uk cached version 22/05/2018 00:55:27 en Zionism: the history of a contested word <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>These polarising terms should be shelved, and taken out only when we are discussing political philosophy, which most of the time, we are not.<strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><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'>Nathan Birbaum,(1864 - 1937) Austrian writer, Jewish thinker and nationalist. Wikicommons/ Zionist Archive. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>‘Objectivity has ceased to be a goal not only of popular writing on the subject but also of scholarship, and the line between intellectual engagement and political activism hardly exists today’ </em></p> <p><em>– Michael Stanislawski, Zionism: A Very Short Introduction, p.1 </em></p> <p>Written in German in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Theodor Herzl’s <em>Der Judenstaat</em> (The Jewish State) (1896) is widely considered Zionism’s founding document. It was in the same country, six years earlier, that the term was coined by Nathan Birnbaum, the founder of the first Jewish student association in Vienna, <em>Kadimah</em>. </p> <p>The philosophy was barely fledged before it evoked an impassioned backlash from the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, where Reform Judaism was essentially founded, and the anti-Zionist Bundists in Russia, who, along with many other Jews, believed Zionism jeopardised the prospects of integration into their host nations. </p> <p>This controversy has not ceased since. Jewish anti-Zionism has a diverse history, ranging from Satmar Hasidim, who perceived secular Zionism as an abomination and a forced pre-emption of redemption before God’s will, to many Iraqi Jews, who understood growing resentment in their own country as a response to Zionism. But anti-Zionism is not simply confined to Jewish infighting – it is now a staple of leftist thinking and movements. <span class="mag-quote-center">But anti-Zionism is not simply confined to Jewish infighting – it is now a staple of leftist thinking and movements.</span></p> <p>Anti-Zionism is a negative ideology, and is therefore contingent on the definition of its positive counterpart. The word Zionism, however, is so ambiguous and varied in its meaning and so imbued with emotion, so firmly tied to identity, that invoking it stifles any productive conversation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Could you expect a Holocaust survivor who found succour in Israel to disavow Zionism entirely? Could you expect a Palestinian expelled from their home and prevented from ever entering it again to be anything but an anti-Zionist? </p> <p>To move forward, we need to abandon these terms when it comes to discussing Israel-Palestine.</p> <h2><strong>Ideology in flux</strong></h2> <p>Zionism consists of many heterogeneous variants and has changed so dramatically over time that what was once considered Zionism is now considered anti-Zionism. </p> <p>In the early nineteenth century, the dominant strand of Zionism was Labour Zionism, which sought the redemption of the Jewish people through a renewed connection with the land and the subsequent creation of a socialist haven. At the time, secular bi-nationalism was an acceptable and even mainstream Zionist belief, and there were even several visions for the realisation of this model, spanning from a joint Jewish-Arab commonwealth, to the division of Mandate Palestine into cantons. Mapam, who were the second biggest Zionist party before 1948, believed in a binational solution. <span class="mag-quote-center">Mapam, who were the second biggest Zionist party before 1948, believed in a binational solution. </span></p> <p>Yet today, one of the main proponents of this model, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), are, by their own definition and that of Israel, perhaps the most prominent anti-Zionist organisation around. &nbsp;The State of Israel considers their goals and intentions so utterly anathema that they have a blacklist of groups who are active with BDS and their members are banned from entering the country.</p> <p>For some, Zionism means the right to Jewish self-determination, a national liberation movement, but for others, it conjures violent dispossession and continued policies of occupation and colonisation. It is, of course, both, born out of a unique set of historical circumstances. </p> <p>Yet there are also several positions in between, with no paucity of subscribers. On one side, you have liberal Zionism, which some take to be a paradox, and others consider a marriage of pro-Palestinian activism to their vision of a more just Jewish Israel. On the other extreme, you have a religious Zionism and neo-Zionism that uses Judaism to justify uncompromising expansionist nationalism. Like most philosophies, there was and is a war (in many cases, literally) for its definition.</p> <p>J Street, an American liberal Zionist organisation, who ‘believe that the Jewish people have the right to a national home of their own’, were at the forefront of the (failed) battle to stop the demolition of Susya, a Palestinian village in Area C, gathering over 12,000 signatures. It was up against a government and the settler movement it supports, who are rigorous adherents to Neo-Zionism, which considers itself the true heir to the pioneering spirit that underpinned the foundation of the State of Israel in the first place. This was just one of many examples of two groups fighting completely opposing causes in the name of Zionism. <span class="mag-quote-center">This was just one of many examples of two groups fighting completely opposing causes in the name of Zionism.</span></p> <p>Though Zionism is often qualified with an appended adjective, it seems be changing as a catch-all term too. A joint 2015 <a href="">Yachad-Ipsos Mori</a> survey found that while 90% of Jews in the UK believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, just 59% would identify themselves as Zionists, down from 72% in 2010. In the past, these two items would have been synonymous. The survey goes on to observe that ‘people who are critical of Israel’s current policies should not describe themselves as Zionists even if they are fully supportive of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state’ and that ‘this apparently rapid change in the use of the term merits further examination.’ It is no longer clear in the Jewish community whether the term Zionism means support for Israel’s government, or simply a belief in its right to exist; the anxieties surrounding this definition seem to have encouraged many to drop this association altogether. </p> <p>But with the settlement enterprise ineluctably entrenched in the Palestinian OPT, and Israel shifting further to the right, can a voice of diaspora protest, alongside near indifference within Israel itself, claim to act as a representative voice for their hijacked Zionism? In other words, has the battle for the soul of Zionism already ended? <strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>To what extent can you disentangle an ideology from its practical realisation?</strong></h2> <p>Many claim that the bona fide resurgence of anti-Semitism, notably in France, where <a href="">a Holocaust survivor was brutally murdered just last month</a> and from&nbsp;where there has been a mass exodus of Jews, Zionism, in the form of a national home and haven for the Jewish people, is as relevant as ever. </p> <p>Yet in the fiftieth year of its short seventy-year history, the occupation, which has surely been a turning point in public opinion on Israel (and therefore Zionism), cannot be interpreted as a temporary malaise, but a fundamental feature of Israel as a state, bound up in all the human rights abuses this includes.</p> <p>The separation of ideology and its political manifestation seems practicable for many proponents of communism, who detach ideology from the atrocities of its realisation which have transpired on almost every occasion. The brutality of Stalin and Mao, it is claimed, are a perversion of this vision. Can Zionism attempt to redeem itself through abstraction?</p> <p>Certainly, liberal Zionists believe it can. Israel’s Declaration of Independence espoused certain values of&nbsp;‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’ and ‘guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture’. The modern state of Israel, according to them, is a deviation from this founding vision, and it must be saved – for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians.</p> <p>But if Zionism derives much of its validity from the historical circumstances of Jewish persecution, and the language employed by its proponents is not only one of ‘rights’, but ‘needs’, then it seems wilfully selective to de-historicise Zionism. Reification, however, renders Zionism untenable by introducing the indigenous Palestinian population into the equation. As Ari Shavit argued in his best-selling book <em>My Promised Land</em> when discussing the expulsion of Palestinians from the town of Lydda, the action and legacy of expulsion is something that <em>every</em> Zionist must reckon with – it is inextricable from the ideology that produced it. <span class="mag-quote-center">As Ari Shavit argued… the action and legacy of expulsion is something that <em>every</em> Zionist must reckon with – it is inextricable from the ideology that produced it.</span></p> <p>There is a glaring blind spot to the Zionist invocation of ‘need’ when it comes to the right of return: the Palestinian population who were expelled in 1948 and their descendants often would’ve benefited from such succour. </p> <p>In Syria, where the Palestinian population numbers at around half a million, most Palestinians have been caught up in the bloody civil war. Chris Gunness, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), claimed that 95% of the 438,000 Palestinians are in ‘critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance’. The humanitarian ‘need’ in this situation pales in comparison to the brutal shelling of Yarmouk by regime forces. Today, just hundreds of Palestinians remain in what was one of the biggest diaspora communities of Palestinians in the world.</p> <p>Just before and during the Gulf War, 400,000 Palestinians fled Kuwait for several reasons, all of which were rooted in this existential category of ‘need’. Even in times of peace, the situations of Palestinians – denied citizenship and therefore basic amenities, living in refugee camps, and often subject to political (and frequently racialised) violence – highlights the inherent contradiction of managing a state on ethnic lines: can you have a Jewish and democratic state, which, as part of its national logic, denies the right of return to the indigenous population, but extends the right of return to Jews who often aren’t in need? </p> <p>That doesn’t mean that they never will be, and sometimes they certainly are, but these contradictions at the heart of Zionism must be unpacked. It certainly seems unreasonable to abstract Zionism in order to avoid confronting such questions. </p> <h2><strong>Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism</strong></h2> <p>This discussion has implications for ongoing debates today. The flaring (and ostensibly contradictory) arguments that ‘anti-Zionism constitutes anti-Semitism’ or that ‘anti-Zionism is being deliberately conflated with anti-Semitism to stifle criticism of Israel’ are both true and absurd in equal measure; they required more precise terminology to test their validity.</p> <p>If we cannot grant Zionism a distinction from its practical manifestation, then anti-Zionism must be subjected to the same scrutiny. Efraim Perlmutter’s <a href="">openDemocracy article</a> argued that article 20 of the PLO charter is anti-Semitic:</p> <p><em>‘The Balfour Declaration,&nbsp;the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.’</em></p> <p>Do the cultural and religious ties of Jewish people give them a right to the land? No, but that doesn’t excuse a denial of the existence of those ties and their importance to Jewish identity. Indeed, Israel was the homeland of the Jewish people at several intervals in history. The exclusive negation of national rights for Jews <em>is</em> anti-Semitic, especially in a world where nation states still construct and legitimate our identity and that such a state already exists. </p><p>The exclusive negation of national rights for Jews is often construed as anti-Semitic – and it certainly <em>can </em>be – especially in a world where nation states still construct and legitimate our identity and where such a state already exists, and where Israel itself is often singled out for interrogation of its legitimacy. Yet this position ignores the historical contingency of national rights; it presupposes that all national rights were allocated justly, and did not simply emerge from circumstance. It just so happens that Jewish national aspirations today are built on the ruins of another people, and the absence of a resolution to this conflict, at least partially, explains such negation. </p> <p>However, what Perlmutter failed to mention was that this article, along with many others which were deemed inconsistent with the principles of Oslo Accords, was repealed in 1998. Indeed, the Oslo Accords have established a framework by which the right of Jewish national self-determination does not inherently contradict the same right for Palestinians. ( This doesn’t mean that the PLO are immune from anti-Semitism; we just need to look as far as earlier this month to <a href="">Abbas’s comments</a> apportioning blame for the Holocaust to the ‘social function’ of Jews.) In fact, a two-state solution, which accommodates the national rights of both Israelis and Palestinians separately, remains the preference of both parties in uniquely adverse conditions.</p> <p>Hamas, who are the predominant self-proclaimed anti-Zionist actor within Palestine, still call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Although they too have altered their charter, their foundational charter, which calls for the killing of Jews based on a fundamentalist understanding of religion in article 7, and refers to one of the most infamous anti-Semitic forgeries, <em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em>,<em> </em>in article 32, goes beyond anything conjured up by the PLO. It is dubious to what extent their new charter, which does not nullify their 1988 charter, changes the substance of this violent anti-Semitism, and it has yet to recognise Israel as a legitimate entity. </p> <p>Returning to the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Perlmutter is right to identify that ‘the real problem is that anti-Semitism has become an integral part of Palestinian and Arab nationalism. Therefore the real question becomes how does one support the Palestinian cause without being infected with Palestinian anti-Semitism.’</p> <p>In fact, this problem runs deeper than Palestinian nationalism. Although Zionism certainly exacerbated anti-Semitism in the Middle East, it predates the establishment of the State of Israel, and was also abetted and enforced by colonial politics and culture. The infamous relationship between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazism is a fertile example of this combination in play: his alliance with the Nazis was a statement against the interference of Britain and France in the region, as well as the role of Israel, as was the case in Iraq, but this did not inoculate him from anti-Semitism. </p> <p>In the Middle East, anti-Semitism is commonplace, and this also has ramifications in the UK. A poll conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in September 2017 found that Muslims disproportionately held anti-Semitic attitudes, though it made a concerted and careful distinction between holding an anti-Semitic belief and <em>being </em>anti-Semitic. The poll found that 55% of Muslims held anti-Semitic attitudes, as opposed to 30% of the general population, while 27% of the Muslims surveyed believed that “Jews get rich at the expense of others”, compared with the national average of 12%. &nbsp;</p> <p>The centrality of anti-imperialism to leftist discourses and movements today, especially those tied to identity politics, can generate such ludicrous claims from people as intelligent as Judith Butler that ‘Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive […] are part of a global Left’. The anti-Semitism of these groups is therefore downplayed or ignored, and they (and their anti-Semitic, homophobic, and sexist beliefs and violent actions) are given credence and legitimacy in progressive circles. If anti-Semitism is a part of pro-Palestinian movements (in the same way that Islamophobia is also associated with certain forms of Zionism), that doesn’t prohibit involvement with these movements; it simply means there must be a robust and assiduous effort to distinguish support for Palestinian rights from many of their representatives. </p> <p>Somewhat differently, anti-Zionism can provide a convenient excuse and space to express anti-Semitism. While the line between the two beliefs can be abundantly clear, Israel today is often incorporated into an older and deeper scourge of anti-Semitism. The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, which marked a notable shift in the stigmatisation of Zionism, was notoriously rife with unequivocal classical anti-Semitic literature, such as people handing out <em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion </em>and leaflets of Hitler, entitled ‘What if I had won?’ Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that ‘there was horrible antisemitism present – particularly in some of the NGO discussions. A number of people said they’ve never been so hurt or so harassed or been so blatantly faced with an antisemitism.’ </p> <p>Yet the claim that anti-Zionism is being conflated with anti-Semitism is also true. Despite the self-evident connection which many Jews have to Israel, its government has deliberately attempted to conflate Jews with Israel, calling for migration to their true home whenever a crisis strikes. As such, after the synagogue shooting in Copenhagen in 2015, Netanyahu proclaimed that ‘Israel is the home of every Jew&nbsp;... Israel awaits you with open arms’. There are consequently incredibly close ties between organisations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Israeli Foreign Ministry (MFA) <em>because</em> anti-Semitism legitimates the State of Israel. <span class="mag-quote-center">Israel’s government has deliberately attempted to conflate Jews with Israel, calling for migration to their true home whenever a crisis strikes.</span></p> <p>Indeed, the MFA, alongside the covert Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the only ministry which you incidentally cannot find further information about via the Israeli government website, has made a concerted financial, strategic and even legal effort, under the conceptual framework of ‘new anti-Semitism’, to attack BDS as anti-Semitic. Events such as the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism<strong> </strong>seem to be more about challenging BDS than anything else. </p> <p>This is not to say that the BDS Movement, the main non-violent embodiment of anti-Zionism, is devoid of problems: it has not been firm enough in opposing anti-Semitism within its ranks, and in fact, has often indulged in grotesque anti-Semitism. Just look at the <a href="">violent anti-Semitism</a> of the BDS Movement at the University of Witwatersrand. The movement is also deliberately vague about its aims. Some of the staunchest defenders of Palestinian rights, such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, have therefore criticised the movement for demanding the right of return, which would mean an end to the Jewish character of the State of Israel. </p> <p>However, it is the biggest non-violent movement in support of Palestinian rights, and to deny it breathing space is therefore to invalidate Palestinian non-violence. If Palestinians have a right to protest (which they clearly do) and if violence should rightfully be condemned, then there at least should be an engagement with BDS as a movement. </p> <p>In previous debates on the subject on openDemocacy, Mary Davis was right to <a href="">identify that certain types of boycotts fail to distinguish between civil society and the government</a> and therefore constitute a sort of collective punishment. The Israeli government is taking bolder steps to blur the boundaries between Israel and the West Bank, ignoring EU recommendations to distinguish settlement goods from those produced in the main body of Israel. </p> <p>More significantly, a new law recently bypassed the Knesset which required each piece of new legislation to include a clause about implementation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an abandonment of any pretence that the occupation is temporary. </p> <p>Netanyahu is spearheading a campaign to make a distinction between Israel-proper and the OPT, and therefore a distinction between complicity and non-complicity, increasingly difficult. He is polarising the debate further by making it impossible for those who support targeted boycotts of settlement goods or companies directly involved in the occupation.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>A broad church of competing movements which have changed over time, all of which are construed and misconstrued many times over, a unique set of historical circumstances in which liberation w<em>as </em>colonisation, and the weaponisation of Zionism/anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism for diverging political interests means it is almost impossible to conduct a debate on these terms.</p> <p>An Israeli professor told me that he was gently encouraged by Palestinian groups to preface his contributions to public discussions by identifying himself as an ‘anti-Zionist’, almost as a prerequisite to be given a platform, while, in an attempted overture to the Jewish community amidst Corbyn’s refusal to celebrate the Balfour Centenary, the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry told the Jewish community that Jeremy is a ‘Zionist’. </p> <p>These badges are ultimately meaningless, and often hinder discussion about methods and solidarity between those attempting to address the most critical situations in the conflict: the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the occupation of and settlement on the West Bank.</p> <p>For so many, identification as a Zionist is a red line: the person in question is immediately considered racist. Yet so many of these so-called Zionists are at the forefront of the fight for justice for Palestinians. Similarly, anti-Zionism is also loaded with nasty connotations of anti-Semitism. These polarising terms should therefore be shelved, and taken out only when we are discussing political philosophy, which most of the time, we are not. It is too charged, and too ambiguous, to lead to any productive dialogue.</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="/mary-davis/reply-to-jonathan-rosenhead-is-zionist-rude-word">Reply to Jonathan Rosenhead: ‘Is Zionist a rude word?’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/efraim-perlmutter/israeli-zionist-response-to-mary-davis-and-jonathan-rosenhead">One Israeli Zionist response to Mary Davis and Jonathan Rosenhead</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/gilbert-achcar/zionism-anti-semitism-and-balfour-declaration">Zionism, anti-semitism, and the Balfour Declaration</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"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> </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 United States Israel Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Middle East Jonathan Shamir Mon, 21 May 2018 08:18:44 +0000 Jonathan Shamir 117969 at The fault lines of Welsh politics have been redrawn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Plaid Cymru's leader argues that the UK parties are no longer pretending to represent Wales.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Wood.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Wood.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Leanne Wood. Image,</span></span></span></p><p>Since devolution, Labour and the Conservatives have sought to create a specific ‘Welsh’ brand. This week, they reverted to their true Westminster colours and in doing so changed the nature of the Welsh political debate for the foreseeable future. </p><p>Together, they voted to support the Westminster power grab that is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. In Wales, Plaid Cymru was the only party to oppose it.</p> <p>Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP spent the debate on this flagship Brexit Bill congratulating each other and reiterating their support for Westminster’s rule over Wales.</p> <p>This rediscovered love for Westminster was reaffirmed the following day, during a debate on the future of welfare in Wales. During the debate, the Labour minister responsible claimed that he would not call for the devolution of elements of the welfare system as this means people in Swindon may be treated differently from the people of Wales.</p> <p>Yes,&nbsp;<em>Swindon</em>&nbsp;is what you read. The Labour Welsh Government is more worried about the people of Wiltshire, than the people it purports to represent.</p> <p>Not only does this question their basic understanding of devolution, it raises a serious point of principle – is the Labour Welsh Government standing up for Swindon or for Wales?&nbsp;</p> <p>If elements of the welfare system were devolved, the Labour Welsh government could make tangible changes to mitigate the worst of the Conservatives' cruel welfare cuts. Instead, they choose to write letters to Westminster ministers who simply ignore them.</p> <p>The conclusion is, in fact, a simple one – Labour is not a party of principle, but of political expediency. Shunning responsibility in favour of helpful political ambiguity.</p> <p>We have always been the party of Wales – it is our name after all. We have always been a party that wants to take decisions and responsibility to create a Wales that works for its people.</p> <p>Over the two decades of devolution we have seen the attempted ‘Welsh-ification’ of the other parties. This week, that strategy has been abandoned by Labour and the Tories. It is all out support for Westminster and the Union from herein. Wales is just another administrative district in which they operate.</p> <p>They do not think decisions about Wales should be made in Wales. We think the opposite is true.</p> <p>It is a deceptively simple principle which underpins Plaid Cymru’s politics – decisions are best made by those who are directly affected by them. The reinforcing of privilege, poverty and inequality created by Westminster in Wales is an effective illustration of this thesis.</p> <p>Devolution gave us the option to choose a different way. It is not a mundane matter of national constitutional arrangements. It is the chance to forge a different future – to change the attitude, outlook and confidence people have when they are politically and economically empowered to determine the direction of their own lives.</p> <p>The Westminster parties, on the other hand, have no intention of helping us break our dependence. Despite years of economic and social mismanagement by Westminster, both Labour and the Tories still look to London for the answers. It’s the political equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.</p> <p>The false slogans of ‘standing up for Wales’ and faux Welsh logos with red dragons plastered over Union flags have begun to peel away. No longer are the Westminster parties even bothering with the courtesy of a Welsh aesthetic.</p> <p>This week, the fault lines of Welsh politics were redrawn. It is now the Westminster parties against Wales.</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="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay-leanne-wood/interview-leanne-wood-wales-and-spreading-of-scottish-rebellion">Interview: Leanne Wood - Wales and the spreading of the Scottish rebellion</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 Leanne Wood Sat, 19 May 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Leanne Wood 117952 at Owning the future: why we need new models of ownership <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">From the national to the firm level, new models of ownership can begin to reshape how our economy works and for whom.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The evidence of our broken economic model mounts. This week, the East Coast Mainline was <a href="">taken back into temporary public control</a> from Stagecoach and Virgin Trains. As a potent symbol of the failure of rail privatisation, where franchise operators win regardless of their performance but the costs are borne by passengers and taxpayers, it is striking. At the same time, Royal Mail year end results saw another <a href="">record dividend payment</a> to shareholders, with almost a billion pounds extracted from the company since privatisation, despite the sale promising increased inward investment. Meanwhile, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee released a <a href="">devastating report</a> into the failings of Carillion, exposing the flaws of the outsourcing model. Parasitic, over leveraged, weakly accountable, and delivering little value, these companies and their relationship to the state epitomise the inefficiencies and inequalities of our neoliberal political economy. Critically, these are not isolated symptoms of failure. We are in the middle of the longest stagnation in earnings for 150 years. Average weekly earnings have decoupled from GDP growth for the first time since comparable data has been available. Young people are set to earn less than the previous generation for the first time. We have the richest region in Europe – inner London – but most British regions are poorer than the European average. The UK’s productivity performance has been abject for a decade. The cumulative environmental impacts of our economy are damaging and unsustainable. In short, our economic model is broken and needs radical reform. Piecemeal tinkering won’t suffice. What is required is an urgent rethinking of how our economy is organised, and in whose interest. Fundamental to this must be an ambitious new agenda on ownership, one that isn’t satisfied with the piecemeal nationalisation of railway franchises, or indeed the railway system as a whole, but instead seeks to transform how our economy as a whole is owned and governed, and in whose interests. Scaling up alternative models of ownership – new ways of owning and governing enterprise to give workers and communities a stake and a say – is critical. This is because ownership is the key to unlocking systems change. Indeed, we cannot achieve the paradigm shift we need in how we run the economy and for whom without changing how our economic assets and institutions are owned. From the post-war consensus undergirded by the nationalisation of the economy’s commanding heights, to the role privatisation played in shattering of the Keynesian settlement and popularising Thatcherism, history teaches us ownership matters. The reason is because ownership of capital shapes the distribution of power and reward in a business and the economy as a whole. It structures how enterprise is organised, granting powerful control rights to the exclusion of labour’s interest. Ownership also generates income rights, which as capital’s share of national income has risen over time, has benefited business owners at the expense of the incomes of workers. If capital was broadly owned or democratically governed, the growing share of national income going to capital would not matter for inequality and living standards, since the benefits would be widely distributed. In fact, the ownership of capital is&nbsp;<a href="">highly unequal</a>. The wealthiest 10 per cent of households own 45 per cent of the nation’s wealth, while the least wealthy half of all households own just 9 per cent. Property, the most widely spread form of wealth, gives people little control over the productive forces of the economy. Financial wealth which does, including stocks and shares, is particularly unequally held: the wealthiest 10 per cent own almost 70 per cent. Indeed, a striking paradox of the ‘shareholder democracy’ revolution of the 1980s was that it led to the concentration, not dispersal, of economic ownership. Compared to most other advanced economies the UK now scores poorly on&nbsp;<a href="">economic democracy indexes</a>&nbsp;measuring ownership and economic voice. Powerful trends are set to increase the importance of ownership in the context of unequal levels of ownership. Technological change risks creating a paradox of plenty: society is likely to be far richer overall due to the material abundance generated by automation and digitalisation, but for many individuals and communities, technological change could reinforce inequalities of power and reward as the benefits are narrowly shared, flowing mainly to capital owners and the highly skilled. From the ownership of data that fuels the platform giants of surveillance capitalism, to ‘who owns the robots’, ownership of capital will become ever-more pivotal. This is why IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice has set out a radical agenda for broadening and democratising ownership of business equity. The goal of our proposals are two-fold: to give everyone a share of capital, both as useable wealth and for its income returns; and to spread economic power and control in the economy, by expanding the decision rights of employees and the public in the management of companies. Our report,&nbsp;<a href=""><em>Capital Gains</em></a>, proposes three mechanisms that can help broaden the ownership of companies and spread economic rewards and power more widely. First, we propose establishing a Citizens’ Wealth Fund that would own shares in companies, land and other assets on behalf of the public as a whole, and pay out a universal capital dividend of £10,000 for every 25-year old. Second, we propose a series of measures to expand employee ownership trusts, which create a form of employee common ownership that provides the basis for employee participation in both profits and corporate governance, giving employees both distributional and control rights. The effect is to turn the traditional company ownership hierarchy on its head: whereas capital normally hires labour, in an EOT-owned company the employees hire capital. We estimate that the UK could create 3 million worker-owners by 2030 with an ambitious reform agenda. Finally, we set out steps to scale the co-operative and mutual sector, which are democratically owned and governed, through new financial and legal measures to support forms of enterprise in common. Our crisis consists in the mounting evidence of deep structural failure, whether Carillion or the rail debacle, without yet generating overwhelming momentum towards much needed and systemic reform. An alternative ownership agenda must be critical to this. From the national to the firm level, new models of ownership can begin to reshape how our economy works and for whom. It gives us a chance to own the future.</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 Mathew Lawrence Fri, 18 May 2018 02:09:38 +0000 Mathew Lawrence 117936 at Yes, neoliberalism is a thing. Don't let economists tell you otherwise <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">On the list of ‘ten tell-tale signs you’re a neoliberal’, insisting that Neoliberalism Is Not A Thing must surely be number one.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><em>“The really fascinating battles in intellectual history tend to occur when some group or movement goes on the offensive and asserts that Something Big really doesn’t actually exist.” </em></blockquote><p> So says Philip Morowski in his book ‘Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown’<em>. </em>As Mirowski argues, neoliberalism is a particularly fascinating case in point.<em>“The really fascinating battles in intellectual history tend to occur when some group or movement goes on the offensive and asserts that Something Big really doesn’t actually exist.” </em> So says Philip Morowski in his book ‘Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown’<em>. </em>As Mirowski argues, neoliberalism is a particularly fascinating case in point. Just as Thatcher asserted there was ‘no such thing as society’, it’s common to find economics commentators asserting that there is ‘no such thing as neoliberalism’ – that it’s simply a meaningless insult bandied about by the left, devoid of analytical content. But on the list of ‘ten tell-tale signs you’re a neoliberal’, insisting that Neoliberalism Is Not A Thing must surely be number one. The latest commentator to add his voice to the chorus is <a href="">Sky Economics Editor Ed Conway</a>. On the Sky blog, he gives four reasons why Neoliberalism Is Not A Thing. Let's look at each of them in turn: </p><strong>1. It’s only used by its detractors, not by its supporters</strong><p> This one is pretty easy to deal with, because it’s flat-out not true. As Mirowski documents, “the people associated with the doctrine <em>did </em>call themselves ‘neo-liberals’ for a brief period lasting from the 1930s to the early 1950s, but then they abruptly stopped the practice” – deciding it would serve their political project better if they claimed to be the heirs of Adam Smith than if they consciously distanced themselves from classical liberalism. Here’s just one example, from Milton Friedman in 1951: </p><blockquote><em>“a new ideology… must give high priority to real and efficient limitation of the state’s ability to, in detail, intervene in the activities of the individual. At the same time, it is absolutely clear that there are positive functions allotted to the state. The doctrine that, one and off, has been called neoliberalism and that has developed, more or less simultaneously in many parts of the world… is precisely such a doctrine… But instead of the 19th century understanding that laissez-faire is the means to achieve this goal, neoliberalism proposes that competition will lead the way”. </em></blockquote><p> You might notice that as well as the word ‘neoliberalism’, this also includes the word ‘ideology’. Remember that one for later. It’s true that the word ‘neoliberalism’ did go underground for a long time, with its proponents preferring to position their politics simply as sound economics than to admit it was a radical ideological programme. But that didn’t stop them from knowing what they stood for, or from acting collectively – through a well-funded network of think tanks and research institutes – to spread those ideas. It’s worth noting that one of those think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, has in the last couple of years consciously <a href="">reclaimed the mantle</a>. Affiliated intellectuals like <a href="">Madsen Pirie</a> and <a href="">Sam Bowman</a> have explicitly sought to define and defend neoliberalism. It’s no accident that this happened around the time that neoliberalism began to be seriously challenged in the UK, with the rise of Corbyn and the shock of the Brexit vote, after a post-crisis period where the status quo seemed untouchable. </p><strong>2. Nobody can agree on what it means</strong><p> Well, this one at least is half-true. Like literally every concept that has ever mattered, the concept of ‘neoliberalism’ is messy, it’s deeply contested, it has evolved over time and it differs in theory and practice. From the start, there has been debate within the neoliberal movement itself about how it should define itself and what its programme should be. And, yes, it’s often used lazily on the left as a generic term for anything vaguely establishment. None of this means that it is Not A Thing. This is something sociologists and historians instinctively understand, but which many economists seem to have trouble with. Having said this, it is possible to define some generally accepted core features of neoliberalism. Essentially, it privileges markets as the best way to organise the economy and society, but unlike classical liberalism, it sees a strong role for the state in creating and maintaining these markets. Outside of this role, the state should do as little as possible, and above all it must not interfere with the ‘natural’ operation of the market. But it has always been part of the neoliberal project to take over the state and transform it for its own ends, rather than to dismantle or disable it. Of course, there’s clearly a tension between neoliberals’ professed ideals of freedom and their need for a strong state to push through policies that often don’t have democratic consent. We see this in the actions of the Bretton Woods institutions in the era of ‘structural adjustment’, or the Troika’s behaviour towards Greece during the Eurozone crisis. We see it most starkly in Pinochet’s Chile, the original neoliberal experiment. This perhaps helps to explain the fact that neoliberalism is sometimes equated with libertarianism and the ‘small state’, while others reject this characterisation. I’ll say it again: none of this means that neoliberalism doesn’t exist. </p><strong>3. Neoliberalism is just good economics</strong><p> Neoliberalism may not exist, says Conway, but what do exist are “conventional economic models - the ones established by Adam Smith all those centuries ago”, and the principles they entail. That they may have been “overzealously implemented and sometimes misapplied” since the end of the Cold War is “unfortunate”, but “hardly equals an ideology”. I’m sure he’ll hate me for saying this, but Ed – this is the oldest neoliberal trick in the book. The way Conway defines these principles (fiscal conservatism, property rights and leaving businesses to make their own decisions) is hardly a model of analytical rigour, but we’ll let that slide. Instead, let’s note that the entire reason neoliberal ideology developed was that the older classical “economic models” manifestly failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, leading them to be replaced by Keynesian demand-management models as the dominant framework for understanding the economy. Neoliberals had to update these models in order to restore their credibility: this is why they poured so much effort into the development of neoclassical economics and the capture of academic economics by the Chicago School. One of the great achievements of neoliberalism has been to induce such a level of collective amnesia that it’s now once again possible to claim that these tenets are simply “fundamental economic rules” handed down directly from Adam Smith on tablets of stone, unchallenged and unchallengeable in the history of economic thought. In any case, even some people that ascribe to neoclassical economics – like Joseph Stiglitz – are well enough able to distinguish this intellectual framework from the political application of it by neoliberals. It is perfectly possible to agree with the former but not the latter. </p><strong>4. Yes, ‘neoliberal’ policies have been implemented in recent decades, but this has been largely a matter of accident rather than design</strong><p> Privatisation, bank deregulation, the dismantling of capital and currency controls: according to Conway, these are all developments that came about by happenstance. “Anyone who has studied economic history” will tell you they are “hardly the result of a guiding ideology.” This will no doubt be news to the large number of eminent economic historians who have documented the shift from Keynesianism to neoliberalism, from Mirowski and Daniel Stedman-Jones to Robert Skidelsky and Robert Van Horn (for a good reading list, see <a href="">this bibliographic review by Will Davies</a>.) It would also be news to Margaret Thatcher, the woman who reportedly slammed down Hayek’s ‘Constitution of Liberty’ on the table at one of her first cabinet meetings and declared “Gentlemen, this is our programme”; and who famously said “Economics is the method; the object is to change the soul”. And it would be news to those around her who strategized for a Conservative government with carefully laid-out battleplans for dismantling the key institutions of the post-war settlement, such as the <a href="">Ridley Report</a> on privatising state-run entities. What Conway appears to be denying here is the whole idea that policymaking takes place within a shared set of assumptions (or paradigm), that dominant paradigms tend to shift over time, and that these shifts are usually accompanied by political crises and resulting transfers of political power – making them at least partly a matter of ideology rather than simply facts. Whether it’s even meaningful to claim that ideology-free facts exist on matters so inherently political as how to run the economy is a whole debate in the sociology of knowledge which we don’t have time to go into here, and which Ed Conway doesn’t seem to have much awareness of. But he shows his hand when he says that utilities were privatised because “governments realised they were mostly a bit rubbish at running them”. This is a strong – and highly contentious – political claim disguised as a statement of fact – again, a classic neoliberal gambit. It’s a particularly bizarre one for an economist to make at a time when <a href="">70% of UK rail routes are owned by foreign states</a> who won the franchises through competitive tender. Just this week, we learned that <a href="">the East Coast main line is to be temporarily renationalised</a> because Virgin and Stagecoach turned out to be, erm, a bit rubbish at running it. </p><p>***</p><p> It may be a terrible cliché, but the old adage “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” seems appropriate here. Neoliberalism successfully hid in plain sight for decades, with highly ideological agendas being implemented amidst claims we lived in a post-ideological world. Now that it is coming under ideological challenge, it is all of a sudden stood naked in the middle of the room, having to explain why it’s there (to borrow a phrase from a very brilliant colleague). There are a number of strategies neoliberals can adopt in response to this. The Adam Smith Institute response is to go on the offensive and defend it. The Theresa May response is to pay lip service to the need for systemic change whilst quietly continuing with the same old policies. Those, like Ed Conway, who persist in claiming neoliberalism doesn’t even exist, may soon find themselves left behind by history.</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 Christine Berry Thu, 17 May 2018 08:12:41 +0000 Christine Berry 117927 at Book review: The Divide by Jason Hickel <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A masterful guide to the reality of global inequality and its tangled roots.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The word ‘tome’ gets bandied about all-too often. But in this case, despite claims on the cover to constitute a “brief guide to global inequality and its solutions”, tome really is apt. Jason Hickel’s <em>The Divide</em> is as weighty physically as it is intellectually. And yet, fortunately, it is highly readable. I say ‘fortunately’ because this is a book that if our world is to have any chance of meeting the challenges of the 21st century, people need to read. It challenges so much received wisdom via a well-argued, flowing prose that guides you through economic history, international trade, colonialism, politics and power, and the limits to growth debate. In setting out the reality of global inequality and its tangled roots, Hickel, matador-like, destroys the statistical pivots used by official agencies and unpicks their portrayal of an optimistic account of the state of global poverty and inequality. But <em>The Divide</em> is not just about statistics – it is about the political economy of today’s entrenched inequalities and why the economic model currently doing so much harm to people and planet exists. Early pages share the story of how a writer for President Truman concocted the notion of ‘development’, almost as a space filler for a Presidential speech. This anecdote shows how much of the development agenda began in what almost amounts to a spin exercise. This is a brilliantly brutal call-out that somewhat undermines the original intentions of one of the most popular and ostensibly most virtuous causes of the 20th century, a cause that has galvanised political agreements, huge rallies, not to mention songs from well-known rock-stars. From here Hickel challenges the implicit – arguably deliberately concocted – belief so many hold: that inequalities and the circumstances endured by the poorest are just a ‘technical’ challenge, solvable by governments in the global ‘South’ simply setting up the right institutions, picking the right suite of policies, eliminating corruption, and so on. An early knockout punch in the bastions of mainstream policy-making comes as early as page 3, where Hickel reminds us that: </p><blockquote><em>“…in the year 1500, there was no appreciable difference in incomes and living standards between Europe and the rest of the world….yet their fortunes changed dramatically over the intervening centuries – not in spite of one another but because of one another.”</em></blockquote><p> The chart on page 30 then summaries the crux of Hickel’s argument, showing the ‘annual gains from aid vs. selected outflows &amp; structural costs/losses’. Spoiler alert: aid pales when compared to the multiple (and massive) flows in the opposite direction. This is one of those "if you only look at one chart this year, look at this one" charts. So much said in one diagram. And from here the book takes the reader on a journey of the relationship between rich and poor countries. And one is left feeling it is one of the most toxic, abusive, manipulative relationships possible to imagine. Hickel forensically sets out the contours – the cuts and the bruises and the hectoring – of that relationship. And, crucially, the imbalance of power and profit inherent in it. On page 29 he writes: </p><blockquote>“…the World Bank, for example…profits from global South debt; the Gates Foundation, which profits from an intellectual-property regime that locks life-saving medicines and essential technologies behind outlandish patent paywalls; and Bono, who profits from the tax haven system that siphons revenues out of global South countries.”</blockquote><p> As is probably the way with any book anyone reads, there were some points where I wasn’t entirely nodding along. As someone who has spent a good chunk of my working life working for a large international NGO, I found the sweeping discussion of international NGOs and their work to be problematic. In pointing out (admittedly not unreasonably in some instances) how the communications of many NGOs entrench the ‘aid narrative’, the discussion skims over that so many of them campaign hard – and often effectively – against many dimensions of the system Hickel calls out as so insidious. Hickel does acknowledge this in an endnote, but I worry a reader who doesn’t diligently check every endnote would walk away with the impression NGOs are all working from the same mantra, one of heroic donor and grateful recipient. This is far from the case and Hickel himself draws on evidence Oxfam collated about the extent of inequality and wealth hoarded by billionaires, something that would have been impossible if NGOs like Oxfam weren’t proactively identifying that the economic configuration is a root cause of poverty and suffering. Moreover, many solutions Hickel offers are bolstered by the work of NGOs. Jubilee 2000, for example, had huge NGO backing, as do the efforts to end tax dodging, mobilisation against inequality, and of course the fair-trade movement. Many of these feature in Hickel’s five key areas for change, areas more likely to see success with continued, and perhaps bolstered, NGO involvement. As always, it is a matter of balance: help people survive the current system or change the system? I think there’s an urgent need for both. Helping people cope with the current challenges is vital, lifesaving work. Humanising the system is still worth it, anything else is cruel. But clearly, what is needed is also capacity and preparedness to look beyond supporting people’s immediate survival – and to call out the systemic reasons why so many people’s survival is in peril. These dual tasks may not necessarily be undertaken by the same people or even by the same organisation (and need not be covered simultaneously in the same book), but one without the other is not enough. Without the former people will die, and without the latter dying will carry on in the face of policies that should and can be changed. So I am left hoping that Hickel’s next project might be helping craft a new lexicon, one to replace the increasingly redundant notion of development. For example, his penultimate chapter is called ‘from charity to justice’ – a nice contrast between the two fundamentally different concepts. One system preservation. One that requires system transformation. The transformations Hickel identifies as most important in making that shift are debt resistance; global democracy; fair trade; just wages; and reclaiming the commons. These are as good a place as any to start (and others will of course have their own top five). What’s needed to get there is mobilisation and political action, together with connecting and amplifying the work already underway (read <a href="">here</a> about the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a new effort to do just that). This is a task that will be aided by the questions Hickel poses and the assumptions and orthodoxy he slays.</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 Katherine Trebeck Wed, 16 May 2018 08:15:54 +0000 Katherine Trebeck 117908 at The final chapter for North Sea oil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland’s oil should be left under the seabed</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By tom jervis - Flickr: Tyra East, CC BY 2.0,</span></span></span><br /><br />When I run into my old schoolmates from Kilry these days, the most common career path for those who haven’t stayed on their family farms is a job in the oil industry. The economy of Kilry, a sheep, cattle and tatty farming community at the foot of the Angus Glens, is tied almost as much to the fate of the fossil fuels under the North Sea as to the fertility of the soil underfoot. <br /><br />But in 2018 that’s not a good place to be. Falling prices have meant the collapse of employment in the oil industry and consequent chronic economic problems for the region.<br /><br />Seen from the perspective of those hit by the crash, this is a catastrophe. <br /><br />But from the wider point of view of the survival of the planet, any sign that the era of fossil fuel is approaching its end has to be good news. If, as I believe, leaving remaining North Sea oil under the seabed is the best option for everyone, the key question then becomes how to exit from local economic dependence on North Sea oil while ensuring replacement jobs for the local economy and a just transition. <br /><br />There are some precedents for choosing to leave fossil fuels in the ground. In 2007, the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa volunteered not to allow the extraction of oil from the Yasuni National Park if the international community were willing to pay his government half of the estimated value of the oil in the field – $3.6 billion. In other words, his small and impoverished country was offering to take on the loss of the other $3.6 billion in order to make their contribution to preventing dangerous climate breakdown. Unable to raise the money, however, he abandoned the scheme in 2013. Despite this, Yasuni is a powerful story for the environmental movement, because it highlights a different way of looking at tackling carbon emissions. Rather than framing pollution through the neoliberal language of supply and demand, it returns it to the essentially material question of geology and atmospheric physics.<br /><br />The basic mathematics of climate change put forward by Bill McKibben in 2012 was that, in order to remain within the maximum ‘safe’ level of warming – 2 degrees Celsius – the maximum amount of carbon dioxide that the world could afford to pour into the atmosphere was 565 gigatons, while the total amount of carbon in the known reserves of oil companies and oil-producing states was 2,795 gigatons. This meant that, to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown we had to decide which deposits to leave in the ground.<br /><br />It is clear that this kind of decision has to be made democratically: it cannot be left to the market, not least because the oil majors would go bankrupt if they had to take their fossil fuel reserves off their balance sheets. In the case of North Sea oil, therefore, it is the Scottish government that needs to take the lead on this issue.<br /><br />The UK Treasury has been heavily subsidised by North Sea oil since just before the beginning of the Thatcher era – a source of wealth that successive Westminster governments been largely squandered. The Treasury’s main response to the recent decline in oil revenues now that the bonanza is over has been to give tax cuts to oil companies. In his penultimate budget George Osborne cut the Petroleum Revenue Tax levied on oil and gas companies from 50 per cent to 35 per cent, and in his final budget he abolished the tax altogether. Yet the only objection from either Labour or the SNP to this free gift seemed to be on the grounds that the government hadn’t handed the companies enough. Kezia Dugdale, then leader of Scottish Labour, argued that what was needed was support to ‘make sure that essential infrastructure such as platforms and pipelines are not decommissioned early’; and SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie, though he complained about ‘the lack of strategic direction’, broadly welcomed the scheme. The aim of both parties continues to be for maximum extraction, with little attention given to alternatives, or to how manage the situation when the oil runs out.<br /><br />Perhaps they believed that the oil giants would use Osborne’s tax breaks to keep on their employees, or maintain their wages. But, unsurprisingly, and as the unions pointed out in 2016, oil companies did not pass on that relief to their workers, whose jobs were being slashed (though Shell’s chief executive did take the opportunity to increase his salary from €5.1 million to €8.3 million). Instead, the oil majors will use most of this windfall to finance looking for profit elsewhere – seeking new oil opportunities that the atmosphere cannot afford. <br /><br />The main debate today in Scotland is therefore between those who support government intervention to deliver a just transition away from the oil to other good jobs while leaving much of it in the ground, and those who call for the extraction of every last drop, and refuse to plan for what the workers might do next.<br /><br />As coal mining communities have discovered to their cost, the kind of long-term planning that is required to secure a just transition is anathema to neoliberalism. The free-market approach is to suck as much wealth as possible from the North East of Scotland, and then to walk away, leaving the community to do the costly work of figuring out what should happen next. <br /><br />In contrast to all this, the Scottish Greens have proposed large-scale government intervention to create the jobs needed to secure the mass switch to a low-carbon economy. Specifically, they suggest taking a 30-60 per cent stake in the smaller companies that are now buying up the rights to remaining North Sea oil reserves as the super-majors move on. This makes sense given that the state is already subsidising the industry; but, more importantly, it means that oilfield revenue can at first be used to finance the creation of alternatives, before being rapidly wound down. Scotland, after all, has more renewable energy capacity per person than most countries. <br /><br />The democratic processes required for such a switch will be difficult to deliver. Firstly there is the question of local organising: whereas coal miners inhabited geographical communities of solidarity, North Sea oil workers live – when they are onshore – all across the UK. However their unions have been successful in organising them, and must be given a key role in shaping the transition. Secondly, delivering such a strategy in Scotland always comes back to the same old question of whether Holyrood has the powers – without independence – to do what’s needed. Does a just transition depend on intervention from an uninterested UK government?<br /><br />The honest answer is that an increasingly powerful Scottish parliament could be doing more of this work than it currently does. And, with a minority SNP government often relying on the Greens for power once more, and looking over their left shoulder to an increasingly confident Labour Party, perhaps Sturgeon will decide that the fate of her party is tied to those of North Sea oil workers: it is possible that, if the SNP cannot deliver a rapid transition to the economy of the future, they will find themselves crashing to obscurity, much faster than they ever expected. <br /><br />But perhaps change is coming whatever the Scottish government decides to do. When I go back home these days, many of the old agricultural families – people whose ancestors have mostly likely been planting crops and herding livestock since the Neolithic revolution – are beginning to find that they can make more money from farming wind than sheep.</p><p><em>The full version of this article appeared in the latest issue of <a href="">Soundings: Grit, Oil and Grime.</a></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:52 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117895 at Back to the future with empire oil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A network of oil companies arond Mayfair, but registered in Britain's offshore tax-haven network, provides a snapshot of the new imperialism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// of London-Africa oil_Twitter_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// of London-Africa oil_Twitter_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="197" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image:</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I want the Britain of the future to be a truly Global Britain, which is a force for good in the world. Steadfast in upholding our values – not least our fierce commitment to protecting the natural environment.” PM Theresa May, January 2018</p><p dir="ltr">As Britain heads for an uncertain post-Brexit future, the prospect of a deregulated corporate global free-for-all operating from offshore accounts with damaging environmental impact is the nightmare envisaged by many. But that future may be closer than people realise.</p><p dir="ltr">DeSmog UK has identified a hub of a dozen companies based around Mayfair, drilling for oil in Africa, and making use of tax-havens in British overseas territories and crown dependencies such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Jersey.</p><p dir="ltr">This is Empire Oil, a neocolonial snapshot of the future simultaneously revisiting Britain’s Imperial past in countries such as Somaliland, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa - and forging a new path for Global Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">At the centre of it is the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), London’s junior stock exchange. AIM operates ‘light touch regulation’, leading it to be described as a ‘casino’. It’s a system where nominee advisors – or ‘nomads’ – can act as both regulators of the system and brokers, potentially creating serious conflicts of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">Companies are using London’s reputation as a financial powerhouse to raise funds, while taking advantage of rules that allow them to keep ownership details hidden in offshore accounts</p><p dir="ltr">This makes public scrutiny challenging and once again demonstrates the value of independent media. With no corporate-backing, DeSmog UK is free to pursue stories the mainstream press often shy away from.</p><p dir="ltr">Take for example Soma Oil and Gas, which was founded in 2013 by the former leader of the Conservative Party and now company chairman Michael Howard to pursue oil and gas opportunities in Somalia.</p><p dir="ltr">Since its creation in 2013, Soma Oil and Gas has changed its registration address five times in central London according to Companies’ House. In 2015, it was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud office (SFO) “in relation to allegations of corruption in Somalia”. In 2016, the SFO closed the case because of “insufficient evidence”. No charges were ever made.</p><p dir="ltr">Another company embroiled in controversy is London-based New Age African Global Energy – which was formed in Jersey in 2007 by Steve Lowden, an oil executive who had previously worked with Marathon Oil and Premier Oil.</p><p dir="ltr">The company is backed by US hedge-fund Och-Ziff, which had to pay more than $400 million (£295 million) in bribery settlements following an investigation by the US government that found the company had paid more than $100 million (£74 million) in bribes to government officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure natural resources deals and investments. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division Andrew J. Ceresney, said: “Och-Ziff engaged in complicated, far-reaching schemes to get special access and secure significant deals and profits through corruption.” A lawyer for Och Ziff told a federal judge presiding over the case in New York that “Och-Ziff has taken substantial remedial efforts to improve its compliance program to ensure something like this can never happen again”, Reuters reported.</p><p dir="ltr">DeSmog UK’s investigation does not identify illegal activity. However, the companies’ London residence combined with their use of tax havens and international activities raise serious questions about the UK’s commitment to being a global leader on environmental and corporate accountability issues.</p><p dir="ltr">The current system is allowing outsourced extraction in far-off lands by companies that are unregulated and untraceable.</p><p dir="ltr">The UK is one of 51 countries signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global scheme that compels oil, gas and mining companies to disclose any payments made to governments. But companies registered in crown dependencies and overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands do not have to make financial disclosures under the EITI.</p><p dir="ltr">Pressure is mounting to reform AIM.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, AIM itself called for submissions around proposed changes to its admission rules. AIM’s discussion paper included “consideration of further supervisory powers and sanctions to ensure consistency of standards across the market”.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to AIM, the NGO Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) called for “urgent action to halt the laundering of assets” and warned that the light regulation system needed to be scrapped in order to stop London attracting “dirty money”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">RAID’s submission, seen by DeSmog UK, stated: “It is highly doubtful that self-regulation, relying on private firms with vested interests as gatekeepers and designed to be ‘light touch’ will ever eliminate or even significantly reduce the use of AIM to launder assets and dirty money through London.”</p><p dir="ltr">AIM subsequently announced a series of minor changes to its listing process, none of which faced the structural reforms campaigners had called for to transform its system. It currently seems inconceivable that such a volatile and profitable forum will reform itself.</p><p dir="ltr">Such a move would have to come from government, but that also seems unlikely given wild rhetoric about Britain’s golden future as a global trading nation.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, the government was defeated in the UK parliament when MPs voted through a new amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which would require 14 British overseas territories to publish registers of beneficial ownership by 2020 or face having them imposed.</p><p dir="ltr">Campaigners have seen the vote as a sign the mood may be changing over corporate openness and transparency.</p><p dir="ltr">But for now it seems that Empire Oil is London’s dirty secret, and it's back to the future for Mayfair’s money boys.</p><p>Read the full special investigation <a href="">here</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/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</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. Mike Small Tue, 15 May 2018 09:31:52 +0000 Mike Small 117891 at Why the Sainsbury's-Asda merger is bad news for everyone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The 'mega merger' is a perfect illustration of the accelerating race to the bottom in the grocery retail sector.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Sainsbury’s-Asda merger is a perfect illustration of the accelerating race to the bottom in the grocery retail sector. It was a bombshell, and unless the rules – on competition, planning, environment and worker and consumer protection – are greatly enhanced and effectively applied, a significant part of society is likely to be badly hurt by this <a href="">‘mega merger’</a>. Combined with Liam Fox’s new UK trade deals, it could mean our shelves being flooded with obesity-fuelling Twinkies and more farmers going bust after Brexit. To avoid such an outcome, the government must decide whether it actually wants to nurture affordable and high quality food, good jobs and healthier waistlines. To recap: Sainsbury’s is likely to become Britain’s biggest supermarket after <a href=";newsid=1004098">agreeing a deal</a> with Asda’s owner, Walmart, to buy it out. Walmart will then own 42% of the new mammoth, which will then control around a third of the UK grocery market share. Tesco has around 27%. The two companies involved have ‘suggested’ that food prices could fall by up to 10% on some popular items if the deal is approved, and they have also pledged not to close stores or lay off store staff. That sits in the realm of the unbelievable. Somebody, somewhere will always have to pay. The way in which the news of this buy out was greeted was notable. In an urgent Parliamentary debate, Business Minister Andrew Griffiths more or less gave it <a href="">the government’s blessing</a>, saying that many high street names have been lost in recent years and that it is just “<em>two businesses trying to get ahead of the curve and future-proof themselves in a very challenging market</em>”. In response to one MP’s concerns about loss of stores in his constituency, the minister responded by saying that “<em>the honourable member is spoiled for choice</em>”. Spoilt! At least some <a href="">MPs are</a> concerned and on the case. Other commentators felt this was all but inevitable in the face of new competition from Aldi and Lidl, as well as Amazon’s entry into grocery retail with its buy out of Wholefoods (and Amazon itself was seen recently <a href="">circling around Waitrose</a>). Yet there was also a resigned sigh about our pitiable competition law – the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority won’t have the teeth to stop such a blatant breach of what should be the cornerstone of our competition regulations. The <a href="">Tesco-Booker buy out</a>&nbsp;already proved that. But maybe planning regulations can keep retail diversity in the high street, or make sure the supermarkets contribute to communities? Forget it. The catastrophic impact which this deal could have on whole swathes of society is being ignored, including 330,000 workers and thousands of farmers facing even fewer powerful buyers and more squeezed prices. Then there are the millions of customers who will have less choice over what and where to buy, and who will walk along ever more ghostly high streets. The supermarkets claim that they can slash prices without cutting jobs. Let’s be clear: that cut will have to come from somewhere, namely the farmers and growers and others in the supermarket supply chain. Supplier care should be top of mind. We need to have a diverse supplier network – from UK food producers to global fashion suppliers – paid enough to be able to pay workers well and to grow the raw materials safely and sustainably, with high standards of safety and human and animal welfare. The <a href="">New Economics Foundation</a> have done some preliminary, and probably highly conservative, calculations of supply chain jobs losses. They found that a 5% cut in the price paid to these suppliers could lead to a loss of more than1,200 jobs in the UK, while a 10% cut could lead to a loss of up to 2,500 jobs. The knock-on costs in the communities where these suppliers buy their services or send their children to school are as yet unknown. The report out today from the UK’s labour enforcement agencies <a href="">on worker abuse and slavery</a> shows that we are already going backwards in terms of worker protection. Supermarket supply chains are one of the problems. The Sainsbury’s-Asda merger just reinforces the urgent need to address the acute lack of fairness in grocery supply chains. Yes, we have an <a href="">adjudicator overseeing</a> the top grocery retailers to check they don’t breach the Groceries Code of Practice. It’s good, but it covers only direct suppliers, not those – such as farmers – who supply food via intermediaries. It was very <a href="">disappointing</a> that this was not rectified by the government in 2018, which they could easily have done, to protect farmers against unfair trading practices and the uncertainties associated with Brexit. Even so, the Groceries Code of Practice does not tackle prices and costs transparency. Less and less of the value we consumers pay in the shops is reaching those who need it. That needs to change. Many food suppliers are already struggling to make a profit, and are facing uncertainties ahead with Brexit. New international trade deals that may undercut their costs and compromise standards. Do we really want more meat scandals, slavery, miserable animals and environmental harm in our food system? Sainsbury’s and Asda say the merger will “<em>create significant opportunities for suppliers to develop differentiated product ranges, become more streamlined and to grow their businesses as the combined business grows</em>.” Some <a href="–-sainsbury’s-merger-threat-or-opportunity">suggest the higher standards</a>&nbsp;of one company could bring the other company up. I’m not convinced. I don’t have space here to detail the many systemic ways in which both companies fail to deliver on environmental, social and animal welfare promises. But two things need to happen: </p><ol> <li>Alternatives are desperately needed and should be actively nurtured. This means ensuring that new food enterprises can access capital, business support and advice, and that local planning and investment decisions favour diverse retail developments and support <a href="">new community models</a> like Community Supported Agriculture, food co-ops and Better Food Traders. It also means helping farmers to be better at marketing and finding new markets, including being able to access the overly complex public procurement systems for schools and hospitals, care homes and the armed forces. As the <a href="">National Farmers Union (NFU) has suggested</a>, the public purse can and should support local and sustainable suppliers.</li> <li>Competition rules must be strengthened, and assessments should be based on the public interest not just on choice and price. Any merger should be judged against more than just short-term consumer interest, and should consider a wider range of issues including supplier welfare, workers and impact on local retail. The Competition and Markets Authority must do more than ask for a few stores not to be sold off and assess a wider breadth of impacts, but right now it is not able to do so. We need more analysis from BEIS and Defra, as well as parliamentary inquiries and action. Finally, we need to establish a regulator to complement the Groceries Code Adjudicator and support fair trading practices along the whole of groceries supply chains.</li> </ol><p> Without the twin approaches of nurturing diversity and curbing dominance, the race to the bottom will leave most of us poorer.</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 Vicki Hird Tue, 15 May 2018 08:14:10 +0000 Vicki Hird 117890 at How a DUP-linked company is selling its version of Northern Irish peace to the brutal rulers of Bahrain — and the British taxpayer is paying for it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British Foreign Office paid two Northern Irish bodies — one linked to the DUP — &nbsp;to “whitewash” the Bahraini government as it tortured, raped and killed pro-democracy activists.</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'>Riot police and army forces supported by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter storm Pearl Roundabout, Manama, Bahrain, 16 March 2011. By Bahrain in pictures -, CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span>In 2015, the Dubai-based <em>Arabian Business</em> published a glowing article about an initiative to promote peace and reconciliation in Bahrain. Representatives of the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse — a body set up in the wake of the government’s brutal crackdown on Arab Spring protesters — had held a series of meetings with the Belfast-based Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution, <em>Arabian Business</em> reported. The Bahraini group’s chairman said he believed his country “has a lot to learn from Northern Ireland”. The Northern Irish group’s chairman is Jeffrey Donaldson — a senior MP of the Democratic Unionist Party, who actively opposed the Good Friday Agreement that ended the armed conflict in Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">Not every review of this project is as positive. Today, human rights group Reprieve has called for the Northern Irish Assembly to conduct an independent inquiry into the work of both the Causeway Institute and its partner in the Bahrain project, Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas, which is owned by Invest NI — a public body. </p><p dir="ltr">Reprieve accuses both firms of ‘whitewashing’ the Bahraini regime as it tortured, raped and executed pro-democracy activists.</p><p dir="ltr">The Northern Irish companies were not the only United Kingdom bodies at work in Bahrain in the aftermath of the crackdown. They were part of a major initiative in the Gulf kingdom from the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) itself. It followed the killing of dozens of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain during the Arab Spring in 2011. The international community had reacted with condemnation, and the Bahraini government had said that it was addressing the allegations of human rights violations. Hence British experts would work with Bahraini forces to train them in human rights compliance.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then the FCO has spent £5m of the British overseas aid budget to train police officers and prison guards, and to help establish investigatory bodies in Bahrain. But over that time, as Reprieve details in its report <a href=""><em>Training Torturers: The UK’s role in Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on dissent</em></a>, Bahrain’s human rights record has actually got worse. Much worse.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of people on the country’s death row has tripled while the British government has been working in Bahrain. Last year, three anti-government prisoners were executed after sham trials, ending a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty. There have been sustained allegations of torture in detention and coerced confessions. It is in this context that lessons from Northern Ireland are being delivered by a company set up by Jeffrey Donaldson. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Bahrain’s Northern Irish connection</h2><p dir="ltr"> The Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution (CIPCR) was established by Jeffrey Donaldson and his brother Kingsley, a former British army officer. The company describes its aim “to resolve conflicts in divided and disparate communities — both in Northern Ireland and other conflict zones across the globe”. Its goal, says Kingsley, is to share the lessons of the Northern Irish peace process “warts and all.”</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2011, Causeway has worked with the FCO in conflict regions around the world, including Moldova, Colombia, Ukraine and Afghanistan. Causeway’s work in Bahrain followed a visit Jeffrey Donaldson made there in 2012. The next year he facilitated meetings with a Bahraini delegation in Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland’s devolved legislature.</p><p dir="ltr">Causeway was hired by the FCO to work with non-governmental organisations and Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights. The company, which has also worked in Moldova, Colombia, Ukraine and Afghanistan, facilitated a number of visits for Bahraini delegations to Belfast to “learn the lessons from Northern Ireland”. But Reprieve’s report has found that Causeway trained groups that have publicly endorsed the executions of anti-government protesters.</p><p dir="ltr">What of the other Northern Irish organisation working for the FCO in Bahrain? Between 2013 and 2017, Northern Ireland Overseas Co-operation (NI-CO), which is owned by the government-funded development agency Invest NI, was paid around £1.5m to train Bahrain’s police and prison service and to help establish the kingdom’s state-run torture investigation unit.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Difficult message training’</h2><p dir="ltr"> The training NI-CO delivered included instruction on how to tell grieving family members of individuals killed by police in custody that officers accused of involvement in their deaths will not be prosecuted. In January 2016, NI-CO brought Bahraini officers to Belfast, to give them “difficult message training”, including “how prosecutors handle media contacts in difficult cases”, according to Freedom of Information requests cited in Reprieve’s report. NI-CO coordinated a meeting between the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman and the Bahraini visitors, who expressed specific interest in a case where a Northern Irish police officer was cleared over a shooting.</p><p dir="ltr">During a study visit to Belfast in the lead-up to a republican parade, officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland briefed a Bahraini delegation on community intelligence-gathering and on how to use dogs and water cannon. Just weeks later, Bahraini police located, arrested and tortured Ali al-Singace, a teenage protester who had been in hiding. He was later executed.</p><h2 dir="ltr"> Answers needed</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that of 138 cases referred to Bahrain's torture investigation unit, only one was successfully prosecuted. United Nations human rights experts have accused the Bahraini monarchy of “a clear pattern of criminalising dissent in Bahrain”.</p><p dir="ltr">Reprieve has called for the Northern Irish assembly to establish an inquiry into what the Northern Irish organisations did in Bahrain. “Serious questions remain about the activities of NI-CO and Causeway staff in Bahrain, including whether they were present inside of specific detention facilities at specific times when torture is known to have taken place,” says Reprieve director Maya Foa. “It is crucial that Stormont and the public know precisely what mistakes were made and how they can be avoided in the future.”</p><p dir="ltr">The call for an inquiry has been backed by Brice Dickson, a human rights specialist at Queen’s University Belfast and a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. "If there is a suspicion that NI-CO and Causeway are propping up a regime that is abusing human rights than there should be an inquiry into that,” Dickson said.</p><p dir="ltr">“You don't want to give credibility to these repressive regimes. On the one hand you have to engage if you want to influence them. But whether than justifies spending £1.5m and sending Northern Irish delegations to Bahrain is a different question."</p><p dir="ltr">Both NI-CO and Causeway stopped working in Bahrain in 2017.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Selling the peace </h2><p dir="ltr">NI-CO and Causeway’s work in Bahrain also raises the question of how much the Northern Ireland peace process is being ‘sold’ around the world. Some of those working for NI-CO in Bahrain were senior former police officers and security forces in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">Causeway employs some of the same unionist politicians that most vociferously opposed the Good Friday Agreement. Jeffrey Donaldson eventually left the Ulster Unionist Party in 2003 because of its support for the agreement, joining the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). &nbsp;On its website Causeway says that it works according to the “‘Mitchell Principles of Democracy and Non-Violence’ that were central to the Northern Ireland Peace Process," which they say "could be applied in full or in part to other conflicts”. And yet the DUP boycotted the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.</p><p dir="ltr">The Donaldson brothers and DUP MPs Ian Paisley Junior and Emma Little Pengelly, who was a special adviser to the DUP’s then-first minister Peter Robinson, set up another company to give peace-building advice to overseas governments and organisations. <a href="">Qubric</a> described itself as "a social company" with any profit going towards "supporting projects in working-class Protestant areas". Qubric does not appear to have done any significant work, though Paisley has made <a href="">repeated trips</a> to Sri Lanka, another country divided by a recent civil war.</p><p dir="ltr">Kingsley Donaldson says that his brother’s involvement in peace-building work with Causeway is yet another example of the evolution of the Northern Irish process.</p><p dir="ltr">“To be fair to Sir Jeffrey, his work over the last 20 years has all been about peace-building. Just because you find flaws in a piece of legislation doesn’t mean you are opposed to peace,” he says.</p><p dir="ltr">But others in Northern Ireland have expressed disquiet about companies such as Causeway ‘selling the lessons of peace’ around the world. Jeffrey Donaldson is UK trade envoy to Egypt, another repressive regime. Earlier this year, another Reprieve report criticised NI-CO’s role in setting up juvenile courts in Egypt, which included the provision of ‘waterproof chairs for children’. </p><p dir="ltr">In Bahrain, the engagement of Northern Irish bodies was very positively reported in local media as evidence that abuses were being curbed. When Pauline McCabe, a former prisoner ombudsman in Northern Ireland and NI-CO trainer, wrote <a href="">an op-ed in the Irish Times</a> entitled “Bahrain deserves a chance to prove itself on human rights”, a pro-government news website in Bahrain ran another article, featuring McCabe’s picture, under the headline “RIGHTS CRITICS WRONG!”</p><p dir="ltr">Human rights groups say that the involvement of NI-CO and Causeway amounts to whitewashing the Bahrain regime. “The principal outcome of NI-CO's work has been to whitewash Bahrain's brutal crackdown on dissent and deflect international attention from the kingdom's human rights abuses,” says Reprieve director Foa.</p><p dir="ltr">“UK government training to Bahrain, carried out by NI-CO and Causeway, has done nothing but provide the regime with another layer of impunity. With help from the UK, the Bahraini government is now better positioned to whitewash its human rights violations. Bahrain has been emboldened and is now sentencing more people to death than at any time in its modern history. It is critical that the UK and Northern Irish governments stop providing cosmetic assistance that achieves nothing beyond deflecting crucial international scrutiny from Bahrain's abysmal — and worsening — human rights record,” said Sayed Alwadaei, who is the director of advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Kingsley Donaldson said he could understand why Reprieve was looking for greater transparency but he felt that his work in Bahrain had been valuable. “I’m not surprised that people would want to understand more but I’m not uncomfortable with what Causeway was doing in Bahrain and how we did it,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokeswoman for NI-CO said: “NI-CO worked on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Bahrain from 2013 until 2017. For as long as NI-CO continues to work within the auspices of these programmes, NI-CO will continue to deliver programmes, sharing the relevant learnings and experiences of Northern Ireland to change attitudes, culture and behaviour, ultimately to align countries such as Bahrain with relevant international standards.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</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 North-Africa West-Asia uk Brexit Inc. DUP Dark money Peter Geoghegan Mon, 14 May 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 117880 at An open letter to UK university lecturers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whether it’s the restructuring of lecturers' pensions in the UK or the introduction of selective entrance requirements to French universities — the struggle is one and the same.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><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'>"No to education on the cheap!" Students and teachers demonstrate between Montparnasse station and Ecole Militaire joining railway workers in solidarity. Paris, France, May 3, 2018. Boivin Samuel/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>To lecturers in the UK,</p> <p class="BodyA">This is about the future of higher education and the vision of society it necessarily implies.</p> <p class="BodyA">As academics and students in France, we extend our solidarity to you. To the lecturers facing uncertainty regarding their pensions, to the young academics starting their careers in conditions of utmost precarity, and to the students supporting them, we send this simple message: keep going. The strikes may be over, but the struggle is not.</p> <p class="BodyA">In France, this spring has seen a wave of blockades ripple across universities in opposition to Macron’s proposed higher education reforms: Angers, Bordeaux-Montaigne, Lille-2, Lille-3, Lyon-2, Metz, Montpellier, Nancy, Paris-1, Paris-3, Paris-4, Paris-8, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulouse, and beyond. The government is in the process of implementing a selective system that would put an end to the right of school-leavers to freely choose their studies. </p> <p class="BodyA">We consider this a first step on the road to a more competitive, neoliberal model of higher education: much like what has already been implemented in the UK. This is but one strand of Macron’s authoritarian neoliberalism: we stand shoulder to shoulder with the striking workers at the SNCF and La Poste, as well as with migrants facing down a draconian new immigration law.</p> <p class="BodyA">We are fighting not only to defend a free, public, open higher education system, but to further extend these principles. In Paris-8, a group of migrants and students began occupying a campus building in January to escape the cold weather. They are still there, and are currently negotiating enrolment with the university, a position from which the right to remain would be easier to obtain. </p> <p class="BodyA">This is a powerful example of how a movement can begin to open and expand free, public education beyond borders. We send this message of solidarity to you in the hope of strengthening such international dimensions of the struggle for higher education.</p> <p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p> <p class="BodyA"><strong>In solidarity,</strong></p> <p class="Default">Danielle Perrot-Corpet, Maître de conférences en littérature comparée.</p> <p class="Default">Gabriel Bristow, Masters Student.</p> <p class="BodyA">Marie Sorel, MCF littérature.</p> <p class="BodyA">Serge Martin, Professeur en langue et littérature françaises.</p> <p class="BodyA">Xavier Garnier, Professeur de littératures française et francophones.</p> <p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK France Paris literature lecturers in solidarity' Mon, 14 May 2018 13:36:46 +0000 Paris literature lecturers in solidarity' 117811 at Afghan interpreters: belonging on the battlefield, exclusion from the nation? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recent Windrush migration scandal poignantly illustrated the tensions between people’s sense of belonging to a country, societal recognition of that belonging, and legal status and access to social rights.<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'>An Afghan interpreter with two Afghan citizens/wikimedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last week the Home Office announced that it will <a href="">waive the indefinite leave to remain fee for resettled former Afghan interpreters</a> and other Locally Engaged Civilians (LEC) who supported the British army; this follows the example of the fee waiver for the Windrush generation and their families announced last month. Afghan interpreters and the Windrush generation share further commonalities. The majority of the West Indians on board of the MV Empire Windrush <a href="">were veterans who fought for Britain in the Second World War</a>. </p> <p>The support from the Home Secretary and Defence secretary for the fee waiver is extremely welcome. Also welcome was their effective and swift coordination on an issue that indeed requires cross-Government responsibility, as MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee noted when he recently provided evidence on the case of Afghan interpreters to the Defence Select Committee. Now it is important to recognise and address the wider challenges facing former LEC; both in their protection and subsequent settlement. </p> <p>The recent Windrush migration scandal has illustrated poignantly the tensions that can arise between people’s sense of belonging to a country, the societal recognition of that belonging, and their legal status and access to social rights. The Windrush West Indians are intrinsically intertwined with Britain’s colonial legacy, yet before substantial political and media pressure forced the Government to recognise this, this intertwinement offered little guarantee for the social rights associated with citizenship. The former local interpreters and other local staff who supported British military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, have also received wide societal appreciation of their relationship with Britain, as evidenced in <a href="">the many grassroots petitions</a> in support of them, yet face challenges in relation to their protection and settlement. </p> <p>Afghan and Iraqi Locally Engaged Civilians (LEC), as they are collectively called, were not soldiers but civilians who chose to work alongside British soldiers, performing essential tasks in and outside military bases, in Embassies and humanitarian projects. In a poignant speech last Monday, on April 30, MP David Lammy recalled the colonial relation between Britain and the Caribbean Windrush generation, powerfully captured in the phrase ‘<a href="">We are here, because you were there</a>’. &nbsp;Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and other local staff are also in Britain, because British troops were in Afghanistan and Iraq. </p> <p>The close association of Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and other local staff with the western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq not only carried risks during their employment, but haunts them to this day. They are an explicit target for insurgent forces who consider them ‘tongues of the enemy’, ‘infidels’ and ‘traitors’, forcing LEC to turn to the countries that employed them, for protection and support. </p> <p>My ongoing research with former LEC and their advocates identified a range of challenges and policy gaps. Resettled former interpreters and those who individually claimed asylum face very different conditions. Will the recently announced fee waiver also apply to those interpreters who were forced to claim asylum in the UK, since they did not fall under the extremely narrow criteria of <a href="">the ex-gratia redundancy resettlement scheme</a>? </p> <p>Will they provide traumatised LEC with similar mental health support as offered to ex-service men and women? </p> <p>Those lucky enough to make it to Britain put great value on financial independence and their contribution to society. Many are exceptionally well-educated and fluent in English, keen to continue their education or work as cultural mediators. However, settlement to the UK’s rural areas with very little employment chances or university fees form insurmountable barriers. Many also feel disillusioned by the lack of recognition for their work. Will the government officially acknowledge the essential role of local interpreters and the risks they took? </p> <p>The <a href="">oral evidence provided to the UK Parliament Defence Select Committee</a> in November 2017, <a href="">and in February 2017</a>, by expert witnesses from the veteran, Afghan LEC, media, political and academic communities, offers a rich resource of information to the Government of persisting inadequacies relating to the settlement and protection of LEC. </p> <p>The <a href="">Sulha network</a>, campaigning for the rights of Afghan Interpreters who have served with the British Army, eloquently expressed remaining concerns. Best practices in other countries can also be a source of inspiration for further policy development. In <a href="">California the State Assembly recently passed a bill</a> that provides their former local staff with resident tuition rates and fast-tracks them for hiring by the state. In Germany, the equivalent of the MoD set up a mentor programme matching active military and reservists with former Afghan locally employed staff as a way to provide additional support with finding housing, employment, and a social network.</p> <p>David Lammy repeated in his Windrush speech the famous appeal ‘<a href="">Am I Not a Man and a Brother?</a>’ The <a href="">work of veterans in support of LEC</a> and the many selfies of grinning British soldiers with their trusted interpreters that interviewees showed me, are testimony to the sense of brotherhood that many soldiers ascribe to the local Afghan and Iraqis who enabled their work. </p> <p>While LEC see themselves as ‘double patriots’, in the apt words of Colonel (Rtd) Simon Diggins OBE, former British Defence Attaché in Kabul, serving both Afghanistan or Iraq and Britain, once their employment ended, they found that their belonging was fractured and conditional. Many felt discarded, thrown away, and dehumanised; treated with less care than military equipment. Let’s hope that the decision to waive the indefinite leave to remain fee for resettled former Afghan interpreters is just one of many further steps to recognise their humanity, their needs and contributions. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Afghanistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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 Afghanistan Iraq Sara de Jong Sat, 12 May 2018 19:52:37 +0000 Sara de Jong 117855 at Tackling the housing crisis with Urban Land Trusts <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How a new approach to managing public land can support the next generation of social housing.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The most urgent problem facing the next generation is the unaffordability of housing.&nbsp; Although any solution will involve several elements, a central feature must be a major increase in public investment in social housing. To be effective, changes to housing policy must be sustained over the long-term and command wide public support to ensure they will be implemented by whichever political party is in power. In our new report, <a href="">‘Remodelling Capitalism: How Social Wealth Funds could transform Britain’</a>, we propose a radical expansion of the role of the state to ensure that future increase in housing supply, especially of social housing. We believe the state should be primarily responsible for ensuring there is enough land available for future housing development, building on the huge reservoir of land already owned by the public estate. The aim would be to ensure that land for public housing was available across the country, and to increase the overall supply of development land so as to reduce the cost of land, now a key element in the explosive growth of house prices. Over the past 40 years the UK has sold off public land valued at around £400bn, but still retains considerable holdings. Although exact figures are hard to come by, the best estimate is that the UK public authorities currently own about 750,000 hectares, with two thirds owned by local authorities and public bodies like the NHS and the other third owned by central government. Our proposal aims to create a series of regional or urban land trusts, based on consolidating and professionally managing the portfolio of existing publicly owned land suitable for development. The trusts would then hold and own this land in perpetuity. The primary aim of these regional land trusts would be to ensure that society retains what is left of publically owned &nbsp;land and uses it to build the next generation of social housing, as well as other suitable developments such as social infrastructure. All public sector owners could, should they choose, transfer their operational land and property assets into the trusts. This would enable the trusts to coordinate the management of all the public land. The local trusts could acquire additional parcels of land suitable for housing by purchasing them at existing use value. Land unsuitable for social housing, or public land in regions without demand for social housing, could be leased to the market for private housing, as well as commercial and retail development. The lease arrangement (with the income accruing to the trust ) would enable the trusts to ensure that they retain control over the character of the private developments, including the provision of adequate infrastructure and inclusion of social provision. The trusts could also specify conditions regarding maximum rent levels, maximum rent increases and/or minimum levels of security of tenure.&nbsp; It would also include provisions for the forfeiture of land for non-compliance with the conditions stipulated in the lease. The trusts would also have the power to borrow in order to acquire land, secured against its existing land portfolio, and could be given powers to acquire land banks that are being held by private developers who are not currently building housing on these plots. Any rental income from social housing and leasing income from commercial and retail development would be used by the land trust to meet the financial obligations it incurred through borrowing to build the housing. Any additional capital would be ploughed back into the trust to further assist it in meeting its prime objective of building social housing. Where the demand for social housing has been met, the money would be ring-fenced to pay for future land acquisition and housing development. The trusts would be bound by a number of core principles. Firstly although they would be established by the state they would operate independently of it. An independent board, which would include local people, would manage the governance of the trust and ensure that it met its social purpose and protect the assets in perpetuity from misappropriation. The day-to-day management of the trust would be conducted by property management professionals. The title to all the publicly owned land suitable for development would be transferred to the trusts at no cost to itself or the previous owner, which would be granted temporary stamp duty relief. The urban land trust would retain ownership in order to ensure that it can develop land itself, as well as leasing land at an agreed rent for development. As it expands its land and property holdings it will generate additional income through rental and leasing income. One of the fundamental challenges with building good quality social housing is the high cost of the land. Land now makes up the largest proportion of the cost of housing in many areas (up to 70% in some areas <a href="">compared</a> to just 1% for New Town developments such as Milton Keynes or Harlow). Building on land already in public ownership will allow the regional/urban land trusts to build social housing without needing to take into account the cost of the land. This will cut the cost of building substantially and means that the development will start to generate profit faster than private developments which also need to make back the cost paid for the land. Utilizing the existing land that the regional/urban land fund owns, together with the newly acquired land at existing use value, should result in increased availability of housing, especially social housing, as well as dramatically lowering the cost of acquiring land for the trusts. The advantage of adopting a local approach to this type of social wealth fund is that it is likely to get local buy-in, and could be implemented on a piecemeal basis, and would show results without waiting for many years for national social wealth funds to accumulate.</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 Housing Rights Duncan McCann Fri, 11 May 2018 09:25:38 +0000 Duncan McCann 117827 at Why does Britain keep rolling out its monarchy to impress tyrants? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">For decades the UK monarchy has been wheeled out to impress human rights abusers to whom Britain is keen to sell arms. This weekend, it’s Bahrain’s turn.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// bahrain.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// bahrain.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Queen Elizabeth and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at last year's Royal Windsor Horse Show. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p class="Standard">“<em>I believe that the links and knowledge, the experience and the friendships that have been built up over the last hundred years still stand us in good stead today, and will do in the future</em>.” <a href="">These were the warm words</a> of Queen Elizabeth when she hosted a banquet to welcome King Abudllah of Saudi Arabia in 2007. At the time of the visit the <a href="">Saudi authorities had been accused</a> of widespread torture, abuses and executions.</p> <p class="Standard">11 years later she provided <a href="">an equally warm greeting</a> for Mohammad Bin Salman, the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. During a three day visit to London this March he received the reddest of red carpet visits: enjoying lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, photos on the steps of Downing Street and <a href="">d</a><a href="">inner with Prince William and Prince Charles</a> at Clarence House. Amidst the mutually fawning photographs, the Crown Prince’s visit was widely protested due to his central role in the ongoing destruction of Yemen.</p> <p class="Standard">This weekend it will be the turn of Bahraini Royalty to enjoy the Queen’s hospitality: with the regime descending on Windsor for the Royal Windsor Horse Show. The delegation is likely to be led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who has been a regular attendee of the show and whose government <a href="">is sponsoring one of the events</a>.</p> <p class="Standard">The hosts will pull out all the stops to ensure that King Hamad and his entourage enjoy the event, but more important to their guests will be the propaganda coup they’ll gain from it. The images of the Queen and King Hamad will be broadcast all over the world and will send a very clear message of support.</p> <p class="Standard">For decades now, the UK Monarchy has been used as a diplomatic device to impress despots, tyrants and human rights abusers. <a href="">Past guests include</a> Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, Vladamir Putin, Robert Mugabe, President Suaharto of Indonesia among others. In 2012 the Diamond Jubilee <a href="">was attended by</a> the King of Swaziland and reps from Kuwait, Jordan, Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others.</p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Arms sales and Royalty</strong></p> <p class="Standard">The Royal family isn’t just used to offer prestige, it has also been used to promote trade and, more specifically, arms sales. The regimes that the Queen and her family are used to entice are many of the same ones that the government is directly lobbying for arms sales and military support.</p> <p class="Standard">Bahrain, for example, is listed as one of the governments ‘<a href="">priority markets</a>’ for arms sales: with successive UK governments having licensed <a href=";use=military&amp;date_from=2011-02&amp;date_to=2017-09">over £80million worth of arms</a> to the Bahraini military since the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising in 2011.</p> <p class="Standard">In 2015 Prince Charles said he would <a href="">no longer let himself be used</a> to promote arms deals. This followed the controversy generated by his appearance at the <a href="">al Janadriyah cultural festival</a> in Saudi Arabia, which was sponsored by BAE Systems. While at the event Charles even took part in a traditional Saudi dance, which took place <a href="">24 hours before</a> BAE, the UK government and Saudi forces agreed a final price on a major fighter jet deal.</p> <p class="Standard">It wasn’t his first time acting as an ambassador for the arms industry. In a 1994 documentary Charles visited a Dubai arms fair, defending his presence on the basis that he was boosting UK trade, and if the UK didn’t sell the weapons then someone else would. Human rights journalist John Pilger <a href="">quoted the Prince</a> as boasting that “<em><a href="">We’re really rather good at making certain kinds of weapons</a>.”</em></p> <p class="Standard">Likewise, Prince Andrew has long been linked to arms promotion. Prior to his resignation from the role in 2011, Andrew worked as a Special Representative for Trade and Investment. In that role he was <a href="">linked to lobbying</a> for arms sales to Indonesia, Azerbaijan and a litany of other dictatorships.</p> <p class="Standard">Andrew also attended the Farnborough Airshow, a major showpiece of the UK arms industry, where he met senior figures from the Jordanian, Malaysian and Indian defence ministries. Wikileaks cables revealed that he was also close to the Saudi Royal Family and <a href="">criticised</a> the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE bribery.</p> <p class="Standard">Referring to Prince Andrew’s forays (although the point could easily be made about Royalty more general), a Royal spokesperson <a href="">told the Guardian</a>, <em>“He comes in as the son of the Queen and that opens doors that otherwise would remain closed. He can raise problems with a crown prince and four or five weeks later we discover that the difficulties have been overcome and the contract can be signed.”</em></p> <p class="Standard"><strong>Horses in Windsor and repression in Bahrain</strong></p> <p class="Standard">There is a human cost to this kind of cosy lobbying. The aftermath of last year’s Windsor Horse Show saw abuses inflicted the families of Bahrainis in the UK who planned to protest against the event. Bahraini security forces <a href="">detained the families</a> of three activists in a clear effort to intimidate and quash their opposition.</p> <p class="Standard">As one of those affected has said: <em>“<em>Before even reaching the Horse Show grounds, our family members were arrested and interrogated by security forces at the Muharraq Police Station. From there, they were forced to call us and warn us about what the consequences would be if we continued with our protests in the UK.</em>”</em></p> <p class="Standard">It has become a cliché to say that a picture speaks a thousand words, but the clear message this weekend’s images will send to people living under oppression in Bahrain is that their rights don’t matter. If the UK establishment cares about their human rights then it must finally end the arms sales and stop providing photo-ops and PR victories for those that are oppressing them.</p> <p class="Standard"><em><strong>Bahrainis in exile in the UK have called on human rights campaigners to protest in solidarity outside the horse show on Saturday 12th May. Find out more </strong><a href=""><strong>here</strong></a><strong>.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/husain-abdulla/bahrain-undeclared-martial-law">Bahrain: “Undeclared Martial Law”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/harry-blain/will-prince-charles%27-heartfelt-interventions-extend-to-arms-sales">Will Prince Charles&#039; &quot;heartfelt interventions&quot; extend to arms sales?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/fight-sports-diplomacy-bahrain-s-mma-venture-distracts-from-tension-human">Sports diplomacy: Bahrain’s martial arts venture distracts from human rights abuses </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sam-jones/prosecuting-politics-judicial-assault-on-bahrain-s-opposition">Prosecuting politics: the judicial assault on Bahrain’s opposition</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 North-Africa West-Asia uk Andrew Smith Fri, 11 May 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Andrew Smith 117801 at NHS data-sharing U-turn is welcome – but more to do to scrap the ‘hostile environment’ <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent attention to the Windrush scandal has focused attention on the many ways migrants are deterred from accessing healthcare. This Saturday, join NHS workers protesting that they are not border guards.</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="465" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Medact</em></p><p>The government has this week announced it will be <a href="">suspending “with immediate effect”</a> the controversial memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which NHS Digital<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;shared NHS patients’ details with the Home Office</a>.</p> <p>It’s a significant victory for the<a href="" target="_blank"> #StopSharing</a> campaign by Doctors of the World, the National AIDs Trust, and a host of others - including Docs Not Cops. Campaigners have been insisting that patients should not fear immigration enforcement when seeking NHS treatment. The policy – part of the ‘hostile environment’ - has stirred considerable controversy, with a legal challenge from <a href="" target="_blank">Migrants’ Rights Network legal challenge</a> due to be heard next month. MPs on the Commons Health Committee also voiced considerable concern after hearing a range of powerful testimony – including from Voices of Domestic Workers, who highlighted a case of a domestic worker who had&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">died of pneumonia 'too frightened' to access healthcare</a>.</p> <p>While suspension of this damaging data-sharing provides a rare moment to celebrate, and appreciate the impact campaigning can have, there are caveats and a good deal of context to bear in mind. Firstly, it is essential to emphasise that - thanks to regulations introduced through secondary legislation by Jeremy Hunt in October 2017 - patients will <em>still</em> be required to prove immigration status to&nbsp;access&nbsp;most hospital care. Such a requirement stops people receiving treatment, criminalises patients and makes healthcare workers complicit in racist policy. Further, the NHS is but one arena in which the government’s hostile environment operates - banks will still freeze your account if you're unlucky enough to end up on a Home Office wanted list, and Landlords are still required to check your passport if you're renting from them. The Prevent duty still places students – and patients – under suspicion, as highlighted by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">No Borders In Banks</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Unis Not Borders</a>&nbsp;amongst others.</p> <p>Another caveat is that the announcement on NHS data sharing came during a debate on the Data Protection Bill – however during the wider debate on the bill, an amendment which would have definitively scrapped the exemption that allows data protection rules to be broken for immigration purposes was defeated by 18 votes. And the suspension was also announced with a suggestion that in future the Home Office would still be “able to use the data-sharing mechanism to trace people who are being considered for deportation from Britain because they have committed a serious crime”. As Liberty and the National Aids Trust have already noted, the definition of “serious crime” here is vague to say the least.</p> <p>Corey Stoughton, advocacy director at Liberty said: “The government now admits it has been needlessly exploiting NHS patient data on a mass scale for minor immigration enforcement matters. They have undermined the confidentiality and trust at the heart of our healthcare system in the name of pursuing their hostile environment. We welcome the agreement to overhaul its practices and immediately curtail some data-sharing – but its language is worryingly vague. We need a cast-iron commitment that people will no longer have to fear immigration enforcement when seeking urgent medical care.”</p> <p>Any discussion of crime must acknowledge that those who are not white are more likely to be stopped, detained, prosecuted, and receive harsher sentences. Immediately it is clear that not everyone will be safe from data sharing - and instead of protecting people, and ensuring no-one is deterred from seeking treatment, the discussion is once again dragged toward distinctions between ‘good migrants’ and ‘bad migrants’, ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ people.</p> <p>As with much of the recent (and long overdue) media and political attention to the government’s ‘hostile environment’, people who can be deemed 'illegal' are once again dehumanised even by politicians opposing government policy. Labour’s&nbsp;Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, and for Climate Change,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Barry Gardiner recently told the BBC’s Daily Politics</a>&nbsp;"we have to make sure that those people who are in this country illegally are removed from this country... I'm very happy to see a target of the number of those people that we want to remove". When the BBC’s Nick Robinson asked the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry on the Marr Show</a>&nbsp;“Are you saying that you don’t want to see checks when people arrive in hospital for treatment that might cost tens of thousands of pounds – you don’t want to see whether they’re in fact illegal immigrants?”,&nbsp;Emily Thornberry replied “I don’t have a problem with checks being made”. It was disappointing that Thornberry made no attempt to query the premise of the question (where Robinson also suggested&nbsp;illegal migrants "take" jobs and houses from legal residents) or defend the principle that all should be able to access healthcare as a human right. It would have been easy for Thornberry to mention the public health risks entailed when denying people treatment – as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Public Health England have done</a>.</p> <p>This stance must change - as Luke de Noronha argues, “There are no sharp divisions between ‘legal migrants’ and citizens over here, working hard, paying taxes and playing by the rules, and the ‘illegal immigrants’ over there, sneaking around, stealing jobs and deceiving ordinary Brits. In fact, the law changes around people;&nbsp;<em>illegality is produced</em>&nbsp;in ways which create divisions within our families, communities and classrooms. We can only develop a stronger critique of the UK’s cruel immigration system if&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">we see Windrush migrants and ‘illegal immigrants’ as kin</a>, rather than as good and bad migrants to be isolated from one another.” No one should be made to feel undeserving of care.</p> <p>More positively, it is welcome that, responding to the suspension of data-sharing, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth noted yesterday “Theresa May has ignored warnings that the regulations on ID checks at hospitals are also damaging patient care” and added that "<a href="" target="_blank">The Government must now suspend these regulations while a full review is carried out</a>.” </p> <p>Having been making this case for months - indeed years - we are pleased to hear a senior opposition politician say:</p> <p>“This policy was yet another example of Theresa May’s heartless ‘hostile environment’ which is clearly undermining patient care. This U-turn is a victory for Labour MPs like Paul Williams and Luciana Berger, as well as the Health Select Committee. But the Government needs to go further. Today’s U-turn should only be the start. To protect the best interests of patients the Government must end Theresa May’s hostile environment entirely.”</p> <p>This is a welcome first step - Labour must now commit to scrap these regulations in their entirety, as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">we've argued on LabourList</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ahead of their 2017 conference on OurNHS openDemocracy</a>.</p> <p>Of course, responsibility lies with Jeremy Hunt. That’s why this Saturday 12th May we’re organising a twitter storm for International Nurses Day. This year the International Council of Nurses have chosen “<a href="" target="_blank">Nurses A Voice to Lead – Health is a Human Right</a>” as their theme. We agree with them that "healthcare should be accessible to all". The government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies go against this principle - making it more and more difficult for people to access the NHS services they need. It is now mandatory for NHS trusts to check people’s immigration status before providing secondary care and to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">charge upfront for treatment</a>&nbsp;where people are unable to prove their eligibility. And additionally, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Immigration Health Surcharge is set to be doubled</a>, despite pricing people out of visa applications at the rates introduced in 2014.</p> <p>Already these&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">policies are leading to discrimination and racial profiling</a>, to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">people being too scared to access the care they need</a>, and are&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">turning healthcare workers into border guards</a>.</p> <p>As health workers we are standing up for our patients and advocating for free, universal, non-judgemental healthcare. Ahead of International Nurses Day, a member who is a nurse has written of seeing the <a href="">fallout of these policies every day in A&amp;E</a>. Join Docs Not Cops in celebrating International Nurses day this Saturday (12 May) by telling Jeremy Hunt it’s time to end prohibitive healthcare charges for migrants, scrap ID checks in hospitals and community care, and time to kick the ‘hostile environment’ out of the NHS. Please tweet a selfie of you and your colleagues (ideally in uniform - but you don’t have to identify anyone) holding a sign saying “We treat patients not passports. I’m a Nurse not a border guard”. For more information go to:<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;</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/jess-potter/is-our-personal-data-fair-game-in-drive-to-create-theresa-may-s-hostile-environment-f">Is our personal data fair game in the drive to create Theresa May’s “hostile environment” for migrants?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Peter Pannier Fri, 11 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Peter Pannier 117807 at Can Ireland escape the influence of dark online advertising on its abortion referendum? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Google and Facebook will&nbsp;ban all foreign adverts targeting the vote, but we should be wary of patting Silicon Valley too hard on the back.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// the 8th.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// the 8th.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="373" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Mural in Dublin calling for a repeal of the 8th Amendment. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>The mood music sounds a bit better this time – at least for now. Both Google and Facebook have this week&nbsp;vowed to&nbsp;<a href="">ban ads from “foreign actors”</a>&nbsp;trying to influence Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum, after journalists and campaigners exposed how foreign and alt-right groups are funnelling unregulated cash into the campaign, and exploiting loopholes to&nbsp;<a href="">target Irish citizens via social media</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ireland currently has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws,&nbsp;denying women and girls access to terminations even in cases of rape or incest. Over the years there have been horrifying cases including the slow, painful death of a woman refused a&nbsp;<a href="">termination in hospital</a>&nbsp;even though she was miscarrying. But Ireland’s pro-life lobby has successfully vanquished almost all attempts at reform.</p> <p>The referendum on 25 May would change this: if the “repeal” motion passes, the government will be able to legislate on this issue, and proposes&nbsp;permitting abortion up to 12 weeks, or in cases where there is a risk to the life of the woman, a medical emergency or a fatal foetal abnormality. This would bring Ireland in line with some of Europe’s least permissive countries.</p> <p>The polls show the pro-choice vote slightly ahead, but it is&nbsp;<a href="">nail-bitingly close</a>, and the referendum has become a cause celebre for lobby groups across the world.&nbsp;There has long been speculation that&nbsp;<a href="">Irish pro-life groups have been generously funded by US sources</a>: the American anti-abortion lobby has deep pockets and a long history of resourcing fights against women’s reproductive rights across the world. (See this undercover report from<a href="">&nbsp;inside the global “pro-family” movement</a>&nbsp;released by 50.50, openDemocracy’s gender, sexuality and social justice section, last year.)</p> <p>What’s new, however, is that a number of the anti-abortion groups operating in Ireland are now deploying&nbsp;the same&nbsp;<a href="">technologies, companies, and even individuals</a>&nbsp;involved in the controversial data mining and targeting used in the Trump and Brexit campaigns.&nbsp;This includes working with senior pro-Leave figures, a consultant linked to Cambridge Analytica – and a company that built Trump’s America First app and previously worked for the US National Rifle Association.</p> <p>For the last 18 months, openDemocracy has been&nbsp;<a href="">investigating the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign</a>, and the groups that are now seeking to influence political processes in Britain and across the world. We aren’t doing this because we&nbsp;<a href="">have a pro or anti-Brexit agenda</a>, or any other political goals or allegiances, but because we believe it’s vital that citizens everywhere know who is shaping what they see and hear, and who has access to key information about their lives. Without this fundamental baseline of transparency, power is not accountable and elections and referenda – particularly tightly-fought contests – can be bought, or “managed”.</p> <p>Speaking in reaction to our findings so far in Ireland, global data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye told openDemocracy 50.50 that “voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this.”&nbsp;Although Irish law bans foreign donations to political campaigns, until now overseas campaigners have been able to spend potentially unlimited sums buying online adverts targeting Irish voters.</p> <p>In light of this, the moves announced by Google and Facebook this week to ban all foreign adverts aimed at Ireland’s referendum are a step in the right direction. But we should be wary of patting Silicon Valley too hard on the back. The regulation of the democratic process should not be outsourced to tech companies, whose primary concern is boosting share prices and avoiding negative headlines. Legislators need to act – fast.</p> <p>As in Britain, Irish election law is barely two decades old, but it comes from an era before social media and data-driven campaigning. While parties need to account for every poster printed and leaflet delivered, there is no such stricture on digital advertising. It also remains to be seen whether Google and Facebook’s new measures are at all workable – not least how they will be monitored and enforced. As the Brexit experience has shown, many such groups are&nbsp;<a href="">practiced at channelling money and resources through third parties</a>&nbsp;in order to circumvent disclosure laws and other restrictions.</p> <p>Ireland, says&nbsp;Gavin Sheridan of the Irish transparency campaign group Right to Know, badly needs a “broad ranging electoral law reform to bring us up to date with how campaigns are run in the 21st century.” There is political momentum gathering steam for this. But it won’t come quickly enough for this vital decision. In this close-fought battle over a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, there are only two weeks left. openDemocracy is working around the clock to bring more information to light. We will be breaking more stories about how information is being targeted and manipulated – and who’s paying for it. Our findings so far have raised a&nbsp;string of vital questions for modern democracies everywhere. There’s more to come – watch this space.</p> <p><em><span>This article first appeared in the New Statesman </span><a href="">here</a><span><span>.&nbsp;</span></span></em><em>Find out more about openDemocracy 50.50’s investigative series,&nbsp;<a href="">Tracking the Backlash, here</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="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isobel-thompson/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-brexit-trump-data-companies">How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</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="/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz">Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors?</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> 50.50 uk Mary Fitzgerald Fri, 11 May 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 117808 at Green and orange, sand and gold - an environmental free-for-all in Northern Ireland? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Neoliberal ideas about reconciliation, a formalisation of sectarian pork barrel politics, and political stasis, are all leaving a legacy of environmental destruction in some of Northern Ireland's most beautiful and important regions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// neagh.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// neagh.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: Lough Neagh. Credit: <a href="">Eskling/Flickr</a>, CC 2.0.</em></p><p>Where do you think the largest illegal landfill in Europe is? Hint: it’s also the place where there’s about to be a bonanza in metals mining, especially if Brexit continues along its current direction of travel. No? Here’s another, not-unrelated clue: it’s the part of the UK with the highest regional number of millionaires after London and Aberdeen, and with the lowest levels of discretionary income in the union.</p> <p>Where? Most people would be surprised to learn the answer is Northern Ireland.</p> <p>Something was missed in much of the fanfare surrounding the Good Friday Agreement’s recent anniversary – a much less palatable part of the Agreement’s legacy. A legacy of multiform extraction and neglect, and of austerity and mismanagement of resources, all of which have damaged the Peace Process as much as Brexit may do.</p> <p><strong>The case of Lough Neagh</strong></p> <p>While the cameras turned away from Northern Ireland once again following the commemoration week, fresh and damaging <a href="">revelations</a> have continued to emerge at the ongoing inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme – the scandal which Sinn Féin used to <a href="">collapse</a> the Northern Irish Assembly at the start of last year, despite it later emerging their <a href="">own hands</a> were dirtied by the botched ‘green’ initiative. At the core of the RHI scandal was over half a billion pounds worth of wasted public money, unfolding against the backdrop of almost a decade of austerity, a social housing crisis and widening inequality. The scandal’s impact was muffled somewhat by last year’s snap General Election and its aftermath, and other longer-running scandals have continued unnoticed.</p> <p>Take, for instance, the case of Lough Neagh. Bigger than Malta in surface area, it is the largest freshwater wetland in the UK and Ireland, and one of the largest in Europe, supplying Northern Ireland with around 40% of its water. The vast body of water is home to numerous protected species of flora and fauna (some of them unique), as well as the largest wild eel fishery in Europe. It is this precious shared resource (or ‘commons’, as some campaigners have it) which is being <a href="">ransacked</a> by an unregulated, decades-long sand extraction operation implicating several Stormont departments.</p> <p>Studies have shown that insects, snails, eels, and freshwater fish including a rare type of <a href="">pollan</a>, have all been damaged by the dredging’s impact on the Lough’s bed, while the number of overwintering ducks in the area has fallen by 75%. The sand sourced from the banks of the Lough generates substantial annual revenues for the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, who, through the recently-bequeathed Shaftesbury Estate, owns the theoretically-protected land. </p> <p>Lough Neagh sand has long been used in many major infrastructure builds within Northern Ireland itself and abroad (some of it purchased directly by government departments), with over 1.5 million tonnes now extracted annually. It was even used in the building of Stormont (well before the operation was judged unlawful). As with all varieties of this type of sand - mined extensively across the world for construction purposes - Lough Neagh’s took millions of years to get there and, environmentalists argue, is now in dire need of some <a href=";utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=nature&amp;utm_content=neagh_blog">breathing space</a>, with some estimates indicating that only 20 years of it remain at current extraction rates.</p> <p>Last June, Friends of the Earth won a significant victory in the Court of Appeal, prompting a review of the operation at Lough Neagh. The <a href="">ruling</a> found that a former Environment Minister had wrongly issued an Enforcement Notice instead of a Stop Notice at Lough Neagh, allowing companies to appeal and continue extracting sand pending the appeal’s outcome. For months after June’s authoritative judgment, Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure argued they could not enforce the Stop Notice, since there was no relevant Minister in place under the Stormont shutdown, before they finally announced in November that the decision and the review it entailed were “not expedient” according to “up-to-date environmental information” which they have never specified or made public. In light of this, Tanya Jones, Deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, told openDemocracy that the Lough Neagh scandal was a “perfect paradigm” representing the widespread, systematic failure of environmental governance in the country and constituting a “deep-rooted neglect of our landscape and our health”.</p> <p>Pat Close of the <a href="">Lough Neagh Eel Fishery</a>, whose 250 licenced fishermen are threatened by the depletion of the Lough’s banks and bed, spoke of his disappointment at the time of the November <a href="">announcement</a> and said there had been “no significant engagement” with the Fishery leading up to it. He added that the Department had not specified what stated “mitigation measures” they would carry out. </p> <p>The lack of adequate public consultation, especially as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process, has been a central and recurring issue for many environmental cases in Northern Ireland. Such concerns are likely to be at the forefront of the minds of West Tyrone residents this year, as Dalradian Resources hope a <a href="">Public Inquiry</a> will be held to speed up their <a href="">bid</a> to convert the area around Greencastle into <a href="">Europe’s second-largest gold mine</a>, with plans to build a <a href="">cyanide-processing plant</a> in the nearby Sperrin Mountains also under consideration. There, some locals and activists say they are willing to “do jail [time]” to stop the mine from opening. One of the fears they cite is the potential for a cyanide spill like <a href="">the one</a> at <a href="">Baia Mare</a> in Romania in 2000, where the substance leaked into the <a href="">water supply</a> and local rivers, killing over 80% of its fish population. It certainly would not be the first significant <a href="">chemical spill</a> to occur under the watch of a power-sharing government. As well as pointing to a “<a href="">lack of transparency</a>” on the part of Dalradian, Cormac McAleer from the <a href="">Save Our Sperrins</a> group has voiced concerns about a “lack of experience [handling cyanide] and of expertise among the relevant environmental monitoring/enforcement statutory agencies”.</p> <p><strong>The Good Friday Agreement at 20: the concealed legacies of a neoliberal peace solution</strong></p> <p>Austerity, government corruption and environmental neglect have been core features of the past 20 years in Northern Ireland – and especially of the past ten. Historian Brian Kelly identifies the Northern Irish Peace Process as a key example of the neoliberal conflict transformation model (exported to a number of other countries since), where peace and ‘co-operation’ are incentivised and rewarded with investment. </p> <p>The foundations for this kind of free market solution were set down right at the beginning of the Peace Agreement. At its early stages Bill Clinton promised to “pump” £100 million into Northern Ireland, Richard Branson made a visit to Belfast at the time as a kind of unofficial ‘open for business’ gesture, there was the ‘peace dividend’ tied up with the Belfast Agreement, and an investment schedule promised around the time of the St Andrews Agreement to help ensure the continuation of the Peace Process at an early sign of foundering. More recently, the <a href="">austerity-rooted</a> flag crisis yielded a memorable business- and tourism-driven initiative called Backin’ Belfast (rechristened now as Lovin’ Belfast). All of the above represent a kind of ‘conflict resolution via Foreign Direct Investment and tourism-friendly rebranding’ mindset, which has defined the Stormont agenda of the past two decades since peace was established.</p> <p>The popular saying is that money talks and money was certainly an important part of what got former enemies speaking to each other after years of intractable stand-off. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness’ first public engagement as First and Deputy First Ministers in 2007 was at an IKEA opening in the outskirts of Belfast, as Conor McFall notes in a recent <a href="">article</a> for the <em>New Socialist</em>, where he outlines how the “focus on international investment was central to the discourse around the Good Friday Agreement and the wider peace process”.</p> <p>The institutional arrangements generated by the Good Friday Agreement framework have facilitated the extractive dynamics set up during the Agreement’s brokering, and have produced little will for a cross-community response to issues which go beyond orange and green. Critics have argued that it has institutionalised sectarianism and that it has brought with it an accompanying pork barrel politics - all while Sinn Féin and the DUP have, since around the time of the global financial crash, progressively commanded all but a monopoly on Republican and Unionist voting blocs. </p> <p>Director of Friends of the Earth NI, James Orr, argues: “There’s been a hidden history in the last 20 years in Northern Ireland. We’ve seen a Balkanisation of politics reflected in resource and sacrifice zones – like illegal mining in Tyrone, new mineral concessions awarded along the border, attempts to introduce fracking into various communities and industrialised farming. In this sense, natural resources – [shared] things that unite people: air, land and water - have been a hidden and forgotten victim of the Peace Process. The sectarian carve-up of politics is now manifested in an extractivist mindset and a physical carve-up of many things that formerly people regarded as special and significant. With Brexit, we’re seeing an acceleration of this process, on a much larger scale, with much more money available to the interests who stand to benefit [from these projects]”.</p> <p>The interests Orr talks about – extending well beyond Dalradian - are openly discussing the anticipated gold rush. Last month, an <a href="">“Ireland: Open for Business”</a> event was held in Toronto, in which a series of talks and presentations were held to “showcase Ireland’s FDI potential” to international geology and mining companies listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Industry heads heard in detail and at length about the variety of precious metals and minerals waiting to be excavated, with a policy update and green light from senior Irish government officials. Sean Kyne TD, Minister for Natural Resources in Leo Varadker’s government, was a speaker at the event, giving an indicator of the intentions Dublin may have for playing its part in a great sell-off of mining interests in Ireland in the coming years.</p> <p>The prospect of this Conservative Brexit being propped up by a party so clearly driven by economic gains, and willing to roll back environmental protections in pursuit of those gains, all while a number of extractive interests openly line up for a post-deadline free-for-all, is indeed cause for concern. All the more so given that the ‘confidence and supply’ agreement is flanked by long-running political stasis in Stormont, and a devoutly pro-enterprise Fine Gael government in the Republic of Ireland, who would have few qualms in helping to sneak environmentally-disastrous free trade agreements through a post-Brexit “regulatory alignment” package. And with the <a href="">precautionary principle</a> likely to be <a href="">torn out</a> in Brexit’s translation of European environmental legislation, the door would be left wide open for the kinds of prospective ventures discussed in Toronto.</p> <p>Besides a deep-seated neglect of the natural environment, public services and reconciliation matters in Northern Ireland have also been neglected. The resulting legacy? A <a href="">sharp rise in homelessness</a> levels, <a href="">250,000 on hospital waiting lists</a>, and a number of ways in which sectarian violence in the country has increasingly been filtered into or replaced by structural violence. This was most recently borne out in shocking figures on the <a href="">elevated suicide rates</a> during the last 20 years of peace, in comparison to killings from the 30-plus years of the Troubles.</p> <p>To be clear, pointing out and advancing a critique of this concurrent legacy of extraction and of neglect is by no means to declare ‘Open Season’ on the Good Friday Agreement, as ultra-Brexiteers like <a href="">Daniel Hannan</a> would have it, or to attack its undeniable achievements and continuing necessity. On the contrary, for a sustainable and lasting Peace Process to work, it’s vital to take note of what has been neglected by the Agreement in practice and, more importantly still, to point to another kind of Open Season which may be declared in the Agreement’s name.</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/tommy-greene/unhealthy-environment-dup-environmental-policies-and-brexit">An unhealthy environment – the DUP, environmental policies, and Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/brendan-montague/green-brexit-not-with-this-dirty-brexit-brigade-mr-gove">‘Green Brexit’? Not with this dirty Brexit brigade, Mr Gove</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/amy-hall/tory-dup-deal-could-be-disaster-for-environment">The Tory–DUP deal could be a disaster for the environment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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> </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 Tommy Greene Thu, 10 May 2018 11:08:26 +0000 Tommy Greene 117791 at Are fences our future? The Ulsterification of England... and what we can do <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The last time I was on Cluan Place, everyone I spoke to wanted the same two things. It was 2015, not long after Belfast’s flag protests. Young Loyalists would throw rocks at Catholic kids, flee d...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>The last time I was on Cluan Place, everyone I spoke to wanted the same two things.</span> <span>It was 2015, not long after Belfast’s flag protests. Young Loyalists would throw rocks at Catholic kids, flee down the nearest alleyway on their home turf, hop over a garden wall, and hide from the police. The people I was talking with – whose houses backed onto this alleyway – would open their curtains and find a riotous teenager in their backyard. The first thing they wanted was a gate, guarding the close behind their homes.<span>The last time I was on Cluan Place, everyone I spoke to wanted the same two things.</span> <span>It was 2015, not long after Belfast’s flag protests. Young Loyalists would throw rocks at Catholic kids, flee down the nearest alleyway on their home turf, hop over a garden wall, and hide from the police. The people I was talking with – whose houses backed onto this alleyway – would open their curtains and find a riotous teenager in their backyard. The first thing they wanted was a gate, guarding the close behind their homes. I’ll come to the second later.</span> <span>I returned to Cluan Place last week. The back alleyway is now blocked by a ten foot steel gate. “It’s great,” said a woman steering a pushchair down the cul-de-sac “so long as people remember to shut it”.</span> <span>In a sense, it is a good thing. A community wanted something, and they got it. That’s how democracy is meant to work. But in another sense, it’s deeply worrying: twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement, people are still relying on defensive architecture to protect them from sectarian violence.</span> <span>And this corner of East Belfast is not unusual. For all of the progress since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is still a country decorated by flags divided by fences. For all of the talk that these so-called “peace walls” will come down, there are as many miles of metal and barbed wire dividing Catholic and Protestant communities from each other as there were when Tony Blair declared in 1997 that he could feel the hand of history on his shoulder.</span> <span>But this article isn’t about Northern Ireland. Because, the main thing which struck me when I revisited Belfast last week was not how different it was, but how familiar it has become. </span> <span>Since I had last been in Belfast, I’ve been trying to get my head around another one of the nations of the UK: with Civil Society Futures, the inquiry into how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world, my colleagues and I have been visiting and talking to people </span><a href=""><span>in towns and cities across England.</span></a><span> And one worrying trend consistently strikes me.</span> <span>Walk around urban areas from the Newcastle to Surrey and you find new blocks of flats huddled behind high walls and locked gates and decorated with snarling CCTV gargoyles. Whether they’re whole gated communities, or individual homes which people have chosen to fortify with astounding arrays of defensive architecture, people seem to be more and more comfortable with locking themselves away from the world.</span> <span>And – as with Northern Ireland – not all of the divides have fences down them. Often, you have to talk to people to know where their boundaries are. In Penzance, we were told about children who live on council estates in the town but have never visited the beach: they don’t see it as ‘theirs’ to go to. Seaside Cornwall is pockmarked with ghettos for white, middle-class second-homers, and its working-class residents are being forced out.</span> <span>At the same time, another strand of what you might call the Ulsterification of England has unfolded. Wandering around the housing estates of central Oldham, there were more flags – George Crosses, Union Flags and even a Royal Standard flying high over someone’s front garden – than I saw on the famous streets of West Belfast last week. Across much of England, it’s become normal to fly the national standard in a way it never used to be.</span> <span>In some ways, of course, there is no comparison between the two countries. The people either side of England’s gates didn’t live through a generation of civil war. Most have never heard gunfire or bomb blasts. Unlike Belfast or Derry, you don’t often meet drinkers in pubs in central Sunderland with bullet-dented skulls or tales of being tortured by the British army. In fact, quite the reverse.</span> <span>Between 1995 and 2016, the number of recorded incidents of violent crime fell in England and Wales fell from </span><a href=""><span>3.8 million to 1.3 million</span></a><span>. The number of burglaries has collapsed through the floor – from 2,445,000 in 1993 to </span><a href=""><span>650,000 in 2017</span></a><span>. The total number of reported crimes fell from 19 million in 1994 to </span><a href=""><span>6.7 million in 2014</span></a><span>. As with most of the Western world, England has become notably safer over the last twenty years, with potential reasons ranging from the </span><a href=""><span>banning of leaded petrol</span></a><span> to the </span><a href=";refURL=;referrer="><span>rise of computer games</span></a><span> and of the increased </span><a href=""><span>cost of alcohol</span></a><span>. </span> <span>And yet, as the country has become safer, we’ve become more and more inclined to cut ourselves off from each other, much more fearful of our neighbours. (And it seems unlikely that the rise of defensive architecture has caused the fall in violent crime or burglaries – </span><a href=""><span>academic research</span></a><span> has “consistently failed to show that defended enclaves are less vulnerable to crime than ungated neighbourhoods” according to Sheffield University’s Sarah Blandy).</span> <span>Of course, some of this is because perceptions and reality often differ. In 2016, </span><a href=""><span>60% of adults</span></a><span> believed that crime rates had gone up in recent years. But it seems to me that there is another answer for this division.</span> <span>Measured by income, the UK is currently the sixth most unequal country in the OECD rich countries club. Look across the other countries at the top of the table, and most – Israel, the USA, South Africa, Turkey – are also living through democratic crises – and most are also known for their gated enclaves where the white and powerful prune their hedges without having to look at the world outside.</span> <span>Measure inequality by asset wealth, and things are even worse. Because the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Protectorates is by far the most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas on Earth – and the money laundering capital of the world – it’s very hard to get accurate figures for the wealth of our richest residents. But even using official information on the assets that people do actually declare, the richest 10% </span><a href=""><span>now own 1,154 times</span></a><span> what the poorest 10% own. And that’s before we consider the difference between the richest 0.1% and the rest of us.</span> <span>But we don’t just divide ourselves by wealth. It’s not an original observation to say that, while migrant communities have got better at mixing with each other in recent years, middle class white people of English origin continue to huddle together in suburban ghettos. Research from Demos in 2015 </span><a href=""><span>showed that</span></a><span> “ethnic minority children, who now represent 26 per cent of all school students in England, are substantially more likely than White British children to attend schools in which ethnic minorities are in the majority.”</span> <span>But what has perhaps surprised us more is how much we divide ourselves by generation: ever more students live in city-centre accommodation blocks with security guards and swipe-access key-cards. Ever more pensioners are locked away in old folks’ homes in coastal towns which increasingly become retirement villages. In much of the country, the young people we spoke to wanted more than anything else to leave: it’s normal for Northern Ireland to talk about its brain drain, but the youth is being sucked out of huge swathes of England, too. For people in a huge number of places, success in life is seen to mean leaving your community. As one person in Penzance told us “I have got a 20 year old now, he is in uni up in Bristol and where he goes from there, he doesn’t know. It’s probably, it’s like everyone else. He isn’t likely to take a step back and coming back to his community.”</span> <span>And then we’re cut into smaller units too. Communities have dissolved as homes have become commodities. “Flexible” working and freelance culture have broken down work-place solidarity and trade union membership has collapsed. As public assets have been sold off, ever more decisions are made through the market – one pound one vote. And so we built an online architecture through which we can meet each other – but only those we wish to be ‘friends’ with, or to shout abuse at. It’s no wonder that we struggle with democratic processes. It wasn’t Brexit that divided us, it’s just the lens through which we saw how divided we had already become.</span> <span>Looked at this way, the fences and defensive architecture of modern England are just one visible rip in a society being torn apart. Differences in wealth make it harder and harder for us to talk to each other, and to build genuine communities across ever-greater difference. Atomised and often lonely individuals hide behind ever higher walls, shouting at each other online.</span> <span>But we’ve found something else too, something much more hopeful. Because the second thing that everyone I spoke to on Belfast’s Cluan Place wanted was an end to the division. And travelling around England, that’s what we found too. People don’t like living behind fences. They don’t like being divided by walls.</span> <span>In Mansfield, we met the ‘welcome committee’, who help people settle into the area whether they’ve moved there from Sunderland or Somalia. At </span><a href=""><span>Hack Oldham</span></a><span> – a new space on a resurrected high street – a young self-identifying geek taught an octogenarian how to use the community laser-cutter to make the dolls houses that her increasingly shaky hands had prevented her from continuing to build. </span><a href=""><span>CoLab in Exeter</span></a><span> connects people who would otherwise be isolated. </span> <span>Talk to protest groups across the country and they tell you that – whether they’re campaigning for or against a new housing development, opposing cuts or fighting off fracking – that organising against power has helped them build lifelong connections with those around them.</span> <span>Everywhere we’ve been, people have talked about a desire to break down the barriers they see springing up between them and their neighbours. But often, they tell us, they don’t know how. For English civil society to flourish in our fast changing world, we must begin to answer that question.</span></span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Adam Ramsay Thu, 10 May 2018 10:28:55 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117789 at “Simon Jones was 24 when he died, his head crushed by the grab of a crane” <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Poor working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. All of these deaths are preventable – if the political will is there. An edited version of a speech given on International Workers Day.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// jones.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// jones.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="421" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Simon Jones's family, pictured 3 years after his death. Credit: Michael Stephens/PA Images.</em></p><p><a href="">Simon Jones was 24 when he died</a>. It was 20 years ago last month.</p> <p>Simon died, his head crushed by the grab of a crane at Shoreham docks. He didn’t know how to do that job. He wasn’t trained for it. But he took a job he was not prepared for and had no experience in, because of the push from the dole office to make him work, and the threat of his benefits being cut.</p> <p>Worldwide, poor working conditions <a href="">kill a worker every 11 seconds</a>. <a href="">137 people died at work in the UK in the 2016-17</a>, and in the same year, one and half thousand fatalities arose from work-related incidents.</p> <p>Union health and safety representatives make a difference in the workplace. Yet this government is relentlessly attacking our unions. Workplaces with union representatives and joint safety committees have half the major injury rate of those without. Safety representatives save society up to half billion pounds a year, by reducing time lost through illness and occupational injury. </p> <p>An academic report looked at the construction industry in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. It concluded: “<em><a href="">the strongest relationship with safety compliance is the presence of a safety representative</a>”.</em> The Health and Safety Executive’s own research has reinforced these conclusions. Other studies have shown that the better an employer consults with reps, the more effective the control measures. </p> <p>And yet, this govt continues its attacks on our unions and our safety.</p> <p>The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act is our primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. With the hard work, skills, knowledge, and watchful eye of people like our reps and of the Health and Safety Executive, thousands and thousands of lives have been saved. </p> <p>Not only are this government hell bent on destroying the unions, they are attacking the Health and Safety Executive too. <a href="">By 2020, the HSE budget will have been cut by half</a>. Conservative leaders and a right-wing media, with the approval of sneering government officials, undermine the work of the Health and Safety Executive at every turn, citing any decision as ‘red tape’, the ‘nanny state’, and ‘health and safety gone mad’.</p> <p>The 40-year social partnership between the Health &amp; Safety Executive and the TUC/unions has been scrapped – after talks behind closed doors between the government and lobby groups - and it’s now <em>ministers</em> that decide who represents workers on the HSE board. </p> <p>The need for proper health and safety, the damage that casual labour creates, outsourcing, the demonisation of the sick and disabled – these issues are as important as they ever were. </p> <h2>How outsourcing and privatisation worsen health and safety</h2> <p>Since the last Workers Day, the <a href="">Ramsay health group who run the Winfield private hospital in Gloucester were fined</a> for running an insufficiently staffed and managed occupational health service putting staff, as well as public, at risk. </p> <p>Since last Workers Day, Liverpool has held a <a href="">candlelit vigil for an outsourced worker who could not afford adequate time off work to recover</a>, following surgery to have a lung removed in the hospital where she worked. Unfair sick pay meant she lost her home as a result.</p> <p>Here in the NHS in Gloucestershire, <a href="">hundreds of staff have just been transferred to a new private company, or ‘SubCo’</a> – transferred whilst its owners, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, were <em>still discussing</em> what Health and Safety committee provision there would be, whilst they were still tossing ideas around about the occupational health provision that those workers will have access to.</p> <p>Many outsourcings across the NHS and beyond in this last year have led to reductions of sick days for staff. In Gloucestershire, we don’t know yet what several of the policies of the new SubCo will be. We are still waiting to see what new starters terms will be. Our workers in this county in the SubCo, outsourced to save money for the bosses, face many potential sources of injury every hour of the day in the work place. And these are the lowest paid workers in the health service. They are fodder for feeding the bosses’ profits and for feeding the government’s cuts. They are expendable trash, waste products, of a system that favours money over life.</p> <p>Worldwide, working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. Every death is avoidable. There is the knowledge, there is the technology, there just isn't the will. </p> <p>Union organisation is proven antidote. Remember Simon, and remember those that die at work everywhere. And think about your friends and family and the people you don’t know personally but greet each day as though they were your friends. Think about their safety, their futures. An injury to one is an injury to all.</p> <p>Simon was an amazing young man who believed in direct action. He knew you couldn’t sit back and wait for politicians to make the changes needed.</p> <p>Before the next government is sworn in, there will more deaths in the workplace. And we can’t wait for the next government. So, for now, we must do all we can to raise awareness of the good that unions do, the need for proper health and safety, the damage that casual labour creates, outsourcing, the demonisation of the employed and the non-employed sick and disabled. And when the next election comes – you know what you have to do. Then, let’s bring in a reversal to union legislation, repeal the vicious trade union legislation – and let’s make the workplace a safer place for everyone</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/henrik-maihack/rana-plaza-bottomup-route-to-workers%E2%80%99-safety">Rana Plaza: the bottom-up route to workers’ safety</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/frances-ogrady/heartunions-why-young-workers-need-trade-unions-more-than-ever">#HeartUnions - why young workers need trade unions more than ever</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/laurie-macfarlane/precarious-workers-are-organising-trade-unions-need-to-catch-up">Precarious workers are organising - trade unions need to catch up</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/phil-chamberlain/building-blacklist-police-spies-and-trade-unionists">Building the blacklist: police spies and trade unionists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dave-smith/carillion-must-now-face-justice-for-blacklisting-trade-unionists-too">Carillion must now also face justice for blacklisting trade unionists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk ourNHS Hannah Basson Thu, 10 May 2018 08:10:57 +0000 Hannah Basson 117786 at Why I am not a Liberal and how we need to fight bin Trump and Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: left;">Trumpism cannot be defeated by seeing it as merely irrational - nor by withdrawing from Europe.</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="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Image: US President Donald Trump, March 2018. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Images, all rights reserved</p><p>In the year 2000, when post-1989 globalisation was at the zenith of its self-confidence, four of us got together in North London to plan how to respond to what we experienced as a growing problem with the way the world is governed. We felt the need for a serious space to question the suffocating future being offered us, with the socialist left defeated everywhere except Brazil. Along with Paul Hilder, Susan Richards, David Hayes and others, I initiated <em>openDemocracy</em>. </p><p>Perhaps because he confuses my commitment to openness with liberalism, Jan Zielonka, Oxford professor of European politics, has just <a href="">tagged me </a>as a Liberal; in openDemocracy, in his contribution to a vitally important debate over how to frustrate the hard right. The exchange began in March, when the historian of Liberalism, Edmund Fawcett, <a href="">called</a> for liberals like himself and leftists to unite in the face of danger. I then responded and <a href="">welcomed</a> Fawcett’s positive challenge. How to confront the grim international setting matters far more than my personal politics. And new and surprising allies, such as the ex-Director of the CIA, have emerged. I want to take the opportunity to explore the significance of this, especially for the United States as Trump shreds the Iran nuclear agreement.&nbsp;</p><p>But first, I want to be clear about the direction I'm coming from to explain why Zielonka gets me completly wrong. While liberal in my personal views I have never been a ‘Liberal’ politically. I am an advocate and organiser of political openness, which is quite different. The way politics is conducted remains closed, indeed it invents new forms of closure. The brilliant <a href="">Transformation</a> section of <em>openDemocracy</em> now focuses on this with a coverage that is both granular and general. As its editor Mike Edwards recently <a href="">argued</a>, an open approach, "runs counter to the realities of modern politics, media and knowledge production, but the other options are much, much worse: a slide into authoritarianism, enforced artificial unity, or permanent division". </p><p class="AB">I am not a Liberal with a capital ‘L’ because the nature of its embrace of individualism is inseparable from capitalism, and I want to see the replacement of capitalism. By capitalism I mean a world run in the interests of those for whom accumulation is the measure of value and success. I am not saying we know how this will happen or that it will be soon, but I live my politics as a refusal of our present circumstances. In any society, however, a precondition for replacing capitalism is a robust constitutional democracy and openness. Rightly, voters will not trust a more collective form of government without a rock-solid framework of human rights, privacy, active toleration, freedom of expression and organisation and the equality of all persons. <em>Liberty Before Liberalism</em> was what Quentin Skinner titled his exploration of what this might mean. Liberty after liberalism, while standing on its shoulders, might describe my anti-capitalism. </p> <p class="AB">In terms of British political parties I am also not a Liberal (nor Liberal Democrat, to use their current name), although I vote tactically for them where they are the best alternative to the Tories and I hold that progressives should work together – especially now. One of the drawbacks most (but not all) Lib Dems suffer is that they seem to represent only the interests of those who think like liberals. This can create a holier-than-thou righteousness and encourages a fatal conceit that they know best. (I can tell a few stories about this from British politics. From Ashdown via Kennedy to Clegg, I have been assured by Liberal leaders that they had no need for advice from the likes of me, before they toppled from the cliff). Alliances demand a two-way learning process inimical to self-righteousness, which is one of the reasons I welcome Edmund Fawcett’s <a href="">call</a>, that initiated this exchange. </p> <p class="AB">I am much closer to being a Green than Liberal and the Greens should be part of this debate as they offer a universal platform. They have also done one thing of inestimable value in addition to their attempts to save the environment. The Labour Party in Britain, and Social Democrats across Europe, embraced the sectional interest of the organised working classes. As the industrial proletariat shrunk, social democrats switched their allegiance to globalisation and embraced neoliberalism as the vehicle to fund welfare. Often they achieved considerable gains for those in need. But social democracy lost the capacity to argue from the point of view of humanity as a whole. The Greens preserved, one might even say rescued, a dynamic sense of the totality. Not just in terms of saving the planet but with their critique of the consequences, should the human race continue to manufacture, trade, consume and speculate as it now does. </p> <p class="AB">Before we launched <em>openDemocracy</em>&nbsp;I was the first organiser of Charter 88, from the late 1980s to the birth of Blairism. It campaigned for a new democratic constitutional settlement in the UK. That sure was liberal! Yet it has so far proven too revolutionary for the denizens of the British state. Nonetheless, patience is a revolutionary virtue and I have spent half a lifetime spelling out how democratic reform is a precondition for sustainable, egalitarian economic reform in Britain. I <a href="">support</a> the call for a constitutional convention set out by <a href="">Stuart White</a>. Recently, I showed how such an approach would have prevented, and must now be part of any response to, Brexit; in my recent book on Brexit and Trump, <em>The Lure of Greatness</em>. </p> <p class="AB">So Zielonka could hardly be more wrong when he claims, "The question is, why do even the most enlightened liberals such as Fawcett and Barnett not really try to offer a set of specific policies…". Not just because I am not a liberal but because if anything I propose too many policies. In <em>The Lure of Greatness</em> I also respond with all the force I can muster to the vitally important issue Zielonka rightly poses: how have we got here? He is again wrong, therefore, to claim, "Both Fawcett and Barnett… stop short of asking why, in one country after another, voters have deserted liberals". Not only have I made a point of asking this, I set out the multi-layered answer: what I spell out as the ‘combined determinations’ that led to the victories of the hard right in 2016, with respect to Britain and the United States.</p><p class="AB">That's enough of my politics, now to return to the present and its all-important history.</p> <p>In June 2014, a year after Edward Snowden revealed America’s massive programme of illegal, warrantless surveillance, I <a href="">interviewed</a> General Michael Hayden. As head of the American NSA (National Security Agency) from 1999 to 2005, he oversaw the creation of the system before becoming Director of the CIA. I twinned the interview with a probing <a href="">encounter</a> with William Binney, who had resigned from the NSA in 2001 and went public as soon as he realised what was being done. My purpose was to publish a human, accessible and authoritative understanding of the hi-tech reach and nature of American power and its political project – along with its integration of such allies as the British state. It never occurred to me, or presumably Hayden although he cheerfully regarded me as ‘uninteresting’, that we might find ourselves on the same side against the White House. Yet today, perhaps because he has a special duty to protect the system he created from Trump’s unrestricted use, Hayden has called on the intelligence community he once headed to prepare to defy its Commander in Chief, even to the point of joining forces with journalists and academics. He has just written in the <a href="">New York Times</a>: </p> <blockquote><p class="css-1psrv1x">There have to be limits… These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself. …intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based… The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”</p></blockquote> <p>Traditionally, Hayden continues, the US relied on the "truth-telling" of its intelligence agencies "to protect us from our enemies". Now, he concludes, "we need it to save us from ourselves". </p> <p>I could gloat. I could say that my opposition in the face of his reassurance has been vindicated. Four years ago, in response to my questions, Hayden agreed that there is a "potential for abuse" - but he insisted that the intelligence the US agencies gathered on citizens was just that, raw information not based on "suspicion". It would not be used to deprive people of their liberty and therefore its gathering was not <em>"Stasi</em>-like" (The <em>Stasi</em> were the East German communist state security). Today, Hayden knows better than anyone the full <em>Stasi</em>-like tyrannical consequences, should Trump smash aside the USA’s constitutional restrictions as fake, and access at will and for his own purposes America’s security and surveillance systems. But of course I’m not gloating. It is tremendously important and very welcome that Hayden is appalled by the dangers of Trump unleashed. </p> <p>Yet it seems (I’ve not read his forthcoming book) that Hayden seeks a straightforward restitution of America’s Enlightenment principles. What, however, if these are broken rather than being merely under threat? The three billion dollars a year spent on lobbying has captured Washington. Gerrymandering and voter suppression is being coordinated by the American oligarchy and its media. Domestically, the politics of what is now happening in the USA goes back to the neoliberal assault on government itself, launched by Ronald Reagan when he proclaimed that government is the problem not the solution. Abroad, recklessness was reinforced by the attempt to conquer Iraq. Those who fight a monster must beware of becoming one. Instead of treating him as a vile criminal, the US declared a trillion dollar ‘war’ on Bin Laden. The result is that it now has its own megalomaniac, pornophile, hirsute if bouffanty son of a property developer as its leader, who also supports teleological fundamentalism in the Middle East. </p> <p>Hayden is right to see the arrival of bin Trump in the White House as a rupture. It does indeed represent a qualitatively new threat. All hands are needed to defeat it or catastrophe could ensure. But as part of this we are also obliged to take a measure of the forces that drive Trumpism. </p> <p>The excruciating paradox of Trumpism is twofold. First, it is rooted in the anti-political, let-it-rip economics of Reaganism and the deceits and over-reach of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld: it is an extreme <em>expression</em> of the deceitful era that gave birth to it. Second, at the same time it rides the rage of <em>opposition</em> to that era and its consequences and presents itself as the most ferocious opponent of the fraudulent elite - which Trump in fact personifies. </p> <p>This is a painful matter to try and understand; let me try to show what I mean with an example. In 2002, at the same time as Hayden created the machinery of warrantless surveillance under the order of George W. Bush, <em>New York Times</em> reporter Ron Suskind interviewed a Bush advisor. The advisor taunted Suskind as being from the ‘reality-based community’. Suskind responded by calling on enlightenment values and empirical facts, just as Hayden does now. He was waved aside and <a href="">was told</a>, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality". The advent of ‘post-truth’ that Hayden rightly excoriates did not begin with Trump, even if he takes it to a new, worse level. Hayden seeks to restore a tough-minded reality-based government, as if it remains intact beneath the debris of 2016 waiting to be saved. He was, I’m afraid, part of the advance wrecking team that began its demolition at the start of the century. </p> <p>It follows that Trump supporters are not completely mistaken in seeing the American constitutional and economic order as rigged. It was and is rigged unfairly against regular citizens. In a <a href="">formidable and compelling talk</a>, Michael Sandel points to the undoubted truth of this, now also published as part of the openDemocracy debate on the future of democracy. Of course, in all their whiteness, many Trump supporters seek an intolerable supremacist outcome. But even they want a society that works for and includes them in a way that the neoliberal settlement of the last thirty years increasingly did not. Today, what America needs is a democratic refounding of the republic, if it is to achieve principled, honest government. </p> <p>This means we have to take Trumpism and the hard right seriously not only as an irrational threat capable of destroying the checks and institutions essential to democracy and liberty, but also a force that does have an empirical claim on reality. Its repudiation of the previous order has some justice to it, even if its response does not. Simply calling for Trump to be stopped is too feeble a response, therefore, and is unlikely to succeed; as Hungarians have just learnt with Orbán and the Brits are learning with Brexit. We have to dig deeper. A process and a claim need to be reversed. It is not credible to call for a reversion to the way politics was conducted before 2016.</p> <p class="AB">In America a small torrent of post-Trump books are struggling with this issue and its ominous implications – generating a ‘crisis of democracy’ literature. In a magisterial review of seven of them in <a href="">Dissent</a>, Jedediah Purdy observes, "What is missing from these works, and the commentariat that they represent, is a genuine reckoning with twenty-first-century questions: whether we have ever been democratic, and whether the versions of capitalism that have emerged in the last forty years are compatible with democracy". </p> <p class="AB">At least in his new book, <em>Counter-Revolution, Liberal Europe in Retreat</em>, Zielonka poses the issue of whether democracy and neoliberalism are incompatible. He does not provide an answer; yet he emphasises, correctly in my view, there can be no way forward without a confronting what went wrong. In his article that started these exchanges Fawcett agrees that there has been a "long failure by the liberal centre to keep democratic liberalism in good repair". He provides a vivid list, both conceptual and strategic, from misbegotten wars to the financial crash. Yet the metaphor of repair suggests that these were merely accidents and there were no fundamental flaws with the way the world was run after 1945. </p> <p>Seeking to flush him out, Zielonka concludes by posing a British question: </p> <blockquote><p>If liberals want to forge an alliance with the left, as Fawcett suggests, then the questions regarding the common program become pertinent. Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto envisages limited renationalisation, a state investment bank, £250 billion borrowing program, and a £50 billion tax redistribution plan. Are liberals happy to endorse this package? I hope they are, or else they can forget about a common front against the hard right’. </p></blockquote> <p>I’m looking forward to Fawcett’s answer. Mine is twofold. Certainly I support what seems to me a moderate, Keynesian effort to share the wealth and potential of a rich but grossly unequal country. I also back the radicalism implicit in it, of breaking from austerity. However, Labour will not be in a position to implement any such programme unless it also prevents Brexit. </p><p>Brexit is a hard right project, framed by xenophobia and certain to generate adverse international conditions that will frustrate any egalitarian expansion of the UK’s economy. ‘Lexiteers’ - those on the left who support a left-wing version of Brexit - <a href="">claim that</a> leaving the EU will free a Corbyn government to pursue a socialist path unconstrained by Brussels. They seem to believe that Wall Street and Frankfurt will become Corbyn’s friends; and will help ensure that Britain’s chronic balance of payments deficit continues to be funded so that the City of London can be taxed by radical social democrats who seek a new model of egalitarian government. In fact, of course, if it is outside of the EU the markets will exploit the UK’s isolation to break any such progressive project. The point of the hard Brexit sought by hedge-fund millionaires like the leading Brexiteer MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is to ensure the United Kingdom’s vulnerability to global finance. Which takes us back to the need for alliance building against the threat of the hard right.</p><p> In my country, the starting point is to be positively European. Whatever the drawbacks of the European Union, especially its governing Lisbon Treaty, our continent is the battle ground for our future. The English need to be there to help win it, or our democracy could be lost.</p><p>---------------</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </strong><strong>–&nbsp;</strong><span>Anthony Barnett</span></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”, Suzanne Moore, “Blistering”, Zadie Smith<br /><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live<br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” John Harris, New Statesman<br /><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times<br /><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom, 1 January 2018<br /><br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” Professor David Marquand<br /><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism. Cutting across a range of themes from the power of the press to the problems with the political establishment and manipulative corporate populism, this is a book that deserves to be read.” Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</span></p></blockquote><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="/mary-fitzgerald/trump-s-folly-with-iran-means-europe-must-show-what-it-stands-for">Trump’s folly with Iran means Europe must show what it stands for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">Populism, Trump, and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sam-altman/what-i-heard-from-100-trump-supporters">What I heard from 100 Trump supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kristian-thorup/dangerous-zombie-identities-of-those-left-behind-by-global-capitalism">The dangerous &#039;zombie identities&#039; of those left behind by global capitalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">On Anthony Barnett’s ‘Lure of Greatness’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/simon-tunderman/trump-s-paradox-critique-of-populism">Trump’s paradox: a critique of ‘populism’ </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"> United States </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 United States Anthony Barnett Thu, 10 May 2018 06:50:28 +0000 Anthony Barnett 117740 at Where next for migrant Roma communities post-Brexit? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those committed to ‘freedom of movement’ still have to address their ambivalence regarding migrant Roma communities, who are amongst the most vulnerable groups in UK society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// pic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// pic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="519" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em><span>Migrant Roma people face an uncertain future in the UK. Especially Roma women and children are at a high risk of social and economic disadvantage. Photo: <a href="">Pixabay, open source</a>.</span></em></p><p>The number of migrant Roma living in the UK is not known. Estimates by the <a href="">Council of Europe</a> put the figure at 225,000 Roma, which amounts to 0.36% of the entire population. The <a href="">European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights,</a> however, claims that the real figure is between 500,000 and 1,000,000, excluding indigenous Gypsies and Irish Travellers. In the wake of Brexit this group faces an uncertain future. </p> <p>A recent report of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on ‘<a href="">Roma communities and Brexit</a>’ has highlighted what it called “a triple whammy of risks: uncertainty over their future legal status, rising concerns about hate crime, and a potential loss of EU funding for integration and support services”. </p> <p>The report’s findings do not come as a surprise. They reveal long-standing concerns of human rights activists, NGOs and public policy think tanks over both the UK response to the <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj8s-qd-pnTAhXVFsAKHUAhBycQFggjMAE&amp;;usg=AFQjCNGND5qLOP73n_j8N820A2_IiEOggg&amp;sig2=xc2jxyGmZ6">EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies</a>, on one hand, and the consequences of the Brexit vote, on the other. </p> <p>Whilst concerns about hate crime have been linked to an upsurge of ‘<a href="">Brexit racism</a>’, uncertainty over future legal status is perhaps the most ambiguous aspect, and the most unsettling. It is well <a href="///C:/Users/Caroline/Downloads/situation-of-roma-2012-uk.pdf">documented</a> that Roma migrants are already facing substantial discrimination in employment, education, housing and health. Uncertainty over residency and legal status in the UK adds to a burden of social and economic disadvantage. This situation is even worse for <a href="">Roma women who, due to patriarchal traditions, often experience discrimination and a lack of respect for their freedom of choice within their own communities</a>. </p> <p>A recent <a href="">assessment of the European Commission</a> on the implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies has highlighted that in the UK, “mainstream approaches have not demonstrated sufficient impact on improving the situation of the Roma”, and that more needs to be done to involve Roma in “the design, implementation and monitoring of relevant measures.” </p> <h2>Deep ambivalence and prejudice </h2> <p>The UK’s failure to muster adequate impact on improving the situation of the Roma is due to a number of factors. One problem is that the EU Framework is a non-binding, or a “soft” policy tool. Another problem is that the target group of Roma people remains imprecisely defined in the UK policy and legal documents. For example, policy documents rarely take into consideration the heterogeneous and intersectional experiences of Roma lives, especially those of Roma women, young people and children. A third problem is the ambivalence towards Roma people. This has less to do with hostility, but includes a failure of the legislative system to imagine and propose creative solutions to what is the new European face of marginality and destitution. Sarah Carmona, prominent Roma historian, cited by <a href="">The New Yorker</a>, describes the conflicted European vision of Roma : “They love our Gypsyness, our folklore, but hate our Romaniness. They claim to value our distinctiveness, and, at the same time, they cannot bear our abnormality.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// pic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// pic.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><span>A Romanian Roma migrant. In many European cities, Roma people endure segregation, disenfranchisement and state evictions. Most continue to live in poverty. Photo: <a href="">Pixabay, open source</a></span></em></p><p><em><span></span></em>To the great majority of Europeans, the presence of Roma continues to create marked ambivalence and moral uneasiness – and for some, the shameful face of European freedom of movement. The current European project of accommodating diversity has shown how fragile human dignity is, and how difficult it can be to find an appropriate place for Roma’s (European) aspirations.</p> <p>In <em><a href="">The Nature of Prejudice</a></em>, Tileagă outlines some of the most important structural, societal, and discursive aspects of prejudice against the Roma. The book shows how solidarity and sympathy with Roma’s plight are not guaranteed by being enshrined in national law – they are, increasingly, elusive values, sometimes insufficient for the protection of human dignity. It highlights the uniqueness and particularity, the diversity and intensity, of anti-Roma prejudices as an example of one of the most troubling contemporary social problems for European societies. Tileagă proposes a much-needed shift from understanding prejudice as an attitudinal product of antipathy to prejudice as harm inflicted by indignity. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Deliberate hatred rarely is the sole source of prejudice.</p> <p>Deliberate hatred rarely is the sole source of prejudice. The idea of prejudice as indignity is not just about the forms and consequences of extreme forms of social hostility. It is also about understanding the less noticeable, ambivalent, paternalistic, social and ideological ramifications of refusal/denial of dignity as a product of modern democratic society. Both deliberate, as well as subtler attempts, at altering, transforming, or diminishing the worth of migrant Roma (through evictions, denial of access to services, discrimination in employment, etc.) stifle social esteem and the moral status that other people – such as majorities, but also other minorities - take for granted. </p> <p>Anti-Roma prejudices have migrated to the mainstream. As shown in this <a href="">study</a>, unambiguous denunciations of (extreme) right-wing politics and policies are not necessarily followed by similarly unambiguous declarations of tolerance towards Roma people. The majority of people interviewed by the study report acceptance of the values of equality and anti-discrimination, yet, in practice, resist or show significant reluctance to their concrete implementation. The clear majority of self-righteous, right-thinking, and well intentioned European citizens, who perceive the rise of the extreme right as one of the core challenges to a cosmopolitan, more open and more inclusive Europe, reproduce nonetheless extremist tropes and degrading and dehumanizing repertoires, that transform or diminish Romanies’ moral standing in society.<strong> </strong></p> <h2>Brexit and the Plan for Britain</h2> <p>Brexit is perhaps the rawest expression of the idea that the historical moral order of sovereign states has been turned upside down by the European project. A corollary of this view is that a cosmopolitan Europe is a mistake that needs to be rectified as soon as possible. </p> <p>The UK Government has set out its Brexit plans in its <a href="">White Paper</a> and the <a href="">PM’s letter to Donald Tusk</a> triggering article 50. The Government’s <a href="">Plan for Britain</a> sets out the Government’s goals as the country leaves the European Union: a global Britain, a stronger economy, a fairer society, a united nation. There is a conspicuous absence in the Government’s plans of any separate stipulations for minority rights. The White Paper does not address minority rights, nor does the PM’s letter to Donald Tusk. Although the language of PM’s letter is <a href="">purposefully inclusive</a>, using expressions such as: “fellow Europeans”, or “our” continent, it does not address the ways in which the rights of EU nationals, specifically those of migrants, will be protected. Perhaps not surprisingly, Her Majesty’s Government is more anxious about the shape of a future trade deal with Europe, and less concerned with the human rights of vulnerable groups in society. </p> <p>Brexit is foreshadowing an <a href="">‘ethical culture’</a> that is likely to affect the dignity of, and respect for, others. There are not yet guarantees that this new ethical culture will protect migrant Roma rights. Brexit is set out to be the realization of one of the oldest spectres in the history of the nation-state, that of the organic community. <a href="">This concept conceives the nation as being organized according to kindship, language and common affiliation defined in both ethnic and genealogical terms.</a> Faced with different ways of being in the world, and more generally, with poverty, and destitution, Roma people will likely be excluded, as they are elsewhere, from full membership in the framework of community that majorities deem best. With Brexit,<strong> </strong>this new framework of community will ensure that the decency and rights of ‘citizens’ come first. </p> <p>Britain’s plans for Brexit, for a ‘fairer society’ and ‘global’ nation, do not spell out the potentially harsh economic and moral consequences for those not covered by the plan, those on the margins. The new Brexit rhetoric of global economic pressures and a fairer and inclusive society proposes a new framework which will further worsen the moral and social status of migrant Roma. By positioning itself as a nation driven by clear aspirations of globalism and economic renewal, yet failing to mention the consequences on (migrant) minorities, the UK has already started to redraw the boundaries of what social psychologist Susan Opotow has called the ‘<a href="">scope of justice</a>’. Transforming the scope of justice has important consequences for people who are not included in it. Those not included in it are particularly vulnerable to moral exclusion. Because of the uniqueness of Roma’s historical persecution, prejudices and exclusionary practices that reproduce Roma’s historical and social marginality are prone to resurfacing. </p> <h2>The future of Roma integration</h2> <p>If, as Amber Rudd argued, <a href="">Brexit will end freedom of movement “as we know it</a>”, then the future is dire for Roma communities in the UK and on the continent. Roma integration will continue to be a priority for the European Union. However, as Britain is preparing to leave the EU, its Roma policies will stop being guided and informed by European policies and laws. Also, Roma integration and inclusion programmes will no longer have access to EU funding. For instance, for the period 2014-2020, the European Social Fund and the European Research Fund had a budget of approximately <a href="">€11.6 billion for the UK</a>. At least 20% of this sum was targeted towards promoting social inclusion and combating poverty. The UK would have to find alternative ways to fill the ensuing funding gap for social inclusion programs. Moreover, given that the UK has failed to deliver on so many specific aspects of effective integration of Roma, it needs to urgently develop a post-Brexit strategic approach, beginning with awareness raising and human rights information and tailored programmes especially for those most vulnerable in migrant Roma communities: Roma women, young people, and children. </p> <p>In order to adequately respond to Brexit challenges around Roma integration, we need to understand, as French anthropologist Didier Fassin has <a href="">argued</a>, that liberal democracies are mechanisms of domination as well as empowerment. In a Great Britain that, arguably, tries to protect its citizens from what one European politician called the <a href="">“undesirable effects of globalization</a>”, a desire to uphold the values of sympathy coexists with a desire to control the flux of people, erect barriers and enforce national boundaries. Brexit is exacerbating the latter. </p> <p>We also need to understand the tension between two Britains: a cosmopolitan Britain that actively fights isolationism and defends human rights of the destitute and vulnerable, and a conservative Britain, on one hand, keen for a return to nationalistic values, yet careful, on the other hand, to promote sympathy. Too often, the abstract liberalism of equal opportunities clashes with the practical aspirations of concrete liberalism. </p> <p>Brexit Britain exacerbates the clash between progressive social creeds and values and actual discriminatory, and moral exclusionary, practices. We should be prepared to explore uneasy questions and challenges which are currently barely sketched by asking the Government to commit as soon as possible to developing clear post-Brexit guidelines and legal frameworks for Roma integration. Within this process, it is important that Roma people would not become merely the objects of policies, but active citizens and equal stakeholders in the decision-making process. For meaningful and informed Roma integration frameworks post-Brexit, the Government needs to ensure that the presence of heterogeneous migrant Roma voices is both recognized and enforced.</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/bernard-rorke/roma-integration-and-normal-way-of-living">Roma integration and &#039;a normal way of living&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nils-mui-nieks-michael-georg/roma-evictions-europes-silent-scandal">Roma evictions: Europe&#039;s silent scandal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/violeta-naydenova/why-eu-roma-policy-needs-reform">Why the EU Roma policy needs reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/roma-and-dalit-persecution-parallel-experiences-pave-way-for-global-solidarity">Roma and Dalit experiences of persecution pave way for solidarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/bernard-rorke/roma-inclusion-in-2012-no-respite-in-prejudice-0"> Roma inclusion in 2012: no respite in prejudice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/radost-zaharieva/politics-of-being-roma-in-france">The politics of being Roma in France</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/brigid-o-keeffe/roma-homeland-that-never-was">The Roma homeland that never was</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/szilvia-r-zm-ves-isak-skenderi-violeta-vajda/best-roma-in-village-is-roma-who-wor">‘The best Roma in the village is the Roma who works as a servant’</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 Salomea Popoviciu Cristian Tileagă Wed, 09 May 2018 07:08:32 +0000 Cristian Tileagă and Salomea Popoviciu 117756 at Unilateral social responsibility from tech companies: enhancing democracy or benevolent dictatorship? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There’s no hiding the power that has accrued to tech companies. As they take action to temper the social issues arising from their platforms is self-regulation enough? In a 2017 interview with ...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>There’s no hiding the power that has accrued to tech companies. <span>There’s no hiding the power that has accrued to tech companies. As they take action to temper the social issues arising from their platforms is self-regulation enough?</span> <a href=""><span>In a 2017 interview</span></a><span> with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, journalist Jemima Kiss notes that as a company Google has constantly sought to underplay its geopolitical influence by sidestepping controversies. But as the writer adds, running a company with more customers than the population of the earth is a challenging business and politics demands attention.</span> <span>As the list of concerns and accusations about tech companies has grown, from the viral spread of rumours and lies masquerading as news, to </span><a href=";zi=vub7geys"><span>racist search results</span></a><span>, concerns over data collection and collusion with the NSA, Silicon Valley has steadily lost its earnest charm.</span> <span>Academic Geert Lovink, in his 2016 book </span><em><span>Social Media Abyss</span></em><span>, reminds us of the old Google slogan “Don’t be Evil”, arguing that it had to be dropped when the company realised that sometimes it’s necessary to ‘think with Evil’ because its economic, not social metrics that incentivise tech companies.</span> <span>Areeq Choudhary is Chief Executive and Founder of WebRoots Democracy, a thinktank that examines the intersection of technology and the democratic process. Seeking to tackle issues like low political participation amongst young people and minorities, the campaigner sees huge potential in online tools. For example, referring to a</span><a href=""><span> report undertaken in June 2017</span></a><span>, Choudhary describes how people with disabilities and visual impairments are amongst the major beneficiaries of tech advances.</span> <span>Even as a self-described ‘techno-optimist’ Choudhary is wary about some of the problems being raised by technology’s rise in social and political life. Yet he questions to what extent they are new issues, as opposed to familiar problems in another setting. ‘Fake news’ can be likened to a rumour mill and </span><a href=""><span>‘filter bubbles’,</span></a><span> the idea that online we only interact with people that agree with us, are like our self-selected offline social circles, the only difference Choudhary suggests, is just the scale.</span> <span>But when scale is this significant is it possible to argue that we are still talking about the same beast? Does the scale actually mean that these issues are presenting novel concerns that need to be treated as such?</span> <span>The WebRoots founder argues that we need to see a combination of regulation and digital literacy education to fully harness the socially positive potential of tech tools.</span> <span>Legal frameworks are far behind, resulting in a lack of clarity about what is permissible online. ‘Dark’ political advertising through social media, for example, which unlike a billboard is only ever seen by the targeted recipient, means that regulators can’t monitor compliance in terms of content and spending. The </span><a href=""><span>Cambridge Analytica revelations</span></a><span>, that user data was being harvested without permission for political microtargetting, are testament that these innovations require new laws to ensure transparency and accountability. In this situation, current laws would only penalise a data leak, yet the broader picture of what’s at stake here is how data is collected without reasonable informed consent and put towards ends that the user will never likely know.</span> <span>Regulation alone isn’t sufficient though, issues such as the circulation of false information and even targeted political messaging, also require better education of young people and adults alike. </span><a href=""><span>WebRoots Democracy’s June 2017 report titled </span><em><span>Fake News</span></em></a><em><span>, </span></em><span>recommends a combination of teaching around how to critically analyse the media we consume, as well as education about how better to use online tools, which can be supportive of critical analysis too.</span> <span>The growing controversies are driving tech firms to act, eager to avoid the spectre of legislation which is looming large after Davos 2018. The World Economic Forum meeting saw </span><a href=""><span>George Soros warn against</span></a><span> advances towards a “web of totalitarian control”.</span> <span>“They claim they are merely distributing information,” he charged. “But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access.”</span> <span>But is the unilateral action being taken by internet firms to evade external involvement even more concerning?</span> <span>In early 2018, </span><a href=""><span>Facebook funded a project</span></a><span> by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue that involved identifying and contacting people at risk of political extremism through Facebook Messenger. In another initiative seeking to ‘crowdsource’ norms </span><a href=""><span>the company was criticised for a poll</span></a><span> asking users if Facebook should decide whether adult men could use the site to solicit sexual images from children.</span> <span>These instances are jarring in that they show Silicon Valley’s willingness to act for the purported common good, but led by a moral compass of the companies’ making. If social media platforms are going to play such a significant role in social and political life, and if they’re actually going to enhance democratic process, then we need more than self-regulation, we need transparency and accountability.</span> Image: Facebook testify Zuckerberg. Flickr/Stock Catalog (CC BY 2.0) <a href=""></a></span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Tue, 08 May 2018 13:19:54 +0000 openDemocracy 117744 at Don't invoke the NHS to sell a false idea of 'good nationalism' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This isn't 'good nationalism'. This is nationalism - as ever, in an English context - as forgetting. A response to Zoe Williams.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// olympics.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// olympics.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: London Olympic games ceremony, 2012. Credit: Julian Behal/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>Zoe Williams <a href="">holds up the NHS as an example of ‘good nationalism’ in today’s Guardian</a>, citing Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympics NHS montage as an example:</p> <p>“Good nationalism is a certain specific solidarity based on the things you have created together, as a nation, and the things you aspire to create: you could call it, for short,&nbsp;<a href="">Danny Boyle nationalism</a>, and it takes in the NHS.”</p> <p>The problem with this kind of narrative is it omits how all English nationalism – even supposedly the ‘good’ kind – allows us all to ignore inconvenient truths.</p> <p>Narratives that sacralise the NHS - or indeed any of our better achievements or virtues - as part of our nationalism, risk making us complacent. We all love the NHS, fair play, queues, warm beer and decency. These things will always be with us, with any temporary lapses promptly corrected. So the story goes.</p> <p>Of course in 2012, just as Boyle’s dancing nurses brought a lump to our throats, the government was enacting the most destructive anti-NHS legislation in history, destroying (in England) its core principle that people got <em>comprehensive</em> healthcare on the basis that they lived here, and needed it, that had endured since 1948.</p> <p>Just a couple of months <em>before</em> the 2012 Olympics, <a href="">Theresa May also publicly announced the “hostile environment” policy</a>, making it progressively harder over the next few years for migrants to access healthcare or other basic rights, as well as making life progressively more uncomfortable – or impossible – <a href="">for migrant workers in the NHS</a>. </p> <p>The Tories genuflect to the NHS as a ‘national religion’ almost as much as Labour - but that hasn’t stopped them disestablishing it and excommunicating large numbers of people from it. </p> <p>And not just migrants, incidentally. Overweight people and smokers are now being banned from <em>all</em> routine NHS procedures <a href="">across at least a third of the country</a>, a policy strongly opposed by doctors.</p> <p>Sajid Javid suggested last week that the hostile environment “<a href="">did not represent our values as a country</a>”, and <a href="">Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday called the policy “unBritish”.</a> But Eric Pickles called the aforementioned NHS fat bans “<a href="">not the kind of Britain I recognise</a>”, too. It seems evoking Britishness doesn’t save us. </p> <h2>&nbsp;‘Good nationalism’ vs ‘bad nationalism’?</h2> <p>Is ‘bad nationalism’ really confined to the Other, to the unashamedly right-wing both here and across the pond? </p> <p>Williams says, “I have no problem with a bordered civic identity: our borders describe the limits of our democratic agency.” She adds, “Good nationalism… includes, by definition, every man, woman and child who contributed to the achievement”. But Williams fails to spell out who this is. Those Caribbean nurses who came here to build the NHS, now finding themselves or their children denied healthcare, and worse? The Commonwealth doctors, routinely discriminated against? The slaves who were forced to help ‘this nation’ establish its wealth? </p> <p>Williams doesn’t say, and such vagueness is not good enough.</p> <p>This isn’t ‘good nationalism’ – this is nationalism (as ever, in the English context) as forgetting. Forgetting that the NHS was not <em>just</em> built “together, as a nation”, as Williams suggests. It was built by a nation that had built its wealth on the back of empire and slavery, by overwriting brown people’s “civic identity”, a nation that had no qualms about interfering in its colonies’ “democratic agency” just long enough to exploit all that could be exploited – and not a moment longer.</p> <p>It’s a message that has been powerfully brought home lately, with the very Commonwealth workers who came over here to help build the NHS, shamefully denied healthcare for themselves or their families. </p> <p>Even now, too many responses to the Windrush scandal fall into <a href="">inherently flawed tropes of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrants</a>, with the ‘bad migrants’ category including <a href="">children</a>, <a href="">pregnant women</a> and <a href="">torture victims and people with infectious diseases</a>, all of whom are still now being refused free healthcare. The former head of the NHS attacked these policies as a “<a href="">national scandal” when Jeremy Hunt rolled out upfront passport checks and charges last year</a>. But the <a href="">grossly exaggerated</a> story of so-called ‘health tourism’ won’t go away, carried by the insidious bleating about ‘an international health service’ that’s travelled from Nick Griffin’s mouth, to Nigel Farage’s, to Jeremy Hunt’s, to even <a href="">that other bastion of liberal national pride, the BBC</a>.</p> <h2>A little history</h2> <p>A few years after the Windrush generation arrived, <a href="">Nye Bevan wrote powerfully</a> about the importance of generosity to visitors and of universalism, saying:</p> <p>“it would be&nbsp;unwise as well as mean&nbsp;to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else?&nbsp;Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere&nbsp;to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody. Happily, this is one of those occasions when&nbsp;generosity and convenience march together…. The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to&nbsp;exploit the most disreputable emotions&nbsp;in this among many other&nbsp;attempts to discredit socialized medicine.”</p> <p>Williams writes “Patriotism is democracy, distilled: satisfaction and solidarity rooted in having created the conditions in which generosity and innovation could thrive.”</p> <p>This sounds like a very Blue Labour take (or Blue Corbynism…?).</p> <p>It’s also nonsense. </p> <p>Do we really want to relegate our “generosity” to merely a side-effect of patriotism? Our most generous service – <a href="">the NHS – has also been our most cherished</a>, for that very reason. The NHS is not a side effect of patriotism. It is, as Bevan himself said, “pure socialism”. </p> <p>And “innovation” in science and medicine has nothing to do with patriotism, either. Our greatest discoveries have been built on cross-border, non-profit collaboration for centuries, and continue to be so – <a href="">though threatened by Brexit</a>. </p> <p>Mangling history to provide comforting myths won’t provide the effective countervailing ‘narrative’ to ‘bad nationalism’ that Williams says the English need. Indeed it just makes ‘bad nationalism’ worse. </p> <p>We need proper history, not more myth making dressed up as ‘narrative’ and ‘framing’.</p> <p>By proper history, I mean a history that acknowledges the role of empire in building our welfare state. A history that doesn’t just portray the NHS as a ‘reward’ for ordinary people that ‘we won’ with our fortitude and sacrifice during our ‘finest hour’, delivered by rulers with an inherent sense of ‘fair play’ and ‘never again’, imbued with the ‘Spirit of 45’ and immediately able to see and embrace the common sense of applying wartime state management to public needs. We also need a history that acknowledges that in fact the NHS’s creation – and that of the rest of the welfare state – was as much to do with elite fears exposed yet again by the demands of war; fears of an enduringly sickly and unproductive workforce, of the pull of communism, and indeed, their fears of a recently demobbed, militarily-trained working class.</p> <h2>Nationalism - same as it ever was</h2> <p>Less than a month after Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, the government announced it was setting up ‘Healthcare UK’ to help the <a href="">NHS ‘brand’ to be exported overseas, particularly to the Gulf states, with private firms allowed to “partner with” and benefit from the NHS’s brand recognition</a>. Broadcasting the NHS brand so powerfully to nearly a billion people was undoubtedly useful in helping “<a href="">public and private sector organisations</a>” build their global healthcare exports. Whatever Boyle’s good intentions – and the government’s <a href="">reported initial discomfort</a> – perhaps our desire for a ‘good nationalism’ (<a href="">gleefully reported at the time</a>) is all too easily hijacked to export (neo)colonialism for the benefit of a few, just as ‘bad nationalism’ was. </p> <p>There is no such thing as ‘good nationalism’, as applied to England, in other words, a nationalism that serves the interests of ordinary people. There is only English nationalism that undermines those interests, that harms our solidarity both in our communities and globally, and that’s a figleaf for pursuing the interests of elites, whilst playing divide and rule amongst the rest 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="/ourkingdom/lara-brearley/exporting-nhs-brand-overseas">Exporting the NHS &#039;brand&#039; overseas?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/why-you-can-t-solve-nhs-s-funding-problems-by-banning-smokers-and-obese-from-treatment">Why you can’t solve the NHS’s problems by banning smokers and the obese from treatment</a> </div> <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="/ournhs/erin-dexter/making-nhs-hostile-environment-for-migrants-demeans-our-country">Making the NHS a “hostile environment” for migrants demeans our country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/ruth-atkinson/brexit-and-nhs-we-need-to-fight-racist-discourse">Brexit and the NHS - why we all must fight the racist discourse</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/greg-dropkin-karen-reissman/healthcare-in-britain-first-they-came-for-immigrants">Healthcare in Britain - first they came for the immigrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/juan-camilo/migrants-fairness-and-nhs">Migrants, &quot;fairness&quot; and the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/kailash-chand/stop-distracting-us-with-health-tourism-sideshow">Stop distracting us with the &#039;health tourism&#039; sideshow</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS Can Europe make it? uk ourNHS Caroline Molloy Tue, 08 May 2018 13:00:28 +0000 Caroline Molloy 117743 at Community Land Trusts: creating more sustainable communities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An interview with Paul Sander Jackson from&nbsp;Wessex Community Assets.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The aim of openDemocracy’s ‘New Thinking for the British Economy’ project is to present a debate on how to build a more just, sustainable, and resilient economy. In the project so far we’ve debated policy areas ranging from trade policy and universal basic income, to childcare policy and housing . But across Britain, hundreds of people are working tirelessly to build a new economy on a daily basis, putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up. In a new video series, we will be showcasing some of the most exciting&nbsp;initiatives that are already working to replace different aspects of our failing systems with fairer and more resilient alternatives — from housing and finance to food and energy. This week, Paul Sander Jackson from&nbsp;<span class="s1">Wessex Community Assets discusses how Community Land Trusts and other community led asset owning organisations are making communities more sustainable across England.&nbsp;</span> 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, 05 May 2018 09:56:19 +0000 Laurie Macfarlane 117707 at As Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections shut down, SCL Group's defence work needs real scrutiny <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can’t understand the significance of Cambridge Analytica without looking at the network it sits in, and how inadequate controls nurtured aspects of this networks’ development.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// analytica.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// analytica.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Cambridge Analytica's offices in central London. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>In just a month, Cambridge Analytica has gone from relative obscurity to international notoriety. But for me, this story isn’t new. I first interviewed senior figures in Cambridge Analytica’s lesser known parent company SCL for my 2014 book “<a href="">Propaganda and Counter-terrorism - Strategies for Global Change</a>”, and I’ve followed their work closely ever since.</p> <p>It’s been frustrating to watch some of the key players manage to escape crucial questions that should be asked of them. Because this isn’t just a scandal about an obscure, unethical company. It’s a story about how a network of companies was developed which enabled wide deployment of propaganda tools - based on propaganda techniques that were researched and designed for use as weapons in warzones - on citizens in democratic elections. It’s a logical product of a poorly regulated, opaque and lucrative influence industry. There was little or nothing in place to stop them. </p> <p>Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, and its founder, Nigel Oakes, have done everything they can to distance themselves from Cambridge Analytica but politics was important to SCL’s work far earlier than many thought. And SCL’s main clients - NATO and the defence departments of its member states - have managed to get away without being asked how much they knew about what one of their key contractors was up to. </p> <p>Recently the UK’s parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into Fake News <a href="">published some of the evidence I submitted drawing on research interviews</a> for an <a href="">upcoming book</a>, among other publications. Some of my quoted interviews with key figures suggest that SCL’s military arm and Cambridge Analytica’s engagements may have been much more closely related than Oakes or Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO Alexander Nix like to publicly admit. And if governments genuinely didn’t know how the firm was using the skills it developed in counter-terrorism in divisive elections around the world, then this was a huge failing.</p> <h2>SCL’s defence ‘division’</h2> <p>To explain this, I’ll start with a man called Steve Tatham. I first interviewed Tatham for my<a href=""> 2014 book</a>, about the work he was doing for the British military, then for SCL. Steve Tatham is former<a href=""> Commanding Officer of Britain's 15 (U.K.) Psyops Group</a><span> </span>and has played a lead role in SCL's defence work,<a href=""> including through the company IOTA Global, which was part of the SCL Group, delivering training in counter-Russian propaganda in Eastern Europe</a> funded by the Government of Canada, as well as conducting research on target audience analysis which has influenced counter-insurgency doctrine.</p> <p>In February 2017, Carole Cadwalladr began <a href="">reporting on Cambridge Analytica</a> in the Observer. On March 2 of that year, Tatham sent an email statement to a list of his contacts. Tatham declared that 'SCL Defence is a completely separate company to Cambridge Analytica, who were contracted to assist the Trump campaign during the election, albeit we are both part of the same group'.</p> <p>On 24th March 2018 <em>The Times</em> reported on SCL Group's <a href="">propaganda defence work</a>. In particular, it focussed on training carried out by Tatham for NATO's Center of Excellence in Strategic Communication in Latvia and the UK's Ministry of Defence. Shortly after the Times report, Tatham's company Influence Options Ltd made another statement, this time more publicly, <a href="">withdrawing from all work with SCL Group</a> and emphasising that they have not worked on any political campaigns. </p> <p>SCL Group has sought to distance SCL defence contracting from political campaign work by stressing SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica were independent companies. I have no reason to suspect Tatham of having engaged in political work. However, his new statement begs the question of how 'separate' the entities were if they were too close for Tatham to sustain his longstanding relationship to the SCL defence contractor amid Cambridge Analytica allegations. His statement acknowledges he worked for the “defence division” of SCL, language which conveys a different relationship from that spelled out in his email to contacts in March 2017, which declared “completely separate company”. Divisions imply related entities in the same company, not separate companies. So which is it? And if they really are all divisions of the same organisation, surely the unethical activities of one part of the SCL Group urgently demands that real scrutiny is given to the defence 'division' of SCL too – and to government oversight of contracts.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// acknowleges.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// acknowleges.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="181" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>SCL Ltd became SCL ‘Group’ in August 2015. There seem to have been efforts to distance the entities at least superficially; but this seems a more complex picture than “completely separate companies” would imply. My own research supports other evidence presented during the UK parliamentary ‘<a href="">Fake News Inquiry</a>’ apparently indicating important staffing overlaps, financial relationships and methods in common between apparently separate companies. Last week also, <a href=";%20CPU%20OS%2010_3_3%20like%20Mac%20OS%20X)%20AppleWebKit/603.3.8%20(KHTML,%20like%20Gecko)%20Version/10.0%20Mobile/14G60%20Safari/602.1">in testimony to the Canadian Parliament, Aggregate IQ, who worked with SCL on the Nigeria campaign, for Ted Cruz and who were contracted by Vote Leave in the UK’s EU Referendum </a>said they worked with <em>SCL</em>, not Cambridge Analytica, on the Cruz campaign, despite Cambridge Analytica being the entity that worked on this election.</p> <p>Brittany Kaiser, CA’s former Business Development Manager also <a href="">told the Fake News Inquiry </a>on April 17th that “our company tended to have a business model where we would partner with another company and that company would represent us as SCL Germany, or SCL USA. That was the model.” Kaiser added that she believed SCL Canada and Aggregate IQ were the same. Evidence such as this suggests the existence of a clearly associated network. Furthermore, Brittany Kaiser <a href="">declared in 2016</a> that the underpinnings of Cambridge Analytica’s political methods are the same social scientific research and data science techniques as are used for defence: “This was most often actually used in defense. We work for the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies in counter-terrorism operations with this exact same similar methodology. And now we decided to start building up a database to work in politics,” Kaiser said.</p> <h2>SCL and CA - were they really separate companies?</h2> <p>Another key figure who I interviewed before this story broke is Nigel Oakes, chief executive of the SCL Group. <a href="">Here he is pictured</a> at NATO Stratcom in Riga, working with Steve Tatham. Nigel Oakes was listed as Director of IOTA Global, until the company dissolved in January 2017. Our most recent interview in November last year was very illuminating in revealing the relationship between the companies.</p> <p>When Oakes set up SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica as the new political arm of SCL's business, the political ‘division’ worked less separately from SCL. There are reports of SCL working in <a href="">elections in Indonesia</a> in 1999. Oakes’ own expertise, which emerged in PR, developed further through counter-terrorism work and shaped the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI) - a research unit underpinning SCL methods, and this expertise was being deployed in elections. We need to know which ones.</p> <p>Oakes told me he had worked on politics “in the past. I set up the company [Cambridge Analytica] but <em>now</em>, I'm totally defence and I've gotta <em>be</em> totally defence”. He said, “the defence people can't be seen to be getting involved in politics, and the State Department, they get very <em>upset.</em>” Oakes stated they imposed “strong lines” between the companies. It seems reasonable to infer that SCL have been restating their separation to ensure survival of business interests in defence and commercial contracting, motivated in part by nervousness and pressure received from the US and UK governments wanting to contract them for defence work. <a href="">As Oakes said</a> – “they get very <em>upset”.</em></p> <p>Yet in <a href="">my </a><span>interview</span> with Oakes he referred to what “we” are doing to include Cambridge Analytica not just his defence division - “…when we explain in the two-minute lift pitch what happened with Trump…” Any lack of clarity here matters – a lot. Cambridge Analytica also stressed that they do <a href="">”no work outside of North America</a>, although the Cambridge Analytica brand is now used worldwide”. According to whistle-blower Chris Wylie, Cambridge Analytica’s work in Nigeria included an ad with a <a href="">montage of violence, including real footage of people being dismembered</a> and burned, from recent history, seeking to create fear of Muslims and intimidate voters. </p> <p>And then there’s Sam Patten. Patten was ‘senior director/campaign manager’, according to Kaiser, and oversaw the Nigeria campaign along with a second senior strategist. I interviewed him in July 2017 also about a previous job he did working for the <a href="">International Republican Institute</a> in ‘reconstruction’ era Iraq. He told me he had also worked in the US, in Oregon, during one of the trial runs of Cambridge Analytica’s early deployment of psychographics, later deployed more fully in the Cruz campaign. He talked about preparations for this, “they were training a team, I was part of that team… they [...] trained me in England then they sent me to Canada for more training” then he developed messaging for the US campaigns. The Canada based company <a href="">Aggregate IQ were reported in the Guardian as having links to SCL but have sought to distance themselves from that company</a>. Patten observed of the United States, “I’ve worked for Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and our system, isn’t very different” (See <a href="">Explanatory Essay 1</a>). </p> <p><a class="mag-quote-center" href="">&nbsp;"I’ve worked for Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and our system, isn’t very different’"</a></p> <h2>An open secret in Washington </h2> <p>SCL Group’s reputation seemed something of an open secret among some of my contacts in Washington DC information warfare and political campaign circles. This is conveyed in Patten’s flippant comments about a job with SCL: “Anyway, the irony was… because it was SCL I assumed it was the bad guys, but it wasn’t!”.</p> <p>Siloing activities or divisions off can be helpful when a company grows rapidly into new areas, for many reasons. Staff, like Tatham, in the original company, and the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, SCL Group’s ‘research institute’, are not homogenous, and there are some distinctions culturally between those with careers originating in defence and those without. Not all of these individuals wished to work with Cambridge Analytica, not all shared the political motivations represented in the lucrative new contracts. </p> <p>Siloing in companies engaged in nefarious or secretive activities of the kind <a href="">Channel 4 </a>revealed at Cambridge Analytica can also help manage the potential for leaks and exposure. Regardless of how or why Oakes and his business partners may have ultimately organised the companies or 'divisions' to perpetuate their activities (somewhat) separately, the point is that there is a network of companies, with SCL Group central to it, which is responsible for a collection of worrying activities and pitching defence-derived methods to shady international actors. I would argue that, given the above evidence, particularly Oakes’ interview and Kaiser’s reporting and testimony, in order to understand and evaluate these activities we must at least consider the related yet somewhat-autonomous companies’ activities alongside each other, rather than in isolation, including:</p> <ul><li>- Assisting the campaigns of politicians using racist and violent video content designed to drive fear and intimidate voters in fragile states (<a href="">Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ</a>)</li><li>- Spreading Islamophobic and false narratives in the West including the 2016 US election and which was copied for the EU Referendum by Leave.EU (Cambridge Analytica<a href=""> - see my Explanatory Essay 1</a>). These narratives drive fear of Muslims which is used to justify calls for more spending on ‘counter-terrorism’ (Briant, 2015).</li><li>- Profiting from Western governments interventions ostensibly to resolve conflicts (often religious and ethnic) for counter-terrorism and counter-extremism (<a href="">see my last book</a>)</li><li>- Also (not mentioned in my submission to parliament), an archived version of <a href="">their website</a> appears to indicate that SCL have been involved in three elections in the UK. Though <a href="">Nix has said</a> “we don't involve ourselves in the UK as a rule of thumb” he lists the UK’s Conservative Party in <a href="">this letter</a> among parties they have helped.</li></ul> <p>These are not unrelated activities. </p> <p>When we consider the work of the overall group, these activities might variously be considered to drive instability in precarious democracies, drive fear of Muslims in the West and internationally, then profit from both wars against Muslim countries and Muslims’ marginalisation in the West, while claiming to ‘counter’ extremism.</p> <h2>Controlling the propaganda industries </h2> <p>Damian Collins MP as Chair of the Fake News Inquiry should now consider the extent to which Nigel Oakes, as SCL Group CEO and founder of SCL, should share responsibility along with Cambridge Analytica’s former chief executive Alexander Nix. A number of senior Cambridge Analytica figures are now involved with <a href="">Emerdata, a new Mercer-backed data analytics company.</a></p> <p>Oakes and his colleagues have spent many years studying extremism and terrorism including interviewing terrorists themselves. All of this social science and human intelligence work has been fed into BDI’s research core, which can be drawn on by all the companies. Steve Tatham has <a href="">claimed </a>that: </p> <p>“The BDI methodology uses the most advanced social science research to measure populations and determine, to a high degree of accuracy, how population groups may respond under certain conditions. The methodology is the only one of its type and has been verified and validated by the US Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the Sandia National Laboratories (USA) and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL).”</p> <p>Oakes said to me, of this social science research core – “without <em>this </em>[Alexander Nix] couldn’t do any of that!” (See <a href="">Explanatory Essay 3</a>). The companies were well equipped to understand what might drive extremism from their shared research base, and to understand the impact of the 'othering' or violent and terrifying ads deployed in domestic and international campaigns. My evidence shows Oakes is not naïve to the kind of campaigns Cambridge Analytica and his SCL Group deployed in the US. </p> <p>This case has further deeply important implications for our government’s defence contracting. In shocking <a href="">new testimony </a>Brittany Kaiser, former Development Manager for Cambridge Analytica revealed that:</p> <p>“I found documents from Nigel Oakes, the co-founder of the SCL Group, who was in charge of our defence division, stating that the target audience analysis methodology, TAA, used to be export controlled by the British Government. That would mean that the methodology was considered a weapon—weapons grade communications tactics—which means that we had to tell the British Government if that was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom. I understand that designation was removed in 2015.” </p> <p>Interestingly, August 2015 is when SCL stopped being SCL Ltd and started being SCL ‘Group’. Again, Kaiser too refers to “our defence division” - not a separate company. And regarding other aspects, the US government’s <a href="">Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency</a> (DARPA) worked with BDI during the ‘War on Terror’, developing methods together (see Explanatory <a href="">Essay 3</a>). If the methodologies BDI developed might have informed tactics deployed in democratic elections this is very serious, whether or not the tools were ‘effective’ or what specifically they were used for. It is <em>vital</em> that our governments, including research entities like DARPA, build into contracts more control over tools and weapons they help to create. They must not escape responsibility when private organisations extend these, to be developed beyond the original defence work. This must also apply when they are unofficially working together, but not contracted. </p> <p>Furthermore, it seems highly improbable that our intelligence agencies would not have been monitoring destabilising activities in Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia and other countries with a precarious state of peace and with vulnerable democratic systems. It is their job to anticipate developing conflicts and instability in countries such as these. They also often maintain awareness of any potential security weaknesses, liabilities and conflicts of interest in the background and businesses of individuals working in national security. We should therefore ask how much they, and the State Department and the Pentagon in the US, and the FCO and MoD in the UK, and indeed NATO, might have known about other companies in this ‘Group’. It is vital that anyone with additional evidence that illuminates these questions further comes forward as a priority.</p> <p>My evidence shows that SCL Group had experienced some pressure from Western governments to make the ‘political’ companies more separate from the government contractor, concern that implies at least some knowledge that there may be something to be worried about. If so, to what extent did the policy of pushing them for separation, rather than dropping them as a defence contractor, allow SCL to continue their unethical practices? It would be extremely serious if our governments turned a blind eye to unethical work with the potential to destabilise vulnerable nations and potentially trigger future conflicts in which our military might be deployed. At the very least there was poor evaluation of risk and weak oversight, particularly in determining whether the actions of the SCL Group might undermine British and American interests abroad. </p> <p>Importantly, my evidence shows that Leave.EU copied and were able to deploy an effective campaign based on Cambridge Analytica’s methods following the pitch that Kaiser gave them. This raises questions of whether other entities who received a similar pitch could also have replicated the methodology - this is of particular important in relation to Lukoil for example, <a href="">a Russian state-owned company that Cambridge Analytica pitched their methods to </a>around the time SCL were delivering training in methods to Eastern European countries to ‘counter Russian threat’. </p> <p>Actions in response to this evidence must include a review of the current processes for removal of the ‘export control’ restrictions along with the process where companies bid for a UK Government ‘Framework’ for privileged access to contracts over four years. A lot has changed in the last four years for SCL. Cambridge Analytica has been shut down. Now there must be proper inquiry into the process of procurement and oversight of government contracts as the implications of all this are very serious. Most importantly the actions of a ‘group’ of related but apparently autonomous companies <em>must</em> be treated as relevant, not just considering the contracted company in isolation. The group must be continuously monitored. We cannot allow this to happen again.</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/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ben-graham-jones/observing-elections-of-future">Observing the elections of the future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk Emma L Briant Fri, 04 May 2018 11:10:54 +0000 Emma L Briant 117691 at Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A controversial think tank that argued for a hard Brexit and has been linked with Russian intelligence had monthly meetings with a leading Brexit minister.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// hands cropped.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// hands cropped.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: International Trade Minister Greg Hands. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>Department for International Trade minister Greg Hands MP arranged monthly meetings with Shanker Singham, then head of the Legatum Institute’s trade commission. The meetings were scheduled for months in advance, an investigation by openDemocracy has found.</p> <p>The Brexit department refused to confirm if any notes were taken of these meetings but our investigation found that no minutes were taken at previous “coffee catch-ups” and other meetings between Legatum and cabinet ministers and officials.</p> <p>A former Labour minister told openDemocracy that these “extraordinary” revelations suggest the existence of “a secret kitchen cabinet charting the course of a hard Brexit”.</p> <p><a href="">Legatum</a> emerged as one of the most influential voices in Westminster in the wake of the Brexit vote with senior Leave figures including Matthew Elliott joining the think tank. Legatum, which is a <a href="">registered charity</a>, raised eyebrows with its “<a href="">unparalleled access</a>” to Brexit minister David Davis and other senior government figures. </p> <p>In just six weeks from the end of October, Legatum had more than half a dozen <a href="">meetings</a> with Brexit ministers and officials. Around the same time, Shanker Singham, Legatum’s chief trade advisor, was implicated in a letter sent by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson urging Theresa May to take a <a href="">harder stance</a> on Brexit. Singham has since left Legatum. </p> <p>Legatum was set up by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who was once a major shareholder in the Russian state energy firm Gazprom. Earlier this week, a Conservative MP used parliamentary privilege to name Chandler as ‘on object of interest’ to French intelligence services in 2002. Isle of Wight MP Bob Seeley claimed Chandler was suspected of working for the <a href="">Russian secret service</a>.</p> <p>The extent of Legatum’s access to the key Brexit trade department was revealed in a series of emails released under Freedom of Information legislation. <a href=" Singham emails Sept-Dec.pdf">The emails detail correspondence between Hands and Singham</a>, with the British minister suggesting last October that the two “meet frequently and monthly is a good objective." </p> <p>A meeting between Hands and Singham on October 31 was moved to the Commons “due to a three line whip” on a vote in the House. When Hands could not attend a meeting slated for November 21 his secretary suggested re-arranging for December 6. Singham wrote that this was “going to be difficult as we have to be in a meeting at 10DS [10 Downing Street] then”. The pair eventually met the following day, at Legatum’s upmarket Mayfair offices. </p> <p>The emails also include discussions about re-arranging dates for the meetings in January and March of this year. </p> <p>The emails suggest that Singham had a good relationship with trade secretary Liam Fox and even acted as an intermediary between the Turkish embassy in London and Department of International Trade. In one email, Singham suggested the Turkish ambassador meet with DIT trade advisor <a href="">Crawford Falconer</a>, who left Legatum last year to join Fox’s department. </p> <p>The Brexit trade department was sent drafts of <a href="">Legatum reports</a> that called for UK to leave the customs union and single market. Permanent secretary Antonia Romeo was briefed specially by Legatum on their trade policy recommendations, according to the emails.</p> <p>Legatum’s access to the Brexit trade department stands in contrast to some British businesses who have complained about lack of access to trade ministers. Last year, the North East Chamber of Commerce only got a meeting with ministers after <a href="">publicly complaining</a> to local MPs. </p> <p>Responding to openDemocracy’s revelations, former cabinet office minister Liam Byrne said that the “extraordinary emails lay bare a secret kitchen cabinet charting the course for a hard Brexit, off the books, behind closed doors.” </p> <p>He added, “It's frankly alarming given what's now emerged about the Russia links of the Legatum founders that their former staff are organising secretive meetings with profound consequences for Britain's future. We now need ministers to tell us immediately just what was discussed - and what was agreed,” the Labour MP said. </p> <p>As openDemocracy <a href="">reported</a> in March, the Department for Exiting the European Union refused to reveal details of a series of meetings between DExEU officials and Legatum. But responses to a FOI request sent by openDemocracy show that <a href=" Legatum meetings.pdf">no minutes or notes were taken at a lunch meeting between Hands and Legatum in March 2017</a>. </p> <p>We also learned that no notes, minutes or list of guests were recorded at a dinner that senior Brexit trade official John Alty had with Legatum Institute Commissioners at the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair. Similarly there are no records from a “coffee catch up” that special advisor Amy Tinley and two other DIT officials had with Singham in September 2017.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Department of International refused to confirm or deny whether any notes had been taken during Hands’ monthly meetings with Singham, or whether these regular meetings were still taking place. </p> <p>A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: </p> <p>“Trade ministers and officials meet a wide variety of stakeholders from across the UK, including businesses and civil society groups, to seek a broad range of views and support the government’s trade policy development The department also regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum.”</p> <p>The spokesperson added that Crawford Falconer had not met the Turkish ambassador.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Legatum Institute said that the charity was no longer conducting research into Brexit and was not aware of the monthly meeting between Singham and Hands. Singham, who is a cleared trade advisor to the US government, left Legatum in March. He now heads the International Trade and Competition Unit at the think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</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 Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 04 May 2018 06:30:00 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 117678 at Why has a Republican attack operation opened shop in the UK? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And who is paying for their services?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: British Houses of Parliament, Maurice/Wikicommons, CC-2 license.</em></p><p class="BodyA">Speaking to a Conservative commentator this week, I asked was he aware of any changes in the UK lobbying industry. Had he, for example, noticed the arrival of any specialists in ‘opposition research’ –&nbsp;the practice of digging up damaging information on political, or corporate rivals – which has long been a feature of US politics?</p><p class="BodyA">Oh no, I was assured. We don’t have anything like that here.</p> <p class="BodyA">Well, maybe we didn’t, but we do now.</p><p class="BodyA">UK Policy Group was established in January last year by two senior Republican lobbyists: <a href="">Matt Rhoades</a>, who ran Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House in 2012, and <a href="">Joe Pounder</a>, former head of research for the Republican National Committee, a “master of opposition research”.</p> <p class="BodyA">Rhoades and Pounder run an elite Republican lobbying firm in Washington called Definers Public Affairs. Both men are also closely associated with a US political fund, or ‘<a href="">super PAC’</a>, called <a href="">America Rising</a>, with whom Definers <a href="">shares</a> an office, and there is a well-oiled revolving door between the two. UK Policy Group was set up as the London ‘affiliate’ of this group.</p> <p class="BodyA">Definers and America Rising are both specialists in ‘opposition research’. </p> <p class="BodyA"><a href="">America Rising</a> exists solely to attack Democrat politicians. It sees its job as exposing the ‘truth’ on political opponents and uncovering ‘Democrat hypocrisy’, as the super PAC <a href="">puts it</a>. During the 2016 US election cycle its purpose was to erode support for Hillary Clinton, which included targeting material to deter potential Clinton supporters on the left. Pounder <a href="">revealed</a> in 2016 that their file on Clinton, which they had compiled over four years, ran to ‘over 7,000 pages of distilled research’ and more than 10,000 video clips.</p> <p class="BodyA">America Rising, whose <a href=";cycle=2016">biggest donor</a> is hedge-fund billionaire and ‘vulture capitalist’, Paul Singer, is now <a href="">taking aim</a> at potential 2020 Democrat presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Cuomo and Bernie Sanders, <a href="">with the aim of</a> attaching negative ‘narratives’ to opponents early in the campaign cycle. It <a href="">uses</a> ‘trackers’ to follow target Democrats around, <a href="">filming their public appearances</a> in a bid to catch them saying something that could be used now, or in the future, to undermine, or <a href="">embarrass</a> them.</p> <p class="BodyA"><a href="">Dubbed</a> the ‘unofficial research arm of the Republican Party’, America Rising is a clearinghouse for opposition research within Republican campaigns.</p> <p class="BodyA">Rhoades and Pounder originally <a href="">registered</a> their London affiliate with Companies House as ‘UK Rising’, aligning it with the political attack fund they co-founded rather than their commercial lobbying firm, Definers Public Affairs (UK Rising underwent a name change to UK Policy Group in May last year). The US lobbying firm also <a href="">registered</a> the web domain </p> <p class="BodyA">Definers, like America Rising, also <a href="">creates</a> 'dossiers on opponents, competitors and agitators', but for <a href="">corporate clients, trade bodies and wealthy individuals.</a> It does this, it says, by searching the public record, including social media, news reports and legal records, to find 'high impact information', which it then packages up in 'media-friendly formats' that can be used to influence public debates. This is ‘painstaking’ work, <a href="">says</a> Definers, trawling through documents, or YouTube videos to find its opponent’s ‘vulnerability’. </p> <p class="BodyA">Employees in the London branch are now being <a href="">trained up</a> in these skills by their American counterparts. UK Policy Group similarly <a href="">promises</a> to provide 'dossiers' on 'targets' that provide 'comprehensive, detailed analysis' of an opponent's record, background and views, information which, they say, can be used to shape stories in the media. UK Policy Group <a href="">has said</a> that its services will be aimed at private sector clients. </p> <p class="BodyA">UK Policy Group’s all-male leadership team isn’t from the commercial world though, but appears instead to be drawn almost exclusively from the Conservative Party, including some with a background in opposition research. </p> <p class="BodyA"><a href="">Andrew Goodfellow</a>, who leads the UK operation, was until his appointment director of research for the Conservative Party where he specialised in opposition research. The Guido Fawkes blog <a href="">describes</a> Goodfellow a ‘super sleuth’. ‘You may not have heard of him,’ <a href="">it says</a>, ‘but you’ve certainly read his work.’ </p> <p class="BodyA">UK Policy Group also employs <a href="">James Caldecourt,</a> another specialist in opposition research from the Conservative Research Department, whose biography says he was part of George Osborne’s Treasury team. The Tories’ head of media monitoring operation until July 2017, <a href="">Pelham Groom</a>, now runs UK Policy Group’s ‘media monitoring war-room’. The team also includes <a href="">Matthew van Horen</a>, who previously worked for the Conservative Party and for the lobbying firm of its election guru, Lynton Crosby, and <a href="">Louis McMahon</a>, an ex-Parliamentary aide, who says he worked for two government ministers.</p> <p class="Body"><a href="">Chris Brannigan</a>, recent special adviser to Theresa May in No.10, is also an advisor to UK Policy Group, among other firms. He recently <a href="">told</a> openDemocracy that he has "never carried out research on opposition politicians".</p><p class="Body">Both UK Policy Group and Definers Public Affairs were contacted and invited to comment on this article, including on the apparent similarities between America Rising and UK Policy Group, but has yet to receive a reply.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Rising_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Rising_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>America Rising Corp's services - screengrab from website</span></span></span></p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Policy Group_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Policy Group_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="249" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UK Policy Group's services - screengrab from website</span></span></span></p><h2>The “dark art” of opposition research</h2><p class="BodyB">Writing on the UK Policy Group website, founder Joe Pounder <a href="">says</a> that opposition research is unfairly maligned and in need of a rebrand. He criticises the media for using terms such as “dark arts”, “peddling” and “salacious” to describe what he and his employees do for a living.</p> <p class="BodyB">But the weaponisation of information in elections – for the explicit <a href="">purpose</a> of defining a political opponent in the eyes of voters, increasing their ‘negatives’, depressing their support, and driving away potential voters – is not like ‘any other type of information-gathering’, as Pounder suggests. Yes, the Democrats are at it too. But, it is anti-democratic. </p> <p class="BodyB">Democracy requires the free flow of opinions and debate; a robust political opposition; and a healthy media – all of which can be undermined by the type of opposition attacks, propagated through social media, that were deployed in the 2016 ‘Big Oppo’ election in America, as Pounder <a href="">described</a> it. </p> <p class="BodyB">Also crucial to a functioning democracy is transparency, including public knowledge of the actors involved. And around UK Policy Group, there is none. The firm, which arguably looks like an alternative research arm of the Conservative Party, says that the current political turbulence in the UK <a href="">makes it</a> an ‘ideal location’ for Definers and any clients seeking to ‘influence public opinion’. </p> <p class="BodyB">But, who is paying UK Policy Group for these services? And which opponents are they being employed to target? Are they political, as well as corporate? And to what end: how are their tactics, honed by their US colleagues, influencing public debate in Britain?</p> <p class="BodyB">As Brexit gathers pace, and four years out from the next general election, it is in the public interest to know. </p> <p class="BodyB"><em>This article will be updated if UK Policy Group or Definers Public Affairs reply to our request for comment.</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/adam-ramsay/was-tory-pr-firm-behind-smear-campaign-against-grenfell-s-mp">Was a Tory PR firm behind a smear campaign against Grenfell’s MP?</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 Tamasin Cave Thu, 03 May 2018 11:51:46 +0000 Tamasin Cave 117669 at Amber Rudd, the Windrush scandal and the reluctant Remainer <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Windrush scandal is undoubtedly the scene of a crime, multiple crimes. But which scene and what crime now needs maximum public exposure?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sajid Javid outside the Home Office in Westminster, London, after he was appointed as the new Home Secretary. April 30,2018. Stefan Rousseau/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>There is something bittersweet and something definitely fishy in <a href="">Amber Rudd</a>’s <a href="">resignation</a>. Many have celebrated it as a victory against Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’. At the <a href="">Guardian</a> they have probably uncorked a bottle of anti-Brexit prosecco. David Lammy MP whose relentless campaign for the Windrush generation has moved even usually xenophobic MPs and perhaps the Daily Mail has celebrated, posting a photo of himself next to The Wire’s Omar Little.</p> <p>The ‘Windrush fiasco’ as herself called it, exploded under Amber Rudd’s watch, but it was not of her own making. The political responsibility for the appalling and dehumanising treatment of the Windrush generation lies squarely with Theresa May: the bad management of the story is on Amber Rudd. The hostile environment is May’s flagship policy, the one that arguably made her a darling of the likes of The Sun and Daily Mail and landed her the PM job. <span class="mag-quote-center">The hostile environment is May’s flagship policy, the one that arguably made her a darling of the likes of The Sun and Daily Mail and landed her the PM job. </span></p> <p>The Guardian has been publishing the stories of the Windrush generation for months. There is no way Amber Rudd or anyone in Cabinet can claim they just found out about them last week, but they didn’t act on them. Why? Because those stories were the wanted and expected outcomes of their own immigration policy, not isolated cases or bureaucratic errors, those stories were exactly what the hostile environment was all about, until they no longer were, and the Windrush stories turned into a scandal and a fiasco. </p> <p>How this happened is open to interpretation. The Guardian, Diane Abbot and David Lammy have certainly played a role in shifting the narrative in favour of the Windrush generation. But did someone else with less genuine liberal credentials lend them a hand? The way the events unfolded clearly shows that the resignation of Amber Rudd has altered the balance in the Cabinet between hard and soft Brexiters at a crucial time in Brexit negotiation. Is this just a side effect of the scandal or vice versa? </p> <p>Was the Windrush scandal an orchestrated campaign to tip the balance of power in the Cabinet. Did the Brexiters and their media see an opportunity and make the most of it? The stream of resignations of close allies of Theresa May due to stories dating back many years that have suddenly resurfaced in the media invites an open mind. In either case, one can’t fail to note the amount of leaks and counter-leaks in the current government. </p> <p>So once the Windrush stories became a ‘scandal’ a scapegoat was urgently needed, and Amber Rudd, willingly or forcefully, was there to save her boss and political patron; at least so it looked during last weekend. </p> <p>How you interpret this part of the story depends on which version of the events you privilege: the Windrush as the end with the impact on Brexit as the convenient side effect, or the Windrush as a means to an end, the end being to replace a strong ideological Remainer with a more malleable politician. </p> <p>In the latter scenario, the letter signed by 60 Tory MPs threatening to topple the PM if she was sticking to her Custom Partnership plan is only a red herring. It is not in the interest of Rees-Mogg and his fellow hard Brexiters to sink Theresa May’s government. No one else in the Cabinet or outside (ie Rees-Mogg) is in the position of mustering more support for their plan: they need her; but they need her weak and isolated. <span class="mag-quote-center">They need her; but they need her weak and isolated.</span></p> <p>And this is where Sajid Javid enters, at least publicly, the stage. The same day The Guardian is leaking a document showing that Amber Rudd has lied in the House of Commons regarding deportation targets, Mr Javid, by his admission a reluctant Remainer, is given a whole page in the hard-Brexit Telegraph to say that he really feels the pain of the Windrush generation as this could have been his own family. </p> <p>Never a more timely interview, he was immediately proposed as the best bet for replacing Rudd. Again, was the interview part of a wider pro-Brexit plan or the intuition of an ambitious politician who managed to place himself at the right time in the right place? &nbsp;</p> <p>I became suspicious of Sajid Javid’s compassionate interview after looking at his voting record, which shows how he has been supporting hostile environment measures for several years.</p> <p>I am still puzzled by Amber Rudd denying the existence of deportation targets in the Home Office, which could validate views from inside Whitehall that she was a poor manager. Such targets were not something unheard of in the UK and other western countries. Sarkozy used his deportation record as minister of interior in France in his successful presidential campaign. In the UK, only four years ago, the Guardian revealed that under Theresa May the Home Office rewarded with gifts and extra holidays those rejecting more asylum applications. I guess the ‘scandal’ made it, at least for a brief moment, ethically and politically unsustainable to admit the existence of those targets.</p> <p>But now that Rudd is gone and Javid is in the Cabinet, suddenly Tory MPs are mounting a sustained effort to push a different narrative of Rudd’s resignation: the Windrush scandal has nothing to do with the hostile environment policy. It was, they argue, a bureaucratic error, nothing more than a rotten apple in an otherwise successful policy basket. To them, it is crucial that the resignation is not seen by the voters as an admission of a policy mistake. How could it be? It is Theresa May’s flagship policy. But because Rudd lied to the MPs, she had to go. <span class="mag-quote-center">To them, it is crucial that the resignation is not seen by the voters as an admission of a policy mistake.</span></p> <p>In the meantime, Javid has taken his seat in the Cabinet and in the Brexit subcommittee and the bet has already paid off. He has joined hard-Brexiters to voice strong doubts about the prime minister’s favoured customs plan, throwing his weight behind the alternative preferred by the hard-Brexit faction.</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> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Nando Sigona Thu, 03 May 2018 11:30:02 +0000 Nando Sigona 117662 at Windrush and Legal Aid: how free legal representation could have avoided a national scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Many migration decisions are wrong - but since legal aid for such cases was scrapped by the LASPO Act 2012, few migrants have the money to challenge them. Meanwhile, an ongoing review drags on. </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// photocall.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// photocall.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Windrush generation members with David Lammy, 1 May. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>In parliament this week, the newly appointed Home Secretary Sajid Javid, vowed to “do right” by the Windrush generation. His colleagues – including his predecessor Amber Rudd – have in recent weeks reassured us that the Home Office can and must change its spots, and act with compassion and administrative flexibility.</p> <p>Rudd also repeatedly <a href="">told Parliament</a> in recent days that the Windrush children did not need access to lawyers or independent legal advice to regularise their status, saying the system “[does] not require people to go to their lawyers […] it will be sufficiently constructive, sympathetic and helpful that it will not require people […] to have lawyers”.</p> <p>But before the Guardian exposed Windrush as a national scandal, ultimately leading to Rudd’s resignation on Sunday night, any immigration lawyer would tell you that although winnable, Windrush cases were difficult to prepare, and generally required firm correspondence with the Home Office and, in some instances, a Court challenge. Dealings with the Home Office in Windrush cases pre-scandal certainly did not suggest the department was capable of compassion and administrative flexibility.</p> <p>When legal aid was abolished for immigration cases in 2013, those same lawyers would tell you that it became virtually impossible for Windrush children to succeed in obtaining confirmation of their legal status and that too many vulnerable people were left to their own devices to deal with a targets-obsessed Government organisation that took no prisoners (<a href="">except when they did</a>).&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>The chaos before the storm</strong></p> <p>Even before the 2013 cuts to legal aid, applications for even the most basic way Windrush children could obtain confirmation of their legal status in the UK - No Time Limit (NTL) status – were notoriously complicated. They required official documents and records of someone's life in the UK spanning over as many as four decades.</p> <p>The Home Office showed no flexibility for such applications. They rarely accepted alternative forms of evidence from applicants, such as personal testimonies, when official records were unavailable or <a href="">recklessly destroyed</a> by the Home Office itself. It also rarely made contact with people to obtain further evidence when documents were missing from an application and it irrationally refused to liaise with other Government agencies to obtain confirmation of someone's continuous residence in the country by, for example, requesting evidence of uninterrupted payment of National Insurance contributions from HMRC. </p> <p><a href="">Giving evidence</a> to the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Adrian Berry, the head of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, perfectly summarised the problems: “the cogency of the evidence and the level of the quality of the evidence that is required [by the Home Office] […] is the problem. […] there is a very good case for saying perhaps the burden ought to be shared [between the applicant and the Home Office], because the primary way of corroborating a person’s narrative account of their life in the UK is through things like National Insurance contributions and pension contribution records”.</p> <p>The Home Office hostile approach, together with target-obsessed poor decision-making (see reports <a href="">here</a>, <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>) meant that Windrush generation children needed legal representation to navigate the complicated and chaotic framework that is the UK immigration system. Most importantly, they required initial advice from a lawyer to understand what their rights were and how to enforce them. Members of the Windrush generation arrived in the UK as children and spent decades in the UK confident of their legal status in the Country. When wrongly told otherwise, initial legal advice became fundamental to challenge that assertion.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>From difficult to impossible&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>Legal aid for immigration cases was abolished in 2013. When the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force in April 2013, the Windrush generation were automatically excluded from the benefit of free legal advice and effectively from any form of meaningful access to justice that could help them obtain confirmation of their legal status in the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>For extreme cases where the denial of legal aid would breach human rights, LASPO introduced a “safety net”, known as the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme. But this safety net does not cover initial legal advice, and in the first year only 1% of applications for ECF were granted. So the only way that Windrush children could realistically access legal advice post-LASPO was by having enough money to pay for a lawyer. That’s on top of Home Office application fees of up to £2,389 for Indefinite Leave to remain. And that’s amidst financial struggles for the Windrush children, many of whom had been <a href="">sacked or refused the right to work</a>.</p> <p>The situation was worsened when the Immigration Act 2014, in addition to the introduction of more stringent “hostile environment” policies, removed the right of Windrush children to appeal to an independent Tribunal against negative Home Office decisions.</p> <p>So not only did initial legal advice suddenly became unavailable to Windrush children, but poorly made decisions remained effectively unchallenged as the great majority of people found themselves unable to pay for legal representation in Court. </p> <p>As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out on Wednesday during <a href="">Prime Minister’s question time</a> “the dismantling of legal aid provisions in 2012 made the impact of the 2014 Immigration Act harder to challenge. These policies swept up British citizens and legal migrants causing them immense suffering”. </p> <p>In an increasingly hostile environment, with no access to free independent advice, good decision making and impartial Tribunals, it’s no surprise that Windrush children were left unable to navigate an overly complicated system and that proving their legal status in the UK became an impossible endeavour. </p> <p><strong>Any change in sight?</strong></p> <p>The Windrush scandal seems to be the obvious opportunity for the Government to review the cuts to legal aid and the disastrous impact that they have had on so many people’s access to justice. However, before being forced to resign, Rudd went out of her way to <a href="">explain</a> that she was “<em>not looking at changing legal aid</em>”. Whether that is also the will of Sajid Javid remains uncertain. On his first day in the job, Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper MP asked him if he would “look again at reinstating independent appeals and legal aid to prevent injustice in future”. Javid ignored the question, but pressed by Karen Buck MP on the same point, he merely referred her to the Justice Department’s <a href="">review of the LASPO act already underway</a> (and already delayed, with fresh <a href="">doubts over the revised summer deadline</a>).</p> <p>What is obvious, however, is that the current system makes the access to justice gap worryingly wide for too many vulnerable people such as the Windrush children. As Katharine Viner wrote in <a href="">the Guardian</a> this week, the Windrush scandal shows the need for a system to hold power to account. Sadly, the removal of legal aid for the great majority of immigration cases did just the opposite. It created a system where people at their most vulnerable are unable to access basic legal representations to assert a right that has been theirs all along. It created a system where bad-decision making remains unchallenged and where people find themselves alone dealing with an unfriendly and unsympathetic institution. That system is plainly unsustainable and it can no longer be tolerated.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/rachel-logan/amnesty-concludes-that-legal-aid-cuts-are-major-human-rights-issue">Legal aid cuts are a major human rights issue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/alison-picku/how-safe-is-legal-aid-safety-net">How safe is the legal aid &#039;safety net&#039;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/do-we-have-right-to-justice">Do we have a right to justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/ronagh-craddock/asylum-seekers-are-left-destitute-and-homeless-due-to-lack-of-legal-aid">Asylum seekers are left destitute and homeless due to a lack of legal aid </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/clare-jennings/hungry-homeless-and-in-need-of-legal-aid-lawyer">Hungry, homeless and in need of a legal aid lawyer</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Caterina Franchi Thu, 03 May 2018 08:51:01 +0000 Caterina Franchi 117657 at Of Quakers and deep democracy – is it time to renew the Quaker Book? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Quaker movement was born out of radicalism. This weekend Quakers assemble to ask themselves, is it time for Quakerism to renew itself in a more participatory way?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Meeting for worship Preston new road 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Meeting for worship Preston new road 3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Quaker meeting for worship at Preston New Road fracking site, Credit: BYM, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>This May Bank Holiday weekend, Britain's Quaker community will gather in London to decide&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">whether to revise the book that informs our practice.</a>&nbsp;If the answer is ‘yes’ it will kick-start a decade long process whereby every Quaker in Britain will have a say on how our faith develops.</p> <p>As a point of comparison, it would be analogous perhaps, to the Church of England embarking on a participatory process to re-write the Book of Common Prayer. </p> <p>In many ways, work to challenge unjust hierarchies and flatten structures is in our DNA: The Quaker movement was born out of the radical foment of the English Revolution with many of its earliest members having played prominent roles in the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Levellers, Diggers, and Parliamentary causes</a>. As the movement spread in the centuries that followed there were Quaker suffragettes, civil rights activists and anti-apartheid campaigners.</p> <p>In recent more times, elements of the participatory&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Quaker business method</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">have made the transition</a>&nbsp;to the environmental and social justice movement. When Climate Camps, World Social Forums and Occupy groups have made large and small-scale decisions by consensus, there are strong echoes of the Quaker way of doing things.&nbsp;It’s also a two-way relationship. Many Quakers today are involved in non-hierarchical movements for peace, the environment and equality; a result of which is that Quaker spaces can often mirror the culture of the new social movements.</p> <p>Depending how you count it there are about 20,000 Quakers in Britain - less than a third of a single parliamentary constituency. Can we model on the small scale the level of participation that advocates of deep democracy suggest could be applied more broadly? To involve everybody in revisiting how we represent what we stand for would be a brave move for any community, perhaps even more so for a non-credal tradition which encompasses a plurality of words to express what we believe. If we go ahead and say yes, we will have to hold faith that we will be held together by the trust and close friendships that emerge through collective action and reflection, whilst simultaneously staying open for transformation by every new person who comes through the door.</p> <p>Through&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Young Quaker Magazine</a>&nbsp;among other channels, younger Friends have for some time now been&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">assertively calling for change</a>&nbsp;within Quakerism itself: for a structure that does more to include those with unpredictable life situations, for a membership process more applicable to the internet age, for reserved spaces for under-represented groups on committees and for our community to do more to reflect the ethnic diversity of our global Quaker movement rather than only the narrow demographic of Quakers in Britain today.&nbsp;Could this be a process through which such changes could happen?</p> <p>I don’t know if we will decide to revise the Quaker book or not – nobody does. The answer will emerge this weekend through quiet contemplation, discernment and listening. But maybe the point is not whether our book needs revising per se, but whether we are willing to revise our vision of how to embody the Quaker values we’ve inherited from our forebears and manifest them in the 21st century.&nbsp;The book (or the wiki, or the podcast, or the film) that results, needs to follow and adapt around that.</p> <p>Quakers have a saying, that we&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">‘hold in the light’</a>&nbsp;those we are acting in solidarity with. This weekend we need those movements we’re part of to hold us in the light. Only when we are working on ourselves can we work with others.&nbsp;This weekend we will ask ourselves how.</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/quakers-in-britain/quakers-urge-recognition-of-palestine">Quakers urge recognition of Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/joe-hall/from-industrial-revolution-to-internet-putting-power-in-people-s-hands">From the industrial revolution to the internet: putting power in people’s hands</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 Transformation Tim Gee Thu, 03 May 2018 07:50:28 +0000 Tim Gee 117601 at Why class still matters: a reply to Paul Mason <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Our task is to rebuild class power, not to pretend it no longer matters.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article is a response to Paul Mason's recent essay <a href="">'Labour must become the party of people who want to change the world, not just Britain'</a>, in which he argues that there can no longer be any privileged position for organised labour as an agent of socialist change. This reply will respond to that question specifically, leaving aside some other aspects of Mason's essay, and argue that the working class remains the key strategic actor for overhauling capitalism.</em></p><p><em>This article is a response to Paul Mason's recent essay <a href="">'Labour must become the party of people who want to change the world, not just Britain'</a>, in which he argues that there can no longer be any privileged position for organised labour as an agent of socialist change. This reply will respond to that question specifically, leaving aside some other aspects of Mason's essay, and argue that the working class remains the key strategic actor for overhauling capitalism.</em></p> <strong>The post-class left</strong><p> Paul Mason's 2007 book '<a href="">Live Working Or Die Fighting: How The Working Class Went Global'</a>&nbsp;described how advanced capitalism had globalised capitalist class relations. The process has been recent, and spectacular. An internationalised proletariat has only recently become the world's biggest single class; there are more wage workers in South Korea now than there were in the entire world when Marx and Engels wrote the 'Communist Manifesto'. Vast new working classes have been created in Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. Objectively, the material potential for socialism as a politics of working-class self-emancipation, based on workers organised as workers at the site of production, exists on an unprecedented scale. But the Paul Mason of 2018 faces in a quite different direction to the Paul Mason of 2007. He is now one of the figureheads of what might be termed a new "post-class left", writers, commentators, and activists who no longer believe in any privileged role for the working class as an agent of socialist change. Mason argues that: "Networked technology, combined with high levels of education and personal freedom have created a new historical subject across most countries and cultures which will supplant the industrial working class in the progressive project." What has caused Mason to give up on the idea of the centrality of class? The proletariat, it seems, has let him down. "It persistently refused to play the role of capitalism's gravedigger", he complains. Some facts appear to lend weight to Mason's argument. While new and powerful labour movements have emerged around the world, on the whole labour is weak and on the defensive. It is certainly the case that the past generation has been characterised by defeat and decline for organised labour in Britain. The trade union movement is now half the size it was at its 1979 peak, with vastly fewer elected workplace reps and shop stewards. In 2016, strike levels were at their lowest since records began. In 2017, after a period of stagnation, trade union membership fell. Recent high-profile national disputes - my own union's fight against the imposition of <a href="">"Driver Only Operation" on the mainline railway</a>, or university workers' <a href="">strikes against pension cuts</a> - are very much exceptions rather than a rule. Do those sobering and disappointing statistics speak to an objective change? Is the organised working class disappearing from the historical stage as a distinct actor? What the statistics in fact reflect is working-class <em>defeat</em>, not changes in the structural position of labour under capitalism. That defeat is not eternal, or insurmountable. Mason and the rest of the post-class left have extrapolated erroneous claims of objective changes from those subjective realities of those defeats. Rather than attempting to challenge and overcome them, they have assimilated them into their worldview. Mason describes what the French labour movement called <em>"la vie ouvrière"</em>, what has elsewhere been called the "union way of life", as having been "vapourised". A more accurate metaphor might be to say that it has been smashed. Not much more comforting, perhaps, but containing an implicit potential for rebuilding that Mason rejects. The post-class left is not a new phenomenon. It is a political tradition with a long history, that reasserts itself in periods of retreat for organised labour. In 2017, Paul Mason won the inaugural Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize. Three decades previously, the Marxist theorist after whom the prize was named wrote '<a href="">The Retreat From Class</a>', a superb polemic against those careering away from the idea of working-class agency in the direction of, amongst other things, liberal "social movement" politics. The new agents to whom Wood's targets looked greatly resemble Mason's "networked individuals", including in the respect of being largely non-existent as a cohesive social element with any structural power within capitalist society. Wood described the post-class socialists' perspective like this: </p><blockquote><em>"The formation of a socialist movement is in principle independent of class, and a socialist politics can be constructed that is more or less autonomous from economic (class) conditions. This means two things in particular […] A political force can be constituted and organised on the ideological and political planes, constructed out of various 'popular' elements which can be bound together and motivated by purely ideological and political means, irrespective of the class connections or oppositions among them. […] The appropriate objectives of socialism are universal human goals which transcend class, rather than narrow material goals defined in terms of class interests. These objectives can be addressed, on the autonomous ideological and political planes, to various kinds of people, irrespective of their material class situations."</em></blockquote><p> Wood was prescient. She could have been describing Paul Mason in 2018 directly. His incantational listing of movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy, Scotland and Catalonia's independence movements, demonstrations against Orban in Hungary and more besides are precisely an attempt to conjure a new agent "out of various 'popular' elements which can be bound together and motivated by purely ideological and political means, irrespective of the class connections or oppositions among them." It might be noted that the only one of those movements to come anywhere near to achieving any of its goals, the initial Egyptian revolution at the heart of the Arab Spring, did so precisely because of the unique role played by organised labour in huge industrial combines like the Mahalla Textile Company. What is it that Mason claims gives his "new subject" its revolutionary potential? Neither the mere condition of being "connected" (connected to what? By what means?), nor that of being "educated" (by whom? On the basis of what ideology?) imbue structural power vis-à-vis capital. As Christian Fuchs put it in <a href="">his critique</a> of Mason's 2015 book 'Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future': </p><blockquote><em>"Almost all managers, CEOs, and other members of the class of the 1% are 'educated and connected'. They are the globalised, networked, educated, influential - and wealthy. Are the educated, connected and networked hedge fund manager and the educated, connected and networked entrepreneur, who parks and hides his wealth in tax havens, part of this subject? Definitely not! Education, networking and connectedness are not automatically politically progressive."</em></blockquote><p> Mason argues that our consumption power may give us leverage: </p><blockquote><em>"We are 'pro-sumers' in many different ways: our fashion choices create the value of global brands. In addition, huge new corporations have adopted business models based on harvesting the positive network effects of our online behaviour."</em></blockquote><p> But what common, socially-cohesive, interests, do "pro-sumers" having their data harvested by tech corporations actually have, beyond perhaps a desire for more digital privacy? What structural power can people organised on this basis actually wield? Indeed, how can they even be organised, except perhaps as passive electoral supporters of a party that promises to represent their "values"? Maybe that is indeed Mason's ultimate aspiration: there is more than a little evidence to suggest this may be the case. He is entitled to this view, but whatever else it is, it is not a strategy for "overhauling capitalism". What appears to underlie much of Mason's wider perspective is a morass of theorisation that contends that capitalism itself has entered a new condition. Sometimes referred to as "information capitalism" and "cognitive capitalism", the claim is that individualised cognitive labour, based on interface with digital systems, has replaced the collective production processes of "industrial" capitalism. Certainly, information technology has changed the nature of a great deal of waged labour. But a dockworker who operates a semi-automated crane from a digital workstation is still engaged in an industrial process and in a wage relation. Combination and common organisation with other workers engaged in other aspects of that process - the workers on the ships, the workers driving the containers away from the port, the transport workers running the train networks serving the port - are still the means by which that worker, "cognitive" and technologised though their labour is, can confront their employer and affect change. It is on that basis, of structural position within the social and economic infrastructure of capitalism, that Marxists have understood the working class as central to the socialist project. As Wood puts it: </p><blockquote><em>"Revolutionary socialism has traditionally placed the working class and its struggles at the heart of social transformation and the building of socialism, not simply as an act of faith but as a conclusion based upon a comprehensive analysis of social relations and power. In the first place, this conclusion is based on the historical/materialist principle which places the relations of production at the centre of social life and regards their exploitative character as the root of social and political oppression. The proposition that the working class is potentially the revolutionary class is not some metaphysical abstraction but an extension of these materialist principles, suggesting that, given the centrality of production and exploitation in human social life, and given the particular nature of production and exploitation in capitalist society, certain other propositions follow."</em></blockquote><p> In other words, it is the position of labour in the machinery of capitalism that gives its unique power. The wage relation is capitalism's essential core. It is in the workplace where capitalism most fundamentally "happens". Until the answer to the question "where does value come from under capitalism?" is something other than "human labour", organised labour will continue to have this unique potential, no matter how weak, beaten-down, or misled our organisations may be at any given moment. For all his insistence that it must be supplanted as the agent of socialist change, Mason makes little attempt to account for what has actually happened to the working class, or where he alleges it has gone. "The bargaining power of the individual worker is weakened by globalisation" he says, without making any attempt to substantiate this. Globalised production process and supply chains in fact provide the potential for a greatly increased bargaining power: what is lacking is a subjective element, an organisation of workers across the supply chain that can take collective and coordinated action. In many ways, Mason's use of the word "industrial" is misleading. The types of work traditionally associated with this word, such as mining and heavy manufacturing, have certainly declined in Britain. But firstly, that is not the case globally. Read against the backdrop of <a href="">miners' strikes in South Africa</a> or <a href="">factory workers' revolts in China</a>, Mason's present thesis seems parochially Anglocentric, even on its own terms. And secondly, it is not the "industrial working class", or any other section or subset, that Marxists posit as the key agent of change, but simply the working class as a whole: all those live by selling their labour power, and the social collective around them. Yes, certain industries, such as transport, logistics, and telecommunications, may have more strategic significance within capitalist economic functioning than others. But it is neither the case that workers outside these strategic industries are powerless, nor that the strategic industries themselves have disappeared. Kim Moody's new book '<a href="">On New Terrain</a>' examines a generation of change in the American working class, and concludes that far from causing it to disappear as a strategic anti-capitalist actor, many of the changes (for example, the creation of vast logistics hubs and distribution networks) provide a renewed potential to build working-class organisation and power. Again, it is the subjective element of working-class organisation and resistance that is missing, rather than objective changes to the way in which work is structured under capitalism having rendered organised, or potentially organised, labour powerless. At its height, the great 1984/85 miners' strike involved less than 150,000 workers. Around 20 times that number, close to 3 million, work in the supermarket industry today. This is not a picture of a disappearing proletariat. Many of those 3 million retail workers may not have the same direct leverage in terms of the immediate strategic significance of their labour to the economy as coal miners did, but collectively, their labour is of huge strategic significance. Imagine a union organised across the retail sector, organising shop workers, warehouse and distribution workers, and drivers. A strike by such a union would have an immense economic and social impact. Many of those workers might, according to some of Mason's categories, also be "networked individuals", in the sense of being connected by their common usage of various social media platforms, for example. Many are young. Many are migrants. All of these conditions and identities are important, but it is their position as workers, and their involvement in the production process and a wage relation, that fundamentally coheres them and gives them socially-transformative power. Mason also cites "precarious work" and "a culture of individualism that would have been obnoxious even to the dockers of Limehouse fighting over halfpennies on the streets in 1889" as factors that have destroyed the working class's power to affect socialist change. Neoliberalism has indeed had ideological and cultural impacts (the "culture of individualism" Mason refers to), but there is something of imaginary-golden-age reminiscence about his Limehouse dockers "fighting over halfpennies on the streets". In any case, those dockers were no strangers to precarious work. Indeed, the organisation of employment on the docks were heavily based in precarious hiring practises and zero-hour contracts. Far from being a uniquely new development, "precarity" has been a feature of capitalism, since its inception. </p><strong>New Unionism, and a new New Unionism?</strong><p> Mason's article makes much of the period of "New Unionism" in the 1880s, a moment of immense upheaval and recomposition for the labour movement in Britain. This is indeed a useful focus. Where was the organised working class movement prior to this period? Weak, bureaucratised, divided in conservative and exclusionary unions based on craft, and still reeling from the defeat of Chartism, the great movement for working-class democracy, a generation previously. But, as Mason's article and history records, organised labour revived. That revival did not happen by mere collision of historical forces but because conscious, organised actors within the working class undertook political and educational work to develop an approach that could catalyse struggles, spread them, and help them win. Mason refers to Eleanor Marx telling a crowd in Hyde Park: "enough of strikes, fight for socialism and the eight hour day". But this is a gross misrepresentation of Marx's role in the period. She taught Will Thorne, a gas worker in Beckton and a key strike leader and founder of the ancestor union of today's GMB, to read. She helped found that union's women workers' section, and sat on its executive committee. She spoke repeatedly at rallies for the dockers and other strikers. The role of Marx in New Unionism was absolutely not, as Mason alleges, as a carrier of "the left wing orthodoxy of the previous century". Indeed, while Marx, Thorne, Tom Mann, and other New Unionist leaders were members of the Social Democratic Federation, Britain's first organised Marxist group, their political activity as SDF members and their industrial organising were largely separate, and the SDF as a whole tended to take a sectarian attitude to the reviving labour movement. Their roles in New Unionism were precisely to break from orthodoxy and inertia, to find an opportunity to light a fire, and to help it spread. The potential for labour movement renewal and recomposition today, a new New Unionism, lies precisely in the struggles of the modern analogues of the workers who made the 1880s movement: the precariously-employed, often migrant, often women, often young workers largely on the margins of the existing, bureaucratic unions, whose self-organisation and activity exploded the inertia. <a href="">Fast food workers in the Bakers' union</a> and <a href="">cinema workers in the Bectu section of Prospect</a> taking on multinational corporate giants in McDonald's and Cineworld; <a href="">restaurant workers in Unite</a>; outsourced migrant cleaners in small unions like <a href="">IWGB</a>, <a href="">CAIWU</a>, and <a href="">UVW</a>, as well as in established unions like <a href="">RMT</a>, fighting for living wages and direct employment; "gig economy" workers <a href="">exploding the myth</a> that superficially atomising employment practises have robbed them of power and leverage; and politically-disparate but expanding attempts to consider how workers in the immensely strategically-significant logistics and distribution industries can organise. These are sparks that can be fanned into a conflagration if the workers within them, supported by organised socialist activists in the wider labour movement acting as the "memory of the class" and providing a repository of previous struggles, victories, and defeats, undertake the same conscious efforts that Marx, Mann, Thorne, and others took in their day. </p><strong>The Corbyn surge and the return to class: how to transform the labour movement?</strong><p> The immediate backdrop for Mason's essay is the Corbyn phenomenon in the Labour Party. Still immensely febrile and in flux, this movement has seen hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young, flood into the Labour Party, inspired by a sharp break from Blairite orthodoxy on many policies. The movement has the potential to radically transform the party, making it more democratic, rooted in working-class communities, and a catalyst, supporter, and political representative of working-class social and industrial struggle. In this sense, Mason is right to aspire to a party that is both itself a social movement and part of a wider social movement. But to overthrow or even meaningfully confront capitalism, that social movement needs deep roots in capitalism's engine room: the workplace. A return to class on this basis can move past the psephological triangulations between the perceived wants and desires of "metropolitan", socially-liberal workers and youth on the one hand, and those of ex-"industrial", socially-conservative workers in the north and Midlands on the other. A democratically and politically transformed Labour Party could seek to organise, represent, and empower both groups on the basis of a shared class interest. The Corbyn surge is yet to find a real expression in the trade union movement. Even Unison's Dave Prentis, a notoriously bureaucratic and conservative leader, has managed to position himself as a Corbynite. What the situation requires is not a desperate casting around for a new agency, but a conscious effort to transform and revolutionise the existing labour movement. In the first place, the young people energised by the Corbyn surge need to express that energy where they work. The US collective <a href="">Labor Notes' Troublemaker's Handbook</a> provides a basic manual for fighting back against the direct and immediate representative of capital in your own life: your boss. Socialists involved in the Labour Party should be seeking to adapt it for a British context, and run workshops on it through local Labour Parties and Momentum groups. Trade union militants in Labour should be agitating for it to become the party of strikes. For the first time in generations, a genuine organic link can be made between the demands of strikes and Labour Party policy. Labour can say to striking McDonald's workers: we are the political expression of the demands of your strike. If we are in government, we will legislate to secure your demands. And, conversely, McDonald's workers seeking to politically bolster their industrial dispute can join and becoming active in Labour, not as passive electoral foot-soldiers but as conscious actors seeking to express their class interests on the political terrain. Within unions, the dynamic energy of the Corbyn surge can be a force for democratic renewal, just as it has the potential to be within the party. The tradition of independent rank-and-file organisation and insurgency is largely submerged in the British labour movement, but it is one that may soon be rediscovered by, for example, University and College Union (UCU) members <a href="">organising to build a counter-power in their union against a capitulatory leadership</a>. UCU is not a Labour-affiliated union, but many of the activists leading the new rank-and-file initiative are broadly situated within the milieu of the Corbyn surge. Many of them, no doubt, would also fall into Mason's category of "educated, young, networked people", but like the skilled cognitive dockworker operating computer systems in a container port, it is their position as workers, and their involvement in transformative struggle within class organisations, that gives them their power. In this way, there can be a symbiotic relationship between the radical transformation of both the political and industrial wings of the labour movement. This will be a prerequisite for consolidating and defending, even on its own moderate social-democratic terms, the Corbyn project in government. If a Corbyn-led Labour government attempts to legislate for a £10/hour universal living wage for example, and rogue employers simply refuse to cough up the increase, how else will that policy be enforced other than by those employers' workers leveraging their own class power and striking to enforce it? That level of militancy and organisation can be achieved if socialists active in the Labour Party and the unions develop a perspective of building for it right now. There are other voices in the Labour milieu advocating what might present itself as a "return to class". But refocusing on class on the basis of seeking a radical transformation and renewal of the labour movement is quite distinct from the perspective advocated by, for example, the Blue Labour tendency. This ostensible return to class is in fact a form of nostalgic identity politics, with class conceived of as a category of cultural identity, often figured in deeply socially-conservative terms - see Blue Labour's use of the slogan "faith, family, and flag" - rather than a collective social relation. The working class has never really resembled the picture painted by both Stalinists and Blairite "authentocrats" like Stephen Kinnock, centred on an archetypal male, white, essentialised worker, in a manual industrial job, part of a "stable community". That was not the working class of New Unionism; it is not the working class of today. Our class comprises migrant workers, women workers, LGBT workers, benefit claimants and the unemployed, and women engaged in unpaid domestic labour. A revitalised and transformed labour movement must become the organised expression of our class as a whole. </p><strong>Horizons beyond electoralism</strong><p> Accompanying, and informing, Mason's retreat from class is an unacknowledged but massive contraction of his political horizons. Despite his selective quotations from (Karl) Marx, and despite stating in the introduction to his essay that he wants to "overhaul" capitalism, he now argues that "the ultimate, and most revolutionary form of political action that can be taken amid a neoliberal system in crisis is to put a party into government committed to the positive goals and values of "educated, young, networked people", etc. Wood answered him in 1986: </p><blockquote><em>"In the final analysis, the theoretical and political touchstone for the NTS ["New True Socialists", Wood's tag for the post-class left of her day] is not socialism at all, but simply electoral victory. Once we understand that the logic of their argument is an electoralist logic, once we accept that their standards of success and failure have little to do with the conditions for establishing socialism and everything to do with constructing victorious electoral alliances […] it will at least make some kind of political sense."</em></blockquote><p> This is not to dismiss the importance of electoral activity, or organisation on the political terrain. Marx and Engels's identification of three fronts of class struggle - ideological (or theoretical), political, and economic - remains a vital frame, and the socialist movement must be actively organised and intervening on all three. Electing a Labour government and shaping, pushing, and radicalising its policies via pressure from below, including extra-parliamentary action, should be a key aim. But it is only by reconnecting with class, the structuring relationship at the core of capitalism, that this electoral horizon can be expanded into a horizon of revolutionary anti-capitalist counter-power. Mason has retreated from class into the diminished horizons of electoralism, confecting a substitute agent for the project that is part radical-sociological woo-woo (tip: another word for "member of the 'salariat'" is… "worker") and part psephological fantasy. It is a defeatist recoiling from a situation of weakness, masquerading as innovation. Contrary to its own claims, it does not develop Marxist politics, but gives up on them. Our task is to rebuild class power, not to pretend it no longer matters. The socialist project does not need to move beyond class, but return to it. This is not a matter of millennarian faith in a historical mission, but of renewing our political resolve and undertaking an act of will to help our class unlock its potential. As Hal Draper, the great writer of the unorthodox-Trotskyist American left, put it in his 1950s article <a href="">'Why The Working Class?'</a>: </p><blockquote><em>"The socialist revolution, once observed Rosa Luxemburg, is a war in which there are necessarily a continuous series of 'defeats' followed by only one victory. Nothing can be guaranteed, of course, except the honor and dignity of fighting for a new and better world, rather than the vileness of adapting one's mind and heart to a vile one."</em></blockquote><p> Young activists eager to forge from today's febrile political moment a movement that can overhaul capitalism and replace it with socialism - radical democracy, common ownership, and social freedom - would do better to take their strategic advice from Hal Draper, Eleanor Marx, and Ellen Meiksins Wood than Paul Mason. The Marxist project - working-class self-emancipation, and through it, the emancipation of all humanity - is as possible now as it ever was. What it requires is new activists to fight for it.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Daniel Randall Thu, 03 May 2018 00:51:28 +0000 Daniel Randall 117652 at How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Backlash against Irish abortion rights enlists some of the same technologies, companies, and individuals involved in controversial Trump and Brexit campaigns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum."><img src="//" alt="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum. " title="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum." width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum. Graphic: Carys Boughton. </span></span></span>In 2012, billboards appeared around the Republic of Ireland depicting the image of a despairing woman, or a ruptured foetus, and the tagline: “Abortion tears her life apart.” Organisers from Dublin-based groups Youth Defence and the Life Institute claimed that the billboards were seen by more than 2.1 million people – almost half of Ireland’s population.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago-based director of the <a href="">Pro-Life Action League</a> stoked speculation as to who paid for the adverts when he told<a href=""> an Irish newspaper</a> that US donors had given “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Irish anti-abortion groups, including Youth Defence. “They need the money for publicity,” he said. “Abortion is about conversion.”</p><p dir="ltr">On May 25, Ireland will hold an historic referendum on abortion. The country’s laws are currently among the world’s most restrictive, denying women and girls access to terminations even in cases of rape or incest. The upcoming vote is attracting worldwide attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers."><img src="//" alt="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers." title="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers." width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Center. Photo: Chris Slattery/EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centres.</span></span></span>Transatlantic links between anti-choice groups remain strong and US activists are framing Ireland’s referendum as a major symbolic fight. Social media is emerging as a key battleground, with foreign and Irish anti-abortion and ‘alt-right’ activists <a href="">targeting voters with Facebook ads</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Irish anti-choice groups have also enlisted some of the same American and British companies and individuals that used controversial data-mining and targeting techniques to campaign for Donald Trump and Brexit – including senior Vote Leave figures and a company that built Trump’s America First app and previously worked for the US National Rifle Association.</p><p dir="ltr">Data analytics tools used by such firms amount to “manipulation rather than persuasion,” global data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye told openDemocracy 50.50. “Voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this. The tools themselves are opaque.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this. The tools themselves are opaque."</p><p dir="ltr">Dehaye added that there are “many reasons” to suspect that the groups deploying such tools are breaking both data protection and campaigning financing laws. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish senator Alice Mary Higgins called for an immediate freeze on unregulated online political ads ahead of the referendum. “Facebook continue to accept new payments for new unregulated political ads targeted at the people of Ireland. Such sales should be immediately stopped,” she said in a statement citing transparency and accountability concerns.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.50.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign."><img src="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.50.13.png" alt="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign." title="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign." width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail: the Save the 8th campaign. Graphic: Carys Boughton.</span></span></span><a href="">Save the 8th</a> is one of the most prominent anti-abortion campaigns in Ireland’s referendum debate. Its name refers to an Irish constitutional amendment that enshrines the right to life of “the unborn.” This amendment must be repealed before Ireland can legislate for abortion.</p><p dir="ltr">The campaign is an officially-registered third party in the referendum. Records show that its online domain name is <a href="">owned by the Life Institute</a>, which (along with Youth Defence) was behind the grisly 2012 ad campaign. Youth Defence also has <a href="">links</a> to Ireland’s far-right National Party.</p><p dir="ltr">Save the 8th has also enlisted Kanto, a London-based political consultancy company, <a href="">to canvass supporters</a>, build an online presence, and use data analytics tools in a digital campaign to keep abortion illegal in Ireland. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It’s unclear what Save the 8th is paying Kanto for its services, or what specifically the company is doing for it. According to director Thomas Borwick’s <a href="">Twitter bio</a>, Kanto runs campaigns that “out-organise, out-plan, out-leaflet, out-twitter, out-work and out-vote all of its opponents.”&nbsp;</p><p>Son of a former Conservative MP for Kensington, 30-year old Borwick was also centrally involved in data analytics and social media campaigning for Brexit – including as Chief Technology Officer for the Vote Leave campaign.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.25.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. "><img src="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.25.13.png" alt="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. " title="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. " width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Borwick is also connected to the founder of Vote Leave, former Conservative and UK Independence Party (UKIP) MP Douglas Carswell, through the company Disruptive Analytica of which both men are directors.</p><p dir="ltr">Disruptive Analytica uses <a href="">“data to micro-target those that clients need to reach”</a>. Borwick, his <a href="">online bio</a> boasts, “really understands data,” and is an “an expert in giving online communication campaigns the empirical approach they need to succeed.”</p><p dir="ltr">Borwick is also <a href="">a former consultant at Cambridge Analytica</a> – the company financed by Trump-supporting billionaire Robert Mercer, and<a href=""> “put together” by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon</a>, who once served as Cambridge Analytica’s vice president.</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has made international headlines amid allegations from whistleblower and former contractor Christopher Wylie that the company illicitly <a href="">harvested 50 million Facebook</a> profiles used to target voters in the 2016 US elections.</p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with <a href="">the Observer newspaper</a>, Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni claimed that the Brexit campaign also manipulated electoral spending rules in its use of data analytics. He claimed that evidence of this was destroyed.&nbsp;</p><p>Borwick is also <a href="">director of a company called Voter Consultancy</a>: one of more than 30 organisations that the UK Information Commissioner's Office is currently<a href=""> investigating as part of a probe</a> into the use of data analytics during Brexit campaigns. The company hit headlines last year when it emerged that the firm was behind Facebook ads targeting <a href="">anti-Brexit Tory MPs</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page."><img src="//" alt="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page." title="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page. Photo: Save the 8th/Facebook.</span></span></span>There are currently no restrictions under Irish law to prevent foreign or undeclared interests from injecting themselves into the referendum debate on social media. Transparency campaigners have called for urgent reform to “outdated” rules.</p><p dir="ltr">According to a <a href="">database</a> published by the<a href=""> Transparent Referendum Initiative (TRI)</a>, Irish and international groups have taken out hundreds of Facebook ads targeting voters ahead of the referendum. Twelve of these were placed by the Save the 8th campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Others were placed by <a href="">American and Canadian groups</a>, including the US Radiance Foundation; it previously <a href="">appropriated Black Lives Matter language to shame African-American</a> women.</p><p dir="ltr">Another advertiser is Rachel’s Vineyard, a Christian ‘abortion aftercare’ charity set to headline London’s ‘<a href="">March for Life</a>’ on 5 May.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“There is nothing to stop foreign actors spending any amount of money on social media to influence how Irish people vote in the upcoming referendum,” warned Craig Dwyer at TRI.</p><p dir="ltr">There is some evidence of similar online activism on other social media platforms –&nbsp;though the scale of this activity is unclear. “We’ve been sent screenshots of ads that people are also being targeted with on Instagram and YouTube,” Dwyer told openDemocracy 50.50.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"There is nothing to stop foreign actors spending any amount of money on social media to influence how Irish people vote in the upcoming referendum."</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="">Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign</a> also hired a digital company, uCampaign, which previously worked with the Trump and Vote Leave campaigns. Past clients include an Australian anti-marriage equality organisation and the US National Rifle Association (NRA).</p><p dir="ltr">Founded by conservative Catholic blogger Thomas Peters, uCampaign creates apps that <a href="">it says</a> “cultivate online communities oriented to action, inciting massive engagement and making it easier for leaders to lead.”</p><p dir="ltr">Dehaye, the data protection specialist, explained that the work of different data analytics companies can be used in tandem to target people with online political advertising.</p><p dir="ltr">“uCampaign provides the technical tool that helps collect more data about the electorate. This data is then aligned with voter lists and existing modelling, by outfits such as Kanto. This is then used to target online ads,” he told openDemocracy 50.50.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.44.36.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign."><img src="// Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.44.36.png" alt="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign." title="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign." width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign. Graphic: Carys Boughton. </span></span></span>As part of its work for Vote Leave, uCampaign built an app which encouraged users to “Go all in for Vote Leave” and send a blanket message to their entire contacts books explaining why they planned to vote for Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="">a 2016 post on Medium</a>, Peters explained how the company created “a self-contained network for activists… to connect, mingle and take action.” He added: “Brexit gave us a taste of victory. Little did we know it was only the appetizer for what was to come later.”</p><p dir="ltr">uCampaign built Trump’s <a href="">America First app</a>, which rewarded users with virtual badges stamped with Trumpian catch-phrases like “Apprentice,” “MAGA” and “TrumpTrain.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Brexit gave us a taste of victory. Little did we know it was only the appetizer for what was to come later."</p><p dir="ltr">At the time, some <a href=";IR=T">tech bloggers</a> were underwhelmed by the America First app’s interface. But aesthetic pleasure wasn’t the purpose. It was, in Peters’ words, “pinpointed targeted matching” – harnessing users’ contact lists and cross-referencing them with other data.</p><p dir="ltr">uCampaign have now created a similar app for the Pro Life Campaign called the LoveBoth Project. It awards users points for taking different actions. Checking your voter registration through a link on the app unlocks 55 points; adding a LoveBoth twibbon to social media profiles is worth 125; signing up to go canvassing gets you 300 points. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">TRI’s dataset shows that the LoveBoth Project has also bought at least 22 Facebook ads targeting Irish users ahead of the referendum.</p><p>The Pro Life Campaign has further <a href="">bought up website domains</a> with pro-choice names (, and, redirecting visitors to anti-abortion sites.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. "><img src="//" alt="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial." title="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. " width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. Image: LoveBoth/Facebook.</span></span></span>The possibility of Twitter bots being deployed in the Irish referendum debate has also been raised, including by Irish journalist Philip Boucher Hayes. In October 2017, <a href="">he said </a>that his new followers on the social media platform had grown rapidly from roughly 100 to 1,500 per week.</p><p dir="ltr">Like “pro-Brexit fake Russian sponsored accounts,” most had not tweeted before and had 8 digits following their names. Hayes asked: “Why is someone creating fake Irish accounts on an industrial scale? Why is Twitter unable or unwilling to deal with it?”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish transparency campaigner Gavin Sheridan told openDemocracy 50.50 that despite recent <a href="">policy changes</a> at Twitter, which limit the ability of users to perform coordinated actions across multiple accounts, the role of bots in the referendum campaign is still a concern.</p><p dir="ltr">“These changes are welcome and make it more difficult for groups of people [on Twitter] acting in concert,” Sheridan said. He sees more activity, especially from the anti-abortion side on Facebook. “I expect to see more in the coming weeks,” he added.</p><p dir="ltr">But, he said: "Twitter bots are still a concern, given the number of new accounts found to be following prominent Irish Yes campaigners in recent months. We don't yet know just how effective Twitter's policy changes will be, or if users have found new workarounds to the changes." </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’."><img src="//" alt="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’." title="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’." width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’, who don’t reveal where they are based. Image: Our Future/Facebook</span></span></span>The business of political campaigning is changing internationally as voters are increasingly identifiable online and targeted with new digital tools.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfurling stories about online micro-targeting and data-mining are reverberating across Ireland amid the referendum campaigns. It’s clear that much of this debate will be fought online, with <a href="">growing concern </a>over the ability of powerful groups to influence public opinion, and votes, through unregulated digital campaigns and social media advertising.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish electoral law needs to “reflect modern campaigning,” and financial spending, as well as donations, must be better regulated, said Dwyer at TRI. Current legislation, “is outdated, fails to address modern society and advances in technology,” he warned. “We need reform.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* Additional reporting by Peter Geoghegan,&nbsp;Lara Whyte and Claire Provost. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-hao/feminist-bots-vs-right-wing-trolls-brazil-gender-justice-new-frontiers">Feminist bots vs right-wing trolls: Brazil’s gender justice movements cross new frontiers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </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> 50.50 50.50 uk Civil society Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's human rights bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Isobel Thompson Wed, 02 May 2018 10:21:30 +0000 Isobel Thompson 117503 at Anger and hope in Penzance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> “There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is” As one of very few sources ... </div> </div> </div> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">As one of very few sources of tin in the ancient world, Cornwall was the furnace of bronze age Europe. And for centuries, its mines - along with its geography - gave the peninsula both wealth and a degree of independence from the rest of these islands, with its own language, culture, and even, until 1753, its own “stannery” courts and parliament, based around the mines. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">In 1497, the people of Cornwall rose up in a rebellion against paying taxes to fund England’s war against Scotland, with their troops getting as far as London. In 1535, the Italian historian Polydore Vergil described Britain as consisting of four countries: “</span><span style="font-weight: 400">whereof the one is inhabited of Englishmen, the other of Scottes, the third of Wallshemen, [and] the fowerthe of Cornishe people”. But in 1998, Cornwall’s last tin mine shut, and the century-long collapse in UK fish stocks has gutted the Duchy’s other iconic industry.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Fourteen percent of people described their national identity as “Cornish” in the last census, meaning that including it in our inquiry into civil society in England is a controversial move: for some, Cornwall is no more English than Scotland. But West Cornwall is, along with West Wales and the Valleys, the most impoverished corner of Northern Europe. And so it’s a vital voice to hear, whichever country we think it is.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Perhaps the first thing to say about our <a href="">Civil Society Futures</a> workshop there is that for those who came, Penzance is largely experienced as a good place to live. It’s got a vibrant cultural scene with community arts projects and live music, surrounded by the sort of natural environment you never tire of. There’s a strong sense of local identity and people have organised effectively to challenge threats, whether to their health services, or to the local environment.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">However, many felt that the growing number of second homes was thinning out this vibrant local culture: whether for protests or parties, it’s hard to mobilise a neighbourhood when so many people are only there part-time. And this isn’t the only challenge that the Penzance faces as a result of the shift it’s made from mining and fishing community to seaside town.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">The suicide rate among over 75s is </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400">significantly higher</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400"> than the UK average. As one person explained, “people move down here thinking it’s a beautiful place to live and don’t think about the fact that their family lives 300 miles away and they have no support. So loneliness and isolation is a massive one”. As a result, a huge amount of community energy goes into looking after elderly people: “‘So we have volunteer drivers, for example, who take people to their renal and oncology </span><span style="font-weight: 400">appointments, heart operations in London. We do all of that and we have befrienders, advocates who go out to people’s homes,” the same person said.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Similarly, growing up in Penzance can be tough. As one conversation went:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">Sally: "So for example, in terms of tourism, huge tourism in Cornwall... but there are some extraordinary figures where you’ve got over 40% of kids under 10, in some of the housing estates not far from here, have never been to the beach, because they don’t see the beach as theirs to go to."</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Ann: "Yeah, I can’t get my head round that. What on earth went wrong with people?"</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Sandra: "It’s actually a social infrastructure which has gone. An entire social infrastructure has been dismantled since then."</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">If young people do want to go onto university, their options in Cornwall are very limited and most leave. As Michael says:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">"I have got a 20 year old now, he is in uni up in Bristol and where he goes from there, he doesn’t know. It’s probably, it’s like everyone else. He isn’t likely to take a step back and coming back to his community. He has lived here since he was born."</span></blockquote> <hr id="film" /> [youtube] <small>Watch: young people in Penzance talk about their fears and frustrations, by local filmmaker Callum Mitchell</small> <hr /> <span style="font-weight: 400">The sense of distance from decision makers also permeates much of what people had to say: the train journey to London is as long from Penzance as it is from Dundee (and it’s quicker to get from Newcastle to London than it is from Penzance to Bristol). Similarly, town councils have been worn away, and their powers transferred to the Cornwall and Isle of Scilly County Council whose concrete headquarters in Truro are an hour and a half round trip on the train away for those in central Penzance, and much more if you live in one of the surrounding villages. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">This distance doesn’t help decision makers deal with subtle differences of place. As one participant put it:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“The institutions as a whole are locked into this concrete mudge of just ticking a box, with the imagination of a lamppost and the social skills of a traffic bollard.”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">For many, this sense that decisions are made far away combines potently with the impact of austerity on the local community to produce in many a deep-seated rage. As one participant said: </span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“I have a fear of civic breakdown - people are so angry and people get so angry about politics, they make irrational decisions, that to them are completely rational”.</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">But, while people had plenty of ire for government - whether ‘local’, national or European, they didn’t hold back when it came to civil society either.</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“For large organisations… It’s like we all know, we all know common sense, we all know what we can do to improve things and then they send in consultants for hundreds of thousands of pounds to tell us the bleeding obvious. It’s like, thanks, but just give us the money and we would have done that 10 years ago.”</span></blockquote> <span style="font-weight: 400">Another pointed out that, so often, it’s distant funders who set the agenda for what gets done, rather than the people who know the area best: “Who are the architects of the process?”, she asked.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Similarly, there was frustration that a lot of the EU’s structural funds came through the university of Exeter (which is over the Tamar in Devon), but at least some participants felt that, in reality, getting people from the university to come out to West Cornwall was “like getting blood from a stone”.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">In the midst of all of this anger, though, there is a wealth of mutual aid. As one person said:</span> <blockquote class="ttfmake-testimonial"><span style="font-weight: 400">“There’s huge numbers of community activists on the ground in Cornwall, that are dealing with street homelessness, street food project(s). Environmental programmes are looking at different economic models, they’ve done that in Penzance... </span> <span style="font-weight: 400">That’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is, that the people are hopefully getting ticked off enough that they’re actually starting to do something about it… There’s a whole slew of brilliant examples, if we care to look for them.”</span></blockquote> <i><span style="font-weight: 400">Names and genders have been changed to maintain people's anonymity</span></i><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Penzance </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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </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 Penzance UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Adam Ramsay Wed, 02 May 2018 10:07:01 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117633 at Fox, Sky, Comcast, Disney: the endgame approaches <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Before 2018 is out, Sky News will almost certainly be owned by one of three US media giants: Fox, Disney or Comcast. What can we learn from this protracted battle?</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'>Sky HD TV remote control. Chris Radburn/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On May 1, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) sent its final report to the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, on the proposed acquisition by 21st Century Fox (Fox) of the 61% of Sky plc it does not already own.</p> <p>This bitterly contested acquisition has already spent 18 months in regulatory hell. The CMA verdict has not been published, and may not be revealed before Hancock reports to the House of Commons in mid-June with his own decision as to whether the bid has been cleared (and even that may require a final public consultation before being confirmed).</p> <p>In the course of an inquiry by Ofcom, the media regulator, and two by the CMA, Fox has steadily enhanced its proposals for protecting the editorial and financial independence of Sky News – the key sticking point for the multiple opponents of the Fox bid, determined to prevent any possibility of Rupert Murdoch or his family extending their influence over UK media.</p> <p>Not that any witness produced a single example, across 30 years, of the Murdoch family attempting to influence Sky News, whether their shareholding in Sky was 100%, 50% or (the current controlling) 39%. The issue has been essentially theoretical: what if?</p> <h2><strong>Murdoch’s foes</strong></h2> <p>A mass of evidence was offered, mostly from the US and Australia, casting doubt on Fox’s business and editorial behaviour: Fox News was seen as biased, racial and sexual discrimination were alleged, sexual abuse was itemised (as were previously secret settlements of lawsuits), corporate governance was weak, compliance processes inadequate, and so forth. </p> <p>Much of the clamour came from long-term opponents of the Murdochs: The Guardian, The New York Times, politicians such as Ed Miliband and Vince Cable, and vociferous critics of past crimes and misdeeds – notably phone-hacking – such as Hacked Off and Avaaz. </p> <p>The investigations fell under two headings: was Fox genuinely committed to observing high UK broadcasting standards, and would 100% Fox ownership of Sky run the risk of undermining media plurality to the detriment of the public interest?</p> <p>On the first ground, both Ofcom and the CMA found no grounds for blocking the transaction (though Avaaz plans to challenge the Ofcom verdict through a judicial review: in my view, a challenge doomed to fail). But both were of the view that Sky News would need to be strongly ring-fenced with legally binding undertakings before they could feel confident that media plurality concerns could be allayed.</p> <p>In the end, Fox came up with two options: a structure for Sky News that made it impossible for the Murdochs to have any influence (even as they guaranteed its finances for up to 15 years); or a sale of Sky News to Disney. Enders Analysis (whose excellent report on the issue has been made available to open Democracy readers at “<a href="">Fox offers sale of Sky News to clear merger”</a>) reckons that the CMA will plump for the Disney option as being clean and decisive. It seems to me that the CMA could approve both options, leaving it to the Secretary of State to express a preference. Either way, it is a racing certainty that the bid will, at long last, be cleared.</p> <h2><strong>Comcast and broadcasting standards</strong></h2> <p>In the meantime, the US cable company, Comcast (which also owns NBC and the Universal studio) has firmed up its intention to enter the bidding for Sky. The EU competition authorities will rule on the economic issues of the Comcast bid by the time Secretary Hancock pronounces on the Fox bid. However, there is a seemingly overwhelming case for Hancock to call for an Ofcom inquiry into the Comcast bid, at least on the grounds of whether Comcast is genuinely committed to high broadcasting standards (an intervention on grounds of media plurality seems less likely).</p> <p>There is abundant material in the public arena about Comcast’s business and broadcasting behaviour, much of it echoing the charges made against Fox. The allegations range from abuse of dominant business positions, prevalence of sexual abuse within Comcast companies, race discrimination, gouging of cable customers (earning Comcast the soubriquet “Worst Company In America” from one consumer group), breaches of employment law and broadcast regulations, and breaches of promises to regulators (for instance, in provision of local programming). </p> <p>After the careful and extensive investigation of similar charges made against Fox, it is hard to see how Hancock could not order at least a preliminary Ofcom inquiry into Comcast’s behaviour, unless he was willing to risk a judicial review. It costs him nothing, and potentially would allow him to seek behavioural undertakings from Comcast should that bid prevail against Fox (Comcast has already tried to match the guarantees with regard to Sky News offered by Fox, but have not yet fully done so: which might count against them, if regulatory approval turns out to be the decisive factor).&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Due impartiality</strong></h2> <p>Meanwhile, Fox has commissioned a report on its Sky News undertakings from Ofcom’s first deputy chairman, and first chairman of its content board, Richard Hooper (peer-reviewed by another Ofcom veteran, Kip Meek). The ten-page document is <a href="">available here</a> and is well worth reading.</p> <p>Hooper, like Enders Analysis, prefers the Disney route as “compelling and comprehensive in resolving all issues raised by the transaction”; but he shares my views that the alternative remedy, which combines behavioural and structural elements “would also sufficiently address the concerns raised by the CMA”.</p> <p>That is entirely unsurprising. However, the Hooper paper is also worth reading for its strong criticism of Ofcom (and even more so the CMA) for suggesting that the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and the 2003 Communications Act did not provide Ofcom with sufficient powers to prevent breaches of the duty to observe due impartiality that is imposed on all Ofcom licence holders.</p> <p>He cites a fine imposed on ITV in 2008 of £5.675 million for serious breaches of the Code: as far as Ofcom’s powers are concerned, he says, “£5.675 million would surely get the attention of shareholders were Sky News to breach the Broadcasting Code”.</p> <p>I have written previously to express my dismay at Ofcom’s and the CMA’s utterly feeble approach to due impartiality in their respective reports. They feared that somehow the Murdochs might introduce their own opinions into Sky News programming without Ofcom being able to do anything about it (despite that being a clear breach of licence obligations, and illegal to boot). Even more bizarrely, they imagined this might happen without anyone noticing (begging the question as to how it could therefore be grounds for blocking the transaction).</p> <p>It seems that neither regulator noticed that Sky News has for some time broadcast a weekly discussion programme entitle The Pledge, in which various strongly opinionated individuals debate current issues (the cast list includes Rachel Johnson, June Sarpong, Greg Dyke, Nick Ferrari and Carole Malone). Just because views are being expressed, within a reasonably balanced format, no-one would argue that Sky News is thereby in breach of its licence. Yet if Ferrari were to move from LBC (a radio station owned by Global Radio) to a station owned by News Corporation, would Ofcom intervene on the grounds that his “views” might coincide with those expressed in newspapers owned by NewsCorp (which is also 39% owned by the Murdochs)? Of course not. The entirely theoretical issues raised by Ofcom and the CMA were unworthy of a robust regulator.</p> <h2><strong>Manipulating the news agenda </strong></h2> <p>The other line of argument pursued by these regulators was that due impartiality could be undermined by manipulation of the news agenda. Again, one has to ask what the point of a regulator is if it cannot monitor the news agendas of its licensed broadcasters, assess them, and impose sanctions if it identifies abuse. Hooper rightly has no patience with this wimpishness.</p> <p>He also draws attention to the increasing absurdity of the way we regulate broadcast media, whilst allowing the increasingly influential social media to convey views and outright lies to unsuspecting consumers. The Sunday Times this week called attention to a Swansea University study of thousands of Twitter accounts set up in Russia specifically for the purpose of influencing the last UK General Election (seemingly rather effectively, in being almost entirely devoted to boosting Corbyn and denigrating May).</p> <p>Our broadcast media are tightly regulated and overseen during elections, to ensure not just accuracy but balance. That seems sensible: but then allowing free rein to social media only enhances their potential impact, with TV and radio so carefully and strictly neutered. </p> <p>A worry used to be the relative freedom of newspapers to express views during elections: but research shows they had limited influence, partly because they had differing viewpoints, partly because readers ignored their coverage, and partly because readership of newspapers has been in near-terminal decline, compared with online offerings. Unless the UK feeds of Twitter and Facebook are shut down during elections – hard to imagine as a policy, let alone a deliverable one – we face the prospect of never again having a free election.</p> <p>Hooper’s take on this is instructive: “energy and resources are going into this issue <em>[media plurality and due impartiality] </em>at a time when internet content providers including social media platforms are not sector-regulated at all in the UK. Given the power of the internet to influence opinions in a parliamentary democracy – a percentage of those opinions appearing sadly to be malign and harmful – the sector-regulated broadcasters...can fairly complain of unfair and uneven playing fields...are we in danger of fiddling while Rome burns?”</p> <h2><strong>A knock-out bid</strong></h2> <p>Much of the heat about the Fox bid for Sky has died down since Disney announced its intention to buy most of Fox, including Sky (should the Fox bid succeed). The Comcast bid would take the Murdochs out of the picture entirely. However, the way that bid is framed makes it vulnerable to a higher offer from Fox. Comcast’s £12-50 bid for each Sky share (it would be happy to stick with 50% plus 1 if Fox and other shareholders declined to sell at that price) is described as “non-dilutive” of profits, largely as a result of $500 million of putative annual cost savings.</p> <p>Given that there is virtually no overlap between Sky and Comcast’s existing businesses, it is hard to see where those savings might be achieved. However, if Fox – for whom Sky is absolutely a strategic asset – were to bid, say, 15% above the £12-50 (which works out at £14-30), Comcast shareholders would start asking why ownership of Sky is worth diluting their dividend flow.</p> <p>Fox will clearly not win this contest with its original £10-75 per share offer. A knock-out bid whilst Comcast is still dealing with regulatory issues looks like the right strategy. Six months ago, in a previous article, I suggested that Sky shares at just over £9 looked under-valued. </p> <h2><strong>Where is that substantial overhaul?</strong></h2> <p>Campaigners against the original Fox bid will duly claim a victory at the end of this process: the future of Sky News will be guaranteed, and the Murdochs – by choice and by force – will have no say over its output. However, that process has been exposed as far too political in its nature, far too complex and far too slow, whilst revealing the inadequacy and ineptitude of our regulators. </p> <p>Those who bought Sky shares at the right price look likely to have a bumper payday. By contrast, those who once floated the notion that ITV plc might be bought by some deep-pocketed US media enterprise may have to think again: ITV is the UK’s second-biggest supplier of television news, and the hazards of a seemingly inevitable regulatory inquiry will surely put most buyers off. Ministers and regulators constantly tell us that our media plurality regime needs substantial overhaul. Given the flow of unintended consequences arising from the present regime, it is hard to argue with that view: so why are we still waiting?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-story-so-far-how-will-it-end">Fox/Sky: story so far – how will it end? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-more-twists-and-turns">Fox/Sky: more twists and turns</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/foxsky-here-comes-crunch">Fox/Sky: here comes the crunch</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK David Elstein Wed, 02 May 2018 08:10:35 +0000 David Elstein 117623 at Was a Tory PR firm behind a smear campaign against Grenfell’s MP? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A PR firm run by a former Downing Street staffer claimed to be behind a series of media attacks on Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, openDemocracy can reveal.</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></span><i>Image: Grenfell Tower. <a href="">Natalie Oxford/WikiCommons</a>, Creative Commons 4.0 license.</i></p><p>Kingsgate Political Communications Limited is run by Christopher Brannigan, a former advisor to Theresa May who quit after the Tories’ disastrous general election last summer. Shortly after that vote&nbsp;– and after the Grenfell Tower fire a few days later <a href="">shocked the world</a>&nbsp;– a series of negative media stories appeared about newly elected Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad. Unaware he was speaking to openDemocracy at a fundraiser, Brannigan bragged that his PR firm “did the Emma Dent Coad stuff”.</p> <p>Media commentators have raised concerns about the role public relations firms play in shaping news coverage in Britain.</p> <p>Dent Coad stunned commentators by taking Conservative-held Kensington by just 20 votes. A few days after the election the Grenfell tower fire killed 71 people in her Kensington constituency. Brannigan told our undercover reporter at a political fundraiser that the Grenfell fire was more damaging to Theresa May than the general election result.</p> <p>The Labour MP has been a very vocal critic of the local Conservative council, and argued that the Grenfell tragedy was a direct consequence of their failures. She also compiled a damning report about economic inequality in the constituency, highlighting that male life expectancy in the poorest area of Kensington is 22 years shorter than the richest area, and has fallen by six years since the Tories came to power in 2010.</p> <p>Since the Grenfell fire, Dent Coad has faced a barrage of criticism in the tabloid media. Right-wing attack blog Guido Fawkes published<a href=""> 15 separate stories</a> about her, under the headline ‘Guido investigation’, and the Mail and <a href="">the Sun</a> both ran outraged front pages about her various comments based on information from more than half-a-decade of tweets, blog posts, speeches, and a letter to the Guardian.</p> <p>Many of the pieces were based on jokes she made about the royal family before she was an MP. But some of the criticism was more serious. Seven years ago Dent Coad quoted the term “token ghetto boy” to describe a black Tory member of the London Assembly. She subsequently <a href="">apologised</a> for her racist language.</p> <p>Last week Brannigan told openDemocracy that he has "never carried out research on opposition politicians".</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy about the revelations, Emma Dent Coad said: “There are hundreds of people who have been waiting ten months to be rehoused. The idea that people close to the Prime Minister have been spending this time smearing me is nothing short of a disgrace.”</p> <p>Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University said:</p> <p>"Britain's right-wing tabloids in particular have a long history - supported more recently by political blogs like Guido Fawkes - of manipulating news in pursuit of political ends. We need more transparency throughout our news media - not just from Facebook and Twitter - so that voters can make genuinely informed choices about who and what to believe."</p> <h2><b>A growing industry</b></h2> <p>openDemocracy’s revelations shine a spotlight on a growing world of opposition research around the Conservative party in the UK.</p> <p>Christopher Brannigan is on the advisory board of the UK Policy Group, a Tory-linked consultancy that bills specialists providing "research dossiers" on "opponents" with information on their "targets’ record, background and views". Brannigan is also the sole director of ‘Kingsgate Political Communications’, a company registered at a residential address in Winchester according to filings at Companies House. The company was set up in July 2017, just weeks after Brannigan left Downing Street and around the <a href="">same time</a> that the UK Policy Group was launched.</p> <p>Before talking about “the Emma Dent Coad stuff”, Brannigan talked about the key role that the Grenfell fire and the public reaction to it had played in undermining the prime minister’s confidence in the wake of the disastrous election.</p> <p>There are strong links between the right-wing press and these Conservative circles. The Sun’s Westminster correspondent Harry Cole, who used to work for the Guido Fawkes blog, had previously run glowing pieces about Brannigan in the Sun, reporting <a href="">his appointment</a> as government relations director at Number 10 Downing Street, and, later, to <a href="">the shortlist</a> of potential Conservative candidates for Aldershot under headlines declaring him to be a ‘war hero’, due to <a href="">his key role</a> in the British Army’s (ultimately <a href="">failed</a>) operation in Basra, Iraq.</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy about the journalists leading the attacks on Dent Coad, one Westminster insider said:</p> <p>“These people are always about together, drinking in Portcullis House or one of Parliament’s many bars.”</p> <p>The selection in Aldershot, in which Brannigan stood, was arguably the most controversial of the 2017 election. Then sitting Eurosceptic MP Gerald Howarth’s son Christopher, works in Westminster, running the powerful hard-Brexit lobby group of MPs, the European Research Group. The local association was reported to want the prominent Brexit supporting MEP Daniel Hannan to replace the retiring Howarth. However, the central party refused, drawing up a short-list of potential candidates that included Downing Street staffer Brannigan and the successful candidate and now MP, Leo Docherty.</p> <p>Brannigan had previously <a href="">failed</a> in an attempt to be Conservative candidate for Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner.</p> <p>Dent Coad, meanwhile, is continuing to ask tough questions about the Grenfell fire.</p> <p>At a time when public trust in politics and news media is low, openDemocracy will continue to ask tough questions about who exactly is operating in our democracy, and to what ends.</p><p><i>Correction, 2 May 2018</i></p><p>This article was amended to reflect the fact that the Sun mentioned Emma Dent Coad on only one front page and that Harry Cole was not involved in the Sun's reporting on Ms Dent Coad. </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/nathan-akehurst/developers-can-get-away-with-murder-interview-with-kensington-s-emma-dent-coad">“Developers can get away with murder” – an interview with Kensington’s Emma Dent Coad</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">The Grenfell Inferno</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jake-stanning/grenfell-tower-lack-accountability-deliberate-residents-contempt">At Grenfell, a lack of accountability was deliberate – and residents were treated with contempt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/theresa-may-has-prioritised-rights-of-absentee-landlords-over-grenfell-victims">Theresa May has prioritised the rights of absentee landlords over the Grenfell victims </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor">One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower</a> </div> </div> </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 Adam Ramsay Wed, 02 May 2018 07:58:32 +0000 Adam Ramsay 117621 at What’s Pointless about Epsom? Reclaiming heritage for a contemporary sense of place <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If you’ve seen the TV gameshow Pointless, you’ll know that common assumptions are often a veneer. The most illuminating way to understand a community is to seek out the Pointless answers...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Derby Square, Epsom by Kobbi @djkobbie"><img src="//" alt="Derby Square, Epsom by Kobbi @djkobbie" title="Derby Square, Epsom by Kobbi @djkobbie" width="460" height="373" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Derby Square, Epsom by Kobbi @djkobbie</span></span></span></p><p>If you’ve seen the TV game show <em><span>Pointless</span></em><span>, you’ll know that contestants have to anticipate the valid but least cited responses to a question. The least-known answer is </span><em><span>Pointless</span></em><span> answer and wins the game. Obscure knowledge can reap surprising rewards – and so it is in civil society. Common assumptions are often a veneer. The most illuminating way to understand a community is to seek out the </span><em><span>Pointless</span></em><span> answers.</span></p> <p>If a gameshow host asked the question, ‘<em><span>name something associated with Epsom,’</span></em><span> most people would answer The Derby. Once a year in June, a hundred thousand fair-weather friends travel through the small market town of Epsom on the London Surrey border, to the Racecourse on top of the Downs. The Derby is a microcosm of English society; top hat ‘n’ tails paying £800 per person for luxurious dining and a private balcony, the Queen genuinely enjoying herself, helicopters shuttling the wealthy directly from Mayfair to the paddock – and the local crowds picnicking on the free-to-enter Poundland Hill, named following a sponsorship deal with the high street bargain retailer.</span></p> <p>If you can put aside any discomfort about the legacy of class system, it’s a great day out. But it is a clear insight to the vast inequalities that exist in the area and it doesn’t define the real essence of contemporary Epsom. </p><p> <strong>A healing heritage</strong></p> <p>Epsom – or Ebbisham as it was first known – has a rich heritage that is so little celebrated, it has become most mythical. In 1618 when a farmer discovered the health-giving properties of magnesium sulphate-infused water bubbling up in his field, it took a few years for word to spread about ‘Epsom Salts’, but the spread it did and Epsom became England’s first spa town. &nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrities of the day, including Samuel Pepys and Nell Gwynn, came to drink and bathe in the famous mineral water. &nbsp;It became a veritable cure-all that attracted quacks and genuine physicians, as well as entrepreneurs and entertainers. Daniel Defoe (author of <em><span>Robinson Crusoe</span></em><span>) wrote in 1725 ‘this town is wholly adapted to pleasure…folks don’t come to Epsom to stay within doors.’ </span></p><p> <strong>Seeking identity</strong></p> <p>So back on the <em><span>Pointless</span></em><span> gameshow, panelists would score with the answer ‘Epsom Salts’, or perhaps ‘Emily Davison’, the suffragette killed under the hooves of the King’s horse protesting for the female vote. But this is just the language of Wikipedia. You can’t feel this heritage on the streets of the town, and you can’t see it. &nbsp;There is still no meaningful memorial to Ms Davison and visitors would be hard-pushed to find the site of the original Epsom Well without the aid of the internet.</span></p> <p>When the occasional minibus of American tourists arrives in Epsom (sales of Epsom Salts are huge in the US), they eventually end up at a turning circle of small homes on The Wells estate. Neighbours in the bungalows draw their curtains to shield themselves from the disappointed looks at the lack of a gift shop or tour guide. A descriptive board enlightens the reader about Epsom Spa, and the original Epsom Well sits under a wrought-iron cover and low surrounding wall. But it is an isolated feature that makes no contribution to the town’s modern identity.</p><p> <strong>The shadow of London</strong></p> <p>The economic growth of Epsom Spa continued until eighteenth century tourists turned to Bath, Harrogate and Brighton as the preferred fashionable places to be seen. Its proximity to central London (just 15 miles) ensured Epsom’s continued appeal for nobles building family homes, and the aforementioned horse-racing. Being in the shadow of London, though, has somewhat deprived Epsom of a sense of modern identity. No longer a countryside retreat, it now sits at the heart of the commuter belt, with many city workers leaving early and arriving home late, preferring to patronise the plethora of cultural haunts the capital has to offer than get involved in the local community scene.</p> <p>Like many provincial locations, the borough is generally ‘run’ by older, retired residents with a comfortable pension – whether that be councillors, faith and community group leaders, and charity volunteers. &nbsp;People of working age have been disengaged - too preoccupied with their own squeezed family finances and how much more fun other people appear to be having on Facebook - to drum up the motivation to strive for change.</p> <p>A recent artistic project at Epsom’s University of the Creative Arts saw the recurring motif of a zimmer-frame being associated with the town. Young people feel like the minority and see themselves as transient residents, without cultural or emotional connections. </p><p> <strong>Acknowledging inequalities</strong></p> <p>The idea that Epsom is a rich, successful town that doesn’t deserve the support of public funding bodies does its residents a great disservice. It’s true that almost half of residents inhabit the world of the most privileged 10% in the UK, but a significant number of are in the most deprived 30% of the UK, scoring the lowest numbers possible, in several deprivation ranking measures (Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015). </p> <p>On the High Street, the inequality is palpable. And far from being a white British enclave, several wards in the borough are ethnically diverse – with 46% of the pupils of one primary school speaking English as a second language. A step-change is needed that acknowledges these inequalities and grasps the town’s enormous placemaking potential. </p><p> <strong>Placemaking through the arts</strong></p> <p>Recently, new shoots of civil action have begun to appear. Groups have come together, united by a common purpose, to share the real story of today’s Epsom, and to make change. The focus is on social cohesion and economic improvement through arts and heritage. </p> <p>MGSO4 Epsom &amp; Ewell Arts (named after the chemical formula for Epsom Salts) is a grass-roots charity established 3 years ago as a springboard for arts activities. The ethos that enriching creative opportunities can improve wellbeing for everyone, led to the borough’s first ever arts festival and spin-off activities such as an intergenerational sculpture project, in which primary school children worked side by side with elderly people living in care homes. But building capacity to meet this demand is hard work without any core funding.</p><p> <strong>Embracing stories from the margins</strong></p> <p>Returning for the final round of our gameshow - the <em><span>Pointless</span></em><span> answer to the question, ‘<em>n</em></span><em><span><em>a</em>me something associated with Epsom</span></em><span>,’ is mental health. </span></p> <p>The heritage of more recent times stems from the purchase of 1000 acres of Epsom's land by London City Council in 1899. The capital was keen to be rid of what it called ‘pauper lunatics’, so a ‘cluster’ of five hospitals was built sharpish and more than 10,000 patients forcibly transported to Epsom. It completely transformed the town.</p> <p>Europe's biggest self-contained psychiatric community grew their own food, made, mended and washed their own clothes and attracted care workers from all over the world for almost a century. Individuals from all backgrounds lived veiled lives within the cluster until the Care in the Community policy and the value of the land led to the closure of the hospitals in the 1990s. Since then, thousands of people have moved into the converted and new homes built on the sites. </p><p> <strong>Harnessing potential</strong></p> <p>The Horton Chapel Project is a community-led endeavour to save the only building of the original Victorian hospital cluster with the potential to be open to the public. Currently derelict, plans will transform the Grade II-listed former Chapel into a vibrant arts and heritage centre – a destination attraction that offers cultural opportunities that don’t currently exist in the area, and that gives a voice to the previously hidden history of the hospitals. &nbsp;The fascinating stories of pioneering treatments skirting the boundaries of ethics, children and societal rebels misdiagnosed and locked away, and meaningful relationships between dedicated staff and institutionalised patients, will be swept back out from under the carpet. </p> <p>The legacy of the hospitals is integral to the town's personality and make-up today and can be a significant positive force in its path into the future. There is a fledging community spirit amongst the people who have moved into the redeveloped homes and much of this is being channeled into hopes for Horton Chapel. A cross-party round of applause was given by councillors on the planning committee, whilst sitting in chambers, in joy that a scheme had been proposed and unanimously approved that could benefit everyone.</p> <p>The local authority is poised to release ring-fenced matched-funds that have been held for decades, and the project has so far been supported by Heritage Lottery Enterprise Fund, Architectural Heritage Fund and Power To Change. But it is not over the line yet. Funders must have the confidence in the will of competent local people to shape solutions to local issues.</p> <p>There is a sense of anticipation in Epsom that something great could happen. Times and attitudes to mental health have changed, and residents of Epsom are ready to embrace the past rather than to be embarrassed by it.</p> <p>The theme of this year’s MGSO4 Epsom &amp; Ewell Arts Festival is ‘Discovery,’ in celebration of the 400-year anniversary of the unearthing of Epsom Salts. But this is also a year of self-discovery, and hopefully one in which the town will find its place.</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> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Epsom </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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </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 Epsom UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Maria Reeves Tue, 01 May 2018 17:12:04 +0000 Maria Reeves 117615 at