uk cached version 18/03/2018 14:22:22 en 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 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 Liam Fox’s Brexit aims would require “a fairy godmother” - full speech by Fox's former top official <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A devastating assessment of the government’s Brexit trade strategy of “rejecting a three-course meal for a packet of crisps”. Full text of Martin Donnelly’s speech to Kings College last week, exclusively on openDemocracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// fox.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// fox.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: Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, speaking last week. Jonathan Brady/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>The last twenty years of my professional career have been spent working to support UK business in European and global markets, most recently at the Department of International Trade. We now face the challenge of how public policy can best help UK firms to compete effectively as we leave the European Union. My focus here is on the practical realities, not the politics, of Brexit.</p> <p>I want first to set out the economic implications of the choices the UK faces in 2018; and then put forward some policies to support the competitiveness of UK firms trading in global markets.</p> <p>Trade requires both effective access to markets, and competitive firms producing quality products. It is firms not governments that determine how much is exported.</p> <p>Governments influence market access through agreements on how markets are regulated, acceptable product standards, competition policy and, less importantly, tariff levels; as well as through exchange rates. </p> <p>Public policy also helps in the longer term to shape the available skills, research base, infrastructure and access to capital which determine longer term productivity, and support the competitiveness of firms.</p> <p><strong>“an immediate, significant and lasting negative impact”</strong></p> <p>Against that background it is important to bear in mind that today’s UK economy is very much service based – around 80% of value added comes from services. </p> <p>UK exports account for around 21% of UK GDP (on a value-added basis) with services representing more than half of that total. Business services, finance and insurance, and the wholesale and retail sectors provide as much UK export value as the top twelve industrial sectors.</p> <p>The EU takes 46% of UK service exports; nearly four times what we export in services to the US, which in turn is roughly twice our total service exports to India and China combined. No other overseas services market is significant.</p> <p>The UK’s exports of goods to the EU are around 49% of our total sales abroad; just over four times our exports to the US and twelve times current exports to China.</p> <p>The distinction between what the statisticians define as services or goods is no longer as robust as it used to be. Recent estimates from the CER and Trade Policy Observatory find that services valued added directly linked to manufacturing exports, design, software etc., is worth more than £50bn annually, about the same magnitude as UK financial service exports. </p> <p>The income gained by manufacturers and their supply chains in servicing advanced products from aircraft to medical diagnostic machinery is often half or more of the total value of a contract.</p> <p>So economic activity is more like a bowl of entangled spaghetti than separate dishes neatly labelled as goods or services; and this is particularly true of trade inside the EU.</p> <p>The European single market in services is still less developed than in goods. But it is the only functioning cross-border services market in the global economy, because the EU is the only organisation combining mutual recognition of qualifications, technical standards, and free movement of workers with shared regulatory structures and a legal dispute resolution system able to provide certainty to suppliers and consumers.</p> <p>Losing guaranteed access to service markets currently open across the EU will therefore have an immediate, significant and lasting negative impact. The UK is predominantly a service economy; around half of our service exports go the EU; and there are no plausible alternative markets for these services which combine the scale and depth of current service exports to Europe.</p> <p><strong>Impact goes way beyond ‘financial services’</strong></p> <p>Examples of this impact which do not involve financial services include UK legal services, where net exports amounted to over £3bn in 2015. Outside the single market UK law firms would no longer be able to represent clients in European court hearings, nor engage directly with the Commission on competition investigations. Similarly, international arbitration work depends on being able to plead before the European Court of Justice; and intellectual property disputes require representation rights before the EU IPO tribunals.</p> <p>The creative services sector exports over £4bn to the EU, with more than half of fashion, graphic design, film and video exports going to EU countries. The UK could no longer be the hub for pan-European broadcasting it has become since the audio-visual market was opened up, as broadcasters are required to base themselves in an EU member state; and current EU free trade deals do not cover broadcasting and programme production rights.</p> <p>Our manufacturing economy is, as the logic of the single market implies, now deeply integrated with the rest of the EU. Just under half of UK exports, and over half of UK imports, come from within the European Union single market. For the last 25 years there have been no customs checks or border tax adjustments on these transactions. The ability to move workers, with mutually recognised qualifications, freely between member states also makes firms more cost effective. </p> <p>Much single market trade is within closely managed supply chains which require certainty of rapid delivery, clarity of technical standards, the lowest possible transport costs, and the ability to provide unified support services, for example in data analytics, design and maintenance. Larger companies make investment decisions within the EU by comparing the cost of different plants within these integrated cross-border supply chains. </p> <p>Components, particularly in the automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical and aerospace sectors, often cross-national boundaries several times. VAT formalities continue to be streamlined and the EU’s digital single market ensures free data movement within a shared legal framework. So both services and goods trade are becoming ever more interdependent within the EU.</p> <p>No plausible economic analysis concludes that the extra customs, tax, security and regulatory barriers necessarily required by a trading border, and the inevitable delays, expense and bureaucracy that go with them, could somehow increase UK firms’ competitive advantage. Losing level playing field access to the EU’s internal market, and to the customs union that goes with it, would immediately put UK based producers at a lasting disadvantage to their competitors within that market.</p> <p><strong>What options are available to manage this challenge?</strong></p> <p>A bilateral free trade deal between London and Brussels is an obvious candidate.</p> <p>The additional costs to business of such a deal compared with the status quo would be significant. The annual administrative burden of moving out of the customs union to a free trade agreement with the EU has been officially estimated at over £5 billion, a 350% increase. Up to 5,000 new permanent Customs staff would be needed, a deadweight cost to the taxpayer, as well as additional physical infrastructure to process well over 10,000 containers a day in channel ports. </p> <p>More than half of the UK’s 300,000+ traders trade only with the EU. At least 130,000 of those have no current dealings with Customs authorities. The number of customs declarations is projected to increase fivefold, from 50 million to 250 million.</p> <p>Any free trade deal requires rules of origin certificates for cross border trade to ensure that there is sufficient domestic content to justify tariff free status. One UK car company estimated that it would need some 15,000 rules of origin certificates, at a minimum cost estimated at £15 each. UK supermarkets relying on just-in-time food imports could need 80,000 separate import declarations annually, costing large businesses £25 each and smaller ones without economies of scale around twice as much. Similar challenges apply to food exports. Around 70% of UK food and drink trade takes place within the EU.</p> <p><strong>Technology cannot offer frictionless solutions - and our own tech business are threatened</strong></p> <p>Technology cannot offer a frictionless solution to border controls. The need for formal product standard approvals, hygiene checks, advance security declarations, VAT calculations and payment, and the inevitable delays at the border, cannot be wished away. Together these complexities threaten just-in-time supply lines and make companies manufacturing for the European market see further investment in the UK as higher risk than in other EU economies without these added costs and delays.</p> <p>The UK’s stock of inward investment is also at risk as investors seek to maintain that wider market access. Over 1000 Japanese companies in the UK employing some 140,000 people are here because of free access to the wider EU market, not simply the smaller UK home market. The 2000 German companies employing 370,000 people with 110bn Euro of direct investment are part of seamless pan-EU supply chains. In the chemical sector for example 60% of UK exports go to the EU, and 75% of imports come from the EU. </p> <p>Two thirds of UK exports to the EU are estimated by the IFS to be intermediate inputs to wider supply chains; as are 55% of imports here from the EU. Investment to build these supply chains will be at risk if UK based firms can no longer access the single market on equal terms. Half of the £1 trillion stock of UK foreign direct investment comes from other EU based investors so the potential impact is large. </p> <p>An important factor in the UK originally joining the European Community in 1973, in the abolition of exchange controls by Mrs Thatcher’s first administration in 1979, and in the UK’s leadership of the single market programme from the mid-1980s was to ensure a more competitive home market, as the basis for success in the global economy. For the last 25 years the EU single market has achieved that goal with a rigorous control of state aids, active pro-competition policy and open public procurement markets worth over 2000bn euros, five times that of the UK alone.</p> <p>The competitive spur of the single market has provided cheaper imports for business as well as consumers, and pressured UK firms to improve their productivity or go out of business. By restricting firms’ access to the largest and most prosperous single market in the world, taking the UK out of the EU negotiated preferential trade deals which cover another 12% of UK exports, and increasing investor uncertainty about guaranteed cross-border access to skilled labour, Brexit risks undermining the global competitiveness of the UK economy. </p> <p>The Brexit implications for entrepreneurship and innovation in the UK are also problematic. The welcome growth in tech start-ups, in London and more widely across the UK, has been fuelled by the ease of movement of young professionals into Britain from the rest of the EU and the freedom to transact data and digital services across the single market. £7bn was invested in the UK’s digital tech sector in 2016, 50% more than in any other European country. </p> <p>The growth of available start-up and scaleup capital, incentivised by the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed EIS tax breaks, has been a further UK advantage. The research sector has benefitted from the UK government’s decision in 2012 to develop an industrial strategy with increased research and innovation funding; while universities have benefitted from EU Horizon 2020 funding for research programmes and their ability to recruit talent freely across the EU.</p> <p>After Brexit there will be more constraints on European entrepreneurs seeking to settle and open businesses in the UK. The EIF which provided one third of the funding for UK based venture capital funds in the four years to 2015 -some £2.3bn – is now winding down its operations here. The £400 million new UK funding to be provided through the British Business bank, while welcome, will still leave a significant gap in public funding for venture capital.</p> <p>For start-ups the UK risks moving from being the most open major European country to being the most bureaucratic, with no guarantee that new firms can import staff freely from within the EU, the loss of significant EU funding in the research and innovation sectors, and uncertainty over the alignment of UK and EU data protection rules. Universities already report the loss of EU staff amid worries that the UK will no longer be able to lead cross-European research teams funded by the EU, and wider concerns about the status of family members under more restrictive migration rules.</p> <p><strong>Bilateral trade deals, evidence, and wishful thinking</strong></p> <p>Can these disadvantages be remedied through new bilateral trade deals with the rest of the world? </p> <p>It is right to look seriously at the alternative markets which may open to the UK outside the EU, some fast growing. But as David Hume reminded us, a wise person proportions belief to the evidence. </p> <p>There is a marked lack of evidence that leaving the EU customs union and single market will lead to greater UK trade with third countries. </p> <p>It is for example unclear why third countries such as China, India or the United States should agree to negotiate bilateral trade deals with the UK which favour Britain’s comparative advantage in the service sector. They will instead seek acceptance by the UK of their own national regulatory, environmental and technical standards as part of even a limited trade deal. </p> <p>Given the reciprocity which runs through trade negotiations, third countries will also be aware that any concessions made to the UK will be expected by other trading partners; and the degree of their interest in the UK market will be strongly influenced by how far UK based firms continue to enjoy competitive access to the much larger European market.</p> <p>In trade negotiations size does matter. Even implausibly favourable market access deals with some third countries are arithmetically unable to make up for the loss of unrestricted access to more local EU markets in which so many UK producers are currently integrated.</p> <p>On current trade flows, a tripling of total services trade with China would not equal a fifth of the UK’s current services exports to the single market. Germany already does more than four times as much trade with China as the UK. The major barrier to additional UK trade with China or other markets is our lack of relative competitiveness.</p> <p>Moreover for most products outside the agriculture, textiles, food and automotive sector, tariffs are an administrative burden rather than a significant cost. Few high value products are so price sensitive that a reduction in bilateral tariff levels will massively shift trade. Market access in advanced service economies is largely about regulatory standards, access to data, and effective dispute resolution. Investors require reassurance that market access will not be threatened by political disagreements or arbitrary anti-dumping decisions. </p> <p>It is of course helpful to achieve more market access through negotiation. The EU as a trade negotiator has the economic weight to deal with China and the US as trade equals. The UK does not. The European Commission has negotiated trade deals with over fifty countries, most recently with Canada, Korea and Japan, and continues to engage with the US. Some £55bn of UK exports, 12% of UK trade, benefit from these third country agreements. </p> <p>So for the UK to give up existing access both to the EU single market and to the preferential trade agreements which the EU has in place with over 50 countries in exchange for its own bilateral trade deals at some future date, is rather like rejecting a three-course meal now in favour of the promise of a packet of crisps later.</p> <p>There is no evidence of untapped global markets waiting to welcome UK companies. The key trade deal for the UK is therefore the one with our largest market, the European Union. Here the choice is clear. We can remain connected to the EU customs union and single market if we follow the same rules as everyone else. Or we can leave. </p> <p><strong>Of cake, cherry picking and fairy godmothers</strong></p> <p>Having our cake and eating it is not an option in the real world; ‘frictionless trade’ is a phrase without legal content. The EU opposition to sectoral cherry picking in market access is grounded in a defence of the four freedoms which make up the single market. To provide UK business with guarantees of full and equal access to the single market without equal acceptance of EU regulatory structures would require not so much a skilled negotiating team as a fairy godmother specialised in trade law.</p> <p>The UK could choose to unilaterally remove all tariffs and quotas, which would reduce prices of agricultural produce, textiles and steel. This would undermine the viability of many UK producers, particularly in farming. In the unlikely event that the UK took this step other countries would maintain their own restrictions in both goods and services markets. UK suppliers to Europe would therefore still face barriers. </p> <p><strong>Three priorities for damage limitation</strong></p> <p>If Parliament does vote to leave the single market and customs union after a brief transition period, what damage limitation measures could be taken to support UK competitiveness and trade in this less favourable environment? I suggest three priority areas.</p> <p>First, increased supporting for entrepreneurs and innovation across the economy. This is best achieved by focussing on their need for skills, research support, access to data and a supportive tax environment. Specifically:</p> <ul><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Delivering visa decisions on staff for small businesses rapidly and easily online, with minimal restrictions so that researchers, entrepreneurs and growing companies can access the skills they need rapidly and at low cost. A user-friendly visa system becomes a key test of UK attractiveness for innovative investment. This would be best organised separately from the current visa system, with separate targets and incentives for staff in a new Business Visa Agency.</li><li> </li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Within the UK’s industrial strategy, delivering the needed doubling of public sector spending on innovation and scale ups, to compensate for the loss of European funding and to ensure that universities continue to engage locally with tech and digital start-ups;</li><li> </li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Guaranteeing that, whatever the wider relationship with the EU, the UK will continue to remain within the EU data protection regime, a vital requirement for the tech sector, and increasingly for manufacturing too. This will require continued acceptance of a role for the ECJ as legal arbiter.</li><li> </li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Committing to maintain the current favourable tax breaks for entrepreneurs and venture capital for at least the next ten years.</li></ul> <p>Second, avoiding additional UK regulatory bureaucracy. There are currently over thirty EU regulatory agencies which if duplicated in the UK would add massively to the administrative burden on firms based here and seeking to export. Where the current EU regime is satisfactory, in medicines, chemicals, intellectual property, telecoms, energy and other sectors, we should commit to staying formally aligned with it rather than diverging and thereby adding unnecessary costs and uncertainty to business faced with double regulatory standards, domestic and European.</p> <p>Third, provide more active support for smaller firms seeking to export. They will face extra costs, delays, complexity of regulatory rules and uncertainty about supply chain access. Together these risk reducing UK exports significantly and increasing costs in the domestic market. UK companies are already significantly less open to exporting than their continental competitors and leaving the EU will only exacerbate this trend.</p> <p>There can be no export subsidy schemes. These are illegal under WTO rules and would lead to immediate retaliation by our larger trade partners, as would market-distorting state aids. The government should however ensure its trade support bodies provide transitional funding to cover the initial cost of the extra administrative burden to smaller exporters; and use digital channels to provide targeted training to those 130,000 companies currently exporting to the EU who will be dealing with customs formalities for the first time. </p> <p>Continued trade missions to developing markets are worthwhile at the margin to highlight new opportunities, but do not move the dial. Growth from a low base even in a fast-growing developing economy is not a substitute for sales to larger richer markets. Ministerial visits can have a limited role in less open markets, but it is not one that substitutes for underlying competitive advantage.</p> <p><strong>“a chilling effect on sales”</strong></p> <p>The reality is that most companies start exporting to neighbouring markets with similar rules, which for the UK usually means European Union members, then look further afield. Making exports to Belgium or Germany more expensive and complex will have a chilling effect on sales to more distant and challenging markets. Changing specific third country rules which hold back exports, for example intellectual property theft of branded goods, is something the EU with its massive trading footprint can do more effectively than the UK.</p> <p>An urgent negotiation priority for 2018 must be to confirm that UK firms will continue to benefit from guaranteed market access to EU negotiated third country trade deals after the end of March next year. Otherwise Range Rovers exported to Korea will face higher tariffs; Canadian public procurement markets will be less open to UK firms; UK value added will no longer count towards EU value added in free trade deals; and UK exporters will lose a level playing field in Switzerland, Norway and other EEA members.</p> <p>Similarly, the transition period must be flexible enough to dovetail smoothly with any new UK-EU trade deal – which is likely to require at least five years to agree, sector by sector. The EU has a complex set of national interests to consider when determining its negotiating position, and this takes time.</p> <p><strong>Significant damage to businesses, competitiveness and employment</strong></p> <p>To summarise, trade requires a competitive economy. Competition thrives on openness and a large domestic market with shared rules, particularly in the service sector. Leaving the customs union and creating barriers within the single market which takes around half of our trade must by definition move the UK economy away from openness and thereby reduce the ability of UK firms to attract investment, compete and export globally. Measures to maintain open labour markets, focus on entrepreneurs and innovation, and support exporters can mitigate but not remove this competitive handicap. That is what the facts tell us.</p> <p>In today’s globalised economy policy choices reducing competitiveness can have long lasting effects on living standards, innovation and investment. The question is therefore how far the undoubted economic harm to UK jobs, growth, tax revenues and public services caused by moving away from full EU market access can be justified on wider grounds. </p> <p>The international commitments made to ensure regulatory alignment on the island of Ireland in the 1998 Good Friday or Belfast Treaty are also relevant. It is significant that, in paras 49 and 50 of the 8 December 2017 joint report with the European Union, the UK Government committed itself to maintaining full alignment if no alternative solution were to be agreed; and also stated that no new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be introduced. This may lead to the UK remaining within the internal market as the only practical way to achieve both objectives.</p> <p>Given the negative consequences of leaving, and the lack of any significant offsetting advantages, I believe it is likely that UK will seek to return to full membership of the EU single market in due course. But significant damage to employment, the structure of the economy and the competitiveness of UK firms can be expected in the meantime.</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="/brexitdivisions/uta-staiger-benjamin-martill/business-and-trade-after-brexit">Introducing this week&#039;s theme: UK business and trade after Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/brexitdivisions/brad-mckay/business-of-brexit-how-companies-make-decisions-in-uncertain-political-ti">The business of Brexit: how companies make decisions in uncertain political times</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/brexitdivisions/iain-begg/economy-after-brexit-encouragingly-resilient-or-still-case-of-wait-and-see">The economy after Brexit: encouragingly resilient or still a case of ‘wait and see’?</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 Brexit2016 Martin Donnelly Fri, 09 Mar 2018 11:41:19 +0000 Martin Donnelly 116573 at Labour's leavers are lukewarm for Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite much heated criticism of 'lexiteers', new data shows Labour's leave vote taking a patient and measured approach to what Brexit means to them. Are they the key?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//,_October_1,_2017_08.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_October_1,_2017_08.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'>Labour's leave voters might be less certain than some think. Wikicommons/Ilovetheeu. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Prevailing wisdom dictates that to avoid harm being done to you by politicians, you must not trust them. There are good and valid reasons for this, but the logic leaves us vulnerable to one key risk : that we doubt politicians when they are in fact telling the truth. As a result we are left exposed to the threat we anticipate rather than a security we refuse to believe in.</p> <p>In recent times there have been no political soap operas with so ready a supply of bad faith actors as Brexit and the saga of Corbyn and Labour. Shadowy think tanks (<a href="">Legatum</a>), misrepresented wills of people (Farage&nbsp;<em>et al</em>), billionaire media (Murdoch, Barclay Brothers, Rothermere) the machinations of Labour’s Blairite rump, still spurned and licking its wounds. As so many of these quarters bemoan a supposed loss of truth, new research from the British Election Study (very neatly summarised <a href=";cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y&amp;refsrc=email&amp;iid=86d0fec0427c4848ac5da81d3938a308&amp;uid=819307371981893632&amp;nid=244+272699400">here</a>) details attitudes that reveal much about Labour’s crucial Leave voters, and in so doing offer useful, and corrective, advice to those still hoping to clinch remain from the jaws of leave. <span class="mag-quote-center">The research points strongly towards the idea that leaving the EU was a means and not an end.</span></p> <p>The research, first of all, shows that Labour’s leave voters still care more about housing and public services than about the leaving of the EU, with 26 per cent of respondents citing it as their number 1 concern (24 per cent cite Brexit). The proportion citing foreigners or immigration is lower again, at 17 per cent. It goes almost without saying, but nevertheless still should be said, that the same does not go for Tory voters - just 15 per cent of leave-voting Tories prioritise housing and public services (interestingly, in what it says of the assumed progressivism of remain voters, a higher rate of concern than the 10 per cent of remain-voting Tories), while 24 per cent of leave-voting Tories have a primary concern of immigration and foreigners.</p> <p>Labour’s Remain voters – its ridiculed and supposedly out of touch urbanites – meanwhile, share priorities every bit as ‘left’ as Labour’s traditional base, with 20 per cent of them citing public services and housing as an issue bigger than the EU. Between these two groups, you find a party that either wants the EU&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;the fairer society project of Corbynism, or wanted to leave the EU in 2016 but nevertheless care more about the fairer society than about doing so. <span class="mag-quote-center">You find a party that either wants the EU&nbsp;and&nbsp;the fairer society project of Corbynism, or wanted to leave the EU in 2016 but nevertheless care more about the fairer society than about doing so.</span></p> <p>On other relevant themes, Labour’s leave camp also stack up as 44 per cent in favour of a ratification referendum on the final deal (compared to just 18 per cent of Tories), and also self-identify as paying less attention to politics, so that their 2016 vote might more readily be regarded as an accurate mood of the times, rather than a firm commitment. For this group, and unlike their Tory equivalents, the research points strongly towards the idea that leaving the EU was a means and not an end.</p> <p>Much of that which has been written on Corbyn and the apocryphal “Lexit” has felt more like the obsession of a voiceless political centre getting a taste of the disenfranchisement already familiar to most. Against that, a thought experiment:&nbsp;</p> <p>Imagine that Jeremy Corbyn gave the EU “seven and a half out of ten” because he felt the EU warranted, if pressed to give one, a rating of&nbsp;<a href="">seven and a half out of ten</a>. Contrary to the outsized ‘Lexit’ narrative, imagine that Labour voters back and backed remain,&nbsp;<a href="">voting</a>&nbsp;for it to the tune of 63 per cent, favourably comparable to the 64 per cent of the remain-backing SNP and the 70 per cent of the avowedly Europhile Lib Dems.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether it was accurate or deceitful (it was deceitful), imagine that voters did simply want £350million a week for the NHS, as promised on the side of the bus. Imagine that to leave the EU really was no more than the &nbsp;project of a Tory fringe that eventually lucked-in on post-financial crisis timing and the rise of a referendum thanks to a political chancer such as David Cameron.</p> <p>Stripped of the certainty that Labour are engaging in deceit, or that a section of the electorate (half of it) is a homogenous out-group determined to leave the EU for nefarious reasons, there is a clear constituency – present in the recent data – for Labour under Corbyn to deliver the fair society without the EU departure, or at least with further public consultation on it. </p> <p>The proviso, also evident in the data, is that it must be a joint-project that does not jettison one for the other, a trade that would anyway ensure both failed together.</p> <p>This is, admittedly, a far cry from Labour’s first response to Brexit, encapsulated on June 24,&nbsp;2016, by Corbyn’s ill-thought through and snap call for an immediate <a href="">Article 50</a> notification to be delivered. The moment, understandably enough, is something critics will long hold onto as evidence of his Eurosceptic bent, where a more forgiving reading is that it was rather a sign of the poorly-drilled outfit from which Labour have since drastically upped their game.</p> <p>This accidentally full-blooded beginning in the brave new world of Brexit nevertheless set the Labour Party’s tone for the following year. Not yet strong enough to contend a general election as a party against the ‘will of the people’, Labour overhauled the Tory majority on the backs of dissatisfaction with a naked Tory haughtiness, and fuming, energised remain voters. With that result of June 8 , 2017, a confidence has emerged, and with it the potential to differentiate the Labour EU offer from that of the Tory Party. The new direction is typified by a Labour now comfortable enough to assert that there will be a <a href="">customs union</a> with the EU, and industrious enough to make the announcement together with the CBI. The party is, without doubt, the UK political centre.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2018-03-09 at 11.28.52.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2018-03-09 at 11.28.52.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'>Screenshot: British Election Study tweet.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Tory Remainer votes?</strong></h2> <p>That process will be done no harm at all by the information on offer in this latest research, suggesting that Labour leave are ready to compromise in return for the fair society promised by project Corbyn. The data, however, does present a few important questions still to be asked. While the Labour leave vote has been scrutinised almost exhaustively, its equivalent, the Tory Remain vote, has not – this despite the latter having more votes in it. </p> <p>If Labour’s leavers seem to dislike the Tories more than the EU, and value fair society above an EU exit anyway, might Tory remainers be brought on-side at no political cost to Labour’s own base? The question then will be the inverse – do Cameroon Tories like the EU more than they dislike Labour? The key test, as it <a href="">always has been</a>, will be if George Osborne will vote Jeremy Corbyn. <span class="mag-quote-center">While there is often the refrain from remainers that Corbyn should back remain to win an election, more seldom comes the assertion that centrist remainers must back Corbyn to win a remain.</span></p> <p>If this is the current mood of the electorate, then it will need to be matched by changes in the thinking of the Corbyn team. Where Labour seemed once to operate with an assumption that they must cede Brexit to get socialism, a bargain many in the Corbyn team would have been happy to strike, the contrary logic now becomes more valuable: Labour get socialism by giving remainers their EU, or at least a stab at a ratification referendum. While there is often the refrain from remainers that Corbyn should back remain to win an election, more seldom comes the assertion that centrist remainers must back Corbyn to win a remain. True, politicians are our servants – let them come to you – but Corbyn is also servant to 17 million leave voters, some hard, most lukewarm, but disregarding the nature of that duty is not only the attitude that brought us to Brexit, but will also be sure to lose the day.</p> <p>As the political centre and momentum moves, as it was inevitably always going to, towards customs union and reason – Labour’s interrogation will now also shift from domestic priorities (what degree of Leave to accommodate in getting Corbynism) to European ones (what degree of Corbynism will the EU accommodate). These sort of questions become possible with a sense that hard Brexit can be taken from the table, and that what John Major once called "the Bastards” of the Tory Party would break their own government sooner than concede to common sense over the EU. At that point, Labour becomes ever more the government in waiting that they already take efforts to present themselves as.</p> <p>Evidence of this process can be seen in the opening up of space for serious discussion of particulars in the Corbyn project. George Peretz QC, of Monckton Chambers, recently provided an <a href="">open-minded</a> but neat rebuttal of how that sacred cow of some left-wing leavers, EU state aid law, actually does little harm and even much good to the aims of Corbyn. The tone is instructive, however, in that it assumes Labour's position on the EU to be misunderstood, not malicious.&nbsp;</p> <p>First by accident and then by design, Labour have for two years given the Tories enough rope for them to be strung up in the knots of their own Brexit. As the electorate becomes more amenable to, and even hungry for, rationality on the matter, now comes the time to question, seriously, if the EU is at-odds with the Labour Manifesto, and if not, to mend for good the rift that once existed between Corbyn’s Labour and remain voters. The external variable to this, beyond our control and with a clock ticking, is whether or not – come that time – Brussels can still be made to care.</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Looking at Lexit Brexit2016 Julian Sayarer Fri, 09 Mar 2018 11:33:49 +0000 Julian Sayarer 116572 at Our corporation tax system is broken. Here's how to fix it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">After eight years of austerity borne primarily by the most vulnerable in our society, it’s time that all businesses started paying their fair share.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>"We are all in this together" was the familiar refrain used by former Chancellor George Osborne. If we want to pay down the public debt, we must all bear some of the burden for tax rises and spending cuts."We are all in this together" was the familiar refrain used by former Chancellor George Osborne. If we want to pay down the public debt, we must all bear some of the burden for tax rises and spending cuts. After it was announced this week that the target for reducing the deficit had been reached, Mr Osborne <a href="">announced</a> triumphantly that "we got there in the end". It is, however, not at all clear who Osborne is referring to when he says "we". The enlarged deficit in 2009-10 was created by the slump in output that followed the global financial crisis, and the spending required to get us out of it. It was the decision to bail out the banks which added £1.5 trillion to the national debt -- not overgenerous public spending by the previous Labour Government. And yet, those people who rely most heavily on our public services have been the ones to bear most of the cost. Our schools have seen almost £3 billion worth of cuts since 2015. Local councils will see their funding fall by 77 per cent by 2020 versus 2015. The NHS funding gap stands to reach a staggering £30 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, successive Conservative governments have reduced the rate of corporation tax from 30% in 2005/06 to just 19% today. This is the lowest rate in the G7, and one of the lowest rates among the 35 countries of the OECD. Astonishingly, a further reduction to 17% is still planned before the end of this Parliament. These changes have seen revenues from corporation tax fall from 3.5% GDP in 2005/06, to just 2.6% today. At the same time, it has become increasingly easy for multinational companies to shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions in order to avoid paying tax in the UK altogether. Today, nearly half of all children in London, Birmingham, and Manchester live in poverty, whilst UK-based corporations enjoy some of the lowest tax rates in the developed world. So much for "we’re all in it together". It is in this context that the IPPR has released a <a href="">new report</a> calling for a fundamental rethink of the system of corporate taxation in the UK. First, we are proposing an increase in corporation tax from 19% to 24%. We argue that the revenues from this should be used to reduce taxes on workers by reducing employers’ national insurance contributions from 13.8% to 11.8%. Taxes on profits are more likely to be borne by the people who own a company, whilst taxes on payrolls are more likely to be borne by workers themselves. So reductions in corporation tax have benefited shareholders at the expense of workers, who have yet to see their wages recover to pre-crisis levels. This imbalance has also had important distributive effects between companies, raising the tax burden of less profitable, higher-employment companies, and reducing that of more profitable ones. Second, we propose the introduction of a new tax designed to prevent multinational tax avoidance. Our ‘Alternative Minimum Corporation Tax’ (AMCT) would link a company’s tax liability to its sales or turnover in the UK, to ensure that firms were not able to avoid taxes by shifting their profits to low-tax jurisdictions. While we do not currently have any reliable data on the extent of multinational profit shifting, the exchequer is estimated to lose somewhere between £3 billion and £12 billion each year as a result of these practices. Our AMCT would capture a significant portion of these lost revenues, which would go some way to closing the gap in the NHS budget. After eight years of austerity borne primarily by the most vulnerable in our society, it’s time that all businesses started paying their fair share.</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 Grace Blakeley Fri, 09 Mar 2018 10:58:38 +0000 Grace Blakeley 116571 at So how DO you build a “people’s Brexit”? Not by marginalising the already marginalised <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit can be reclaimed as an entrance into a new political understanding, process and polity – but only if unions and Labour avoid elite-mediated solutions. An excerpt from <a href="">For the Many: Preparing Labour for Power, published by OR Books</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_Brexit,_par_Banksy_(2017)._Détail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_Brexit,_par_Banksy_(2017)._Détail.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: Banksy, Dover (2017). <a href=",_Brexit,_par_Banksy_(2017)._D%C3%A9tail.jpg">WikiMedia/Creative Commons license</a>.</em></p><p>How do you analyse a moment, which was part of a process that is about everything, but was reduced to a yes – no decision? The EU referendum vote was both a mass participatory and mass exclusionary moment. This vote, and Brexit as a whole, can be described as a polarising conflict of marginalisations. The conflict exposed by the EU referendum constitutes an important point of entry into addressing the unmet needs and enabling the de-marginalisation of people who have been living violent marginalisation for generations.&nbsp;</p> <p>Following the vote, there was a 100% rise in racist incidents. <a href="">One in five BAME people in the UK reported being racially abused</a>. This is in a context of police impunity for over 1,500 <a href="">deaths in custody since 1990 within which BME people are over-represented</a>, and with black people in the UK three times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts, and 44 times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Negotiating Brexit cannot be understood as a technical, economic process alone but one of navigating and overcoming the lived experiences of oppression in the UK.&nbsp;</p> <p>In my analysis of Labour’s plans for Brexit, I will look primarily at workplace and immigration policy. I will argue that the implications of a “managed migration” policy – including “employer sponsorship, work permits, visa regulations or a tailored mix of all these which works for the many, not the few” – is contradictory and will ultimately work for the few and not the many.&nbsp;</p> <p>This policy risks reproducing more complex systems of class subordination and fragmentation. Multi-tiered workforces and the creation of multiple statuses with differentiated access to resources and rights put collective bargaining, on a workplace or social level, at a serious practical and moral disadvantage.&nbsp;</p> <p>The consequences of this architecture of multiple marginalisations exists in a context of manufactured resource scarcity. The legacy and perpetuation of these marginalisations in a future climate change context of&nbsp;<em>genuine&nbsp;</em>resource scarcity deserves urgent attention but is outside the scope of this piece. But it should be understood that a Conservative-led Brexit will marginalise the climate crisis – already evident with support for fracking – in the name of a national interest based on a fossil fuel-dependent vision of energy security, endorsed by mainstream trade unions in the name of ‘jobs’. Labour’s vision for Brexit needs to put forward a fundamentally class, community and climate change-based approach that moves away from airport expansion, fracking and fossil fuels.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Brexit as conflict</h2> <p>The media-backed right wing Brexit camp stoked the marginalisation of a ‘British public’, a singular identity of British-born and majority white Christian citizens – who had been marginalised by the unaccountable bureaucrats of the EU, who had undermined a sovereign population’s ability to make its own decisions. The enemy was Brussels and immigrants, refugees, sliding to general ‘outsiders’ – Muslim and black and brown communities – competing for scarce resources – jobs, housing, health care, and welfare. ‘Taking back control’ would be empowering, the box to tick to shake the establishment, although in reality the establishment was holding both boxes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Racism, class, poverty and capitalism were marginalised by this discourse. It was a nationalistic narrative promoted by corporate and establishment interests seeking to maintain a system based on a continuing subordination and marginalisation of working class people wherever they come from.&nbsp;</p> <p>The leftist Lexit camp mobilised through the trope of the organised, diverse British working class, with shared interests and history, driving towards a planned, socialist economy. Control ‘over the supply of labour’ was to be a key part of this, and neoliberal trade deals and directives such as the Posted Workers Directive were to be scrapped. The PWD allows companies to employ overseas workers at different rates of pay but not less than the minimum wage in host countries, enabling them to work where wages are higher, but contributing to a divided, multiple-tiered workforce undermining the rights of all workers in the workplace and their capacity to collectively bargain.&nbsp;</p> <p>The <a href="">Lexit camp characterised the EU as a capitalist club</a> designed to enforce wage restraint, undermine trade unions and prevent the British working class from realising the power to win. Controlling the supply of labour would be necessary to do this. The working class in this conception were framed as British citizens. The marginalised left-wing British working class would need to marginalise the migrant working class in order to achieve its aims.&nbsp;</p> <p>The mainstream Remain camp narrative matched the political representation of the EU by the EU – a community of nations, co-operation and mutual aid. Advocates by turns invoked inter-state solidarity and the benefits of freedom of movement for all&nbsp;<em>citizens</em>. Immigrants were ‘a benefit’ to the economy, mass net contributors, entrepreneurs. The responsibility of the EU in maintaining a disempowered working class, whose freedoms amounted to choosing which country to be exploited in, went unaddressed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The existence of trade deals which sell off public services and assets and the dominant neoliberal economic framework within which ‘development’ would evolve were also unmentioned. The complicity of EU states in permitting the blocking, drowning and incarceration of refugees in camps, rather than allowing them access to the resources and rights that citizens have, helped marginalise migrant, British and non-British working class experiences of exploitation and exclusion.&nbsp;</p> <p>The <a href="">left wing Remain camp</a>, which included Greece’s former Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis, comprised those who saw the choice as a ‘lose-lose’ one. The benefits of being able to move in search of better conditions and work, gaining protection from some of the rulings which have enabled equal pay and a limit to working hours, were seen as a restraint on employer abuses.</p> <p>This position was a defensive one, against the prospect of being at the mercy of a more nationalist British establishment which could take back even more control over working conditions, borders, trade unions, the public sector and trade. This compromise marginalised the potential for breaking up a powerful neoliberal institution, whose existence is actually a driver of the marginalising processes which are being opposed, leading Lexit critics to label Left Remainers as nonsensical and unambitious.&nbsp;</p> <p>These very general descriptions of the way the Brexit debate was framed will in their brevity sideline other positions, but they demonstrate some of the conflicts within attitudes towards Brexit.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Whose Brexit?</h2> <p>Understanding more about who voted, how and why is critical. Whilst it hasn’t been possible to quantify the motivations of any group of voters fully, the June 2017 British Social Attitudes Survey, based on interviewing 3,000 people, found <a href="">nearly three-quarters of those who are “worried about immigration” voted Leave</a>, compared with 36% who did not identify this as a concern.</p> <p>The Leave – Remain divide has been quantified in race, class, age, education and economic income terms, yet the statistics do not cover the&nbsp;<em>experience&nbsp;</em>of those who voted. <a href="">Leave voters came from areas with the lowest wages in the country</a> and where there was a high proportion of unskilled jobs. Remain areas specialised in jobs with higher pay. According to analysts EMSI, Leave areas have their highest specialisations in industrial jobs, ranging from tool-makers to production line workers; <a href="">Remain areas have their highest specialisations in creative and professional roles</a>, with arts, advertising and journalism riding high. These are jobs where workers have a high degree of control over their own labour and working day.&nbsp;</p> <p>Two-thirds of those describing themselves as Asian voted Remain, as did 73% of black voters, whilst <a href="">nearly six in ten of those describing themselves as Christian voted Leave; seven in ten voting Muslims voted to Remain</a>. These figures don’t reveal the conditions <a href="">working class people of colour experience</a>, with Bangladeshi household incomes £8,900 a year (35%) lower than the white British median and typical black households £5,600 less (22%). These income gaps widen after housing costs are accounted for, given that 58% of white British families own their own home, while only one in four Bangladeshi, black and other white (primarily European) families do.</p> <p>LSE research concluded that a greater pool of migrant labour for employers to exploit does not drive down wages. <a href="">Pay did fall by 0.7% in some areas</a>, which is not insignificant if you are on a minimal income.&nbsp;It also did not appear to take into account the impact of reduced overtime and hours and intensification of the labour process, or the fact that the floor of wage rights – the minimum wage – is actually a ceiling in many workplaces. This suggests that while a greater pool of workers for managers to choose from may not drive down wages,&nbsp;<em>unorganised&nbsp;</em>workers can be used to&nbsp;<em>keep wages low<a href=""></a>&nbsp;</em>by undermining collective bargaining in the absence of unionisation drives.</p> <p>The current legislative and contractual framework in which work is organised is more significant in undermining the rights of migrant workers than their origins or language barriers. A recent cleaners’ strike (1) saw agency workers sourced from Norwich and Scotland undermine striking Serco cleaners, showing that workers need not be sourced from overseas to undermine collective bargaining, given the flexibility of contracts and relative impunity of employers.</p> <h2>Labour is people</h2> <p>Contrary to the Lexit and Labour argument that constricting the supply of labour is the answer to a lack of organisation in the workplace, a massive investment in organising migrant workers and cracking down on modern slavery from a worker-centred perspective is required. Trade union rhetoric and intention is not matched by the funding and focus needed to do this. Funding education, training and organisers who speak the language of workers from countries of high migration is key, not just to union renewal, but to social change in the UK.&nbsp;</p> <p>An example: the hospitality industry is the fourth biggest employer in the UK (2). It has one of the highest proportions of migrant and BME workers (70%) and the lowest union density in the country – 3.6% (3) and some of the highest incidences of exploitation and discrimination (4). The biggest trade union in the country – Unite – of which I am a member and for whom I worked since 2005 for seven years, has just two full-time organisers in this sector. The London hotel workers branch runs on a shoestring and uses volunteer translators. The helpline for Unite members does not offer advice in languages other than English. We can’t organise complex workplaces on the cheap. The mainstream trade unions are yet to meet the challenge of organising in the most casualised sectors, even if the smaller, more agile, non-bureaucratic unions such as United Voices of the World and the Industrial Workers of Great Britain can.&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea of workplaces with union recognition agreements being the only ones to permit migrant labour – an idea <a href="">put forward by the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey</a> and potentially on the table for Labour – should not be confused with union strength and the closed shop. The imposition of these conditions by law risks barring workers from industries and pushing people into undocumented work. To implement union labour only workplaces would need massive enforcement given that workplaces employing migrant labour are not only big agricultural, logistics and processing factories and warehouses, but also small firms, restaurants and hotels. An extension of the minimum wage inspectorate and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority which is currently playing a policing role in enforcing the ‘hostile environment’ directive would be needed. This approach is not a trade union or worker-led led one to organisation, but one of state enforcement, which could actually result in trade unions playing the role of border guard, restricting access to jobs for fellow workers by visa status and nationality.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Brexit means new borders</h2> <p>Already human resource management analysts and corporate lawyers predict a lobbied-for <a href="">modification of TUPE</a> (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)) legislation to allow for ‘harmonisation’ of terms and conditions between workers transferring from one employer to another. This is expected to follow a wage suppression trend. Others are arguing that TUPE should not apply to small and medium enterprises. These can easily be created through the current lax agency laws which allow companies to fold and resurface with the same staff, offices and directors but without liabilities for the workers they just decided not to pay, leading to even fewer rights for agency workers.&nbsp;</p> <p>UK case law, such as the recent victories by Unison on scrapping tribunal fees and the right for workers in union-recognised workplaces to be consulted over contractual changes, is not expected to be impacted but <a href="">caps in equality case compensation, and changes to sick pay and holiday rights are being lobbied for</a>.</p> <p>Labour’s proposed repeal of the dozen or more Conservative legal instruments designed to restrict and criminalise trade union activity also needs to be accompanied by a trade union education programme delivered through schools, colleges, Labour and Momentum media and trade unions to encourage and normalise union organising as common sense. Sanctions against employers who violate workers’ rights need to be substantial enough to act as a deterrent to current practices of victimise first, pay later. Focusing on restricting freedom of movement, rather than employer impunity, marginalises the responsibility of businesses which treat all workers as expendable.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Taking back control</h2> <p>Capital is attempting to colonise resources for social reproduction by restricting migrants’ access to services before coming for ‘us’. <a href="">The Immigration Act creates conditions for future privatisation of not only our public services, but public life and rights to a commons</a>.</p> <p>Landlords are demanding passport checks in order to rent property (5). Property, even temporary, is defined by the Government as a prerequisite for accessing treaty rights (right to residency) – for some time, <a href="">rough-sleeping EU nationals have been being seized from the streets</a> by Immigration Enforcement Teams (with the help of charities), locked in detention centres and deported. This process was <a href="">successfully taken to judicial review</a>, thanks to activists and pro-bono lawyers with North East London Migrant Action. The Department for Education’s gathering of nationality and birthplace data in the <a href="">school census is to be shared with the Home Office in order to target families for deportation</a>, effectively making the right to free education conditional on status. Access to free health care has been axed for migrants – with proof of identity increasingly sought by medics. Now both a <a href="">private insurance and payment system has been established which can be extended to citizens</a> in future. Racial profiling is an inherent part of this process leading to an escalation of racist othering in schools, clinics, by landlords, the mainstream media and on the streets.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Papers, visa, union card please</h2> <p>At the last count, the UK had 34 different types of visa in operation (6). Even if you are an ‘exceptional talent’ in science, humanities, etc., and wish to realise your potential in the UK, you need exceptionally large sums of cash. The application will cost you £292, unrefundable if rejected, and a further £293 if accepted.&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Barista Visas’ (based on current two-year Youth Mobility Visas), ‘London Visas’ (for Square Mile financial sector employees), ‘Brickie Visas’ (a three-year points-based visa), and seasonal, sectoral, regional (Australia and Canada have them), age and occupational points-based schemes have all been suggested as methods of managing migration by the Government’s Migrant Advisory Committee. Access to any state welfare support will be axed. Replacing migrant workers with machines has also been suggested as an alternative to plugging the skills gap (7).</p> <p>New visas, statuses and forms of sponsorship will create new markets of labour purchase for employers – possibly jointly brokered by trade unions – and new markets for visa trading, people trafficking and further exploitation of undocumented workers. During the passage of the Modern Slavery Act, the Government slashed the rights of victims to recover unpaid wages to just two years. <a href="">According to the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit</a>, if the UK leaves the EU it will be far more difficult to challenge this restriction and if the Human Rights Act is scrapped, it may be impossible.</p> <p>Germany, and Denmark with the agreement of Danish trade unions, have applied <a href="">differential status for refugees within the labour market</a> and lower wages – <a href="">one euro per hour in the case of one German work programme</a> – in workfare-style bonded apprenticeships, tying workers to employer-registered accommodation and sponsorship. Devaluing the price of labour undermines the rights of people seeking refuge and collective strength and bargaining. Labour’s ‘managed migration’ should not follow this divisive route.&nbsp;</p> <p>Restricting access to healthcare, education, welfare, work, equal rights, property and representation for millions of people living in the UK signals a new round of marginalisation, and an intensification of the class system, leading to a form of social death for non-citizens.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Margins burn…</h2> <p>The <a href="">devaluation of black lives</a> in the UK to the point that they are expendable and the continuing denial of this crisis&nbsp;correspond with an ongoing colonial process by capital of resource extraction and accumulation which <a href="">deny life</a> and <a href="">designate entire habitats as sacrifice zones</a>. These can be regions in the global south or they can be in the UK, including in the most unequal and expensive borough in the capital – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.</p> <p>What has the Grenfell catastrophe to do with Brexit? It represents the consequence of multiple marginalisations – by those with drastically more power and privilege, wealth, whiteness, qualifications, confidence and freedom of movement, possessed by council leaders, decision-makers, developers, landlords, employers, media commentators, the newspaper editors who sanctioned ridicule and smear stories – marginalising the economic and social factors which led to the catastrophe – all pushing millions of people to the margins, which in the case of <a href="">Grenfell Tower, led to their deaths</a>.</p> <h2>The mainstream media as a marginalisation machine</h2> <p>Researching this piece, I kept noticing how online searches consistently reproduced the voices of those who were already empowered. The representational universe on Brexit is highly mediated.&nbsp;</p> <p>Momentum-related activists put on a series of events in split Leave and Remain cities under the banner of ‘<a href="">Take Back Control</a>’ to bring together Leave and Remain voters and try to process some of the dynamics which informed people’s fears and desires. Whilst they tended to attract mostly politicised left-wing Remain voters, the events, with their conflict-welcoming opening sessions, were still a model for engaging people from across the vote divide.&nbsp;</p> <p>Momentum organised dozens of <a href="">Bernie Sanders’ Get Out the Vote campaign-inspired training sessions</a> in doorstep election canvassing. These enabled a break with mediated communication into mass face-to-face outreach. Hundreds queued on Friday evenings in central London to train and thousands took part in nationwide sessions, basically on how to speak to each other. This helped transform the election campaign in its directness, unpredictability and de-centering of already privileged opinions and voices.&nbsp;</p> <p>A similar process should explore some of the drivers of the Brexit vote – Leave or Remain and the changes that are trying to emerge through it. Conversations, not mediated by commentators with massive media platforms, are going to be experienced face-to-face. A deep democratic understanding of the ways we have come to marginalise and be marginalised, within our relationships, our workplaces, our communities and ourselves needs to happen.&nbsp;</p> <p>The role of Labour and Momentum activists and leaders should be to develop the Labour manifesto as a guide for a participatory Brexit policy, explored through&nbsp;<em>conflict facilitation&nbsp;</em>across the country, fostering well-facilitated meetings where conflict is not suppressed or ‘resolved’ but processed, and where marginalising power is named and understood.&nbsp;</p> <p>Brexit is a conflict of marginalisations, deliberately polarised by the yes-no question and the framing of the idea of ‘taking our country back’ by powerful elites. Negotiations which “seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain” need to involve everyone. Despite its current elite unaccountability, Brexit can be reclaimed at a grassroots level, as an entrance into a new political understanding, process and polity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notes:</p> <p>(1) <em>Morning Star,&nbsp;</em>London strikers unite against trio of bad bosses&nbsp;</p> <p>(2) Oxford Economics for the British Hospitality Association, The Economic Contribution of the UK Hospitality Industry, September 2015.</p> <p>(3) Williams, Steve,&nbsp;<em>Introducing Employment Relations</em>, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 2014. </p> <p>(4) Trades Union Congress, Still just a bit of banter? August 10th&nbsp;2016 </p> <p>(5) UK Home Office, Residential tenancies provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 (Right to Rent).</p> <p>(6) UK Home Office, Home Office Immigration and Nationality Charges, April 2017. </p> <p>(7) UK Home Office, Migration Advisory Committee, EEA Workers in the UK Labour Market – A briefing note to accompany the call for evidence, August 4th&nbsp;2017.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kirsty-hughes/brexit-and-workers-rights-%E2%80%93-no-case-for-no">&#039;Brexit&#039; and workers&#039; rights – no case for a &#039;no&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/bridie-france/brexit-makes-labour-exploitation-more-likely-in-uk">Brexit makes labour exploitation more likely in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/neoliberalism-has-destroyed-social-mobility-together-we-must-rebuild-it">Neoliberalism has destroyed social mobility. 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Corbyn must oppose Brexit and work with other parties or face annihilation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hector-rios/making-sense-of-brexit-foreigners-in-defence-of-foreigners-rights">Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/slavoj-zizek-benjamin-ramm/slavoj-i-ek-on-brexit-crisis-of-left-and-future-of-eur">Slavoj Žižek on Brexit, the crisis of the Left, and the future of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ed-straw-ray-ison/duality-dualism-duelling-and-brexit">Duality, dualism, duelling and Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit2016 Ewa Jasiewicz Thu, 08 Mar 2018 12:20:43 +0000 Ewa Jasiewicz 116550 at The second trench: forging a new frontline in the war against neoliberalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Only a new left internationalism that accepts a limited reassertion of national economic sovereignty can defeat the rising tide of authoritarian populism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>In his second essay in a <a href="">new series</a> for openDemocracy, Paul Mason argues that only a new left internationalism that accepts a limited reassertion of national economic sovereignty can defeat the rising tide of authoritarian populism. </em> If there is a founding document of social democracy it is Eduard Bernstein’s <a href="">‘Evolutionary Socialism’</a>.<em>In his second essay in a <a href="">new series</a> for openDemocracy, Paul Mason argues that only a new left internationalism that accepts a limited reassertion of national economic sovereignty can defeat the rising tide of authoritarian populism. </em> If there is a founding document of social democracy it is Eduard Bernstein’s <a href="">‘Evolutionary Socialism’</a>. Written in 1899, it taught the leaders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) that capitalism had permanently stabilised; that socialism would be achieved through parliament – not the industrial class struggle – and that the working class of the 20th century would be neither culturally homogeneous nor spontaneously socialist. Social-democrats should stop waiting for a mega-crisis to kill capitalism, stop obsessing about mass strikes and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and make a moral case that, while capitalism had improved the workers’ lot, socialism could do it better. <a name="_ednref1"></a> The stability lasted a mere 15 years, ending on the day Bernstein’s party voted for the war budget of Kaiser Wilhelm II. By 1919 the dictatorship of the proletariat was an actuality – not just in Russia but in Bavaria and Hungary. What was left of the SPD entered the first coalition government of the Weimar Republic where, on Bernstein’s advice, it resisted the attempts of its own left wing to “socialise” the economy and ruthlessly suppressed the communist left. If there is a re-founding document of social democracy, it is Anthony Giddens’ book ‘Beyond Left and Right’. Published in 1994 it emerged, like Bernstein’s work, from a critique of orthodox Marxism. Like Bernstein, Giddens argued that the structure of capitalism had changed, creating conditions that made the old programme of state-led socialism permanently impossible. Once crystallised into the doctrine of the Third Way, in the 1998 book of the same name, Giddens’ ideas provided the ideological frame for social-democratic governments in Britain, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands, and for Bill Clinton’s second term in office. Unlike Bernstein, Giddens never claimed capitalism had become permanently stable; instead it had become permanently mercurial in a way that was potentially benign, so long as progressive governments could take control. The task of social-democrats was to help working class people survive amid the permanent insecurity and disempowerment that globalisation had unleashed. Instead of a programme to clear the capitalist jungle, social-democracy would become a kind of survival kit. The general crisis of social democracy is happening because the world Giddens described has vanished. The world of Trump, Putin, Erdogan and Xi Jinping is as different to the world of Blair and Schroeder as the street fights of Weimar were to the peaceful, electoral socialism of the 1890s. Twice, then, in the space of a century, social democracy has entered crisis because its strategic project came to be based on conditions that ceased to exist. If we survey the remnants of centrist social democracy and social liberalism – Renzi in Italy, Schulz in Germany, Hillary Clinton in the USA and the Progress wing of the British Labour Party – the image that springs to mind is of shipwreck survivors clinging to pieces of wreckage. Schulz clings to Merkel, Renzi wanted to cling to Berlusconi, but they both lost so many votes it became pointless. Hillary Clinton clings to Wall Street. Labour’s Progress wing clings to the possibility that a new, Macron-style centrist force will emerge to save it from the nightmare of the Corbyn leadership. All of them are clinging to a form of globalisation that has failed; and for the Europeans it has become obligatory to cling to the Europe of the Lisbon Treaty – even as this, too, is failing. To renew social democracy we have to do what Bernstein and Giddens were trying to do: construct an analysis of the world we live in. Both argued from premises concerning the future dynamics of capitalism, the role of the state in the economy, and the atomisation of class structures, cultures and alliances that had prevailed in the decades before them. Significantly, both were critically engaged with, and borrowed eclectically from, the Marxist method of historical materialism – a method of no concern to the party apparatchiks who used their theories as adornments for the project of managing capitalism. Starting from a material analysis of the world – rather than a list of policies, tactics and principles – is a tradition that got lost inside European social democracy during the neoliberal era. Neoliberalism’s ideological premise was always anti-theoretical: don’t ask why this kind of economy exists, or how long it can last – just accept it as permanent and get on with making it better. So amid the panic – as the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) draws level with the German SPD in opinion polls, and as the Italian Partito Democratico (PD) slumps below 20% while populists and xenophobes surge – we must start by analysing the situation, not by issuing frantic demands that the word “go back to normal”. </p><p>***</p><p> If neoliberalism is broken, what exactly is the central mechanism that has failed? It cannot be that the collapse of a mere banking system has turned large parts of the population of the West against universal rights and cosmopolitan social arrangements. Goldsmiths University economist William Davies offers two definitions of neoliberalism which explain why the world Giddens described – and fairly accurately – has disappeared.<a name="_ednref2"></a> The first is “the elevation of marked-based principles and techniques of evaluation to the level of state-endorsed norms”. Davies points out that neoliberalism, over time, became less about the creation of exchange-based relationships and more about the imposition of competitive behaviour in areas where no market could exist. School league tables and global university rankings are just two examples of this – a third being the fake tendering process which has seen billions in public service contracts handed to firms like Carillion and Interserve. For Davies, it is economic calculation – not markets per se – that is being coercively forced into all aspects of life under the neoliberal system. That leads to his second, pithier, definition of neoliberalism: “the disenchantment of politics by economics”. Neoliberalism failed because it was not a solution to the problems of the Keynesian system but, in fact, a work-around. What caused the ruin of both models was their inability to sustain both productivity and corporate profitability. Between 1989 and 2008 growth was driven by unsustainable financial expansion, by fiscal deficits, by the rapid catch-up of Asia and Latin America, and by the expansion of the working population. In 2008 a global system reliant on financial fiction exploded. As a result, we now have a global economy kept afloat by $19 trillion of central bank money creation, by the permanent socialisation of banking risk, and where many of the advanced industrial countries exhibit the following features: </p><ol> <li>Rising inequality boosted by the surge in asset values triggered by quantitative easing.</li> <li>Entire sectors dominated by rent-seeking monopolies.</li> <li>A global financial elite clustered around the defence of its strategic privilege – which is to keep its wealth in offshore jurisdictions and unavailable to the tax collectors of nation states, and therefore immune to redistribution.</li> <li>High under-employment and precarious work, as millions of people are employed in what David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”; real wages failing to keep up with the rising asset wealth of the 1%; and a historically low wage share.</li> <li>A global market that has begun to fragment along regional and national lines; the stalling of trade liberalisation treaties; the Balkanisation of finance systems and the information economy; and the beginnings of an open trade war.</li> </ol><p> There are typically three kinds of response to this situation among national political elites. The first is to try to maintain the status quo, resulting in the continued rise of inequality, continued impoverishment of workers and the lower middle class. This is the approach of Macron in France, Merkel in Germany and the liberal-conservative Remain lobby in the UK. The second is a kind of “nationalist neoliberalism”: the attempt to deepen the coercive introduction of market mechanisms through a partial break with the multilateral global trade system. This is the intention behind the European Research Group (ERG) inside the UK Conservative Party: to scrap environmental and safety regulations, and to scrap – as Liz Truss wants – professional licensing and qualifications that are said to “suppress growth” by insisting that doctors, airline pilots or physiotherapists must be licensed and therefore difficult to replace with the precariat. It is, in effect, “Thatcherism in One Country” – and it also forms the unacknowledged common ground between the three factions of the German right: the AfD wants deeper free market reforms but no immigration; the Free Democratic Party (FPD) wants Germany to double down on gaming the Eurosystem to let the rest of Europe go hang; so effectively does the right wing faction of the Christian Social Union (CSU) around Alexander Dobrindt who, for good measure, wants a “revolution” to roll society back to a pre-1968 social conservatism. A third response – best illustrated in Europe by the Law and Justice government in Poland – is to break overtly both with neoliberal economics and “liberal democracy”. Law and Justice has secured a 49% poll rating not only through crass nationalism and dog-whistle antisemitism, but by daily verbal attacks on “liberal democracy” and the elites who profit from it, and by distributing significant universal welfare payments to working class people. Liberal democracy gets in the way of the real democracy – which is the will of the white, Catholic Polish people, untrammelled by such things as an independent media, judiciary and multilateral obligations. That is the message of Law and Justice. None of these responses can remedy the breakdown of neoliberalism strategically. The problem is, however, two of them <em>could</em> work temporarily and locally, providing that the national elite concerned is prepared to renege on multilateral obligations to its trading partners. In the 1930s such attitudes were described as “beggar thy neighbour”. In modern parlance, it’s about being prepared to say to other countries: fuck you. Law and Justice has placed itself on a collision course with the European Commission, while the Tory ERG wants Britain to stage a hard, confrontational exit from the EU altogether. Trump, likewise, with tax cuts that will boost America’s debt pile and a trade war over steel, is determined to deliver a revival of prosperity in the USA at the expense of its key trading partners. Social democracy’s problem is that for 30 years it moulded its project around the priorities of the neoliberal model, and around the certainty that a multilateral global system would (a) always exist, and (b) deepen. Both conditions have been falsified, while the neoliberal elite’s priorities are rapidly evolving to adapt to the growing power of authoritarian kleptocrats and the Mafiosi who trail behind them. The basic problem with the Macron strategy – carry on regardless with a globalised free market – is that it cannot be done by standing still: you have to double down on the coercive imposition of competitive behaviours and values onto a population weary of being coerced. You have to renew TTIP; you have to do more privatisations; you have to go expanding the EU to the East, pulling in yet more xenophobic and corrupt national elites. If we return to Davies’ definitions (the elevation of market principles to state endorsed norms, and the disenchantment of politics by economics), we can say with certainty that these are strategies that no longer work. People have had enough of free market coercion and are prepared to “re-enchant” economic decision making with the only things that lie to hand: nationalism and xenophobia on the one hand, radical anti-authoritarianism, feminism, environmentalism and leftism on the other. To renew social democracy, we need to stop clinging to the wreckage. Even though it was mainly window dressing for Blair and Clinton, the Third Way was a serious and coherent theory. Some of its premises survive even though, as a practical project, it is dying. </p><p>***</p><p> Giddens’ framework for radical politics in the neoliberal era consisted of six priorities. The first, to “repair damaged solidarities”, involved recognising that even the free-est market makes people interdependent. While the neoliberal right would have us stab each other in the back, people with a stiletto between their shoulder-blades will still need a hospital to go to. Second, social democracy had to accept that instead of improved economic conditions, people would fight over “life politics” – that is for the individual freedom to behave as they please. Unequal opportunities to do so – as we are today seeing with the #MeToo movement – could, he said, be a much stronger driver of protest and radicalism than pure economic inequality. Third, in place of solidarity there would have to be “generative politics”: social democracy had to create a space between the state and the market in which people could do things for themselves, which neither the state nor the market were capable of delivering. Fourth, recognising that globalization would weaken the formal democracy of states, Giddens called for a democracy of self-help groups and social movements. These, it was understood, should forget trying to bend the state to their wishes – it was irrevocably under the control of corporations and destined to shrink – but they could achieve stuff for themselves, empower themselves, and boost their own emotional literacy in the process. Fifth, the left must be prepared to rip up the welfare state. Instead of a safety net designed to protect people against “what might happen”, it had to be a kind of survival guide. The welfare state, said Giddens, was sexist, bureaucratic, impersonal and never fully eradicated poverty anyway. Finally and perceptively, Giddens warned that a neoliberal global order would lead to violence, and that the left needed to find ways to mitigate that. When social conflict occurs in a globalised free market, Giddens said, you can’t solve it by coexisting or by separation. “No culture, state or large group can with much success isolate itself from the global cosmopolitan order,” Giddens wrote.<a name="_ednref3"></a> As a result, conflicts would lead more quickly to open violence and the left would have to be the party of dialogue not conflict. What strikes me today about this political framework, on which Third Way social democracy was built, is its absolutism. The state would wither, the market would triumph, the welfare state would have to be abandoned, class solidarity would collapse, and individual lifestyle politics would dictate everything. This was the assumption. But nearly 25 years after its publication all of the things that were considered already gone are still here, even in a society like Britain which became under Major, Blair and Cameron a laboratory of social atomisation. The RMT union is still able to shut down London’s Tube network; the welfare budget still makes up 34% of all state spending in the UK; market experiments in the railway system have gone badly wrong. Even at my local tube station in London, there is a union rep who defies the management instruction to wear a name badge by sporting one with the word “Lenin”. Though Giddens never subscribed to the “end of history” thesis, the assumption underpinning his project was that markets were efficient and tended towards equilibrium and prosperity. Like Bernstein, he created a formula for coping with capitalist stability that failed to survive the return of instability. In the hands of Blair, Clinton and Schroeder these assumptions became an excuse for venal collaboration with the interests of corporations against those of the very people who voted for social democracy. But even in their purer, academic form, Giddens’ assumptions have been negated by the political, economic and social realities of the capitalism that emerged after 2008. The most important fact about the new reality is that, since 2008, states, regions and communities have begun to attempt to exit the system. What was deemed impossible has become the dominant trend: the desire to cancel, reverse or block globalisation. Whether it be the globalisation of workforces through migration, or the privatisation of the public realm in the name of trade liberalisation, or the impoverishment of industrial communities through offshoring. Interestingly, the very forces Blairism assumed were spent – community, trade unionism, working class identity and of course language and ethnicity – have been factors driving this rush for the exit, both to the left and right. As Giddens predicted, such projects are met with violence – sometimes literally as the Catalan people found out on 1 October 2017 – and sometimes via the more subtle coercion of closing a nation’s banking system, as the Greeks experienced in June 2015. But wherever the “exit” strategy is adopted, the key institution is the one Giddens – and Blair – assumed would have diminishing power in a neoliberal universe: the democratically elected national government. As to what is driving the desire for exit, it is primarily insecurity. All over the world, state welfare provision has been ripped up, but not replaced by any new forms of solidarity as Giddens advocated. As I wrote in the <a href="">first essay of this series</a>, one of the huge drivers of populist anger and insecurity is the enhanced fear of “what might happen”, whether it’s the possibility of the working class person falling into the under-class because they lose their highly precarious job; or a migrant occupying a place in front of you in the doctor’s waiting room; or a home-grown jihadi terrorist blowing up your children at a pop concert. “No more change!” was the demand campaigners in Thuringia told me they heard on the doorstep, from voters who had switched to the AfD. Ludicrous as it may sound to the paid-up technocrats who still believe in neoliberalism, it is a rational desire when change brings only stress, impoverishment and anxiety – and in this case perceived competition for a limited welfare and social budget. Practically, far from empowering those from whom the safety net was removed, neoliberal policy during the crisis became increasingly focused on coercing them, as with the scandalous disability assessments by the DWP in the UK or in the mass incarceration programmes of black people in America which boomed under both Clinton and Obama. Finally, and ironically, it has been the populist right and radical left, together with some cosmopolitan nationalist parties and environmental NGOs, who have engaged with the task of “repairing damaged solidarities”. Blairite social democracy might have urged people to discover the new solidarities of suburban life, or the professionalised workplace or the private members’ gym, &nbsp;but these were unavailable to the newly impoverished lower-strata of the workforce neoliberalism created. They clung, instead, to what was left of their old solidarities, which – as I have described in ‘The Great Regression’ – were often stripped of their progressive content.<a name="_ednref4"></a></p> <p>***</p><p> That the Third Way doctrine suffered the same ultimate fate as Bernstein’s “revisionism” is no accident: both were formulated during the upswing and stabilisation phases of a global economic model. Neither could survive the model’s crisis. Indeed, understanding that our task today is to construct a “crisis politics” – not a survival guide for the losers within a successful form of capitalism – is the first step towards a solution. In subsequent contributions I will try to spell out the details. Here, however, it important to state the broad conclusions if you accept the idea that neoliberalism is over. First, the rise of authoritarian nationalist projects among some western elites is both logical and inevitable, given their histories. You only have to listen to the British elite’s continuous dirge of devotion to Winston Churchill to understand how powerfully the myths, narratives and traditions of national bourgeoisies guide their actions, even in the age of Davos and globalised consumer culture. When I asked Polish progressives at a seminar last month, “why is a section of the Polish elite prepared to break with globalisation and seek nation-centric and xenophobic solutions?”, they simply shrugged and said: “that’s what they did in the 1930s”. It is not that the globalism of the elites during neoliberalism was fake – only that, in the entire history of industrial capitalism there have been only two modes of regulation: the nation-centric one and the multilateral globalist one. Most elite groups in the world have intellectual traditions that can accommodate both, and some are prepared to reach into the dark basement of those traditions to revive the nationalist ideologies that suited their grandparents. What sections of the elites and intelligentsias of Poland, Hungary, Italy and Austria are doing now is no mystery. It’s a reversion to type. Second, the rise of authoritarian populism and xenophobic narratives among the populations of many western democracies is – as I argued in the first essay – the result of the breakdown of a coherent narrative and of intense perceptions of insecurity. The strategy of keeping the economy on life support does not keep the ideology that underpinned neoliberalism on life support. The reward for all the backstabbing, atomisation and conformity to market individualism was supposed to be prosperity. Once that disappeared, the story became incoherent. It follows from this that social democracy – and the wider progressive movements it must ally with – needs to construct very quickly a new narrative about how the world gets better for you, your children, your community. People want to know how life becomes less insecure, and how change becomes more predictable and manageable. Unless the left answers that question, the xenophobic right will do so. Third, logically the new project of social democracy must be framed around a radical break with neoliberalism. What is destroying our movement is that a whole generation of social democratic leaders have tied their personal prestige and identity to an economic model that no longer works. Schulz wanted to keep Merkel in charge forever; Renzi in Italy would rather see Berlusconi in power than admit the grievances that are driving people towards the Northern League and the Five Star Movement were real. Indeed, when I spoke to Italian social democrats before the election disaster of 4 March, it was always the possibility of being beaten by Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, not the racist FI-Lega Nord alliance, that haunted them. In Britain, the spectacle of Haringey’s Labour leader Claire Kober self-destructing amid mass popular opposition to her housing privatisation project, is a vignette painted from the same colour scheme. To be clear: a break with neoliberalism&nbsp; means a limited, reversible and calibrated retreat from some aspects of globalisation. To salvage what is salvageable from the global system we must prevent its implosion: that means preventing the chaotic breakup of the EU, the collapse of multilateral global trading arrangements and – the ultimate threat – a spate of mutual debt defaults during which everyone heads for the exit in a disorderly manner. Here the analogy with trench warfare holds good. If the front trench is overrun, the last person standing in it is going to get bayoneted. Better to retreat to the next trench and defend that. This has informed my approach to Brexit. The substantive issue was always going to be: what form does the semi-detached relationship of Britain to the EU take in future. I voted Remain because the alternative – which has now transpired – was Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg constructing Thatcherism in One Country, with Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’ used as a handbook. Because people were told freedom of movement was non-negotiable inside the EU, they voted to leave it. They did not believe the assurance that “ever closer union” no longer applied to the UK – and the actions of the European Commission during the Brexit negotiations have tended to confirm that suspicion. Given that, it is neither possible nor desirable to use intrigue and elite chicanery to override the votes of 17 million people. What is possible is to persuade them to accept a limited – and thus reversible – semi-detachment from the EU in the form of a Norway style agreement, a customs union or something in-between. The question for Europe’s social democrats is far bigger than the one that usually greets me in seminars and one-to-one meetings, which is “how do we emulate Corbyn?”. Nevertheless, it is worth reminding ourselves that UK Labour’s current recovery and dynamism is premised on the fact that, first, Britain was always effectively exempt from the Maastricht rules mandating fiscal austerity. Corbyn’s ability to draft a post-austerity manifesto, centred on a £250 billion borrowing programme and a £50 billion tax redistribution plan, together with some limited renationalisation and a state investment bank, was an act of imagination unavailable to Renzi, Sanchez and Schulz. On top of that, Corbyn has – correctly – accepted the result of the Brexit referendum, refusing the invitation from the die-hard Blairite right to destroy his own party by labelling a third of Labour voters deluded xenophobes. What lesson can the rest of European social democracy draw from Labour’s success? The exact lesson they refuse to draw: which is that “retreating to the second trench” means adopting as an overt goal a revision of the Lisbon Treaty in favour of greater social justice. Europe has to be redesigned to allow state aid, nationalisations, the equalisation of social safety nets and minimum wages – removing the Maastricht criteria on debt and borrowing which mandate austerity. A Corbyn government in Britain, and a Sanders or similarly left-led Democratic Party government in the USA, would at least have some fiscal freedom. Until they can imagine themselves operating in the same way – either collectively across an alliance of core EU countries or individually – the European social democratic parties will go on destroying themselves for the sake of Lisbon and the Bundesbank. They should stop doing so. </p><p>***</p><p> Which brings us face to face with a general principle: over the next five years the venue in which authoritarian populism and economic nationalism have to be fought is the nation state itself, and state-level democratic institutions. Trump will be beaten at the level of Federal elections, the Supreme Court and the FBI, not the WTO or the United Nations. Orban, Kaczinsky and the Blue-Black coalition in Austria will be beaten at the level of the national cultures, parliaments, intelligentsias and the national demos – not through the authority of the European Commission and tongue-lashings by Guy Verhofstadt in the Brussels parliament (welcome though these may be). Done intelligently, and without conceding to the rhetoric of the right, a limited reassertion of economic sovereignty is going to be key to the revival of left politics both in Europe and the USA. Indeed, if it had been done five years ago then, like a flu jab, it might have prevented the current sickness. Working out how to reform capitalism to meet the needs of those on stagnating wages and in precarious jobs becomes easier once you accept that the place that is going to be done is national parliaments and regional assemblies. They will still have to be constrained by multilateral agreements, but they will probably look more like the flexible deals that preceded the heyday of neoliberalism, not the inflexible ones that are currently falling apart. Customs unions, free trade areas, bilateral currency pegs, an exchange rate mechanism rather than a single currency for Europe, and a two-speed structure for the EU itself – these might have to be the forms in which globalisation survives. For social democracy, internationalism – which was rooted into its practice from the formation of the Second International in 1889 – is a strong trench to fall back on as globalism evaporates. The globalism of elites – from Mar-a-Lago to Budapest – is proving depressingly fragile; the internationalism of left parties can, given the right basis, prove much more durable. And social-democrats will not be the sole occupiers of this second trench: liberalism, radical left, feminism and green movement have all made strong intellectual contributions to the progressive, internationalist ideology that will have to replace free market globalism. The advantage of forcing social democratic politicians to focus on the dynamics of their own society is that in most countries they face the same demographic challenge: cultural conflict between an educated, younger workforce with liberal values and a less educated, older workforce clinging to social conservatism. It is a split between the city and the small town; between old and young; and, at its worst – as with the alt-right in America and the populist right in Poland – it weaponises gender inequality as well. From Bernstein to Giddens, the prophets of stability socialism always focused on the atomisation of class and community loyalties, and the decline of solidarity. As early as 1899 Bernstein warned that “the precision tool maker and the coalminer, the skilled decorator and the porter… live very different kinds of life, and have very different kinds of wants”. It would be easier to unite them around race and nation than it would around pure class politics, he wrote. A century later Giddens’ entire project was premised on the idea that most social solidarities – even ethnicity and nationality, let alone class – would be atomised under the impact of marketisation and networked individuality. It turns out that the current struggle is not between atomization versus old solidarities; it is in fact a death match between two spontaneous solidarities that can no longer coexist. For now, wherever the authoritarian right is on the march, it is mobilising people around nationalism, racism and sexism. Yet the ideology of an educated, networked, diverse, globally focused and tolerant section of society is equally spontaneous and, in some places, stronger. In one way, the salariat, the Millennial generation and their natural allies among ethnic minorities, women, the LGBT community have achieved what Giddens had called for: an agency born out of fear. As he wrote: “Values of the sanctity of human life, universal human rights, the preservation of species and care for future as well as present generations of children may perhaps be arrived at defensively, but they are certainly not negative values.” Instead of a proletariat with a historic, positively-defined mission, we might have to make do with a motley tribal alliance with many missions, some of them conflicting, Giddens said. I will return to this question of agency in a future essay, but here it is worth acknowledging how closely Giddens’ 1994 position anticipates what came to be known in the anti-globalisation movement as “One No, Many Yesses”. The difference is, today, we have two “Noes”: no to neoliberalism and no to the xenophobic right. In turn, that limits the number of “Yeses” that are practical in the short term: yes to defending universalism, yes to mitigating climate change and yes to upholding the rule of law. That should be the terrain on which the progressive forces of humanity come together. But social democrats should not flinch from adding one more “yes” to this list, and that is to the right of electorates to use democracy to regulate and control the market at a national level – even if this means reforming, suspending or defying the institutions through which global corporations have dictated the world’s affairs for 30 years. That is the ground on which social democracy and the radical left should converge. The journey towards a radical social democracy will be fraught with temptations to ditch what was progressive in the era of free market globalisation alongside what’s been wrecked. In fact, studying centre left thinkers who tried to move the SPD on from Bernstein between 1914 and the early Weimar era – Karl Kautsky, Otto Bauer in Austria and the workers’ control advocate Karl Korsch – I am struck by how unstable the centre ground was between Bernsteinism and Bolshevism. Every attempt by the German centre left to stabilize, humanise and democratize capitalism was outflanked by the venality of the ruling elite and the brutality of the street politics the far right adopted. If there had been no USSR and no Leninism, could that large and vibrant movement of German workers who vacillated between the communists and the social-democrats in Germany between 1919 and 1929 have succeeded in creating a more sustainable left social-democratic pole of attraction than the one the doomed Communist Party of Germany (KPD) did? It’s an interesting ‘what if’. Put another way, in a time of crisis and breakdown, is radical social democracy even possible? Because today there is no equivalent of the USSR, no Lenin, and a much-weakened industrial working class, we are destined to find out the answer to that question through our own practice. Today we need a form of social democracy attuned to a period of crisis, not stability. Accepting the need for it is the first step towards achieving it. <em><a name="_edn1"></a></em> <em><a name="_edn2"></a> &nbsp;&nbsp;Davies, William. The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (Theory, Culture &amp; Society) (p. xiv).</em> <em><a name="_edn3"></a> </em><em>Giddens, Anthony. Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics (p. 19). Wiley. Kindle Edition.</em> <em><a name="_edn4"></a> “Overcoming the Fear of Freedom” in Geiselberger H, ed The Great Regression, 2017</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 Paul Mason Thu, 08 Mar 2018 10:03:36 +0000 Paul Mason 116545 at The need for trade unionists and Labour to back fair votes is now overwhelming <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's electoral system delivers swings that are bad for workers - and polls suggest Labour could win the next vote but still lose the election. Trade unionists are calling for radical reform.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Rally for Jeremy Corbyn, 2016. Paul NUK/Wikimedia, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>Trade unions have long been at the forefront of demands for political reform – dating back to the Chartists' fight for universal suffrage. Now they’ve launched a new campaign for fair votes.</p><p>But in the centenary year of expanded suffrage, few could deny that there is still plenty of work to be done to enhance democracy.</p> <p>Westminster’s voting system has allowed governments to form with very little popular support. In 2010, the Conservatives secured 36% of the vote – but 47% of seats. In 2015, they secured 37% of the vote – and 51% of the seats. And last year, they won 44% of the vote but just a whisker-off the majority of seats. </p> <p>&nbsp;This isn’t about mere statistics though. The polarisation and swings we see under Westminster’s disproportionate voting system mean any gains Labour make are often swiftly undone by the next right-wing government – as we have seen this past few years with the attacks on workers’ rights. </p> <p>There are broader inequities too. Our 16 and 17-year-olds are denied a voice, while millions of eligible voters are not registered.</p> <p>And while people struggle to earn a decent living, nearly 800 unelected peers in the House of Lords treat our Parliament as a private members’ club. </p> <p>Trade unionists have started to believe that enough is enough. Building on Jeremy Corbyn’s rhetoric of a party ‘for the many’, we believe it is now time for a Politics for the Many. </p> <p>With each impediment to political equality – from voter ID to rigged boundary reviews – the need for a democracy fit for the 21st century gets ever stronger. </p> <p>For those of us on the left, there is a growing realisation that this kind of political injustice breeds alienation and only aids negative forces.&nbsp; </p> <p>But now new analysis shows that Westminster’s voting system could actually lock Labour out of power – even if it won the most votes. </p> <p>Last week, influential election website <a href="">Electoral Calculus</a> projected a ‘wrong winner’ scenario if a General Election were held now.</p> <p>Under the projections, Labour would secure the most votes in a GE – yet would win fewer seats than the Conservatives. </p> <p>The analysis, based on polling from the end of February, predicts the Conservatives would win 40.5% of the vote and 297 seats, whereas Labour would win 279 seats on 40.7% of the vote.</p> <p>That would mean Parliament’s outdated electoral system would be failing at its most basic requirement: ensuring the most popular party won the most seats. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>And while they are only initial projections, these figures show just how broken Westminster’s voting system is. A ‘wrong winner’ scenario would be an absolute scandal for our democracy – and the fact it is even on the cards is an absolute indictment of the Commons’ current set up.</p> <p>For a long time, proponents of the status quo have suggested Westminster’s disproportionate voting system is ‘simple’ and ‘easy for voters to understand’. It’s hard to see how that argument holds any water anymore – not least when a party can be penalised for having the most support.</p> <p>Nor would a ‘wrong winner’ scenario be a first for the UK: in 1951 the Conservative Party won 48% of the vote to 48.8% for Labour, yet the election saw a Conservative majority. </p> <p>Internationally there are other precedents under disproportionate voting systems, with New Zealand seeing two wrong winner elections in a row in 1978 and 1981.</p> <p>These democratic disasters set them on the path to electoral reform. New Zealand now uses Holyrood’s Additional Member System – backed by the current Labour government and figures across the well-represented progressive spectrum. &nbsp;</p> <p>The mechanics of the electoral college in the United States are also similar – delivering Presidents who did not win the popular vote in 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. We know only too well the disorder and disaffection – not to mention the sheer absurdity – that this has caused. </p> <p>There has long been a campaign for Labour to back fair votes in the UK. But unions have a significant role to play as the voice of workers on the ground. Indeed, it was unions swinging behind the pro-PR movement that proved crucial in ensuring reform in New Zealand.&nbsp; </p> <p>Trade unionists have now launched a new campaign, ‘<a href="">Politics for the Many</a>’ to call on Labour and unions to back root and branch democratic reform, in the light of both the centenary of suffrage – and the urgent need for proportional representation. </p> <p>Politics for the Many has support from senior figures from the UK’s leading trade unions, including Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary at Unite and the PCS’ Mark Serwotka. </p> <p>Day after day we see more evidence the current system is desperately broken. We need a democracy fit for the 21st century. Trade unionists and Labour should get on board. </p> <p><em>See the new Politics for the Many </em><a href=""><em>website</em></a><em> </em><em>and </em><em>join its dedicated Facebook page </em><a href=""><em>here</em></a><em><span>.</span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/neal-lawson/arguments-against-proportional-representation-have-melted-away">The arguments against proportional representation have melted away</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sophie-cartwright/proportional-representation-can-offer-democracy-to-all-not-just-to-majority"> Proportional representation can offer democracy to all, not just to the majority </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eve-livingston/electoral-reform-feminist-issue">Electoral reform is a feminist issue</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 Nancy Platts Thu, 08 Mar 2018 09:33:15 +0000 Nancy Platts 116541 at Fear of forgetting – heroines who changed history <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Simone De Beauvoir and Gisele Halimi were indefatigable. They wrote to every responsible official in the judiciary, military and government – up to General de Gaulle. Lest we forget.</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></span>Seventy years ago on June 3 1960 Simone de Beauvoir wrote an article in&nbsp;<em>Le Monde&nbsp;</em>about routine torture practice in Algeria which had the French government seize that issue of the paper and destroy all copies.&nbsp;They were too late – her words were out and were key to changing the country’s history. One sentence was this: </p><blockquote><p>“When the government of a country allows crimes to be committed in its name, every citizen thereby becomes a member of a collectively criminal nation.”</p></blockquote> <p>Three years before de Beauvoir wrote her article, a brilliant university student named Zohra Drif was condemned to death for her role as a soldier in the Algerian nationalist movement, the FLN. Her autobiography from that period newly published in English, <a href=""><em>Inside the Battle of Algiers</em></a>, is a remarkable testimony of the extremely courageous role women played inside the armed wing of the Algerian nationalist movement. Zohra Drif was one of the iconic group which took the war for independence into the French quarters of Algiers with bombs placed in cafes and restaurants. They paid with death, torture, years in French jails, and the military destruction of much of the historic Casbah, for the end of France’s settlement colony. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Released by the Evian agreement of 1962 which brought Algeria independence, Zohra Drif went on to a distinguished legal and political career in independent Algeria.</span></p> <p>Released by the Evian agreement of 1962 which brought Algeria independence, Zohra Drif went on to a distinguished legal and political career in independent Algeria before writing this book, published in French three years ago. It is an intimate portrait of a society steeped in the culture of resistance after 100 years under French control by the use of force.&nbsp;</p><p>Zohra was a girl from a conservative provincial family who was one of the handful of “natives” to be admitted to the best of French schools and then university and who, with a friend secretly sought out the FLN in Algiers and made “the choice, like other sisters, to be volunteers for death – not for surrender.” She ends her book with the thought that has tormented her for these long years, “the fear that the living, especially our youth, might forget the sacrifices made by our people – that they might forget the price paid for Algeria to be free and independent, and therefore forget how it must always be defended.”</p><h2><strong>" I was tortured."</strong></h2> <p>De Beauvoir was writing about the work of Gisele Halimi, the woman lawyer for Djamila Boupacha, a 22 year old Algerian who had been tortured by the French military with electrodes, cigarette burns, kicks hard enough to displace a rib, and rape using a bottle. Halimi was trying to ensure that Djamila's trial in connection with a bomb placed in the University restaurant in Algiers by the FLN would be held not in colonial Algeria, but in France.&nbsp;</p> <p>Djamila's “confession” was made after months in a torture centre. In her first brief court appearance in Algiers she bravely shouted, “I was tortured” as she was taken from the court. Her words risked her return to the torture centre. The French authorities in Algiers then went to quite extraordinary lengths to hamper Halimi’s legal work for Djamila’s defence and to hold a summary trial with no evidence against her except the confession.</p> <p>&nbsp;“A verdict of 'guilty' is inevitable,” De Beauvoir wrote of the system in the last years of colonial Algeria when 30,000 Algerians were in prisons in France and Algeria. A million Algerians died in the independence war from 1954.&nbsp;</p> <p>De Beauvoir's&nbsp;electric words of collective accusation of France as a criminal nation unleashed a storm of public outrage. Predictably the establishment was outraged against her. But greater outrage came from French citizens of every class and political opinion, and people from around the world, against France's systematic use of torture in Algeria, and against the official cover-up she denounced. Gisele Halimi, De Beauvoir wrote, gave “a detailed exposure of a lying propaganda machine – a machine operated so efficiently that during the past seven years only a few faint glimmers of truth have contrived to slip past it.” *</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gisèle Halimi. </span></span></span>Simone De Beauvoir and Gisele Halimi were indefatigable. They wrote to every responsible official in the judiciary, military and government – up to General de Gaulle. They personally visited every one of these powerful men who would, reluctantly, receive them. Eloquent letters backing them came from France's cream of humanity – writers, academics, doctors, the widow of French mathematics professor Maurice Audin tortured and murdered by the army in Algeria, and, from General de Bollardiere a staunch supporter of General de Gaulle and a former paratroop commander in Algeria who resigned from the Army to protest against the torture. </p><p>But most moving were the thousands of letters from unknown people who said they had never before been moved to a political act.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Simone de Beauvoir, 1967. Wikicommons/Moshe Milner. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>A challenge to indifference</h2> <p>De Beauvoir had thrown out a clever public challenge to indifference, writing that: </p><blockquote><p>“The most scandalous aspect of any scandal is that&nbsp;<em>one gets used to it</em>."</p></blockquote> <p>This is one of her phrases I often think about in relation to the war on terror in general and to Guantanamo in particular. People have got used to the utter lawlessness of the detail of US government actions in Guantanamo: the fact of torture; the fact so many of the men held for years were innocent ; the fact that they were given disorienting drugs; the fact that 41 people are still there, some of whom have been found officially to pose no threat; the fact that dozens of those released have been sent to countries far from their families, where they know noone, don't speak the language and become desperately hopeless; the fact that in June 2006 the young Saudi Yasser Al-Zahrani and two other prisoners died in the secret CIA block at Guantanamo, according to soldiers on watch duty that night. They were officially reported to have died by simultaneous suicides in their respective cells.**</p> <p>And de Beauvoir’s collective accusation of France as a criminal nation then, surely echoes for us today in relation to the war crimes and destruction of entire countries such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, by the US and allies such as Britain and Saudi Arabia. <span class="mag-quote-center">And de Beauvoir’s collective accusation of France as a criminal nation then, surely echoes for us today in relation to the war crimes and destruction of entire countries such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, by the US and allies such as Britain and Saudi Arabia.</span></p> <p>The bravery of Djamila Boupacha, Gisele Halimi and Simone De Beauvoir all those years ago was one key to the mass outrage which brought the end of French military torture in Algeria, and the end of that colony. However, it did not bring justice. The Evian agreement set free thousands of FLN prisoners, including Djamila. But, under the terms of the amnesty her torturers also gained immunity. Gisele Halimi wrote “the wounds are still unhealed. But we shall go on as we began, well aware that Djamila's case is not an exceptional one, but that knowing too, that each fresh example may convince a few sceptics and rally some who have hitherto been<strong> </strong>indifferent.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Today much of the rallying against the injustices of Guantanamo, western wars of choice, and so many other glaring destructive injustices we face is in the virtual world of social media where each one is easily drowned out by the next. The books and examples of Zohra Drif, Gisele Halimi and Simone de Beauvoir are the antidote to the fear of forgetting how women’s heroism and sacrifice did then transform their political world. It can again.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>* Djamila Boupacha by Simone de Beauvoir and Gisele Halimi, Andre Deutsch and Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1962</p> <p>** Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Simon and Schuster 2015</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/normalising-torture">Normalising torture </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/murder-in-guantanamo">Murder in Guantanamo </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> </div> </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"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 Saudi Arabia UK United States France Algeria Conflict Culture International politics Victoria Brittain Thu, 08 Mar 2018 08:04:28 +0000 Victoria Brittain 116520 at Mining and Brexit - from Cornwall to the Commonwealth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whilst other businesses worry about Brexit, well-placed mining companies and politicians with ideas of 'Empire 2.0' seem to be gearing up to exploit it - with worrying repercussions for communities.</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: <a href="">Kim Alaniz/Flickr</a>, some rights reserved (Creative Commons).</em></p><p>When it comes to Brexit, uncertainty and speculation seem par for the course. But some businesses and industries seem more worried than others. One of the sectors that seems relaxed, in terms of preparation to leave the European Union, is mining. </p> <p>A CBI survey, published in January, found that just 13 per cent of mining firms had undertaken planning for when the UK leaves the European Union. ‘While these companies may be registered in the UK, they predominantly operate in non-UK and non-EU markets and are therefore less exposed to changes in the UK-EU relationship,’ said the <a href=";fileID=6251FFB2-1927-400E-BC3CD316AEA86D3E">CBI’s report</a>. </p> <p>In fact most big, high earning companies are in this position;<a href=""> </a>most of the revenue made by businesses in the FTSE 100 comes from abroad – <a href="">when the pound is weak</a> they are making more money. </p> <p>Although they have since <a href="">taken a hit</a>, according to analysis conducted<a href=""> </a><a href="">by the Telegraph</a> last year, mining companies Glencore, Antofagasta, Anglo American and Rio Tinto were among the five biggest FTSE winners post-Brexit referendum. Glencore's share price went up by a massive 104 per cent, while Antofagasta enjoyed an 81 per cent rise. The shares of mining giant BHP rose<a href=""> </a><a href="">40 per cent</a>.</p> <p><a href="">Work by Citywire</a> – a website for professional advisers and investors – has backed this up. According to their analysis, while in general UK equities underperformed between the referendum and the end of January this year, mining is one of the industries to be better off, having produced returns of 107.69 per cent during the period.</p> <p><strong>Well positioned </strong></p> <p>Being such big multinational players, mining companies are well placed to try and influence the Brexit process to their advantage. A number of government and former government workers have connections to the mining industry causing so much damage abroad. Several people have moved between the boards or staff of these companies and positions in Westminster. A 2016 investigation by Greenpeace<a href=""> </a><a href="">identified</a> 14 people with experience in parliament who then worked in the government relations departments of seven companies, including Anglo American and Glencore.</p> <p>An even more favourable environment for large companies – like mining multinationals – risks strengthening the grip of the extractive industries on the lives of people around the world. Theresa May has talked ‘<a href="">enthusiastically</a>’ about ‘opportunities’ to maximise benefits for Britain by strengthening relationships with <a href="">Commonwealth countries</a> like South Africa as the UK leaves the European Union and seeks to negotiate its own trade deals elsewhere. This attempt to boost trade with the Commonwealth has reportedly been described by Whitehall officials as ‘<a href="">empire 2.0</a>’. Many countries where mining companies operate are part of the Commonwealth, and often in the Global South.</p> <p>In February, the Department for International Trade was a ‘platinum <a href="">sponsor</a>’ of the Investing in African Mining Indaba annual conference in Cape Town, attended by thousands of delegates. The <a href="">conference website</a> invites UK companies to join the event, “focused on the successful development of mining interests in Africa” and offered access to ‘key decision makers’ in African mining.</p> <p>Brexit bankroller, Arron Banks, the man who spent <a href="">£9.6 million</a> funding the organisations which cheerled Brexit, including Leave.EU and UKIP, is reported to own diamond mines in South Africa and is an investor in gold and uranium. Banks joined Nigel Farage – a former commodities trader – to speak at the <a href="">Mines &amp; Money conference</a> which took place in London at the end of 2017, as people from communities impacted by mining protested outside.</p> <p>While multinational mining companies – often with <a href="">strong links to London</a> – profit from natural resources in other countries, violence, human rights abuses and environmental destruction are all too common.</p> <p><strong>Domestic revival</strong></p> <p>Brexit could coincide with a mining revival here in the UK and the push to cash in on the rise of battery-powered vehicles. This provides the perfect opportunity for an industry associated with environmental degradation to give itself a green make over.</p> <p>Cornwall could become a key provider of lithium and tin – both of which could be used in batteries. The Government agency Innovate UK has awarded a £850,000 grant to a project looking for a lithium ‘fingerprint’ in Cornwall from space. The results of the <a href="">project,</a> which are due in March 2018, could help find the best places for extracting lithium in the future. </p> <p>New coal mines are also back on the cards, despite the Government saying it would phase out coal-fired power stations <a href="">by 2025</a>. In County Durham a campaign of <a href="">direct action</a> has begun at a site near Dipton. Over 85,000 people have signed a <a href="">petition</a> calling for intervention from Sajid Javid MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government to stop new coal mines in County Durham.</p> <p>A Brexit driven by profit for big business, a slashing of ‘bureaucratic’ environmental and rights-based regulations and a hankering for the past is bad news for all of us…. Well nearly all of us.</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/lydia-noon/nigel-farage-arron-banks-and-ugly-face-of-global-mining">Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, and the ugly face of metals mining</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/tommy-greene/unhealthy-environment-dup-environmental-policies-and-brexit">An unhealthy environment – the DUP, environmental policies, and Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 Amy Hall Thu, 08 Mar 2018 08:00:03 +0000 Amy Hall 116516 at Why economics has a problem with women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Six students offer their voice on why there needs to be #MoreWomenInEcon.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This International Women’s Day, <a href="">Rethinking Economics</a> is campaigning to #PushForProgress and get #MoreWomenInEcon. To mark the occassion, six current female students, all part of the Rethinking Economics student network, offer their voice on why economics has a problem with women.</em></p> <strong>The curricula does not represent women so women do not feel the subject relates to them</strong><p> “Women are invisible when you study economic theories.<em>This International Women’s Day, <a href="">Rethinking Economics</a> is campaigning to #PushForProgress and get #MoreWomenInEcon. In this article, six current female students, all part of the Rethinking Economics student network, offer their voice on why economics has a problem with women.</em></p> <strong>The curricula does not represent women so women do not feel the subject relates to them</strong><p> “Women are invisible when you study economic theories. Economics, especially neoclassical economics, uses heavily 'male centred' concepts and language. For instance, of the central theories, the model of the 'economic man' is defined by self-interest, greed and actions that are usually associated with a ‘male’ pattern of behaviour. This kind of thing is demonstrated in the approach of market logic, too, in which work traditionally undertaken by women such as household labour or caring, is ignored and thus neglected in GDP analysis. "However, with a closer look it becomes clear women are interested in the economy. Many study other social sciences such as politics, anthropology or history, which incorporate economic theory, but through approaches that might appear traditionally more relatable to women. A more pluralist degree invites critical thinking and opens the doors to engage a more diverse body of students.” <em>-- Janina Zakrzewski and&nbsp;Sari Easton, 3rd year, Politics, Philosophy and Economics:</em></p> <strong>Gender Dynamics are not addressed in the classroom</strong><p> “Economists are terrified of discussing political issues for seeming non-objective, especially issues concerning gender. But including gender issues in the curriculum is not only a political claim, it is also an economic one. For example, one of the central pillars of economics is understanding the dynamics of economic growth. It has been proven by study on study that female participation in the workforce and female representation in the board room has a large impact on growth. Thus, if economists want to understand growth, why neglect studying one of the factors influencing it? And this is just one of many examples. If we want to understand the economy, gender issues is something economists should be more curious about.” <em>-- Sally Svenlen, 2nd Year Economics. </em></p> <strong>There are few women role models in economics, and the ones who are in economics are much less likely to achieve a promotion</strong><p> “Going through four years in an economics department can often seem quite discouraging if you aspire to be an academic. Being a woman, however, brings about yet another nuance to it. Although, the gender diversity in an undergraduate classroom is often balanced, the share of female economists progressing to a higher stage in academia decreases as the prominence of the position increases -- as has been&nbsp;<a href="">shown by</a> the American Economic Association. The lucky (read: hard-working) ladies who manage to secure a tenure position often face a range of stereotypes, as documented by<a href=""> Alice H. Wu</a> . "And, of course, this is nothing new. When studying the history of economic ideas dating from Ancient Greece to present times students only hear of women when and if feminist economics is discussed. The explanation often is something along the lines of 'times were different'&nbsp;or 'this is how it used to be in the past<em>'. </em>Other fields such as the STEM subjects have recognised<a href=""> the economic benefits</a> of having a more equal gender representation in academic and research positions. Economics, as always, seems to be the only one stuck in the past.” <em>-- Iva Parvanova, 4th Year, Economic</em>s </p><strong>Essential topics such as health and education are undervalued</strong><p> “Many women don’t consider a career in economics as an option. This may be due to their preferences; women may favour careers in other fields (health and education being the common ones). Naturally, there is nothing wrong with this; everyone deserves to choose which area to work in. However, in some cases, it is undoubtedly because people don’t deem economics an appropriate career choice, or they don’t think it relates to the topics they find interesting. Economists have failed to make the public aware of the discipline’s wide-reaching real-world applications beyond banking and investment, including in health and education. I believe a priority of the discipline should be on improving peoples' understanding of the many uses of economics so that a wider range of individuals will find it worth pursuing. There are several ways this could be achieved: approaching young people, simplifying the language used, among others.” <em>-- Laura Freitas, 1st Year Economics</em></p> <strong>Household labour and care are not counted as valuable activities</strong><p> “It is not a generalisation to say that one of the first understandings of economics that one develops is that of a mathematical subject concerned with constantly evaluating the cost and benefit of our activities and choices, so that we obtain the highest gain from what we choose. Moreover, much of what students are taught suggests that you are a good, non-entitled citizen, as long as whatever you do can be directly converted into money for someone else, and accounted for in a country’s Gross National Product. Such definitions inevitably downplay the contribution of women in society because a large number of activities that tend to be done by women, including household labour and care, are not immediately translated into profit and neither are they accounted for in labour participation statistics. This causes women to be underestimated as economic agents. "The economist Lionel Robbins once stated: 'every act which involves time and scarce means (abilities, wealth resources, dedication) for the achievement of one end and that involves relinquishing their use for the achievement of another end, is an act that has an economic aspect'. Thus, it is only fair to say that women’s dedication of time, physical and emotional activity to core household labour and care, either by personal choice or necessity, while foregoing other intellectual or professional development areas &nbsp;are indeed economic acts.”<span> </span> <em>-- A &nbsp;Fernandez, PhD Student, Economic and Social History</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 Rethinking Economics Network Wed, 07 Mar 2018 23:31:19 +0000 Rethinking Economics Network 116537 at Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">MPs vote for campaign donor transparency for Northern Ireland – but exlude all major recent donations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// and PM01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// and PM01.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with Theresa May. Image,, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has today demanded that the government allows it to publish details of donations to Northern Irish parties during the European referendum – including a £435,000 Brexit campaign donation to the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">The call came as MPs backed a measure which permits the elections regulator to publish details of major donations since July 2017, reneging on a previous commitment to make transparent the details of all major donations since January 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">The measure means that while the Electoral Commission can now publish information about any donations since July last year – and in the future – it is still banned from sharing key information about donations to Northern Irish parties during a period which included the European referendum, when the DUP received £435,000 for their Brexit campaign from an unknown source via a secretive group in Glasgow <a href="">whose chair</a> set up a company in 2013 with the former head of <a href="">the Saudi intelligence service</a>. openDemocracy has previously revealed that the donation <a href="">led to a record fine</a> for failure to fully disclose where the money came from, but little more is known about it.</p><p dir="ltr">The 2014-17 period also included two Westminster elections, two Northern Irish Assembly Elections, local elections, and a major scandal, known as “cash for ash”, where a DUP run department allowed hundreds of millions of pounds to be misspent. Today’s measure means that the Inquiry into the scandal, which has rocked Northern Irish politics, won’t be permitted to investigate whether the Democratic Unionist Party received donations from beneficiaries of the scheme. </p><p dir="ltr">The measure, delaying transparency until 2017, was announced days after the DUP-Conservative pact.</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement released after today’s vote, the Electoral Commission said:</p><p dir="ltr">“We will continue to recommend that a further Order should be brought forward in the near future to provide for full transparency back to 2014, as anticipated by the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">“The 2014 Act said that the names of donors and lenders from January 2014 may be made public at some point in the future. At that time we wrote to all of the political parties in Northern Ireland to advise them that they should make clear to their donors that any donations received from January 2014 may be made public.</p><p dir="ltr">“We strongly urge the UK Government to bring forward a further Order at a later date that would enable us to publish donation and loan information for the period dating back to 1 January 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland has long called for transparency with its ‘Who Pulls the Strings?’ campaign. Their activism co-ordinator Niall Bakewell said “If anyone thinks that the ‘Who Pulls the Strings?’ campaign is over, they will be in for a shock. We are owed three and a half years worth of information on Northern Ireland’s big political donors and we’re going to keep mobilising public action until we get it. </p><p dir="ltr">“What passed in the House of Commons today was a vague shadow of real donor transparency. No one is fooled, no one is satisfied. </p><p dir="ltr">He concluded by saying “Northern Ireland Office: you’ll be hearing from us soon”.</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International, backed the call, saying:</p><p dir="ltr">“The government should rewrite these rules and ensure they apply from 2014. Any party that fails to get behind full transparency will only attract further questions as to what it is they wish to hide. It’s deeply disappointing that Government has taken this position that only does half the job in bringing about transparency in Northern Ireland’s political system.”</p><p dir="ltr">“For too long, political parties in Northern Ireland have lagged behind the rest of the UK – failing to reveal who funds them. The potential for hidden payments is a serious corruption risk in politics and should end as soon as possible. The public deserve to know, and in the absence of published information they are left only to speculate, and the rumour mill thrives." </p><p dir="ltr">Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, was the MP who secured the legislation meaning any large donor to a Northern Irish party after January 2014 was due to be revealed whenever the Secretary of State lifted the exemption.</p><p dir="ltr">She said: "Alliance has led the way on donor transparency, but today's action ensures other parties can now hide their donors between 2014 and 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">"For as long as secrecy remains around donations, allegations of corruption and cronyism will continue to poison public confidence in politics. The only way to deal with that is to meet the public desire for openness in politics, which has never been higher.”</p><p dir="ltr">"The MPs who voted today to keep things secret will have to explain their actions to the public who have little faith in politics to act for the greater good, rather than personal or party interest.”</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns were also raised about the way the government pushed through the measure, using parliamentary procedure to push through a vote without any debate in the full House of Commons.</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/james-cusick/mps-should-reject-government-s-attempt-to-cover-up-for-dup-s-brexit-dark-m">MPs should reject the government’s attempt to cover up for the DUP’s Brexit dark money donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. DUP Dark money Adam Ramsay Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:30:39 +0000 Adam Ramsay 116525 at International rights are only as good as the national mechanisms that protect them <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">A new report by the&nbsp;Equality and Human Rights Commission&nbsp;highlights how many economic and social rights have still not been&nbsp;incorporated into law and policy in Britain.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In June 2016, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights <a href="">reproached</a> the UK Government its failure to reconcile austerity with international human rights law. The Committee made 60 <a href="">recommendations</a> in areas such as housing, equality law, social security and public health. According to international law, the Government must comply with international obligations and engage with international human rights bodies in good faith. However, in February 2017 the Ministry of Justice <a href="">announced</a> that it did not intend to report before June 2021 on the implementation (or lack thereof) of the UN’s recommendations. Slightly over a year later, it is encouraging to see that the Ministry of Justice will be represented at a high level today in an <a href="">event</a> co-organised by Just Fair and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to examine precisely what progress the UK has made in relation to economic and social rights since the UN’s report of 2016. The Chair of the UN Committee, Ms Virginia Bras-Gomes, will be there and she will stress the importance of strong national mechanisms to hold governments to account. Ms Bras-Gomes will also present the recently launched UN <a href="">procedure to follow up</a> on governments’ consideration of the Committee’s recommendations. The event today marks the launch of a <a href="">report by the EHRC</a>&nbsp;on the level of enjoyment of economic and social rights in Great Britain. The report focuses on four of the priorities identified by the UN in 2016: a) the status of economic and social rights in domestic law, b) ‘welfare reform’ and its impact on the right to social security, c) workers’ rights, and d) access to justice and legal aid. The UK has not incorporated the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights into domestic law and policy. Hence, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in a <a href="">report from 2004</a>, the inadequate legal protection of socio-economic rights ‘may leave vulnerable marginalised groups or individuals’ unless their legal claims ‘can be brought within one of the rights protected under the Human Rights Act’. This Act incorporates most of the European Convention on Human Rights and <a href="">few</a> social rights claims succeed within its confines. The EHRC draws from authoritative evidence provided by the <a href="">Child Poverty Action Group</a>, the <a href="">Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation</a> to show how thousands of families with children find it impossible to make ends meet as a result of the combined effect of inflation and the social security reforms implemented since 2012. The <a href="">majority of children</a> in poverty are in working families, which constitutes a depressive sign of the unfairness of our society: Those families are doing precisely what the system expects them to do (they are working) and yet an adequate standard of living is denied to them. The evidence also reflects that non-white households and single parent households (the vast majority of which are headed by women) suffer from higher levels of in-work poverty, which brings to light the intersections between ethnicity, gender and inequality. The UK currently enjoys historically low unemployment levels, which is indeed very good news. However, the conditions are deteriorating for a significant number of workers. The increase in recent years of atypical work arrangements is well documented. In 2016, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended the UK Government to restrict the use of precarious self-employment and ‘zero hour contracts’ and to ensure that the labour and social security rights of people working in these conditions are fully guaranteed in law and in practice. The <a href="">Taylor Review</a> of Modern Working Practices recently pointed to the lack of clarity around the exact drivers of the increasingly flexible labour market, adding that ‘this is where concern around the balance of flexibility and security for individuals arises’. The enjoyment of workers’ rights is also unevenly distributed in society from the perspective of gender. Women held <a href="">67% of jobs</a> paid less than or close to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage at the end of 2016. The <a href="">overall hourly gender pay gap</a> for median earnings for all employees, both full-time and part-time, is 18.4%. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) had a very negative impact on access to justice in England and Wales. The year before the relevant provisions of LASPO came into force, legal aid was granted in 925,000 cases; the year after, assistance was given in 497,000 cases, an astounding <a href="">drop of 46%</a>. LASPO restricted the access to legal aid in relation to housing, social security, debt, employment, immigration and family law. The EHRC’s report highlights the aggravated impact on persons with disabilities, Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) families and survivors of domestic violence, including children. The Law Society has <a href="">documented</a> that cuts in the availability of early legal advice to individuals are resulting in the escalation of problems in relation to debt, housing and health, putting an additional burden on public services. <a href="">Research</a> by the Law Society also indicates that people who did not receive early legal advice were 20% less likely than average to have had their issue resolved. International human rights bodies contribute to the democratic credentials of societies by holding public authorities to account. International bodies are important and we need them strong. That said, internationally recognised human rights are only as good as the national mechanisms that protect them. We welcome the EHRC’s contribution and the willingness of the Ministry of Justice to engage in the conversation. We hope the dialogue will continue from now on. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights could also play a more prominent role in monitoring Government’s compliance with the conclusions and recommendations of international human rights bodies. It would also be a step in the right direction if citizens were allowed to submit <a href="">individual complaints</a> directly to international committees if domestic remedies fail to protect their socio-economic rights. The game of human rights is played at home, not in Geneva, New York or Strasbourg. If we end up leaving the EU, it will be more important than ever for Britain to enshrine economic and social rights in national laws and policies.</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 Koldo Casla Wed, 07 Mar 2018 08:26:50 +0000 Koldo Casla 116507 at Resettling scores: internationals in the UCU strike <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>“No more discipline, life’s magical” </em>…  has been singing in my head as I see colleagues laugh in the face of the absurd claims by the all-round absurdness that is university management.<strong></strong></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'>Teachers take part in the first national pay strike in 21 years, as they march through central London. Lewis Whyld/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In an excellent reflection on the University and College Union (UCU) strike over changes to their USS pension scheme last week, <a href="">Brendan McGeever</a> illuminates the thread that connects some of the current strikers to the Millbank demonstrators of 2010: it’s basically the same people, and one could quite easily tell that this is the case by looking at the faces of many of those marching at the UCU demo in central London last week.&nbsp;</p> <p>As we enter the second week of our strike, I think it is important to highlight another fact: the fact that many of us now fighting through the UCU and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) ranks also carry histories of struggle elsewhere — histories that may clash with or complement struggles in this country.</p> <p>I have been thinking over this in my intense ongoing discussions with international colleagues here and those back in Greece: discussions on the potential effectiveness of the strike, on the use of the picket line as a tactic, on the not-quite radical nature of the demands, on where each of us stands — or should stand — based on their line of work, on their capacity and their needs. </p> <p>We have been amazed at the success of the picket line as a method, we have been wondering about the intense mix of solidarity (<em>“I’ll strike even if the dispute does not affect me as much”</em>) of sheer individualisation (<em>“the strike does not concern me”</em>) and straight-up, baffling contempt even for one’s self-interest (<em>“I won’t strike, even if this will really screw me over”</em>). We have been gazing with interest at the mainstream news, to see if they would go down the same route as they did in Greece during the peak of the anti-austerity struggles: shredding fair demands to bits, vying to position each social group in struggle against everyone else — in a race to the bottomless pit of apathy and individualisation.</p> <p>And a lot of us have also been reflecting on our individual position in this collective struggle, reflecting on our place in the politics of the university as a whole.</p> <p>It has been fairly common for some radical academics to treat their place of employment as a space that is apolitical-by-default: shielded from the “real” world, a somewhat neutral site where they can carry out their admittedly privileged labour and then take their whatever social or political struggles outside. To keep, in other words, the “radical” separate from the “academic”. </p> <p>I am also thinking here of David Graeber’s old “scholar in New Haven, activist in New York” split-mindset, common among so many, which he had to confront at the moment when Yale decided they had had too much of his radical ways, whether on campus or not. For those of us with a reference to another social context — in my case, the political struggles in Greece — the divide has been much easier: we were quite literally saved by the geography of it all, which did the hard work of neatly dividing professional and political affinities on either side of national borders.</p><h2>Until this strike came along...</h2> <p>Amazingly enough, it has been ten years from December’s 2008 uprising in Greece, and it feels surreal to be thinking and writing about a struggle of such a different nature a decade on. But at the same time, it feels like a seamless transition: December was about taking back control of our lives amidst the ever-destabilising force of late capitalism, shredding continuities in space and in time apart, disciplining us into compartmentalised individuals. </p> <p><em>“No more discipline, life’s magical” </em>— the slogan from these days has been singing in my head as I see colleagues laugh in the face of the absurd claims by the all-round absurdness that is university management. Ten years on, the UCU strike is pretty much exactly the same essential demand — making it all the more impressive as it strikes (excuse the pun) at such a different place and time.&nbsp;</p> <p>Up until days before the December uprising, we would have thought it utterly impossible for those who took action to do so. We would have thought it inconceivable for that fascinatingly mixed amalgam to meet outside, in the streets. And what is fantastically breathtaking is that we would have never been able to see what was coming, not even the night before.&nbsp;</p> <p>And now, today? Up until days before this strike, wouldn’t we still have thought it impossible to find connecting dots between ever-precarious, ever-individualised, ever-self driven and self-absorbed academics only fighting against the REF clock, only fighting off sleep in order to finish that one more article, that batch of marking? </p> <p>Is this a revolt? No, of course it is not. But it is a welcome and refreshing reminder of something we had been too comfortable to forget, that social tension brews everywhere and it can burst into a struggle wherever the conditions are ripe, with zero notice. We never thought the university would be this kind of breeding ground… …until this strike came along.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/alan-bogg-k-d-ewing/pensions-dispute-bullying-tactics-violate-workers%27-human-rights">Pensions dispute: Bullying tactics violate workers&#039; human rights</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"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Greece UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Antonis Vradis Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:01:24 +0000 Antonis Vradis 116504 at MPs should reject the government’s attempt to cover up for the DUP’s Brexit dark money donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May is trying to cover-up for her scandal-prone Northern Irish allies. MPs must call her bluff.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Foster.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Foster.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May and Arlene Foster. Image, BBC.</span></span></span></p><p>Tomorrow afternoon the House of Commons will be asked to legitimise a con trick, a crass act of political and financial dishonesty, by passing a flawed law that does the very opposite of its title. </p><p> If the government, as is likely, wins and delivers cynically time-limited new rules on the “Transparency” of donations and loans in Northern Ireland it will have succeeded, for now, in hiding the original source of £435,000 that was channelled through the Democratic Unionist Party for its Leave campaign in the EU referendum.</p> <p> The money was spent mostly on the UK mainland on campaigning to take the UK out of the EU. It passed through the hands of a secretive organisation in Glasgow, the Constitutional Research Council. But where exactly did the money come from? Right-leaning groups in the United States wanting to see a populist rising in Britain they could subsequently build on at home? Russia, who now see state-sponsored interference as an attractive tool of disruption? Or perhaps a UK-based group who wanted to keep their political influence private? We don’t know. And it’s likely that the Electoral Commission doesn’t know everything either. But there are things they do know. And they want to tell us – but the government is gagging them.</p> <p> Regardless, this lack of transparency only builds mistrust and dissent. If our politics is dark and our governments believe they can manufacture financial secrecy without accountability, we are risking the foundations of our democracy.</p> <p> Should the government win, ministers are likely to indulge in a faux celebration, declaring a new era of openness in Northern Ireland political funding. It will be a lie. They will, in reality, have deliberately circumvented the right for us to know what interests this minority government and the small party that props it up, may be answerable to beyond those it supposedly represents.</p> <p> This is why openDemocracy has spent months investigating the sources, processes and pathways that led to the DUP receiving almost half a million pounds and how the money was subsequently used. We have tried, and partially succeeded, in breaking through the barriers that protect where the money came from, and explored the wider institutional unease which still surrounds this cash.&nbsp; </p><p> The watchdog authority, the Electoral Commission, responsible for upholding the law, want to give the public the details of their own investigation into this money. They have pointed out that the government already has the power to simply back-date the new transparency rules to 2014 and therefore allow the publication of all the information held on the DUP funding.</p> <p> The former Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, announced last year that the political climate in Northern Ireland had changed significantly and that an era of “full” – his word and one not difficult to define – transparency should begin.&nbsp; </p><p> Yet the government’s gift to this landmark of openness is instead a reflex protection of itself and its DUP partners, limiting “transparency” to include only the period since July last year. This legally seals all information about political donation from the past two general elections, two Assembly elections, the EU referendum and the period covering the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.</p> <p>When we most need faith in politics, this debacle has instead given us the elements of a fraudulent pantomime. Tomorrow in the Commons, MPs are being asked to authorise the building of a large wall and vault around a sum of money that clearly holds a significance beyond mere currency. Truth, as they say, never damages a cause that is just. So, what exactly is the government and its DUP allies determined to hide? Why are they installing legal barriers that will block those trying to throw light on this dark corner of Northern Irish and UK political finances? In other words, what are they determined to prevent the electorate, those who put them in power, from knowing?</p> <p> This intense circus of secrecy, this deception, this con, can begin to end tomorrow afternoon. MPs, all of them, should ask why their constituencies put them there. The stark answer is we have a representative democracy and at its core is accountability – and there is no accountability if the public are denied the right to know who funds and is hiding behind our political decision-making.</p> <p> The House of Commons should throw out this law and demand the “full” transparency the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to. And if the DUP are serious about wanting to be treated the same as the rest of the UK, they and their “dark money” should not be allowed to hide behind a wall they helped Theresa May’s government to build.</p>&nbsp;<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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency</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 James Cusick Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:26:54 +0000 James Cusick 116502 at How Britain failed to moderate Irish nationalism – and the lessons for today <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British politicians need to be careful not to again fracture the trust of moderate Irish politicians – as the story of nationalist leader John Redmond, who died a hundred years ago today, makes clear.</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="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: John Redmond, who died 100 years ago today. National Library of Ireland.</em></p><p>John Redmond, the early twentieth century Irish nationalist leader, the centenary of whose death occurs on 6 March, deserves to be better remembered in this country than he is. No Irish nationalist leader was ever so committed to reconciliation with Britain. None so impressed the House of Commons and the British public nor made such a useful contribution to British democracy.</p> <p>The failure of British leaders to reciprocate his support in the First World War led to more extreme elements seizing the leadership of Irish nationalism and embittered British-Irish relations for the rest of the twentieth century. </p> <p>As leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party after 1900, Redmond’s ground-breaking achievement had been to win a large section of the British electorate over to Home Rule, which had previously been a hopeless vote loser. </p> <p>Typically, when he had carried a motion in favour of it at the Oxford Union in 1907, a local newspaper remarked: “It is doubtful if the Union has ever heard or will ever hear again a speech that will have such influence on its hearers.” </p> <p>In the wake of the two general elections held in 1910, Redmond’s Irish Party held the balance of power. They provided the support that enabled Asquith’s Liberal government to curb the power of the House of Lords to veto legislation and to get its radical programme enacted<strong>.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;The Home Rule Bill followed in 1912. Conservative leaders joined Ulster unionists in threatening violence if the bill were enacted. The Lords veto held it up for two years. </p> <p>&nbsp;By 1914 the only issue between the parties was whether Home Rule would extend to those parts of Ulster that had a unionist majority<strong>. </strong></p> <p>When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the government long-fingered the issue by enacting the Home Rule Bill into law but suspending its operation until the end of the war, which few then expected to last more than a year. </p> <p>Redmond reciprocated by committing nationalist Ireland to support Britain’s war effort, so fulfilling his promise that a self-governing Ireland would be “Britain’s friend and helpmate, the brightest jewel in the crown of Empire.”</p> <p>Tens of thousands of nationalist Irish answered Redmond’s call to join up, believing that by so doing they would secure the Home Rule settlement. They were also enthused by the prospect of defending Belgium, another small Catholic nation, against German aggression and its attendant atrocities that included the rape of nuns in convents. Redmond was to lose his only brother, a fifty-six-year-old MP, in the war while his only son was recommended for the Victoria Cross.</p> <p>On Easter Monday 1916 a small group from among the more extreme nationalists, who had broken with Redmond when he supported the war effort, seized major buildings in Dublin and declared an Irish republic. Their eloquent proclamation mentioned their gallant allies in Europe, meaning the Kaiser’s Germany, from whom they had sought assistance. The rebellion was put down in a week but not before hundreds of soldiers and even more civilians had been killed. </p> <p>Redmond joined with other leaders of nationalist opinion, including the bishops, in condemning the rebellion for which there was, to all appearances, minimal public support. Despite Redmond’s pleas for leniency fifteen of the leaders were executed. That, and the internment of others suspected, often incorrectly, of being complicit with the rebels, transformed opinion in nationalist Ireland. </p> <p>Realising, albeit too late, how Redmond had been undermined, Prime Minister Asquith moved to bring Home Rule into effect immediately. Lloyd George, who conducted the negotiations, got Redmond to agree to the temporary exclusion from Home Rule of the present six counties of Northern Ireland. Some hard-line conservatives, alarmed at the prospect of delivering any part of Ireland into the hands of nationalists while war raged, threatened resignation. The project was abandoned, but not before the acceptance of partition, even on a temporary basis, had undermined support for Redmond and raised doubts as to whether Home Rule would ever come about<strong>. </strong></p> <p>By-elections were lost to Sinn Fein, who championed the Easter Week rebels. Many of the clergy shifted allegiance to them. Redmond was dubbed an imperialist for supporting the war effort and berated for getting nothing in return for that support and the Irish lives sacrificed<strong>. </strong>No longer able to deliver nationalist Ireland to any compromise solution, he died in 1918, in his own words, a broken-hearted man. </p> <p>The legacy of the rejection of Redmond and his party was further violence. The Sinn Fein Party, having won almost all the seats outside Ulster at the 1918 General Election, endorsed the 1916 proclamation of an all-Ireland republic. &nbsp;</p> <p>A campaign of assassinating policemen, most of them Irish Catholics of nationalist outlook, led to the recruitment from Britain of the notorious Black and Tans to restore order. They disgraced themselves and Britain by a policy of reprisals terrorising the whole population, so fanning the flames of Irish Anglophobia for generations.</p> <p>In the end both sides compromised with bad grace. The area of the present republic got dominion status in the British empire, which was greater independence than Home Rule but involved allegiance to the King; this led to civil war. Northern Ireland was handed over to the Ulster unionists to run it as they wished. In 1937 an Irish constitution was adopted claiming sovereignty over Northern Ireland. Successive Irish governments blamed Britain for the partition of the island and called upon them to bring it to an end<strong>.</strong></p> <p>Irish neutrality in the Second World War and its departure from the Commonwealth, as well as the violence in Northern Ireland after 1969, were consequences of the 1921 settlement, the violence that preceded it and the long stand-off that followed it. The belief that a gullible John Redmond had been betrayed by the British-made Irish leaders made the Irish reluctant ever again to trust their British counterparts. Relations between Britain and the United States, with its influential Irish lobbies, also suffered. </p> <p>Only in recent decades, with the Irish government accepting Northern Ireland’s right to self-determination and the British government insisting on fair play for nationalists in the province, has the stand-off in British-Irish relations been ended. </p> <p>British ministers pursuing Brexit need to be careful not to fracture the hard-won trust that has been established and undo all that has now been achieved.&nbsp;&nbsp; &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/mark-perryman/ireland-and-britain-hundred-years-later">Ireland and Britain, a hundred years later</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/piaras-mac-%C3%A9inr%C3%AD/britain-and-ireland-%E2%80%93-lives-entwined">Britain and Ireland – lives entwined </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-elstein/august-1914-another-foreign-war-another-dodgy-dossier">August 1914: another foreign war, another dodgy dossier </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 Charles Lysaght Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:22:15 +0000 Charles Lysaght 116500 at The sorry betrayal of the victims of press abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whatever happened to Leveson? A guide for the perplexed.</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="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: James Murdoch closes News of the World after phone hacking scandal (<a href="">Surian Soosay/Flickr</a>) - but what else has changed, after all that?</em></p><p>Last week the culture minister Matt Hancock announced the <a href="">government’s response</a> to the public consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation. The government announced it will not continue with the Leveson Inquiry Part 2 that was supposed to consider corrupt relations between police and media (the part of Leveson that was unable to proceed at the time because of court cases that were ongoing). And it will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – the section that deals with effective press regulation.</p> <p>For those who have lost track of this protracted process it is worth a quick flashback to November 2012 when <a href="">the Leveson report</a> was published after an 18 month inquiry. Leveson detailed how the newspaper industry had become too powerful and how meaningful reform was needed to restore public confidence. Leveson emphasised that his recommendations were about enshrining press freedom and ensuring that any subsequent regulatory system was independent from government, albeit underpinned by statute. He also had to satisfy the many victims of press abuse that his recommendations would bring about an independent system with teeth, ensuring that the press could not “mark their own homework”.</p> <h2>David Cameron’s U-turn in the face of press pressure</h2> <p>David Cameron had initially said he would implement the Leveson recommendations unless they were “bonkers”. </p> <p>The press responded with simplistic invocations of “free speech”. </p> <p>But freedom without accountability is simply the freedom of the powerful over the powerless. The freedom to run roughshod over people’s lives causing harm and distress for the sake of increased sales and revenue. Freedom of the press must be balanced by freedom of the public to assess and challenge the nature of that communication. Democracy requires protective and enabling legislation and that is why it exists in other areas of public life. </p> <p>However Cameron soon caved in to the press lobby, saying that any statutory underpinning to press regulation would be “<a href="">crossing the Rubicon</a>”. Instead he opted for setting up a new press self-regulatory body, not by statutory underpinning as Leveson had recommended, but by Royal Charter. </p> <p>Initially, it looked like the press lobby were willing to accept this (it was, after all, devised in response to their concerns), but when it became clear they couldn’t fully control the terms of the Charter, powerful press interests soon repudiated it and backed away from setting up self-regulators under its terms. Instead they revamped the discredited Press Complaints Commission and called it the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) – an organisation run by the industry, outside of the Royal Charter system of recognition, that meets fewer than half of Leveson’s recommendations.</p> <p>This has been a consistent pattern established over the last five years – where the Press appear to be sympathetic to at least some of Leveson’s recommendations but over time repudiate most of them and then proceed to do exactly as they like. </p> <h2>Where are we now?</h2> <p>This brings us to Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act – the section that Matt Hancock has just announced the government will repeal. </p> <p>A crucial part of the new Royal Charter system relied on persuading the press to join a recognised regulator. Leveson knew this wouldn’t be easy and so devised a system of carrots and sticks. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act embeds this in law. Under this law, if a news publisher joins a recognised regulator then access to low cost arbitration becomes mandatory, removing the threat of potentially huge losses both for ordinary citizens harmed by press behaviour, and for publishers threatened by a wealthy litigant (the carrot). But if a newspaper refuses to join a recognised regulator and thereby refuses to offer affordable access to justice, then they will be liable to pay all court costs for cases against them (the stick). The new system of regulation also includes protection against trivial and malicious claims, and against local and regional publishers being caused financial hardship. </p> <p>Section 40 is integral to the success of the Royal Charter framework of press regulation and the press know it. Consequently, even after Section 40 had become law (but had not yet come into force) much of the press went on a propaganda offensive against it. Karen Bradley, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport capitulated to increasing pressure by putting the commencement of Section 40 – already agreed by parliament – back out to public consultation. During this consultation period, the press engaged in a shutdown of debate over media reform. </p> <p>And this week, Matt Hancock has announced Section 40 will be repealed. His government has given two reasons.</p> <p>Firstly, they claim that IPSO is doing a good job. </p> <p>Really? </p> <h2>Why IPSO is failing</h2> <p>On February 20th, just over a week before the government’s announcement, the <a href="">Home Affairs Select Committee</a> met to discuss the role of the press in spreading “hate crime and its violent consequences”. In October 2016 the <a href="">European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Report on the UK</a> stated: “Hate speech in some traditional media, particularly tabloid newspapers, continues to be a problem, with biased or ill-founded information disseminated about vulnerable groups, which may contribute to perpetuating stereotypes…..It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians.” </p> <p>One of the witnesses to the Select Committee was Sir Alan Moses, Chair of IPSO. Moses explained that IPSO had received 8,148 complaints in a single year relating to discrimination but that only <em>one</em> of those had been upheld. Moses said that this figure reflected the nature of <a href="">Clause 12 of the Editors code</a> that only allowed complaints of discrimination to be upheld when they are made against individuals and not a group of people such as Muslims, LGBTQ+, migrants, refugees, women etc. In other words it “<a href="">gives license to general discrimination by explicitly excluding it from its definition</a>” (Moore and Ramsey, 2017). </p> <p>So it’s fine to invoke Nazi rhetoric by talking about “the Muslim problem” as Trevor Kavanagh (then on IPSO’s Board) did in his column in <em>The Sun</em>, for example. </p> <p>The Editors’ code committee is chaired by the editor of the <em>Daily Mail</em>, Paul Dacre – the newspaper which has been found to have breached the code most often. The committee revised the Code in 2015 and knew precisely what it was doing. And so, it is perfectly happy to consider 8,148 complaints relating to discrimination and say that there is not a problem. </p> <p>IPSO is working just fine (if you happen to be a newspaper editor). </p> <p>Funnily enough none of the mainstream press covered the Select Committee hearing (apart from the <a href="">Press Gazette</a> a week later, after being <a href="">called out on its failure</a> to do so).</p> <h2>Does digital <em>really</em> weaken press power?</h2> <p>Secondly, the government argues in its <a href="">response to the consultation</a> on the argument that the media landscape has changed. So for example whilst “the percentage of adults reading online news, newspapers or magazines has tripled from 20 per cent in 2007 to 64 per cent in 2017”, Ofcom research shows that the percentage of adults who read newspapers (excluding online versions) has fallen from “40% in 2013 to 21 per cent in 2016”.</p> <p>The argument seems to be that the power of the press is diminishing rapidly in the digital era and we should no longer be worried about it. </p> But if many more people are reading news online why exclude that readership from any analysis of the power of the press? <a href="">Ofcom</a> also notes that the combined print and digital readership of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, The Sun and The Sun on Sunday, The Times and the Sunday Times, and the London Evening Standard increased between 2015 and 2016. Online intermediaries (such as Facebook and Google) most often amplify the voice of dominant news brands because their algorithms prioritise mainstream news content. Ofcom refer to data from Newscorp showing high levels of consumption of their content through third-party platforms and note that according to comScore’s News/Information category 68% of the total digital audience access the Mail Online/the Daily Mail and 64% access The Sun Online. The 2017 (p.19) <a href=";utm_medium=referral">Digital News Report</a> from the Reuters Institute also states that “[o]ur research suggests that the vast majority of news people consume still comes from mainstream media and that most of the reasons for distrust also relate to mainstream media.” <h2>3 out of 4 people think press behaviour is the same or worse since Leveson</h2> <p>It is probably because most people’s news still comes from the mainstream news media that constant polling has shown high levels of support for media reform and a firm rejection of press manoeuvring. A <a href="">poll undertaken by YouGov</a> for Hacked Off in January 2017, after an onslaught of anti-press regulation coverage across all news media, still showed that 73 per cent of the public thought press behaviour had either got worse or not changed since the Leveson enquiry. </p> <p>So why did the government consultation claim that most responses (79%) favoured full repeal of Section 40? They chose to count only ‘direct responses’, many of which (they acknowledge) were the result of newspapers encouraging readers to respond. Other organisations who encouraged members to respond such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees - with a combined total of 200,428 responses all supporting Leveson 2 - were ignored because they were not considered to be ‘direct respondents’. How convenient.</p> <h2>A history of failed press regulation</h2> <p>It is worth reflecting on the history of failed press regulation. The first Royal Commission on the Press (1947-49) led to the press industry creating the General Council of the Press (1953). Dissatisfaction led to the second Royal Commission on the Press and to the General Council being replaced by the Press Council in 1962. In 1972 the Younger Committee report on Privacy was critical of the Press Council, which rejected their concerns. In 1974 a third Royal Commission on the Press looked into editorial standards and freedom of choice for consumers. It suggested a new written Code of Practice. The Press Council again rejected the Commission’s suggestions. In 1990 the Calcutt Committee was established to look into press intrusion. Calcutt recommended replacing the Press Council with a new Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and a new Code of Practice. In 1993 Calcutt reported on the progress of the PCC. He determined that sufficient progress had not been made and recommended the introduction of a Statutory Press Complaints Tribunal. Once more the press industry objected and the government failed to act on the recommendation. In 1995 the National Heritage Select Committee published a report on privacy and press intrusion and made recommendations on a new Statutory Press Ombudsman. The press objected and yet again the government yielded and rejected the recommendations. In 2009 the PCC published a report in response to the Guardian phone hacking investigation ‘<em>Phone Message Tapping Allegations</em>’. In July 2011 the Leveson Inquiry was announced. The discredited PCC was replaced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and the majority of the mainstream press signed up to it. But, IPSO refused to be part of the system of press regulation under the Royal Charter.</p> <p>What this history tells us is that the press have consistently promised to self-regulate adequately and consistently failed to do so. The government, keen to maintain good relations with the press, has consistently bowed down to industry pressure. Only this time something is different. The campaigns for media reform are now well established and reach across a vibrant and angry civil society that believe society deserves a free, fair and accountable press. We are not going away.</p> <p><em>The Media Reform Coalition is holding a <a href="">Media Democracy Festival</a> on March 17</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/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/justin-schlosberg/two-years-after-leveson-why-is-uk-government%E2%80%99s-media-dealings-still-shr">Two years after Leveson, why is the UK government’s media dealings still shrouded in secrecy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/hugh-grant/press-and-leveson-it-will-be-war">The Press and Leveson, it will be war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ed-jones/five-reasons-why-we-don-t-have-free-and-independent-press-in-uk-and-what-we-can-do-about">Five reasons why we don’t have a free and independent press in the UK and what we can do about it </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 Natalie Fenton Tue, 06 Mar 2018 11:30:44 +0000 Natalie Fenton 116487 at DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">“No one should read a great deal into what the minister was saying.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Duncan of Springbank.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Duncan of Springbank.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lord Duncan of Springbank. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span> </p><p dir="ltr">The government continues to contort its normal rules in order to cover up a secret donation to the DUP, openDemocracy can reveal. In the House of Lords last week, a Northern Ireland Office minister appeared to leave the door open to the government honouring a previous commitment to publish details of all major donations to Northern Irish parties since 2014 – including a <a href="">£435,000 donation to the DUP</a> ahead of the European referendum. However, officials have undermined his claims.</p><p dir="ltr">In response to concerns raised by peers that the government was covering up for the DUP, the Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Duncan of Springbank told the House of Lords last week: “Right now, we are not ruling out the re-examination of the period that precedes 1 July 2017. Indeed, the draft order will allow consideration of it... We will not rule anything in or out on that point. I stress that. It is important that we recognise it.” </p><p dir="ltr">However, officials from the Northern Ireland Office have privately briefed that “no one should read a great deal into what the minister (Lord Duncan) was saying.”</p><p dir="ltr">The extraordinary dismissal of Lord Duncan of Springbank’s statement by officials from his own department came after he told a Lords debate on donor transparency last week that he recognised “the issue of backdating will remain sensitive”, and acknowledged that the Electoral Commission has called on the government to now introduce a new measure allowing it to publish details of all major donations to Northern Irish parties from 2014, as previously promised. </p><p dir="ltr">Since the Conservative/DUP pact last year, the Northern Ireland Office has pushed a revision of their previously agreed donor rules that would avoid making public the full details of the cash given to the DUP from 2014-17, including its notorious Brexit donation. The money, spent mostly in England, Scotland and Wales, came from an unknown source via a secretive organisation based in Glasgow, the Constitutional Research Council. </p><p dir="ltr">The CRC is run by <a href="">Richard Cook</a>, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservatives. It was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission last year for failing to comply with Commission rules.</p><p dir="ltr">Lord Duncan’s promise that “We are ruling nothing in and nothing out” was regarded as a small, though significant concession by opposition parties who have been calling on the government to honour previous commitments that all major donations to Northern Irish parties from 2014 would be published.</p><p dir="ltr">The stark Northern Ireland Office briefings which undermine Lord Duncan’s words in the Lords, leaving his assurance effectively worthless, were described by a senior Whitehall official as “disgraceful”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The official said: “A minister is there to deliver the government’s message. If his own department’s officials are under-cutting what he says, then something is not right. So he should return to the House of Lords and explain what the hell is going on.” </p><p dir="ltr">Although the Electoral Commission investigated the origins of the £435,000 donation to the DUP – as they were legally required to do – they are prevented from publishing further details because of current laws protecting political donations and loans in the province. </p><p dir="ltr">A law passed in 2014 committed the government to one day publishing details of all major donations to Northern Irish parties from that year onwards. Northern Irish civil society organisations have consistently backed transparency from 2014, and consultations with the Northern Irish public have shown widespread support for transparency from that date. However, when the former Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire finally got round to consulting on the issue in January 2017, he only canvassed views from Northern Irish parties. Of those he wrote to, only the Alliance Party expressed a specific wish that all donations made since 2014 should be made public. </p><p dir="ltr">However since the May 2017 general election and the subsequent minority Conservative government deal with the DUP, openDemocracy has established that all the parties in Northern Ireland – apart from the DUP – formed a new consensus that even they agreed that the government should honour the 2014 legislation. Mr Brokenshire was told of their change of views during numerous one-to-one negotiations and exchanges of letter since last year’s general election. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Officials in the Northern Ireland Office told openDemocracy last week that they have no other information than those expressed to Mr Brokenshire in the first months of 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">During the Lords debate Lord Duncan also skated over the new consensus on backdating donor transparency, although he did note that of the parties that responded to Mr Brokenshire “at that time” the Alliance Party was alone in suggesting that publication should be backdated. </p><p dir="ltr">The Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Suttie, a member of her party’s foreign affairs team, suggested an amendment to the government’s proposal, expressing regret that the government had not used powers provided in a 2014 law to allow the DUP donation to be disclosed. She said this was “preventing proper scrutiny of donations to political parties in Northern Ireland during the European Union referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">She later told the Lords, as a result of the assurances from Lord Duncan which have now been dismissed, that it would be “inappropriate to test the opinion of the House” and withdrew her amendment.</p><p dir="ltr">Another Liberal Democrat, Lord Tyler, asked “was it a coincidence” that the ministerial decision to restrict the new laws on &nbsp;transparency till after July 2017 “came just a few days after the government had to pay a price for DUP support in the Commons having lost its majority [at the general election]?”</p><p dir="ltr">Lord Tyler asked if checks had been made by the government and suggested that as Russia had taken a “considerable interest in the outcome of our referendum” perhaps “Russian money” had been channelled covertly through the DUP. He said his concerns on donor transparency went further than just Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">With Lord Duncan’s now weakened reassurances, the Lords backed the legislation that will allow publication of political donations and loans in Northern Ireland from July 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">The House of Commons is expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href=""><strong><em>Read openDemocracy’s full investigation into the DUP’s dark money.</em></strong></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/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> </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. James Cusick Mon, 05 Mar 2018 17:36:33 +0000 James Cusick 116477 at