom the campaign he managed paid<a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Democratic%20Unionist%20Party&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=perpar&amp;evt=referendum&amp;ev=2514&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid"> £32,750</a>. The party’s total expenditure in its 2015 general election campaign<a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Democratic%20Unionist%20Party&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;ev=445&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid"> was £58,000</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">In the rest of the UK, major donations to political parties are published by the Electoral Commission. In Northern Ireland, they are kept secret, and the only parties to publish their donations are Alliance and the Greens.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said of the video exchange:</p><p dir="ltr">“On the one hand, the DUP are saying they did due diligence on this money, yet on the other, they retreat from that and say they are unaware of its background. Similarly, they are saying it is from a legitimate source and yet at the same time saying they can’t or won’t disclose any further information.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">“There is a legal duty on parties to know where donated money has come from. Did the DUP accept such a donation without discharging that legal obligation? The party needs to answer and show exactly what checks it carried out.”</p><p dir="ltr">Green Party of Northern Ireland leader Steven Agnew said:</p><p dir="ltr">“There is a lingering sense of subterfuge around the DUP Brexit donation with such little information in the public domain about the Constitutional Research Council.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">“It is important that people understand the links between interests groups and political parties. People deserve to know what strings are being pulled behind the scenes and by whom.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Northern Ireland rules on political donations promote shadiness and do not fit within the norms of modern democratic society”.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">“While Sinn Fein have questions to answer around their own finances, the DUP cannot deflect the attention that this Brexit donation has rightly received”.</p><p dir="ltr">Niall Bakewell, activism co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, who have long campaigned for donor transparency, said:</p><p dir="ltr">“Donor secrecy in Northern Ireland was never justifiable. If it’s considered safe enough to be named as an agent or subscriber of an electoral candidate, and safe enough to have prominent, heavily branded shopfronts for party constituency offices on high streets all over Northern Ireland, then why is it not safe to be named as one of the privileged few who can afford to give away enough money to qualify for being named on the donor register?</p><p dir="ltr">“Whoever really gave the DUP that money, they wanted to hide under as many layers of secrecy as possible, and you don’t get more secret than the current political donations regime over here. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“There are serious doubts as to the legitimacy of this donation that could be cleared up if we could actually see the donor register, but thanks to the direct intervention of the DUP, SDLP and UUP in 2013, along with the disingenuous and hypocritical implications of self-imposed transparency by Sinn Fein, the UK government left the door wide open to the kind of scandal we now see unfolding, by shutting the door on access to the donor register for the general public. If they had taken the side of the people over the side of political parties and their wealthy benefactors, then we wouldn’t have so much vital information about the funding of the Brexit campaign hidden away from public view.”</p><p dir="ltr"><i>openDemocracy’s investigations continue. You can donate to our work <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/donate">here</a>.</i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 16 May 2017 14:24:26 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 110943 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A millionaire is planning to spend around £700,000 to target pro-Remain MPs at the election https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/millionaire-is-planning-to-spend-around-700000-to-target-pro-remain-mps-at-election <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A top donor to the Brexit cause is now planning to flood constituencies across the UK with his money</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/EUref.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/EUref.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The EU Referendum. Flickr/Conway Hall. Some rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>Jeremy Hosking donated over £1.5 million to the Leave cause during the EU referendum. Now he is turning his sights on pro-Remain MPs at the upcoming elections.</p><p>He says he is planning to spend around £700,000 to help target (Labour) MPs seen as sympathetic to the EU cause. The move is likely to fuel further concerns about how rich individuals are having a disproportionate impact on our democracy.</p><p>Hosking told <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/13/millionaire-brexit-donor-targets-remain-mps">the Observer</a> over the weekend that he would target Tory candidates in 138 constituencies where most voters backed Brexit, but are represented by an MP who voted to Remain in the EU. He plans to donate around £5,000 per candidate, leaving him with a bill of up to £700,000 according to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/13/millionaire-brexit-donor-targets-remain-mps">the Observer</a>. </p><p>This move has broader consequences too. For a start it will strengthen the hand of Tory MPs who favour a 'Hard Brexit' stance against the EU.</p><p>As oD-UK <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/how-tory-cash-crunch-in-this-election-will-push-them-further-into-arms-of-hardliners">reported last week</a>, the Conservatives are facing a 'cash crunch' from traditional donors who mostly favoured to stay in the EU. As a result donors who favour a harder line against the EU are stepping up to the plate.</p><p>Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has had little to say on the impact of such donations on our democracy.</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 Sunny Hundal Mon, 15 May 2017 15:45:00 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110904 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would true court modernisation look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/katherine-sirrell/what-would-true-court-modernisation-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Plans to modernise the courts in England and Wales may change how the justice system looks and feels, but it may not provide the forward thinking justice really needs.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/case-law-677940.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/case-law-677940.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>There are important questions around fairness in our justice system not covered by current modernisation proposals. Photo: AJEL/Pixabay. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>The efficiency of our courts is crucial for delivering an open, reliable and fair justice system. The government’s court modernisation proposal&nbsp;<span>– </span>as set out in their consultation paper <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transforming-our-justice-system-joint-statement" target="_blank">Transforming our Justice System</a>&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span>is broadly a plan to speed up proceedings and go digital. And they are planning to invest £1 billion in the entire process. But are the proposals ultimately one of form rather than of substance?</p> <p>Speeding up court processes and improving accessibility for users must be encouraged. In the last few years, digital case papers and iPads have been introduced to the Crown Court and magistrate’s bench respectively. The move has been successful, helping the efficient use of court time. And we already have single justices dealing with traffic offences online, freeing up court time when a guilty plea is lodged. Arguably, civil courts lag behind the digitalisation process that has already begun elsewhere.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Without manpower...court officers and professionals are literally left shouting at an empty room through a screen.</p> <p>Advanced court technologies will allow victims, Claimants and witnesses in criminal and civil matters to give evidence remotely and avoid the trauma of a live hearing. There have already been successful pilot programmes at the Crown Court in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames that allow victims and witnesses to pre-record their cross-examinations. </p> <p>There are however legitimate concerns that the digital systems will not provide the kind of utopian future the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) suggest. </p> <p>Technology moves quickly, public bodies do not. Although certainly not an argument for avoiding digitalisation altogether, we should be mindful that the technology being used and trialled may already be out of date, and is by no means a golden ticket in terms of solving inefficiency concerns. </p> <p>As with all technology, the court systems will only be as good as their users. I have sat with a witness giving evidence via video link, and have tried to take client instructions over video link. Unfortunately, both have been disastrous. I am told by a colleague who recently tried to take instructions from a client in police cells via video link that there is no timetable or arrangement managing the call. It effectively involves shouting at a video screen which is being broadcast into an empty room, waiting for a passing officer to hear you, enter the room, and note your request to talk to a prisoner. The idea that this is somehow more dignified, advanced or effective than what is already happening is an illusion. Without the manpower, or possibly the willpower there, court officers and professionals are literally left shouting at an empty room through a screen.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice sped up is not necessarily justice delivered.</p> <p>Efficiency is also clearly not just about reaching a result faster. It is also about ensuring all relevant evidence has been made available, all representations have been made, and that considerations of these can take place while the issues are still fresh. Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice sped up is not necessarily justice delivered. </p> <p>This is not to say that technological advances are to be ignored, or avoided. But we shouldn’t forget that the system is run by people, not technology. If there are problems already in existence, for example police staffing levels, they will continue to exist and impact on efficacy. </p> <p>Arguably the courts in England and Wales have for a long time been struggling with underinvestment, a low public opinion of the system and more recently political attacks on our judiciary. Perhaps we should be less worried about the form in which justice is delivered, and instead concerned with the substance of the decisions and participants involved. Are there not bigger issues that need addressing to ensure justice for all?</p> <p>There are many important questions about fairness that are not addressed by the proposals. How will the system ensure that the most vulnerable in society obtain access to the internet (which, according to the <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2016" target="_blank">Office of National Statistics</a>, they currently do not have)? What steps are being taken <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openjustice/charlotte-threipland/judicial-diversity-is-constitutional-issue" target="_blank">to ensure our judiciary is sufficiently representative of those who come before it</a>? Is it right that we as a society discourage victims of accidents from making claims for their injuries? Is access to justice meaningful in light of massive cuts to legal aid? What impact on justice does the media’s attitudes to the penal system and sentencing have? Should we be looking at alternatives to custody similar to those being developed by our European cousins? The list goes on.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Our justice system is not simply a collection of court buildings, of hardware and software and of procedures. More truly, it is about the people it is there to serve.</p> <p>If we do not confront these issues, we risk having a more technologically advanced court system that is failing to deliver substantive justice. We also risk distrust in those making the decisions and people lacking the ability to move on with their lives after they have moved through the system. Our justice system is not simply a collection of court buildings, of hardware and software and of procedures. More truly, it is about the people it is there to serve. </p> <p>The spirit of the law and justice system must be modern, reflective of our society and forward thinking while being transparent and clearly rooted in our history and case law. This must not just come from Whitehall - in fact it is imperative it does not. Anyone with an interest in access to justice – court users, the legal profession, the judiciary – should be involved in this modernisation. I am heartened that Lord Justice Fulford, the senior judge leading the modernisation process, is adamant that the judiciary should have a role in the discussion surrounding the process of modernisation, and that many other court users including the Crown Prosecution Servie (CPS), police and local authorities are participating in the process.&nbsp; </p> <p>At the heart of our justice system are the judiciary, the legal professionals, the court users, the Claimants and the Defendants, the victims and the accused and the officers of the court. The tools and processes available to those involved in the system should be more efficient in order to assist them in <em>the delivery of </em>justice. But the spirit and the form that justice takes, and even perhaps the reporting of the decisions, should equally be under the microscope for reform. The hope is that digitalisation is just one of many steps towards true “modernisation”.</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> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Katherine Sirrell Mon, 15 May 2017 15:11:41 +0000 Katherine Sirrell 110901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The debate the media won't have: government snooping made NHS hacking easier https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/debate-media-still-wont-have-government-snooping-has-made-hacking-easier <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even Microsoft now admits that government snooping has made it much easier for hackers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/nhs.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/nhs.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>NHS workers. Flickr/Emanueletudisco photography. Some rights reserved</span></span></span>On Friday IT systems in Britain and across the world were hit by a devastating hacking attack. </p><p>Dubbed 'WannaCrypt' - it locked users out of their computer system unless they paid a $300 ransom using Bitcoin. Such '<em>ransomware' </em>attacks have become increasingly common across cyberspace as an earner for hackers.</p><p>There is little doubt ensuring government IT systems, especially in critical areas such as the NHS, need to be kept up-to-date. Most of the media attention has largely focused on this area since. In particular, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-cyber-attack-jeremy-hunt-tories-accused-ignoring-extensive-warning-signs-outdated-computers-a7734961.html">ignoring repeated warnings</a> that NHS IT systems were underfunded and vulnerable.</p><p>But one largely ignored area is how government-mandated backdoor exploits have made it easier for hackers.</p><p>Yesterday evening, Microsoft, the software company whose Windows system was the target of the attack, published a blog-post imploring system users to keep their software up to date. But it <a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/05/14/need-urgent-collective-action-keep-people-safe-online-lessons-last-weeks-cyberattack/">also lashed out at</a> government snooping:</p><p>"Finally, this attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage.<span>"</span></p><p><span>The blog-post by Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer<a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/05/14/need-urgent-collective-action-keep-people-safe-online-lessons-last-weeks-cyberattack/"> went on to say</a>: "</span>We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.<span>"</span></p><p><span>In other words, Microsoft is warning governments that their desire for snooping makes it easier for criminals to exploit those systems and hack people's data.</span></p><p><span>This is relevant to Britain since both the Conservative government and Labour MPs have called on technology companies to give them access to encrypted mobile technologies such as Whatsapp and iMessage. Every terror attack across the US or Europe has been followed by a deman by western governments to have a way to snoop on messages. </span></p><p><span>But tech companies stress that opening encrypted systems to government snooping would eventually end up helping hackers. And the latest cyberattack underscores their point.</span></p><p><span></span>If we allow governments backdoor access to encrypted apps, next time it could be your phone demanding a ransom.</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 digitaLiberties uk ourNHS Sunny Hundal Mon, 15 May 2017 11:25:37 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110892 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges https://www.opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Taking back control”, they said. If that means being active citizens and active listeners, there may be hope.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/1547471800_6daa42f241_b.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Barton Hill, Bristol. Synwell/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</p> <p>Brexit has presented us with a series of new challenges and revived some old ones. While these are of continental magnitude, very practical ways forward at the very local level (that people can engage with organically) can be more effective than grand solutions that too often seem ‘out of touch’.</p> <p>Neighbourhoods are not the only unit of political organisation, interest or identity. Indeed, some people simply use their address to sleep and receive bills, while others use their address as a base around which to have meaningful social interactions, create community and become active in their neighbourhood. This means that not everyone will engage with the concept of ‘neighbourhood’, but here are a few good reasons from the #BristolBrexit discussions to start doing so. </p> <p>In the last decade, our neighbourhoods have been affected by the financial crisis (e.g. planned buildings haven’t been built), by our politicians and media blaming our society’s most vulnerable people, by the effects of national cuts, and now we brace ourselves for the local (Bristol City Council) cuts and the unknowns of Brexit.</p> <p>Understandably, many residents do feel like helpless victims. So it was good to have, among others, the two wards least “satisfied with their neighbourhood” (in the <a href="https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/33896/Results+of+quality+of+life+in+Bristol+survey+2015+to+2016/2a83bda4-fed5-400d-b638-2d2c72f67507">2015 Bristol quality of life survey</a>) represented at the workshop. We heard residents of Barton Hill, Filwood and Hartcliffe share their experiences. The UK 2011 census describes the demographics of Filwood and Hartcliffe as ‘blue collar communities’ (white working class). In contrast, Barton Hill is a residential area that includes retail and industrial premises and boasts 77 nationalities. </p> <p><strong>Will the communities that currently feel ‘left behind’ by Westminster-plus-Brussels also be left behind by Westminster-minus-Brussels?</strong></p> <p>The day after the referendum there was much derision towards areas of the country currently receiving vast sums of money from the European Union that, having voted for Brexit, started panicking and wanting assurances that this money would continue to be received … from somewhere! Everyone receiving funding – whether from local or central government, corporate giving or even private philanthropy – is at risk of losing that income stream if the money isn’t available post-Brexit, irrespective of how well the need is documented and presented. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">What about those who were already ‘left behind’ before the referendum?</p> <p>But what about those who were already ‘left behind’ before the referendum? We heard about Hartcliffe, a housing estate of 11,000 people with no bank or launderette, and with a number of social issues. And Barton Hill’s seemingly fragmented communities that, we were told, cohabitate ‘well’ by tending to remain in safe groups and not interacting with each other. Tensions rise when fighting over limited resources (e.g. fighting in the launderette) as seemingly harmonious living is made worse when focusing on what people don’t have.</p> <p>In Brexit Britain, there is a very real risk of Westminster being much less immune to lobbying by corporate interests than Brussels is. This is both positive and negative: positive change might be easier to implement, but so too will negative change. Depending on the specific details of the negotiations, Brexit has the power to change everything we thought we knew. But how confident are we that the needs of the communities that were already not thriving are being represented during these negotiations?</p> <p><em>Interim solution: There needs to be active listening from decision makers at a local level</em></p> <p>Actively including people living in neighbourhoods where the English language, literacy, and/or access to the internet are not guaranteed <em>can</em> be achieved. For example, the ‘Up Your Street’ initiative has helped people to have their say by asking people questions on their doorstep in a language they understand. Also, community organisations have held the Bristol strategy consultation as face-to-face discussions in their community spaces and then filled in the online form, so that the city council could receive feedback from residents who hadn’t responded using the more traditional lines of communication. </p> <p><em>Interim solution: Local solutions for local problems, or empowerment rather than dependence</em></p> <p>As Bristol fades out its neighbourhood partnerships at the same time as we transition out of the EU, we need to be skilling people up: equipping them to face the uncertainties of the future. In order for people to step up, a new depth of understanding is needed (e.g. about governance, about how funding works, or even how to interact in meetings) to be able to influence decisions, to be effective active citizens and to pioneer the local solutions we need.</p> <p><strong>How can communities who suffered from the post-referendum race-hate crimes respond?</strong></p> <p>Media coverage and the tone the debate was allowed to take – which previously would have been deemed not ‘politically correct’ – is an inescapable theme when discussing Brexit. This has created an atmosphere where open racism is no longer culturally taboo, and people wanting to believe that the referendum result means more than half the voters are racist feel justified in using abusive behaviour towards people who don’t look or sound like them. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">In Filwood, there are few interactions on the Broadway and social spaces are closing down one by one.</p> <p>We need more facts and information and fewer opinion pieces that disseminate prejudices – even those we want to believe – since these lead to distrust, segregation, hatred and ultimately, victims. The themes of <em>the media</em> and <em>racism</em> were well covered in the workshop, but sadly I need to mention them here as my neighbourhood was not free of post-referendum race-hate crime. My neighbourhood wasn’t the only one, as the stats from Bristol have shown a surge in this type of reported crime since the referendum. In a show of solidarity for the victims, a Peace Picnic was organised in Filwood Broadway on 31 July 2016. </p> <p>While reconciliation and education are needed as remedies, one simple solution was discussed at length from the ‘neighbourhoods’ perspective:</p> <p><em>Interim solution: inclusive shared spaces: ‘us’ and ‘the other’ interacting in neighbourhoods</em></p> <p>The importance of shared spaces is that they allow us to fact-check some of the disinformation by putting us in contact with the people that the tabloids vilify. But with fewer and fewer shared social spaces to interact in, where are people going to meet people that are different from themselves, to learn from them?</p> <p>We heard that in Barton Hill, a high rise residential area, streets are not social spaces, and community spaces are not actually shared: people seem to take turns to use the space rather than co-occupy the park or the launderette. In Filwood, there are few interactions on the Broadway and social spaces are closing down one by one. First one pub became a block of flats, then another pub became a Tesco; now 100+ houses are being built on the Filwood Park green space.</p> <p>In a time when people are either behind their mobile phone or behind closed doors, and when Bristol’s housing market is reinforcing social segregation whether it is by class, generation or ethnic groups, shared spaces can still be created. For example, initiatives that engage families can also benefit the elderly. </p> <h2>Facing the future, together</h2> <p>The Brexit debate has brought out a lot of ugly things into the open that have changed the feel of our communities. Now that they are visible, it is time to engage our city as it really is: the examples above are from Bristol. While we could hope that a few individual residents might take on the challenge of actively making non-Bristolians (including non UK nationals) feel welcome in Bristol, such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jan/18/britons-should-learn-polish-punjabi-and-urdu-to-boost-social-cohesion">by learning Polish</a>, in terms of scalable action it would already be a challenge to get neighbours to interact more to generate community cohesion. Interaction is a risk many people avoid, it is often perceived as safer to keep oneself to oneself. The top ten interim solutions the ‘neighbourhoods’ discussion table would like to see us now prepare are:</p> <p><strong>That individuals:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• use or create shared spaces to facilitate encounters with others and learn from them, e.g. local initiatives such as <a href="http://www.thenoise.org.uk/index.php/weekend">Bristol Noise</a> family fun days, cross-community story-telling, <a href="http://www.91ways.org/">91 Ways</a> pop-up cafés and <a href="https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/playing-out">Playing Out</a> (closing the street to cars to allow residents to use the space);</p> <p>• be active citizens</p> <p>• consider connecting with their local Bristol City Council community development officer who knows about asset based community development (ABCD)</p> </div> <p><strong>That the city of Bristol:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• actively listens, discerning solutions <em>with</em> residents not for them (success stories above);</p> <p>• invests now to equip people with new skills to be part of the solution;</p> <p>• gets communities mobilised with the help of <a href="http://www.citizensuk.org/about_us">Citizens UK</a>;</p> <p>• develops a co-produced Bristol Integration Strategy that addresses the issues we face.</p> </div> <p><strong>That researchers:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• deepen our collective understanding of what people consider community spaces to be, what spaces successfully bring people together, what spaces create a sense of ownership;</p> <p>• explore how best to encourage shared use of community hubs;</p> <p>• develop a joined-up understanding of where assets are located (Bristol City Council’s <a href="http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/pinpoint/?service=localinfo&amp;layer=Community+venues">map</a> of community assets) and how people perceive and use them or not (including the use of existing GIS data to understand how people use or navigate spaces in the city: how, when, with whom, how safe or dangerous, accessible or inaccessible they are perceived to be).</p> </div> <p>At the individual, community or organisational level, there are steps that can be taken to respond proactively to the new (or newly visible) challenges we face. ‘Taking back control’ means taking responsibility for modelling the society we want.</p> <p><em>This article has been written by a participant in the #BristolBrexit - a city responds to Brexit initiative. The views expressed here are personal views and do not reflect the views of the University of Bristol or the funders of the organisers' research.</em></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"><p><strong>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit</strong></p> <p>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit is a free public event at @Bristol on the 23rd of May from 10.00-13.00. The event, organised by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the University of the West of England and the University of Bath brings together stakeholders, practitioners, activists, educators, business people, city officials, religious leaders, and charity representatives to collectively and collaboratively address the challenges of uncertainty brought about by Brexit. The event will feature a series of interactive formats to bring representatives from across the city together to develop new and innovative strategies for taking Bristol into the future.</p><p><strong>All are invited: <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristolbrexit-a-city-responds-to-brexit-tickets-33271861032">register here</a>.</strong></p> </div></div> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit">#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit</a><br /><span>JON FOX</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges">Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges</a><br /><span>EDWARD PALAIRET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hector-rios/making-sense-of-brexit-foreigners-in-defence-of-foreigners-rights">Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights</a><br /><span>HECTOR RIOS</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/glenn-morgan/brexit-bristol-and-business">Brexit, Bristol and business</a><br /><span>GLENN MORGAN</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/natasha-carver-jessica-hambly/brexit-where-bureaucracy-becomes-brutal">Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal</a><br /><span>NATASHA CARVER<br />JESSICA HAMBLY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-appleby/bristol-brexit-and-creative-challenge">Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge</a><br /><span>PAUL APPLEBY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/christian-dadomo-no-lle-qu-nivet/automatic-transformation-of-eu-citizenship-rights-is-way-forward">Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward</a><br /><span>CHRISTIAN DADOMO<br />NOËLLE QUÉNIVET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/magda-mogilnicka/how-can-we-resist-post-brexit-racism">How can we resist post-Brexit racism?</a><br /><span>MAGDA MOGILNICKA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beverley-orr-ewing/what-will-brexit-mean-for-future-of-european-student-mobility">What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?</a><br /><span>BEVERLEY ORR-EWING</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/neema-begum/many-brexits-of-bristol">The many Brexits of Bristol</a><br /><span>NEEMA BEGUM</span><hr /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Brexit Migration Watch</strong></p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ramah-ahmed/how-will-global-britain-approach-asylum">How will a ‘global Britain’ approach asylum?<br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/marianne-lagrue/brexit-free-movement-and-children-s-rights">Brexit, free movement and children’s rights</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joe-turner/international-family-life-after-brexit-further-sanctions-on-intimacy">International family life after Brexit: further sanctions on intimacy?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JOE TURNER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/andrew-crane/brexit-as-driver-of-modern-slavery">Brexit as a driver of modern slavery?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ANDREW CRANE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/benjamin-hulme/could-brexit-be-boon-to-human-smuggling">Could Brexit be a boon to human smuggling?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">BENJAMIN HULME</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ruvi-ziegler/eu-notification-of-withdrawal-bill-bargaining-chips-on-commons-table">The EU (notification of withdrawal) bill: bargaining chips on the Commons table</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">RUVI ZIEGLER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jordi-giner-monfort/what-will-happen-ma-ana-brexit-and-return-migration-of-retirees-from-spain">What will happen mañana? Brexit and return migration of retirees from Spain</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JORDI GINER-MONFORT</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/elisa-mosler-vidal/post-facts-post-gains-economics-of-labour-migration-after-brexit">Post-facts, post-gains: the economics of labour migration after Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ELISA MOSLER VIDAL</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/zaki-nahaboo/rights-and-wrongs-of-high-court-ruling-on-triggering-article-50">The rights and wrongs of the High Court ruling on triggering Article 50</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ZAKI NAHABOO</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/owen-parker/labour-party-free-movement-and-brexit">The Labour Party, free movement and Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">OWEN PARKER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gurminder-k-bhambra/brexit-commonwealth-and-exclusionary-citizenship">Brexit, the Commonwealth, and exclusionary citizenship</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">GURMINDER K. BHAMBRA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/lucy-mayblin/what-will-brexit-mean-for-asylum-in-uk">What will Brexit mean for asylum in the UK?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">LUCY MAYBLIN</span></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-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 EU UK #BristolBrexit Brexit migration watch Brexit and the Economy Brexit Brexit2016 Edward Palairet Mon, 15 May 2017 06:55:10 +0000 Edward Palairet 110882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Uncertainty is plaguing the transition to a post-Brexit Britain. Cities can, and must, address it head on in ways that work best for them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/26272624423_47535089b0_k.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Stokes Croft, Bristol. Jim Killock/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</p> <p>The plot thickens. When Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June she introduced the latest twist in the sordid Brexit tale that has been unravelling over the past year. The emerging plotline is peopled by a colourful cast of heroes and villains (though who fills which role is a matter of personal taste), teeming with intrigue and innuendo, and vacillating daily (or hourly) between tragedy and comedy.</p> <p>We can ask how we got here, or prophesise about what the future holds, or pound the streets with our campaign of choice. We can also wring our hands, pray to our gods, and retreat into a life of Brexit-free asceticism. Or we can do something about the <em>uncertainty </em>that Brexit has produced. All these plot twists, the relentless manoeuvrings, and the onslaught of contradicting predictions have produced for many a paralysing uncertainty. Post-Brexit Britain has become a world of ‘what ifs’, and until documents are signed in Brussels it will remain as such. It’s not Brexit we need to deal with, it’s the uncertainty Brexit has created.</p> <h2>#BristolBrexit</h2> <p>This is exactly what we’ve been doing in Bristol over the past months. Uncertainties are also opportunities, and opportunities are also openings. #BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit embraces this message in a constructive way. Our collective aim is not to condemn or endorse Brexit, to explain or predict where it will take us, or to retreat to the pub in defeat. Our aim is to do something about the uncertainties brought about by Brexit in Bristol, for Bristol, and by Bristol. Throughout the UK new powers are being devolved to local government. Whilst we welcome these changes, the uncertainties brought about by Brexit can’t wait until they trickle down to Bristol. This uncertainty needs addressing now, and thus we need to do this ourselves.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Our aim is to do something about the uncertainties brought about by Brexit in Bristol, for Bristol, and by Bristol.</p> <p>This is an ongoing project. It begins with seeking to identify and understand those uncertainties connected with Brexit. The University of Bristol with the support of the University of West of England and the University of Bath have joined forces with local practitioners, stakeholders, businesses, local government, neighbourhood associations, local residents, trade unions, legal advisers, charities, religious leaders, councillors, and educators to identify and interrogate some of these Brexit-specific uncertainties as they manifest in Bristol. This has taken shape around of series of three themed workshops organised by the University of Bristol in April of this year: ‘Suspended Citizenship’, ‘Catching up with the Left Behind: Empowering Local Communities in Bristol’, and ‘Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World’. Every day between now and May 23, when we hold a public event to synthesise all that we have learned, we will publish a new article on openDemocracy elaborating one of the perspectives represented in these workshops and some of the interventions we have proposed for moving forward.</p> <h2>Suspended citizenship</h2> <p>The purpose of the ‘Suspended Citizenship’ workshop was to confront the uncertainties and insecurities experienced by the city’s immigrant population in relation to their post-Brexit legal status. Brexit is conceived firstly as a challenge to EEA citizens in the UK, and rightly so as their future hangs in the balance. But the workshop participants also recognised that this challenge extends beyond our conventional understanding of EU nationals to include other, often marginalised immigrant populations in Bristol, such as Somalis (many of whom hold EEA passports, or are married to someone holding an EEA passport). Workshop participants considered these uncertainties not just for current and future permanent residents, but also for temporary workers from the EU. Indeed, much of their conversation focussed on these more vulnerable versions of the EU national, the ones perhaps lacking the human, social, or cultural capital to effectively navigate the post-Brexit rights landscape.</p> <p>To begin to address these uncertainties, workshop participants discussed plans for community engagement and communication to get essential information disseminated to and through local communities. Part of this involves a multilingual leafletting plan to empower local citizens at the point of access to local services. Plans for an employment charter for Bristol were also discussed to stress the values of diversity, protections from harassment and discrimination, and freedom of association.</p> <h2>Catching up with the left behind</h2> <p>Our second workshop, ‘Catching up with the Left Behind: Empowering Local Communities in Bristol’, explored the dislocations of some of those typically seen as (or who see themselves as) ‘left behind’ in Bristol’s inner city and outer estates. These neighbourhoods experience this isolation differently and have little contact with one another. But bringing local residents, community activists, and neighbourhood associations from across the city together revealed their shared frustrations and insecurities. Workshop participants discussed challenges related to the uses (and misuses) of shared neighbourhood spaces; frustration and resentment expressing itself as racism and xenophobia; and the city’s youth as a standalone category of the ‘left behind’ in itself.</p> <p>Many of these challenges are rooted in problems that long predate Brexit. But Brexit has given renewed expression to them, sometimes exacerbating them, sometimes even ameliorating them, and at other times bearing new challenges. The aim of the workshop discussions however was not to uncover the root causes of these uncertainties but to begin thinking about the sorts of interventions that could be developed to bring these communities back into the fold of civic life in Bristol. Separate working groups were established around neighbourhoods, racism, and youth to explore the potential for co-produced participatory research around these themes.</p> <h2>Projecting Bristol and Britain to a post-Brexit world</h2> <p>The third and final workshop, ‘Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World’, began to tackle a much different set of challenges connected to Bristol’s economic future. The aim of the workshop was to facilitate a dialogue between academic experts and stakeholders across Bristol around interim solutions for addressing the uncertainty surrounding an assumed exit from the single market. Specific discussions centred on how to retain and attract talent for the city, future sources of international funding, market access both within and outside of the EU, and how to project Bristol as a global city in the UK and beyond.</p> <p>As in the other workshops, concrete interventions were developed to address these and related challenges. A working group has been set up to help conceptualise and develop ‘The Bristol Brand’ post-Brexit; the university and business sectors are also joining forces to collectively lobby the European Parliament and European Commission on areas of interest to both sectors; and another working group was formed to develop a market strategy for the city’s business and finance sectors.</p> <h2>Now for the hard part</h2> <p>This is by no means an exhaustive account of all the uncertainties or challenges facing Bristol today, and much remains to be discussed. The ten pieces contained in this series reflect both the breadth of the topic and the diversity of opinion in the city. They were written by a diverse cross-section of workshop participants, including charity workers and local residents, academics and businesspeople, lawyers and students. Each contribution grows out of, but is not constrained by, the discussions had at the workshops. As such, they are the next step in elaborating both the challenges and the possible interventions that would address them. </p> <p>On the final day of this series, 23 May, we will hold the public event #BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit. This will take place in the <a href="https://www.at-bristol.org.uk/">@Bristol Science Centre</a> from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. The aim of the event is twofold. First, we will showcase our current gains from the workshops and take these discussions further in dedicated breakout sessions with an assemblage of previous workshop participants joined by new stakeholders and practitioners recruited from across the city. The second equally important aim is to invite discussion around new challenges – and new interventions – related to Brexit and Bristol. The framework of the event, featuring interactive market stalls and fish bowl discussions, will facilitate dialogue between diverse segments of the city’s population. We will be joined by Bristol University’s vice chancellor and the Bristol’s mayor.</p> <p>This is not an end, but a beginning. It is a call to action to identify the uncertainties that we face in Bristol post-Brexit, and to take steps toward alleviating those uncertainties. Nobody knows Bristol’s problems as well as Bristolians. Nobody is better placed to fix those problems than Bristolians.</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"><p><strong>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit</strong></p> <p>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit is a free public event at @Bristol on the 23rd of May from 10.00-13.00. The event, organised by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the University of the West of England and the University of Bath brings together stakeholders, practitioners, activists, educators, business people, city officials, religious leaders, and charity representatives to collectively and collaboratively address the challenges of uncertainty brought about by Brexit. The event will feature a series of interactive formats to bring representatives from across the city together to develop new and innovative strategies for taking Bristol into the future.</p><p><strong>All are invited: <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristolbrexit-a-city-responds-to-brexit-tickets-33271861032">register here</a>.</strong></p> </div></div> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit">#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit</a><br /><span>JON FOX</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges">Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges</a><br /><span>EDWARD PALAIRET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hector-rios/making-sense-of-brexit-foreigners-in-defence-of-foreigners-rights">Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights</a><br /><span>HECTOR RIOS</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/glenn-morgan/brexit-bristol-and-business">Brexit, Bristol and business</a><br /><span>GLENN MORGAN</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/natasha-carver-jessica-hambly/brexit-where-bureaucracy-becomes-brutal">Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal</a><br /><span>NATASHA CARVER<br />JESSICA HAMBLY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-appleby/bristol-brexit-and-creative-challenge">Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge</a><br /><span>PAUL APPLEBY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/christian-dadomo-no-lle-qu-nivet/automatic-transformation-of-eu-citizenship-rights-is-way-forward">Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward</a><br /><span>CHRISTIAN DADOMO<br />NOËLLE QUÉNIVET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/magda-mogilnicka/how-can-we-resist-post-brexit-racism">How can we resist post-Brexit racism?</a><br /><span>MAGDA MOGILNICKA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beverley-orr-ewing/what-will-brexit-mean-for-future-of-european-student-mobility">What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?</a><br /><span>BEVERLEY ORR-EWING</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/neema-begum/many-brexits-of-bristol">The many Brexits of Bristol</a><br /><span>NEEMA BEGUM</span><hr /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Brexit Migration Watch</strong></p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ramah-ahmed/how-will-global-britain-approach-asylum">How will a ‘global Britain’ approach asylum?<br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/marianne-lagrue/brexit-free-movement-and-children-s-rights">Brexit, free movement and children’s rights</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joe-turner/international-family-life-after-brexit-further-sanctions-on-intimacy">International family life after Brexit: further sanctions on intimacy?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JOE TURNER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/andrew-crane/brexit-as-driver-of-modern-slavery">Brexit as a driver of modern slavery?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ANDREW CRANE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/benjamin-hulme/could-brexit-be-boon-to-human-smuggling">Could Brexit be a boon to human smuggling?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">BENJAMIN HULME</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ruvi-ziegler/eu-notification-of-withdrawal-bill-bargaining-chips-on-commons-table">The EU (notification of withdrawal) bill: bargaining chips on the Commons table</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">RUVI ZIEGLER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jordi-giner-monfort/what-will-happen-ma-ana-brexit-and-return-migration-of-retirees-from-spain">What will happen mañana? Brexit and return migration of retirees from Spain</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JORDI GINER-MONFORT</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/elisa-mosler-vidal/post-facts-post-gains-economics-of-labour-migration-after-brexit">Post-facts, post-gains: the economics of labour migration after Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ELISA MOSLER VIDAL</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/zaki-nahaboo/rights-and-wrongs-of-high-court-ruling-on-triggering-article-50">The rights and wrongs of the High Court ruling on triggering Article 50</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ZAKI NAHABOO</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/owen-parker/labour-party-free-movement-and-brexit">The Labour Party, free movement and Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">OWEN PARKER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gurminder-k-bhambra/brexit-commonwealth-and-exclusionary-citizenship">Brexit, the Commonwealth, and exclusionary citizenship</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">GURMINDER K. BHAMBRA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/lucy-mayblin/what-will-brexit-mean-for-asylum-in-uk">What will Brexit mean for asylum in the UK?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">LUCY MAYBLIN</span></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-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 EU UK Brexit2016 Brexit Brexit and the Economy Brexit migration watch #BristolBrexit Jon Fox Mon, 15 May 2017 06:26:09 +0000 Jon Fox 110880 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If you're not yet radical, you haven't been paying attention https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/raoul-martinez/politics-of-hate-predates-brexit-by-long-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Raoul Martinez spoke this weekend at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a> in London: “Beyond Brexit, Labour are offering one of the most progressive manifestos in living memory.” Keynote speech.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X0K-wNMcBVA?ecver=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>There seems to be a consensus that we are in a political crisis. I don’t dispute the claim, but I would suggest that this crisis predates Brexit by a long way. It’s a crisis that cuts right to the heart of our society and has been worsening over a period of decades. The failure to recognise it, and adequately respond, has played a decisive role in creating the conditions for Brexit, Trump and the politics of hate that has been gaining momentum across Europe.</p> <p>There are various aspects to it. One of the most obvious is inequality. For decades, inequality has been rising in this country. People have been working longer for less, and wealth, rather than trickling down, has been flowing upwards. An investment deficit; soaring house prices; insecure, low-paid work and rising tuition fees created a population with dwindling disposable incomes. To function, the economy required vast sums of private debt. A deregulated financial sector was happy to oblige, engaging in reckless lending. As we now know, this paved the way for the financial crash of 2008.</p> <p>The response to the recession that followed has been a politics of austerity that continues to punish the most vulnerable in our society. It’s led to over a million people using food banks; to 16 million Britons with savings of less than £100; and to four million children living in poverty, the vast majority of whom have at least one parent in work. It’s led to roughly 24,000 elderly people a year dying because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, and to workers suffering the biggest fall in wages among the world's richest countries. The worst off are being hit hardest. A couple of years ago, it emerged that the most deprived area in the country was suffering cuts worth £807 per household while the most affluent area was getting away with per household cuts of just £28.</p> <p>Today, many children and chronically sick people are being hit by multiple cuts all at once. The impact on disabled people has been so extreme that a UN inquiry recently concluded that there have been ‘systematic violations’ of the rights of people with disabilities. This was after ten thousand people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by our government. At the other end of the spectrum, the richest 10 percent of UK households own more wealth than the other 90 percent combined, and we have more billionaires than ever before. Compounding the problem, researchers estimate that over £100 billion a year is lost to tax avoidance, with some of the largest corporations paying no tax at all.</p> <h2><strong>Was austerity necessary?</strong></h2> <p>Now was this austerity necessary? Not according to textbook economics which tells us that reducing spending during a recession is pretty much the worst thing that can be done. In fact, economic historians have shown that policies of austerity have never managed to revive a flagging economy. Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis found that austerity after 2010 &nbsp;slowed our recovery, costing the nation over £100 billion. Austerity was and is a crisis for millions of people in this country — it has destroyed lives, well-being, wealth and mental health on a significant scale. Yet it was widely accepted as necessary by both major parties and the media. A banking crisis that had its origins in the irresponsible and illegal behaviour of the private sector was repackaged as a crisis of government spending. The question was not whether we needed cuts but where and how quickly they should fall. Mervyn King, while Governor of the Bank of England, summed up the situation, when he said ‘The price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it’ and ‘I’m surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">Austerity was widely accepted as necessary by both major parties and the media.</span></p> <h2><strong>Market fundamentalism</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/The_Conference_130517-2649.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/The_Conference_130517-2649.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Raoul Martinez addresses The Convention. Credit: The Convention. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Growing inequality is bound up with another aspect of the crisis we face: the erosion of democracy. The last few decades have been marked by a turn towards market fundamentalism — an approach that has transferred wealth and power from the public sphere to the private, and on a global scale. Today, one percent of humanity owns as much wealth as the other ninety-nine percent combined, and some of the largest corporations control more wealth than many nations.</p> <p>The most powerful actor in the market, the corporation, is driven by the profit imperative. This commitment to profit not only results from market competition, it’s enshrined in law — corporations have long been legally obliged to maximise profits for their shareholders. A corporation can increase profits in various ways. Some of these can benefit society as a whole, such as creative innovations. But there are many easier ways to generate profits that are seriously damaging: increasing demands on workers while reducing wages, using natural resources without paying for them; polluting while leaving others to pick up the bill; manufacturing unhealthy wants through manipulative advertising; and extracting subsidies, tax breaks, and bail-outs from the state.</p> <p>Here’s a striking example: the IMF calculated that the world’s governments are subsidising the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $10 million a minute. In the UK, while cutting vital subsidies to renewable energy, the Tory government’s contribution to the fossil fuel industry stands at £9 billion a year. All of this is going on as climate scientists warn that we are on course to create a planet able to support less than a billion people by the end of the century. In other words, business as usual for the fossil fuel industry means wiping out most of humanity — and our taxes are helping them do it. And because of the warming that’s already occurred, millions are dying and being displaced each year. Today, few acts are as violent as the burning of oil, gas and coal. <span class="mag-quote-center">Today, few acts are as violent as the burning of oil, gas and coal.</span></p> <p>When democratic power fails to regulate the market to protect the public interest, market power will regulate democracy to protect corporate interests. To defend citizens, workers and the environment, a democratic state must limit the ways in which corporations are allowed to pursue profit. The state has the power to impose regulations, extract taxes and cordon off parts of the economy from the market, such as healthcare and education. This enables the public to obtain with their votes what they cannot afford in the market. From the perspective of the corporation, a well-functioning democracy is an obstacle to profit. The obvious solution is to take control of the state through the capture of regulatory agencies, the lobbying of government, the funding of political parties, the establishment of think thinks, and by ensuring that the revolving door between high level industry and government keeps on spinning. <span class="mag-quote-center">Market power will regulate democracy to protect corporate interests.</span></p> <h2><strong>Manufacturing consent </strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28618733_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28618733_0.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn at the TUC Congress,September 2016. Gareth Fuller/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There have always been two ways to gain the consent of the governed. The first is to change the government to please the public, the second is to change the public to please the government. Almost a century ago, the influential US intellectual Walter Lippmann wrote about the need to ‘manufacture consent’ as a solution to the threat of democracy. Since then, techniques for controlling the flow of ideas, facts and perspectives through society have been increasing in sophistication. There’s a rich, though little known, history about how public relations, informed by psychological research, have been used to subvert democracy — it ought to be widely studied. The latest developments draw on big data. You may have heard of a company named Cambridge Analytica, owned by a US billionaire. According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">a recent Guardian investigation</a>, by exploiting the growing field of psychometrics and drawing on vast stores of personal data, this company has played a decisive role in influencing electoral outcomes, including the EU referendum.</p> <p>People are rightly outraged by this. But such meddling isn’t new. Every election is interfered with by politically motivated billionaires — some foreign, like Rupert Murdoch, others domestic such as Lord Rothermere. Almost all our media is owned by a handful of billionaires. This elite group controls close to 80 percent of the press. Being billionaires, their interests tend to conflict with those of most ordinary people. In their hands, media becomes a political weapon to ‘manufacture consent’. This isn’t simply a matter of opinion. Decades of academic studies have demonstrated the systematic right-wing biases of the UK media — including the BBC — on a range of issues, and poll after poll shows how public opinion reflects this distortion and bias. Take austerity. <span class="mag-quote-center">Of 347 articles, only 21 per cent showed any opposition to austerity.</span></p> <p>Ignoring history and economic orthodoxy, the media has functioned as a megaphone for the government’s austerity narrative. Researchers at University College Dublin examined the coverage of austerity after the 2010 UK election, looking at four leading national papers: <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>, <em>The Times</em>, the <em>Financial Times</em> and <em>The</em> <em>Guardian</em>. They found a clear pro-austerity bias. Of 347 articles, only 21 per cent showed any opposition to austerity. Another way of demonstrating this bias is to analyse which ‘experts’ were invited to comment on the cuts. Most were bankers, politicians and economists who failed to predict the crash. Only 1 per cent came from a trade union.</p> <p>A look at public opinion over the period shows how influential the austerity narrative became. According to YouGov polls, from 2010, public opposition to austerity steadily declined with each passing year. As this decline occurred, the proportion of people who believed the cuts were ‘too slow’, doubled. The most popular cuts were often those that targeted the most vulnerable: the disabled, the unemployed and those receiving housing benefit. By 2014, an ICM poll showed that the public, by a wide margin, trusted the Conservatives most ‘to manage the economy properly’. As Malcolm X put it, ‘If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">‘If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’ </span></p> <h2><strong>Ugly scapegoating</strong></h2> <p>This year the UK has dropped to 40<sup>th</sup> in the press freedom world rankings. This suggests that journalists in the UK are less free to hold power to account than those working in Jamaica, Chile or South Africa. Although we all have the same freedom to speak, we do not all have the same freedom to be heard. Most of the time, that freedom belongs to the wealthy few who own and subsidise our media. It’s a freedom that comes with a hefty price tag.&nbsp;</p><p>There’s much to say on these issues, but the central point is this: in our society, the principle of one pound one vote has overwhelmed the principle of one person one vote. We have a system dominated and corrupted by concentrated wealth, one that has left millions of people behind to struggle on under increasingly adverse conditions. Combined with our hopelessly outdated first past the post system and ongoing gerrymandering, it’s clear that our system is in crisis. But it’s a system that exploits the crises it creates, feeding off its own failures. The financial crisis is being exploited to dismantle the welfare state and the NHS. And Brexit is being exploited to tear up workers’ rights and environmental protections. <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s a system that exploits the crises it creates, feeding off its own failures.</span></p> <p>Many who today are outraged by Brexit have long failed to recognise and respond to the deeper systemic crisis. Sheltered by privilege, and taking our lead from the media, too many of us have been complacent about the multiple ways in which our system is failing, and the scale of the suffering and anger it’s causing.</p> <p>When we fail to respond to crises that do not yet affect us, we pave the way for others to exploit them for their own gain. Invariably this takes the form of ugly scapegoating which channels people’s anger where those doing the channeling find it politically useful. In recent years, people of colour, Muslims, Jews, LGBTI communities, disabled people and immigrants have all been targeted. The resistance to acknowledge, let alone confront, the root causes of our failing system created the conditions for Brexit, Trump, and the rise of hate politics. So yes, Brexit is a significant and unwelcome development, one that if mishandled may compound many of the problems we face. But it’s a symptom not the disease.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Business as usual</strong></h2> <p>Many commentators appear to have learned the wrong lesson from the turbulence of 2016. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major have identified the problem as one of ‘political extremes’. Blair has warned against the&nbsp;‘far-right’ and ‘far-left’, positioning himself as the defender of the voiceless middle ground, while Major recently urged us to return to the ‘solid centre’. But the centre ground of political opinion, where many feel most comfortable, is not where extremes are avoided, it’s where they are normalised. <span class="mag-quote-center">But the centre ground of political opinion… is not where extremes are avoided, it’s where they are normalised.</span></p> <p>Today’s centre ground is part of an ideological spectrum distorted by concentrated power. It’s a social construct, commanding most loyalty from those whose privilege protects them from the ravages of the system they support. There is nothing moderate, reasonable or balanced about occupying this political terrain. To do so is to favour business as usual: the ongoing erosion of democracy, the acceleration of inequality, the support of abusive regimes, the destruction of the conditions for our existence, and the dehumanisation of those whose suffering is politically inconvenient, whether they be drowning in the Mediterranean or queuing up at food banks.</p> <p>So how should we respond? We should reject the centre ground and embrace radical, compassionate, bold politics, and support it in all its forms: whether we’re talking about general elections or public protests.&nbsp;</p> <p>To clarify, the meaning of the word ‘radical’ is bound up with the idea of getting to the root of something, getting to the core or origin of a problem. And that’s what we must do. For many years we’ve been facing at least three profound crises: a democratic crisis, an inequality crisis, and an existential, environmental crisis. There’s simply no way to tackle these crises without subverting the wealth-concentrating, expansionist logic of capitalism. So without a surge in radical politics, these crises will only deepen. After all, the political and corporate elite has shown itself more ready to accept the destruction of the ecosystem, and with it most of humanity, than to question capitalism.</p> <h2><strong>Radical politics</strong></h2> <p>Radical politics, even diluted versions of it, have always been opposed by the establishment. Its figureheads have always been attacked. We saw this very clearly during the Democratic primaries, when it was well understood that Bernie Sanders stood a far better chance of beating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. Polls indicated that Bernie’s rejection of establishment politics, his willingness to confront Wall Street, big business and the corporate media resonated with more Americans than Hillary’s message. Despite this, the liberal media and the Democratic establishment rallied behind Hillary: a defender of Wall Street with a history of supporting new wars and escalating existing ones, who wrote during the campaign that environmental activists fighting to protect life should instead ‘get a life’. <span class="mag-quote-center">Frankly, if you’re not yet radical, you haven’t been paying attention.</span></p> <p>By failing to provide an honest, compelling, analysis of what had gone wrong with society and how to make it right — something Bernie came far closer to offering — the liberal establishment paved the way for a dangerous demagogue who gave the wrong answers to some of the right questions. Hillary’s defeat is symptomatic of an establishment, on both sides of the Atlantic, committed to holding the amiable mask of liberalism firmly in place over a corrupt, exploitative, unsustainable, system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn we have seen our own version of this dynamic play out. Under the leadership of Ed Miliband, Labour was committed to ‘austerity-lite’: cuts were needed, they claimed, but not quite as many or quite as fast as the Tories were planning. After losing the 2015 election, Miliband resigned, and the only anti-austerity candidate on the ballot, outsider Jeremy Corbyn, surged to victory on a wave of popular support, earning the largest mandate ever won by a party leader.</p><p>The media onslaught that followed has been quite remarkable. As subsequent research has shown, the British press, including the BBC, have ‘systematically undermined’ Corbyn with ‘a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage’. It’s worth noting that in Scandinavia, Jeremy Corbyn would be regarded as something like a mainstream social democrat, which only shows how far the UK centre ground has shifted to the right. This is Tony Blair’s legacy, and the reason Margaret Thatcher described him as her greatest achievement. This legacy helps to explain why it’s not just been the Tories and the media attacking Corbyn — from day one he’s been actively sabotaged by an intransigent bureaucracy and powerful figures within his own party. What we’re seeing is an ideological struggle for the soul of the Labour Party. <span class="mag-quote-center">How far the UK centre ground has shifted to the right… is Tony Blair’s legacy, and the reason Margaret Thatcher described him as her greatest achievement.</span></p> <p>In truth, the Labour Party has always been two parties crammed into one. Since its creation, a struggle for what it would stand for has raged between those who offer a deeper critique of society – let’s call them ‘radicals’ – and those who embrace and defend the status quo but want to curb the worst excesses of the system – let’s call them ‘liberals’. Over the last century, time and again, the liberals have shown that they are willing to undermine their electoral chances rather than allow Labour to be turned into a vehicle for radical politics. For much of the party’s history, this group has maintained a tight grip on the Parliamentary Labour Party. For the first time in my life, that grip has been seriously loosened. This is a rare and valuable opportunity.</p> <p>It should be said that the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn has been extremely effective. Even now, weeks before a general election, you’ll find prominent authors, journalists and celebrities&nbsp; – themselves Labour supporters – using their substantial public platform to chip away at Corbyn’s credibility. Given that this election is a life and death affair for many of the most vulnerable in our society, this is deeply irresponsible behaviour. Personally, I find much to admire in Corbyn. Of course, he’s not perfect – mistakes have been made – but to focus on this is to miss the point. It’s foolish to echo the superficial narrative of the establishment and personalise this historic political moment. Our focus should always be on the broader struggle for democracy, equality and survival – a struggle in which the virtues of unity and solidarity are paramount. <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s foolish to… personalise this historic political moment.</span></p> <h2><strong>Shifting from personality to substance</strong></h2> <p>When we shift from personality to substance we find that Labour are committed to scrapping Theresa May's Brexit plan on day one. They are committed to introducing a bill to ensure workers' rights are protected, to guaranteeing that EU nationals can remain in the UK, to negotiating tariff-free access to the European market and to allowing MPs to vote on the final deal.</p> <p>Beyond Brexit, Labour are offering one of the most progressive manifestos in living memory and the boldest environmental policies of any major party in British history. If such a desperately needed policy platform proves to be unelectable, it will not be one man’s failure. It will be the failure of each and every one of us to create the conditions for its success. But we still have time. Let’s use it well.</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>Read <em><a href="http://www.creatingfreedom.info/">Creating Freedom</a>.</em></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="/can-europe-make-it/jonas-fossli-gjers/jeremy-corbyn-mainstream-scandinavian-social-democrat"> Jeremy Corbyn – a mainstream [Scandinavian] social democrat</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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Brexit2016 Raoul Martinez Sun, 14 May 2017 23:34:28 +0000 Raoul Martinez 110875 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit: a reinvigorated politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/michael-gove/brexit-reinvigorated-politics-in-this-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Michael Gove spoke this week-end at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a> in London: “For me, it was primarily about making sure that whoever exercises power over you, is someone that you can throw out.” Keynote speech.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.21.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.21.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot. Michael Gove at The Convention, May 13, 2017.</span></span></span>Good morning. It’s a huge pleasure to be here and I want to begin by thanking Henry Porter, The Observer and openDemocracy for organising this conversation. Whatever one thinks of Brexit, it is undeniably the case that it has reinvigorated democratic debate in this country. Participation in membership of all our political parties has risen, and events like this which are occurring across the country are a healthy part of making sure that our future destiny is decided by public conversation and debate. <span class="mag-quote-center">Whatever one thinks of Brexit, it is undeniably the case that it has reinvigorated democratic debate in this country.</span></p> <p>I want to associate myself perhaps for the first time but I hope not for the last, with a point made by <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/stop-brexit-dublin-court-jolyon-maugham-move-tax-lawyer-republic-ireland-a7638956.html">Jolyon Maugham</a> earlier, which is that wherever we come from on the political spectrum we all benefit from hearing a different and divergent point of view, even if it is only to reinforce the passion with which we held our first view.</p> <p>But one thing I want to ask in this audience, is for a little bit of help and audience participation.&nbsp; Now some of you I know were too young to vote in the referendum. Others of you for whatever reason may not have been able to vote. But all those of you who did vote and voted to remain, can I invite you to put your hands up please? Good, thank you. All those of you who voted in the referendum, and voted to leave, could I invite you to put your hands up please? (rather less raise their hands). Well, to follow up what Jolyon said earlier, I may be in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, and I may be about to preach, but it is not to the converted.&nbsp; </p> <p>I’m a big bad Brexiteer. Worse than that, in front of an audience composed of many Observer readers, I am a Murdoch employee. Worse than that, I was a member of the Cameron Government that brought you the Great Moving Out of Europe Show that was the referendum. So in speaking to you today, I am aware that I am likely to be as out of step with the majority of you as an Orangeman in the Vatican at a Papal Mass.</p> <p>But in the tradition of the best of Protestant dissent, let me put forward a couple of views and then let me take some questions, or listen to what you have to say, because the reason that I am here is both to share a perspective but also to issue an invitation. And the perspective I want to share is from someone who doesn’t repent for a moment the actions he took in the referendum and believes that Britain will be better off outside the European Union. But also someone who has many good friends – some of them <em>still</em> good friends! – who voted to remain. And someone who admires many of the impulses which lay behind the passion with which the ‘remain cause’ was fought and the enthusiasm with which so many still uphold it. I think, and I will be very interested in your perspective, that many of those who voted to remain weren’t voting for economic reasons, though there were good economic arguments on either side ­– many people who voted to remain were doing so because they had an idealistic attachment towards international cooperation, because they believe that the European Union embodied an ideal of democracy after a continent had been scarred by wars and totalitarianism and that deep scar, that livid pain, needed to be healed by coming together. (scattered applause)</p> <p>Thank you. I think there were also people who voted to remain because they thought that the unity of our kingdom might be threatened by being outside the European Union and they valued the strength that comes from all four constituent parts of the United Kingdom being together. I think that noble attachment to the unity of the kingdom, that belief in democracy, that belief that international collaboration is a good thing – they are all noble aspirations. So why did I argue that we should leave? <span class="mag-quote-center">It is all about democracy.</span></p> <p>Well actually, one of the questioners before I came on put their finger on it. It is all about democracy. If we look at the history of the European Union, in its earlier stages the European Union was integral in establishing democracy in authoritarian states like Spain and Portugal and Greece after the colonels. It was also instrumental in making sure that democracy took root in the countries of eastern Europe after they escaped from the tyranny of communism. </p> <p>But, my contention and fear is that the democracy which took root in those countries was not replicated in the institutions that governed Europe, and in particular, was not replicated in the way in which the single currency was managed and the economic policies that flowed from it were implemented. And if anyone wants to know from a completely different but utterly honest perspective about the damage that the single currency and European integration wrought, I can do no better than recommend that you read Yanis Varoufakis' latest book of memoirs.<span class="mag-quote-center">I can do no better than recommend that you read Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book of memoirs.</span></p> <p>In it he explains – someone who in his heart is a European, and who never wanted Greece to leave the single currency – he explains the evasion of responsibility on the part of Europe’s élites when his country, the home of democracy, was suffering as a result of an unfair economic policy that imposed austerity on the poorest and resulted in a backlash which saw for the first time since 1945, Nazis in the Greek Parliament. </p> <p>One of the problems with the European Union is that those at the top, <em>pace </em>A.C.Grayling’s defence, are not democratically elected or accountable. The individuals who are responsible for the management of the single currency or for the adoption of Schengen, are not people whom any of us ever elected or whom we could ever throw out. And that means that the European Union has a danger of becoming either corrupt or complacent, because it is not accountable to the people. And the truth about our democracy, which of course developed in Greece, grew in western Europe and has now taken flower across the globe is that democracy succeeds because you can transfer power peacefully through the exercise of a vote at a ballot box. </p> <p>If we look at the history of democracy, democracy has generally, not always, been fostered and flowered within liberal nation states. So if one looks at the experience of the United Provinces, the Dutch Republic when it seceded from Catholic Hapsburg Europe, if once looks at the experience of Britain in the seventeenth century when we rejected the <em>ancien r</em><em>égime</em>, if you look at the experience of America in the eighteenth century when it got out from underneath the british Empire of that time, in each of those occasions, free citizens said, “We want to govern ourselves. We may be part of a larger unit, which offers us prosperity and promises to shield us from the chill winds outside, but we would rather take control of our elected representatives, give them instructions, and when they get things wrong, change them.” ( Hear, hear and scattered applause) <span class="mag-quote-center">The individuals who are responsible for the management of the single currency… are not people whom any of us ever elected or whom we could ever throw out.</span></p> <p>And it’s been that principle, that principle of democratic accountability which has powered progress throughout the ages. The United Provinces in the time of the sixteenth century was the home of free thinking when the Catholic Hapsburg Europe was the home of reaction. Britain, in the seventeenth century, through the example not just of the original parliamentarians, but also those who overthrew James II, Britain became the home and a beacon for liberty at that time. America – it’s important that we remember it at this difficult time – America in the eighteenth century made the principles of representative democracy alive and exciting and resonant. </p> <p>And the vote to leave the European Union may have been driven by many factors amongst many people, but for me it was primarily about making sure that whoever is in Number Ten, Downing Street, whoever exercises power over you is someone that you can throw out. Because one of our problems with being in the European Union was that there are all sorts of laws, whether it is VAT on tampons or where we build our houses, that were decided by European regulations and directives that we in parliament couldn’t reject and couldn’t even amend.</p> <p>There are legitimate concerns that are sometimes raised about the way in which the Executive steam-rollers things through the House of Commons. Absolutely right they should be raised. But one of the most effective ways in which any Executive can steam-roller things through the House of Commons is to have it agreed at the European level, in councils which are not transparent where minutes are not recorded, where people are not held accountable, and if it is agreed at the European level, those people who like me are currently running for election and who can be thrown out of office if we get things wrong – we could not influence it. </p> <p>And that’s why, having explained I hope, some of the reasons why I voted as I did, I want to end by issuing an appeal. </p> <p>There will be many people here who will deeply regret the decision that was made and want to revisit it. And as we heard in the debate on the second referendum, arguments will be run about what new forms of democratic legitimacy may be required at some point in the future for the course the Prime Minister wants to take us on. I don’t want to get involved in that debate unless you want to ask me about it. I have clear views but I don’t want to trouble you with them here. What I want to do is to issue an invitation about something else. <span class="mag-quote-center">For me it was primarily about making sure that whoever is in Number Ten, Downing Street, whoever exercises power over you is someone that you can throw out.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.50.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.50.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>It is overwhelmingly likely – the vote is clear – that Britain will leave the European Union, and as a result of leaving the European Union there will be choices for all of us to make. Do we want to keep the current system of agricultural subsidy that we have under the ‘common agricultural policy’?&nbsp; I don’t think we do, because I don’t think it either safeguards our environment, ensures that we have biodiversity <em>or </em>provides appropriate income support for the very poorest small farmers. So what are we going to do in order to have the right environmental policy and the right agricultural policy? Similarly when we are outside the European Union we will be outside that ‘common security and foreign policy’, but Britain will still have armed forces, a seat on the UN Security Council. We will still be spending, and I think it is right, 0.7% of our GDP international development&nbsp; – so how are we going to exercise our global power? Some of you might say it will be diminished, well I disagree. But we are still going to be a significant player in hard and soft power terms, so what are we going to do? Which values are going to prevail in that debate. Similarly when it comes to the migration policy that we will have, we will no longer have the migration policy that we had in the European Union which favours EU citizens over others, so how do we want to shape that migration policy? And the invitation I want to make to you is that if you feel, “Well, you Brexit, you own it – you Brexiteers, it’s your problem.” That ‘s fine! But what you may find is that the solutions that come about as a result of that don’t reflect Britain in all its diversity, in all its raucous pluralism, in all its breadth. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are legitimate concerns that are sometimes raised about the way in which the Executive steam-rollers things through the House of Commons.</span></p> <p>So the invitation which I issue which is a genuine one, is – I don’t want to shift anyone from their allegiance. I hope people will embrace the opportunities that Brexit brings but I recognise that I myself have strong political feelings and convictions: they don’t change overnight. People’s convictions here will not change overnight. But I do hope, as we develop new politics in this country, whether you are conservative or liberal, whether you voted remain or leave, that you will play a part in shaping a Britain outside the European Union that reflects the best of our past – open, liberal, tolerant, pluralist – but also can act as a model for the future, a strong partner for the European Union, standing up for progress globally, extending free trade, and making sure that democratic values, which I know that everyone here by their very presence believes in are at the heart of our future. Thank you very much.</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>See more of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention.</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="/nick-clegg/brexit-british-litist-revolution">Brexit: the British élitist revolution</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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Michael Gove Sun, 14 May 2017 20:16:30 +0000 Michael Gove 110871 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit: the British élitist revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/nick-clegg/brexit-british-litist-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nick Clegg spoke this week-end at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a><a href="Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, on 'Brexit and the Political Crash': from The Convention"> </a>in London: “It is a curiously British élitist revolution and we need to understand what it is.” Keynote speech.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.14.16.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.14.16.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot. Nick Clegg at The Convention, May 13, 2017.</span></span></span>It’s a delight to be here on a Saturday morning in the middle of possibly one of the most listless, soulless and dreary general election campaigns I can ever remember (applause). The title of your session, ‘What do we do about our democracy?” is very timely and in the short time available to me I shall try to explain to you the three principal crises in our democratic system as I see them, and then three possible suggestions about how we can remedy those problems.</p> <p>So first and foremost I think it is important to be very unblinking and very candid about quite how stuck and paralysed British democracy has now become. Let me put it this way. Any democratic system relies above and beyond everything else on those in power constantly looking over their shoulder, worried that someone else is going to take power away from them. Without competition, democracy is nothing. Without the pendulum swing of electoral contests in which one lot win one election and another lot win the next, democracy is not worthy of the name. And that is what has happened in our country. <span class="mag-quote-center">Without competition, democracy is nothing.</span></p> <p>It is very important to understand that there is no single party now in British politics, not a single party in British politics, who now on their own can wrest power away from the Conservative Party. It is not a conspiracy. It is a set perhaps of accidents: the dominance in Scottish politics by the Scottish Nationalist Party that has knee-capped the Labour party; the electoral system flatters the Conservatives – they have got this cabal in the rightwing press who clear their way for them&nbsp; – whatever the reasons, the outcome is remorselessly the same. The pendulum has now got stuck. No one, no single party, can now compete for power with the present incumbents in Number Ten.&nbsp; So that is the first crisis… that the ebb and flow of democratic life in this politics has been arrested. And I sometimes think that it is important to be more candid and blunt in spelling that out.</p> <p>Secondly, and partly related to that we have a system that has become very vulnerable to the influence of vested interests, moneyed élites and unaccountable individuals and organisations who are able to use the peculiarities of our democratic system, the absence of formal checks and balances which generally prevent vested interests and moneyed élites from hollowing out politics in other systems. </p> <p>We don’t have a written constitution. We don’t have meaningful checks and balances in parliament. We have an electoral system which gives extraordinary centralised power on a minority of the popular vote. The outgoing Government, Theresa May’s Government got, what was it, barely 24% of the eligible vote at the last general election. <span class="mag-quote-center">A new Brexit élite are operating almost like the new puppet masters of British politics: much of it is invisible.</span></p> <p>And so for all those reasons, we are now in my view seeing an encroachment, by way of a proxy and unaccountable influence, of a new Brexit élite who are operating almost like the new puppet masters of British politics and who are doing so in a way which is entirely unaccountable – much of it is invisible – and almost all of it is entirely unknown to the British public. </p><p>So if you look at the financing of the Brexit campaign, it is very very striking that some of the richest individuals in this country – I was going to say to a man or a woman, but it is curiously mostly men with some exceptions – that almost all of them are men who are working in one shape or form in finance, in one sector of the British economy. Folk like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Hargreaves">Peter Hargreaves</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Hosking">Jeremy Hosking</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hintze">Michael Hintze</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Wheeler">Stuart Wheeler</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Marshall_%28investor%29">Paul Marshall</a> etc. …&nbsp; All of them may individually be decent individuals, but they have acted knowingly or otherwise in an unusually coordinated fashion, to mobilise very significant amounts of money, derived from one particular sector, in pursuit of one particular ideological objective, which is not only to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union, but crucially, if you read the musings and outpourings of these individuals, they are all united if from somewhat different directions by a hard line, libertarian, small state view of the world – that we need to move as a country in order to regain our economic virility, that we need to pursue a small state, offshore, so-called Singapore-style low regulation economy. </p> <p>You see it in the media: the folk who used to act as competitors in the media, some of the principal newspaper owners in this country, the Barclay Brothers, Rupert Murdoch – he’s not an owner but he is clearly a power in his own right; the somewhat curdled and zany prejudices of Paul Dacre in the Daily Mail – again they are all men, all older men – these men used to be competitors. But Brexit has curiously acted as a sort of glue to turn them from competitors into a cabal and this ‘praetorian guard’ around the Brexit cause and around Theresa May, who in a sense is their perfect prime minister – they have her exactly where they want her. She will do exactly as they instruct. And they have transformed themselves from vigorous competitors into a cabal that knee-caps any opposition to Brexit and discredits and delegitimises them – whether it is the Governor of the Bank of England, the judges, whether it’s me, whether it’s you, the young, or pro-European businesses. Anyone who now speaks against the trajectory that they want, is treated in <em>a coordinated fashion</em> – this is the difference from previous years – to an industrial-scale coordinated attack.</p> <p>And then, as you will have read in certain newspapers, increasing evidence that some of the campaigning organisations – particularly those that mobilised a lot of the data that was used in the referendum last year – were funded and organised by Trump supporters from the other side of the Atlantic. Robert Mercer, in particular, one of the founders of Breitbart, seems to have played <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">an important role</a>.</p> <p>My point is this, that we have a democratic culture and a system which is not only&nbsp; stuck, it doesn’t work any more, it is not moving, but that it is very susceptible and&nbsp; vulnerable to takeover by unaccountable élites. And I think this is one of the curious things about the Brexit revolution. If you look at the eruptions of populism in other countries – if you look at the support for Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France – they were whether we like it or not in many ways a groundswell of grassroots opinion and dissatisfaction, entirely understandable dissatisfaction, with the status quo. What is curious in the United Kingdom is that we have seen the victory of one part of our commercial and media élite getting one over on another part of the élite – it is a curiously British élitist revolution and we need to understand what it is. <span class="mag-quote-center">An opposition-less democracy is rotten.</span></p> <p>And the third and final thing – I read in the newspapers yesterday that Ian McEwan, as he would, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/12/15m-oldsters-in-their-graves-could-swing-second-eu-vote-says-ian-mcewan">spoke beautifully yesterday</a> at The Convention on this very subject. We have a political system which is almost designed to ignore and overlook the aspirations and the needs and the dreams of the very young. So we have a democracy which is no longer a democracy in a functioning sense of the word, one which is very susceptible to élite takeover, one which is wilfully making very big and radical decisions about the future, whilst if not deliberately then systematically ignoring the wishes of the very people who actually inhabit that future – namely the young.</p> <p>So, what in a minute and a half do we do about that? The first thing is this. You cannot restore the genius, the elixir, the necessity of competition to the British democratic system without non-Conservative and anti-Brexit forces working more effectively together. I am not by the way, before some mole from Conservative central office leaps up to say “Ah! The Coalition of Chaos!” – I am not talking about any party propping up Theresa May in Number Ten or propping up Jeremy Corbyn. I am talking about after the general election – and by the way I hope this would weigh on the minds not just of remain voters, not just of progressive voters, but of all voters who care about the quality of British democracy, because an opposition-less democracy is rotten. We have now the very real prospect of a one-party state in Scotland north of the border, a one-party state in England, in Westminster – and of course the SNP and the Conservative are ideal foils for each other. The SNP can blame everything on those dastardly Conservatives in Westminster and Conservative can blame everything on those terrifying SNP hordes about to flow over Hadrian’s Wall, and they did that, by the way, to devastating effect at the last election two years ago…&nbsp;</p> <p>For any of us who don’t feel that either of those options are the future that we want – of Scottish nationalism on the one hand and an increasingly angry UKIP-lite English nationalism in the hands of the Conservative Party on the other – it is not a choice. We are duty bound to work together, and it has to, for those of you are in the Labour Party – it has to start in the Labour Party. I say this as someone who you might expect is entitled to a little <em>schadenfreude </em>about the travails and ills of<em> </em>the Labour Party, having been traduced and betrayed by them quite so vigorously over half a decade – but that’s not how I feel. I’m really, really sad that a once great party of social progress, of internationalism and government has now become in my view such a spectacularly introverted and self-indulgent political movement. The Labour party or people within it <em>can</em> help renew the progressive cause, but only if they understand what I think many of them get in their heads but don’t yet feel in their hearts, that they are not capable of going it alone. It is impossible under our electoral system, it is impossible against the vested interests that I talked about, it is impossible because of the turn in Scottish politics, for Labour to win again. So Labour must learn pluralism. If it does that there is hope: if it doesn’t, there is no hope. (prolonged applause)<span class="mag-quote-center"> Labour must learn pluralism. If it does that there is hope: if it doesn’t, there is no hope.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.13.22_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.13.22_0.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Secondly, as part of that reinvention of pluralist, progressive politics, we must must must put the inevitably often rather arcane issues surrounding electoral reform, political reform, House of Lords reform, party funding reform on the agenda – of course I totally understand this may bore the vast majority of the British people even if it fascinates some of us here – but we must put that centre ground. Because unless you clean up and make more transparent the ways in which parties are funded; unless you ensure that people can’t simply march into Downing Street with barely a quarter of the eligible vote; unless you open up this increasingly sour and curdled unhealthy relationship between the media and political élites in this country – we will continue to make the same mistakes that we have made over and over again that we have made in recent years. So political reform as well as the reorganisation and realignment of the non-Conservative part of the spectrum – of the centre ground and progressive ground in British politics – is the second vital ingredient for the rebirth for our somewhat tarnished, jaundiced and jaded political system. </p><p>Third and finally, and I won’t say very much on this, not least because I am not perhaps the best witness to the needs of young voters, having somewhat blotted my copybook with them in the last parliament – but as Ian McEwen and others have quite rightly said. There is something very, very, very wrong when a mature democracy makes a decision which represents such a radical and abrupt, and in my view, damaging and self-harming departure from our entire post-war past and does it against the explicit, explicit stated wishes in the ballot box of those who have to inhabit that future and who have to pay the consequences. That in my book is simply in the long run unsustainable. So the youth must, must mobilise and make their voice heard and say that what is happening to our country now is not happening in their name! (prolonged applause) <span class="mag-quote-center">The youth must mobilise, make their voice heard and say that what is happening to our country now is not happening in their name!</span></p> <p>So I will end with one gloomy message, which is that I think our democratic system is now in greater peril and in greater crisis certainly than in any time in my adult political lifetime and, I believe, if you read the history books, in a greater state of disrepair and malfunction than at any time in the post-war period. </p> <p>But it doesn’t mean that it is going to carry on like this. For every action in politics just as in life there is always a reaction. And the thing we must fear more than anything else is passivity, cynicism, hopelessness, a sense of complete disempowerment. It is genuinely in our hands.</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>See more from <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</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/michael-gove/brexit-reinvigorated-politics-in-this-country">Brexit: a reinvigorated politics </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Nick Clegg Sun, 14 May 2017 17:06:23 +0000 Nick Clegg 110869 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How a Tory Mayor spent nearly £1m on his election by bypassing spending limits https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/how-tory-mayor-spent-nearly-1m-on-his-election-by-bypassing-spending-limits <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How did a Tory candidate for Mayor in a tight election get away by spending over 5 times the limit imposed?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/andy.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/andy.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andy Street. BBC/Screengrab. Some rights reserved</span></span></span>A Conservative candidate is reported to have spent nearly £1m to become the new Mayor of West Midlands. And yet campaign spending limits imposed by the Electoral Commission fall far short of that.</p><p>Andy Street narrowly beat Labour's Sion Simon in the hotly fought election and won despite expectations in the local elections held last week. <span>The former businessman was managing director of John Lewis from 2007 to 2016</span></p><p>This is how Street justified his spending to the BBC's Today programme: "I haven’t spent quite a million, but I have spent a substantial amount more than my opponents and actually I think that’s OK, and I’ll tell you why. This is a very important election; a new start in democracy for this region. It is 2.5 million people and so it is absolutely appropriate. We have worked within the rules, which are that if you raise money you can spend it."</p><p>The rules are that candidates have a limit of around £130,000 for the final five weeks leading up to the Mayoral election.</p><p>But Street bypassed those rules by spending a bulk of the money before the five week limit technically started. This gave him a huge advantage over opponents.</p><p>The Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/01/andy-street-mayor-campaign-spending-labour-sion-smith-west-midlands">reported </a>the Labour candidate is thought to have spent under £200,000 for the election.</p><p>Sion Simon told the BBC: " I think the rules are wrong. In general elections, the regulated period starts much earlier. No rules at all, a complete free for all, until six weeks before polling day – I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it."</p><p>There is no suggestion that Mr Street broke the rules. But it's clear the Electoral Commission rules are open to exploitation.</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/sunny-hundal/cps-doesnt-press-charges-over-tory-over-spending">Why Conservative candidates avoided charges despite breaking rules of over-spending at the last election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sunny-hundal/theresa-may-is-getting-around-election-spending-limits-with-big-newspaper-ads">How Theresa May is getting around election spending limits with big newspaper ads</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 Sunny Hundal Fri, 12 May 2017 12:30:36 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110835 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The sticking power of false narrative https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gavin-kelly/sticking-power-of-false-narrative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Real shifts are staring us in the face — they just tend not to be the ones we so often hear about.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/page1-424px-Onward_Sweep_of_the_Machine_Process_(ca_1917).pdf.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/page1-424px-Onward_Sweep_of_the_Machine_Process_(ca_1917).pdf.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The onward sweep of the machine process, published by Industrial Workers of the World, Chicago, c.1917. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Work is being revolutionised. The era of the career is over. Robots will increasingly render humans redundant — half of today’s jobs are likely to go over the next decade. The transformation of working lives means we’re all destined to become multiple-jobbers and portfolio-jugglers capable of continually reinventing ourselves as we adapt to the winds of economic change.</p> <p>I could go on — and on. There is an endless river of reports, summits and policy commissions flowing forward with a hyperbolic account of the unprecedented disruption we are living through. The trouble is that some of these claims are demonstrably untrue, while others are merely highly questionable. </p> <p>Typical job tenure, for instance, is <a href="http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2015/07/A-steady-job.pdf">much the same as it was a generation ago</a> (it’s actually risen slightly). <a href="http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/data/job-to-job-moves/">Job-hopping has fallen sharply</a>. We move around for work less than we used to in the 1990s. The assumptions <a href="https://gavinkellyblog.com/are-the-robots-about-to-take-all-the-jobs-dont-hold-your-breath-f4ec861fda40">underpinning doomy projections</a> about tech and jobs are very suspect. We’ve never had more work yet in important respects our jobs market has become less, not more, dynamic (<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Complacent-Class-Self-Defeating-Quest-American/dp/1250108691/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1488902762&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=tyler+cowen&amp;&amp;linkCode=sl1&amp;tag=fifthchanceme-20&amp;linkId=69e668479a0e2a1a8a6aa9997ff6a4a4">Tyler Cowen</a> has set out a version of this argument with some vim for the US, and <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/f4bf8b84-1ea7-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c">Tim Harford</a> distilled it nicely recently). Sure, many things are changing and there will doubtless be shifts in how we work not least due to technology. But when, you might ask, <em>wasn’t</em> that the case?</p> <p>These counterpoints may not be contentious among those who spend their time poring over the data. But mention them in a room of politicos, tech-enthusiasts or business leaders and you will be looked at askance. That just <em>can’t </em>be right: didn’t you hear what they were all <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/">saying at Davos</a>?</p> <h2><strong>Zombie narratives</strong></h2> <p>This isn’t mere pedantry — it matters. It’s hard to get traction on what’s really going on in the here and now, never mind the immediate future, if you are facing a constant gale of grandiose claims. It distracts attention away from very real problems and steers it towards frothier issues. It’s how, for example, serious people, in serious outlets, end up debating not-so-serious ideas like a tax on robots.</p> <p>An under-examined question is how these zombie-narratives acquire such sticking power — why are they so hard to shift? Part of the answer is that a number of influential groups have a shared attachment to neophilia. Incentives and interests produce an overstatement of ‘change’ and understatement of ‘continuity’.</p> <p>The predictable group to point the finger at is, of course, the media who need to break news and attract clicks. And it’s true that even some supposedly high-end outlets are happy to provide space for a study if it involves a scary number and a top-line about ‘robots’. Meanwhile painstakingly put together research that debunks exaggerated claims struggles to get covered. There are, of course, fine journalists well known for their myth-slaying prowess. But, in a media world of fewer subject-specialists — not least labour correspondents — they are thinner on the ground.</p> <h2><strong>Change-analysts occupy the middle future</strong></h2> <p>Yet to pin it all on the media would be infantile. After all they don’t initiate this stuff. We also need to look at an industry of what we might call ‘change-analysts’ of one sort or another. Management-consultancy is an industry that in part survives by telling others that they’ve glimpsed the land beyond the horizon and, inevitably, the terrain is of a very different nature. </p> <p>For too many consultancies the default setting is that we are, always, on the cusp of ‘transformational change’. Likewise, the big tech companies are themselves a constant source of faddish futurology that receives reams of coverage. In a culture where the TED-talk is king, ‘newness’ will trump accuracy just as the perma-claim that the ‘pace of change is quickening’ becomes the established wisdom regardless of the facts. (As <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21679448-pace-business-really-getting-quicker-creed-speed?fsrc=scn%2Ftw_ec%2Fthe_creed_of_speed">The Economist</a> put it ‘business people feel time is accelerating — but the figures suggest they are largely talking guff’).</p> <p>Elements of the academy, no doubt spurred on by the pressure to demonstrate ‘impact’, are also increasingly a source of overblown assertions about what the future of work holds. Indeed, it’s a characteristic of our times that this turn co-exists alongside a very different shift towards higher standards of rigour, evaluation and data-analysis across a wider range of academic fields. Think-tanks, too, can be part of this tendency (doubtless I’ve been a sinner at one time or another). There will always be a temptation to make a name for yourself in a congested market via strident predictions about the middle-future rather than the less-reportable but more arduous work of understanding existing trends and policy responses.</p> <h2><strong>Political runes</strong></h2> <p>Alongside the media and change-analysts there is another group with an appetite for narratives about why the future will be very different from the past: politicians. Some of our smartest representatives see themselves as navigators of the shifting social and economic tides that carry us forward. Back in the 1990s the role of politician as guide-to-the-future was performed with some élan by the young Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. They, too, may have been guilty of hyperbole (and the underlying assumption about the inevitably of the forward march of globalisation is looking shakier than it used to) but there was a genuine depth of insight to their reading of the runes.</p> <p>A generation later and the big speech or essay setting out the scale of the social change we are on the cusp of is an increasingly jaded ritual for both established leaders and emerging contenders. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with politicians seeking to decipher the big challenges of tomorrow: we need more, not less, focus on slow-burn problems. But in today’s politics all too often the formulaic result is a stitching together of the most eye-catching claims and projections currently doing the rounds, embroidered by anecdotes of cutting edge techno-wizardry, resulting in the conclusion that the nation now faces a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ political choice.</p> <p>If this is a charge that can be levelled at some so-called reformist-centrists then it also applies to those situated further out on the left and right. Those convinced that only ground-clearing policy change will put a society back on the right track — whether that be a universal basic income or an end to immigration — are often quick to latch onto arresting claims about the future that they think help demonstrate that their radicalism will, one day, place them on the right side of history.</p> <h2><strong>Big-change scepticism </strong></h2> <p>Together these different forces mean that a healthy scepticism about big-change rhetoric — whether about the future of work or other issues — is essential. </p> <p>But it also needs to be measured. It’s all too easy to become a reflexive contrarian, expending all your energies puncturing myths and constantly seeking them out — even when they don’t exist. And when it comes to the world of work there<em> are</em> some very real shifts — whether the surge in older-working, self-employment and male part-time working or tech-driven reshaping of specific white-collar occupations.</p> <p>Far from this being a call for complacency, it’s a plea to focus on the very real challenges we <em>do </em>face. Overblown accounts of the ‘revolution’ we are living through tend to get in the way of this task. Real shifts are staring us in the face — they just tend not to be the ones we so often hear about.</p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://gavinkellyblog.com/the-sticking-power-of-false-narrative-f2cd80defaf3">Gavin Kelly's blog</a> on May 10, 2017. He writes there in his personal capacity.<br /></em></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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK United States Gavin Kelly Wed, 10 May 2017 19:39:44 +0000 Gavin Kelly 110789 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Britain's banks now know that they can keep buying our elections https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/britains-banks-now-know-that-they-can-keep-buying-our-elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Let's not forget who it is that pays for Tory party campaigns, and that what they demand in exchange threatens us all.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/City_of_London_skyline_from_London_City_Hall_-_Sept_2015_-_Crop_Aligned.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/City_of_London_skyline_from_London_City_Hall_-_Sept_2015_-_Crop_Aligned.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="255" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The City of London, Wikimedia Commons. By Colin and Kim Hansen.</span></span></span></p><p>In a way, the story of the last decade of British politics is a simple one. In 2008, the financial system collapsed, nearly taking the whole economy with it. In 2010, the same banks and financiers <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/feb/08/tory-funds-half-city-banks-financial-sector">paid for more than half</a> of the Conservative party’s election campaign, and started to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">tighten its grip</a> on the media. Money men don't give away cash out of the kindness of their hearts: they were buying something valuable. They were desperate to avoid regulation. And, largely, they did.</p> <p>The political consequences of this failure to get to grips with big finance have reverberated across the country. An economy based on a tiny number of bankers getting rich produces a country in which people feel ever more alienated. A system which allows those who gambled with everyone’s future to walk off with millions is one which heats <a href="https://www.edelman.co.uk/magazine/posts/edelman-trust-barometer-2017-uk-findings/">seething distrust</a> of all kinds of institution. A society which funnels its surplus wealth into speculation on the housing market rather than investing in the future is one which knows, deep down, that its best days are behind it.</p> <p>But political funding is at the heart of all of this. Because what the Conservative party knows only too well is that with a collapsed membership, it relies for its election funds on the same City which brought the economy to its knees a decade ago. What George Osborne understood was that the people who backed his two campaigns in 2010 and 2015 wanted something simple: that he stay out of the way of big finance; that, in the wake of the biggest banking crisis in a century, the Treasury do as little as possible to prevent another one; that no one would be made to learn any lessons; and that those who paid the price for the crisis wouldn’t be those who caused it.</p> <p>Of course, that isn’t to say that people haven’t paid the price. Like a good errand-boy, Osborne and his spin-doctor front man did what their paymasters commanded. They used the funding of the City and the pulpit of their party to preach austerity, to shift the blame for the crisis from the private sector to the public sector, from the financial system to the welfare state, from the enriched to the impoverished.</p> <p>And so, whenever the City collapses again – and it will – we will look back, and ask ourselves a simple question: how is it that we didn’t stop this from happening again? Why didn’t we regulate our banks properly? Why did we allow <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/the-ten-graphs-which-show-how-britain-became-a-wholly-owned-subsiduary-of-the-city-of-london-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/">private debt piles</a> to build themselves back up again so fast? Why didn’t we take the chance to restructure our economy?</p> <p>And there is a simple answer to that question: look at who paid for our election campaigns. Look at how the Conservative party scraped into power in both 2010 and 2015; examine how it managed to fund sophisticated database software so it knew what to say to your grandad to persuade him to vote for them; how they funded vast campaigns in key seats; how they outspent and outspent and outspent.</p> <p>Today’s decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute MPs for overspending can’t just be seen as a question of a referee refusing to blow the whistle when one team is a little offside. This isn’t about obscure election spending rules and a sense of fair play – though it’s about that too. It is about the deep structural problems of British politics and the British economy. Because what matters is not just how and where the money was spent, but who it came from, and what they wanted – what they got – in exchange. </p> <p>The City of London has long been a key actor in British politics. Blair and Brown famously courted it in the 1990s with their 'prawn cocktail offensive', and they too failed to grab the third rail of British politics. They too allowed it to grow unfettered. They too were funded by hedge funds and by other elite groups with dubious interests. But what the CPS has confirmed today is that big finance can pile up its pounds behind whichever party it thinks will do the least to regulate it, and that party can be confident it won’t face any real consequences. </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/sunny-hundal/cps-doesnt-press-charges-over-tory-over-spending">Why Conservative candidates avoided charges despite breaking rules of over-spending at the last election</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 10 May 2017 17:34:30 +0000 Adam Ramsay 110788 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Conservative candidates avoided charges despite breaking rules of over-spending at the last election https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/cps-doesnt-press-charges-over-tory-over-spending <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The CPS decision not to press charges for Tory over-spending in 2015 illustrates the mess our election laws are in</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/cameron.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/cameron.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cameron at a Tetley factory. Flickr/Number 10. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The CPS announced this morning it would not be pressing charges against Conservative party candidates over allegations of over-spending and breaking Electoral Commission rules.</p><p>The key point from the <a href="http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/latest_news/cps-statement-on-election-expenses/">Electoral Commission statement</a> is this: "In order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration. Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest."</p><p>In response the Tory chairman Patrick McCloughlin <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/election-2017-39839907">said</a>: "These were politically motivated and unfounded complaints that have wasted police time. We are glad that this matter is finally resolved."</p><p>But the complaints weren't unfounded and the matter is not yet resolved. The CPS is <a href="https://twitter.com/DannyShawBBC/status/862248795878412288">still deciding</a> whether to bring charges against the Conservative candidate in South Thanet.</p><p>But more broadly, the Conservatives were fined a record £70,000 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/16/conservatives-fined-70000-for-campaign-spending-failures">just a month ago</a> and its former treasurer reported to police after the Electoral Commission found “significant failures” in reporting campaign spending during the 2015 election.</p><p>The journalist Paul Mason<a href="https://twitter.com/paulmasonnews/status/862247652100067328"> tweeted</a>: "CPS confirms: UK electoral law unenforcable. While labour movement accounts for every penny, billionaires can buy any election they want"</p><p>Indeed, others also pointed to problems within electoral law that made it harder for the investigation to result in prosecutions.</p><p>"Election law is separated (for no good reason) between national and local. The <a class="twitter-atreply pretty-link js-nav" dir="ltr" href="https://twitter.com/ElectoralCommUK">@<strong>ElectoralCommUK</strong></a> deal with national. Police/CPS, local," <a href="https://twitter.com/davidallengreen/status/862252228471652352">tweeted</a> the lawyer David Allen Green. So while the Electoral Commission did take action by levying a big fine, the CPS could not prosecute local candidates as it could not prove they knowingly broke the law.</p><p>The Lib Dem leader <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/election-2017-39839907">Tim Farron said</a> the decision had left a "cloud hanging over British politics".</p><p>So what explains this confusing situation that many have criticised?</p><p>It's the split in election law between local and national spending that has allowed the Conservatives to get away without any charges so far.</p><p>Constituency candidates are required to stay within certain spending limits during the 'short' election. Money spent by the national party HQ towards a local election also counts towards that local limit, but <em>only</em> if it mentions the local candidate.</p><p>This is why Theresa May has been able to<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/theresa-may-is-getting-around-election-spending-limits-with-big-newspaper-ads"> advertise in local newspapers</a> without adding to local spending limits, as she has focused on herself not the local candidate.</p><p>But the Conservative <em>did</em> break local spending limits in the 2015 election. However since the national part is handled by the Electoral Commission, not the police, the worst it got was a fine. And since the CPS cannot prove beyond doubt the local candidates or election agents were being dishonest, no charges were pressed.</p><p>This episode illustrates the urgency with which electoral law needs to be updated and made more transparent for our democracy to be protected from abuse.</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 Sunny Hundal Wed, 10 May 2017 11:38:29 +0000 Sunny Hundal 110767 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We don't need more police, we need a shift of responsibilities https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/will-mcmahon/we-dont-need-more-police-we-need-shift-of-responsibilities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap. Election campaigns should concentrate not on the police budget, but on rebalancing responsibilities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Day_214_-_West_Midlands_Police_-_101_non-emergency_number_(9420640699).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Day_214_-_West_Midlands_Police_-_101_non-emergency_number_(9420640699).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Non-crime incidents account for 84% of all incoming calls to command and control centres. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/West Midlands Police from West Midlands. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Police numbers and funding have emerged as a general election issue this week thanks largely to a clumsy and muddled radio interview from shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott. Last week, Labour pledged to put 10,000 more "police on the streets" with Jeremy Corbyn emphasising the need for "uniformed officers being visible, local and accessible". In media interviews, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, defended cuts to police numbers and insisted "a Conservative budget will put security first and what we’ve seen in recent years is a protected police budget".</p> <p>After a period of unprecedented growth, the recent fall in police numbers since 2010 still leaves workforce numbers at historically high levels. Yet, police forces across the country report they are stretched to the limit by public demand. In 2015 the Police Federation launched the #CutsHaveConsequences campaign, highlighting what they called "extreme cuts" to police numbers. Speaking to the Police Federation annual conference in 2015, and defending police budget cuts, Theresa May said:</p><p><em>"Police officers are not social workers, they are not mental health nurses, or paramedics. And I stand by the sentiment. It is not good enough for police custody to be used as an overspill facility for A&amp;E - or for secure children’s homes to use the police to control the children in their care…the right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a bed, not a police cell. And the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers"</em></p><p>The police are too often called into situations that could better be dealt with by other professions. The College of Policing report, <em><a href="http://www.college.police.uk/News/College-news/Documents/Demand%20Report%2023_1_15_noBleed.pdf" target="_blank">Estimating demand on the police service</a></em>&nbsp;states that ‘non-crime’ incidents account for 84% of all incoming calls to command and control centres. This is a staggering figure - more than eight out of ten calls are for matters that should not be core business for the police.</p> <p>In 2012/2013, there were 19.6 million non-crime incidents recorded by the police. About 60% required action by officers, beyond resolving the issue during the phone call, either by way of an emergency or priority response (40%) or a scheduled visit (20%).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Many of those who once would have been placed in psychiatric institutions are now to be found in prison.</p> <p>Much of this demand is related to issues of Public Safety and Welfare (PSW), with a significant proportion, up to a third, relating to mental health issues. Many of these PSW issues can be complex and resource intensive to resolve. They are likely to relate to vulnerable populations, missing persons, suicides and child protection. In other words, the police are focused on what is really the core business of social work and mental health professionals, with a reported growing emphasis on mental health in the last few years. Indeed, just last month, Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The police are considered to be the service of last resort. In some areas, particularly where people with mental health problems need urgent help, the police are increasingly being used as the service of first resort. This is wrong.”</p> <p>This generational evolution of policing activity to overwhelmingly non-crime-related business can be attributed to a number of factors. </p> <p>First, the&nbsp;NHS and Community Care Act 1990&nbsp;led to the de-institutionalisation of people with long-term mental health problems and a shift to care in the community. Without adequate community support and funding, this has led to the police becoming increasingly called upon to deal with people in mental health crisis. One outcome has been that many of those who once would have been placed in psychiatric institutions are now to be found in prison.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap.</p> <p>Second, there was the introduction of neighbourhood policing teams and Police Community Support Officers. This soft-edged policing embedded the police in the terrain of informal local state responses to anti-social behaviour and low level social problems. Ward policing has, in effect, made officers easier to access for the resolution of low level problems than any other arm of national or local government. This has been reinforced by the presence of police in schools.</p> <p>Third, the promise of localism was undermined by cuts to local authority budgets of 35 per cent since 2010. The result was the withdrawal of the local state from social and welfare provision of various sorts – meals on wheels, youth service provision, social care, to the management of housing. As services were withdrawn from vulnerable people, the police occupied the gap, buoyed by historically high workforce numbers, drawing them further into the areas of social work.</p> <p>Each of these factors have contributed to the police being considered by the public as the first port of call to respond to a wide range of problems not related to law-breaking at all.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">An overall shift in government budgets away from policing and towards the training and employment of social work and mental health professionals.</p> <p>Over the past generation the public have been educated to call the police to address a wide range of social problems. The retraction of local state services has led to an increasing reliance on the police. For a shift in resources from front line police staff to front line social work and mental health staff to be a success, a change in public culture from ringing 999 for a first response, to contacting other more appropriate services, will be necessary.</p> <p>The resourcing of mental health workers and social workers to manage demand presently met by police officers should be a high priority. This would necessarily mean an overall shift in government budgets away from policing and towards the training and employment of social work and mental health professionals. This approach could lead to a radically downsized and less publicly visible police force, shorn of its social work responsibilities and instead, focusing on the estimated 16% of incoming calls to command and control centres that are actually about law-breaking.</p> <p>It may well be the case that communities need visible, local and accessible services and support workers. It is unlikely that in most cases these workers need to be uniformed police officers.&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> openJustice uk openJustice Will McMahon Tue, 09 May 2017 14:41:31 +0000 Will McMahon 110735 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can we make our media class less London centric? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/paul-atkins/can-we-make-our-media-class-less-london-centric <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">It's time the UK reversed the trend toward centralisation and created a media landscape truly reflective of the diversity of our country</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/bbc.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563411/bbc.png" 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'>BBC Salford. Flickr/Mike Heneghan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Imagine this scenario if you will. You have just arrived in Kettering, Tonypandy or any other often forgotten part of the UK. As an alien arriving from a foreign land, you flag down a taxi and get in. The first thing you notice is that the voices on the radio are not the same as that of your taxi driver. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>These are </span><span>national</span><span> radio stations. Probably broadcast from somewhere important, somewhere far away. Furthermore, almost every news story refers to this mystical place where everything happens. Your driver informs you that local programmes stop after 10 am, all radio shows come from London at this time in the day.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Even activities you were sure happened in other places seem to only occur in London. It’s incredible how many TV programmes are set in London, often for no other discernible reason than the fact that most of the people that make TV live there. British people have become mostly blind to this tendency. It takes an outsider to highlight the absurdity of the current situation. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Accusations of London-centrism are usually shrugged off by Londoners as an example of provincial sour grapes. What Londoners often do not understand (or forget) is the palpable sense of invisibility felt by the rest of the country. The idea that all the important things that happen in the world happen someplace else can have a powerful impact on communities. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>When your town is mentioned it is often ridiculed and made the butt of jokes on TV panel shows where the writers regard anywhere outside of the M25 as an uncivilised hellhole totally beneath the contempt of fashionable society. In these instances, it is not unreasonable to conclude that you are unrepresented, invisible and powerless. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>It is one thing if you happen to live in an idyllic cottage in the Cotswolds, but quite another if your community is blighted by high levels of unemployment, illness and social deprivation as is often the case in large parts of not-London. </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><span>The Southern Tilt </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>As the writer Jan Morris captured so perfectly “it is as though the British Isles are tilted permanently to one corner – the south-east corner, bottom right, where London stands seething upon the Thames. Everything slithers and tumbles down there, all the talent, all the money”. The media is no exception.&nbsp; <br /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The concentration of media activity in the capital matters because London and the UK are now on completely divergent tracks. From the 1980s onwards, whilst London began to boom with an upsurge in foreign capital and financialisation, the rest of the country - particularly those parts of the country at the hard-end of Thatcher’s deindustrial strategy - began to experience a very different narrative. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>London has come to view the rest of the country as a parasite regards a host. London is a global city, temporally and culturally remote from the rest of the UK. If it must be geographically located, southern Britain is as good a place as anywhere else. </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><span>The Media Class </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Sketching out the emerging social order during the New Labour era, the conservative commentator Peter Oborne described what he called a new ‘media class’, an elite group of (largely) public-educated, London-based professionals whose careers were spent navigating the revolving door between the worlds of politics, media, business and PR and their presence was increasingly being felt in every important area of public life. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Propaganda propagates not because of some grand conspiracy but because the people who make the news are in fact the same people who report it. They often share the same backgrounds, value systems, and in many cases postcodes. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The </span><span>Overton Window</span><span> was a concept originated by the sociologist Joseph Overton to describe the range of ideas and policies which are deemed to be politically possible and/or sensible at any point in time. </span><span>As soon as the spectrum of acceptable opinion and cultural values has been agreed upon it can be bootstrapped ad nauseum without the need for the vulgar interference of political apparatchiks. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As Overton understood all too well, this code can be internalised to the point where members of the </span><span>media class</span><span> can convince themselves that they are representing the world impartially. This particular London-centric, Overton Window explains the media’s bemused take on almost every important issue of our time, be it Brexit, Scottish Independence or indeed the rise of UKIP - which was so fetishised as example of feckless provincial rebellion that the media ended up unwittingly contributing to their success. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Unfortunately for the rest of us, with social mobility on the decline and the gap between rich and poor increasing, this small elite has never been so hermetically sealed from reality. According to the government’s own statistics in 2014, 43% of newspaper columnists and 26% of BBC executives attended independent schools - compared to 7% of the public as a whole</span><span>. These are just two statistics but they demonstrate the extent to which London’s elite have created a bubble where oxygen cannot reach. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>This should give all of us cause for alarm. Without a common ‘public sphere’ which speaks to all our hopes, fears and concerns, it is difficult to see how in the long-term the centre can hold. </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><span>Cutting Costs </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Whilst it true we are living in an age of unprecedented media saturation and availability, we are also living through a time of ever-increasing media consolidation and centralisation. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In his excellent book <a href="http://www.flatearthnews.net/">Flat Earth News</a>, Nick Davies argues that the traditional view of the journalist out in the field looking for stories is outdated. Over-worked journalists expected to churn out dozens of stories a day; increasingly rely on press releases cooked up by powerful interests to help them do their job.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In the world of local journalism, where profit margins are much tighter, this tendency has reached epidemic proportions. So much of what makes it into our local and/or regional newspapers are actually national stories repackaged with a local flavour. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Unfortunately, this is not confined to print journalism. Television and radio channels have all seen reductions in the amount and quality of local programming. Ironically, it is the growth in so-called media choice which has offered the regulators the cover they need to take a lighter touch approach. <br /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>If anything the internet by nature of its global reach promotes communities of interest over locality. People can be intimately aware of the goings on of people and places halfway across the world but remain totally ignorant of important events unfolding just down their street. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>It is also a fallacy to assume that the blogosphere and so-called citizen journalism will replace traditional local media. News is expensive to produce. An army of bloggers and commentators recycling the same information and commenting ad infinitum will never be a replacement for journalistic digging. Creating an even bigger echo chamber is unlikely to be useful. &nbsp;</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><span>Protecting and Enhancing Local Media </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Local media needs to be empowered to reject the purely commercial incentives to amalgamate and centralise. Regulation and devolution could be powerful instruments in the fight for traditional media. Each time there is an attempt to corrode local coverage or control; we should resist it in the strongest possible terms. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Remember that even in the digital age, our airwaves are precious commodities and there are plenty of providers willing to take over even the most unloved piece of bandwidth.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We should be pushing for increased local content from our public service broadcasters. Since its merger into one entity in 2003, ITV has continuously neglected regional programming and the BBC is now the only serious provider of such services.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In the digital realm, things are much more promising. Scotland’s excellent <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/">Bella Caledonia</a> and <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/">The National </a>are shining examples of platforms that are truly provocative and interesting. There are plenty of other examples of excellent projects going on around the country. I urge readers to contribute to<a href="https://nation.cymru"> Ifan Morgan Jones’ efforts</a> to set up an online, community-driven national news platform for Wales. </span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The rest of us need to take some responsibility too, if we are lucky enough to work in the media we need to be proactive in championing other places or where possible set up alternative media platforms which can grow to become the powerful voices in our own backyards. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The stories of our nations and regions are far too complex and multi-faceted to begin and end in one place. If we are ever to represent Britain properly we need to be more informed on life outside of citadel’s iron gates. </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 Paul Atkins Tue, 09 May 2017 10:57:37 +0000 Paul Atkins 110726 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to make the roads safer https://www.opendemocracy.net/https%3A/%252Fopendemocracy.net/openjustice/road-safety-london-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the number of UK cyclists soar, so do death and injury on the roads. These are two simple rules that would reduce accidents and simplify a victim's claim.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/cyclist.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/cyclist.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A motorist emerging into the path of a cyclist or a motorist turning across the path of a cyclist remain the most common causes of cycling collisions. Photo: Flikr/Lars Plougmann. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With more and more people taking to the roads and cycling, whether for fitness, sport or getting from A to Z, there has never been more attention on the Highway Code and how it protects vulnerable road users in terms of rights of way at junctions.</p> <p>The reason for concentrating on junctions is because a motorist emerging into the path of a cyclist or a motorist turning across the path of a cyclist remains the most common cause of cycling collisions according to the <a href="http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/." target="_blank">latest statistics</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>As lawyers dealing with hundreds of cases of road collisions involving cyclists and vehicles we can testify that a large proportion of these are caused by motorists either turning across a cyclist’s path or pulling out of a side road into a cyclist’s path.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Turning the Corner campaign suggests scrapping the 14 different rules in the Highway Code and requiring motorists to adhere to just one rule.</p> <h2><strong>The Highway Code and “Turning the Corner”</strong></h2> <p>Earlier this year British Cycling launched their ‘Turning the Corner’ campaign due to what they saw as a lack of coherent guidance in the Highway Code relating to junctions. They identified 14 different rules in the Highway Code that deal with junctions which they claimed led to confusion over who has right of way in certain scenarios.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Turning the Corner campaign suggests scrapping the 14 different rules in the Highway Code and requiring motorists to adhere to just one rule, which is a “universal duty to give way.”</p> <p>Martin Key, Campaigns Manager at British Cycling, says that this means that motorists must stop and check before they turn at a junction. The rule would apply everywhere.</p> <p>It massively simplifies the onus on the motorist and makes it clear what is expected of them at any junction. All they would be required to remember is to stop and check before carrying out their turn.</p> <p>The campaign has received endorsement from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group in their <a href="https://allpartycycling.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/appcg-justice-report-2017.pdf" target="_blank">“Cycling and the Justice System” report</a> published this month. The report made 14 proposals designed to better protect cyclists and these included revising the Highway Code with regards to giving way to cyclists at side road crossings and specifically referenced the Turning the Corner campaign.&nbsp;</p> <p>The advice is supported by the <a href="http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/pedal-cyclists/facts-figures/" target="_blank">latest statistics from ROSPA</a>, statistics which found the most common key contributory factor in road traffic collisions involving motorists and cyclists recorded by the police is “failed to look properly.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Presumed liability is a fairer system as it shifts the burden of proof from the more vulnerable party, an injured individual, onto the more powerful party to such claims, the insurer.</p> <h2><strong>Presumed Liability</strong></h2> <p>We believe that presumed liability, which is practiced in many European countries, would also make the roads safer for all road users by protecting the most vulnerable road users.&nbsp;</p> <p>Where presumed liability is the law, it is presumed when a collision occurs that the larger vehicle is held liable for the incident unless it can be demonstrated that the more vulnerable party was at fault.</p> <p>In a collision between a motorist and a cyclist, it will be presumed that the motorist was liable for the collision unless they can prove otherwise. Similarly, in a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclist would be presumed to be liable unless they could prove otherwise. </p> <p>The aim of the system is to develop a hierarchy on the roads based on mutual respect between all road users. It promotes careful road use where people look out for each other, which would surely be a very positive step on today’s busy roads and especially in and around junctions.</p> <p>Presumed liability is a fairer system as it shifts the burden of proof from the more vulnerable party, an injured individual, onto the more powerful party to such claims, the insurer.</p> <p>There are wide ranging benefits to the scheme but the most important is that claims should progress faster meaning that the injured party receives compensation quicker. This can then be used to obtain the treatment is required to maximise their recovery.</p> <p>Under the current system, establishing liability can be a difficult and time-consuming process meaning that unless the injured party has the money readily available to fund treatment, the opportunity for early rehabilitation can be lost.</p> <p>A common misconception is that presumed liability equates to strict liability, where liability cannot be disputed. This is not the case. If it can be shown that the injured party was at fault for the incident and was the “author of their own misfortune”, they would not receive compensation. It is not a case that the injured party will always receive compensation.</p> <p>The reversal of the burden of proof is unlikely to lead to many more cases being successful than is currently the case. If an insurer has a good case as to why they should not have to pay compensation, they can still defend a claim and they can still “win” the claim. </p> <p>The reversal of the burden would however give an insurer an incentive to give more careful consideration to those cases that they decide to defend, leading to quicker and less stressful resolution of the claim for the injured party.</p> <p>In terms of litigation costs, swifter resolution would also lead to lower legal costs being incurred as the costs of investigating liability would be significantly reduced except in cases where the insurer decided to defend the claim.</p> <p>This would therefore reduce the costs to insurers and, hopefully, in turn reduce the insurance premiums payable by the road users.</p> <p>The key message here is what we should be looking to achieve. Safer roads and, when incidents do occur, swifter access to compensation to get the injured party the rehabilitation they need as quickly as possible. Based on our European counterparts, presumed liability may be the way towards this.</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> openJustice uk openJustice Make your voice heard (openJustice) Jane Bedford McLaren and William Broadbent Mon, 08 May 2017 15:06:13 +0000 Jane Bedford McLaren and William Broadbent 110701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The racist attack on Reker Ahmed was rooted in May's asylum policies https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/hsiao-hung-pai/draconian-asylum-policies-breed-racist-attacks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To understand the near-fatal attack of Reker Ahmed in Croydon, we need to look at the bigger picture: prime minister Theresa May’s draconian policies and the hostile media.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/14163757085_8d6f2ff671_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/14163757085_8d6f2ff671_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-racism protest in London. Flickr/Garry Knight. Some rights reserved</span></span></span>When I heard the news that the 17-year-old unaccompanied Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker, Reker Ahmed, who had only arrived in Britain seeking sanctuary a few months ago, was brutally attacked in Croydon <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/reker-ahmed-brother-of-kurdish-asylum-seeker-says-sibling-is-unrecognisable-after-attack-a3507301.html">last month</a>, the first image that came into mind was that of the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. The Lawrence murder, the silence in the community, and the institutional cover-up opened my eyes to Britain's deep-seated racism.</p> <p>In the following two decades, as a newcomer to British society, I have seen numerous deaths, murders and attacks on anyone who is perceived as an “outsider” – be they Chinese migrant workers, members of BME communities, Muslims, asylum seekers or refugees. In 2005, a Chinese man, Mi Gao Huang Chen, who ran a takeaway shop in Wigan with his girlfriend, was brutally beaten to death by a gang of 20 white youths who had been harassing the couple for months. The police did not respond to their cries for help until the day before Chen’s murder. The racially-motivated nature of their crime was largely ignored during the trial, with the police saying there might be a “suspected racial element”.</p> <p>Given the serious injuries to his head and spine, Reker Ahmed is lucky to have survived. The media descended on Shrublands, in Shirley, Croydon, where the attack occurred. The centre of the attention was focused on an estate pub called ‘The Goat’, where some of those involved in the attack might have been drinking. One of the white bar staff nervously told me that the manager could not speak to me. She also said I was not allowed to talk to their customers inside the pub. “This is not a racist pub,” she said, probably guessing my assumptions. Outside in the beer garden, another white staff member said to me: “You are not allowed to ask our customers questions”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Given the serious injuries to his head and spine, Reker Ahmed is lucky to have survived. </p><p>Meanwhile, several local black customers condemned the attack and insisted that the area is ethnically diverse and does not tolerate racism. One of them, in his thirties, said: “Don’t believe what they say in the papers. We’re not racists here. We’ve lived alongside asylum seekers for a long time and there’s never been an issue. This is a very mixed community.” Another, in his sixties, who has lived there for thirty years, felt indignant at what he perceived as the labelling of their community. He was originally from Zambia. “I’ve been here most of my life and we get along fine with everyone. We come in here [to the pub] and talk to everyone… This is not a racist community.”</p><p>Instead of focusing our attention on the multi-ethnic working-class community in Shirley, which, like everywhere else, is in opposition to any hate crimes, we should look at the bigger picture. The racist attack on Reker Ahmed has to be set in the context of consistent attacks on asylum seekers and refugees by our media and government policies. The demonisation of asylum seekers and refugees has been going on for years. Remember how the tiny number of underage asylum seekers from the demolished Calais camp were treated when they arrived in Britain last October? The tabloids mocked and demonised them in their persistent, anti-migrant, anti-refugee propaganda.</p> <p>When Theresa May urged the country to track down those responsible for the attack on Reker Ahmed, the only image that came to my mind was her draconian asylum policies. Recently, her government abandoned pledges under the Dubs amendment to bring 3000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into Britain. Where have these children ended up? In the woods in Calais, in camps in Dunkirk, and sleeping rough on the streets of Paris. Some, tragically, have lost their lives trying to jump onto lorries in an attempt to get to Britain.&nbsp;</p> <p>Britain’s prime minister has a track record of attacking asylum seekers. Not only has May argued against rescue operations in the Mediterranean, calling it a pull factor, she has also refused to fulfil international obligations to receive refugees (only a pitiful 3% of asylum applications in Europe were lodged in Britain). In her notorious Tory conference speech in 2015, she also spelt out that asylum seekers should not even be allowed into Britain before their claims were assessed. She also demonised asylum seekers by claiming that “a significant number of asylum seekers were foreign criminals”. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Britain’s prime minister has a track record of attacking asylum seekers. </p><p>In that conference, she set out plans to make Britain a less welcoming place for asylum seekers. In other words, to make life hell for them, vowing to introduce strengthened ‘safe return reviews’ so that when a refugee’s temporary stay of protection comes to an end, or if there is an improvement in the conditions of their own country, the government will review their need for protection rather than offer settlement in Britain.</p> <p>These have been put into place under May as Home Secretary. Under her policies, asylum seekers, having finally got over all the hurdles to being granted refugee status, will face a review after five years which assesses whether they can be safely returned to their home country. While in Britain, they live under the constant threat of deportation. This, for May, is to deter anyone from seeking refuge in “civilised” Britain.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to mention the sub-standard financial support and appalling living conditions in which asylum seekers often find themselves trapped – living in shelters managed by private companies who are interested in nothing but filling their pockets.</p> <p>These government policies, combined with the hostility of the media, have doubtless led to much misery for asylum seekers, and have strengthened racism, resulting in the increase in hate crimes we are currently seeing. To make sure that racist attacks never happen again, we need to resist these policies, call out racism in the media, and make sure that the very circumstances that breed extreme racism are eradicated.</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/jenny-bourne/seeds-of-post-brexit-racial-violence-lie-in-government-policy">The seeds of post-Brexit racial violence lie in government policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">&#039;Go Home&#039; texts expose anti-migrant British policy to the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</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 Hsiao-Hung Pai Fri, 05 May 2017 23:00:23 +0000 Hsiao-Hung Pai 110236 at https://www.opendemocracy.net