uk cached version 22/03/2018 23:13:31 en Resisting the gig economy: the emergence of cooperative food delivery platforms <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Examples from Spain, France and Germany show how the power of unions and cooperatives can be combined to fight back against&nbsp;gig employers<em>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the UK seven million people from working households are in poverty, and real wages have seen a 10.4% drop in the last decade (more than anywhere else in Europe). At the same time the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country got richer by&nbsp;billions&nbsp;after Brexit. Platform companies are helping to widen the gap between rich and poor by paying poverty wages while producing bubbles with unjustifiably high asset prices and low productivity. Alisher Usmanov, the fifth richest man in Britain, initially made his money from mining steel and iron ore but has now grown his fortune by investing in companies such as Spotify and Airbnb. Deliveroo doesn’t own its restaurants or employ its riders, but is worth more than the UK’s second biggest food chain Wetherspoons. Deliveroo saw its losses increase by over 300% in 2017. But that didn’t stop its founder giving out £4.5 million in share bonuses to directors and treating himself to a generous 22.5% pay rise, all while Deliveroo’s riders are denied a minimum wage, sick leave and holiday pay.&nbsp;With profits&nbsp;from share ownership going to a small minority, coupled with stagnating wages, the wealth gap between labour and the owners of capital in the economy is ever diverging. It’s time to think not just about a fair share of income but also fair distribution of ownership, something cooperative food delivery platforms could be a leading example of. </p><strong>Couriers in Europe</strong><p> After the first strikes of UK Deliveroo riders in 2016, mobilisations rippled through to France, Spain and Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, with strikes taking place in Bologna only two weeks ago. In Germany couriers began organising with the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers Union (FAU) last year. The FAU provided a horizontal and open space for the&nbsp;<em>Deliverunion</em>&nbsp;campaign to flourish, mobilising over 100 riders to direct action and winning a pay bonus per km. With no paid staff or organisers, support came from members from other sections, such as primary school teachers and carers, a reminder that unions don’t act or make decisions in themselves&nbsp;but that workers act in their name and with their resources. The FAU union has gathered a group of developers to create its own online platform, where riders can login to discuss what to include in their collective agreement and vote on it. This tool allows couriers to take an active part in developing demands and making decisions without having to be physically present at union meetings. It is also a mobilising tool, to vote on strike actions and spread messages across the workforce quickly. If digital platforms can connect customers and couriers on demand, then this is an example of how they can be used by unions to help organise “fragmented” workers. </p><strong>The potential of cooperative digital platforms</strong><p> This collaborative culture fostered among organised couriers is the first step&nbsp;to be able to co-develop their own food delivery platforms.&nbsp;That is the idea behind “<a href=""></a>”, an open source food delivery app licensed under&nbsp;<em>the peer-to-peer foundation</em>&nbsp;and co-operatively managed by its developers and any riders who want to use it. A forum of food couriers from across Europe are planning to implement it in France and Germany, while riders in Spain are on the verge of launching their own cooperative version of the&nbsp;Deliveroo app in Barcelona. These co-owned delivery platforms could offer a meaningful business alternative to Foodora, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and co where the profits of the company go to those who are actually “driving” it, and where workers can enjoy better working conditions, safe contracts, sick pay, holidays and above all, respect.&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong>Co-ownership wouldn’t just mean sharing the profits, it would also mean&nbsp;&nbsp;democratic governance and accountability, as well as transparency on the use of workers’ data, and the functions of the algorithms that dictate couriers’ day to day work. A cooperative business could also offer competitive prices. While Deliveroo charges an extortionate 30% to restaurants for each order, a cooperative model could reduce this charge once core costs are covered. For example, once an order reaches over £15 the cooperative has made enough to cover the rider’s wage and other outgoings, meaning orders over that amount&nbsp;could become cheaper. These cooperatively run food delivery platforms would present a different vision from that of Silicon valley,&nbsp;a radical move away from the obsession of attracting venture capital to&nbsp;make&nbsp;short term speculative profits for a rich few. The platform economy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and monopoly digital platforms are further reducing workers’ slice of the pie. But examples emerging from Spain, France and Germany show how the power of unions and cooperatives can be combined to push back against&nbsp;gig employers, and offer a glimpse of hope for the future of&nbsp;delivery&nbsp;platform work<em>.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anna Baum Thu, 22 Mar 2018 08:31:45 +0000 Anna Baum 116814 at Spycop victims walk out of Undercover Policing Inquiry, demanding Mitting step down or appoint an expert panel <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Campaigners and victims of political policing withdrew en masse from the Mitting Inquiry today, frustrated at the judge's insistence on protecting the identity of police officers involved in deceptive relationships and infiltration of the Lawrence campaign.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Image: Police spies out of lives</em></p><p>“No justice, no peace” and “sack Mitting now” were the cries from campaigners and victims of political policing as they blocked the main entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice, after storming out of the latest hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry (<a href="">UCPI</a>).</p> <p>Campaigners held aloft a large banner with the words "Tear Down the #Spycops Inquiry's Brick Wall of Silence".</p> <p>The frustrated group of men and women left Court Room 73 – where the latest Inquiry hearing was held - in protest at Sir Mitting's decision to keep most undercover police officers' identities a secret. They were unhappy, too, at his perplexing insistence on accepting at face value claims that police have been acting in good faith and that undercover names need to remain concealed. Calling himself an "old fashioned man", Mitting apparently considers it highly improbable&nbsp;those officers who were married would have engaged in any improper behaviour while undercover. A proposition that is difficult to challenge so long as Mitting insists on keeping the cover names of those very officers secret. </p> <p>“There are three major problems with the Inquiry,” Suresh Grover of the <a href="">Monitoring Group</a> (the support group for victims of race-based hate crimes) commented outside the Royal Courts. “The first is the delay. The Inquiry was set up four years ago and as yet hasn’t even started hearing evidence from police officers and from those directly affected by spying...principally because of police obstructions within the Inquiry using all sorts of legal loopholes to delay naming either the undercover or real names of police officers”.</p> <p>“All the names that have come out have really come out because of the way campaigners have put the information in the public themselves.”</p> <p>Grover went on, “The second is that we have had no disclosure of our files. We don’t know what is in our [police files] that has made us ‘core participants’, although a huge amount of money has been spent on this inquiry”. As we talked, two core participants played a modified version of “Another Brick in the Wall” behind us. </p> <p>“The third thing,” Grover commented, “is Mitting himself. Mitting’s attitude is really to believe the police” and “create all kinds of reasons about security and danger to [the police] when there is no evidence of it. Most of the campaigners involved in the Inquiry have never used violence in their campaigning. In fact we have a [former police spy] whistle-blower <a href="">Peter Francis</a> who was an ex SDS officer, he is amongst us and he has never been threatened for what he did”</p> <p>Former undercover officer Neil Woods <a href="">recently authored</a> an article calling anonymity for the police a “privilege” that is being “abused in the spycops inquiry”. </p> <p>In his article for the Guardian, Woods scoffs at the idea that police anonymity is about safety:</p> <p>“I was undercover for many years, and the jail time of all the people I put in prison adds up to about a thousand years. During the last hearing, Peter Francis, that spycop turned whistle-blower, pointed out that this was greater than the total prison time meted out by the [Special Demonstration Squad] in its 40-year history. Clearly, the SDS was not investigating dangerous people; there’s certainly no evidence to suggest they were dangerous.”</p> <p>Phillippa Kaufman QC <a href="">called</a> Mitting “the usual white, upper middle class, elderly gentleman” whose life experience was not suited for him to direct the Undercover Policing Inquiry on his own. </p> <p>After the non-state core participants walked out of court, en masse, Kaufman explained her clients’ position further to the few members of the press core outside the Courthouse steps.</p> <p>She explained, the Inquiry Judge Sir John Mitting “was asked to do what happened with the Lawrence Inquiry, to sit with a panel of individuals who have direct experience of the matters that go into the heart of this inquiry, because race discrimination and sex discrimination lie at the heart of what happened with undercover policing - the <a href="">infiltration into the Lawrence campaign</a> [and] into the other justice campaigns which are about the <a href="">deaths of the young black men in police custody</a> and all of the relationships that women had with undercover officers”.</p> <p>In a written statement to the House of Commons on 12 March 2015 the then Home Secretary Theresa Ma, announced a public inquiry that would “review practices in the use of undercover policing, establishing justice for the families and victims and making recommendations for future operations and police practice”.</p> <p>Three years later, however, the UCPI, headed now by Sir John Mitting, has yet to hear one piece of evidence. <a href="">Mitting took over the UCPI in July 2017 after Court of Appeal Justice Sir Christopher Pitchford, stepped down</a> from his role due to ill health. He <a href="">passed away</a> soon thereafter.<strong></strong></p> <p>Home Secretary Amber Rudd appointed Mitting as Pitchford’s replacement.</p> <p>The problem with Mitting is not simply that he is an upper-middle class white man who views the national security state with sympathetic eyes. Mitting himself is a long standing participant of the secret state, having served as the Chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) from 2007 to 2012. The SIAC is a system in which <a href="">secrete evidence</a>, that is withheld from non-state participants, is the norm. In 2007 the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights <a href="">called the</a> SIAC "Kafkaesque" and “like the <a href="">Star Chamber</a>”. The report explicitly concluded that </p> <p>“the public should be left in absolutely no doubt that what is happening… has absolutely nothing to do with the traditions of adversarial justice as we have come to understand them in the British legal system."</p> <p>A 2012 <a href="">report</a> from Amnesty International describes a frightening “creeping spread of secrecy in the UK” epitomised by the SIAC.</p> <p>This is the Commission that Mitting happily chaired for 5 years. </p> <p>His decision to chair SIAC can reasonably be interpreted to mean Mitting approved of this system and does not see something fundamentally wrong with secret courts, secret evidence and accepting the word of the national security state on a regular basis.</p> <p>There should therefore be no doubt, that when Mitting was appointed by Home Secretary Rudd to replace Pitchford, he was chosen with the understanding that he would be a “safe pair of hands”. It was therefore because of, not in spite of, his deep professional connections to the National Security State that he was selected for the job of UCPI chair. </p> <p>It is within this context that the demands of the non-state core participants must be understood. And why they have declared that without a panel of experts to join him on the Inquiry, Mitting must be “sacked”.</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/police-spies-out-of-lives/spy-cops-new-chair-inquiry-raises-concerns-police-delay">Spycops inquiry - concerns over new Chair, as police continue to delay</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/merrick-badger/spycops-activities-in-scotland-cannot-be-ignored">Spycops activities in Scotland cannot be ignored</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/mohamed-elmaazi/spying-surveillance-and-sabotage-what-will-it-take-to-hold-political-policing-to-">Spying, surveillance and sabotage - what will it take to bring an end to political policing?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/adam-elliott-cooper/doreen-lawrence-police-spies-and-institutional-racism">Doreen Lawrence, police spies and institutional racism</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 Mohamed Elmaazi Wed, 21 Mar 2018 17:57:11 +0000 Mohamed Elmaazi 116809 at Of red tape and Brexit red herrings in the war between business and the environment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We shouldn’t be demonising regulations that are there to protect our future, as “red tape”. Part two of a three part series.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// crossing big.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// crossing big.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href="!_Newt_Crossing.jpg">Sethoscope </a>via Wikimedia, Creative Commons license.<br /></em></p><p>David Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition government launched the Red Tape Challenge in April 2011. The government said it was “challenging the public to help cut unnecessary regulations.” The real aim, it seems, was to confirm the Tory reputation as being good for business, and the idea the economy could be jolted back into life through a few cuts here and a restructure or two there. It also reinforced the story that regulation, or bureaucracy, was the scourge of British life.</p> <p>The Red Tape Challenge included yet another house building review (see part one of this series for the history of recent reviews). </p> <p>Again, the doors to the house building lobby remained open. The review was, according to the government, set up “to identify...unnecessary <a href="">regulatory barriers to growth</a> and associated costs to the house building sector, while ensuring necessary protections are maintained...[it] will examine any aspects of regulation or the way it is implemented which could be made simpler, more cost-effective, efficient, proportionate, or consistent.”</p> <p>The Wildlife and Countryside Link, which represents environment charities, observed: “A <a href="">review of biodiversity regulations</a> was also undertaken, to which 84 percent of responses were <em>in support</em> of <em>keeping or strengthening</em> existing regulations and only two percent were in support of removing or weakening them.” (Emphasis added). </p> <p>George Osborne, then chancellor, personally took up the cause of the house builders. In doing so, he came out strongly against our dozy great crested newt and its EU protectors. He demanded a review of the implementation of the birds and habitats directives, and its impact on business and developers, in November that year. Osborne made headlines when he seemed to pre-empt the results of the review by announcing that these wildlife protections were "<a href="">placing ridiculous costs on British businesses</a>".</p> <p>The review was led by Osborne’s cabinet colleague, Caroline Spelman, in her role as environment secretary. But it did not all go his way. Spelman said: "The review has shown the <a href="">directives have been working well</a> to provide the vital protection nature needs”, though she added “there are cases where problems arise and delays occur, which is not good for business, the environment or local communities." </p> <p>The 54-page report established that Natural England - responsible for implementing the EU directives - in fact objected to fewer than 0.5 percent of planning applications. Spelman admitted: "There are a handful of cases where we have had problems." The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) nonetheless presented 28 new recommendations, promised to establish three new specialist units and published another tranche of "new streamlined guidance".</p> <p>Martin Harper, conservation director at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said at the time: "The government's own review has shown that the chancellor's comments were misleading rhetoric, with no factual basis. We remain determined to persuade the government that there is no contradiction between environmental protection and economic growth." Carol Day, a lawyer at the international conservation charity WWF, was even more blunt: "Osborne's claims were completely wrong.” </p> <p>The government would later claim that the Spelman review delivered more than £1 million in savings to housing developers over three years, by simplifying the planning process. “Savings have been made chiefly via the introduction of an ‘annexed licence’ system for <a href="">works affecting bats, great crested newts and dormice</a> – which has reduced the number of applications and subsequent rejections and reapplications,” Natural England boasted in its press release.</p> <p><strong>EU regulations are not immutable, as the newt has learned</strong></p> <p>Fast forward three years to 2015 and it was the European Union’s turn to review the birds and habitats directives, again taking on the complaints of house builders in the UK and elsewhere. The European Commission announced a review<a href=""> of nature conservation laws</a> in order to assess whether they remained “fit for purpose”. Over 550,000 EU citizens responded to the commission’s public consultation on the issue, including 100,000 from the UK - the largest ever response to an EU public consultation.</p> <p>The Wildlife and Countryside Link was among the British respondents. It argued that the directives were too often presented as a barrier to growth when the reality was “[t]he network of sites protected under the directives represent the foundations of UK nature conservation and a core component of the UK’s natural capital, supporting the delivery of a wide range of ecosystem services essential for human health and well-being.” It concluded: “Without the directives, nature in the UK would be in a far worse state.”</p> <p>That same year, Natural England announced a fundamental shift in the way it would interpret the EU regulations and enforce protections of the great crested newt. This was in response to lobbying by the house building sector, but also because new technology had become available.</p> <p>DNA mapping would be used to identify larger populations of great crested newts within local authority areas, and the directives would be used to protect these locations. House builders who discovered a couple of newts would no longer have to stop in their tracks. The few would be sacrificed for the greater good. A trial was established in Woking, and even before it had concluded, the policy was being adopted in other parts of the UK.</p> <p><em>The Telegraph</em> reported gleefully: “[G]reat crested newts will no longer be able derail new housing… developers will no longer be required to move individual newts, as long as councils protect the biggest populations and best habitat.” The newspaper also reported that Natural England had, in any case, only issued about 1,000 licences to disturb great crested newts so far in 2015. </p> <p><strong>It’s not the rules that are the problem – but how they’re implemented</strong></p> <p>Three months after Natural England announced the Woking pilot, the commission published the conclusions of its review of the nature directives, which had found that it was the implementation of the directives, not the rules themselves, that needed improvement. </p> <p>The conclusions were adopted by the European Parliament’s Environment Council in December 2015, followed by the full Parliament two months later. Rory Stewart, a junior Defra minister, reported back to Parliament, telling MPs that “the UK raised concerns over the implementation of the nature directives” but then admitted that this was best resolved “through looking at much better approaches to implementation”. This was in effect admitting that the EU and its directives were all in good order. But the British government, through its agencies, was failing in terms of implementation. </p> <p>In the wake of the EU’s Environment Council decision, DEFRA set about trying to get an agreement between the various interest groups. “Ministers are looking to set in place a Memorandum of Agreement between government, developer organisation and environmental bodies to take forward a programme of work to agree improved <em>implementation</em> arrangements,” the House Builders Federation(HBF) informed its members. “The HBF attaches importance to this work being expedited.”</p> <p>The whole charade moved back onto UK shores. Civil servants from Defra, the then Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and Natural England met with charities and with developers and their representatives, including of course, the HBF. </p> <p>The different interest groups sat down together, listened diligently, and began to reach a consensus, a solution to how to implement the directives. The house builders were mindful of the need to protect the great crested newt, the environment charities understood the pressing need for new housing. </p> <p>The HBF continued to express concern about <em>how</em> the regulations were being <em>implemented</em>. John Slaughter, director of external affairs, published <em>Cutting Red Tape – Sector Review of House Building</em>. The report stated: “The <em>implementation</em> of the Habitats and Birds Directives can be problematic for house building.” </p> <p>Referring to an issue in Thames Basin Heaths, it added: “[T]here should be a duty on the <em>regulatory bodies</em> and <em>local authorities</em> to plan proactively for strategic solutions that can successfully meet both conservation and development requirements...There have been other examples of the <em>implementation</em> of the directives resulting in adverse impacts on home building.”</p> <p>The emphasis is added. But the message remains clear. It was the implementation of the rules by the British government and its agencies - agencies answerable to the Conservative cabinet, including at that time George Osborne - that was the problem for home builders. It was <em>not</em> the EU and its directives.</p> <p>The disparate groups reached the point where they were happy to all agree to the memorandum of agreement. This was due to be signed on 24 June 2016. Indeed, 2016 was the year house building in Britain had returned to good health, great crested newt or no. </p> <p>“A generally more attractive environment for house building investment, improved economic conditions and political action to tackle blockages and support first-time buyers has contributed to unprecedented increases in housing supply which has risen by more than 50 percent in just three years,” the HBF rejoiced. But then... </p> <p><strong>Thrown under the great red Brexit bus?</strong></p> <p>Brexit rebooted the whole process – again. The whole conversation around great crested newts, house building, planning, regulations and European directives became subsumed in the great Brexit debate. The June 2016 memorandum of understanding was abandoned, or at least put on hold. Some involved in the process expressed frustration that “the whole delicate process was thrown under the big red Brexit bus”.</p> <p>Take back control. Westminster, not Brussels. Controlling our borders. No more immigration. No more busy body bureaucrats. No more red tape. The concordat between housing developers and conservationists was shelved by government. A letter from the stakeholders, from the HBF to the RSPB, was sent asking that ministers in fact improve the implementation of the directives, but so far to no avail. &nbsp;</p> <p>John Tutte, the chief executive of developer Redrow, launched an attack on EU directives themselves. He was reportedly supported by the HBF, a story covered by <em>The Telegraph</em>. I asked the HBF whether this represented a change in policy for the trade association, or whether it reflected a pre-existing divergence of views in the organisation. I am yet to receive a response.</p> <p>Tutte complained that different species facing extinction need protection during different periods of the business year - not leaving enough time for his developers. "The UK has the <a href="">largest colonies of great crested newts</a> in the whole of Europe. We haven't got a shortage, there's no threat to great crested newts in the UK, but it's European legislation," he is quoted as saying. The old complaint - and others like it - was again heard in the corridors of power. </p> <p><em>In the next instalment in this three-part series, we look at the Brexit red herring – and where the confused claims about the desirability and deregulation are really coming from. &nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/brendan-montague/brexiteer-and-newt-case-study-in-eu-corporations-and-nature">The Brexiteer and the newt – a case study in the EU, corporations and nature</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 Brendan Montague Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:55:14 +0000 Brendan Montague 116807 at Not just a job: supporting refugees into sustainable employment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Persistent barriers to work are creating brain waste, serving as a loss for employers, society and refugees themselves.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Syrian refugees (who cannot be identified for legal reasons) at a charity in London after they arrived from Calais to the UK via the Safe Passage legal route. Jonathan Brady/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>More must be done to help refugees into work. That was the verdict of the recent <a href="">UNHCR study</a> into the UK’s efforts to integrate Syrian refugees.</p> <p>No one feels this more than ‘Rahim.’ He worked for 20 years as a mechanical engineer in Sudan only to find himself rummaging through bins in London for food. He often wonders how he’ll rebuild his life after arriving on the shores of Europe with nothing but his life spared and his family thousands of miles away.</p> <p>‘I am trying to forget it’, he tells us, quietly.</p> <p>We are there to ask Rahim about his job prospects and the support he’s getting from a flagship programme run by Renaisi, <a href="">RISE (Refugees Into Sustainable Employment)</a>, but this now appears trivial given how much he’s already overcome just to be here, sat in front of us, and articulating his story with quiet dignity and calm. <span class="mag-quote-center">Like so many other refugees in London, Rahim is highly skilled yet struggling to find work.</span></p> <p>Like so many other refugees in London, Rahim is highly skilled yet struggling to find work. It’s a familiar tale of unemployment, of underemployment, of tacit experience which Rahim has yet to master, and of untapped skills and potential. </p> <p>Employment is the <a href="">most significant factor</a> favouring long-term integration of refugees and critical for the journey towards belonging, and yet significant barriers remain. A lack of clarity over <a href="">working rights and a lack of recognition</a> of refugees’ qualifications can deter employers from hiring refugees. </p> <p>As well as this, many refugees have fled for their life, and are likely to be traumatised from what they have seen and been through. They may not speak English and usually have to navigate an entirely different culture and labour market from their homeland, often facing discrimination along the way. </p> <p>‘Ruth’ (another RISE participant) tells us that she needs ‘jobs for mothers’ that can fit around her childcare responsibilities. With an average cost of <a href="">£222.36 per week</a> for childcare in Britain, we can empathise with Ruth when she asks, ‘why would I pay someone else to look after my kids for double the money I can earn?’ </p> <p>RISE sources some great jobs from innovative initiatives such as the <a href="">Breaking Barriers programme</a> but as we continue to talk to these refugees about their circumstances, it strikes us that the challenge is much more than just finding jobs; it is also about providing language support, building confidence, sourcing affordable childcare and dealing with mental health issues associated with trauma. RISE offers support for all these issues but more often than not, the programme also has to overcome issues of homelessness and destitution before any refugee can even consider discussing employment and training. In short, what is required is a holistic package of support to meet refugees’ needs, of which employment support is just one element. <span class="mag-quote-center">More often than not, the programme also has to overcome issues of homelessness and destitution before any refugee can even consider discussing employment and training.</span></p> <h2><strong>Giving back</strong></h2> <p>For refugees, too, employment represents much more than just finding a job – something that’s arguably much easier to do these days thanks to the likes of <em>Uber</em> and <em>Deliveroo</em>. Refugees want to work to become self-sufficient and to re-build their lives. In this sense, finding employment is about more than just financial security; it also provides a sense of self-worth, the opportunity to deploy hard-earned skills and qualifications, and to widen one’s social connections. </p> <p>While headlines of bogus asylum seekers and welfare tourism could lead you to believe that refugees want a free ride, nothing could be further from the truth. Rahim wants nothing more than to apply his skills and work as mechanical engineer, but he’s had little luck with employers who don’t value his Sudanese experience. </p> <p>Despite this, Rahim doesn’t give up. Instead he gives back; volunteering at a Synagogue interpreting Arabic to English, and at a Sudanese school where he volunteers as an assistant teacher teaching Arabic and Islamic studies. For him, being able to meaningfully participate and contribute to his local community is as important to his well-being and self-worth as finding paid work. ‘It’s good for me’, he tells us, ‘Before volunteering, I knew nobody here.’ </p> <p>Employers also have much to gain from hiring refugees beyond that of just filling vacancies. Aside from the diverse experience and skills that refugees bring, they are also highly motivated and have a strong work ethic. In a recent survey of over <a href="">2,000 employers in Germany</a>, more than three out of four employers who had hired refugees reported few or no difficulties with them in daily work, and 80% were broadly or fully satisfied with their work. <span class="mag-quote-center">For him, being able to meaningfully participate and contribute to his local community is as important to his well-being and self-worth as finding paid work.</span></p> <p>Persistent barriers to work are creating brain waste, serving as a loss for employers, society and refugees themselves. From Lord Dubs to Sigmund Freud, people who are given the opportunity to rebuild their lives, often from terrible circumstances, grab the opportunity with both hands and go on to make huge contributions to their country. </p> <p>Sir Mo Farah arrived in the UK with almost no English; we have recently seen him knighted for his services to athletics. With these examples in mind, and with the threat of post-Brexit skill and labour shortages looming, shouldn’t we be asking what more this country could be doing to help newcomers realise their potential? </p> <p>Indeed, shouldn’t we be asking what more can be done to help all British communities who are struggling to access the employment opportunities that they deserve? The <a href="">Mayor of London</a> is the latest person to call for us to redefine integration policy as one that concerns the economic success of ‘All of Us’ and not just particular racial, ethnic or migrant groups, who then tend to be ‘problematised’ in popular debates. <span class="mag-quote-center">Indeed, shouldn’t we be asking what more can be done to help all British communities who are struggling to access the employment opportunities that they deserve?</span></p> <p>Conceptualising integration in this way is not incompatible with a recognition that refugees face particularly entrenched barriers to work.</p> <p>Initiatives such as RISE are vital in addressing some of these barriers because refugees often require a much broader package of joined-up and coordinated support which go beyond employment and training. Mental health services, housing and childcare provision (to name just a few) are all critical in underpinning and enabling sustainable work for refugees. </p> <p>And while recent cuts to many of these services may have undermined the prospects for a more coordinated response to refugee integration in the UK, there is promising work, gaining momentum in Europe, which offers plenty of inspiration.</p> <p>The <a href="">Danish, Swedish and German governments</a> are all working closely with social partners and employers to proactively improve the labour market integration of refugees. Meanwhile, the European Commission has launched <a href=""><em>Employers together for integration</em></a>, a high-profile initiative designed to give visibility to the work that employers are doing to support the integration of refugees and other migrants into the labour market. </p> <p>The initiative is supported by the likes of Cisco, The Adecco Group and Deutsche Telekom AG. Underlying all of this, is the growing recognition that the successful integration of refugees into work could not just benefit refugees but also solve some of Europe’s skill and labour shortages. Two years ago, German state governments declared ‘Every Euro we spend on training migrants is a Euro to avoid a shortage of skilled labour.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">Two years ago, German state governments declared ‘Every Euro we spend on training migrants is a Euro to avoid a shortage of skilled labour.’</span></p> <p>What would it mean for the UK to follow suit? It would mean acknowledging that refugees have a right to be here and the right to fully participate in our society to support themselves and their families. It would mean supporting their right to be employed and use their skills and experience because that investment will be repaid many times over. </p> <p>It would also mean recognition of the fact that, for many refugees, employment is about more than just having a job; it is an opportunity to rebuild a life. </p> <p>Rahim perhaps sums it up best: ‘I would be able to dream.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>RISE (Refugees into Sustainable Employment) is supported through the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund (ESF).</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>RISE (<a href="">Refugees into Sustainable Employment</a>) is supported through the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund (ESF).</em></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </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 Chiara Manzoni Erica Consterdine Rachel Marangozov Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:39:56 +0000 Rachel Marangozov, Erica Consterdine and Chiara Manzoni 116793 at “Everyone is crying” - it is time for a limit on immigration detention <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Yarl’s Wood hunger strike has now lasted 28 days. Uniquely in the EU, the UK imposes no time limit on immigration detention. Why?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// wood protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// wood protest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Yarl's Wood protest, <a href="">Darren Johnson/Flickr</a>.</em></p><p>Last Friday, I visited people detained at Yarl’s Wood, where a protest against immigration detention, including a hunger strike, has been going on for a month. The seven women and one man were clear from the outset that uncertainty over how long they would be held “is a killer”.&nbsp;</p><p> One person said that prison is better because you know how long you will be there. They also described the trauma of detention. “We can’t go anywhere, do anything, we are constantly watched, we can’t access papers we need.”</p> <p>Yarl’s Wood is supposed to be a 'removal centre', but instead many people there have ongoing cases, including asylum cases, and would be able to fight them better from outside, with access to relevant documents, witnesses and other evidence. In fact, the figures show that&nbsp;the majority&nbsp;of people detained will eventually be released back into the community; the trauma and cost of detention for nothing.</p> <p>The people I spoke to do not understand the reason for their detention. They complied with the signing process which requires them to <a href="">report regularly at Home Office or police</a> buildings. They were in touch with the Home Office – there was no risk of absconding. One detainee I spoke to has been in the UK for 24 years. Detention has separated her from her family, her friends and her support network.&nbsp;</p> <p>The detainees I spoke to have lost hope that due process is being followed. I have heard about people being removed from the country when there are ongoing judicial reviews. I have heard that the monthly reporting processes and reviews are hopeless. I have heard of caseworkers just cutting and pasting from old decisions to detain. I even heard of a person being served with a notice that clearly referred to a different detainee.&nbsp;</p> <p>Many have lost faith in the bail process, which is difficult to access. Many believe that immigration judges just follow Home Office advice that the person is a “flight risk”. </p> <p>In Yarl’s Wood, I was told that “everyone is crying”. The detainees feel the health care service is overwhelmed – by the number and nature of the demands on in. Mental ill health is massive.&nbsp; </p> <p>The people I visited want to see the Home Office accountable – a 1 to 1 approach to decision making. They feel no one individual is dealing with their cases – they are passed around instead. They are calling for a strong and independent complaints body.</p> <p>I believe - and I have said in parliament - that the large-scale, routine detention of thousands of human beings in private prisons for an indeterminate period at the discretion of immigration officers is a stain on our democracy and an affront to the rule of law.</p> <p>There is no need for the UK to detain more than other European countries. There is no reason why the UK – uniquely in the EU - cannot deal with a time limit on immigration detention.&nbsp;There is no reason for the Government to continue to detain vulnerable people, including victims of torture, to the serious detriment of their health and wellbeing.</p> <p>It is time for radical reform of the UK immigration detention regime and it is time for a limit on detention.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lucie-kinchin/on-movement-to-shut-down-yarl-s-wood">On the movement to shut down Yarl’s Wood</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/truth-about-sexual-abuse-at-yarls-wood-detention-centre">The truth about sexual abuse at Yarl&#039;s Wood detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">A crisis of harm in immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/eiri-ohtani-heather-jones/extraordinary-things-visiting-women-at-yarl-s-wood-detention-c">Extraordinary things: visiting the women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre </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 Stuart McDonald MP Wed, 21 Mar 2018 12:39:56 +0000 Stuart McDonald MP 116790 at Time to halt the NHS gravy train for management consultants <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New evidence has emerged that management consultants make NHS hospitals <em>less</em>, not more, efficient. Which will be little surprise to the NHS staff who have to deal with them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="450" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The recent collapse of Carillion not only threw a long overdue spotlight on the billions leached from the NHS and other public services by the Private Finance Initiative but also severely dented the notion that “private knows best” when it comes to running public services. The public sector’s use of management consultants has grown exponentially since the early 1990s to the extent that the use of consultants by the public sector now accounts for over a fifth of the total turnover of management consultancy firms. For as long as I’ve worked in the NHS (I joined as a trainee accountant in 1990) a view has persisted that, whether we’re caring for patients or supporting those who do, no matter how hard we work or how good at our jobs we are we’ll never quite be as efficient as our private sector counterparts; forever the lower league journeymen to their Premier League superstars.</p> <p>I’ve lost count, down the years, of how many times I’ve seen management consultants (more often than not from one of the Big Four accountancy firms) brought in, at considerable expense, to do jobs that people in the NHS with vastly more experience in the relevant area could have done much better for a fraction of the cost. The sums involved, when viewed in isolation, often aren’t headline grabbing but collectively they add up to a substantial flow of money out of the health service and into the coffers of huge multinational corporations. How much exactly? Well, precise figures on how much the NHS as a whole spends on management consultants are difficult to come by but <a href="">in December 2014 the British Medical Journal reported that NHS spending on management consultants had risen to £640 million per year</a> (compared to £313 million in 2010) as they cashed in on the chaos created by the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act with some consultants charging a whopping £4,000 per day for their services.</p> <p>To illustrate the impact of the health service’s often unnecessary use of management consultants here’s a recent example from my own experience working in an NHS finance department. It comes nowhere close to the scandal of PFI but it’s typical nonetheless of how the NHS has become reliant on the private sector to do work that could quite easily be done in-house. I’ve chosen this particular example as it’s the most recent but, to be honest, there are dozens of others that I could have drawn from - ranging from project managers on eye watering sums per day brought in to lead the implementation of new systems or inject commercial rigour into dull old NHS accounting practices, to poacher-turned-gamekeeper consultants drafted in to advise on the impact of government policy that they’ve already had a hand in writing. (The current work on <a href="">Sustainability and Transformation Plans</a> (STPs) is the latest in a long list of examples of the latter).</p> <p>NHS Improvement, the body responsible for overseeing the financial performance of NHS trusts, is currently driving a move towards trusts identifying the costs of individual patients, rather than averages, under its ‘costing transformation programme’ which is a major focus for me in my role as the costing lead at a mental health trust.&nbsp;One strand of this programme involves independently assessing the accuracy of the costing information that trusts produce. In 2016 <a href="">NHS Improvement awarded a three-year contract to perform this work to EY</a> (in previous years the work had been undertaken by PwC and Capita). You might know EY better as Ernst and Young, one of the Big Four multinational accountancy firms who were rebranded in 2013 and are headquartered in smart offices close to Tower Bridge in London. In October of last year <a href="">EY were fined £1.8 million</a> by the UK’s financial watchdog the Financial Reporting Council, for “failures to obtain reasonable assurance” about whether the financial statements of global technology company Tech Data “were free from material misstatement”. Not particularly reassuring for the NHS but, hey, away from the beady eyes of the FRC a handy NHS contract like this is money for old rope for the likes of EY. Firms can typically walk away from NHS contracts such as this without any repercussions no matter how shoddy the work.</p> <p>The contract involves auditing the costing information produced by around one-third of NHS trusts each year over the three-year period. In December 2015 NHS Improvement invited tenders to undertake this work and stipulated a maximum price of £3.9 million, but details are sketchy on the actual price agreed with EY. NHS Improvement’s board papers from around the time are rather coy, indicating only that six companies were invited to tender and that EY had won the contract. Later on the&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>board papers from its meeting in July 2016</strong></a>&nbsp;referred to a saving of 36% on the contract value after the initial costs and activities within the scope of the audit were challenged. Which represents quite a saving - looking back at footage of the meeting (the public part of NHS Improvement’s board meetings is filmed and available to view on their website) there is more than a little surprise amongst board members as this substantial saving is noted.</p> <p>Such cost cutting is often a false economy though. It usually means cheaper, less experienced members of staff being employed on the contract and this was evidently the case when EY visited our trust in February last year. Very early on in the audit it became apparent that, beyond the basics, the auditor’s knowledge of NHS costing processes and mental health services was scant. In the end, the auditor spent a mere two and a half days on site and this was followed up with a handful of telephone conversations and email queries which barely skimmed the surface of the figures being audited.</p> <p>A first draft of the audit report, when it eventually turned up, after much chasing, over four months later was strewn with errors including reference to “urology IAPT services” which given that IAPT refers to improving access to psychological therapies makes the mind boggle. The errors were eventually corrected, and a second draft was sent out a month later, in the middle of July, requesting our formal management responses to each of their audit recommendations within two working days. That this tends to be the busiest time of the year for anyone involved in NHS costing (the deadline for submitting the annual reference costs return is usually towards the end of July) was seemingly completely lost on EY. The report itself, once published, was lacking in any real insight, full of half-baked recommendations and with the overall feel of a piece of work that had failed to get to grips with the topic that it was meant to be reporting on.</p> <p>It’s staggering that at a time when the health service is enduring the longest squeeze on its finances in its seventy-year history that it can afford to spend a few million pounds on poorly executed work such as this.&nbsp;In the absence of knowing the actual cost of the contract let’s assume, not unreasonably, that EY’s original tender value was close to the maximum price of £3.9 million. In that case a 36% saving would suggest a contract value of around £2.4 million. Now, in the context of an overall budget for the NHS of more than £120 billion that may sound like small beer and indeed when you spread it, rather crudely, across all the trusts that will be audited during the contract period the cost works out at around £10,000 per organisation. Not too bad, you might think, but it’s a frankly ridiculous sum for barely a week’s work and a report that told us nothing about our costing process that we didn’t already know.</p> <p>We have been told repeatedly down the years that the expense of management consultancy is more than off-set by the beneficial effects it has on the efficiency of public sector organisations. However a recent study by a group of academics at Bristol, Seville and Warwick universities on the&nbsp;impact of the use of management consultants on public sector efficiency, perhaps the first of its kind to measure the quantitative impact of using consultants, <a href="">concluded that far from boosting efficiency the use of management consultancy actually decreases it</a>. And this didn’t even take account of the, often ignored, demoralising impact on NHS staff of continually seeing management consultants brought in to perform tasks that they could and already are paid to do. One of the authors of the report, Ian Kirkpatrick from Warwick Business School felt that in the current financial climate the NHS must consider “whether it is appropriate to continue using external consulting advice at the current level”.</p> <p>It’s disheartening to say the least to see others brought in, time after time, to work on “exciting” projects and produce work of questionable benefit whilst we get on with our day jobs and are invariably left to pick up the pieces when external consultants depart. Much of this work could be brought in-house and would offer talented, experienced and dedicated NHS staff the chance to look beyond their day jobs to improve the quality of care that patients receive at a fraction of the cost of using the private sector. We might not be as good at spouting the fancy management-speak and preparing the snazzy PowerPoint slides but at least give us a chance. EY’s work on the costing assurance programme could, and should, have been performed by costing leads at other trusts – a form of peer review that would subject the costing processes of each trust to proper scrutiny and offer valuable insights into how those processes might be improved. All this for a mere fraction of the cost of involving the private sector.</p> <p>So it’s refreshing to read the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell refer to Carillion as a “watershed moment” and promise that a future Labour government would end the “private knows best” rip-off. For too long huge multinational corporations like EY, McKinsey, PwC, KPMG and Capita have been riding this NHS gravy train. Only last week it emerged that&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>NHS Improvement has awarded a £500k contract to McKinsey</strong></a>&nbsp;to apparently help it define its “purpose”. This comes less than two years after a similar deal, worth £1 million, was struck with yet another management consultancy firm KPMG on defining NHS Improvement’s role. Enough is enough, it’s time to bring this nonsense to a halt and&nbsp;let NHS employees get on with what we are paid to do.</p><p><em>This piece is cross-posted from <a href="">Nowt Much to Say</a>&nbsp;with kind permission.</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="/ournhs/sarah-carpenter/management-consultants-scoop-up-on-secretive-shake-up-of-health-service-in-en">Management consultants scoop up on the secretive shake-up of the health service in England</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/sol-trumbo-vila/bail-out-industry-finds-its-new-crisis-opportunity-brexit">The bail out industry finds its new crisis opportunity: Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/peterborough-hospital-nhs-and-britains-privatisation-racket">Peterborough Hospital, the NHS and Britain&#039;s privatisation racket</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Jonathan Allsopp Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:16:42 +0000 Jonathan Allsopp 116771 at Britain’s collusion with radical Islam: Interview with Mark Curtis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Syria to Saudi Arabia, historian Mark Curtis’s new book sets out how Britain colludes with radical Islam – and how the British media is failing to inform us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// may saudi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// may saudi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Theresa May and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 2018. PA Images/Victoria Jones, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>A former Research Fellow at Chatham House and the ex-Director of the World Development Movement, British historian Mark Curtis has published several books on UK foreign policy, including 2003’s <em>Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World</em>, endorsed by Noam Chomsky and John Pilger. Ian Sinclair asked Curtis about the recently published new edition of his 2010 book <a href=""><em>Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam</em></a>.</p><p><strong> Ian Sinclair: With the so-called ‘war on terror’ the dominant framework for understanding Western foreign policy since 9/11, the central argument of your book – that Britain&nbsp;has been colluding with radical Islam for decades – will be a shock to many people. Can you give some examples?</strong></p> <p>Mark Curtis: UK governments – Conservative and Labour – have been colluding for decades with two sets of Islamist actors which have strong connections with each other. </p> <p>In the first group are the major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism, the two most important of which are key British allies with whom London has long-standing strategic partnerships – Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The second group includes extremist private movements and organisations whom Britain has worked alongside and sometimes trained and financed, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. The roots of this lie in divide and rule policies under colonialism but collusion of this type took off in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. After the jihad in Afghanistan, Britain had private dealings of one kind or another with militants in various organisations, including Pakistan’s Harkat ul-Ansar, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), all of which had strong links to Bin Laden’s al-Qaida. Covert actions have been undertaken with these and other forces in Central Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe. </p> <p>For example, in the 1999 Kosovo war, Britain secretly trained militants in the KLA who were working closely with al-Qaida fighters. One KLA unit was led by the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, then Bin Laden’s right-hand man. The British provided military training for the KLA at secret camps in Kosovo and Albania where jihadist fighters also had their military centre. The ‘dirty secret’ of the July 2005 London bombings is that the bombers had links with violent Islamist groups such as the Harkat ul-Mujahidin whose militants were previously covertly supported by Britain in Afghanistan. These militant groups were long sponsored by the Pakistani military and intelligence services, in turn long armed and trained by Britain. If we go back further – to the 1953 MI6/CIA coup to overthrow Musaddiq in Iran – this involved plotting with Shia Islamists, the predecessors of Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah Seyyed Kashani – who in 1945 founded the Fadayan-e-Islam (Devotees of Islam), a militant fundamentalist organization – was funded by Britain and the US to organise opposition and arrange public demonstrations against Musaddiq.</p> <p>More recently, in its military interventions and covert operations in Syria and Libya since 2011, Britain and its supported forces have been working alongside, and often in effective collaboration with, a variety of extremist and jihadist groups, including al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. Indeed, the vicious Islamic State group and ideology that has recently emerged partly owes its origins and rise to the policies of Britain and its allies in the region</p> <p>Although Britain has forged special relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it has not been in strategic alliance with radical Islam as such. Beyond these two states, Britain’s policy has been to collaborate with Islamist extremists as a matter of ad hoc opportunism, though it should be said that this has been rather regular. Whitehall does not work with these forces because it agrees with them but because they are useful at specific moments: in this sense, the collaboration highlights British weakness to find other on-the-ground foot soldiers to impose its policies. Islamist groups appear to have collaborated with Britain for the same reasons of expediency and because they share the same hatred of popular nationalism and secularism as the British elite.</p><p><strong>IS:</strong> <strong>Why has the UK colluded with radical Islamic organisations and nations?</strong></p><p><strong></strong>MC: I argue that the evidence shows that radical Islamic forces have been seen as useful to Whitehall in five specific ways: as a global counter-force to the ideologies of secular nationalism and Soviet communism, in the cases of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan; as ‘conservative muscle’ within countries to undermine secular nationalists and bolster pro-Western regimes; as ‘shock troops’ to destabilise or overthrow governments; as proxy military forces to fight wars; and as ‘political tools’ to leverage change from governments. </p><p>This collusion has also helped promote two big geo-strategic foreign policy objectives. The first is influence and control over key energy resources, always recognised in the British planning documents as the number one priority in the Middle East. British operations to support or side with Islamist forces have generally aimed at maintaining in power or installing governments that will promote Western-friendly oil policies. The second objective has been maintaining Britain’s place within a pro-Western global financial order. The Saudis have invested billions of dollars in the US and British economies and banking systems and Britain and the US have similarly large investments and trade with Saudi Arabia; it is these that are being protected by the strategic alliance with Riyadh. </p><p><strong>IS: You include a chapter in the new edition of the book exploring the UK and West’s role in Syria. Simon Tisdall recently </strong><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>noted</strong></a><strong> in The Observer that the West has been “hovering passively on the sidelines in Syria”. This is a common view – including on the Left. For example, in September 2014 Richard Seymour </strong><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>asserted</strong></a><strong> “The US has not been heavily involved” in Syria, while in February 2017 Salvage magazine published a </strong><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>piece</strong></a><strong> by Dr Jamie Allinson, who argued it was a myth that “the US has pursued a policy of regime change” in Syria. What is your take on the West’s involvement in Syria?</strong></p><p><strong></strong>MC: These are extraordinary comments revealing how poorly the mainstream media serves the public. I’ve tried to document in the updated version of Secret Affairs a chronology of Britain’s covert operations in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime. These began with the deployment of MI6 and other British covert forces in 2011, within a few months after demonstrations in Syria began challenging the regime, to which the Syrian regime responded with brute force and terrible violence. British covert action, mainly undertaken in alliance with the US and Saudi Arabia, has involved working alongside radical and jihadist groups, in effect supporting and empowering them. These extremist groups, which cultivated Muslim volunteers from numerous countries to fight Assad, have been strengthened by an influx of a massive quantity of arms and military training from the coalition of forces of which Britain has been a key part. At the same time, Britain and its allies’ policy has prolonged the war, exacerbating devastating human suffering.</p><p>UK support for Syrian rebel groups long focused on the Free Syrian Army (FSA), described by British officials as ‘moderates’. Yet for the first three years of the war, the FSA was in effect an ally of, and collaborator with, Islamic State and al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra. London and Washington continued to provide training and help send arms into Syria despite the certainty that some would end up in the hands of jihadists. Some of the militants who joined the Syrian insurgency with British covert support were Libyans who are believed to have been trained by British, French or US forces in Libya to overthrow Qadafi in 2011. Some went on to join Islamic State and also al-Nusra, which soon became one of the most powerful opposition groups to Assad.</p><p>Britain appears to have played a key role in encouraging the creation of the Islamic Front coalition in Syria in November 2013, which included groups which regularly worked with al-Nusra; these included Liwa al-Tawhid – a group armed by Qatar and which coordinated attacks with al-Nusra – and Ahrar al-Sham – a hardline Islamist group that rejected the FSA. Both groups contained foreign jihadists, including individuals from Britain. Ahrar al-Sham’s co-founder, Abu Khalid al-Suri, was linked to the 2004 Madrid bombing through a series of money transfers and personal contacts; a Spanish court document named him as Bin Laden’s ‘courier’ in Europe. The same network was connected to the 2005 London terror attack. </p><p>The UK role in Syria has not been minor but has been an integral part of the massive US/Arab arms and training operations, and British officials have been present in the control rooms for these operations in Jordan and Turkey. Britain also consistently took the lead in calling for further arms deliveries to the rebel forces. British covert action was in the early years of the war overwhelmingly focused on overthrowing Assad: evidence suggests that only in May 2015 did UK covert training focus on countering Islamic State in Syria.</p><p><strong>IS: What role has the mainstream media played with regards to Britain working with radical Islam?</strong></p><p><strong></strong>MC: It has largely buried it. In the period immediately after the 7/7 bombings in 2005, and more recently in the context of the wars in Libya and Syria, there were sporadic reports in the mainstream media which revealed links between the British security services and Islamist militants living in Britain. Some of these individuals have been reported as working as British agents or informers while being involved in terrorism overseas and some have been reported as being protected by the British security services while being wanted by foreign governments. This is an important but only a small part of the much bigger picture of collusion which mainly concerns Britain’s foreign policy: this is rarely noticed in the mainstream. </p><p><strong>IS: The British public and the anti-war movement are not mentioned in your book, though they seem a potentially important influence on the nefarious and dangerous British foreign policies you highlight? </strong></p><p><strong></strong>MC: Yes, it’s largely down to us, the British public, to prevent terrible policies being undertaken in our name. We should generally regard the British elite as it regards the public – as a threat to its interests. The biggest immediate single problem we face, in my view, is mainstream media reporting. While large sections of the public are deluged with misreporting, disinformation or simply the absence of coverage of key policies, there may never be a critical mass of people prepared to take action in their own interests to bring about a wholly different foreign policy. </p> <p>The mainstream media and propaganda system has been tremendously successful in the UK – the public can surely have very little knowledge of the actual nature of British foreign policy (past or present) and many people, apparently, seriously believe that the country generally (although it may make some mistakes) stands for peace, democracy and human rights all over the world. When you look at what they read (and don’t read) in the ‘news’ papers, it’s no surprise. The latest smears against Corbyn are further evidence of this, which I believe amounts to a ‘system’, since it is so widespread and rooted in the same interests of defending elite power and privilege. </p> <p>The other, very much linked, problem, relates to the lack of real democracy in the UK and the narrow elitist decision-making in foreign policy. Governments retain enormous power to conduct covert operations (and policies generally) outside of public or parliamentary scrutiny. Parliamentary committees, meant to scrutinise the state, rarely do so properly and almost invariably fail to even question government on its most controversial policies. Parliamentary answers are often misleading and designed to keep the public in the dark. Past historical records of government decision-making are regularly withheld from the public, if not destroyed to cover up crimes. British ‘democracy’, which exists in some forms, otherwise resembles more an authoritarian state. </p> <p>There are fundamental issues here about how policy gets made and in whose name. It’s not an issue of whether Labour or Conservative is in power since both obviously defend and propagate the elitist system. Jeremy Corbyn himself represents a real break with this but the most likely outcome, tragically, is that the Labour extremists (called ‘moderates’ in the mainstream) and the rest of the conservative/liberal system which believes in militarism, neo-liberalism and the defence of privilege, will prevail if and when Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. </p> <p>The signs are already there in the Labour manifesto for the last election, which would have continued the present extremism in most aspects of UK foreign policy, even if it promised some change and still represented a major challenge to the establishment. Again, it will obviously be up to us to change policies, democratize the media and transform British governance more broadly.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ian Sinclair Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:14:01 +0000 Ian Sinclair 116770 at The oldest sins in the newest ways <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why Facebook’s business model leaves us exposed to the abuses of Cambridge Analytica.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>That Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook profiles to create tools to target and manipulate US voters comes as no surprise to those who watch and work in large digital firms. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, many simply already knew. Secondly, activity of this kind – data accumulation and analysis to build tools of manipulation – is foundational to the business model of large digital platforms. Over the last half century, improvements in information and computer technology have precipitated the development of platforms that act as intermediaries between the provider and user of a service. For Uber, a passenger uses the app to gain access to a seat in a driver’s car. In the case of Facebook, the holder of a Facebook profile is a supplier, voluntarily giving up intimate data that is analysed and sold to advertisers, who, in turn, target the profile holder with goods of a type and in a way that maximise their propensity to purchase. Our economic and social worlds are being remodelled by these firms. The <a href="">many varieties</a> of platform have stretched their operations across a broad range of markets, from groceries to transport. Though their activities are broad, platforms are united by an insatiable impulse upon which their business models are founded: the extraction and analysis of data. In using Facebook, you create data actively, by liking pages or typing intimate status updates, or passively, through location services. All this data is captured. It is then analysed to, among other things, build inferred profiles of you and your network – what issues drive you to vote, which products you’re likely to consume, your sexual preferences, your dreams, fears, and the issues that most exercise you, your nearest and dearest, or anyone that is similar to you. If it can be captured it will be used. Two things then happen. Firstly, these profiles are used to sell advertising in ways and at a scale beyond the wildest imaginings of the past. Digital advertising is now the largest advertising medium in the world, with Google and Facebook accounting for over <a href="">80% of digital advertising</a> outside China and upwards of <a href="">20% of total global advertising</a>. Secondly, data and analysis are used to improve the algorithms that power the platforms and produce the insights. Opening up the world’s knowledge is not the primary motivation of Google engineers as they frantically scan book after book, but the rapid development of its machine learning capabilities. The artificial intelligence beast is hungry, and platforms must compulsively feed it. Ultimately, these companies seek to maximise profits. When the means of doing so become dependent on the extraction and analysis of data, firms are compelled to seek new frontiers of activity through which data can be gained and exploited more effectively. This drives them into new markets, with banking, healthcare, and travel at the top of the list. Rapid growth is made easy by the low marginal cost of expansion (an extra user costs little to nothing to Facebook), that larger networks create more value to users and so attract more, and the first mover advantage enjoyed by the big platforms – put simply, their enormous stores of data provide insights that yield a competitive advantage in almost any market in which data can be a source of value (essentially all). In this way, data both enables and compels digital firms to seek and achieve enormous scale and reach. Look out for Amazon Health, Google Mobility and Facebook Bank. Scale and reach mean impact, which spans across three main areas: economic, social, and political. Economically, digital firms exhibit classic monopolistic behaviour, stifling innovation by buying up small firms and barring access to datasets that could be used to invent new products and services. They also erode labour standards - either directly, through on-demand casualisation, or indirectly, by undermining other industries. Moreover, by requiring so little staff, platforms further reduce the share of the economy going to the general population over the owners of financial assets. That they provide services at little to no cost has bamboozled the existing approach to anti-trust policy, which only recognises a firm as a monopolist if it raises, not reduces, prices. Beyond economic factors, platforms are now foundational to the social and political experiences of people across the world, providing a shared space to learn, converse and organise. This has delivered great benefit, but has also impacted the <a href="">mental health</a> of users and increased the areas of society that are under the purview of algorithms and the assumptions and biases that underpin them. Platforms also have an environmental impact through maintaining large, energy-hungry servers and by lowering the barriers to consumption, through on-demand car journeys or fast food delivery. Recognition of these negative impacts will accelerate in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations. As governments scramble to develop a response – the success of which is partly dependent on a rapid improvement in the digital literacy of politicians – they would do well to remember a key insight: it is Facebook’s business model that opens the platform up to abuses like those committed by Cambridge Analytica and others like them. As long as platforms raise the majority of their revenues from collecting and analysing data to better manipulate users through advertising or to purchase goods and services, third parties, from private firms to governments, will seek to exploit this power. Thus, it is data that must become the focus of the response. A range of options exist: force the platforms to open up their data, allowing anyone to use it to produce innovative, more socially useful products; remove platforms’ ability to hold data, placing it into a public store that enables citizens to have ownership over it and limit that which is captured by firms for private use; or create marketplaces in which users become micro-entrepreneurs, raising personal revenues when platforms exploit their data. The last is the preference of many who wish to keep the hegemony of the platforms in place. But, crucially, this would limit the ability of wider society to benefit from large datasets and the insights they provide. Realising that benefit could be crucial to overcoming major problems – from environmental collapse to lifestyle diseases – and so something akin to options one or two is preferable. This will necessarily mean that the platforms and their mercurial leaders are unseated from their positions of immense power, directly removing from them the very basis of the business model that has delivered their extraordinary riches. As public dissent grows and the space for political responses opens, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple will do all they can to resist fundamental change. How to overcome this resistance is the key question we now need to ask.</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 Laurie Laybourn-Langton Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:50:38 +0000 Laurie Laybourn-Langton 116768 at Salisbury attack: establishing responsibilities – war paradigm vs. crime paradigm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What difference would it make to describe what happened as an international crime, the approach taken by Jeremy Corbyn, rather than in the language of military force?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the start of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, 2016.</span></span></span>Theresa May described the Salisbury attack as ‘an unlawful use of force against the UK’. This is the language of military force. It is less strong than ‘armed attack’, a descriptive that would have triggered a NATO Article V response, but nevertheless it is couched in the language of war and thereby implies that proportionate counter measures can be taken. Yet we could also describe what happened in Salisbury as a heinous crime and, if we are assuming that Russia was responsible, a crime committed against its own citizens – indeed a massive violation of human rights. </p> <p>What difference does the wording make? The military framing implies a geo-political response against the Russian state, which is the approach adopted by Theresa May, starting with the expulsion of Russian diplomats. It is an expression of disapproval but what does it achieve? It is already being countered by tit-for-tat expulsions of British diplomats and indeed by escalating the conflict through the closure of the Consulate-general and the British Council. </p> <p>Effectively what it does is to create an imaginary war, in which both Theresa May and Vladimir Putin can claim to be strong in facing their enemies. Indeed, this was perhaps the motivation. It strengthened President Putin a few days before the Presidential elections in which turn-out seems to be have been around 60% – lower than the 70% Putin was aiming for. And it offers a kind of Falklands moment to Theresa May at a moment when opinion on Brexit is shifting against her; Russian interference in the referendum and implicit support for Brexit is all about weakening the European Union. If indeed this was the motivation, then May’s response just plays into Putin’s hands.<span class="mag-quote-center"> If indeed this was the motivation, then May’s response just plays into Putin’s hands.</span></p> <p>A further problem with the geo-political approach is that it presupposes collective responsibility with collective counter-measures like sanctions directed against the Russian state and hurting ordinary Russians as well as or perhaps even more than the regime. It is exactly the kind of people that those who favour democracy and human rights might want to support who are most likely to be affected by, for example, the closure of the British Council. Typically, where sanctions are introduced, regimes are able to blame the external enemy and further underpin their own positions. </p> <p>So what difference would it make to describe what happened as an international crime, the approach taken by Jeremy Corbyn? Rather than state-to-state measures, the focus would be on investigation, as happened in the Litvinenko case, and on individual criminal responsibility. Before taking counter-measures, there would need to be a ‘requirement of legal proof’. </p> <p>This might mean requesting an investigation of the type of agent used or a challenge inspection of Russian sites by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW); the latter is something which has never been done before. While the Novichok nerve agents were developed in the Soviet Union, it would be possible for any skilled chemist who knows the structure and has access to the ingredients to synthesise a sufficient amount for an attack like Salisbury. Because the structure is secret and the ingredients not easy to obtain this is likely to mean a state chemical warfare establishment, although weak control might mean that a non-state actor could acquire a small amount. </p> <p>By analysing the impurities, side products and by-products, it is possible to identify where the agent is produced although this would take time. Meanwhile, the most likely suspect for this gigantic calling card appears to be Russia if only for circumstantial reasons. </p> <p>Assuming Russia is responsible, treating what has happened as a crime would focus attention on two aspects of Russian criminality. One is the way Russia is violating both human rights law and international weapons law, notably being in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention both because of the use of chemical weapons and because of failure to declare Novichok to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. </p> <p>The other aspect is, of course, the criminal nature of the Russian regime, both in stealing wealth and killing enemies, and the way in which Russian criminality has played out in the UK through money laundering in the City and the London property market. </p> <p>It is estimated that there have been 14 suspicious deaths of individuals somehow linked to the Russian state in Britain and this does not include the recent Glushkov case. The UK government was very slow to investigate the poisoning of Litvinenko and has failed to investigate other possible murders – all this while Theresa May was home secretary. </p> <p>One explanation was the concern that this might lead to Russian retaliation and a new cold war; the other explanation is the way in which the Conservative Party and the Brexit camp may have indirectly benefited from Russian money. The UK government does now have a tool for investigating criminal Russian oligarchs – something called Unexplained Wealth Orders and this might be the most appropriate tool even before criminal responsibility has been established – as well as the Magnitsky amendments to the Criminal Finances bill, which provides a mechanism for dealing with foreign persons known to be criminal and/or corrupt. <span class="mag-quote-center">The other explanation is the way in which the Conservative Party and the Brexit camp may have indirectly benefited from Russian money.</span></p> <p>In other words, addressing the problem within a crime paradigm rather than war paradigm would facilitate a focus on the criminality of the Russian regime and of Putin himself and how to address it. Treating the Salisbury attack as a military issue merely reproduces traditional great power conflict to the satisfaction of both Theresa May and Vladimir Putin.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Russia UK Conflict Democracy and government International politics Mary Kaldor Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:37:44 +0000 Mary Kaldor 116767 at The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism” <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We’ve ended up with an internet built not for us – but for corporations, political parties, and the state’s increasingly nebulous ‘security’ demands. We need to better understand this problem so that we can challenge it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Big Brother Monitoring. <a href="">Master Tux</a>, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>Over the weekend, allegations emerged surrounding the use of <a href="">Facebook user data by a data analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica</a>. But while they have allegedly broken Facebook’s rules, the real problem is Facebook’s business model. And it’s a model that isn't unique to Facebook. It originated with Google, which realised that the data gathered as people used its search engine could be analysed to predict what they wanted and deliver targeted advertising, and it’s also employed by most ‘free’ online services.</p><p>This isn't just a problem with Facebook. It's a problem with the internet as it exists today.</p> <p>‘Surveillance capitalism’ was the term coined in 2015 by Harvard academic Shoshanna Zuboff to describe this large-scale surveillance and modification of human behaviour for profit. It involves predictive analysis of big datasets describing the lives and behaviours of tens or hundreds of millions of people, allowing correlations and patterns to be identified, information about individuals inferred, and future behaviour to be predicted. Attempts are then made to influence this behaviour through personalised and dynamic targeted advertising. This is refined by testing numerous variations of adverts on different demographics to see what works best. Every time you use the internet you are likely the unwitting subject of dozens of experiments trying to figure out how to most effectively extract money from you.</p> <p>Surveillance capitalism monetises our lives for their profit, turning everything that we do into data points to be packaged together as a profile describing us in great detail. Access to that data profile is sold on the advertising market. But it isn’t just access to our data profile that is being sold – it’s access to the powerful behavioural modification tools developed by these corporations, to their knowledge about our psychological vulnerabilities, honed through experimentation over many years. In effect, through their pervasive surveillance apparatus they build up intricate knowledge of the daily lives and behaviours of hundreds of millions of people and then charge other companies to use this knowledge against us for their benefit.</p> <p>And, as increasing numbers of people are realising, surveillance capitalism doesn't just benefit corporations. It benefits political organisations as well – shadowy ones like Cambridge Analytica, yes, but also the mainstream political parties and candidates. The Obama campaign of 2008 is often described as the first ‘big data’ campaign, but it was in 2012 that his team truly innovated. The <a href="">Obama team’s operations were sophisticated enough that they were able to target voters</a> that the Romney campaign, by their own admission, didn’t even know existed. Their use of analytics-driven microtargeting allowed them to run a highly effective digital campaign and set an example which has been followed repeatedly since. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">if twentieth century campaigns had magnifying glasses and baseball bats, those of the twenty–first century have telescopes, microscopes and scalpels</p> <p>Today, tools like <a href="">Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences</a>, which allow advertisers – including political organisations – to upload lists of people, match them with their Facebook profile, filter in the profiles of similar people who aren’t on their list, and target them all, mean that political campaigns can greatly extend the reach of their carefully-crafted messaging. </p><p>As <a href="">Zeynep Tufekci, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, says,</a> if twentieth century political targeted campaigns had magnifying glasses and baseball bats<em>, </em>those of the twenty–first century have acquired<em> </em>telescopes, microscopes and scalpels in the shape of algorithms and analytics. Campaigns can deliver different arguments to different groups of voters, so no two people may ever see the same set of adverts or arguments. This takes political campaigning from being a public process to being a private, personalised affair, helped along by access to the apparatus of surveillance capitalism.</p> <p>Facebook has conducted its own research on the effectiveness of targeted political messaging using its platform. In the 2010 US midterms it found that it was able to increase a user’s likelihood of voting by around 0.4% per cent by telling them that their friends had voted and encouraging them to do the same. It repeated the experiment in 2012 with similar results. That might not sound like much, but on a national scale it translates to around 340,000 extra votes. George Bush won the 2000 election by a few hundred votes in Florida. Donald Trump won in part because he managed to gain 100,000 key votes in the rust belt. </p> <p>And in countries like the UK, where elections are often decided by relatively few marginal constituencies in which political parties focus their efforts, small numbers matter – one study of last year’s election suggest that the <a href="">Conservative Party was just 401 votes short of an overall majority</a>. Accordingly, in 2013 <a href="">the Conservatives hired Obama’s 2012 campaign manager</a>, and both the Vote Leave campaign and the Labour Party have boasted about their data operations. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and privacy regulation in the UK, is investigating the use of these practices here. The new EU General Data Protection Regulation, when it comes into force in May, promises to provide something of a brake.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">the Government is exploring an agreement with the US that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.</p> <p>But there's also a third group who benefits from the troves of data that surveillance capitalism corporations have gathered about the minutiae of the daily lives of billions of people – the state. The <a href="">Snowden revelations</a> in 2013 about GCHQ and the NSA’s activities made headlines around the world. Much of the focus was on programmes which involved, among other things, weakening encryption standards, installing backdoors in otherwise secure networking equipment, and placing interceptors on internet backbone cables so as to siphon off the data passing through. These programmes rake in billions of records every day, with GCHQ’s stated aim being to compile a <a href="">profile of the internet habits of every user on the web</a>. </p> <p>There was, however, another element that was largely overlooked – data sharing between surveillance capitalism and state security and intelligence agencies. In the US, tech companies have long been forced to hand over data about their users to the NSA. <a href="">When Yahoo refused, they were threatened with a $250,000 fine, every day</a>, with the fine doubling every week that their non-compliance continued. Faced with financial ruin, they acquiesced. In the UK, the <a href="">Investigatory Powers Act, commonly known as the “snooper’s charter”</a>, grants the security and intelligence agencies legal authority to acquire personal datasets from technology companies in bulk, and the Government is <a href="">exploring an agreement with the US</a> that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.</p> <p>These are concerning surveillance practices that raise difficult questions about the relationship between the citizen and the state. And since 2013 these questions have been articulated by many – not least by the ECJ, which <a href="">ruled in 2016 that indiscriminate communications data retention is incompatible with a free and democratic society</a>. This led to the Government's recent consultation on revisions to the parts of the Investigatory Powers Act that allow the Government to require ISPs to retain records of the browsing history of every user in the UK and provide them to security and intelligence agencies, police, and a range of other public authorities upon request and without a warrant or other direct judicial oversight. A challenge brought by Privacy International to the bulk personal dataset powers contained in the <a href="">Investigatory Powers Act was referred to the ECJ</a> in September.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">This is how the internet of today has been built. Not for us – for them.</p> <p>Surveillance capitalism – with smartphones, laptops, and the increasing numbers of ‘internet of things’ devices making up its physical infrastructure, watching and tracking everything we do, and the public as willing participants – increases the capacity of corporations, political organisations, and the state to track, influence, and control populations at scale. This is of benefit to those corporations, political organisations, and state agencies economically, politically, and in pursuit of the increasingly nebulous demands of ‘security’. This is how the internet of today has been built. Not for us – for them. This is the future that we've sleepwalked into. We need to look beyond Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. It’s time for a wider debate about the role of surveillance in our increasingly digital society.</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="/digitaliberties/agne-pix-bruce-schneier/surveillance-is-business-model-of-internet">&quot;Surveillance is the business model of the internet&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sam-jeffers/how-can-we-better-regulate-elections-in-digital-age">How can we better regulate elections in the digital age?</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 digitaLiberties uk Jennifer Cobbe Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:26:28 +0000 Jennifer Cobbe 116761 at Vladimir Putin, Henry II and the power of words… <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">Throughout history, power-intoxicated leaders haven’t needed to&nbsp;<em>personally</em>&nbsp;authorise assassinations – cold rhetoric has given subalterns enough licence. Putin himself, meanwhile, is a prisoner of the savage world he nominally oversees.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Russian President Vladmir Putin, 2017. <a href="">Wikimedia</a>, Creative Commons license.</em></p><p class="Body">“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” This pithy rhetorical question led to one of history’s most notorious murders - made all the more infamous for being the subject of TS Eliot’s play, <a href="">Murder in the Cathedral</a>. The date – 1170; the victim - Archbishop Thomas Becket; the complainant - King Henry II; the location - Canterbury Cathedral; the assassins - four knights for whom murder constitutes their sole reason for a place in the public record.</p> <p class="Body">Few if any historical events have more compelling resonance in our own time - from the source of the monarch’s exasperation, to the spine-chilling consequences of his words. The words themselves may be a summary, or a gloss on what the king really said. Historian Simon Schama has offered a different, more prolix version. But over the quarrel to which they gave rise there is no dispute. It was about Europe - or more accurately about Rome, the dominance of the Holy See and the freedom of English kings to decide their own affairs. Henry had drawn up what became known as the <a href="">Constitutions of Clarendon</a>, a first attempt at loosening papal authority over “Christian” England. Most of the clergy conceded, but Becket baulked, claiming that the document flew in the face of God’s will - the eternal deity having appointed the Pope as sole arbiter of earthly matters. </p> <p class="Body">Brits wrestling with the causes and consequences of Brexit will readily spot the parallels: the objection to control from Europe and the anger - if not, so far, the malign consequences - of feeling that within the EU we are unable to govern ourselves.</p> <p class="Body">If there is a more deadly parallel, it arises not from our relationship with our EU neighbours but in the lesson it provides about the potency of words spoken in anger or in cold, calculated spite by political leaders intoxicated with power. UK politicians and media alike are currently riveted by a bizarre certainty that the attempted murder of <a href="">Sergei Skripal</a> and his daughter Yulia with a deadly nerve agent could only have been carried out on the express orders or at any rate with the approval of Vladimir Putin. Russia’s villainous leader must, by the same token, be responsible for the unexplained deaths of other UK-based Russians and, of course, for the murders of <a href="">Alexander Litvinenko</a> and <a href="">Nikolai Glushkov</a>.</p> <p class="Body"><a href="">Sergei Lavrov</a>, the po-faced Russian foreign minister, denies all knowledge of such iniquities. The idea his boss might stoop so low, he protests, is beneath contempt and unworthy of serious consideration. Of course, he is right. Political leaders of ‘great’ countries do not order assassinations except possibly, and then very rarely, against significant figures who pose a personal threat to them. For Putin to bother himself with the death of insignificant ‘traitors’ when he has a country to run, a war to win in Syria and another in Ukraine, and an electoral victory to prepare and then celebrate is an absurd idea. Had the Russian leader wished to dispose of Skripal, he could easily have done so during the latter’s lengthy spell in a Russian jail, and well before he was released in a prisoner swap with the West. </p> <p class="Body">Far more likely is that the spur for the murder and attempted murder of exiled Russians was Putin’s <a href="">confident prediction</a>, made to an adoring audience, that whoever betrays the motherland is destined for an early demise. That assertion came in 2010. Like Henry II’s outburst, no other remark would be necessary. Thereafter, subalterns - probably in the secret service - could be relied on to handle matters, their licence to kill taken for granted, their freedom to act against ‘enemies of the State’ quietly and effectively understood. Just like Thomas Becket’s murderers, they do their best to flee the vicinity of their deeds and to remain in the shadows. But, if by chance they are exposed - <a href="">as happened</a> in the case of Alexander Litvinenko - we learn that they have long since slipped away to safety. </p> <p class="Body">Neither Putin nor his inner circle will have given an unequivocal instruction for any of the UK-based Russians to be killed. As befits those who bear on their shoulders the burden of the State, their hands will be regularly rinsed in disinfectant. So that when they assert - as they have done - that the poisoning episode in Salisbury has nothing to do with them, they are almost certainly telling the truth.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Then we have an additional question of how far Vladimir Putin is truly in charge. To be sure, he is the front man, the strident nationalist, the tough defender of the motherland against the dark forces of the West. Assassinations of exiled Russians in the UK, however, are far from the only crimes widely attributed to him and his entourage. Since their accession to power in 2000, they have been even more murderously effective at home, where more than thirty<a href=""> journalists have been assassinated</a>, political opponents have been <a href="">jailed</a> or <a href="">liquidated</a>, and countless Chechens have been slaughtered in a <a href="">war against Chechnya</a>. Hardly necessary to elaborate on Russian ventures further afield, from the assault on Ukraine, to the merciless bombing of civilians in Syria and the <a href="">downing of Flight MH17</a>. Rightly or wrongly Putin is reputed to be at the centre of these atrocities; and by this token alone he is and will always be a marked man, conscious of being a target of revenge. In that sense, if in no other, he will never be free to do and to move as he wishes. Danger will stalk him wherever he goes. Either he will remain as president/prime minister indefinitely and enjoy the protection of the State, or he will find himself somewhere, at some unguarded moment, in the cross-hairs of a firearm or digesting one of the poisons in which Russia seems to specialise. </p> <p class="Body">Self-preservation is not the only reason why Putin can’t stand down. He is probably not so much a leader as a factotum in the eyes of his entourage of billionaires, assassins and thugs. At liberty to conduct assassinations, to dip their hands into State coffers, to siphon off vast sums from Russian enterprises, to organise the laundering of ‘dirty money’ through the City of London and other venues, they will be only loosely if at all in Putin’s personal control. Even if he wanted to retire, it’s unlikely they would let him do so until and unless they had someone equally amoral, ruthless and manipulable to take his place. He is a prisoner of the savage world within a world to which he has devoted his political career. His unsmiling, shrew-eyed demeanour is not a mask worn to intimidate opponents but the reflection of a sullen, brutally corrupt inner life from which he will find no escape except via the cemetery.</p> <p class="Body">But why the UK? Two reasons suggest themselves. First, the City of London is the prime launderette for dirty money, the world’s largest controller of offshore tax havens, and, as George Monbiot memorably notes, <a href="">the place where democracy goes to die</a>. No better venue exists anywhere for the clandestine conduct of financial transactions.</p> <p class="Body">Second, many Russian oligarchs - the fabulously wealthy figures who emerged after the break-up of the Soviet Union - have found a warm welcome not only in London’s square mile, but also in the elegant if morally seedy purlieus of Westminster and Matthew Parker Street, headquarters of the Tory Party. They have discovered that for a few hundred thousand a-piece - peanuts to them but a tidy sum to Party Treasurers willing to trade moral integrity for cash - they can avoid unwelcome scrutiny. So, at least, it seems to those of us eager for an explanation of why, as Home Secretary, Theresa May <a href="">refused to sanction</a> an enquiry into Litvinenko’s murder, and why no less than fourteen unexpected deaths of Russians were initially <a href="">brushed off</a> as “non-suspicious”. Is there a link between Tory moral blindness about the origin of large donations from the UK’s ‘Russian’ citizens and Tory insouciance about the strange deaths of Russians living in the UK? It is a question we hardly dare ask for fear of some awful reprisal. When Jeremy Corbyn tried to raise it in parliament, Tories and media alike branded him a traitor, a turncoat, a Russian turnip. The <a href="">BBC photoshopped his hat</a> to make it look Bolshevik, and stood him in front of the Kremlin. A number of Labour backbenchers gave a discreet nod to the smear campaign.</p> <p class="Body">Corruption, as we can see, is not the only British speciality. The UK is equally adept at hypocrisy, at pointing accusing fingers at ‘enemies’ while quietly colluding with them for mutual gain and vilifying anyone who ventures to object. Valdimir Putin and colleagues appear to have had some good friends in this country; friends of proven discretion and lacklustre curiosity. Hitherto even mysterious deaths have been quietly raked over like earth over a grave. Only because the chosen weapon - in this case a nerve agent - has affected the community at large has the matter come to wide attention and provoked justifiable outrage. Conspiracy wonks will see the incident as a Russian test of British resolve and Western unity. For them, the ‘enemy’ is always dangerously efficient. But the assault on the Skripals in Salisbury looks more than anything like a blunder, an unintended revelation of depravity and ruthless criminality on our streets and in subterranean corridors of power. Will we ever get to the bottom of it? Best not to hold our breath.</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="/od-russia/sergey-smirnov/ban-rt-uk-helps-putin-campaign-freedom">By banning Russian propaganda, the UK will help Putin in his campaign against press freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mark-galeotti/murder-in-ankara-is-vultures-coming-home-to-roost">The murder in Ankara is vultures coming home to roost</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-arutunyan/russias-politics-of-paranoia">Russia&#039;s politics of paranoia</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 Jeremy Fox Tue, 20 Mar 2018 06:00:45 +0000 Jeremy Fox 116753 at Reclaiming land as a common good <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">An interview with Mark Walton, director and founder of Shared Assets.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The aim of openDemocracy’s ‘New Thinking for the British Economy’ project is to present a debate on how to build a more just, sustainable, and resilient economy. In the project so far we’ve debated policy areas ranging from trade policy and universal basic income, to childcare policy and housing . But across Britain, hundreds of people are working tirelessly to build a new economy on a daily basis, putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up. In a new video series, we will be showcasing some of the most exciting&nbsp;initiatives that are already working to replace different aspects of our failing systems with fairer and more resilient alternatives — from housing and finance to food and energy. This week, Mark Walton from <a href="">Shared Assets</a> speaks to us about&nbsp;the work the organisation is doing to reclaim land as a common good, and&nbsp;pioneer new&nbsp;models of land management that deliver shared social, economic and environmental benefits. Watch the full video below: [embed][/embed]</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 Laurie Macfarlane Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:46:48 +0000 Laurie Macfarlane 116752 at The Brexiteer and the newt – a case study in the EU, corporations and nature <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Part one of a new three-part series on EU environmental protections – and how Brexiteers are seeking to redefine protected wildlife as a “scourge” to industry.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// crested newt.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// crested newt.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Great Crested Newt, <a href="">Natural England/Flickr</a>.</em></p><p>There are two diametrically opposed Brexit narratives, in what is now widely described as a ‘cultural war’ dividing the nation. The first story presents Britain as exceptional and plucky, but currently under the yoke of the risk averse European Union matriarch. We Brits, with the help of the brotherly United States, can overthrow this oppressive other, reboot our economy and find our way to the sunlit uplands.</p> <p>The second story is that of the great catastrophe. Britain had found a port in the storm with the European Union, and the single market and free movement represented an openness, a connectivity and solidarity which is now under threat. It is small minded businessmen, obsessed with non-existent “red tape”, privately driving this absurd and dangerous escapade. </p> <h2>Enter the warty newt</h2> <p>At the centre of this particular conflict between protecting what remains of our natural environment, and supporting development end economic prosperity, is the great crested newt (<em>Triturus cristatus)</em> or as it is more comically known, the warty newt. </p> <p>The great crested newt is the perfect case study when trying to understand the implications of Brexit at the complex nexus between corporations, European and national government, local communities, environmental pressure groups and nature itself. It is the canary in the mine as European directives and regulations undergo translation to British law through the EU Withdrawal Bill.</p> <p>The nocturnal amphibian has suffered prolonged historic declines in its population, but is protected by a European Union directive. This regulation causes much annoyance to Britain’s house builders, and to their trade lobby groups and supporters in government. The fate of the great crested newt appears to hang in the balance, and the more we learn about its plight the more we will know about our own. So it really is worth taking the time to hear their story - from the beginning.</p> <p>The great crested newt is Britain’s largest and most threatened newt. Its knobbly appearance has leant it the nickname of the warty newt. It has been hibernating since October and should be waking up around now. The nocturnal creature can be found snoozing under piles of leaves or logs or inside tree stumps or stone walls, and occasionally in the mud of the pond bed.</p> <p>Paul de Zylva, nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, explains: “Great crested newts are protected in UK and EU law because they have suffered huge drops in population in the past century caused by the filling in of ponds on farms and in gardens, and damage to their surrounding hunting grounds. It is illegal to disturb them, their natural habitat and even their eggs.”</p> <p>Yet this seemingly inoffensive creature is presented to the world - by <em>The Telegraph </em>at least - as “the <a href="">scourge of the building industry</a>”. The <a href="">Home Builders Federation</a> (HBF) describes itself as “the voice of home building industry of England and Wales”, lobbying government in the interests of its members. The trade body represents <a href="">household names</a> such as Barratt Developments and Crest Nicholson and smaller local housebuilders. </p> <p>The HBF views as halcyon days the period between 1960 and 1989. Things were so much simpler back then. According to a report published by the body last year, this was “a period in which small house building companies could start up, grow quickly and establish themselves as significant contributors to regional economies… Experience of the 1980s shows that post-war housing supply peaked at precisely the same point as small, entrepreneurial companies were flourishing.” This was the golden era. New homes. New jobs. New profits.</p> <p>The fall in the number of great crested newts coincided with increased house building across the UK since World War II. “The species is sensitive to changes in water quality. Correspondingly, industrial pollution of water, destruction and drainage of ponds seem to be the most harmful factors for <em>T. cristatus,</em>” according to the IUCN <a href=""><em>Red List of Threatened Species</em></a>. “Habitat fragmentation is a threat.”</p> <p>Political leaders from across Europe were becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of industry, including house building, on the natural environment, and fears over species decline led to the first piece of environmental regulation from the European Union. </p> <p>Directive 79/409/EEC, known as the Birds Directive, was adopted unanimously by the member states in April 1979. Adopting the directive in Britain was one of the final acts of James Callaghan’s Labour government. The European Commission notes: “It is the oldest piece of <a href="">EU legislation on the environment</a> and one of its cornerstones.”</p> <p>The directive introduced Special Protection Areas and placed great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species. Politicians were able to take credit for the economic boom, while also appearing to care deeply for the natural environment. Problem identified. Solution found. </p> <h2>Johnson, senior – a fan of EU environment law</h2> <p>But the conflict between nature and economic growth can through regulation be resolved for the short term, only to emerge later in an extended and more severe form. </p> <p>The apparent golden era of housing building and prosperity for all came to a crashing end in 1990. The cause was not the great crested newt, but the economy. As the HBF itself recognises: “The recession which engulfed the UK economy in the early 1990s was deeper and arguably harder felt for a greater number of households than the most recent recession period of negative growth in the late 2000s.”</p> <p>There was, in the eyes of industry, another major problem. The Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher had introduced the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. </p> <p>This, according to the HBF, “tipped the balance of control significantly away from private, entrepreneurial companies and towards authorities”. It was “the most momentous planning legislation” since the 1947 act “which effectively nationalised the right to develop land”. The act established for the first time a presumption against development unless in accordance with development plans drawn up by local authorities. </p> <p>Two years later, house builders would be confronted with yet another challenge. The European Union adopted Directive 92/43/EEC, known as the Habitats Directive, on 21 May 1992. The commission also lent its weight to the International Union for Nature Conservation <em>European Red Lists of Threatened Species, </em>providing an overview of the conservation status of more than 6,000 European species so that appropriate action can be taken to protect those <a href="">threatened with extinction</a>.</p> <p>The great crested newt was duly added to the Red List, and suddenly British house builders needed to get very well acquainted with the amphibian.</p> <p>There was at least one Brit who was absolutely delighted by these developments. Stanley Johnson is the former Conservative MP, former employee of the European Commission and current co-chairman of Environmentalists for Europe. He is also father to the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.</p> <p>He has been described as “instrumental” in delivering the habitats directive. “The Spanish have the lynx, the Romanians and Slovenians have wolves, elsewhere in Europe there are bears. I think we should be proud of our great crested newt,” he said more recently. “I hope this element of <a href="">EU environment law</a> doesn’t take too much of a pounding.”</p> <p>While the great crested newt was being protected from extinction in the intervening years, the same could not be said for many smaller British house building companies. Many of those who had somehow survived the recession of the 1990s were wiped out by the 2008 financial crisis, with one third going out of business between 2007 and 2009, according to the HBF.</p> <p>The faltering global economy, and the emergence of a complex monopoly within the industry would, however, escape serious censure in the Conservative press. Migration would be blamed. And occasionally, so too would the great crested newt. House builders were in crisis, and obviously the main problem was European regulation, environmental regulation, newt regulation.</p> <p>Stories about the absurdity of the birds and habitats directives became commonplace. Just a few months after the economic crash, <em>The Telegraph</em> thundered: “Leicestershire County Council delayed a major road-building scheme for three months after evidence of <a href="">great crested newts</a> was found on the site. The species is protected by law, but after the authority paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for special newt-fencing and traps, not one of the rare creatures was discovered.”</p> <p>This newt controversy fed into and reinforced a wider social narrative that plucky old Britain was being dragged under the waves by the great albatross of Europe. The Conservatives were delighted that the EU was taking the heat, and simultaneously keen to affirm its reputation as being the champion of business.</p> <h2>A wake-up call for the complacent newt</h2> <p>The nature-business conflict manifests itself as two factions within the Conservative party: one seeking the votes of the environmentally conscious, including the young, the other championing the interests of business. </p> <p>Greg Clark, then planning minister, launched a root and branch review of the planning system in 2010, which would result in the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). </p> <p>This was an attempt to spark a new house building boom by removing costly regulations. The minister called for a "presumption in favour of sustainable development". This was a somewhat Orwellian signal that environmental regulation would no longer be a barrier to development. </p> <p>Clark appointed Peter Andrew, director of land and planning at house developer Taylor Wimpey, to the panel set up to review the planning laws. Three out of four members of the panel had direct involvement in development. The <a href="">industry-dominated panel</a> drafted its proposed reforms, including the recommendation that “at the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision taking.” </p> <p>This recommendation was in turn effectively copy and pasted by the Conservative government into its own policy. <em>The Guardian</em> reported: “The chiefs of housing firms, including Barratt, Bovis and Redrow, insisted that ministers introduced a planning policy that would mean the default answer to applications would be ‘yes’ – a presumption that would hugely boost their business prospects”.</p> <p>The HBF was at the centre of the lobbying campaign. The trade body fired off a letter circulated to George Osborne, then chancellor, demanding that this new presumption "must be introduced immediately" as it formed part of "<a href="">absolutely essential requirements</a>" of any new planning policy. </p> <p>The trade body was delighted by the Tory policy paper published the following year. “The introduction of the NPPF in 2012 engendered a much more positive environment in which to plan for new housing,” it reported. “This can be seen very clearly by the impact it has had on the number of planning permissions that have been achieved in the years following its ‘bedding in’.” </p> <p>But the wholesale adoption of the reforms asked for by housing developers by the Conservative cabinet raised serious concerns among charities, including those considered ‘conservative with a small-c’. Neil Sinden, then policy director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, felt it necessary to speak out. </p> <p>"The evidence suggests that some in government have allowed themselves to get too close to the development lobby, which has enabled [the industry] to exert disproportionate influence,” he argued. "It's no surprise <a href="">housebuilders have been pushing the presumption in favour of sustainable development</a> so strongly. It allows them to threaten local authorities with costly appeals if their applications are not approved."</p> <p>This was a wake-up call for the complacent great crested newt. The house building industry and the government were now united. Friends of the Earth’s de Zylva concludes: “The humble great crested is probably best known for its ability to stop a developer’s plans in its tracks if it would cause harm to newts and their feeding and breeding grounds.”</p> <p>“For years the government has been trying to get round the laws coming up with various ideas that may look great on paper but are dubious in practice. It’s another case of nature losing out and the government doing the bidding of house builders and developers. If our government got on with protecting and restoring nature instead of spending its time finding ways to make things worse, nature might not be in the deep trouble it is across the UK.”</p> <p><em>In the next instalment in this three-part series, we learn how the European Union and the British government reviewed the impacts of the birds and habitats directives on business over the years, long before Brexit and the fight to ‘take back control’. </em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk BrexitInc Brendan Montague Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:36:41 +0000 Brendan Montague 116751 at How can we better regulate elections in the digital age? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our politicians need to empower our electoral and information regulators to tackle the challenges ahead. Sam Jeffers sets out some starting principles and some radical suggestions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: PA Images. All rights reserved.</em></p><p>The <a href="">Cambridge Analytica revelations this weekend</a> wreck the credibility of Alexander Nix’s company and of Facebook. Cambridge Analytica will probably close down. Facebook will struggle to rebuild trust in its ability to carry political communication. As a user, it’s a reminder you really have no idea who’s behind a message or how it found its way to you. It’s not hard to see the company now deciding that politics isn’t worth the trouble it’s giving them (due to the trouble they’ve given it).</p> <p>Because Facebook can’t be trusted, the company, platforms like it and the wider universe of those who sell data and technology solutions to campaigns, should have their role in political communication regulated. These revelations, among other things, prove they can’t oversee themselves. Facebook itself probably knows this by now.</p> <p>These aren’t the acts of ‘bad apples’ - they’re a result of their business models, where selling access to voters in ever more specific ways has led to a race to the bottom of marketing ethics (note also the responsibility of their clients).</p> <p>But the need for oversight should put fear in the heart of every election, media and data regulator in the world. The US Federal Election Commission failed this specific test – but others would have done the same.</p> <p>In the UK, Ofcom, The Electoral Commission and ICO all have a role to play in ensuring elections are trustworthy. But they’re worried about being seen as ‘political’ and this, ironically, tends to give political campaigns a free rein. Many of the challenges posed by modern elections fall between them, or through them, because they aren’t set up to co-ordinate their work, and can’t imagine a policy response because they aren’t trying to understand the near future.</p> <p>We need some initial guiding principles for new forms of regulation. These principles must do several things. They need to recognise the risk of fragmentation of the electorate. Fragmentation makes it easier to drive a wedge between people, which is bad for getting millions of them to live together. </p><p>They need to ensure that the tools being used can be explained to voters using simple language.&nbsp;They need so support appropriate monitoring and data gathering during campaigns. We should avoid a future where we’re worrying about things from a couple of years ago, with little data to understand how a previous election was fought.</p><p>And the principles need to keep things simple for the regulators themselves. To make things slower. Presume you don’t understand, and that new things may have a big impact for good, or bad. Work to understand them. Like medicines regulators do. </p> <p>These are just proposals. A debate about the unintended consequences of these principles would be very useful as a counterbalance, and to help refine them. But working from the principles helps you generate ideas like:</p> <p><strong>“Drug testing” campaigns data.</strong> A regulator should be able to demand instant access to a campaign’s systems and check that data was legally acquired and is being legitimately used.</p> <p><strong>Limiting microtargeting.</strong> An example might be to restrict segment sizes to a certain proportion of the electorate in a given campaign - for example, no smaller than the average parliamentary constituency. It’s unproven whether hyper-targeted messaging that preys on our psychology and emotions is an effective campaign technique. But do we want to find out? I’m not persuaded it’s something we need to have a better democracy.</p> <p><strong>Demanding radical transparency. </strong>Campaigns should lodge their campaign plans and the techniques they want to use with regulators in advance of campaigns and update them in a timely way throughout them.</p> <p><strong>Reserving the right to outlaw or delay the use of specific techniques for the purposes of political communication.</strong> Bots, AI-assisted advertising products, almost anything that impersonates human communication but isn’t a human. These are the things that tempt campaigns and consultants because they (usually) promise unparalleled accuracy for less money. Regulators should make campaigns wait to use them until their effects are known.</p> <p>Currently, the regulators’ policy work on new campaigning techniques is inadequate to ensure the integrity of campaigns. They lack guidance. Their staff lack the resources and skills, and their impulse to do much about these issues is weak, as they try to avoid the appearance of being politicised.</p> <p>All of that must change. The recent past creates a worrying precedent for what’s wrong with democratic oversight in the internet era. But the near future holds much worse. Politicians, who ultimately give regulators their orders and resources, must start to act.</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="/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/facebook-needs-to-face-up-to-new-political-reality">Facebook needs to face up to the new political reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/carolina-mila/democracy-needs-us-less-social-media-and-more-social-interaction">Democracy needs us: less social media and more social interaction</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/leighton-andrews/why-regulators-like-ofcom-are-dropping-ball-on-fake-news-dark-advertising-and-ex">Why regulators like Ofcom are dropping the ball on ‘Fake News’, dark advertising and extremism</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 digitaLiberties uk Sam Jeffers Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:00:45 +0000 Sam Jeffers 116736 at 5 ways to solve the housing crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our cities need homes - not safety deposit boxes in the sky.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_July_2014.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_July_2014.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: St George Wharf, London 2014. <a href=",_July_2014.jpg">James Beard/Wikipedia</a>, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>Housing is a basic human requirement. There’s nothing in life more fundamental than the roof over a person’s head. Good housing policies are about people rather than profit. Unfortunately we haven’t had polices of that kind in the UK for nearly four decades.</p> <p>In London there are currently hundreds of luxury towers going up, targeted mainly at foreign investors. They’re not homes in any real sense but financial assets, no more than safety deposit boxes in the sky. At the same time thousands of people are sleeping rough, tens of thousands of children are in temporary homeless accommodation and hundreds of thousands of them live in poverty in a private rented sector that’s broken. It’s a pattern that’s replicated all over the country.</p> <p>The national tragedy that was Grenfell brought into sharp focus how dysfunctional our housing system had become and finally moved housing policy back towards the top of the political agenda where it should have been all along. It’s a measure of how critical the situation is and how much lost ground we have to make up that all these many months after that horrendous fire at Grenfell only a fraction of the 200 households who needed to be housed actually have been. The rest are still in temporary homeless accommodation.</p> <p>But while it’s agreed there’s a housing crisis, all we’re getting from the politicians is hopeless bluff and bluster. What we need from them is a credible, practical plan of action to get us out of the dreadful mess they’ve got us into.</p> <p>What might such a plan look like? </p> <h2>1. Ditch right to buy</h2> <p>Ditching ‘the right to buy’ won’t cost the government any money but is long overdue. Since it recently made the miserable decision to ditch lifetime tenancies because of the chronic shortage of housing it should certainly scrap ‘the right to buy’, which did so much to create that shortage in the first place. It’s also long since ceased to be a vote winner. In fact it’s a vote loser, ‘generation rent’ having every reason to greatly resent it. After all, it’s seen the selling off at absurd bargain basement prices of 2 million genuinely affordable rented homes.</p> <h2>2. Regulate the private rented sector</h2> <p>When the government decided to dispose of all those council homes under the ‘right to buy’ they didn’t put anything to speak of in their place. Instead, ‘buy to let’ has resulted in 40% of those former council homes now being owned by private landlords. These landlords rent them out at four times the rents that would have been charged had they remained in public ownership. In many cases, they are leasing them back – at hugely inflated costs, and often poorly maintained - to the very same councils who were forced to sell them off in the first place, and who now have a desperate shortage of social housing to accommodate homeless people. Virtually all local authorities operate such private leasing schemes. </p> <p>It gets worse. Alongside the right to buy sell off, the government decided to deregulate the private rented market. This has had disastrous results ( see ‘Who Is to Blame for the Housing Crisis?’), with appalling exploitation of those on lower incomes forced to accept sub-standard housing let out by slum landlords. We have ‘beds in sheds’, ‘rent to rent,’ ‘rent a bed’. The government must not be allowed to sweep this Dickensian situation under the carpet. This sector needs to be properly regulated, no ifs or buts.</p> <h2>3. Allow councils the funds to maintain their properties</h2> <p>Councils must be allowed sufficient funds to adequately maintain and modernise their homes. The government hasn’t permitted this for donkey’s years, and the catastrophic results predate Grenfell. They include the developer-led demolition programme in London masquerading as a renewal programme that affected no less than 30,000 council properties, and the net loss of 8,000 genuinely affordable and desperately needed rented properties.</p> <p>This programme has involved social and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, with communities broken up and thousands of people displaced. And for what? So that luxury apartments could be built for overseas investors who wouldn’t even be living in them. This obscene scandal is a direct consequence of government starving councils of the funds to adequately maintain and modernise their stock, for many years. </p> <h2>4. Undertake major drive to build rented homes for people on limited incomes</h2> <p>There needs to be a major drive by the government to get genuinely affordable homes of this kind built given the chronic lack of supply of such accommodation. In 2010 36,000 social rented homes were started with government subsidies. Last year just1,000 such homes were started. The government should go back to putting direct subsidy into building social rented homes by means of grant-aiding housing associations for this specific purpose. They can make a start on this by increasing their capital commitment to this back to the level it was before their austerity cuts.</p> <h2>5. Stop moving the goalposts about ‘affordable’ housing. </h2> <p>The government’s failed stewardship of the land and planning system has allowed the developers to get away with two gigantic con tricks. The first is shrouded in mystery – it’s the secret financial viability assessments that developers have been using – and that are engineered to provide no genuinely affordable housing on their sites. Under this nonsensical system a major developer making colossal profits can ‘prove’ they can’t afford to provide housing of this kind on a site. </p> <p>The other, related con trick is hidden in plain sight. Developers and the government have colluded to shift the focus from ‘social’ housing (i.e. publicly owned property which legally must be rented at no more than 60% of market rates) to so-called ‘affordable’ housing which can be rented at up to 80% of market rates, or indeed sold in various ‘low cost’ home ownership schemes such as part-buy.</p> <p>The focus on affordable housing had been quietly developing under successive governments for some time. There was a greater policy push in 2014 to go down this already existing route. Then along came the Housing and Planning Act in 2016, which redefined affordable housing to include homes for sale costing up to £450,000.</p> <p>By this point it had become clear that the government didn’t want to put a solitary penny into genuinely low cost rented housing for people on limited incomes. They made no mention whatsoever of housing for social needs in their housing policy statement in the Housing White Paper in the following year, which says it all. The developers didn’t want to build such housing either. And the government allowed them to do this, happily permitting them to provide so-called affordable housing on their sites knowing that in reality it was anything but. </p> <p>This phony product was given various fancy titles (‘equity share’, ‘starter homes’ etc) and otherwise sprayed with industrial quantities of marketing bull. And hey presto, the government and the developers both looked like they were doing something to meet real housing need though in reality that contribution did little. In fact if anything, marketing this unaffordable product (many of the shared ownership versions are particularly ghastly examples) merely pushed up prices (and developers’ profits, of course) and further added to the inflationary pressures on land and property prices. While the government and the developers played this grotesquely irresponsible game of smoke and mirrors the people who suffered were the masses of ordinary people who couldn’t get access to decent genuinely affordable housing.</p> <p>This scandalous arrangement continues to thrive in all its hypocritical awfulness to this day. It is a complete subversion of the planning system. It is a million miles away from how it was meant to function and indeed did function until not long ago. The planning system is broken, the government broke it, and they need to fix it. Fast. This would not be difficult to do. It just needs the political will to do it.</p> <p>So there you have it: a five point plan with the sound rationale behind it for resolving the housing crisis. If the government doesn’t follow it or a close version of it that crisis will continue to drive the inequalities of a divided nation. If it does follow it, though, it will form a stable foundation for a public housing policy that puts people over profits and we’ll have gone a long way to becoming, as one of the richest nations on the planet, the civilized society we also ought to be.</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/laurie-macfarlane/it-s-time-to-call-housing-crisis-what-it-really-is-largest-transfer-of-wealth-i">It’s time to call the housing crisis what it really is: the largest transfer of wealth in living memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/to-solve-housing-crisis-we-need-to-fix-our-broken-land-economy">To solve the housing crisis, we need to fix our broken land economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/izzy-koksal/how-to-start-your-own-housing-rights-movement">How to start a housing movement</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 London housing Housing Rights Tony Murrell Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:35:13 +0000 Tony Murrell 116699 at Forget about GDP: it's time for a wellbeing economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Fifty years ago today, Robert Kennedy warned about the limits of GDP. It's time for political leaders around the world to commit to a new vision for our economy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It would be funny if it wasn’t so distressing. After every recent election in the West, the reaction of so many pundits has been to ask: <em>Why are the anti-establishment parties so strong again when GDP has been picking up recently?</em> &nbsp;But perhaps the pick-up in GDP is so removed from what really matters to people that voters are seeking significant change. Voter’s intuitions – that our economies are not aligned with what really matters to them – are mirrored in the evidence. The research is clear: growth in GDP has not been widely shared, instead it is the <a href="">wallets of the already wealthy</a> that have expanded. Moreover, while policy makers strain to squeeze more GDP from a stagnating economy, we know that, beyond a certain threshold, increases in <a href="">GDP per capita don’t bring greater progress</a>. &nbsp;Quality of life is about more than gains in average incomes. GDP doesn’t capture the value of non-monetized or non-marketed work, like <a href="">housework, raising children, caring for the elderly, or volunteering</a>. It is blind to the carrying capacity of our environment. Recognition of the limits to GDP is nothing new. Fifty years ago today, on 18 March 1968, then-presidential candidate <a href="">Senator Robert Kennedy made the exact same point</a><em>: </em></p> <blockquote><em>“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. </em><em>It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”</em></blockquote><p> To avoid another fifty years with an economy geared up for inappropriate goals, we need to cultivate a new economic vision. We need an ambition that relates to people’s daily experiences, not the growth of abstract numbers. This is the vision of a ‘wellbeing economy’: an economy that promotes wellbeing for people and planet. It’s an economy that meets the needs of all within planetary boundaries. It is fair, sufficient and ecologically sustainable. This isn’t an unrealistic pipedream of a utopia where people flourish and the planet survives, it is an ambition being realised, right now, by innovative and creative people who are taking on the challenge of growing wellbeing, rather than just financial wealth. &nbsp;We see this happening in communities, in businesses, and even in the corridors of government. Take Costa Rica. Most of the time, they run completely on renewable energy. In 2017, their energy production was 100%<a href=""> renewable for more than 300 days</a>. And while the rest of the world is desperately trying to halt deforestation, Costa Rica is actively re-foresting, doubling its <a href="">forest coverage between 1983 and 2016</a>. &nbsp;Coupled with low poverty and inequality compared to other countries in the region, they are punching above their weight on <a href="">&nbsp;the Social Progress Index</a>. No other country is better at marrying individual wellbeing, life expectancy and equality with a low ecological footprint. That’s true leadership. Closer to home, consider Scotland. In 2016, the Scottish Government published a <a href="">Circular Economy Strategy</a> which sets out a vision for an environmentally sustainable, low-waste Scotland, with several new regulations soon following. It has <a href="">cross-party support for the Living Wage</a> and has recently created a <a href="">commission to tackle inequality and poverty</a>. And turning to Slovenia, we find a country where <a href="">inequality</a> and the <a href="">gender pay gap</a> are among the lowest in the OECD. Last year, after extensive public dialogue, they published their <a href="">Vision 2050</a>. Its core themes are learning for life, innovative society, trust, quality of life and an identity that is inclusive and outward-looking. Examples such as these offer hope for all of us. There are many more examples around the world where governments, businesses and communities are putting the wellbeing of people and planet first, and living up to their promises. But these pockets of progress on wellbeing are not enough. In isolation, they cannot challenge the status quo. &nbsp;Deep, sustainable change needs a comprehensive, cooperative, and collaborative approach. Fortunately, in October last year, several national and subnational governments from around the world, including Costa Rica, Scotland and Slovenia, decided to establish a group of governments, somewhat akin to the G7 or the G20, that commit to creating wellbeing economies. They agreed that only by collaboration and sharing of lessons will efforts to create economies that serve people and planet have a fighting chance of being realised. With plans for a public launch later in the autumn this is a pivotal moment for such an initial group of governments to take up Robert Kennedy’s challenge and lead the way in setting a new course for 21st century progress and development. This new form of governance and policy-making is needed in a complex, interconnected world. If we are to tackle the shared global challenges we face, from rising inequality to the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, then we need exactly this kind of international co-operation between countries who recognise that a wellbeing economy should be a key aim in their public policy frameworks. Working together to promote policies that improve all our lives and protect our planet offers this ambitious group of governments the means to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the shift to a new economic and social paradigm with the wellbeing of people and planet at its core can be done. In doing so, they will encourage other governments to follow their lead. Realising wellbeing economies will require political will and bold leadership. It’s time for political leaders all around the world to step up and commit to a new vision of wellbeing. People and planet won’t wait another 50 years.</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 Kate Pickett Sun, 18 Mar 2018 09:27:02 +0000 Kate Pickett 116718 at A plea to my students <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why you should remove your headphones, and talk to your striking lecturers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banner at Edinburgh's occupied lecture theatre. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0</span></span></span></p> <p>Spending time on the picket line in the last few weeks has given me a – not always pleasant but still welcome – insight into something I have dedicated a lot of time and effort studying as a theorist – complicity with injustice. The strikers in Edinburgh have received important and heart-warming support from the <a href="">student union</a> and from several groups of student volunteers who, day after day, did the tours of the picket lines, bringing hot beverages and food. Moreover, Edinburgh is now the site of a wonderful student occupation (@EdiSolidarity), endorsed by our equally supportive rector, Ann Henderson. These expressions of solidarity nurtured us immensely, striking academic and support staff.</p> <p>However, too often on cold, wet mornings, my calls to passing students, offering information and asking for their solidarity, hit a wall. I am aware that there are extraordinarily difficult personal circumstances that put a lot of strain on some of our students and that it would be unreasonable to expect solidarity from everyone. This is not who I am pleading with here. I am addressing those who are not impeded by such circumstances and who deliberately entered what I would call a <em>sensorial shut-down</em>: eyes averted, ears covered with voluminous, noise-cancelling headphones, accelerated walking or last-minute changes of direction – these were frequently-used strategies that many adopted to become immune to my pleas. The sensorial shut-down was simultaneously an <em>emotional shut-down,</em> which prevented any form of conversation – let alone solidarity – from developing. This had the (very depressing) effect of rendering me invisible and inaudible, excluding me from their reality and the realm of what matters to them. </p> <p>This deliberate choice not to see and not to hear those who ask for support reminded me of Judith Shklar’s work and particularly her discussion of passive injustice. With Shklar, I want to invite my students who opted for the double sensorial and emotional shut-down to reflect on their refusal to hear us, see us, talk to us and ultimately become indignant <em>for </em>and<em> with</em> us. This attitude becomes incomprehensible and demoralising given that the rapidly accumulating information about the injustice of the pension cuts has been widely available through a variety of media. At Edinburgh, striking academic staff have clearly explained to students their reasons for taking strike action, have made various suggestions about how they could get involved and have consistently shown a great deal of sensitivity to the ways in which academic progress will be affected. Moreover, everyone who sets foot on the central campus can witness inspiring practices of solidarity by various student groups, who have refused to be passive spectators and have chosen to become politically active, transforming the university into a laboratory for democratic engagement. For all these reasons, it becomes harder and harder to make sense of the decision not to engage in a conversation with striking teachers and support staff – the very people who are essential to the functioning of the university. </p> <p>In her <em>Faces of Injustice</em> (Yale University Press, 1990) Shklar argues that active violations of explicit and implicit principles of justice do not constitute the only form of injustice plaguing democracies. A more insidious form of injustice involves failing to prevent or report inequities and injuries when we witness them: </p> <p>“... by passive injustice I do not mean our habitual indifference to the misery of others, but a far more limited and specifically civic failure to stop public and private acts of injustice … As citizens we are passively unjust when we do not report crimes, when we look the other way when we do see cheating and minor thefts, when we tolerate political corruption, and when we silently accept laws that we regard as unjust, unwise or cruel. (p. 5)”</p> <p>For Shklar, political action motivated by proper indignation is the marker of good citizenship. The duty to stop and call injustices around us is not a requirement of charity or human goodness, of heroism or supererogation. It is a civic duty, a duty of all members of the community necessary for the reproduction of the values, institutions and practices that make democracy possible. Indignation is the emotion associated with an active moral sense that reacts to injustices experienced by others around us. The passively unjust choose not to see, hear or speak up because they deem showing solidarity with others too costly – even if what is at stake is a minor inconvenience. To avoid their own pangs of conscience, the passively unjust rationalise their behaviour. In so doing, they preclude any possibility to debate politically about what is happening to certain members of their community, thus becoming “morally deaf and disassociated” (p. 40) onlookers to the injustice that affects others – in this case their teachers and support staff, who are silenced, made to feel irrelevant and isolated. </p> <p>Many students offered a degree of compassion: “I support your strike, but I demand to see my tutor/you must extend my deadline/you must postpone my exam”. The capacity to identify injustice and recognise the effect it has on others (“I support your strike”) needs, however, to be supplemented by a desire to act and speak up. The biggest problem in affluent democratic societies is the indolence of the sense of justice: while opportunities to condemn abuses are abundant, many do nothing. Not acting on one’s sense of justice goes against the minimal set of values and principles all democracies seek to cultivate in their citizens. And this troubling since, in contrast with the citizens of oppressive regimes, citizens of democracies enjoy a robust array of freedoms. </p> <p>Of course, our outraged sense of justice can be misguided – oversensitive, lacking proof or solid arguments. What is more, the indignant might turn out to be dangerous fanatics. The only way to know whether public anger is legitimate is to allow everyone to voice their concerns and present evidence, listening to what they have to say before making a judgement. Hesitating to reach for the headphones is a pre-requisite for the possibility of effective communication, compassion and solidarity. Our joint expressions of public outrage and condemnation could contribute to the health of both our university and our democratic society. Injustices left unchallenged accumulate and are more difficult to dislocate. Your lecturers’ outrage should remind you of the perpetually imperfect nature of our institutions and of what we could do if we worked together on making them better.</p> <p>Joining us in practices of protest and denunciation is one possible way of fulfilling the civic duty to fight the injustice affecting those close to you. Public expressions of solidarity can help promote awareness and societal reflection over abuses and hopefully kick-start processes of accountability. However, to be effective, protests must reverberate in the community: they depend on networks of solidarity. And this is why I am asking you to see us, your striking teachers and support staff, hear our voices and begin to imagine a fairer university. As the occupying students so poignantly argued, our working conditions are your learning conditions. Moreover, political participation <em>is</em> education. This strike might just be that crucial opportunity for us to think more critically and more compassionately about our relationship – a relationship so often captured in ‘client-service provider’ terms – to reflect on your power as student-citizens and to resuscitate that old conversation about the value and purposes of a university.&nbsp; </p><p>--</p><p><em>These thoughts were first presented at a Teach Out session on The Ethics of Striking outside Edinburgh University on Monday 12 March, along with presentations by other members of the Political Theory Research Group.&nbsp; </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/mathias-thaler/picket-line-rules-miss-point">Picket line rules miss the point</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/kieran-oberman/just-and-unjust-strikes">Just and unjust strikes</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 Just strike Mihaela Mihai Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:18:40 +0000 Mihaela Mihai 116708 at Picket line rules miss the point <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pickets are not meant to be a space for deliberative democracy. They are sites of protest.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The purpose of this short piece is twofold:</p> <ol><li>To look at the UCU guidance on picketing and examine what model of political action and speech undergirds it;</li><li>To establish whether this model is appropriate for sustaining strike action.</li></ol> <p>In so doing, I want to contribute to an interrogation of our behaviour on the picket line and to a critique of the normative model that governs us. Although I will not issue a call for radical upheaval, I shall insist that the current practice of permissible speech and action is ultimately self-defeating and contrary to the original intent of picketing. This conclusion will, naturally, not be news to those who have been picketing over the past few weeks, but it might help us to better understand the reasons why striking in these lands can sometimes be such a deflating experience.</p> <h2>1. Arguing on the picket line</h2> <p>The <a href="">UCU guidance</a> on how to behave responsibly and within the limits of the law, which is derived from the UK <a href="">Government’s Code of Practice</a>, explains the dual purpose of the picket line:</p> <ol><li>To peacefully obtain and communicate information;</li><li>To peacefully persuade a person not to work.</li></ol> <p>Altogether, the word “peaceful” appears seven times in the three-page document. This is quite astonishing because anyone who has ever attended an academic seminar will probably concur that the risk of lecturers suddenly expressing their demands by violent means seems rather far-fetched. What the guidance makes abundantly clear, however, is that any kind of disturbance aimed at producing discomfort is outlawed by the state. This constraint also transpires in the internal organization of the picket line, with one person (the picket “captain”) bearing full responsibility for keeping the order.</p> <p>The socialising effect of this strict regulation has become quite evident during this strike, where colleagues in Edinburgh have reported that they have been repeatedly asked to “tone down” the noise they were making on the picket line, or to stop barbecuing in front of entrance doors because the smell disturbed those who went inside. Just today, my (relatively) polite “really?” in response to the claim that it was compatible to fully support the strike and cross the picket line was deemed aggressive by the non-striking colleague who uttered this nonsense. I am sure there are many more examples of non-striking colleagues invoking this regime of excessive propriety to minimize the impact of the picket line and to guard themselves against difficult discussions.</p> <p>If we look at the UCU guidance a bit more closely, it is evident which model of political speech and action undergirds it. This is a model whereby we fully respect each other in the process of arguing about contentious issues, offering reasons for our considered judgments, and listening attentively to counterclaims. As such, this is a deeply dialogical model that is premised on a few key assumptions:</p> <ol><li>Facts matter: One purpose of the picket line is to inform others about what is going on. So, the goal of picketing is not only to promote “our view” of the debate, but also to steer the controversy towards “falsifiable facts”. Implicit in this idea is a commitment to objectivity, which is different from one-sided propagandizing.</li><li>Persuasion is possible: If we are to try to convince others not to cross the picket line, persuasion must be more than a theoretical possibility. We can identify here an assumption about the “force of the better argument”: Once you show, with sufficient clarity, that certain statements are self-contradictory or unfounded, then the agent who is wrong will have to change her behaviour and show solidarity – she will refrain from crossing the picket line.</li><li>Dialogue should be calm and rational: Given that persuasion is a real prospect, it will most likely succeed in situations where people remain calm and rational, both listening to, and trying to convince one another, with plausible arguments based on objective facts.</li></ol> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.47.31_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.47.31_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Teach-Out, Edinburgh, March 13, 2018. Photo by Matthew Chrisman.</span></span></span></p><p>The theory that best captures these dimensions is <a href="">deliberative democracy</a>. Authors such as Jürgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib or John Dryzek have over the past three decades tried to defend an account of democracy that resonates with the guidance provided by UCU. The idea that good citizenship involves, amongst other things, the ability to provide and respond to reasoned arguments about contentious issues appears intuitively plausible. Should we therefore applaud UCU, and the British state, for basing its strike laws on such an influential theory of democracy? The answer is (a qualified) no. </p><h2>2. Against arguing on the picket line</h2> <p>While deliberative democracy seems to offer us a theoretical framework for thinking through political speech and action on the picket line, we should ask whether some of the objections to deliberative democracy also apply to the current governance of “responsible” striking. The most devastating criticism of deliberative democracy, best articulated by the late <a href="">Iris Marion Young</a>, is that the ideal of rational argumentation delegitimizes alternative forms of action and speech that deviate from the giving and taking of reasons. Young refers to these “<a href="">activist challenges to deliberative democracy</a>” so as to demonstrate that rational argumentation will not be effective when power is asymmetrically distributed. In situations in which one side wields significantly more power than the other, insisting on calm and rational discourse can be an insidious way of stifling genuine opposition. It is worthwhile quoting at length what Young has to say about this effect:</p> <p>Typically, the activist eschews deliberation, especially deliberation with persons wielding political or economic power and official representatives of institutions he believes perpetuate injustice or harm. He finds laughable the suggestion that he and his comrades should sit down with those whom he criticizes and whose policies he opposes to work out an agreement through reasoned argument they all can accept. The powerful officials have no motive to sit down with him, and even if they did agree to deliberate, they would have the power unfairly to steer the course of the discussion. Thus, the activist takes other action that he finds more effective in conveying his criticism and furthering the objectives he believes right: picketing, leafleting, guerilla theatre, large and loud street demonstrations, sit-ins, and other forms of direct action, such as boycotts.</p> <p>Note that Young argues explicitly in this passage that picketing should not be subject to the constraints of deliberative democracy, for it is a form of direct action taken in response to a perceived injustice or oppression. We can easily see why this “activist” framework might be practically more apt for governing our behaviour, once we return to the very first point that the UCU guidance emphasizes: that the picket line is supposed to gather and disseminate information about facts.</p> <p>That kind of information exchange might be useful in cases where colleagues have put their heads in the sand and not cared about anything related to this dispute. Maybe in these contexts, calm and rational argumentation will work. I would presume that some of you will have had success in persuading colleagues to turn around and not cross the picket line, precisely by appealing to their good will to grapple with our reasons for striking.</p> <p>But what happens when we switch focus, from our well-meaning colleagues and students, to those who are employed in the University management? Does the deliberative model still apply when we confront those who possess so much more power than we do? Do we have to listen to them, and can we reasonably expect they will listen to us?</p> <p>I want to suggest that, as members of the academic community, we should certainly try to listen and make our claims heard, but we must not assume that the other side will do the same and take our standpoints seriously. The employer side in this labour conflict has displayed a shocking disregard of our views. What is worse, the secrecy shrouding the entire process – from the way in which the consultations on the pensions deficit were set up to the ongoing negotiations on the national level – contradicts the publicity requirement of functioning deliberation. The shameful deception orchestrated by the UUK reminds us that insisting on getting the facts right will be of only limited value if your conversation partner is bent on abusing their power from the outset.</p> <p>Deliberative democracy remains centrally premised on reciprocity, the public display of respect through the giving and taking of reasons. If a deliberator joins the debate by painting an incomplete or fraudulent picture of reality, one way of responding is, of course, to attempt to correct that lopsided picture with as much rhetorical force as possible. Part of the recent controversy has accordingly been about compelling the UUK to reconsider its pension calculations, by stating that the basis on which these calculations were made is plainly wrong; we have the experts to prove that, and you better answer to our claims. Call this the <a href="">Otsuka strategy</a>.</p> <p>But simultaneously we must be careful to avoid wishful thinking: if there is a deplorable history of deception, then institutional and often personal trust has been damaged. As a consequence, it would be dangerous to hope that your conversation partner acts in good faith when defending particular positions. In situations of eroded confidence in each other’s sincerity, reciprocity cannot simply be taken for granted. We must begin anew and with great caution, by soberly acknowledging that currently no basis for a calm, rational debate exists. Perhaps it can again be established in the future, and we should do our best to work towards that goal. But a realistic perspective, which factors in historical encounters and failures to understand one another, involves accepting that dialogue is not always possible, nor is it desirable under all circumstances.</p> <p>This is precisely the moment when pickets have to become something other than places of dialogue. What we need today is an activist model of political speech and action that makes use of the full panoply of non-violent resistance. What I want to suggest is that, as political theorists on the picket line, we should move away from a concern with Habermas, Benhabib and Dryzek, and turn instead to <a href="">Gene Sharp</a>’s analysis of non-violent resistance. Sharp’s writings teach us that only a diversity of tactics will prove successful. I think he is right.</p> <h2>3. Beyond arguing</h2> <p>Does this mean that arguing on the picket line is always misguided? Of course not. It is important that we collectively take the task of deliberation seriously, especially with regard to colleagues who are just ignorant or prone to inconsistent statements, such as “I fully support the strike, but I have a lot of work to do.” Yeah, I am sure you have, and we don’t, which is why we enjoy standing in the cold rain so much!</p> <p>As a general rule of thumb, we can probably say that, where the playing field is relatively equal, we should invest our hopes in the “force of the better argument” to do its work. A good activist must be an effective conversationalist, not least to address disagreements within the campaign she is supporting. And, after all, as academics, we are in the arguing business. Deliberation is our bread and butter, which is maybe one of the reasons why we have so uncritically endorsed it as a valid model for our behaviour on the picket line.</p> <p>But where the playing field is skewed towards one side of a conflict deliberation imposes unequal burdens on conversation partners. It is imperative that we are not tricked into believing that rational argumentation exhausts all that there is to political speech and action, as the UCU guidance suggests. The fact that the picket line is today governed by a regime of excessive propriety indicates that one of the key ideas behind picketing has been comprehensively undermined.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.46.33_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 23.46.33_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>2 Picture source:</p> <p>To understand this, let us raise a simple question: If picketing were indeed only about information plus persuasion, where would workers’ or women’s rights in our part of the world stand today? (I am asking a question here about the historical development of these rights, not about their current state.) It does not need reminding that the original intent of the picket line has always been militant, echoing, in some respects, its historical predecessor, the barricade: <a href="">to completely disrupt the normal functioning of the workplace by building a barrier</a>. It is vital that we keep this radical aim in mind, and ponder how we can recapture its spirit, when we reflect on the next steps in this industrial action.</p> <p>It follows that, at the very least, disturbances of the public space within the University should remain firmly on the table. The fact that we cannot occupy University buildings without the threat of punishment, is a sad indictment on the state of our institutions. In this regard, it is immensely uplifting to see once again that it is the students who have taken the plunge. Their recent actions around the UK, courageously occupying administrative and teaching buildings to show solidarity, is a highly disruptive measure that should make all of us proud.</p> <p>Moreover, we must also reclaim the right to make people with more power feel uncomfortable. One can generate unease in people with the help of strong arguments – if those people are generally receptive and willing to listen. Sometimes, however, other forms of speaking and acting politically work better: from shouting to shaming, from singing to dancing. This is where creative practice emerges as a central instrument in the activist’s toolbox. Change cannot happen without producing at least some discomfort, for the simple reason that it hurts to be alerted to one’s privilege.</p> <p>---</p> <p>These thoughts were first presented at a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Teach Out</a>&nbsp;session on The Ethics of Striking outside Edinburgh University on Tuesday 13 March, 2018, along with presentations by other members of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Political Theory Research Group</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/kieran-oberman/just-and-unjust-strikes">Just and unjust strikes</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 Just strike Mathias Thaler Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:05:53 +0000 Mathias Thaler 116706 at Deportation and direct action in Britain: the ‘terrorist trial’ of the Stansted 15 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Normal1">The severity of the charge faced by the Stansted 15 should be seen as an important moment in defining the scope for non-violent protest in the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img alt="open Movements" src="//" width="460px" /></a><br /><b>The <i><a href="">openMovements</a></i> series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.</b></p><p> </p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// lock on.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// lock on.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'>Activists at Stansted. Credit: End Deportations</span></span></span>At 10pm on 28 March 2017, fifteen activists wearing pink hi-viz vests entered the perimeter of London Stansted airport's InFlite executive jet centre, and walked openly across a grassed area to where a Titan Airways Boeing 767-300 was parked. </p> <p class="Normal1">The activists waved to the pilots and split into two groups; one group used metal tubing to lock themselves together at the front of the plane, whilst the remaining activists walked to the rear of the plane, where they <a href="">constructed a tripod and locked themselves together</a> underneath it. </p> <p class="Normal1">Within a few minutes, security guards arrived; by that time, the activists had already made it impossible for the plane to move in either direction, effectively cancelling the flight. The 15, from a coalition of three groups (End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, and Plane Stupid), remained on the tarmac throughout the night as the police worked to release them, with the last arrest at around 8am.</p> <p class="Normal1">The 15 go on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court next week. The trial is an important moment for social movement activism in the UK, for two reasons. First, because it shows how <em>ally groups</em> have been able to use non-violent direct action to draw attention to and disrupt the British government's migrant deportation practices. These practices are, for End Deportations, particularly brutal manifestations of ‘<a href="">racialised border violence</a>’. </p> <p class="Normal1">Second, because the charges brought against the activists threaten to carry serious repercussions for the capacity of activists – from any movement or campaign – to carry out non-violent direct action in future. </p> <p class="Normal1">The activists were initially charged – as is now usual – &nbsp;with <a href="">aggravated trespass</a>, but face prosecution next week under a second, and much more significant charge of terrorism-related offences. We outline the importance of each point below.</p> <h2 class="Normal1"><strong>The practice of deportation in Britain</strong></h2> <p class="Normal1">In July 2013, the Home Office set up the National Removals Command (NRC) unit within its Immigration Enforcement division; the unit arranges the detention and deportation of what it calls 'illegal immigrants' to their country of origin, or recognised third country; to do this, it works in conjunction with Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) teams who carry out arrests of undocumented migrants (at their homes, workplaces, or job centres). Once arrests are made by ICE, the NRC takes operational decisions on detention and deportation. The flights themselves are run for profit, through contracts between the Home Office and a series of private companies, including Carlson Wagonlit, Tascor, and Titan Airways.</p> <p class="Normal1">The main current destination countries are Albania, Pakistan, Kosovo, Ghana, Nigeria; flights to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka have been recently suspended. </p> <p class="Normal1">In the year ending September 2016, the <a href="">Home Office recorded</a> 12,521 'enforced returns' of people resident in the UK found to have breached British immigration laws, or without leave to remain in the UK (such as failed asylum seekers and visa overstayers); of these, the vast majority (11,001) were deported from IRCs (immigration removal, or detention centres, such as Yarl's Wood, Colnbrook, and Harmondsworth). A further 5,825 foreign nationals convicted of crimes were also forcibly deported, whilst 25,306 foreign nationals were induced to leave under threat of deportation, through the Home Office's 'voluntary return' scheme.</p> <p class="Normal1">Deportation itself can be a traumatic experience: campaign groups emphasise that people about to be deported are given short notice, many are still pursuing legal claims, have had little access to legal aid lawyers from inside IRCs, and have legitimate grounds to fear for their safety on arrival in the destination country. </p> <p class="Normal1">The defendants claim that their action was able to stop 34 of the 57 deportations, as a 48-hour delay allowed these detainees additional time to pursue their cases (a second replacement flight left two days later, with <a href="">only 23 people on board</a>). <span class="mag-quote-center">The defendants claim that their action was able to stop 34 of the 57 deportations, as a 48-hour delay allowed these detainees additional time to pursue their cases.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Current government policy is widely known as Deport First, Appeal Later. Introduced in 2014 by Home Secretary Theresa May for foreign offenders, it was subsequently extended to all categories of deportees, and remains operative despite being unanimously ruled an <a href="">unlawful breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights</a> by the UK Supreme Court in June 2017. </p> <p class="Normal1">The <a href="">Unity Centre</a> notes that this policy creates '<a href="">multiple barriers to justice</a>', including the difficulty for deportees of gaining legal representation and lodging an appeal within 28 days, often with little security or financial resources. Given the short timeframe for lodging appeals prior to deportation, Home Office policy is for 'reserves' to be placed on coaches to the airport, in case those scheduled for deportation are able to secure a reprieve; if not deported, they can be <a href="">re-assigned to a different IRC</a>. In 2013, HM Inspectorate of Prisons criticised this policy, and <a href="">recommended that it cease</a>.</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// wood protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// wood protest.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'>A protest outside Yarl's Wood IRC. Credit: iDJ Photography/Creative Commons</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Charter flights</strong></h2> <p class="Normal1">The Home Office has used charter flights for deportations since 2001; a <a href="">Freedom of Information request</a> in 2016 revealed that 1877 people were deported this way in 2015, and 2,364 were deported in 2014.</p> <p class="Normal1"><a href="">Corporate Watch suggests</a> that charter flights are particularly attractive to the Home Office because they have a deterrent effect on people held in IRCs (and indeed, even on people who may wish to come to the UK or whose immigration status is uncertain). They are also a tool of international diplomacy: consideration that a country is 'safe' to receive charters is important. For example, <a href="">charter flights to Pakistan</a>&nbsp; were included as part of a wide-ranging trade and aid deal between the two countries in 2011.</p> <p class="Normal1">Charter flights are especially concerning for three reasons. First, unlike commercial flights, they take place under conditions of secrecy. This means that the flights leave at night, from areas of airports that are not subject to public scrutiny, on carriers that do not have a commercial public profile. </p> <p class="Normal1">Commercial carriers are much more vulnerable to social movement campaigning. For example, in October 2017, a coordinated <a href="">#FreeNneka twitterstorm</a> by LGSM successfully forced Virgin International airlines into refusing to carry out the deportation on a scheduled flight to Lagos of <a href="">a lesbian Nigerian woman</a>, for fear of the potential damage to its brand reputation. Charter carriers such as Titan Airways are more insulated from public opinion and reputational pressures.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Normal1">Equally, unlike for commercial carriers, what happens on the charter flights themselves is not subject to public monitoring. Typically, each deportee is accompanied by two security guards from a private contracted firm, who are permitted to use a variety of restraining techniques, including handcuffing and waist restraints. The same techniques that caused the death of Jimmy Mubenga in 2010 remain in operation; Mubenga died after being <a href="">maintained in a compressed position</a> for over half an hour by three G4S security guards whilst being deported to Angola.</p> <p class="Normal1">Second, if charter flights make deportation and its attendant practices less visible in the UK, they make it <em>more visible</em> in the country to which the individual is being deported. Deportees are likely to be highly vulnerable to repression and victimisation in the receiving country, especially where they have attempted to claim asylum in the UK. </p> <p class="Normal1">Deportees on commercial flights are unremarkable in the passenger manifest; on dedicated deportation flights, individuals are clearly identified to the local authorities, increasing the risk to them of detention on arrival. <span class="mag-quote-center">If charter flights make deportation and its attendant practices less visible in the UK, they make it <em>more visible</em> in the country to which the individual is being deported.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Third, because charter flights are specially commissioned in advance, there is good reason to believe that they shape the decision-making practices of the Home Office. For example, the charters arranged for the last three months were for Albania (four flights), Pakistan (three flights), plus one flight to Ghana and Nigeria and one flight to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and France. </p> <p class="Normal1">Whilst the details of the contracts with the companies that manage these flights are subject to commercial confidentiality, according to Corporate Watch there is substantial anecdotal evidence that individuals are arrested and processed to order, to ensure that the arrangements the Home Office has with private contractors are commercially viable. </p> <p class="Normal1">Rather than decisions being taken on a case by case basis, therefore, there is an incentive for ICE agents to arrest migrants of specific nationalities, and for the NRC to take decisions about their detention and deportation, just to fill the flights.</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// plane big.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// plane big.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'>Mass removal flight from UK, 2013. Credit: James Bridle, </span></span></span></p><h2 class="Normal1"><strong>Legal penalties and threats</strong></h2> <p class="Normal1">As noted above, the 15 Stansted defendants were initially charged with aggravated trespass, in the same way that Plane Stupid activists who occupied the emergency runway at <a href="">Heathrow airport in July 2015</a>, and Black Lives Matter activists who occupied the runway at London City airport in September 2016, were also charged. </p> <p class="Normal1">In both these cases, the activists aimed to stop commercial flights, and make a political statement about the relationship between <a href="">social inequality and climate change</a>; in the second case, the activists specifically argued that the <a href="">climate crisis is a racist crisis</a>, contrasting the privileged users of London City airports with the populations of the global south impacted by climate change and the predominantly BAME inner city populations in the vicinity of the airport impacted by toxic air. </p> <p class="Normal1">Activists used the same established non-violent direct action techniques of tripods and lock-ons as used at Stansted; three of the Stansted 15 had also participated in the Heathrow action.</p> <p class="Normal1">In the Heathrow case, though she subsequently failed to carry out her threat following a public outcry, the Magistrate had initially threatened to send the 13 defendants to prison. This was because the occupation had caused widespread disruption to passengers: 25 flights were cancelled and significant delays caused to other flights, so that 92,000 people were <a href="">'victims' of the action</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">In the London City case, the defendants were handed conditional discharges, and a small fine, again for aggravated trespass. Initially, the Stansted 15 – who used the same techniques, and occupied an arguably much less significant part of the airfield for a similar amount of same time – were charged with the same offence of aggravated trespass as at London City and Heathrow. This charge still stands. They also, however, face a much more serious charge. <span class="mag-quote-center">In the summer of 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service successfully applied to the Attorney General to introduce a new charge, that of ‘endangering an airport’.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">In the summer of 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service successfully applied to the Attorney General to introduce a new charge, that of ‘endangering an airport’ under s1 of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990. This is the first time that activists taking non-violent direct action have been charged under this Act, or have been charged under an Act of similar severity. Its consequences cast a long shadow over the trial.</p> <p class="Normal1">The Aviation and Maritime Security Act does not mention 'terrorism' in any of its statutory clauses. However, it was explicitly devised as a response to the placing of a bomb by Libyan security forces on a Pan Am transatlantic flight in December 1988, which exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing the 259 passengers and crew on board and a further 11 people on the ground. <a href="">Opening the debate</a> for the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons in January 1990, the Secretary of State for Transport, Cecil Parkinson, argued that the government had:</p> <blockquote><p class="Normal1">never shied away from taking the measures necessary to crush the threat of terrorism - be it on the international stage or at home. This Bill will be another valuable weapon in the battle. [...]. Clause 1 deals with what are essentially terrorist acts at airports [...] making it an offence under our law to carry out armed attacks at international airports and to cause damage or disruption at such airports.</p></blockquote> <p class="Normal1">For the defendants, the direct consequence of being charged under the Act is that they are facing potential sentences not of small fines and suspended prison sentences, but of life imprisonment. As such, it marks an alarming attempt by the British State to stigmatise non-violent direct action as domestic terrorism, and to foreclose on legitimate social attempts to question the Home Office's detention and deportation practices. <span class="mag-quote-center">It marks an alarming attempt by the British State to stigmatise non-violent direct action as domestic terrorism.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">It follows years of controversy about the extensive operations of <a href="">undercover police officers</a> in non-violent social movements. This is now the subject of an official public inquiry and in activist circles, there is much talk of the criminalization of dissent. The severity of the charge faced by the Stansted 15 should therefore be seen as a potentially important moment in defining the scope for non-violent protest in the UK.</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists prepare banners for the trial. Credit: Graeme Hayes</span></span></span></p><h2 class="Normal1"><strong>The trial</strong></h2> <p class="Normal1">Instead of a very short trial with the verdict decided by a Magistrate, the charge also means the defendants will face a trial likely to last at least four weeks, with the outcome decided by a jury. </p> <p class="Normal1">The campaign aims to give voice to migrants as they are held within the spaces of detention and deportation. End Deportations volunteers record the personal stories of migrants in IRCs for the <a href="">Detained Voices blog</a>, and use them to develop casework; activists carried examples of these stories as they made their way to Stansted for the action. </p> <p class="Normal1">A major 'terrorist' trial creates a very public stage for the group to attempt to create public resonance, to draw attention to deportations via charter flights and to give voice to otherwise silenced migrants held in detention centres. </p> <p class="Normal1">There are of course major risks for the defendants: first, the judge may direct the jury towards a strict interpretation of the letter of the law (which does not mention terrorism) rather than towards an interpretation of the aims of the law (which specifically concerns terrorism); what is meant by a 'device', and whether it includes a tripod or metal tubing, is likely to be a key point in the trial, since <a href="">s1(2) of the Act</a>, under which the defendants are charged, states that it is an offence 'for any person by means of any <em>device</em>, substance or weapon unlawfully and intentionally [...] to disrupt the services of [...] an aerodrome'. </p> <p class="Normal1">Second, the judge may prevent the defence from presenting their 'political' motivations in court, and thus from explaining the reasons for their action – leaving them the possibility of explaining what they did, but not why they did it. </p> <p class="Normal1">The defendants are likely to argue first that they are not guilty under the terms of the Act, and second that their actions are justified under terms of necessity – in other words, that their actions are lawful because they acted reasonably and proportionately to prevent imminent serious harm. On recent occasions where activists have been found guilty by a jury, <a href="">decisions by a judge</a> not to accept a necessity defence have been crucial. <span class="mag-quote-center">Yet raising the stakes also gives the defendants an opportunity to win the case: the evidence suggests that juries are more likely to acquit than magistrates in all cases.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Yet raising the stakes also gives the defendants an opportunity to win the case: the evidence suggests that juries are more likely to acquit than magistrates in all cases. Juries in the UK have on a number of recent occasions <a href="">found in favour</a> of activists for their participation in non-violent direct action, particularly where the activists are able to convince the jury that they acted out of sincere and reasonable belief. Further, the disproportionate nature of the charges risks not just that the jury will ‘perversely’ acquit (the possibility of ‘jury nullification’, where a not guilty verdict is returned despite the strength of the evidence, is frequently praised as an inherent benefit of jury trial), but that the judge will direct or order an acquittal.</p> <h2 class="Normal1"><strong>Why now?</strong></h2> <p class="Normal1">It is a reasonable question therefore to ask why these charges have been brought in this case, given that there must be a strong chance that the jury will acquit, and that it was not used in the previous, similar cases outlined above. Logically, it serves two purposes.</p> <p class="Normal1">First, it is an attempt to definitively shut down the direct challenge that the 15 defendants have posed to the Home Office's detention and deportations practices. The fact that the action was able to save 34 of the 57 people due to be placed on the flight from being deported, can be expected to be a vital part of the necessity defence to be presented in court; more importantly, it eloquently exposes the arbitrary and repressive nature of the Home Office's policies. Buying even a little time enables people scheduled to be deported to contact legal counsel, and to gain the type of effective representation that is denied to them in IRCs. </p> <p class="Normal1">Second, it is logical to assume that the bringing of this charge is an explicit attempt to silence not just collective challenge to deportation policies, but non-violent direct action in Britain as a whole.</p> <p class="Normal1">As such, the charging of the Stansted 15 is part of a wider trend of democratic enclosure central to the imposition of neo-liberal politics, and to the stigmatising and exclusionary dynamics of austerity. In the face of these actual and threatened silencings, the outcome of the trial is likely to depend on how effectively the defence can give a voice to people who are systematically denied it.</p> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox" style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner" style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;"><b>How to cite:</b></span><br /> Hayes G., Cammiss S., Doherty B.(2018) Deportation and direct action in Britain: the ‘terrorist trial’ of the Stansted 15, Open Democracy / ISA RC-47: Open Movements, 16 March.</div><a href=""><img src="//" style="width: 460px;" /></a></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="//" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="">openMovements</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </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 openmovements Brian Doherty Steven Cammiss Graeme Hayes Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:03:53 +0000 Graeme Hayes, Steven Cammiss and Brian Doherty 116693 at Just and unjust strikes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can we use just war theory to understand when a strike is just?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.55.52.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.55.52.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Library of Congress</span></span></span></p><p>When is it justified to strike? Within applied ethics, little has been written on striking. Much, however, has been written on war. As an ethicist, just war theorist and, currently, a striker, it seems helpful to me to draw on just war theory to think about striking. As we shall see, some of the principles of just war theory readily apply to striking and in the case of a principle that does not – non-combatant immunity – we still learn something from the comparison.&nbsp; </p><p>I intend my comments to apply to all strikes, but I will take the university strike over pensions as my primary example. Since I am on strike, it is clear where I stand in this current dispute, but if you are hoping for an impassioned defence of the strikers, you will be disappointed. The article will raise ethical concerns that strikers need to confront, including those which we might, in our weaker moments, prefer to skim over.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>But first let me explain – why war and strikes? The comparison should not be taken literally. Strikes are not wars, nor should they be. When picket lines resemble war zones – as some have – something serious has gone wrong. Nevertheless, strikes and wars share this much: they are both forms of human conflict through which people pursue goals by harming others. Since both harm, they both require justification.</p> <p>In the case of war, the search for a justification has led to a list of just war conditions. The list is long, so let me pick out three: just cause, proportionality and non-combatant immunity. </p> <p>The just cause condition is perhaps the easiest to grasp. It holds that wars can only be fought for certain reasons. National self-defence is one widely cited example of a just cause; humanitarian intervention another. There is broad agreement, however, that just causes are rare. There are a restricted number of political goals capable of justifying anything as drastic as a resort to war.</p> <p>Proportionality is the condition that the costs of war should not outweigh the benefits. A simple approach to proportionality would be to sum all the costs and benefits to everyone involved. Costs and benefits of equal size would count equally no matter to whom they accrue. Most just war theorists find this simple approach too simple. In their view, we need to discriminate between different groups. Costs to combatants need not be weighted as much as costs to civilians. Costs to those acting unjustly need not be weighted as much as costs to the morally innocent.</p> <p>The principle of non-combatant immunity takes discrimination one step further. It rules out the intentional targeting of civilians altogether. Combatants should only target other combatants. ‘Targeting’ here does not mean ‘harming’. Combatants might be permitted to harm civilians as a side-effect to other activity. Combatants might be permitted to shoot at enemy soldiers, for instance, even if some civilians will be caught in crossfire. What they cannot do is shoot at civilians directly.</p> <p>Do these three conditions apply to strikes? That a strike needs a just cause is, I think, pretty obvious, but what constitutes a just cause is more difficult to discern. Going on strike is typically much less drastic than starting a war so we should expect to be able to justify strikes for a greater variety of causes. One constraint seems clear, however: a strike must pursue a just deal. But what does a just deal involve? When workers are badly off, the question seems mute. In their case, a just deal is a deal that leaves them better off. Whenever Zambian miners or Bangladeshi garment workers demand more, they are almost certain to have justice on their side. After all, in a just world, these workers would not be so poor nor their employers so rich.</p> <p><a href="">Matters become trickier however when strikers are, like university lecturers, privileged people.</a> Whatever the strengths of our complaints against our employers, we lecturers are part of the global 1% and we shouldn’t forget that. So how can privileged people justify striking in defence of their privileges? Or to paraphrase GA Cohen – if you’re an egalitarian, why are <em>you</em> on strike?<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.54.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.54.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Martin O'Neil</span></span></span></p> <p>There are a few ways my fellow lecturers might seek to answer this question that I don’t think quite cut it. One is to point to colleagues on lower wages and temporary contracts, including non-lecturing university staff (also out on strike), and claim that the strike is about defending the interests of this less privileged group. There are various problems with this strategy, but one is that it seems disingenuous; lecturers are not merely striking to defend their colleague’s pensions, they are also striking for their own. Another response is to point in a different direction: at the wealth of universities and <a href="">the greater privileges that some, such as Vice Chancellors, derive from them</a>. On this account, what is at issue is how we distribute goods within the academic sector. (In the case of our pensions, the good in question is security. <a href="">The universities want to make themselves more secure by making their staff less secure</a>). If workers don’t strike, universities are better off but nothing else changes. Strikers need only worry about how they stand in relation to their employers, not the rest of the planet.&nbsp; </p><p>I think there is something to this second response. An egalitarian lecturer will not better achieve equality by accepting the risk of a miserable pension. Still, there are reasons why we cannot leave matters there. For one thing, the response is worryingly similar to the more general ‘it doesn’t matter whether I do it or not’ response used to excuse injustice around the world. Corrupt officials, for instance, can always reason that if they don’t pocket public funds, their bosses will. If such logic doesn’t excuse corruption, why strikes by the privileged? There is, moreover, the fact that strikes harm third parties (more on that below). Because strikes harm third parties, strikers cannot pretend that their dispute is a private matter between themselves and their employers. </p> <p>For both these reasons, privileged strikers need to be able to place themselves within a larger story of social and global justice. How can they do that? I have no complete answer, but let me note two mechanisms. First, donation. There is no reason why privileged strikers need to keep all the benefits they win from their employers. If they win a pay rise, they can donate more of their pay. If they maintain their pension, they can donate more as pensioners. Where to donate? Personally, I’m persuaded by the <a href="">effective altruist movement</a> that we should be giving funds to <a href="">the most effective charities addressing global poverty</a>. But here’s another option: donate to trade unions fighting for the rights of non-privileged workers. </p> <p>A second mechanism, in the case of pensions, is divestment. When strikers strike for their pensions, they should take an interest in where their pensions are invested. In the case of university staff, their pensions are, in part, <a href="">invested in weapons and fossil fuels</a>. There are two things university staff can do about this. They can switch the Investment Builder element of their pension into an ethical fund. (Are you a USS member? Haven’t switched? <a href="">Go here and do it now!</a> It will only take you five minutes.) They can also demand that the whole of the pension scheme be made more ethical. One way to do this would be to change the default. Why should the default be unethical? If you want your pension invested in weapons and fossil fuels you should, at the very least, be obliged to actively make that choice.</p> <p>Whatever mechanisms privileged strikers utilize, they must do something. They cannot justify striking if they confine their activities to the pursuit of their own interests. Privileged strikers must ensure that while fighting for their own rights, they fight for others as well. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.53.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 13.53.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="268" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Exeter UCU</span></span></span></p> <p>I have said enough about just cause. What about the other two conditions? Proportionality certainly applies to strikes as much as wars. Workers should not strike if the costs outweigh the benefits. To give one extreme case: it would be wrong for doctors to strike over some trivial grievance if thousands of patients perished as a result. How should strikers carry out a proportionality calculation? As with war, it seems right to discriminate between different groups. Consider three: workers, employers and those third parties (customers, commuters, patients, students etc.) who want to access the goods or services that would be cut off in a strike. Arguably, costs to workers and employers should be awarded less weight within a proportionality calculation. Costs to workers should be weighted less since workers choose to strike. It would seem odd to say that their strike could rendered disproportionate, and therefore unjust, by costs they have voluntarily chosen to bear. Costs to employers should be weighted less for a different reason. If workers have a just cause to strike – and they must do for the strike to be justified – then the employers are the unjust party and costs to unjust parties arguably count for less. Costs to third parties, however, cannot be discounted for either reason. Third parties have not chosen to bear the costs of the strike nor have they acted unjustly. They are the analogues of innocent civilians in the case of war.</p> <p>Finally, non-combatant immunity. If third parties are the analogues of civilians, must strikers never intentionally harm them? This seems too strong. The harms of strikes are typically less grave than the harms of war. In the current university strike, for instance, students lose fourteen days of classes. This is certainly a cost we should be mindful of, but it would be ridiculous, offensive even, to compare it to what civilians suffer in war. A better analogy might be to the harms caused by a minimal sanctions regime, like a sporting boycott, imposed on repressive states. These boycotts target all athletes and sports fans alike, including the innocent, but they might still be justified. Sometimes innocent people can be justifiably subject to a non-violent harm for the sake of a just cause.</p> <p>Still, the non-combatant immunity question does bring out an uncomfortable truth. Strikes often work by harming third parties and this seems particularly true of a university strike. When Ford Motors go on strike, the strikers can plausibly argue that they are just targeting their employers and not consumers. After all, the strike will harm their employer’s profits margins, but leave consumers free to buy other brands. The same does not apply to universities. The people running universities do not hold shares in universities; there are no shares to hold. Strikers might hurt university finances but even this is doubtful since strikes allow universities to save on pay. The main way, it seems, that university strikes work is by impacting students. The impact on students puts pressure on the university to resolve the strike. That a university strike should work in this way is an uncomfortable fact. It does not necessarily make the strike wrong or unjust, but it does, I think, heighten the need for justification, especially to the students. In the current strike, the strikers have clearly done a good job at explaining their position. From <a href="">declarations</a> to <a href="">occupations</a>, students have been forthcoming in their offers of support.&nbsp; </p><p>_________________</p><p><em>These thoughts were first presented at a <a href="">Teach Out</a> session on The Ethics of Striking outside Edinburgh University on Tuesday 13 March, along with presentations by other members of the <a href="">Political Theory Research Group</a>.&nbsp; </em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Just strike Kieran Oberman Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:00:50 +0000 Kieran Oberman 116697 at As Brexit Britain heads for the rocks what does Corbyn’s Labour stand for? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At the most perilous time for the UK geopolitically since the 1930s, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are flying blindfold into the approaching storm.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// scotland 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// scotland 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: The Peak of Strife (Sgurr na Stri), <a href="">John McSporran/Flickr</a>, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>The diminished global status of Britain and our future post-Brexit has been on display in the last few days. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and the possible role of Russian authorities; the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the continued saga of Donald Trump’s unpredictable, erratic Presidency from trade wars to his state visit, all illustrate the challenges a diminished UK will face in the aftermath of Brexit.</p> <p>Twenty-one months on from the Brexit vote we have no clear plan or detail from the UK Government. Indeed, the kind of Brexit and Britain which the UK Government represents is nothing more than a sketch and vague principles, much to the increasing consternation of the EU and the remaining 27 nation-states.</p> <p>Brexit is full of contradictions, tensions and paradoxes. Can the fabled Tory Party with its reputation for statecraft really be reduced to its current incompetence and divisions? Decades of Tory appeasement of Euroscepticism culminated in David Cameron’s pledge in 2013 to hold an in/out referendum – a pledge he thought he would never have to deliver. His subsequent failed attempts to secure renegotiated terms of EU membership – echoes of Harold Wilson in 1975 – were followed by the subsequent referendum campaign and Brexit triumph. </p> <p>Mirroring Tory predicaments on Brexit have been the evasions of the Labour leadership – who in Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have historically been associated with Euroscepticism and anti-EU attitudes. They were went missing in the EU referendum with a position which can only be described as destructive ambiguity – whereby via conscious evasion they contributed to the undermining and defeat of the pro-EU campaign.</p> <p>Corbyn’s Brexit evasions have seen Labour at points indistinguishable from the Tories – painfully so, at points when the Tories have been on the rocks and Labour has refused to supply the knockout blow. Labour did not advocate membership of the customs union and single market in the 2017 UK election (instead talking of ‘the benefits’ of both, not membership). It aligned itself with the Tory version of Brexit which has emerged since the 2016 referendum. </p> <p>This position has caused much soul searching in Labour – from Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Stammer to members and voters. <a href="">71% of Labour voters currently believe that Brexit is wrong</a> and a mere 21% think it right. Research by Queen Mary University showed that <a href="">87% of Labour members support the UK continuing to be a member of the single market</a> - and 85% of the customs union. </p> <p>A couple of weeks ago Corbyn made a much-trailed speech shifting Labour policy &nbsp;to <a href="">support for post-Brexit continued membership of a customs union</a>: a position which gave Labour greater flexibility and the potential for more differentiation from the Tories. Yet, recent polling by YouGov put support for Theresa May’s Brexit position on 35% (41% opposed), while a mere 24`% supported Corbyn’s new stance, compared to 43% opposed. </p> <p>Corbyn reiterated his Brexit viewpoint at last weekend’s Scottish Labour conference in Dundee – as did the party’s new leader Richard Leonard (its ninth since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999). What caused even more controversy was the party’s attempts to <a href="">rule out a debate and vote on the single market</a>, despite several resolutions being submitted. Rather a Scottish Labour Executive motion was presented which restated existing policy and which was overwhelmingly passed.</p> <p>Labour speakers including former Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray expressed their opposition, and their concerns about Corbyn’s language on restricting immigration after Brexit. Dugdale said of Labour’s failure to be pro-immigration, <a href="">“Every day we fail to do that is a day in which Nigel Farage and his kin get up smiling.”</a></p> <p><strong>Corbyn, Labour and Brexit Now</strong></p> <p>Labour’s current Brexit position only makes sense in the context of Corbyn and McDonnell’s long held Euroscepticism. It ignores the position of party voters and members, and where the most damage to the Tories could be inflicted. Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, remarks that Corbyn’s “current position is either a genuine ‘cake and eat it’ one where he anticipates getting a range of opt-outs from issues ranging from state aids to free movement.”</p> <p>The Corbyn leadership has shown in its two and a half years a degree of tactical adroitness and flexibility which has surprised many, supporters and opponents alike. Some left-wing Eurosceptics regard the EU as so compromised by neo-liberalism, free marketism and finance capitalism, that they regard the Corbyn leadership as insufficiently questioning of the entire European project. But the majority of the party stand for a pro-EU stance: one which has gone unheard thanks to the current leadership.</p> <p>This has consequences for all sorts of progressive politics, the economy and society, says Hughes: “Being in a customs union on its own will help but not fully solve the Irish border problem. It will do nothing to protect the UK’s services sector – only the single market can do that.”</p> <p>The supposed logic of Corbyn’s Brexit position beyond the tactical is that being free of the EU and its shackles will allow for widespread nationalisation, state subsidies and planning of the economy. Yet, apart from the charge that all of these left aspirations remain generalities without detailed left plans, it is mere conjecture that left transformative policies remain incompatible with membership of the EU. </p> <p>Corbyn’s left politics are shaped by the 1970s and this is as true of the EU and how he sees the United Kingdom. Anthony Barnett, author of ‘The Lure of Greatness’, takes the view of Corbyn and his left-wing Bennite views that: ‘Corbyn’s Bennism means he can see the democratic potential of Brexit in a way few can. But today even Tony Benn would recognise that this can only be realised within the EU, by unleashing the constitutional revolution Benn was among the first to spell out - such is the UK's economic interweaving with the continent.’</p> <p><strong>The Lingering Influence of Left Labourism</strong></p> <p>Pivotal to this is the traditional Labour left position of believing in the British state as an agent of change and the politics of grabbing control of the levers of government and using them to drive through centralising, uniform change. This is because Corbyn and the Labour left for all their posturing are actually supporters of labourism: the idea of a monopoly Labour Party with a minority popular base ramming through change. </p> <p>This attitude can be seen in how Labour sees other progressive forces to this day. <em>The Guardian</em> columnist and Corbyn advocate Owen Jones <a href="">made the case for the Green Party becoming an affiliate of the Labour Party</a> in the way the Co-operative Party is. He magnified his mistake of thinking all roads lead to Labour by not recognising that there is no British Green Party and that he was talking about the Green Party of England and Wales. He stated that ‘it would unite the British left under one banner’ within Labour – ignoring the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Scottish Greens; he subsequently noted part of his error changing ‘British’ to ‘English and Welsh’ in the online version. </p> <p>As Barnett states, while the UK, world economy, capitalism, politics and power have dramatically changed, the Corbyn leadership way of thinking about these things hasn’t: “Some of those around Corbyn, are enamoured of a pre-Bennite top-down ‘British socialism’. This draws directly from the mythology of Labour, labourism and the party’s left-wing version of this: stressing the folklore of 1945, the importance of one party Labour Government, British exceptionalism, and the misapprehension that Labour is a unique, radical party compared to its continental allies.</p> <p>Underneath this there are even more deep-rooted challenges. Just as Theresa May’s Brexit problems stem from the crisis of ‘the conservative nation’ of Tory Britain, so Corbyn’s manoeuvrings illuminate the tensions and fault lines within was Labour Britain.</p> <p>The current conundrums facing Theresa May and British Conservatism are amplified by their failure to understand modern Britain and articulate a Tory unionism which grasps the multi-national, multi-cultural dynamic nature of the UK. The Tory lack of sensitivity and political intelligence displayed towards Scotland and Wales over Brexit, as well as their ineptitude in relation to Northern Ireland power-sharing, combines with their unholy alliance with the Democratic Unionists. It portrays a Tory version of the union which isn’t in good shape. This also underlines the extent to which Brexit is about English discontents about the modern world, and a very narrow, intolerant English idea of Britain. </p> <p>Labour’s predicaments are as profound. While Blair and Brown’s New Labour identified with the global Britain of ‘winners’, and then attempted to take the party’s historic constituencies with it in the North of England, Scotland and Wales, Corbyn’s Labour have gone back to an unreflective version of Britain and Britishness. What age, past, present or future Britain, is Corbyn representing? The lack of clarity, mix of nostalgia and rejection of the recent past means none of this is clear. </p> <p>These are high-wire political times. The Brexit stakes could not be more dramatic, yet both Conservatives and Labour for differing reasons have chosen to fudge the big strategic choices which face the country. The British political elite comfort themselves that the story of the UK - despite Thatcherism, power imbalances, the banking crash and Brexit - is one of stability and sensibility. <a href="">Hugo Rifkind writing in <em>The Times</em></a><em> </em>this week thinks the UK will prove immune from the Trump-Steve Bannon revolution: “Britain doesn’t warm to political upheaval. Historically speaking, we like things to run a little more smoothly. We behead kings and then think better of it …” This after all has been the ruling class take of Britain down through the ages, and it has served them well, but now in the midst of populist revolts, political discontent and disruption, it looks complacent.</p> <p>Other forms of denial can be easily identified. For some in the centrist consensual wings of both major parties and the Lib Dems, there is a yearning that we can turn the clock back after Brexit and normal service will be resumed. But that mistakes the underlying reasons which contributed to making Brexit possible which go way beyond the actual issue.</p> <p>There is no prospect, daunting though this may be, to return to calmer, more predictable times. Brexit was an unleashing of an anger and resentment against the political order and establishment, and so far the Corbyn leadership haven’t shown the courage and conviction to showcase the radical politics they claim to represent. But that is true of the entire British political class and establishment. At the most perilous time for the UK geopolitically since the 1930s the country is flying blindfold into the impending blizzard. Who knows what shape our politics, society and nations of the UK will come out, but it won’t look anything like the past or present.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Gerry Hassan Fri, 16 Mar 2018 12:14:51 +0000 Gerry Hassan 116690 at Students won't fall for the "divide and rule" tricks of university management <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As students occupy universities across the UK in support of striking lecturers, university bosses are doing all they can to break the solidarity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="xmsoplaintext"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 08.28.29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-16 at 08.28.29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Students occupy the administration building at Aberdeen University.</span></span></span></p> <p class="xmsoplaintext">On Tuesday morning, the Vice Principal of the University of Aberdeen sent out an email to the entire student body. In it, he cheerfully announced that, following an ACAS-facilitated <a href="">proposal to settle the ongoing dispute</a> over cutting University staff’s pensions, he ‘expect[s] the current industrial action to be suspended from […] Wednesday, 14 March 2018’. The VP furthermore assured students that the university management ‘remain[s] committed to minimising the adverse impact of the dispute’ and ‘thank[s] all students for their forbearance over this challenging period’.</p> <p class="xmsoplaintext">Most astounding about this statement was that it was sent out hours before the Aberdeen branch of the UCU union – let alone <a href="">UCU</a> as a whole – had made a decision on the proposed deal. This means that either the university management was uninformed about UCU’s widely publicised decision timeline or it sent out an intentionally misleading email to the entirety of its student body. Both these explanations are utterly shameful for representatives of one of the oldest higher education institutions in the world.</p> <p>Intentionally or not, the email caused instant university-wide confusion when news broke about UCU’s <a href="">nation-wide rejection</a> of the deal. Statements like ‘But this morning they said the strike was over!’ and ‘Why can’t the lecturers make up their mind?’ were spread by bewildered students on campus, Facebook and Twitter. </p> <p>Yet, instead of correcting its ill-informed communication from earlier that day, the university management continued what, at this point, must be called a misinformation campaign. In a second email to all students, the Vice Principal expressed his ‘disappointment’ about the rejection of the deal, while claiming that ‘[t]he University remains strongly committed to ensuring that the student experience is of the highest quality and every effort is being made to minimise the disruption caused by the strike action’.</p> <p>The subtext of the university’s communication strategy is clear: management is caring for its students, while supposedly ‘selfish’ lecturers continue to disrupt our education. This gross misrepresentation of striking staff members’ motivations must be read as an attempt by the university management to drive a wedge between the very two groups it is supposed to serve.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite such executive level games of ‘divide-and-conquer’, the past four weeks of industrial action have shown that students increasingly recognise the natural alliance between themselves and their lecturers. In Aberdeen and elsewhere, students understand that when university staff withhold their labour to stop proposed cuts to their pensions, they simultaneously take a stance against obscene corporate practices such as fixed-term contracts, compulsory staff redundancies and the never-ending increase of already extortionate tuition fees.</p> <p>Thus, students continue to join the picket lines, raise money for local strike funds and take other direct action in solidarity with university staff. At the time of writing, this includes six student-led occupations on Scottish university campuses alone – with dozens more happening across the UK. </p> <p>Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, university managements’ responses to students’ peaceful solidarity protests have been aggressive and demeaning. At the University of Aberdeen, the Head of Estates was videotaped physically assaulting numerous students, including rugby-tackling a group of protesters and forcefully manhandling a female student. At the University of the Arts London, the local student union's Campaigns Officer has had her access to University buildings blocked, in addition to being threatened with dismissal from her elected post. At the University of Bath, student occupiers were denied access to bathrooms, leaving them no choice but to urinate in bottles in the middle of their University building. </p> <p>Instances like these make clear how university managements only care about the welfare of students so as long as they do not attempt to challenge their authority. Instances like these are in fact symptomatic of the frightening reality of our increasingly commercialised higher education system. They show what happens when universities are run in the interest of unelected, unaccountable and overpaid managers instead of students and staff members who know that universities are not businesses.</p> <p>To quote the <a href="">Reclaiming Our University</a> initiative’s manifesto: ‘We are motivated in our scholarship not by incentives of financial gain but by the pride we take in our educational and scholarly work. […] Our ambition for the university is not that it should be ranked above others in terms of quantitative indices of performance or productivity, but that it should stand out as a beacon of wisdom, tolerance and humanity.’ </p> <p>Yet, for this vision to be realised, it is of utmost importance to see through the tricks of the university management’s communication strategy and to stand united as an academic community. We must stop letting universities cut our hard-working staff’s pensions and take a stance against the rebranding of students as customers. </p> <p><a href="">Supporting the UCU strike</a> now means defending both our academic values and our education of tomorrow.</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 Lewis Macleod Regina Kolbe Fri, 16 Mar 2018 08:33:58 +0000 Regina Kolbe and Lewis Macleod 116683 at Britain's security: time to rethink <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A bitter dispute between London and Moscow dominates the agenda. Now more than ever, Britain needs to focus on its true interests.<br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prime Minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons in London about the Salisbury attack, March 12, 2018. PA/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The controversy over the nerve-agent <a href="">attack </a>in the southern English city of Salisbury on 4 March is escalating tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia. A by-product is further demands on the Conservative government in London to increase the military budget. Their early fruit is a commitment to <a href="">build</a> a new chemical-warfare research facility at the key Porton Down <a href="">laboratory</a>, at a cost of £48 million.&nbsp; </p><p>By coincidence this crisis has arisen when parliament’s joint committee on the government's <a href="">national-security strategy</a> is engaged in its so-called <a href="">national-security capability review</a>. An unusual and welcome aspect of this review is that it is taking evidence from several groups which contest the priority given to military funding. Instead, they say that the time is right to pose fundamental questions: what security for a state such as the UK should really mean and how it might best be achieved.</p><p>To be serious in its purpose, the <a href="">committee</a> will certainly need to examine three core areas, the last being the most important:</p><p>* the dismal failure of Britain’s defence policies since 9/11</p><p>* the cost and direction of major defence projects </p><p>* the likely challenges of the coming decades.</p><p>The first area relates to the disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, successive episodes in an even wider “war on terror” that is now well into its seventeenth <a href="">year</a>. These experiences might appear to have taught some political lessons, mainly through the Chilcot<a href=""> inquiry</a> into the Iraq war. But there is little evidence of this in the military sphere, where thinking has merely moved from overt to "remote warfare" <a href="">involving</a> armed-drones, special forces, and privatised military companies. Meanwhile, security heads acknowledge that al-Qaida, <a href="">ISIS</a> and the like are themselves far more likely to metamorphose into new entities than disappear into oblivion. The current phase of low-visibility, <a href="">shadow</a> wars may well turn out to be just as problematic as tens of thousands of "boots on the ground" were in the post-9/11 decade.</p><p>The second area concerns Britain’s actual defence posture, which is increasingly skewed towards two projects reminiscent of the days of empire: a hugely <a href="">expensive </a>nuclear capability, and the completion of two giant aircraft-carriers. In both cases too, the cost overruns and inefficiencies of the major contractors attract little attention.</p><p>The third area is a focus on the way that the UK's defence thinking remains stuck in a timewarp and unable to come to terms with a rapidly changing world. This predicament was expressed succinctly by the <a href="">Rethinking Security</a> network in its <a href="">evidence</a> to the current inquiry, which identifies "conceptual shortcomings of the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 (NSS &amp;SDSR 2015)" which "undermine both the government, and parliament’s ability to test the effectiveness of current approaches to national security". </p><p>The network goes on to argue that "the current prioritisation of security threats overlooks chronic underlying drivers of insecurity", which include deaths from violent conflict (at least 157,000 in 2017, more than double the number recorded ten years previously); deteriorating human security (as the effects of our ecological crisis are felt across the world); increasing refugee flows; extreme economic inequalities; and a reversal of global progress towards democratisation and freedom. "These underlying drivers of insecurity - which perpetuate many other short-term challenges that negatively impact the UK - receive insufficient attention in the NSS &amp; SDSR 2015”. </p><p>In proposing that "some government policies are contributing to the further erosion of the rules-based international order", the network suggests that the current balance of capabilities could be adjusted by "prioritising greater investment in soft power capabilities, including conflict prevention and peacebuilding", and tackling the sources of conflict "in the interests of the most vulnerable communities.”</p><p>So far, more establishment groups and individuals, including senior military figures, have been prominent in giving oral evidence. But in addition to Rethinking Security, innovative groups such as <a href=" ">Saferworld</a>, <a href="">Oxford Research Group</a>, and <a href="">Campaign Against Arms Trade</a>, have offered their own findings. The more expansive view these projects represent may ensure that new thinking on security issues will this time be taken into account, and not ignored as so often happens. Their various ideas, circulated in parliamentary and related forums, go well beyond critique of existing deficiencies: they also identify multiple high impact/low cost ways for Britain to carve out a role that would be of sustained value well <a href="">beyond</a> its shores. </p><p>The challenge of turning these ideas into real impact is substantial. Britain is a country that has serious <a href="">difficulty</a> coming to terms with its imperial past; its governments often find electoral advantage in emphasising traditional threats; and its military-industrial-academic-bureaucratic complex has remarkable stability and lobbying power. But creative thinking about real security as the foundation for change has never been more essential. </p><p>---</p><p>Rethinking Security is organising a major one-day <a href=" ">conference</a> on Friday 15 June 2018 at Friends House, Euston, central London from 9.30am-4pm: details <a href=" ">here</a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sarah O'Connor holds up a photo of her brother Sergeant Bob O'Connor who died in Iraq, as she leaves the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, after the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, July 2016. Yui Mok/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><span class="st">&nbsp;</span>Paul Rogers, <a href=""><em>Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins</em> </a>(IB Tauris, 2016)</p><p><a href="">Oxford Research Group</a></p><p><a href="">Saferworld</a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href=";">A War on Terror: Afghanistan and After</a></em>&nbsp;(Pluto Press,&nbsp;2004) </p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href=";" target="_blank"><em><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></em></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p><a href="">Campaign Against Arms Trade</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britains-global-role-fantasy-vs-reality">Britain&#039;s global role: fantasy vs reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/beyond-%E2%80%9Cliddism%E2%80%9D-towards-real-global-security">Beyond &quot;liddism&quot;: towards real global security</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/moscows-armourers-and-british-tabloids">Moscow&#039;s armourers and British tabloids</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britains-military-costs-of-failure-symbols-of-vanity">Britain&#039;s military: costs of failure, symbols of vanity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/irregular-war-and-how-to-reverse-it">Irregular war, and how to reverse it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/making-britain-great-again-in-different-way">Making Britain Great Again – in a different way</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 global security Paul Rogers Thu, 15 Mar 2018 19:56:49 +0000 Paul Rogers 116660 at Putin’s pal, the British Lords - and the ‘clean up’ of a Russian energy giant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With relations between Britain and Russia in severe crisis, the timing of a Russian company’s efforts to raise billions on the London Stock Exchange couldn’t be worse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Greg Barker (right). Wikimedia, Creative Commons 2.0. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The network of embedded Russian business interests with direct connections to the City of London’s markets will make it difficult for the UK government to deliver effective financial sanctions against the Kremlin or associates of President Vladimir Putin.</p><p dir="ltr">With Theresa May replaying the role of &nbsp;‘iron lady’ and lining up the United Nations, Nato, the European Union and the Trump White House to back the UK’s anticipated punitive response for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, firms officially listed in London run by oligarchs with close links to Putin are expecting a rough ride.</p><p dir="ltr">The decision of the UK government, so far, to expel 23 Russian diplomats, along with some flight checks and the suspension of high-level bilateral contacts, is being seen as an opening move rather than the final package of sanctions.</p><p dir="ltr">Russian-owned companies, especially those with chequered international reputations, which have created a veneer of boardroom respectability by employing “puppet” executives from within the UK financial establishment, are understood to have hired expensive reputation-rescue specialists experienced in crisis-management. Their strategy? Survive whatever happens next. </p><p dir="ltr">One firm in the firing line is the En+ Group. Well before the attack on the former Russian double agent and his daughter, investors in the Russian energy company, En+, were increasingly questioning the leadership of its non-executive chairman, the former UK energy and climate change minister, Lord Barker.</p><p dir="ltr">En+ Group is owned by Oleg Deripaska, one of Putin’s inner-circle of favoured businessmen and perhaps <a href="">best known</a> in the UK for hosting meetings with both George Osborne and Peter Mandleson on his yacht in 2008.</p><p dir="ltr">Deripaska’s company, listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), <a href="">will formally have a new president this week when Deripaska steps down</a>. He is replaced by the company’s former CEO, and deputy, Maxim Sokov. &nbsp;Deripaska will remain as a non-executive director.</p><p dir="ltr">Although Greg Barker, a former adviser to George Osborne when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, described the new internal appointments as business-as-usual, the “management changes” are anything but routine. The initial ultimatums to Russia over the poisoning scandal issued by Downing Street, and Moscow’s dismissal of any UK threat, simply piles up the boardroom pressure.</p><p dir="ltr">Barker was appointed last year, according to insiders, to help give Deripaska’s company a House-of-Lords respectability. Before his political career, Barker worked for Sibneft, an oil company owned by oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezofsky. </p><p dir="ltr">He stepped down as an MP in 2015 and now sits in the Lords. He retains close links to David Cameron and George Osborne, now editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Sokov described the appointment of Lord Barker in October last year as reinforcing "En+ Group's commitment to best standards of corporate governance." </p><h2 dir="ltr">Corruption allegations – and the Mueller investigation </h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vladimir Putin and Deripaska. Image, the Kremlin, Creative Commons 4.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Why did En+ need Lord Barker of Battle? The answer is simple enough: En+ wanted access to London’s money markets, and a British lord looked better as the front man on a prospectus than a Russian oligarch (Deripaska), who is banned from entry to the United States because of allegations of his connections to organised crime. Deripaska has denied that this is the reason he wasn’t granted a visa.</p><p dir="ltr">Deripaska is also the target of<a href=""> new corruption allegations </a>made by the Russian opposition politician, Alexey Navalny. His <a href="">documented financial connections </a>to the former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort - who recently pleaded not-guilty to money-laundering charges – are being investigated in the US by Robert Mueller, the head of the Special Counsel probe examining Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.</p><p dir="ltr">And at the beginning of this year, Deripaska’s name was included in <a href="">a US Treasury list</a> of oligarchs with close links to the Kremlin.</p><p dir="ltr">Sanctions against those on the “Putin list” remain a possibility. </p><p dir="ltr">Market analysts in London raised private concerns that there was a serious name-brand risk for any company associated with Deripaska. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Lord Mandelson's Global Counsel, and the “puppet chairman”</h2><p dir="ltr">Lord Mandelson’s Global Counsel firm is reported to have been hired to <a href="">advise En+ on its climate change policy</a>. However the issue of Deripaska’s ownership and his links to Putin are now – after the Salisbury attack – significantly larger problems for any corporate PR strategy. </p><p dir="ltr">Global Counsel has unofficially insisted that Peter Mandelson will not be working directly on the En+ account. Those who are have their hands full. </p><p dir="ltr">UK corporate governance rules make it clear that “directors should lead from the top” to ensure good standards permeate through a company. Openness and consistency of information given to investors is deemed critical. &nbsp;One senior fund investor, with knowledge of En+’s internal affairs (who asked not to be named), said Barker was essentially a “puppet chairman” and that Deripaska remained in full control. </p><p dir="ltr">Another potential investor told openDemocracy: “There were serious doubts about full information being absent from the prospectus last year which raised $1.5 billion in an IPO (initial public offering). The company, with Lord Barker’s approval, was describing itself as an ‘integrated clean energy’ organisation when there were serious allegations which centred on the environmental stewardship of many of their assets.”</p><p dir="ltr">Global Counsel have so far made no formal statement on their work for En+.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Green business?' </h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="201" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Baikal seal on Lake Baikal. By Per Harald Olsen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Russian environment protection group, Rivers without Boundaries (RwB), contacted the Financial Conduct Authority (the UK’s financial watchdog ) ahead of the IPO. &nbsp;RwB complained that En+ were describing themselves as a “green business” when hydro-electric projects and at least one coal-fired power station run by En+ were adversely affecting water management systems around Lake Baikal.</p><p dir="ltr">RwB alleged that En+ were failing to fully comply with ecology guidelines agreed with Unesco’s World Heritage Committee. Water level fluctuations around the lake – which caused destruction of low-lying lake banks, and affected the population of freshwater organisms, birds and other wildlife – were, RwB claimed, being affected by the industrial activity of En+Group in the Baikal region. </p><p dir="ltr">The investor added: “The noble lord chose to ignore En+’s questionable &nbsp;environmental credentials, and now he’s calling the corporate chess moves to take Deripaska off the main billing, ‘well-earned promotions’. That’s not leadership, that is Neanderthal PR – and the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) should begin to take an interest.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="">Barker recently </a>repeated the assurances given by Sokov saying that, under him, the board were “committed to the highest levels of good corporate governance”.</p><p dir="ltr">An international coalition of environment pressure groups, including RwB, claim that the FCA promised last year that they would look into En+’s disclosures about the environmental impact of their Russian businesses connected to Lake Baikal. The FCA would make no comment on whether or not that promise had been acted on.</p><p dir="ltr">At the end of last year, in the run up to En+ being listed on the LSE, Barker's appointment was seen as no big deal; a traditional move designed to give establishment respectability to a Stock Exchange listed company. Others saw Barker, <a href="">the former shadow environment minister who accompanied David Cameron</a> on his husky-dogs trip to the Arctic in 2006, and a Tory MP badly snared in the 2009 expenses scandal, as there to do what Deripaska told him to.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy tried to&nbsp;contact Lord Barker at his office in parliament and through En+ in Moscow.&nbsp;We received no reply. </p><h2 dir="ltr">$1.5 billion IPO</h2><p dir="ltr">The En+ Group is one part Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminium producer, and one part En+ Power, which owns some of Russia’s biggest hydro-electric plants. Most of the funds gathered in the share stock sale – some $940m out of the $1.5 billion – paid down a loan from the sanctioned Russian VTB bank. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) was chosen, according to some analysts, because London’s listing rules are less stringent than New York, and because the exercise in some international quarters was seen as simply evading sanctions to channel money to a Russian state bank.</p><p dir="ltr">Equally important for the LSE, the En+ offer was <a href="">the first Russian entity </a>to come to the London market since Russia’s military operations in Ukraine and Crimea led to the US and EU imposing sanctions that began in 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">However, for Russian environmental activists the IPO was less about cash being raised and more about the opportunity to focus on the company’s environmental and social practices and its responsibilities.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Unesco and Baikal crisis</h2><p dir="ltr">En+’s hydro-electric assets include dams linked to Lake Baikal, a Unesco world heritage site and the world’s largest lake, holding a fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. Ecologists say the lake’s eco-system is in crisis, with key fish populations falling and evidence that putrid algae is now causing wider damage. Identified culprits for the crisis include over-fishing by commercial fisheries, climate pressure, and waste run-off from increasing levels of tourism. President Putin recently visited the lake and said the extremely high pollution levels needed action, and that preservation was now a government priority. “<a href="">Baikal belongs to the entire planet</a>” Putin claimed. However the Russian president’s track record on ensuring that industrial plants near the lake behave responsibly remains uneven.</p><p dir="ltr">En+’s Angara Cascade hydro-electric plant depends on water flowing out of Lake Baikal. The Baikalsk pulp and paper mill, once owned by Deripaska, is now closed. Along with the Irkutsk dam, these are industrial developments recognised as causing the greatest degradation of the lake.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="">United Nations formally recognised that water management</a> was critical to the lake’s survival and notified the Russian government it had concerns about how fluctuations of the lake’s maximum and minimum water levels were being ignored. The En+ Group were accused of failing to have a long-term environmental plan that put ecology before profit.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Full disclosure demands</h2><p dir="ltr">Eugene Simonov, the director of RwB said potential investors had a right to know the full environmental picture of En+’s &nbsp;industrial activities linked to Lake Baikal. Simonov said that unless there was “full disclosure” by En+ in their LSE prospectus, those investing in the company risked “substantial material losses and under-performance.”</p><p dir="ltr">Simonov told openDemocracy that four months after writing to Barker, there had been only silence. He said: “We heard from a local En+ official in Russia and were told we should go straight to the Lord [Barker] who is chair of the board. So we did – and we’ve heard nothing back from him. Since the IPO we believe the Russian government have allowed Mr Deripaska to drop and raise the level of Lake Baikal as he pleases.”</p><p dir="ltr">En+ called Simonov’s criticism of the environmental record “false”. A company statement said that all applicable regulations had been complied with.</p><p dir="ltr">Last month, <a href="">En+ invited international banks</a> to pitch for the sale of $1 billion worth of shares in the Deripaska company. For any chairman, let alone one taking orders from a Russian oligarch, the share sale will be difficult to navigate. US banks, given Deripaska’s name on the “Putin list”, are said to be ultra-careful and hesitant about the potential risks of association. The nerve-agent attack in Wiltshire, and the UK’s response, only adds to the uncertainty.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite his new role as a mere EN+ director, Deripaska still owns 76 percent of the company, and 48 percent of Rusal. In November of last year, ahead of the LSE listings, the net debt of En+ was $13 billion. That was reduced by almost a billion with the loan repayment to VTB.</p><p dir="ltr">What happens now, and what form the high-stakes diplomatic and financial battle takes between Moscow and London, is expected to have a direct effect on the UK’s markets at a time when they can least afford to have any global company like En +, Russian or not, left out in the cold.</p><p dir="ltr">In Britain, Russian oligarchs – and their money – have been welcomed with almost unquestioning open arms. The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal will test if that welcome remains unconditional.</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="/od-russia/andrey-kalikh/my-baby-knows-how-to-speed-up-judges-when-he-needs-to">“My baby knows how to speed up judges when he needs to”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/kasparov_test_4628.jsp">Russia&#039;s unequal struggle</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 James Cusick Thu, 15 Mar 2018 13:53:53 +0000 James Cusick 116669 at Cable’s confusion – on Brexit imperial “nostalgia” and what it means to be English <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Scots have as much reason for imperial nostalgia as the English, so why did one vote Remain and the other vote Leave, asks John Denham?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// empire map.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// empire map.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Map showing British Empire in pink, 1922. <a href="">Flickr/Eric Fischer/Ontario School Public Geography</a>.</em></p><p>Vince Cable’s swipe at Leave voters ‘nostalgic for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink’ sounds like the latest proof that most Remainers would rather abuse their opponents than engage with them. But, let’s assume for a moment that Vince was on to something. What if Leavers did yearn for an older if irrecoverable, idea of greatness? Why should that be, and why in England in particular?</p> <p>It wasn’t Britain that voted Leave. It was England, and above all it was England outside London, that chose to take the UK out of the EU. Within England, it is those who felt most English who gave Leave their strongest support. If it was simple nostalgia for the British empire, then the British would have been Leavers too. But residents of England who identified as British rather than English were strongly in favour of Remain.</p> <p>For all its historic resentment of its larger southern neighbour, Scotland was as invested in the British Empire as any part of England. From the financial elites to the active colonialists and administrators to the working classes in the shipyards and the protected textile industries, Scots appear to have as much reason to be nostalgic for Empire as most in England. Yet Scotland voted strongly for Remain, as did Northern Ireland. True, Wales voted narrowly for Leave, but much less than England outside London. London, significantly, also voted Remain.</p> <p>The political scientists have given us a wealth of regression analysis linking the Brexit vote to age, education, long-term economic decline, social values and attitudes towards immigration. Valuable though those insights are, the different paths of the different parts of the United Kingdom suggest that something else was going on as well. It is striking that the more pro-Remain parts of the UK have all enjoyed civic processes, political debates, and political institutions that have enabled or forced them to reimagine their identities in a post-imperial world.</p> <p>In 1945 the Attlee government inherited a state that had just won a world war. Its capacity to deliver reforms, including the NHS and the post-war welfare state, seemed to confirm its value and power. It decisively strengthened Labour’s centralist traditions, at the expense of the English radical democratic traditions of local action, voluntary association, cooperation, local self-government, and popular consent for the law. The unitary state was unchallenged as the model of government. Or rather, it was unquestioned in England.</p> <p>In other parts of Britain, the story was very different. As the empire diminished, other nations wanted to redefine their relationship with the union state. Nationalism rose in Scotland and Wales in broadly progressive forms; violently and tragically in Northern Ireland. Ultimately these pressures led to new governance arrangements, through the creation of elected parliaments and assemblies and devolved administrations. Only in England did the unitary state inherited from Empire remain unchallenged. England is the only part of the UK permanently ruled by the UK government. And England is the only part of the UK not to have enjoyed a real debate about its own identity. </p> <p>Scotland has enjoyed a long process of national self-examination, leading to devolution and the continuing independence debate. That process also allowed Scotland to consider its relationship with Europe, producing a heavy Remain majority in a nation that sees itself as a modern European democracy. As Anthony Barnett has argued in The Lure of Greatness, Scotland, too, had already had two chances to ‘take back control’, both in sacking Labour and in taking the union decision into its own hands.</p> <p>Northern Ireland has had to confront its history through a very different process. Today it is still nowhere near to ‘normal politics’, but it is striking how the Remain majority did not neatly reflect the normally entrenched sectarian divide, nor the Leave support of Northern Ireland’s largest party. At least in relation to the EU, a majority of the people of Northern Ireland saw their future within that union. </p> <p>Wales was of course originally far less certain about devolution than Scotland, with the Assembly only narrowly approved. But creation of the Assembly was followed by a strengthening of identity to the extent that devolution would be irreversible today. On Brexit, Wales voted Leave, but had it had no experience of self-government, it may well have followed England more strongly.</p> <p>London, of course, is the one part of England that not only enjoys statutory powers but has its own elected leadership, and its own political institutions that have enabled London’s identity to encouraged shaped and developed.</p> <p>That England provided the lion’s share of the Brexit vote was not a pathological failing of the English people, but an outcome of England being denied any political identity, institutions and national debate of its own. Instead, England split, between the metropolitan cities with one view of the future, and the towns, villages and coastal areas with another. It split culturally, regionally, by age and education, because there has never been an attempt to articulate what the English share in common. In the absence of that national debate, without any English political institutions, and without voice and agency, it’s no surprise that the English more than anyone else voted for sovereignty and control.</p> <p>The debate that England needs is complex. While those who are happiest with the direction of travel seem inclined to call themselves ‘British’, and ‘English’ may be a badge of the dissatisfied and voiceless, many English residents are both English and British. English, more than any other UK national identity, has often been seen through the prism of British identity and achievement. It’s not open to us to define ourselves ‘against the English’ as others may do. But without that debate and the fora to hold it in, England is unlikely to develop a new view of itself, of Britain and of what success looks like in the 21st century.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/eleanor-newbigin/brexit-britain-and-nostalgia-for-fantasy-past">Brexit, nostalgia and the Great British fantasy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/paul-keenlyside/why-uk-never-felt-at-home-in-eu">Why the UK never felt &#039;at home&#039; in the EU</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/eight-reasons-scotland-is-more-remain-and-what-will-happen-if-its-dragged-out">Nine reasons Scotland is more Remain, (and what will happen if it&#039;s dragged out)</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 Denham Thu, 15 Mar 2018 12:03:57 +0000 John Denham 116665 at Northern Irish party donors finally published – but source of DUP Brexit money remains secret <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Firm that donated to DUP owned by Gibraltar-based businessman, prompting criticism of 'representation without taxation' <strong><br /></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ian Paisley Junior. Image,</span></span></span></p> <p>On Monday, for the first time in history, the Electoral Commission released information on donations to political parties in Northern Ireland.</p><p> While all major political donations in the rest of the UK have been public since 2000, yesterday’s data release marks the first modicum of transparency for Northern Irish politics.</p><p> The Electoral Commission’s disclosure comes after a long-awaited change in the law in Northern Ireland – and after additional pressure for transparency was triggered by openDemocracy’s revelation that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had taken a controversial £435,000 donation for its Brexit campaign. The source of that money is still a secret, because the UK government reneged on <a href="" target="_blank">its previous commitment</a> to publish details of donations from January 2014 onwards.</p> <p>But the data – which only goes back to July 2017 – does include some interesting details.</p><p> By far the biggest source of funding for Northern Irish parties over the six months to the end of 2017 was public money. However, there have been a couple of notable private donations.</p> <h2> Democratic Unionist Party</h2> <p>The DUP’s North Antrim branch was given £4,999 by a firm called Gross Hill Properties Ltd. </p><p>Gross Hill Properties is owned by property developer Michael Gross and Danielle Beissah Katri, according to Companies House. Both are registered at an address in Gibraltar, and were listed in <a href="" target="_blank">the Panama Papers</a> as a beneficiary of the Danzig International Consultancy Group, registered in the British Virgin Islands. On the phone, Mr Gross confirmed to openDemocracy that he owns the company, though he was unclear about whether it was based in the British Virgin Islands or Panama. </p><p>“There is nothing wrong with being based in the Virgin Islands”, Mr Gross said, pointing out that Richard Branson owns one of the islands.</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy, Mr Gross confirmed that he is British, but said that he has no taxable income in the UK and has been “non resident and non-domicile in the UK for nearly a quarter of a century”. Threatening to sue us if we publish publicly available data about his businesses, Mr Gross said it was none of our business how he runs his affairs, and that “I have the best accountant in England”.</p> <p>North Antrim is represented by DUP MP Ian Paisley, son of the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, founder of the party. Ian Paisley Junior is known for describing same sex marriage as "<a href="" target="_blank">immoral, offensive and obnoxious</a>", and for <a href="" target="_blank">resigning</a> as a Northern Irish minister in 2008 when it transpired that he was also being paid to be a researcher for his father, the then Northern Irish First Minister.</p> <p> Mr Gross said he had given the donation because Paisley is “someone who I have known a long time and like, and agree with on most things” and that, like Paisley, he supports Brexit.</p><p>Gross Hill Properties, which gave the donation, pays tax in the UK and is entitled to donate to UK parties. There is no allegation that Mr Gross, Gross Hill Properties Ltd, or anyone else involved in the case has broken any laws. Mr Gross pointed out that his firms had received loans from British banks, who do “the most rigorous KYC”, he said, referring to “know your customer” checks. “All that banks do is spend time with compliance. It’s the biggest bore in history, but it’s necessary”. </p><p>“My companies that trade in the UK pay tax in the UK. And I’m a major giver to charities on top of that.”</p> <p>John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network said “This is what I call ‘representation without taxation’: the ability of multimillionaires and billionaires to support politicians who back their radical agenda whilst using offshore structures to avoid paying tax in the UK.”</p> <p>All of the DUP's remaining registered donations came from public bodies. This includes ‘short money’ that opposition parties receive from the House of Commons to support their MPs; party funding from the Northern Irish Assembly; and a ‘policy development grant’ of £100,000 from the Electoral Commission.</p> <p>In total, the party has received £292,000 of registered donations since July last year. </p> <h2>Sinn Féin<strong> <br /></strong></h2><p> Sinn Féin’s branch in Northern Ireland has received £331,000 since July 2017. Like the DUP, most of this comes from the Northern Irish Assembly. The party’s own Assembly Members and MEP contribute the rest of the funds themselves.</p><p> Parties in Northern Ireland are permitted to receive donations from Irish citizens – an exemption from the usual rule disqualifying anyone other than UK citizens from donating to parties in the UK. Rival parties have often <a href="" target="_blank">expressed concern</a> that Sinn Féin receives large amounts of money from Irish Americans. However, none of the donors registered to Sinn Féin since July have ticked the “Irish donor” box, meaning all are eligible to vote in UK elections (although many may hold dual citizenship).</p> <h2><strong>The smaller parties…</strong></h2> <p>The only donation to the SDLP (beyond official sources) is a councillor who resigned from the party in February <a href="" target="_blank">amidst sexual assault claims</a>. The Ulster Unionist Party and Traditional Unionist Voice received no donations other than those from official sources.</p><p> The Alliance Party is listed as receiving a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. People Before Profit has received regular donations from its own Assembly Member, Gerry Carroll, and the Northern Irish Greens have registered no donations since July.</p><p> Commenting on the publication of the first set of data on Northern Irish political donations, Ann Watt, Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, repeated her call on the government to lift the ban on on publishing details of donations from 2014-2017. She said:</p><p> “For over ten years political parties in Northern Ireland have been required to report information on the donations and loans that they have received, but we have been prohibited from publishing this information.</p> <p>“Transparency is an essential component to increasing public confidence in the democratic process. Information on how political parties, candidates and other campaigners raise and spend money should be open to timely public scrutiny. We are delighted that as of today we are now able to provide the public with such information.</p><p> “To further enhance this transparency we will continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish the information we hold on donations and loans dating back to January 2014.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP&#039;s dirty little (Brexit) secret?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. DUP Dark money openDemocracy investigations Thu, 15 Mar 2018 10:56:40 +0000 openDemocracy investigations 116662 at Another Jew suspended for antisemitism – why is the UK Labour Party making such an unedifying spectacle of itself? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What, for example, has happened to the “fair and transparent " disciplinary procedures recommended by Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.46.39.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.46.39.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sheila Scoular (centre) with Helen Watson, Chair of Church End & Monkhams ward, and fellow Labour Party campaigners in Ilford North constituency. </span></span></span>Trainee NHS radiographer Syed Siddiqi, aged 30, is an east London lad with Bengali parents. 62 year old Sheila Scoular, a former computer professional, suffers from multiple sclerosis along with cognitive and other impairments. Glyn Secker is a white-bearded Jew in his seventies who captained the Jewish Boat to Gaza in 2010. Three very different people with two things in common – they have fallen foul of the Labour Party's bureaucratic discipline machine and they are leftwing supporters of party leader Jeremy Corbyn.</p> <p class="Body">Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Labour Party members are currently either suspended or under investigation for what seem to be largely concocted misdemeanours. There is no audit of the work of the Governance Unit which prosecutes cases. Activists suspect allegations originate from a small pool of anonymous accusers. Since no accusers are named and no charges published or even made known to those complained about at the time of their suspensions, it is difficult to be sure of anything. It’s an unedifying spectacle. </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.46.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.46.19.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Syed Siddiqi (right) with fellow NHS campaigners in the London Borough of Redbridge.</span></span></span>What is it that makes a popular young Muslim trade unionist and party activist like Syed Siddiqi so great a threat that he has to be referred to the National Constitutional Committee for possible expulsion? &nbsp;A host of breaches of party rules, according to the dossier presented to National Executive Committee members by party staff on Tuesday (March 6), including “intimidating, threatening and disrespectful” behaviour. Daring to be chosen to stand as a candidate in local council elections in May, according to his fellow party activists. </p> <p class="Body">“Syed won nearly three times more votes from branch members than the next candidate, who happens to be an ally of MP Wes Streeting,” said Helen Watson, Chair of Church End &amp; Monkhams ward Labour Party and women’s officer in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency. &nbsp;Having given evidence for Siddiqi in a hearing with party bureaucrats, she said the questions she was asked “were based on fabrication, tittle tattle and politically motivated spite.”</p> <p>Siddiqi, Ilford South constituency secretary since 2016, denies all the allegations against him. These began with an accusation on October 6, 2017 of his having made “threatening intimidatory comments” to another party member in a phone conversation the previous month. Siddiqi had recorded part of this call because he claims he was subjected to anti-Muslim abuse in the course of it. He lodged a complaint against the caller, but it is that member's counter-claim against him that is being pursued.</p> <p>On October 11, a second Notice of Investigation arrived from Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes. It said, without giving any detail, “You are alleged to have neglected your responsibilities as Secretary of Ilford South CLP thus having a detrimental effect upon the CLP, and to have treated members and office-holders in Ilford South CLP in an intimidating, threatening and disrespectful manner.” </p> <p>On December 7, Siddiqi received a Notice of Administrative Suspension, throwing the CLP council election campaign in Churchfield Ward into disarray by removing him as one of the candidates. </p> <p>The notice said: “Multiple additional allegations that you may have been involved in further breaches of Labour Party rules have now also come to the attention of national officers of the Party.” Again, there were no specific charges for him to refute.</p> <p>Siddiqi started <a href="">a petition in his defence</a>, saying: “The allegations, who made them and the evidence against me have not been disclosed to me nor have I had the opportunity to defend myself.” The petition quickly gained more than 1000 signatures.</p> <p>In Mid-February he was encouraged by being given an interview date. At last, he would be able to defend himself against specific charges and a report would go to the NEC Disputes Panel on March 6. The hearing at Labour Party headquarters on February 22 turned out to be a six hour inquisition which one of two people who accompanied Siddiqi described afterwards as resembling an interrogation. He was only allowed to have one of them in the room at a time. </p> <p>The file prepared by full-time party officers and placed before NEC members on March 6 gave only the case for the prosecution – no statements from Siddiqi or his supporters, no reference to the anti-Muslim bullying he had faced, nothing about the hundreds of supportive signatures gathered from his fellow party members; or the endorsement he’d received from an eminent Human Rights barrister with a lifetime in the Labour Party. Protests about the proceedings from a few left NEC members were brushed aside and Siddiqi’s bid to represent Labour in local council elections was history.</p><p class="Body">Sheila Scoular isn’t up to standing in elections, but she appreciates going to the occasional meeting if someone can give her a lift, taking part in discussions and exercising her right to cast a vote on party issues. She usually votes for the left. </p> <p class="Body">Scoular was totally unprepared for the letter from Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, which landed in her inbox on March 5. Passive aggressive paragraphs warned that she was under investigation because of (anonymous) charges that “have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Labour Party.”</p> <p class="Body">The letter, from Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, refers to but does not cite a “definition of antisemitism adopted by the Labour party” and suggests that she has infringed it. </p> <p class="Body">The definition of antisemitism adopted by the party in December 2016 and <a href="">sent by outgoing general secretary Iain McNicol to members</a> who have asked for it, reads as follows:</p> <p class="Body">“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”</p> <p class="Body">This may not be the most useful definition of antisemitism ever, but it has the virtue of not mixing up attitudes to Jews with attitudes to Israel or Zionism. </p> <p class="Body">The tweets for which she is being investigated on the other hand, one of them more than three years old, all express Scoular’s disapproval of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians and the failure of media and politicians to challenge them. Is Sam Matthews suggesting that such views are beyond the pale of political discourse? She might be better advised to avoid a potentially upsetting reference to Nazis. She should also avoid sharing posts from David Icke’s bizarre website. But there is no hint of “hatred towards Jews” in Scoular’s tweets.</p> <p class="Body">It is hard to see them as justification for giving her just 14 days to answer “a series of questions which require your response.” Scoular has requested a four week extension “in light of my physical health and also pursuant to The Equality Act 2010.”</p> <p class="Body">Murray Glickman, a support coordinator for Jewish Voice for Labour, was with Syed Siddiqi when he faced his inquisitors from Labour’s Governance Unit. Now he’s supporting Sheila Scoular and will be writing to the author of the letter she received, charging him with denying her right to freedom of conscience; misapplying the concept of antisemitism; questioning her in a biased and implicitly racist manner; and ignoring the stipulations of the <a href="">Chakrabarti Report</a>, released on 30 June 2016.</p> <p class="Body">This report, headed by the former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, now Shadow Attorney General, looked into antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour party and reviewed the way members’ behaviour towards one another was regulated.</p> <p class="Body">Chakrabarti concluded that “The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism.” She said there were cases where language used in political discussion fell below acceptable standards of civility, but she was clear that “Labour members should be free and positively encouraged to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East.”</p> <p class="Body">She stressed the need for “fair and transparent " disciplinary procedures. The party “should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice, however difficult the circumstances.”</p> <p>People complained against should be “clearly informed of the allegation(s) made against them, their factual basis and the identity of the complainant – unless there are good reasons not to do so.”</p> <p>Not every concern needed to be addressed by setting in train a formal investigation, Chakrabarti said. “Some members may e.g. have used inappropriate language in complete ignorance of its potential harm. An informal discussion may create an opportunity for resolution and learning in such circumstances.”<em> </em>&nbsp;</p> <p>On every one of these counts, Glickman said, both Scoular and Siddiqi had been poorly treated. </p> <p>We come to the last of our three cases. Glyn Secker is a Unite trade union delegate to Dulwich and West Norwood (DAWN) constituency general committee and political officer for Herne Hill branch. He is one of those members of the Momentum grassroots movement backing Jeremy Corbyn who have only recently managed to break the stranglehold of the Blairite “Progress” faction which had dominated DAWN for years. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.53.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-14 at 11.53.57.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Glyn Secker in 2012. Screenshot: inminds/YouTube</span></span></span>“The media depiction of Momentum as an unstoppable Bolshevik juggernaut riding roughshod over a meek and defenceless moderate membership is laughably far from the truth,” Secker said. </p> <p>“What we’ve faced in DAWN, as in hundreds of CLPs around the country, is a remorseless battle from the incumbent party officials to obstruct new, enthusiastic party members from working to get Corbyn into Downing Street. At our AGM on March 1, we managed to win some semblance of democratic accountability. Then a trapdoor opened under me – an email from the Governance Unit on March 7 telling me that I was the subject of an ‘administrative suspension’ for ‘comments made on social media that may be in (sic) antisemitic’.”</p> <p>Under party rules, administrative suspension is an urgent action designed to address real threats to public order or disruption of party business. Secker sees this is an outrageous slur: “It is designed to silence me. The tactic is clear – if they cannot win the argument they simply remove their adversary.”</p> <p>Secker believes his suspension, and readmission five days later, prove what many activists have long suspected – that the Labour party’s governance unit is working in a concerted attempt to take down Jeremy Corbyn supporters. They were trying to pin Secker’s removal to a dirty dossier about a pro-Palestinian Facebook group, which was released <em>on the day of Secker’s suspension</em>, and is <a href="">being used to smear the Labour leader</a>, generating headlines like this in <em>The Sun</em>:&nbsp; “ANTI-JEW SHAME – Jeremy Corbyn exposed for being a member of a Facebook group containing anti-Semitic posts.”</p> <p>Secker’s suspension was dropped when the Governance Unit realised they couldn’t make their allegations stick because the dossier didn’t provide the ammunition they’d been hoping for. In Matthews’s second letter he said as much: “The action was taken in light of the publication of the report into the ‘Palestine Live’ Facebook group.” </p> <p class="Body">The dossier came with an <a href="">accompanying blog</a>, by self-declared anti-Palestinian activist David Collier, containing the words: “Jewish Voice for Labour need to be thrown out of the Labour Party.” </p> <p>Secker is secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, an organisation for progressive Jews in the Labour Party launched at the party conference in September 2017. JVL has been forthright in confronting unjustified and malicious disciplinary actions such as those against Siddiqi and Scoular. Its other main role is to clarify the distinction between Jew, Israeli and Zionist so that people are less likely to fall into antisemitic generalisation when talking about Israel’s role in Palestine.</p> <p>Secker is far from the first Jew to be accused of antisemitism. This was the original accusation levelled at Tony Greenstein, who was suspended for two years. In <a href="">Hampstead and Kilburn</a>, Jewish party members have had to resort to letters in the local paper to refute charges of “obsessional Jew-baiting”.&nbsp; <a href="">Liverpool Riverside</a> members, including several Jews, face relentless public denunciation. <a href="">Jackie Walker</a> has been suspended since September 2016.</p> <p>Most notoriously, Professor <a href="">Moshe Machover</a>, 81, founder of the Israeli socialist organisation Matzpen, was summarily expelled in October 2017 and then hurriedly but grudgingly reinstated after a storm of protest. He is still demanding retraction of the antisemitism allegations made against him and an apology for his treatment. Glyn Secker will be following suit.</p> <p>What unites all these Jewish victims of the Labour purge is that they are pro-Palestinian as well as pro-Corbyn. They are critical of the state of Israel and therefore key targets for the pro-Israel advocates who have made common cause with the Labour right. The right fear, and wish to destroy, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn because he is a socialist; the pro-Israel lobby want the same because he is the first leader of a major western political party to actively support the campaign for justice for Palestine.&nbsp; On both counts, he is a threat to the political establishment that preceded him and that still controls the Labour party machine – as well as a hate figure for sections of the mainstream media. </p> <p class="Body">David Collier has a history of collaborating with <a href="">rightwing Zionists</a> with a penchant for disrupting pro-Palestinian gatherings. In December 2016 he and two others were <a href="">barred from Warwick University</a> campus after they had travelled to the city intent upon denouncing “vile antisemitic slurs” at a lecture advertised by the Palestine Society. It turned out to be an innocuous event about fertility organised by a small group of researchers and students.</p> <p class="Body">His latest dossier appears to reveal some hateful antisemitic material on a private Facebook group, called Palestine Live, set up around 2013. It has no organisational links with any pro-Palestinian bodies and was established by an independent activist as a clearing house for information about Palestine and related activities, most of it anti-racist and human rights related. The majority of those who joined – or simply found that they had had their names added without asking – treated the site as an occasional source of information. <em>As with most sites, few users see more than a tiny proportion of the traffic on it.</em> This is no excuse for the fact that it has carried some clearly unacceptable posts linked to anti-Jewish, Holocaust denial and conspiracy theory websites. Most of those responsible, slightly more than one per cent of the 3,200 group members – have been removed, but not all.</p> <p>This should not have been allowed to happen. It reminds us of the danger of lax moderation by social media admins and is a warning to casual users to check who else is frequenting seemingly interesting platforms we dip into. But the purpose of Collier’s dossier is not to offer helpful advice to the Labour left. It is to blacken their names – guilt by association – by asserting that they tolerate, or even promote, hatred of Jews. Tellingly, Collier could find nothing to say about Glyn Secker <a href="">except</a> to suggest guilt by association: he “has had minimal interaction on the site. He posted rarely but was aware of his affiliation with the group.” </p> <p class="Body">Journalist Asa Winstanley, himself one of the dossier’s targets, <a href="">has described</a> how Collier infiltrated the Labour Party conference in Brighton last year in search of an antisemitic conspiracy. He reports how Collier turned his racism against me, suggesting that having a son with a Muslim father disqualifies me from commenting on Israel and Palestine.</p> <p>Many mainstream media have picked up Collier’s allegations in the past, reproducing his assertions as if they were gospel truth. The Guardian was one of those to do so this time. </p> <p>Shouldn’t there have been alarm bells ringing in the Guardian offices where staffer Jessica Elgot <a href="">penned her article</a>, quoting the dossier without any explanation as to who wrote it or why? </p> <p>It contains ample warnings of Collier’s highly partisan agenda. This is just one of his snide comments: “We cannot have a modern Labour voter without a little bit of Holocaust denial, can we?” Hardly the words of an independent researcher.</p> <p class="Body">Jackie Walker <a href="">obliged the Guardian</a> to correct one error in its description of the charges against her. Even so its piece testifies to an alarming media alacrity to accept at face value and without investigation even the most extraordinary antisemitism charges against Corbyn and the left. Doubly alarming, because it’s an obsession that is extending to university campuses and council chambers, threatening free speech and open debate. </p> <p class="Body">It must surely be possible for democratic institutions to recognise an attempted purge when they see one, and to stand against it. That applies to university vice chancellors, to local councilors and to journalists, trade union leaders and members of the Labour Party NEC. </p> <p class="Body">Activists like Helen Watson want an end to the victimisation of Syed Siddiqi, Sheila Scoular, Glyn Secker and all the many others. </p> <p class="Body">“We are abused, called anti-semites, sexists, bullies and bigots – despite many of us fighting for equality and justice all our adult lives,” Watson says. “And for what? For challenging the entitlement of managerialist Blairites whose sole purpose is to use the machine of the party against its members. It really has to stop.”</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="/samir-gandesha/in-defense-of-free-speech"> In defense of free speech </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi Wed, 14 Mar 2018 17:51:47 +0000 Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi 116653 at It's time to own the National Grid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Planning for our low-carbon future must be at the top of the agenda, not paying out dividends to shareholders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The failure of privatisation is <a href="">more apparent in the energy sector</a> than perhaps any other. A small group of companies are <a href="">profiteering from an essential public service</a>, failing to provide sufficient social goods or play a fair role in the meeting the most pressing challenge of our times: climate change. For the most part, the ire has focussed on the biggest energy supply companies - collectively known as ‘the big six’ - and rightly so. But now, the grid companies are starting to feel the heat. <a href="">The regulator, Ofgem, is trying to tighten regulation and cut their profits</a>. But more regulation and a polite request to repay money they’ve overcharged us is not enough - these are just sticking plasters for a broken energy system. It’s time we brought the whole grid network into public ownership. The energy grids form a core part of our energy ecosystem - they distribute energy and gas around the country, keep the lights on and the gas flowing in times of high demand. Our national infrastructure is run by National Grid, and regional distribution by a network of private companies with a monopoly in their region. These are natural monopolies - it is impractical and of little value for the consumer for companies to compete to provide rival infrastructure. Like the water industry, the sector has been characterised by weak regulation, financial engineering, takeovers and bumper dividends for shareholders wanting to cash in on a business they know is too important to fail. And, like the water industry, these networks should be in public hands. Our messy system of subsidies and regulation allows the grid companies to pass on all their costs to the consumer plus a healthy guaranteed profit, encouraging operators to cut costs and pay out to their shareholders. As customers in such a system we can do nothing about it, <a href="">even though energy network costs make up around a quarter of our bill</a>; it is risk-free monopoly capitalism at its most perverse. There is a better solution. Public ownership of these networks would remove the commercial incentive to exploit their position - and exploit it they have. We’ve become accustomed to the idea that if you don’t change energy supplier you’ll be overcharged, but the energy grid is just as bad. They’ve overcharged customers by <a href="">£7.5bn over the last 8 years</a>, according to Citizens Advice, and run a profit margin of 19%. This is a rip-off that’s gone on too long, and one that tinkering from the regulator won’t fix. Our energy system should have tackling climate change at its heart, but private ownership of our grids is holding us back. We know that local energy is often the greenest, but operators have little incentive to make it easy for such projects to be hooked up to the grid - it’s a process that can currently take years. Communities from Cornwall to Hackney are queueing up to connect to the grid, but the time and cost is prohibitive. A publicly-owned grid could be mandated to connect up communities fast, boosting renewables and helping us get the clean green energy we need. The grid was designed for an age of coal, oil and nuclear. It is centralised, monolithic and privatised. The future of energy is decentralised, flexible and diverse, with community generation and local energy playing as vital a role as large offshore wind or tidal projects. This means we need a grid that is radically transformed and ready to meet the challenges of the future, which will require a long-term view that private companies are unable to take. With the grid in public hands, we can put planning for our low-carbon future at the top of the agenda, not paying out dividends to shareholders. We Own It’s vision for energy run for people not profit is not only possible, it’s a smart investment. To build a public energy system, we’d buy back the national grid and the regional energy distribution companies. This could cost <a href="">approximately £32bn</a>, according to the Public Services International Research Unit at Greenwich University. Such a public energy system, where a newly public national grid delivers electricity and gas sold by regional supply companies, could pay for itself in ten years - principally through eliminating payouts to shareholders and benefiting from the lower cost of capital. Consumer bills will start to reduce once the &nbsp;years is up, and possibly earlier if the extra investment in renewable sources contributes to a drop in energy prices. Taking the grid into public control is a radical idea, but one whose time has come. Professor Dieter Helms’ <a href="">independent review of the cost of energy</a> for the Government recommended bringing some aspects of National Grid into the public sector, an uncomfortable home truth for a regime wedded to privatisation. Public ownership of the grid forms a core part of Labour’s plan for the energy sector, a commitment <a href="">recently reaffirmed by Jeremy Corbyn</a>. In Germany, <a href="">hundreds of communities</a> have taken back control of their energy grids. We Own It has long called for our energy system to be publicly owned, and we’re backed by the public: 77% want to see energy in public hands. With the grid in public ownership, we can not only put an end to monopoly pricing and sluggish innovation, we can put the public interest at the heart of how these services are run. This means we can have energy system that is accountable, puts people before profit and doesn’t jeopardise the future of our planet. Tinkering around the edges is not enough. It’s time we took control of our energy future, starting with the national grid.</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 Calum McGregor Wed, 14 Mar 2018 10:42:24 +0000 Calum McGregor 116649 at How deliberative democracy can rebuild trust in our economic institutions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Citizen voices must be included in, and have influence over, economic decision-making.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Britain has never had especially high levels of trust in economic and political institutions. But in recent years, levels of trust have fallen to a point that raises questions over the legitimacy of those institutions. At the RSA, the motivation for our Citizens’ Economic Council work was a view that the quality of economic debate in the UK was poor and deteriorating. Our new report ‘<a href="">Building a Public Culture of Economics’</a>&nbsp;makes the case for rebuilding trust in, and the trustworthiness of, political and economic institutions. We make several recommendations to strengthen the democratic management of our economy. </p><strong>Democratic voice</strong><p> Democracy is a structure designed to find solutions that work for the largest possible section of the population – for the public good. Democracy is about listening and compromise, not individual interests winning because they have the loudest voice. The divisions in British society brought to light by the EU referendum, and indeed demonstrated across the world by the rise of populist politics in the US and much of Europe, are a threat to democracy. They threaten democracy not because people want different things to what the infamous “<a href="">experts</a>” – our economists and politicians – tell us we should want, but because they are creating&nbsp; “<a href="">weaponised narratives</a>“ of us and them. Narratives which shout loudly into the void, uncaring of other voices and unwilling to listen or compromise, polarising society to the point where we can’t agree how to govern our economy anymore. To make matters worse, many media organisations appear to be struggling to report the news in a balanced way that gives appropriate respect to the reality of people’s lived experiences around the country. This can be considered true of&nbsp;<a href="">traditional</a>&nbsp;media organisations and new social media platforms such as&nbsp;<a href="">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="">YouTube</a>.&nbsp; As&nbsp;<a href="">research from City University London</a>&nbsp;shows that 95% of journalists in the UK are white, 55% are men and 36% live in London. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that news reporting has a diversity problem. Our&nbsp;<a href="">report</a>&nbsp;evidences a widening chasm not just between expert and citizen, but also between citizen and citizen. These diverging views in and of themselves are not problematic, but we argue that it is the failure of these perspectives to engage critically and respectfully with each other that is undermining the quality of public discourse on the economy. </p><strong>So what should we do about it?</strong><p> Despite the EU referendum, a Populus <a href="">poll commissioned by the RSA</a> reported that only&nbsp;21% of respondents felt they had either a lot or a little influence on the Government handling of Brexit&nbsp;as Britain initiated the process of leaving the EU. This figure was significantly higher in London, and lower in areas that will&nbsp;<a href="">arguably</a>&nbsp;be most affected by Brexit such as the north-east and Wales (as shown in the map below). This demonstrates how trying to distil an issue as huge and complex as whether or not to leave the EU into a binary black and white vote will not answer the concerns of a public, who have complex needs, experiences, fears, and hopes. Instead, we need a democratic mechanism that allows for a nuanced discussion of the different stakeholders and trade-offs within such a decision. We need to ‘build a public culture of economics’ in which diverse citizen voices can be included in and have influence over economic decision-making so that outcomes are reflective of the needs of people across the country. We argue that the process of deliberation, where citizens exchange arguments and consider different claims designed to secure the public good, could be a way to start these necessary and meaningful conversations, adding to democratic structures that already exist and strengthening the democratic management of our economy. <img class="aligncenter wp-image-2657 size-medium" src="//" alt="" width="215" height="300" /></p> <strong>Deliberative democracy</strong><p> Deliberation emphasises collaboration, cohesion and empathy in political discourse. It also greatly enhances the sense of agency of participants and, we contend, it could also increase the sense of agency and degree of trust and confidence among the wider public if the use of deliberative democracy were to become widespread, consistent and well publicised. This is not to say that everything is perfect in the realm of deliberative democracy: it is impossible to represent all 65 million people living in the UK within a deliberative process, for example. What it can do however is bring together a greater diversity of voices than currently exist in the media or in our&nbsp;<a href="">representative form of democracy</a>, and use their different perspectives to explore and widen the debate on how and why we make economic decisions. Just as the British public trust our criminal jury system despite not having necessarily served on one, our opinion survey revealed that&nbsp;<a href="">47% of people would trust economic policymaking more</a>&nbsp;if they knew that ordinary citizens had been formally involved in the process. Deliberation strengthens representative democracy by shortening the feedback loops between decision-makers and those governed. It also strengthens direct democracy by ensuring that, before individuals cast a direct vote on an issue, they have directly participated in, or at least observed, a vibrant and respectful democratic discourse. </p><strong>Where next?</strong><p> We argue that conversations about the economy start at home. To build a strong democratic discourse about economics, it is essential to meet people where they are and to proceed from people’s everyday experience of the economy through work at play and in their communities. This suggests that the most fruitful domain for applying deliberative democracy may be, at least initially, at the local and regional level. At our report launch last week, Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane announced that the Bank of England wanted to “<a href="">climb the ladder of engagement</a>”, moving up from the rungs of ‘inform’ towards ‘collaborate’, and would be acting upon our recommendation for the Bank to pilot Citizen’ Reference Panels with each of its 12 Regional Agents. Our other recommendations are addressed to HM Treasury, national and local government, and combined authorities in the context of devolution. Will they show similar leadership and understanding in the need to diversify the voices within our democracy? <em>Read ‘</em><a href=""><em>Building a Public Culture of Economics</em></a><em>’ to find out more.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Kayshani Gibbon Wed, 14 Mar 2018 09:41:05 +0000 Kayshani Gibbon 116648 at Why we mustn't abandon EU citizens & marginalised voters in the run up to 3rd May elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">Britain is facing a democratic deficit at the local elections, as turnout tumbles and under-represented communities – as well as EU nationals –&nbsp;face losing out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// voting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// voting.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="363" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="BodyA">Brexit dominates the national conversation and news bulletins. One key element of the Brexit negotiations that needs more clarification is citizens’ rights – including electoral rights – for EU nationals.</p> <p class="BodyA">EU citizens currently residing in Britain are not a done and dusted deal. Their voting rights have not even been discussed in phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations. The “settled status” that Theresa May has promised is not automatic (despite promises made during the referendum campaign by Vote Leave) and there is no guarantee EU nationals in UK will get to keep the right they currently have to vote in local elections. </p> <p class="BodyA">Furthermore, with only one year to go until the Brexit date, the Department for Exiting the European Union cannot comment on what will happen with the right to vote for those who arrive here during the transition period and beyond. </p> <p class="BodyA">While some political scientists and campaigners are talking about securing the political rights of EU nationals and perhaps, in the longer term, about <a href="">extending the franchise</a>, I strongly believe that at the next fast approaching democratic test – the 3rd May local elections – we first need to defend existing ones and make sure people know about them and use them.</p> <p class="BodyA"><strong>Disenfranchised</strong><strong></strong></p> <p class="BodyA">In the year when we celebrate the centenary since some women got the vote, we could still be talking about taxation without representation. We could still witness the potential disenfranchisement of a group of people who could be deprived of one of the pillars of their integration – the ability to have a say in how the community and country they live in is run. And EU nationals are not the only ones at risk of being voiceless.</p> <p class="BodyA">Research conducted by the Electoral Commission into the state of the electoral roll has repeatedly identified under-represented individuals and communities. Since 2014, HOPE not hate has been engaging them all, in both <a href="">voter registration drives</a> and <a href="">turn out initiatives</a>, run in partnership with the likes of ice cream brand Ben &amp; Jerry’s and youth engagement campaign Bite the Ballot.</p> <p class="BodyA">As a social justice campaigner and democratic engagement officer with Britain’s leading antiracism grassroots campaign, I have seen first-hand what happens when people feel they have no avenue to express their views. Alienation sets in and individuals and communities can become susceptible to extremism or disillusioned in the political system. </p> <p class="BodyA">As a feminist, a migrant, an interfaith organiser and a member of a trade union, I have also seen the power of intersectional community organising and how that empowers people to march to the ballot box. For the past three years I have had the privilege to coordinate HOPE not hate’s efforts to promote democratic engagement for those most in need of a voice.</p> <p class="BodyA">We’ve been working with people of all faiths and none to ensure their networks are involved in the democratic process, in our <a href="">Souls to the Polls</a> campaign. We’ve been working with <a href="">ethnic minorities</a> and migrant communities to ensure they are aware of their rights and can be active citizens and residents. And we’ve been working to <a href="">empower students</a> in colleges and universities across the country as well as on the door step in workplaces and on working class estates.</p> <p class="BodyA">But with a country divided, with people angry or apathetic about party politics and others feeling vulnerable about their status and the future, I worry about the fast-approaching 3 May local elections. Due to take place across London, as well as in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, these elections should see British citizens, Commonwealth and EU nationals going to the ballot box. But few know the elections are taking place and many under-represented and marginalised groups are under-registered – as in many years before –&nbsp;and thus unlikely to vote.</p> <p class="BodyA">The last local elections, in May 2014, saw the lowest turnout in recent history: an average of 39% across London, compared with 62% in 2010. This year, with electoral fatigue looming, the prospect of the Greater London Assembly not heavily promoting the elections, as well as the government’s decision to move its National Democracy Week to July, we are determined to bring together old and new national and local partners to plug the democratic gap and ensure that democracy works for everyone. </p> <p class="BodyA">All those who care as much as we do are welcome to join us and run democratic awareness events during our 10 to 17 April Democracy Week (the week before the local elections voter registration deadline). </p> <p class="BodyA">As an EU national and a proud British permanent resident, I plan to vote and get heard. As a social justice campaigner passionate about democratic engagement and civic participation, I hope as many organisations as possible can join us to empower individuals, bring communities together and safeguard our liberal democracy, not just for the 3 May local elections, but in preparation for all those historic, democratic tests ahead.</p> <p class="BodyA"><em>To join our Democracy Team visit <a href=""></a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/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> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/toby-james-and-oliver-sidorczuk/millions-are-missing-from-uk-s-electoral-registers">Millions are missing from the UK’s electoral registers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alison-whyte/democracy-sos-stop-electoral-register-cull">Democracy SOS - stop the electoral register cull</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nick-lowles/sham-of-voter-registration-in-uk">The sham of voter registration 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 Can Europe make it? uk Elisabeth Pop Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:31:01 +0000 Elisabeth Pop 116630 at The horror of Syria - the curse on our houses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Aid workers speak out against the suffering of Syria, the failures of politicians and the cynicism of political campaigns to discredit foreign aid. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From 'The Long Season', a documentary from the 'single shot cinema' school of multi-award-winning director Leonard Retel Helmrich given its UK premiere this month at the Human Rights Watch film festival, BFI. Helmrich spent a year and half in the refugee camp, Majdal Anjar, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>We are both aid workers – from Athens, Greece and from Edinburgh, Scotland, the Athens of the North. We come from the opposite ends of Europe, but we are connected by the fact that we are closely linked to work with Syrian refugees. </p> <p>It is unusual, and normally wrong, for aid workers to speak out about aid work and politics, but an endgame of sorts is approaching in Syria and it is clear that the road both to that point and beyond it will bring further intolerable suffering. <span class="mag-quote-center">In fact neither of us can stand witnessing the disgrace and depravity of what is happening in Syria for one moment longer.</span></p> <p>In fact neither of us can stand witnessing the disgrace and depravity of what is happening in Syria for one moment longer. It is on a scale beyond Greek tragedy – Sophocles describes the pain of Creon as “keitai de nekros peri nekro" “there they lie, the dead upon the dead” – but in Syria it is mass murder upon mass murder, atrocity upon atrocity – and now we have the obscenity of East Ghoutta. </p> <p>It seems strange to have to use words like this in 2018, but they are the only words available to use. The international community has played Tantalus, offering up over half a million people for sacrifice, and 11 million to be driven out of their homes. Now, like the house of Atreus, it is trapped and paralysed by a curse it has brought upon itself and upon the Syrian people. </p> <h2><strong>Political negligence and failure </strong></h2> <p>It did not have to be like this. Too many international actors sought to exploit the Syrian “Arab Spring” of 2011 to their own advantage, and this included the west. Too little was done to stop the rot when and where it began. Pre-emptive diplomacy would have been possible involving Russia, Iran and Turkey. </p> <p>But the west was too busy trying to sideline Russia in a new lukewarm war. Russia then embarked on a tragicomic show of power – from antics in cyberspace to Crimea and Ukraine, and most tragic of all in Syria. Only the UK, and to some extent the Obama administration, had a constructive attitude towards engaging with Iran. Turkey was made to feel an outsider by most of Europe, and after the Gulenist attempted coup, began to persecute those capable of making peace in the region, including innocent civil society activists like Osman Kavala, who now languishes in prison in Istanbul. <span class="mag-quote-center">As one young refugee put it, “It is like twenty football teams playing against one another on a single pitch.” </span></p> <p>This collective irresponsibility created not one, but a whole series of wars and proxy wars, involving the Syrian government, the Syrian people, a divided opposition, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Kurds, Saudi Arabia, Israel, IS, Hezbollah and Salafist jihadist groups such as Al Nusra and its successors, not to speak of the rights and legitimate interests of minorities like Syrian Turkmen, Circassians, Ismailis, Druze, Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Yazidis, Christians and Jews. As one young refugee put it, “It is like twenty football teams playing against one another on a single pitch.” </p> <p>The west’s principal proactive focus in Syria has been on “degrading” ISIL. This has been largely to satisfy western domestic agendas, some of them rational and some irrational, including a pandemic of Islamophobia in the media. It has had little to do with saving Syrian people from intolerable serial atrocity. Along the way the west has offered support to Syrian opposition forces, in particular the SMC (Supreme Military Council) although action never matched the rhetoric, and significant training, equipping and support for the YPG (Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units). </p> <p>But there is a dark irony at the heart of all of this, largely unreported in the western media. The vast majority of people in the Middle East firmly believe that ISIL was created by the west. They accuse the west of negligence when they drove elite Iraqi officers into the hands of radicals, and of giving the green light to non-government funders in Saudi Arabia and other states to support ISIL, presumably in the hope that this would create opportunity in chaos. <span class="mag-quote-center">But there is a dark irony at the heart of all of this, largely unreported in the western media. The vast majority of people in the Middle East firmly believe that ISIL was created by the west.</span></p> <p>Now the west appears to be embarking upon another cycle of folly and human sacrifice. If reports reaching aid workers are correct, then there are plans for corridors, hard borders, entities and enclaves which may satisfy the agendas of some of the powers meddling in Syria, but will bring nothing but more pain to the Syrian people. - </p> <p>If Tantalus is prepared to reach upwards and outwards, there are things, even amid this cynicism and failure, that can be done. There are still options for diplomacy. All of the principal actors on the ground – Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel – are there because there are things they want. Even some of the more radical paramilitary groups would come to the table in return for political recognition. </p> <p>The west is in a position to respond to some of these ambitions, with minimal damage to itself, to barter for at least incremental improvements for the Syrian people, and to move gradually towards the regional settlements that have to come. </p> <p>This action may range from relaxation of sanctions on Iran, through progress in bringing justice to the people of Israel and Palestine, to a proper security deal with Russia in Europe. </p> <p>All of these strategies are completely realistic; comparable things have happened before – in the INF and START 1 treaties of the 1980s, the Oslo Accords of 1993-95 and the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) of 2015, and must happen again at some point soon. Perhaps the most powerful bargaining chip of all is money. Russia simply cannot afford to reconstruct its Syrian entity in the way it would wish. </p> <h2><strong>Political negligence and humanitarian failure </strong></h2> <p>The humanitarian action for Syrian refugees has been a mixture of success and failure, but mostly failure. Governmental donations to UNHCR have fallen far short of promises and real needs. An update on funding for Syria in October 2017 showed that UNHCR received only 43% of requirements; responses to earlier appeals have been as low as 20%. </p> <p>As a result, the situation in Lebanon is dire. There are now roughly 2 million refugees – not far from a third of the population. Only half are registered with UNHCR, which closed its books in May of 2015 – partly through international political failure, partly through running out of money. </p> <p>This means a million refugees receive no support. Those who are registered may expect food security of $13.5 a month. In Lebanon the recommended monthly expenditure on food is $161.76 for an Asian diet and $214.42 for a western diet. Many Syrians combine both when they can, so the international community provides between 6% and 8% of the food they need to survive – but of course, only for the 50% of refugees registered, with a significant reduction in numbers by the week. </p> <p>UNHCR offers limited medical support to registered refugees. 75.8% of refugees are regularly unable to afford medical care. 39% of the population have no regular water supply, 29% have no access to proper sanitation. There are some positive achievements. <span class="mag-quote-center">Oxfam, for example, has done outstanding work with water supply in the Bekaa Valley camps through its WaSH programme.</span></p> <p>There are some positive achievements. Oxfam, for example, has done outstanding work with water supply in the Bekaa Valley camps through its WaSH programme. Local NGOs have made a magnificent effort to establish informal schools, about half in permanent buildings and half in tents. Around 65% of refugee children are now in some form of education, but most schools are left without any form of accreditation – in spite of sustained efforts to appeal to international governments and education authorities for support. </p> <p>There are roughly half a million refugees in the camps in the Bekaa Valley. In Jordan the camps are run by UNHCR, under agreements made with the Jordanian Government. But in Lebanon they are predominantly unstructured and dependant upon local NGOs. After nearly seven years, people are still living in abject poverty in tents made of tarpaulin, plastic bags, cardboard and matchwood. Local NGOs do their best to insulate tents and raise floors to prevent flooding, but the situation remains shockingly bad – an utter disgrace for the international community, indeed, as Sophocles would have described it, shame upon shame. </p> <p>Lebanese people have dealt with all of this with a mixture of extraordinary, admirable generosity and total denial. Now the denial part of the equation has turned to frustration. It is difficult not to sympathise with the feelings of the Lebanese. But the Army has begun to bulldoze down some of these pathetic, sticky-tape-and-plaster communities, on a variety of legal pretexts, leading to dispossession after dispossession, homelessness upon homelessness, pain upon pain. </p> <p>It does not help that international policy seems to be predicated upon the delusion of a swift “return” of refugees. Refugees cannot and should not return home until their lives and livelihoods are secured. And home should mean home. In the meantime, people have to be looked after with far more care and dignity, wherever they happen to be. </p> <p>It is possible to improve this situation, even with the resources currently available. The big funders, like ECHO (EU) or DfID (UK) are constituted to fund large partner organisations. The large organisations they fund are best equipped to deal with top-down interventions, like in the camps in Jordan. </p> <p>The situation in Lebanon requires a bottom-up approach. There is no way a large international NGO can accumulate detailed intelligence and create micro- structures on the ground to be effective throughout such varied geographies. A simple solution would be for DfID, for example, to agree to partner consortia of local NGOs, taking a holistic approach to the needs of given areas. </p> <p>There are other improvements that could bring immediate benefit to the Syrian people. There has been political negligence over the question of international transfer of funds for humanitarian work. Lack of care and wisdom in the handling of sanctions legislation means that there is no platform for transferring funds to Syria. <span class="mag-quote-center">The only way the west will ever be able to play the money card in Syria (we hope to the benefit of the Syrian people) is to wake up from its torpor, and as a matter of urgency organise workable financial platforms. </span></p> <p>There are still banks in Syria that are not sanctioned, and there is every opportunity to set up end-to-end accounting between designated partners. The only way the west will ever be able to play the money card in Syria (we hope to the benefit of the Syrian people) is to wake up from its torpor, and as a matter of urgency organise workable financial platforms. </p> <p>The authors represent between them a number of NGOs, including SAWA for Development and Aid, the first NGO to support Syrian refugees as they arrived in Bekaa, and an organisation with a high reputation and excellent accounting – the founder, Dr Rouba Mhaissen is FCO Woman of the Year. </p> <p>But SAWA is not allowed to open a bank account in the UK. It cannot transfer funds it has raised in the UK, urgently needed for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This immoral state of affairs is the result of chronic political failure, negligence among government regulators and a culture of fear among compliance departments of banks. </p> <p>A new Sanctions Bill is passing through Westminster. The aid work community can only hope that the urgent funding transfer issue will be addressed, and that there will not be yet another abject political failure, yet another betrayal of the Syrian people, yet another murder in the House of Atreus. </p> <h2><strong>A perspective from Greece </strong></h2> <p>Since 2013, when the crisis began, Greece has received the second largest number of refugees in the EU, but support from the international community is still far from adequate. More than 51,000 people are stranded in different parts of Greece according to official sources, 13,000 of them in the islands where they were first received. The majority have applied for asylum while others wait for relocation or family reunification applications to be adjudicated so that they can move on to other member states. <span class="mag-quote-center">More than 51,000 people are stranded in different parts of Greece according to official sources, 13,000 of them in the islands where they were first received.</span></p> <p>However, as the situation stands, it is safe to say that all five islands concerned (Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos) are overpopulated. Lesvos is a good example. While the official refugee camp’s capacity is 3,000 people, the island currently accommodates 7,000. During February 2018, only 3 people were sent back to Turkey (under the EU-Turkey agreement) and 33 were sent to the Greek mainland. </p> <p>In spite of ongoing efforts of the Greek army, living conditions are poor and inappropriate. Overcrowding, poor sanitation and security lapses are putting refugees and migrants at the reception and processing centres of Vathy on Samos and Moria on Lesvos at risk. On Monday March 5, 2018, following a visit to these two eastern Aegean islands, Amnesty International stated that: </p> <p>“Overcrowding in the hotspots has a compounding effect on the standard of basic services, the frustration and mental, physical and psychosocial health. Very few people are leaving the islands and moved to the mainland.” </p> <p>Lack of funding and international support means there is insufficient capacity to meet the needs of people with specific vulnerabilities, such as unaccompanied minors, the elderly and others who are unable to care for themselves. </p> <p>And there are other, less self-evident vulnerabilities. Assessments are not always undertaken in a thorough manner; often only the most obvious and visible challenges are identified. There is a general lack or limitation of access to primary health care, mental health care, legal abortion, clinical management of rape and treatment of chronic diseases; there is also a lack of interest (or burn out!) among some doctors, lack of engagement from local associations and lack of cultural mediators and interpreters at the hospitals. </p> <p>There are women with high risk pregnancies with limited access to proper follow-up, and a high number of unwanted pregnancies, including an increased prevalence of pregnancies relating to SGBV (Sexual and Gender Based Violence), There are reports of SGBV cases that have not received post-exposure prophylaxis within the appropriate time (72 hours). There is limited access to formula milk for newborn babies </p> <p>Refugees are most often left to navigate the complicated asylum system on their own, with insufficient information and language support, at the same time as they face a multitude of adversities, trying to rebuild their lives in their new surroundings and pursue their rights to seek security, health care, education and employment. </p> <p>In the evolving and constantly changing asylum procedures in Greece, legal assistance is essential, not only for processing asylum claims but also for ensuring that rights to basic needs are respected. Although there is a state-run legal aid scheme, it falls far short of current needs. Only 23 lawyers have been recruited by the Asylum Service to provide legal services for the 17,633 asylum seekers who have challenged initial decisions since 2016. <span class="mag-quote-center">Only 23 lawyers have been recruited by the Asylum Service to provide legal services for the 17,633 asylum seekers who have challenged initial decisions since 2016. </span></p> <p>Access to health, social security and welfare allowances has been problematic. According to Greek law, asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to free health care. But the law is poorly codified and based mainly on a variety of Government circulars which do not offer clarity on relevant procedures. </p> <p>All agencies working with refugees in Greece express grave concern about the lack of clarity on what happens at the end of 2018, when the majority of funding is expected to be withdrawn. These agencies express considerable anxiety about to whom, how, when or what responsibilities will be transitioned. It was noted as of considerable concern that the recent transitioning of a number of services on the islands has not so far been successful, in particular the transition from INGO-supported medical services to state medical services. Groups identified a need for extensive capacity-building and institutional strengthening. </p> <p>Greece seems to be too immersed in its own problems, including its internal political and financial crises, its relations with Turkey and the refugee crisis itself to be able to care about the horrific events taking place in Syria at the moment. </p> <p>Other than the voices of individuals and some NGOs, there is little political movement. The people of the Greek islands were nominated for the Nobel Prize for their admirable efforts – it was an achievement to be very proud of in very many ways; but there are, as yet, no prizes for the international politicians. </p> <h2><strong>A perspective from the UK </strong></h2> <p>The British are by nature a welcoming people in their quiet, undemonstrative way. It is sad that political pressures in recent years have encouraged a culture of chauvinism and xenophobia. </p> <p>It was fear of this political movement that prevented David Cameron’s Government from pulling its weight in the Syrian migration crisis of 2013 to 16, lagging shamefully behind Greece and most of western Europe. A compromise was finally made, and the UK promised to take in 20,000 refugees by the end of the current parliamentary term (2020). </p> <p>A saving grace for British self-respect, among its multiple failures to assist the Syrian people, has been its aid budget, which is 0.71% of national income, making the UK the fifth best donor in the world. But on the morning of February 8, 2018, Jacob Rees Mogg arrived in Downing St with an ice-cream vendor’s box containing a petition organised by the Daily Express demanding the axeing of the entire UK aid budget. </p> <p>At more or less the same moment, The Times, a paper Rees Mogg’s father once edited, announced on Twitter its headline for February 9 – which was the story of Oxfam employees accused of using prostitutes in Haiti. This was the signal for an apparently coordinated campaign of accusations and innuendo in the press – including a profoundly misleading article in the Daily Mail about aid workers in Bosnia, relating to events that the authors witnessed at close hand – all intended to discredit the aid work community, and therefore the aid budget. It looks, to all intents and purposes, like yet another immolation and yet another total disgrace. </p> <h2><strong>And from the Athens of the South and North </strong></h2> <p>From the Athens of the South and the North, we make a number of urgent appeals: </p><p>– for less defeatism, cynicism and immorality, and more wisdom and creativity in seeking an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, including progress towards regional settlements, remembering that the common life (which is the Syrian tradition) is a safer and more prosperous way to live than in enclaves and ghettos; </p><p>– for international political action to ensure that financial targets for aid work are met, and not to assume that refugees can be bundled back to Syria on the basis of a cynical international carve-up of zones of influence, remembering always that home means home; </p><p>– to look at alternative, holistic, consortium-based models for bottom-up intervention; </p><p>– to make sure there are secure banking platforms for transfer of money to Syria and surrounding countries, for both large and small NGOs, to ensure that designated resources for aid and reconstruction reach their target, and that the west can use its financial influence in positive ways; </p><p>– to offer far more financial support for Greece, the second-largest refugee receiving country in Europe, and in particular to be clear about the plan, if there is one, for the end of 2018; </p><p>– and for the UK not to betray itself, and not to trash its most convincing reason for self-respect in the wider world. </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="/nigel-osborne/turkophilia-and-common-life-pledge-bond-and-very-special-appeal">Turkophilia and the common life: a pledge, a bond, and a very special appeal</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"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk UK Greece Syria Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Nigel Osborne Christina Anagnostopoulou Mon, 12 Mar 2018 08:58:01 +0000 Christina Anagnostopoulou and Nigel Osborne 116618 at Transforming the financial system from within: an interview with the Finance Innovation Lab <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">How a small organisation is helping to transform the financial system by incubating people and ideas that can change finance from the inside.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The aim of openDemocracy's 'New Thinking for the British Economy' is to present a debate on how to build a more just, sustainable, and resilient economy. In the project so far we've debated policy areas ranging from trade policy and universal basic income, to childcare policy and housing . But across Britain, hundreds of people are working tirelessly to build a new economy on a daily basis, putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up.The aim of openDemocracy's 'New Thinking for the British Economy' project is to present a debate on how to build a more just, sustainable, and resilient economy. In the project so far we've debated policy areas ranging from trade policy and universal basic income, to childcare policy and housing . But across Britain, hundreds of people are working tirelessly to build a new economy on a daily basis, putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up. In a new video series, we will be showcasing some of the most exciting&nbsp;initiatives that are already working to replace different aspects of our failing systems with fairer and more resilient alternatives -- from housing and finance to food and energy. This week, Anna Laycock and Marloes Nicholls from the Finance Innovation Lab speak to us about the work the Lab is doing to incubate the people and ideas that can transform the financial system to make it serve people and planet.&nbsp;Watch the full video below: [embed][/embed]</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 Laurie Macfarlane Sat, 10 Mar 2018 11:26:53 +0000 Laurie Macfarlane 116599 at Nuclear weapons: playing with fire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's neglected history of nuclear accidents makes the case for a new safety regime.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>HMS Illustrious in Portsmouth Harbour Aircraft Carrier, April 2009. Wikicommons/Peter Trimming. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>An earlier column in this <a href="">series</a> looked at the unknown or neglected history of accidents involving nuclear weapons. Much of the secrecy that shrouds nuclear issues, above all their actual targeting, is the result of deliberate supprerssion by governments with the collusion of the media. Accidents, though, seem to occasion their added element of secrecy, probably because of the particular embarrassment arising when a supposedly ultra-safe and reliable system comes unstuck (see "<a href=" ">North Korea: a catastrophe foretold</a>", 29 September 2017).&nbsp; </p><p>The excellent Chatham House study <a href=""><em>Too Close for Comfort: Cases of Near Nuclear Use and Options for Policy</em></a> (April 2014)&nbsp; examines incidents where <a href="">nuclear weapons </a>came uncomfortably close to actual use. Among many examples, one of the most remarkable is a collision between two ballistic-missile submarines during the night of 3-4 February 2009.</p><p> "[The] United Kingdom’s <em>HMS Vanguard</em> and France’s FNS <em>Le Triomphant</em>, two nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarines (SSBNs), collided in the Atlantic Ocean”, says the study. It acknowledges that there was very little risk of an accidental nuclear detonation, but finds it difficult to say why the collision took place. A few details <a href="">emerged</a> through freedom-of-information requests, but these raised even more questions than were answered.</p><p>This incident may have been more at the level of accident than risk of detonation. But that still raises the issue of the supposed invulnerability of nuclear systems to mistakes, including potentially catastrophic ones (see "<a href="">A quick guide to nuclear weapons</a>", 8 February 2018).</p><p>The <a href="">dangers</a> are explored in another report, <a href=""><em>Playing with Fire: Nuclear Weapons Incidents and Accidents in the United Kingdom</em> </a>(September 2017), published by Nuclear Information Service. The meticulous research of this small UK-based NGO uncovers worrying aspects of the British nuclear system. Indeed, much of the information about these and other aspects of the nuclear world only seeps into the public domain because such dedicated independent <a href="">observers </a>are ploughing away in the background.</p><p><em>Playing with Fire</em> reveals the alarming incidence of accidents, far more than is normally realised. It lists 110 accidents, near misses, and dangerous occurrences that have occurred over the sixty-five-year history of the UK’s nuclear-weapons programme. These consist of:</p><p>* fourteen serious accidents related to the production and manufacturing of nuclear weapons, including fires, fatal explosions, and floods</p><p>* twenty-two incidents that have taken place during the road transport of nuclear weapons, including vehicles overturning, road-traffic accidents and breakdowns</p><p>* eight incidents which occurred during the storage and handling of nuclear weapons</p><p>* twenty-one security-related incidents, including cases of unauthorised access to secure areas and unauthorised release of sensitive information</p><p>* seventeen incidents that involved United States forces and nuclear weapons, in the UK and its coastal waters.</p><p>The report also finds that forty-five accidents have happened "to nuclear capable submarines, ships and aircraft, including collisions, fires at sea and lightning strikes", of which twenty-four "involved nuclear armed submarines”. </p><p><strong>Reducing the risk</strong></p><p>To understand the background to this report, the fundamental nuclear-weapons structure in the UK is a good place to start. </p><p>These weapons are <em>developed</em> at the atomic-weapons <a href=" ">establishment</a> at Aldermaston, west of Reading; <em>manufactured</em>&nbsp; at <a href="">nearby</a> Burghfield; <em>deployed</em> on ballistic-missile submarines <em>based </em>at Faslane, <a href="">near</a> Glasgow; the warheads <em>stored</em> at the Royal Navy armaments <a href="">depot</a> at Coulport.</p><p>The weapons are transported between the sites by road. Because these use public highways and are frequently tracked by anti-nuclear activists, much of what is known about accidents relates to those occurring in transit. </p><p><em>Playing with Fire</em> finds that one of the worst accidents happened on a cold day in January 1987, when two large warhead-carrying trucks – part of a larger convoy transporting six tactical nuclear bombs from Portsmouth to the naval armaments depot at Dean Hill – were involved in a collision. In the course of the accident one of the trucks tipped over into a field when the road verge collapsed, landing on its side. </p><p>The overturned truck was carrying two WE177A warheads, each rated at about the power of the Hiroshima bomb. They had probably been unloaded from <em>HMS Illustrious</em>, an aircraft-carrier berthed at Portsmouth. A full-scale emergency was declared. Additional armed personnel and specialist troops were deployed, and logistics specialists worked through the night in sub-zero temperatures in a recovery operation that lasted eighteen hours. </p><p>There have been many other <a href="">accidents</a> affecting the UK nuclear weapons industry, the worst being the fire at one of the plutonium production reactors at what was then known as <a href="">Windscale</a> (now Sellafield) in 1957. One of the great values of <em>Playing with Fire</em> is that it brings into the open an element in Britain’s nuclear posture which is almost entirely ignored in the establishment press and broadcast media.</p><p>At the very least this is a report that is worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time. It ends up with a series of recommendations, three of which summarise its overall perspective:</p><p>* introduce procedures for publicly reporting accidents involving nuclear weapons</p><p>* place ministry of defence nuclear programmes under external regulation</p><p>* support an international <a href="">ban</a> on nuclear weapons.</p><p>Not everyone will support the last proposal, but the first two should really not be controversial. Indeed, wider dissemination of this report may well help cement that view.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-09 at 21.07.43.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-09 at 21.07.43.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="386" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot. Title-page of 'Playing With Fire'.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p>Paul Rogers, <a href=""><em>Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins</em> </a>(IB Tauris, 2016)</p><p><a href="">Nuclear Information Service</a></p><p><span><span><a href="">Oxford Research Group</a></span></span></p><p><span><span><span><span><a href="">Atomic Archive</a></span></span></span></span></p><p><a href=""><span><span><span><span>International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) </span></span></span></span></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="/paul-rogers/quick-guide-to-nuclear-weapons">A quick guide to nuclear weapons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/trump-vs-kim-jong-un-nuclear-war-by-2019">Trump vs Kim Jong-un: nuclear war by 2019?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/nuclear-disarmament-prospects">Nuclear disarmament: the prospects</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/nuclear-weapons-risk">The nuclear-weapons risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-nuclear-weapons-opportunity">The nuclear-weapons opportunity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-nuclear-weapons-prospect">The nuclear-weapons prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/nuclear-world-eight-and-half-rogue-states">A nuclear world: eight-and-a half rogue states</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/what-are-chances-of-nuclear-nightmare">What are the chances of a nuclear nightmare?</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 global security Paul Rogers Fri, 09 Mar 2018 21:36:42 +0000 Paul Rogers 116558 at Scotland’s democracy deserves better than broken electronic voting trials <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Democratic processes need to be understood by more than a handful of advanced cryptographic experts.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// polling.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// polling.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Images</em></p><p>Across the world, democracy is facing a crisis in trust and participation. With this crisis comes calls to revolutionise and modernise some of the practices underpinning democracy. Electronic voting in national elections is always one of the first proposals in that discussion for reform.</p> <p>The argument, blind to the realities of e-voting’s affect and its vulnerabilities, goes: “The way we vote hasn’t changed in years, while everything else about our society has, so why not introduce electronic voting to reflect these modern times? You’ll reinvigorate democratic participation and attract new voters!!”</p> <p>The Scottish Government is having this conversation right now. There is a public consultation on <a href="">electoral reform </a>which includes proposals to trial electronic voting, open until 12 March 2018 <em>(Editors note - this has now been extended to 29th March). </em></p> <p>Open Rights Group have been following the development of electronic voting for a number of years. We acted as technical observers of e-voting trials in England in 2007. We were also involved in independent technical observation of the Estonian online voting system during the 2014 general election.</p> <p>We are not convinced that introducing electronic voting has any positive effect on democratic participation. Where it has been trialled, electronic voting has failed to introduce a new generation to voting. Instead, e-voting introduces security and political vulnerabilities that risks undermining trust in the democratic process.</p> <p>That is why Open Rights Group are urging individuals to respond to the consultation calling for trials of <a href="">electronic voting</a> to be abandoned, and encouraging everyone to get in touch with their MSPs to attend the Member’s Debate and say no to electronic voting. Scotland’s democracy deserves better than this technological non-fix.</p> <h2>E-voting - false logic on turnout</h2> <p>One of the core arguments in support of electronic voting, and the focus of the consultation from the Scottish Government, is to increase democratic participation. This is a noble pursuit and an aim that should be encouraged, but when e-voting has been trialled, it has not delivered that outcome.</p> <p><a href="">Norway</a> ran electronic voting trials in 2011. Research was conducted looking at the hard numbers of voter turnout in the trials areas, and also the experience of voters in those trials. Internet voting did not have a significant impact on turnout. The vast majority of those who voted online would have voted anyway. Analysis of <a href="">Estonia’s</a> eight elections since 2005 where electronic voting has been available show that electronic voting has not attracted a new demographic to vote.</p> <p>Interestingly, the experience of individual’s voting in Norway, particularly younger voters, was recorded in interviews. While younger people had no problem with internet voting, they felt it was important to walk to the polling station, that it represented a symbolic and ceremonial act that indicated maturity. The question that really concerned the young interviewees was <em>why</em> young people should vote, not <em>how</em> they will vote.</p> <p>Norway eventually dropped its electronic voting in 2014, after similar results in trials in <a href="">2013</a>. The Norwegian Government cited both a failure to improve turnout and security concerns as reasons - more on security later. </p> <p>The distinction - <em>why</em> people vote not <em>how</em> people vote - is what makes all the difference. It should be remembered that Scotland’s independence referendum had the <a href=",_2014">highest turnout</a> of any UK election or referendum since universal suffrage was reached. That wasn’t because there was a new kind of method to vote, it was everything else: the significance of the vote, the closeness of the vote, and the nature of the debate having a relevance to people across Scotland.</p> <h2>Electronic Voting - unsolvable problems</h2> <p>Elections have to satisfy three conditions, they must be:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>Secure: Your vote has to be secure, steps must be taken to make sure that it can’t be tampered with; but also</li> <li>Anonymous: Your vote can’t be traced back to you, protecting you against coercion; but also</li> <li>Verifiable: It has to be shown&nbsp;that one person cast this one vote, and didn’t cast another to be counted, but also continue to be secure and anonymous.</li> </ul> <p>All voting systems should be subjected to this test, whether pencil and paper, electronic kiosk or online voting. Balancing these three conditions is an incredibly difficult task. </p> <p>What makes it even more difficult is the additional requirement that the methods used to achieve these conditions need to be reasonably understandable to the population.</p> <p>Open Rights Group’s research in this area has shown how difficult it is for electronic voting to achieve this. </p> <p>In 2007, Open Rights Group were technical observers for electronic voting trials in England. E-voting systems in some constituencies were found to be running software known to be <a href="">vulnerable</a>, risking the security and anonymity of the vote. What’s more, votes were downloaded and counted by the suppliers of e-voting systems, without any candidate, agent or observer able to examine the process, undermining verifiability of the process.</p> <p>In 2014 Open Rights Group participated in a peer-reviewed independent report on the security of e-voting in Estonia. The research discovered two fundamental vulnerabilities, targeting individual’s machines and the servers used to count the votes, that would allow for votes to be <a href="">changed</a> at scale potentially affecting the outcome of the election. </p> <p>Some may argue that these points on the secure systems are moot, that the opportunities provided by <a href="">blockchain</a> and <a href="">advanced cryptographic solutions</a> have set all of that aside. But those arguments fail to take into account the other necessary condition for a vote: the process must be reasonably understandable for the public.</p> <p>Democratic processes need to be understood by more than a handful of advanced cryptographic experts. It must be trusted by all of us, and most important of all it needs to be indisputable in an understandable way for the most <a href="">sceptical</a> of us. If a solution can’t do this, it leaves us in a very precarious position.</p> <p>The key to democracy is not in the winning and taking power, it is in the counting, the losing and the acceptance of that result.</p> <p>The only solution for securing electronic voting against the conditions of security, anonymity, and verifiability appears to be through using advanced security and cryptographic tools. But the problem with that is by using advanced security and cryptographic tools, most people can’t understand the process. </p> <p>That lack of understanding can be exploited leading voters to distrust the outcome of an election. And there it is: the unsolvable problem with electronic voting.</p> <p>Democracy is difficult. Relying purely on technology is not going to make it any easier or, as we’ve seen, more attractive to new generations. For the Scottish Government to run a consultation asking for the public’s views on electoral reform is welcome and a great way to leverage technology to support engagement. But it doesn’t replace the hard stuff. </p> <p>Electronic voting isn’t a solution to the problems in the consultation. In fact, it is likely to bring more profound problems.</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="/media-voting/article_2213.jsp">What&#039;s wrong with electronic voting machines?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/marco-deseriis-david-ruescas/agora-votingnvotes">Agora Voting/nVotes</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 Matthew Rice Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:37:48 +0000 Matthew Rice 116577 at Hedonism and homelessness, Madchester and masculinity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The North’s rockstar-scally-addicts aren’t romantic heroes – they’re examples of commodification in action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// e smith.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// e smith.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Mark E Smith of the Fall at Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle. David Jensen/EMPICS/PA Images</em></p><p><strong>1988:</strong> Men on the street smoking weed, drinking and talking. Crazy guys.</p> <p><strong>2018:</strong> Men on the street smoking spice, drinking and talking. Men with mental health problems. </p> <p>Mark E. Smith died recently. His legend was partly built on his drink and drug use. Experimenting with hallucinogenics, magic mushrooms and LSD, he then moved to speed and booze as punk arrived. Shaun Ryder moved through everything, heroin, crack. All of this has been celebrated as part of the Manchester mythscape. </p> <p>Note how different it sounds to simply say that Mark E. Smith was an alcoholic and Shaun Ryder was a drug addict. </p> <p>The dominant, structuring myth that obscures such a stark reading is that of Romanticism, from the Death of Chatterton - appropriately decorating the cover of editions of De Quincey's <em>Confessions of an English Opium Eater</em> - to The Joy Division and Ian Curtis as the ultimate trope of doomed young genius. Keats and others are here, hovering above, patron saints, signs of death in life and life in death, pale, beautiful, talented, much too much so for this profane earth… </p> <p>If leisure is the distorted afterimage of work, in the gym, in DIY, in consumer culture, then the current situation of the homeless on Manchester's streets is a distorted afterimage of Manchester hedonism in the 1990s. Seen one way, 'Madchester' is nothing but a premonition of the city after the crash of 2008, the big economic comedown, after which public funding is sliced and mental health services close. The rock'n'roll rollercoaster mirrors the adrenal release and crash of capitalist processes. </p> <p>This is not to say that the homeless are victims of their own actions, not at all, they are the victims of a system wired to punitively push them out, Universal Credit sanctions for instance, and an utterly failed attempt to put in place a post-industrial economy.&nbsp; </p> <h2>The waster, the scally, the loveable rogue?</h2> <p>Sadly, the everyday clichéd myths of working class life often contain exactly that reading, that the homeless have ‘only themselves to blame’. In Manchester, we have the cartoonish trope of the 'cheeky chappie', the cute, loveable rogue, two fingers up in defiance on one hand, can of lager in the other, hedonism as resistance. We have Ian Brown, perhaps the more considered prototype, then Liam and Noel. </p> <p>This figure folds into the renegade scally, daytime leisurewear signifying an 'always off' philosophy. It may not exactly be the Situationist ‘Ne Travaillez Jamais’, ('Never Work'), but it is not far off. In many ways, these people are the last truly resistant class in Britain. But they are the victims of mass derision, officially scripted into benefits porn television and typecast as stupid. They are the scapegoats of an entire nation. The endless needling of the working class is felt like a psychic stab. </p> <p>Yet the blurring boundary between the celebrated rebel and the loathed waster persists in Manchester. The reality is that the mythologized scally is a mile away from the scally of the street or the estate. Mancunians have long joined forces with troublemakers and anti-intellectual scrappers. Tony Wilson, Morrissey, John Cooper Clarke, Vinnie Riley, Ian Brown, Steve Coogan, even Noel Gallagher, were all too clever, too pretentious for the self-proclaimed 'real Mancunian', but too regional and snarky for the establishment proper. </p> <p>These men were often suspicious and antagonistic of each other, but also sometimes protective of the other. Mark E. Smith, ever the curmudgeon, was a Jekyll and Hyde nightmare, both sides fighting for supremacy, the worse half gradually taking centre stage over the decades. </p> <p>Students came to Manchester in their thousands because they loved Joy Division, The Smiths, The Fall, The Roses, the footy, whichever infamy was currently doing the rounds. Mancunians represent first hand, home grown exoticism, the epitome of unadulterated 'authentic man' in his wild and natural state. A latter day native, l'enfant sauvage, a little dangerous close up, but tameable with the right handling. </p> <h2>See the junky dance</h2> <p>In the end, all Mancunians seem doomed to become performing monkeys, playing for laughs. </p> <p>They make hilarious and lucrative court jesters for those set on clubs or recording empires. It's commodification in action. For every maverick or dead idol that couldn't be saved from themselves, there's a handler, a stringpuller, a profiteer. It rarely ends well in Manchester for the actual hellraiser. Only the biographer, record label, publishers and more to the point property owners win.</p> <p>But of course it isn't just in Manchester. All over the country, from the 1960s to now, you can see the junky dance. The public fascination with The Libertines was as ill and dysfunctional as Pete Doherty. Oh how we applaud Keith Richards exactly as much as we love to hate estate junkies robbing laptops from suburban front rooms. We love these dysfunctional lads - Amy Winehouse being the female exception who proves the rule. </p> <p>The face of “evil”, as Burroughs said, is the face of total need, but if that face is pretty and entertains us with tales of vicarious hedonism we can stomach it. If it's wrapped in cool clothes and captured by great photography then all the better. </p> <p>Last month Liam Gallagher popped up in the <em>Guardian</em>. He recalled the notorious fight in Germany, during which <a href="">80 police were called to stop a brawl that reduced a hotel ground floor to 'matchwood'</a>. Liam also has a theory that his front teeth were pulled out by the German police. There's an exceptionalism detectable in this journalism, that what is cool for Liam Gallagher would be unacceptable if it had been carried out by football fans. This exceptionalism goes right down to the assertion that Liam has is ‘sporting the kind of feather-cut hairstyle that would – and indeed does – look ridiculous on anyone who isn’t Liam Gallagher.’ </p> <h2>The Northern boy’s club</h2> <p>This Manchester is defiantly laddish, brutalised and therefore brutal, a legacy of the notorious scuttlers, the prototype street gangs whose violence haunted Victorian Manchester and had to be frequently subdued by the police.&nbsp; </p> <p>This tension was present right at the start of the Manchester renaissance. A frequently misinterpreted fact is that Bernard Manning compered the opening night of The Hacienda. He harangued and ridiculed the audience. A notoriously foul mouthed, racist, sexist and determined public enemy of the new alternative. </p> <p>This was postmodern irony engineered by the ever-subversive Tony Wilson, but a little too early for the earnest raincoat brigade. Only Wilson and a few fellow-travellers were in on the joke. It was a rude reminder to bookish outsiders that for every Burroughs reading, for every Nico sighting, there was still a blokish riposte. This might be a fresh new club, but it was still a boy's club, and a northern boy's club at that. </p> <p>But the spectre of Bernard Manning serves us well in the post-Northern Powerhouse era. Whenever the braying middle classes get too much, charging £3.50 for a coffee, waxing lyrical about how much opportunity there is to make Manchester a more 'world-class' city than 'the indigenous' could ever manage, we can think of Bernard. He was the return of the repressed. The layer of the city its gentrification tries to entomb with new Farrow &amp; Ball surfaces. &nbsp;</p> <p>But Manning was vile, unrecuperable. So was Mark E. Smith in his worst moments, a monster under the stairs, a terrifying story told to middle class children as a warning.&nbsp; </p> <p>This situation must be turned inside-out. An attempt must be made, however futile, to place the real on the outside of representation, and Frank from 'Shameless' on the inside of creative fiction. This is not to say that there is no veracity to representations such as Frank - you can walk into Manchester right now and find him - but his being writ large whitewashes - literally - a fuller, more nuanced picture. White male Manchester is still the default myth, again with exceptions that prove the rule such as Maxine Peake.</p><p>The Manchester Musical Map of artists 'born, raised or formed in Greater Manchester, UK' was unveiled recently and then largely scorned across social media. It is a whitened history. It includes the 'globalism' of the Bee Gees and Davy Jones of the Monkees, but not the global-local of the Children of Zeus in the present, or the Suns of Arqa in the past. There is no mention of the Ruthless Rap Assassins, MC Buzz B or Barry Adamson, and a list of others as long as your arm. It is also very male, the critically acclaimed LoneLady, IAMDBB and Layfullstop are conspicuous by absence.</p> <h2>Freedom vs laissez faire</h2> <p>These working-class cultures have much longer roots. E.P. Thompson explained in <em>The Making of the English Working Class</em> how, during the 1770s, Oldham's population at least doubled. The economy changed, the early power looms drew agricultural labourers and skilled migrant workers into the large weaving workshops of the area, the early factories: </p> <p>'In consequence, the wages of the best men steadily rose until by the 1830s and 1840s they belonged to a privileged elite. In 1845, at Messrs. Hibbert and Platt's (Oldham), the premier textile machinery works in Britain, employing close on 2,000 workers, wages of 30s. and upwards were paid to good men. The engineers (a Methodist workman complained) spent freely, gambled on horses and dogs, trained whippets, and had flesh meat "twice or thrice a day"'.</p> <p>Machine culture created money, and then swagger and culture: Remember this when you next watch a Hacienda video clip of people out of it dancing to Detroit techno. Yet after this point, an increase in the numbers of skilled workers began to cause wage repression, and the rapid changes stirred up political dissent. Here are the origins of all the swagger and sorrow in the shock city, the meme of the triumphant little man and the meme of the Chaplin poor. </p> <p>But the politics behind it all is telling. Thompson explained that Oldham check-weavers tried to secure legal restrictions to apprenticeships, yet the Assize Judge over-ruled the attempt, saying that if apprenticeships were to be enforced, the 'liberty of trade' which gave Manchester its wealth would be threatened. These battles would flare up periodically over the next century, a bitter lock-out in 1851 centred around Hibbert and Platt's in Oldham. (303-4) </p> <p>This is an example of protectionism versus laissez faire, free market capitalism. These questions, albeit in radically different forms, have recently been forced to the surface of western politics again. It is encoded in the Corbynist desire for a strong regulatory state and the Tory dream of laissez faire. </p> <p>The model of capitalism and production founded in and around Manchester has moved to the new industrial cities of the Pearl River Delta in China, among other places. After the 1770s, there would be no going back, despite the romantic yearning which followed the changes around like a mournful ghost, whimpering for a lost rural idyll, which probably never existed. </p> <p>We can see this in excessively cosy views of the industrial past today. In 1981, Charlie Meecham explored and photographed the Oldham Road, one of Manchester’s arteries, for an exhibition and book. He returned to the area sporadically afterwards, and then presented a body of work made during a more intensive revisit in 2011. </p> <p>It is interesting to note that one of Charlie's rural images ended up on the sleeve of 'Atmosphere' by the Joy Division, who were often hailed as the authentic voice of post-industrial alienation, during the period when Charlie was first exploring the Oldham Road. </p> <h2><span>Fantasy and sacrificial lambs</span></h2><p>Yet we can also see a kind of romanticism in the massive psychological and cultural over-investment in lead singer Ian Curtis's death, which sometimes borders on necrophilia. There is a similarity here I think, to the way that residents of the late 18th and early 19th century invested in religious practices to survive a harsh and ultimately precarious present.</p> <p>But here, in Manchester now, there are the straight up fantasists too. What we might call the ‘northern bullshitter’. The character from Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, opening his tent to find Robert De Niro pitched across from him. But they are not fictions. A guy I went to school with claimed he played football with the Happy Mondays and Red Hot Chilli Peppers outside the Apollo in Ardwick. Another was a Britart fantasist, who claimed he climbed into a factory with Damien Hirst, where he saw the boxes of pharmaceuticals he would later copy. This is a northern phenomenon, not just a Manchester one. In Bradford recently as I caught up with a friend in a pub, a man stuck his head round the door and claimed that his father invented the television on Buttershaw Estate, in 1974. </p> <p>Abject = bullshit. It’s an equation. Constricted lives mean recourse to fantasy, to a psychological escape where an escape from the abject economic and geographical conditions of class are not possible. Consequently there’s what we might call the brotherly love former pill-head fantasist. The seething well of aggression operating through a rhetoric of MDMA inspired togetherness. </p> <p>We know Frank from Shameless is a character, audiences are clever enough to retain distance. Similarly, we don't assume that a tradition of rock stars who take heroin instantly means that whole swathes of youth will become hopeless addicts overnight. They are replacement Jesus figures. The Stone Roses song ‘I Am The Resurrection’ really wasn’t far-fetched. </p> <p>This is not a moral or moralizing argument, but it is an argument that cultural clichés be dropped – they are blinkers – so that we can see all the different Manchesters that were there all along. </p> <p>Manchester Evening News reporter Jennifer Williams’s latest news roundup is titled ‘from heroin to heroines’, the latter a reference to the suffragette anniversary. </p> <p>Sadly, in Manchester we are not quite there yet. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-hanson/city-of-blades">The City of Blades</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/steve-topple/alcoholism-nhs-and-political-hypocrisy">Alcoholism, the NHS, and political hypocrisy</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 Maureen Ward Steve Hanson Fri, 09 Mar 2018 13:22:03 +0000 Steve Hanson and Maureen Ward 116575 at