uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3031/all cached version 21/08/2018 09:50:33 en The trade deal which fines governments for acting on climate change https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/pia-eberhardt-cecilia-olivet/meet-trade-deal-which-bans-governments-from-acting-on-clim <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An obscure agreement – the Energy Charter Treaty – allows energy firms to sue countries who take action to stop climate breakdown.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/fire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/fire.jpg" 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'>Image, Cari Green, US Forest Service, CC 2.0.</span></span></span>Twenty years ago, and without any public debate, an arcane international agreement entered into force. <a href="http://www.energy-charter-dirty-secrets.org/">The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT)</a> gives sweeping powers to foreign investors in the energy sector, including the peculiar privilege to directly sue states in secret international tribunals arbitrated over by three private lawyers. Companies are claiming dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind. </p><p class="Standard">Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, for example, sued Germany for €1.4 billion in compensation over environmental restrictions imposed on a coal-fired power plant. The lawsuit was settled after the government agreed to relax the restrictions protecting the local river and its wildlife. Since 2012, Vattenfall has been suing Germany again, seeking €4.3 billion plus interest for lost profits from two nuclear reactors, following the country’s phase-out of atomic energy after the Fukushima disaster. Several utility companies are pursuing the EU’s poorest member state, Bulgaria, seeking hundreds of millions of euros because the government reduced soaring electricity costs for consumers. And these are only a few examples.</p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>Global records</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">No trade and investment agreement anywhere in the world has triggered more investor-state lawsuits than the ECT. 117 corporate claims are known to have been taken at the time of writing, following an explosion of lawsuits over the past five years. By the end of 2017, governments had been ordered or agreed to pay more than $51 billion in damages from the public purse. That’s about the same amount as the annual investment needed to provide access to energy for all those people in the world who currently lack it. The value of the ECT lawsuits pending – $35 billion – is more than the GDP of many countries – and more than the estimated annual amount needed for Africa to adapt to climate change. Due to the opacity of ECT arbitrations, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.</p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>Dirty Energy’s super-weapon</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">UK companies have also actively used the treaty. For example since 2017 oil and gas company <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/183ae12e-0fb4-11e7-b030-768954394623">Rockhopper</a><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/183ae12e-0fb4-11e7-b030-768954394623"> </a><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/183ae12e-0fb4-11e7-b030-768954394623">has </a><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/183ae12e-0fb4-11e7-b030-768954394623">been suing Italy</a> over its refusal to grant a concession for oil drilling in the Adriatic Sea. The refusal came after the Italian Parliament banned all new oil and gas operations near the country’s coast in 2016, amidst environmental concerns and strong local opposition to the projects. Rockhopper claims compensation not just for its sunk costs of about $40 to $50 million, but also for the $200 to $300 million which it <em>could</em> have made had the oil field been approved.</p> <p class="Standard">Such compensation claims for ‘hypothetical future profits’ are quite common under the ECT. They make it a cash machine for corporations – and a dangerous weapon in the hands of the fossil fuel industry, which already <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-188550/">owns more oil, gas and coal reserves than climate scientists say is safe to burn</a>. If states force the industry to keep these fossil fuels in the ground (as Italy did with regards to oil and gas in the Adriatic Sea), they will be liable for extraordinarily expensive compensation claims over ‘lost future profits’.</p> <p class="Standard">In spite of its risk to public budgets and governments’ ability to protect people and the climate, many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America are moving towards signing the ECT. This process is actively driven by the current contracting states, the ECT Secretariat, and the very lawyers and corporations who profit from the ECT’s dangerous investor privileges. They want to globalise the ECT to make it a kind of World Trade Organisation (WTO) for energy.</p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>Coming home to roost for the UK</strong></h2> <p class="Standard"><a href="http://www.kwm.com/en/de/knowledge/%20insights/brexit-and-the-investment-arbitration-puzzle-20170621">Several</a> <a href="https://www.ashurst.com/en/news-and-insights/insights/brexit-im-%20pact-on-dispute-resolution/;">law</a> <a href="http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/157167/%20frequently-asked-questions-about-investment-protection-and-brexit">firms</a> have suggested that <a href="http://arbitrationblog.practicallaw.com/brexit-related-claims-premature-but-certainly-not-impossible/">Brexit could now make the UK a prime target</a> for ECT lawsuits. Brexit could trigger radical changes in the energy sector – for example higher tariffs for energy imports or scrapped research funding – and lawyers argue that these could be interpreted as the UK Government’s failure to maintain a stable legal framework and thus a violation of the rights the ECT grants to foreign investors.</p> <p class="Standard">In general, as an investment lawyer <a href="http://gar.live/energy2017">predicted in 2017</a>, “In the UK, there’s likely to be more regulatory disputes”, referring to looming “interventionist approaches” in the energy sector. Both Theresa May’s announced cap on energy prices to reduce energy poverty or attempts by Jeremy Corbyn to reclaim public ownership of the energy system might well trigger ECT claims.</p> <p class="Standard">ECT claims against the UK would have a certain irony. When the treaty was negotiated in the early 1990s, the UK Department of Trade and Industry was amongst the most influential players in pushing forward and shaping the talks. The ECT’s investor rules were even modelled along the standard UK investment treaty at the time, which had been written with significant input from oil giant Shell.&nbsp; </p><h2 class="Standard"><strong>The trade war distraction</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">While the trade war makes the front pages, these shouting matches over steel and peanut butter tariffs distract everyone from examining the more serious problems of today’s trade regime. Meanwhile twenty years of the little-noted ECT give us some of the most powerful examples of just how dangerous and destructive this global trade regime is. Trade and investment deals such as the ECT are tools for big business to make governments pay when they regulate to fight climate change, make energy affordable, and protect other public interests. They can be used to bully decision-makers and act as a brake to desirable policy-making.</p> <p class="Standard">With Brexit, the UK has the opportunity to look critically at its trade and investment policy. It should remake the rules from the bottom up so that they serve the public interest and not just corporate profits. With regards to the ECT, a first step could be to follow the example of countries such as Italy and leave this outdated and dangerous agreement.</p> <p class="Standard"><em>Cecilia Olivet and Pia Eberhardt are the co-authors of the report “<a href="https://www.energy-charter-dirty-secrets.org/">One Treaty to rule them all. The ever-expanding Energy Charter Treaty and the power it gives corporations to halt the energy transition</a>”, Brussels/Amsterdam 2018.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">Trump&#039;s visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Cecilia Olivet Pia Eberhardt Mon, 20 Aug 2018 15:59:47 +0000 Pia Eberhardt and Cecilia Olivet 119362 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is a consequence of low upward mobility https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ashoka-mody-rachel-lurie/brexit-is-consequence-of-low-upward-mobility <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the Brexit referendum, UK citizens were pleading through their vote – and non-vote – for a fair shot at the future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-12340017.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-12340017.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police raid in Hackney, London, targeting people involved in the London riots. December 21, 2011.Dominic Lipinski/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On June 23, 2016, the British public voted by a 52-48 percent margin for the United Kingdom to leave its membership of the European Union. A popular view is that British citizens favored Brexit because they were swayed by misplaced nationalism and base xenophobia. Most <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/fundamental-factors-behind-brexit-vote">academic</a> <a href="https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/64_becker_17.pdf">studies</a>, however, find that the Brexit vote reflected <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/globalisation-and-brexit">economic grievances</a>: <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/brexit-cry-financial-pain-not-influence-old">economically distressed</a> regions had higher “Leave” shares; and people under financial stress were more likely to vote for Brexit. <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hall/files/gidronhallmay2018.pdf">Recent research</a> shows that people who are economically marginalized and see their social standing slipping away are likely to identify themselves with nationalistic and xenophobic ideas and seek solutions for their grievances outside of the political mainstream. <span class="mag-quote-center">People who…see their social standing slipping away are likely to identify themselves with nationalistic and xenophobic ideas and seek solutions for their grievances outside of the political mainstream.</span></p> <h2><strong>Intergenerational economic mobility</strong></h2> <p>In this article, we pinpoint the source of voter economic anxiety during Brexit: the shrinking opportunity for upward intergenerational economic mobility. Many parents who voted to leave had good reason to fear that their adverse economic conditions would also severely handicap their children. Many children were also influenced by their lack of economic opportunities. They did not vote to leave, but rather, did not vote at all, a decision that turned out to be an important cause of the Brexit outcome. </p> <p>Many observers have noted that young British voters chose “Remain” more heavily than older citizens. The inference such observers draw is that if more young people had voted instead of staying home, “Remain” would have prevailed. We find that the decision by the young to abstain, just as much as the decision by older citizens to “Leave,” was an expression of political alienation driven by economic pessimism.</p> <p>Our findings emphasize that lack of upward mobility is more powerful than mere inequality in inducing deep economic grievances. Wealth and status are inevitably distributed unevenly across a population. But parents and children are doubly aggrieved if economic deprivation is handed down from one generation to another. We find that income redistribution is inadequate to overcome the pessimism caused by inadequate opportunities for improving earnings prospects.</p> <h2><strong>A rust-belt trap on parents, and an urban trap on children</strong></h2> <p>Children’s prospects for upward mobility are determined by the educational and labor market experiences bequeathed to them by their parents. Or, as Stanford University’s Raj Chetty, the preeminent scholar of intergenerational mobility, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/qje/article/129/4/1553/1853754/Where-is-the-land-of-Opportunity-The-Geography-of">puts it</a>, children’s success depends on the ‘opportunity’ to which they are exposed. Several studies, including one of ours, confirm that children who have higher-income and higher-professional-status parents start life with superior education and work experience (Lurie 2018).<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> Such children, unsurprisingly, succeed in climbing up the income ladder. Those who are brought up in better neighborhoods gain a further advantage.</p> <p>Following Lurie, we analyze the value to children of parental and neighborhood advantages. We obtained data on individual characteristics from longitudinal survey data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the Understanding Society UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS) spanning the years 1991 to 2015 (Figure I). To study neighborhood effects, we consider several regional characteristics from the 2001 British census data. Since regional characteristics are highly correlated, we use principal components analysis to identify two distinct groupings. One of these groupings, the “rust-belt,” features low college achievement, significant geographical isolation (commuting distances of individuals in the region are relatively short), and a large share of employment in manufacturing. Rust-belt areas do not have especially high unemployment rates; rather, the high reliance on manufacturing indicates a prevalence of low-paying and insecure jobs. These are areas, in former prime minister <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/29/key-lesson-of-brexit-globalisation-must-work-for-all-of-britain">Gordon Brown’s words</a>, where British manufacturing, unable to face Asian competition, has “collapsed,” and industrial towns have “hollowed out,” leaving semiskilled workers “on the wrong side of globalisation”. A second grouping suffers from “urban dysfunctions” such as high secondary school dropout rates, high unemployment, extreme geographical isolation, and broken families. Such areas have limited manufacturing activity. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.30.12.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.30.12.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Parents’ incomes not only are constrained by low professional status, but also are held down if they live in dominantly rust-belt areas. And children of low-income parents tend to be inadequately educated and scarred by youth unemployment, which limits their ability to move up the income ladder. Moreover, children earn less if they live in areas of high urban dysfunctions. Thus, the most disadvantaged children are those who, having been born to rust-belt parents, have moved to live and seek work in run-down urban areas. </p> <p>We find that the regional features that restrict upward mobility were influential in the vote for Brexit and in the decision to abstain. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The vote to leave: rust-belt traps spawn political protest </strong></h2> <p>Rust-belt features and urban dysfunctions persisted from 2001 through 2011. Thus, on the reasonable assumption that these features persisted into 2016, people’s experiences of regional income traps had endured well over a decade by the time of the Brexit vote. </p> <p>As shown in Figure II, regions with greater rust-belt features had distinctly higher shares of people voting “Leave.” Those who voted “Leave” suffered not only from their own economic anxiety but also from the fear that their children would face poor economic prospects. They attributed these woes to a hyper-globalization amplified by the European Union. </p> <p>In heavily rust-belt areas such as the West Midlands and the North East, voters suffered from a <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/what-do-the-brexit-movement-and-donald-trump-have-in-common">deep sense</a> of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/09/brexit-means-north-east-poorer-leaked-report">economic frustration</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/north-east-brexit-impact-thorntree_uk_5a82f04fe4b01467fcf1adca">regret</a> over the loss of industrial jobs. As others have <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/why-the-remain-campaign-lost-the-brexit-vote">noted</a>, the “Leave” campaign encouraged voters to blame their hardships on the European Union and on the London-based political establishment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 14.04.43.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 14.04.43.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>One theme of our findings is that while lack of upward mobility emphatically influenced the Brexit outcome, inequality played a more limited role in voters’ decisions. If anything, “Leave” shares were smaller in areas of high regional inequality: this is true for “market”-generated inequality and even more so for inequality after fiscal redistribution (Figure III). Thus, voters appear to have been moved not by their own relative deprivation, but rather, by the sense that even after receiving fiscal support to ease their daily lives, they could not give their children a chance of moving up in life.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 14.07.39.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 14.07.39.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Note: Gini coefficients taken from OECD statistics (2011). </span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Urban traps spawn political withdrawal</strong></h2> <p>The choice not to vote was just as important in determining the Brexit outcome as the choice to vote “Leave.” Regions with higher urban dysfunctions had lower voter turnout rates (Figure IV). Thus, while rust-belt traps manifested in a desire to change the system, urban traps manifested in a withdrawal from the system.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.45.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.45.41.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Voter <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/how-britain-voted-2016-eu-referendum">turnout data shows</a> that low-income youth drove low turnout rates: the lowest turnout rates nationally were among those aged 18-34, and among young people, those who were low-income voted the least. Such non-voters lived in dysfunctional urban areas, dealing with spells of unemployment and bleak prospects of making progress. For example, in Greater London, voter turnout was 79 percent in the affluent Kingston upon Thames borough, but only 65 percent in Hackney, where <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/aug/09/london-riots-kids-parents-police">large pockets</a> of deep poverty and alienation persist. If Greater London’s turnout rate had been materially higher and its “Leave” share had stayed unchanged, the referendum result would almost certainly have been to “Remain.” <span class="mag-quote-center">The divide was not across generations but across those who have reason to be optimistic about their futures and those who do not.</span></p> <p>Many have portrayed the Brexit vote as <a href="https://www.socialeurope.eu/book/brexit-generation-game-how-conflict-between-old-and-young-masks-welfare-challenges">reflecting</a> a “generational divide”: the young voted to Remain while older citizens voted to Leave. But this misses the crucial significance of the non-vote. The young living and working in the financial districts of London have little in common with those living in the depressed parts of Hackney. The divide was not across generations but across those who have reason to be optimistic about their futures and those who do not. The non-vote of the young living in the grim areas of Greater London and other similar urban neighborhoods was as much a sign of hopelessness as the exit vote of older rust-belt citizens. Their decision not to vote is a warning that such political detachment could morph into more active protest in the future.</p> <h2><strong>Can fiscal redistribution help after all?</strong></h2> <p>It is the case that areas of high urban dysfunctions also have high market-generated inequality (Figure V). As the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/world/europe/london-inequality-grenfell-tower-fire.html">London example shows</a>, pockets of extreme poverty and social fracture continue alongside areas of extraordinary wealth. The policy question is whether more aggressive fiscal redistribution to economically depressed urban areas, although too late for the Brexit vote, can help reduce the sense of despair and political alienation in the future.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.51.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.51.19.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Note: Gini coefficients taken from OECD statistics (2011). </span></span></span></p><p>The evidence from the Brexit non-vote is not encouraging. We find that government redistribution was ineffective at alleviating the underlying sources of voter frustration. As shown in Figure VI, while higher market inequality was associated with lower regional voter turnout rates, inequality in disposable income after taxes and transfers bore no relationship to turnout rates. Accordingly, regions with lower inequality in disposable income did not have higher voter turnout. While fiscal redistribution across regions did mitigate market inequality, it did not materially alleviate voters’ sense of frustration in economically and socially left-behind areas, where presumably the government’s safety nets were not enough to significantly raise optimism about the future. Recent studies for the United States describe how as regions fall behind, catching up <a href="https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/veronica.guerrieri/research/Inequality-07-12-18.pdf">becomes ever harder</a>. Those who can afford to move from the lagging regions do so. Those who stay behind are left with fewer communal resources and often lower-quality schools, a crucial factor that can limit upward mobility. <span class="mag-quote-center">Those who can afford to move from the lagging regions do so. Those who stay behind are left with fewer communal resources and often lower-quality schools, a crucial factor that can limit upward mobility.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.55.23.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 13.55.23.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Note: Gini coefficients taken from OECD statistics (2011). </span></span></span></p><p>Put differently, while redistribution eases the burden of life, it does not, <em>ipso facto, </em>improve opportunities to increase earning potential and move up on the income ladder. <a href="https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.27.3.79">Miles Corak</a> references a fitting quotation from <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137333117_5">Brunori, Ferreira, and Peragine</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>“[I]nequality of opportunity is the missing link between the concepts of income inequality and social mobility; if higher inequality makes intergenerational mobility more difficult, it is likely because opportunities for economic advancement are more unequally distributed among children.” </p></blockquote> <p>Policymakers need to aim for forms of redistribution that improve people’s life chances. </p> <h2><strong>The urgency of creating opportunities</strong></h2> <p>Our findings suggest that improving the prospects of upward mobility must be a multi-pronged policy effort. Regenerating declining manufacturing areas will raise the incomes of those stuck in a low-income status in those communities. Parents in those regions will be able to provide more opportunities to their children. In addition, directly improving children’s prospects of upward mobility will require revitalizing poor urban areas to enhance children’s opportunities upon entering the labor market; such policy initiatives will mitigate the scarring effects of youth unemployment. Crucial also to upward mobility is the availability of quality education. Particularly, low-income families need greater access to <a href="https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/intergenerational-mobility-europe-north-america/">education that prepares them</a> for the future. </p> <p>Many have criticized the Brexit referendum as undemocratic. Accounting for those who did not vote, less than half of British citizens favored Brexit. Even those who voted for Brexit may have been manipulated by unprincipled politicians and media. Such grumbling misses the point. The referendum gave British citizens an opportunity to pointedly express their pessimism about the future in a way that is not possible in general elections, in which multiple issues and parties compete for votes. In the Brexit referendum, UK citizens were pleading through their vote – and non-vote – for a fair shot at the future. They were calling on British leaders to revitalize decaying industrial areas and bring hope to the failing urban communities in which they were trapped. That plea has unfortunately been lost amid <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/brexit-two-years-deal-uk-economy-effects-city-london-ashoka-mody-international-monetary-fund-a8420721.html">the frenzied debate</a> on Brexit parameters between the UK and European authorities. <span class="mag-quote-center">That plea has unfortunately been lost amid the frenzied debate on Brexit parameters between the UK and European authorities. </span></p><p>The real Brexit message was only peripherally related to Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Rather, the Brexit vote signals the urgency of a task that policymakers have too long neglected: creating more opportunity and instilling a sense of fairness. Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to get it when, at her speech to the Conservative Party in October 2016, she promised “a country that works for all.” But May’s government continued the senseless fiscal austerity of previous Conservative governments. As is <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/did-austerity-cause-brexit/">well-understood</a>, austerity inflicts the greatest hurt on the most vulnerable. The task ahead is as clear as it is difficult: targeted policy solutions to raise upward mobility are crucial if Great Britain is to begin healing its economic and social divides. </p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/#_ftn1">[1]</a> Lurie, Rachel. “Intergenerational Economic Mobility in Great Britain: Traps and Opportunities.” Princeton University, 2018.</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="/transformation/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal">The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-ramsay/on-brass-bands-and-brexit-culture-and-culture-war-case-of-shirebrook">On brass bands and Brexit; culture and cuts: the case of Shirebrook</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/video-referendum-in-labours-hearlands">Video: the referendum in Labour&#039;s heartlands</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Ashoka Mody Rachel Lurie Sat, 18 Aug 2018 12:37:55 +0000 Rachel Lurie and Ashoka Mody 119336 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In defence of (some) conspiracy theory https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/des-freedman/in-defence-of-conspiracy-theory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Of course powerful people organise together. Dismissing everyone who challenges them as "conspiracy theorists" is dangerous</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/iraq_invassion.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/iraq_invassion.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction capible of reaching Britain's Overseas Territories on Cyprus was used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Image, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">More than thirty years ago, sections of the national press set out to vilify prominent members of the Labour left and to attack the anti-racist and anti-sexist positions with which they were associated. The Mail, Express, Sun and News of the World ran story after story criticising the ‘hard left’ positions of the Greater London Council and propagated a series of myths – for example that one Labour Council had abolished ‘black bin bags’ and that another had banned the singing of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ – that made up for in political impact what they lacked in veracity. These tabloid assaults paved the way for the scrapping of the GLC and for the passage of malicious, anti-gay legislation like Section 28 that criminalised the promotion of homosexuality in the curriculum.</p><p dir="ltr">I’m reminded of these sorry times by the publication of the second edition of <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Culture-Wars-The-Media-and-the-British-Left-2nd-Edition/Curran-Gaber-Petley/p/book/9781138223035">Culture Wars</a>, a powerful analysis of what the authors describe as a ‘sustained press campaign against the “loony left” in the 1980s’. This tabloid demonisation was designed to render a left-wing Labour Party ‘electorally toxic’ and to delegitimise progressive ideas on everything from the economy to sexuality and from language to foreign policy.</p><p dir="ltr">We’re now seeing another such onslaught against the left and a fresh campaign of <a href="https://medium.com/@jrschlosberg/anti-jewish-hatred-is-becoming-normalised-on-the-right-and-corbyns-critics-are-turning-a-blind-70262e787961">smears</a>, <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/jeremy-corbyn-antisemitism-labour-party">insinuations</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/jamie-stern-weiner/jeremy-corbyn-hasn-t-got-antisemitism-problem-hiw-opponents-do">generalisations</a> aimed, in particular, at branding the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-semite. There is, however, one major difference between the 1980s and today: anti-semitism, unlike the banning of nursery rhymes, is tragically all too real. It’s on the rise in <a href="https://www.osservatorioantisemitismo.it/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Modern_Antisemitism_in_the_Visegrad_countries_book_online.pdf">parts of Eastern Europe</a> and finds an expression in British politics (with anti-semitic attitudes <a href="https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/bs0i5dmt7s/CampaignAgainstAntisemitismResults_170803_JewishOpinions.pdf">most prominent amongst Conservative voters</a>). This makes the stakes even higher as there is a real need for a sober and informed discussion about how best to tackle anti-semitism, Islamophobia and the growth of the far right.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, there is a further difference between the two periods. In 2018, to talk about the existence of a ‘sustained campaign’ by powerful interests against the left is immediately to invite accusations of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’, someone who is obsessed by the thought of shadowy figures meeting secretly to undermine democracy and to discredit progressive ideas and movements. The very idea that one might even want to doubt official explanations for contested events is now attributed to, at best, over-active imaginations or, at worst, reactionary motives. </p><p dir="ltr">So for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/15/uks-claims-questioned-doubts-emerge-about-source-of-salisburys-novichok">voices</a> that sought to question the government’s narrative on the poisoning in Salisbury were denounced by <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5831151/far-left-pro-corbyn-blogs-spread-false-conspiracy-theories-about-spy-poisoning-blaming-the-attack-on-israel-or-uk/">the Sun</a> as ‘promoting conspiracy theories’. I have no idea whether the government’s narrative is correct or not but I quite appreciate journalists foregoing stenography for investigation. But according to the Sun, these were simply ‘crackpot posts’ confined to ‘controversial’ sites like Skwawbox and The Canary. These sorts of conspiracy theories, <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/03/how-conspiracy-theories-about-salisbury-attack-tap-antisemitic-tropes">argued Danny Stone in the New Statesman,</a> ‘play into prejudices…they provide a scapegoat and a self-satisfying rebuttal loop.’ So despite cover-ups practised at the highest levels – from <a href="https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/10/13/tony-blairs-eternal-shame-chilcot-report/">US and UK deceptions over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq</a> to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/apr/26/hillsborough-disaster-deadly-mistakes-and-lies-that-lasted-decades">decades of lies perpetrated by the South Yorkshire Police following the Hillsborough disaster</a> – ‘conspiracy theory’ now appears to be the phrase du jour to taint anti-establishment critique as necessarily the domain of cranks, ‘truthers’ and disgruntled former spooks. </p><p dir="ltr">Of course, there can be no conspiracy to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn – just an endless flow of articles and broadcasts that repeat the same claims, draw on the same sources and foster the same central allegations: that Labour is now <a href="https://www.thejc.com/comment/leaders/three-jewish-papers-take-the-unprecedented-step-of-publishing-the-same-page-on-labour-antisemitism-1.467641">exceptionally and institutionally anti-semitic</a> and that it is Corbyn who is peddling <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6943621/jeremy-corbyn-grotesque-anti-semitism/">anti-semitic conspiracy theories.</a></p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/18/conspiracy-theories-extreme-right-far-left-threaten-democracy">liberal commentators regularly equate</a> the ‘far right’ and the ‘extreme left’ as devoted purveyors of conspiracy theories so that <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/sandy-hook-alex-jones-info-wars-fake-conspiracy-theory-a8472301.html">Alex Jones’ claim on InfoWars</a> that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting never happened can be seen as somehow equivalent to claims that ongoing attacks on Jeremy Corbyn might not be primarily motivated by a desire to confront anti-semitism so much as a desire to force Corbyn out. According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/07/labour-antisemitism-jeremy-corbyn">Nick Cohen</a>, ‘Conspiracy theory binds Corbyn’s disparate militants’ while for <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/corbynite-left-is-hooked-on-conspiracy-theories-jcq7zh76f">David Aaronovitch</a>, Donald Trump’s birther theories are matched here in the UK where ‘large parts of the Labour Party tolerate the dissemination of conspiracy theories’. David Hirsh, in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-hirsh/stop-accusing-jewish-community-of-conspiring-against-left">article</a> that time and again contrasts ‘the unprecedented consensus within the Jewish community in Britain that there is as serious problem of antisemitism in the Labour party’ with the actions of a ‘small number of antizionist Jews’ who are, by definition, not part of that community, insists that the left is alleging a ‘Jewish conspiracy to lie and to smear’.</p><p dir="ltr">The dishonest nature of these arguments is dazzling. What is being proposed here is that anyone who suggests that there is a concerted attempt to delegitimise Corbyn and the left has fallen victim to the dangerous allure of conspiracy. This is a form of political gymnastics that involves the downgrading of agency and ideology and the celebration of ‘common sense’ and merry coincidence; it is about the attribution of dodgy machinations to your opponents but only the purest motives to yourself.</p><p dir="ltr">So when 12 right-wing Labour MPs <a href="https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/labour-centrists-meet-to-take-back-control-of-labour-from-corbyn/">met in a Sussex farmhouse</a> recently to discuss prospects for regime change, this was presumably a mere accident involving Chuka Umunna and his pals out walking on the Downs and needing somewhere to sit down and rest.</p><p dir="ltr">When <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/26/labour-shadow-cabinet-resignations-jeremy-corbyn-who-has-gone">whole swathes of the shadow cabinet resigned</a> back in June 2016 in a futile attempt to force Corbyn out, this was just fortuitous and had no resemblance to an organised coup to unseat the leader. 44 frontbenchers just happened to feel the same way at the same time over the same issue. (The idea that a leading PR company might have had something to do with it was immediately <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/portland-pr-company-conspiracy_uk_57791308e4b073366f0f2cc5">dismissed</a> as a conspiracy).</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, conspiracy theories are all the more unsavoury when they are connected to claims made by or about a specific ethnic or religious group. So when anti-Zionists write about the propaganda activities of the Israeli government, this is seen not simply as conspiratorial but also racist by perpetuating the well-trodden myth of Jews acting in concert to protect their own interests. It’s as if Jewish people, unlike other groups, never organise amongst themselves because to suggest that they do inevitably reproduces anti-semitic tropes.</p><p dir="ltr">That would certainly be true in relation to false claims that ‘Jews control the media’ or that ‘a Jewish cabal sits at the top of the world’s financial institutions’. Such claims should be wholeheartedly condemned. But it is rather more difficult to dismiss the run-of-the-mill strategic communications that is undertaken by all governments, including that of Israel.</p><p dir="ltr">What are we to make, for example, of the work of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs founded in 2006 to promote the Israeli state’s foreign policy objectives and now overseen by a former intelligence officer? According to a <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/MAGAZINE-inside-the-clandestine-world-of-israels-bds-busting-ministry-1.5453212">report in Haaretz,</a> in October 2015 the Ministry was handed responsibility to ‘guide, coordinate and integrate the activities of all the ministers and the government and of civil entities in Israel and abroad on the subject of the struggle against attempts to delegitmize Israel and the boycott movement.’ Now this is not a unique portfolio and there are similar bodies elsewhere, for example the <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1454653/comms-helped-defeat-isis-iraq-claims-government-counter-propaganda-unit">Coalition Communications Cell</a> designed to combat IS or the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Research,_Information_and_Communications_Unit">Research, Information and Communications Unit</a> based in the Home Office, because strategic communications is an essential part of the contemporary political battleground <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-miller/russia-novichok-and-long-tradition-of-british-government-misinformation">employing many thousands of people</a>. It is not conspiratorial to argue that Israeli spooks might be engaged in attempts to delegitimise Jeremy Corbyn when, <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/MAGAZINE-inside-the-clandestine-world-of-israels-bds-busting-ministry-1.5453212">as Haaretz puts it</a>, the Ministry’s ‘leading figures appear to see themselves as the heads of a public affairs commando unit engaged in multiple fronts, gathering and disseminating information about people they define as “supporters of the delegitimization of Israel”.’</p><p dir="ltr">In fact the desire to ridicule (or to dismiss as ‘racist’) the notion that powerful bodies might be organising to discredit their enemies and to reinforce their own credibility is simply a way of letting power off the hook. States have long established <a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719091056/">comprehensive systems of misinformation and disinformation</a> that rely on intermediate agents, including for example editors, politicians and academics, to circulate and re-purpose this material. These apparatuses both pre-date and are galvanised by today’s &nbsp;‘fake news’ platforms but they are not the simply the product of conspiratorial imaginations.</p><p dir="ltr">Some sixty years ago, the sociologist <a href="https://global.oup.com/ushe/product/the-power-elite-9780195133547?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">C. Wright Mills</a> talked about the ‘interlocking directorate’ of political, military and economic interests that constituted a ‘power elite’ at the top of US society. This is far from a comfortable and predictable consensus – indeed the power elite reflects a volatile and unstable set of interests – but it is one that is nevertheless determined to overcome differences in pursuit of shared aims where they exist. Those who reject out of hand as mere ‘conspiracy’ the concerted attempts of elites – whether in the US, Russia, China, the UK or Israel – to guard their power and to undermine their foes are either naïve, or as seems more likely in the current campaign to discredit the Labour leader, utterly disingenuous. </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-hirsh/stop-accusing-jewish-community-of-conspiring-against-left">Stop accusing the Jewish community of conspiring against the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conspiracy/suspect-science/adam-ramsay/16-things-i-learnt-from-experts-on-conspiracy-theories"> 16 things I learnt about conspiracy theories – from the experts</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 Anti-Semitism and the left Des Freedman Fri, 17 Aug 2018 15:17:31 +0000 Des Freedman 119326 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A nation divided? The identities, politics and governance of England https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/john-denham/nation-divided-identities-politics-and-governance-of-england <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The public want change. It’s time for civil society to lead this essential, overdue public discussion. An edited version of a Speakers Lecture by John Denham.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/england flags kirby estate.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/england flags kirby estate.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: England flags on the Kirby estate, South London, during the 2018 World Cup. Credit: David Mirzoff/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>England is deeply divided. We are divided by our poverty and our prosperity; between London and the South East and most of the rest of England; yes, within the wealthier regions too.</p> <p>In many parts of England, city centres may prosper while nearby towns lose their purpose and their able young people. </p> <p>The lines that divide us are being re-drawn. Poor white working-class children from towns and the seaside are now less likely to do well in school, than most ethnic minority kids of the large cities. But race and faith, prejudice and discrimination still have the power to divide us. </p> <p>We are divided by our experiences and our values. Age, class, and higher education are strong predictors of which of us is likely to hold individualistic cosmopolitan liberal views, and which a more communitarian social conservatism.</p> <p>These differences don’t map readily onto the familiar divides of class, of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Older working-class voters may be less keen on rapid immigration and diversity than their university educated grandchildren but are strong supporters of public ownership and the NHS. Young liberals may be less keen on redistribution and the welfare state; more likely to blame poverty on the individual. </p> <p>We sometimes lack the ability to talk to each other. One person’s resistance to change in their community is another’s clear evidence of racism.</p> <p>England is by far the largest part of the union. It is here that the forces that have torn us apart on Brexit are most violent. And it is England – and England outside London in particular – that is taking the whole of the union out of the EU.</p> <p>Despite the apparent return of two party politics in 2017, it was still the case that the elections in each nation were contested by different parties, won by different parties, and, to a large extent, fought around different issues. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales have their own cultural dividing lines that are different to those in England. </p> <p>England, as we recently learned from the massive <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-44369889">BBC/YouGov survey, believes that its best years were in the past</a>, while other parts of the union believe the best lies in the future. Not a single English demographic in the published poll expressed optimism for the future rather than nostalgic pessimism. Confidence in Westminster’s ability to represent people where they live is catastrophically low, as is their ability to influence their local council.</p> <p>The other parts of the union enjoy their own political identity and space, their own democratic institutions and their own democratic powers. England has none of these.</p> <p>England, as England, is absent from our national political debate and conversation. What happens in England affects the whole of the union, but England is rarely mentioned. </p> <p>Yet English identity has taken on a new weight and political significance. </p> <p>By the extent to which people say they are English, British or both, we can predict their likelihood to vote Leave or Remain, to be left or right, satisfied or dissatisfied with the current constitution, feel empowered or disenfranchised, or prioritise England over the union, Brexit over the Irish border.</p> <h2>England matters</h2> <p>I’m not going suggest that all the answers to our current problems lie with England. </p> <p>I will argue that we won’t meet the many challenges we face without addressing England: without engaging with English identity, England as a nation, with England as a place, as a democracy and as a political community.</p> <p>I’ll ask why even though English is the most widely shared and strongly held national identity amongst England’s residents that ubiquity and popularity is marginalised? Why is it actively opposed and even suppressed in public life and the national debate: not by the British as a whole, but by elite liberal Britain?</p> <p>I’ll argue that we cannot overcome our national divisions unless Englishness is allowed its proper place as an accepted, legitimate and celebrated identity within the multiple identities of modern England. </p> <p>I’ll suggest that our historic attachment to the remains of the unitary imperial state has left England without political institutions of its own and with a level of centralisation quite incompatible with good governance</p> <p>While those who feel strongly English must in future be fully included and represented, the future cannot belong exclusively to those who feel most strongly English. Reforms to England’s governance are needed but they must rest on sound, inclusive, democratic and civic foundations. </p> <h2>English and British</h2> <p>Around the turn of the millennium, when Scottish and Welsh devolution began, a marked change took place in England. The apparent assumption that English and British were pretty much the same broke down. Increased numbers of people began to identify as English as well as British. There was a sharp fall in those naming British rather than English identity.</p> <p>The numbers bounce around a bit but, over the past 20 years a broadly stable position has emerged.</p> <p>If asked about strength of identity, the great majority say they are strongly English <strong>and</strong> strongly British.</p> <p>If asked to choose one identity, slightly more will choose English than British.</p> <p>If asked whether English, more English than British, and so on, the largest group is equally English and British (35-40%), with the English and more English outnumbering the British and more British by around 3 to 2.</p> <p>By any measure, Englishness is the most widely shared national identity; it is at least as strongly held as Britishness, and more people emphasise their Englishness than their Britishness.</p> <p>The preference for Englishness over Britishness is strongest in the over 65s. As we move through the generations, it becomes more balanced, until, amongst the 18-24 years olds the more British exceed the more English, though even amongst the youngest, a large majority say they are strongly English.</p> <p>The major cities have higher numbers of British identifiers, though nowhere outside London do the more British outnumber the more English. (And London is more polarised between English and British identifiers than any other region, with fewer ‘equally English and British’). In smaller cities, the towns, suburbs and villages, the more English markedly exceed the more British. Regional and county identities, particularly in the north and in Cornwall, are strong enough to present a major part of people’s identities.</p> <p>As for the political salience of identity, just under 70% of the English not British voted Leave; over 70% of the British not English voted Remain. </p> <p>46% of the strongly English say they voted Conservative in 2017, 25% Labour. </p> <p>My survey of Conservative activists revealed deep scepticism amongst English identifying members about the benefits of the union to England. It prompted Paul Goodman, editor of Conservative Home, to describe the Tories as the ‘Conservative and just about Unionist’ Party. </p> <p>Labour members are significantly more likely to identify as British than the electorate as a whole, which may go some way to explain its relative lack of appeal to English identifiers.</p> <p>In 2015 English fears of SNP influence on Labour dominated the campaign and some commentators, and those close to the party campaigns, believe the issue gave David Cameron his majority.</p> <h2><strong>National identity</strong></h2> <p>There are many different takes on national identity, so let me explain how I understand it. </p> <p>Both Trump in the US and Brexit here prompted a flood of analysis correlating voting patterns and individual pieces of data. Every week produced a new explanation: economic status; demographics of age or race; education attainment; levels of recent migrations, ‘open’ or ‘closed’ values.</p> <p>These insights are very valuable, but in the search for the holy grail of the ‘real cause’; the single explanatory factor, we can miss the wood for the trees.</p> <p>All these issues – our economic experience, our experience of migration, our levels of education, the values of our community – together shape our view of the world.</p> <p>Our national identities become the repository of our experiences and perceptions. They offer narratives that help to make sense of them. They help to shape the way we understand the world. </p> <p>Our national identities reflect our sense of who we are; the values we hold, the symbols we recognise, the history we understand, how we see our status and influence. It’s not the individual elements of those identities that explain people’s behaviour, but the overall world view that they reflect and sustain.</p> <p>If there are echoes here of David Goodhart’s ‘people from somewhere’, and Will Jennings work on England’s divisions between cosmopolitan and socially conservative values, I want to emphasise the importance of national identity in organising, reflecting and expressing those different world views.</p> <p>If, for example, your experience of 40 years EU membership has been of factories closing, jobs lost, status diminished, community weakened and now changed beyond recognition by rapid migration, you may be attracted to a world view, and its associated identity, that gives a particular explanation of why that has happened. If by contrast your experience has been one of expanded opportunity, stimulation and personal success, this is likely to be reflected in a different identity. </p> <p>If people who feel English rather than British tend to vote in a particular way, it is because they share a world view for which that behaviour makes sense. And vice versa.</p> <p>This understanding of identity goes some way to explain why the correlations in voting behaviour are so strong, yet identity is rarely ‘operationalised’. Few people, after all, said I’m voting Leave because it is the English thing to do, or I’m a Remainer because I’m British. </p> <p>Anthony Barnett, author of The Lure of Greatness, highlights the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">word clouds of important Brexit issues</a> from the British Election Study. For Remainers it was the economy, followed by rights; for Leavers it was immigration followed by sovereignty. This does not look like one group of people answering one question in different ways, but two groups, giving different answers to different questions. </p> <p>It was not Brexit, of course, that divided us; Brexit highlighted the divisions that already existed.</p> <h2>Not two tribes, but divergent views</h2> <p>The recent BBC survey gives some new insights into the different world views of English and British identifiers. I don’t want to overstate the case. We are not separate tribes; mixed identities happily co-habit in most of us.</p> <p>But there are real differences between English-only identifiers and British-only. And, by and large, there is a smooth gradient from one pole to the other as we move through more English than British and to more British than English. </p> <p>One divide, of course, is whether someone’s primary allegiance is to the geography and institutions of Britain or the geography and political identity of England. The English are more inclined to prioritise England over the union; the British to prioritise the union. </p> <p>The way that British unionist priority has been expressed politically has caused its own problems, but I will return to that later.</p> <p>The British and the English also describe England in different terms. Twice as many British chose ‘diverse’ to describe England as do the English. Half as many are likely to say England has always been proud to stand alone. </p> <p>On the other hand, well over two thirds of the English believe we are tolerant, welcoming, friendly and generous. Just under half the British see the English in this positive light. </p> <p>And the survey at least hints at the emergence of minority amongst British identifiers who are not just ‘not English’, but positively antipathetic to the English. </p> <p>The clue is in the people who say they would be embarrassed to call themselves English, about just 7% of the total sample.</p> <p>The embarrassment is not felt by people who identify as English, or equally English and British, but by those who emphasise their British identity or who otherwise say they are not English.</p> <p>This anti-English fragment of Britishness seems to be highly educated, found more in cities and university towns, and much more likely to identify strongly as European than the general population. Contrary to what you might expect, this anti-English outlook is not stronger amongst ethnic minorities than white people. </p> <p>Minority though it may be, I’d suggest this anti-English fraction is over-represented within the institutions of government, within the leadership of the public sector, within the media, within corporate capitalism, and in academia (in short, a large part of what is sometimes called the elite). It is of course found within politics, and on the left in particular. </p> <p>That observation is based on personal experience, rather than hard data, though I suspect most of you will recognise what I am describing. I’m often struck by how many people in powerful positions say they are British not English while expressing disparaging views about English identity. They seem blissfully unware that being British not English puts them in less than on in ten of the population, and by being antipathetic to Englishness, in an even smaller minority. </p> <p>We saw their influence in Remain’s decisions to campaign as Scotland Stronger in Europe, in Scotland; as Wales Stronger in Europe, in Wales, and – only in England – as Britain Stronger in Europe. The English were, apparently, not worth even speaking to. </p> <p>Given that the Remain campaign lost heavily amongst English identifying voters, this was a mistake with serious and far-reaching consequences.</p> <p>Before the World Cup senior police officers described the St George cross as ‘almost Imperialistic’, and the Royal Mail – the <em>Royal</em> Mail - banned it from their vans. Yet polling shows support across the nation and diverse communities for both the England team and the flag.</p> <h2>England disappears from the national conversation. </h2> <p>The Prime Minister recently e-mailed English voters about health funding but did not make it clear she was talking about the English NHS. Labour recently published eight policy consultation documents which were largely about England but only in one actually mentioned England. </p> <p>The UK government has recently produced a video for Scotland on a new UK child care policy, with the #deliveringforScotland. The same policy applies in England but, as yet, no video addressing England. No #deliveringforEngland.</p> <p>I was pleased to take part in the York Festival of Ideas with David Willetts recently. Several of us discussed English higher education for a day – under a banner which read ‘the future of UK higher education’. </p> <p>And it does seem that more academics have a fascination with the minority of English people who express their identity in racist and ethnic terms than the majority who do not. </p> <p>During June’s World Cup <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkSpmtA5IM4">Gareth Southgate gave a powerful interview</a> in which he said, ‘We’re a team with our diversity and our youth that represents modern England’ and talked explicitly about English identity. The Guardian headline today was ‘England team represents modern Britain’.</p> <p>That’s not lazy reporting. You have to work extra hard to write England out of the story.</p> <p>No wonder people say, as they do on the doorstep: ‘you’re not even allowed to say you are English anymore’.</p> <p>The cumulative impact of this influential fraction is to delegitimise and marginalise Englishness; by portraying it as inherently reactionary and unpleasant we don’t need to engage with it as we do with other identities. </p> <p>It claims that Englishness is an ethnic identity; is a racist identity; it belongs to the far right; and that any political expression of Englishness is both extreme and the product of English nationalism.</p> <p>Three quarters of people believe you do not have to be white to be English (although it’s true that some are more accepting of those who were born here and have a local accent)</p> <p>Far right groups do try to appeal to English identity. But fully 80% of the population is strongly English. How can Englishness belong to the far right?</p> <p>Yes, the English do identify English issues and interests; they may sometimes feel they are ignored. But is this really a political movement we can call English nationalism when we find none of the things we might expect from a nationalist movement: there is no mainstream nationalist political party, no nationalist cultural institutions, nor nationalist public intellectuals? Supposed ‘English nationalism’ becomes another reason to exclude the English from debate.</p> <p>Now, I’m not naïve. Englishness, like Britishness is not monochrome. Look for the more unpleasant edge and you will certainly find it. Its fears can be inflamed by populist right. The current ‘Campaign to Free Tommy Robinson’ trades on claims that the ethnic dimension of grooming has been ignored. </p> <p>But this reactionary minority does do not justify the marginalisation of Englishness as a whole; indeed, the very opposite. Fears can most easily be exploited amongst people who feel they are not being listened to. The shunning of Englishness feeds the populists.</p> <p>The English are more concerned about the cultural impact of immigration, though as many British identifiers share similar concerns it is largely a matter of degree. While some do reject migration for racist reasons, as trade unionist Paul Embery says about rapid migration into east London, ‘it wasn’t their sense of&nbsp;race that had been violated by the sudden upheaval in their community; it was their sense of order’. I would say the same about my old Southampton constituency.</p> <p>But instead of engaging with this view, the anti-English fraction simply takes it as proof that Englishness is beyond the pale.</p> <p>The marginalisation of English identity prevents us exploring the shared values and common goals that are needed to heal England’s divisions. The work of British Future has found a large centre ground on migration, valuing its contribution but wanting it controlled. Yet public debate does not allow this to be expressed.</p> <p>Without question, much good has come from the spread of socially liberal cosmopolitan values. This is a far less closed and less bigoted society than the one into which I was born. But I would also argue that communitarian values of collective identity and solidarity – what we might call the bonds of belonging – that mark much of English identity also have a power and value that deserves recognition.</p> <p>Exclude the English and we also lose the ability to draw on England’s radical and reforming traditions. Our defence of liberty, our traditions of self-organisation, our history of struggles for rights and freedoms.</p> <h2>Nation-building</h2> <p>We will also struggle to shape shared identities and challenge the less pleasant aspects of Englishness.</p> <p>It is not actually a surprise that people from ethnic minorities are more British than English, and not just because of perceptions of English as an ethnic identity.</p> <p>Being English is strongly associated with being born here, and it’s the younger generations that are more likely to be English.</p> <p>And identities change their meaning. As Prof Tariq Modood reminds us, forty years ago many felt that association with the legacy of racism and colonialism would prevent ethnic minorities ever calling themselves British. That did not happen, and Englishness too is continuing to change.</p> <p>The popular acceptance of a multi-racial English football team suggests an inclusive Englishness is being built as we speak. (It’s only a generation or so since some fans didn’t count goals scored by black players). </p> <p>I wouldn’t argue for one moment that we should just take Englishness as it we find it. Just as the far right want to make it reactionary, those of a more progressive outlook should make every effort to strengthen its progressive, patriotic and inclusive expressions.</p> <p>But once again, the anti-English elite does its best to get in the way; rather than help shape Englishness and counter its more reactionary manifestations, Englishness is absent from public policy. The contributions of high profile ethnic minority figures, including Sadiq Khan, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Trevor Phillips, who are all at ease talking about Englishness, are ignored. </p> <p>There is a stark contrast between the pro-active efforts of the Scottish government to inculcate an inclusive Scottish identity and the lack of almost any public engagement with English identity by the UK government that runs England. </p> <p>Instead of nation-building we have national neglect.</p> <h2>Identity, values and change</h2> <p>These divisions of culture and identity have huge implications for our ability to tackle England’s other divisions.</p> <p>We cannot heal this divided nation without radical changes to our political economy that will reduce inequality, the gaps between regions, and raise productivity, innovation and the quality of working life. In the vision of the recent IPPR commission on Economic Justice: "an economy in which prosperity is joined with justice and builds the common good".</p> <p>But that change needs more than technocratic policy; it will depend on a shared vision of our nation; a shared idea of the common good; shared values. In the search for those common goals we cannot ignore national identity.</p> <p>National identities transmit values, and popular values determine how society can and can’t be changed. To take one example, the NHS is popular, despite its failings, because its core value ‘we all pay in and it’s there when we need it’ is not so much a funding mechanism but a statement of the sort of people we imagine ourselves to be. </p> <p>Old identities of the unionised working class; and the conservatism of order, service and respectability have weakened. Across the West, the identities of people, nation and place have assumed greater importance. Sadly, it is the divisive and xenophobic right that has taken most advantage. Centrist parties like the SNP and leftist parties like Syriza have been the exception.</p> <p>The urgent need to address England stems, not from a narrow nationalism or parochialism but as a necessary condition to create a strong sense of shared identity, common interests and a determination to work together to build a better society. </p> <h2>The governance of England</h2> <p>This place, this nation of England, will always belong to people with multiple and mixed identities. Yet the most widely shared identity is too often excluded from the national debate.</p> <p>England and the English must be included if we are to overcome the divisions – of identity, culture, geography, values and economy; if we are to create the sense of shared identity and common purposes that is now so essential. But where on earth can that discussion currently happen?</p> <p>This is where we must turn to the governance of England. </p> <p>England is now the only part of the UK governed permanently on most domestic policy by the UK government and not by its own elected parliament or assembly. </p> <p>It is the only unreformed element of the old imperial state and parliament. Reform that started with the division of Ireland in the 1920s and continued when Scotland and Wales took authority from Westminster at the turn of the century, has not yet touched England.</p> <p>Nor, in the main, has it touched the political parties that dominate England.</p> <p>Attachment to the old unitary state was embedded in the pretence that Scottish and Welsh devolution simply lent Westminster powers to the nations. This was used to justify the UK government continuing run England. That pretence about devolution has been dropped, but not the belief that England should be subject to the parliament and government of the UK. </p> <p>Of course, people say that England is so big within Westminster that the distinction is a technicality, a matter of form not a matter of substance. This is to miss the point about what a national parliament is.</p> <p>As Vernon Bogdanor observes, the Commons has now the semblance of an English Parliament – because it largely discusses English issues – without being made up of English MPs. </p> <p>England is sometimes subject to the direct interference of non-English MPs (as when the DUP demands English revenues to sustain the Conservatives in power and prevent an early election, or when Labour Scottish and Welsh MPs tried to imposed higher university fees on England). English voters are denied the democratic right to determine national policy outside that is taken for granted in the rest of the UK.</p> <p>English votes on English laws have given English MPs a veto on legislation, but, in the words of one authoritative study, it has not yet given England a voice. The Commons does not provide a forum and focus for the politics of England in the way that the elected bodies of Scotland, Wales and, (though temporarily incapacitated), Northern Ireland do for those parts of the union. </p> <p>There is no crucible for England’s national debate.</p> <p>This constitutional conservatism has shaped how England sees itself. </p> <p>Scotland and Northern Ireland both delivered large Remain majorities. As did London. Wales had a narrow Leave vote, in line with the UK average but much less than England-outside-London.</p> <p>The more pro-Remain parts of the UK have enjoyed civic processes, political debates, and political institutions that have enabled them to reimagine their identities in a post-imperial world. Scotland took that opportunity enthusiastically, Wales less certainly though there would now be no going back. Northern Ireland took it as a way of moving beyond its own tragic history.</p> <p>London, of course, is the one part of England that enjoys statutory powers, its own elected leadership and political institutions to shape its identity. </p> <p>These debates have allowed different parts of the union to see themselves as modern, European, post-imperial. </p> <p>England, uniquely within Britain, has neither been challenged nor enabled to re-imagine its position in the union, its identity, and its role in the 21st century. It is split culturally, regionally, by age and education, because there has never been an attempt to articulate what the people English share in common. </p> <p>The symptoms England displays – the Brexit vote, the regional imbalances, the cultural divisions, the obsessive centralisation – are rooted in the failure of England to reconsider our role and nature in the modern world.</p> <p>That England provided the lion’s share of the Brexit vote was not a pathological failing of the English people, but the outcome of England being denied any political identity, institutions and national debate of its own. </p> <p>In the absence of that national debate, in the absence of any English political institutions, and with the widespread marginalisation of English identity, it should not be a surprise that the English more than anyone else wanted to ‘take back control’.</p> <p>Scotland, of course, also enjoyed its own ‘take back control’ moments when it both threw out Labour and determined its relationship with the union.</p> <p>Of course, many British unionists have actually worked hard to prevent England being allowed a political identity, including many in my own party. Unlike the liberal anti-England British, these opponents have often been motivated by concern for the union.</p> <p>These British unionists – whilst often the staunchest advocates of devolution to Wales and Scotland – have feared that England is so big that allowing a political identity would inevitably wreck the union. Instead of working out how a reformed union could accommodate England’s democratic rights, and the rights of the smaller nations, they have resisted all change. </p> <p>We can now see what a catastrophic mistake that has been.</p> <p>It is the ultimate irony that the architects of England’s suppression are now seeing an angry England taking the whole union out of the EU, against the wishes of the majority in the devolved nations. The defenders of the union have triggered unprecedented threats to the continuation of the union itself. Instead of blaming a supposed English nationalism, it is time that they confronted their own responsibility for the current situation.</p> <p>The attachment to the old imperial unitary state has a second consequence. It has consolidated the Whitehall centralist state. Wales and Scotland – and less certainly – Northern Ireland – have broken free of Whitehall micro-management. England again is unchanged, not just in the formal system of governance but in the entrenched in the pattern of thinking in Westminster and Whitehall.</p> <p>Decades of centralisation have produced a nation with dramatic variations in morbidity, mortality, education, life chances, social care, and not just by region but by city, town, village and street. Yet propose the most modest devolution and yet within half a mile of here, the cry of ‘beware the postcode lottery’ will go up.</p> <p>As the admirable Mark Sandford of the House of Commons library has documented, the much-hyped devolution deals, as with Labour’s regionalism, are primarily designed to co-opt and engage local stakeholders in the flexible delivery of Whitehall priorities. They are not intended to transfer the ability to set different policy priorities, or accountability for public money to a more local level, let alone give statutory backing to local democratic rights.</p> <p>The longstanding Barnett funding formula requires the UK government to give relative protection to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by linking their spending to that of England. Barnett does not require the UK government to provide any similar protection to the poorest parts of England. Hence, since 2010, the UK government has imposed bigger cuts on the poorest regions of England. </p> <p>If Barnett has been an essential underpinning of UK, devolution across the UK, English devolution requires fair funding within England. So stunted is the debate about England that I’m not aware of proposals from any party to entrench a fair funding formula for England.</p> <p>No wonder so few people in England feel they can influence local and national policy. Only 13% feel that politicians in Westminster reflect the concerns of people in their part of the country. Only 23% think local people have a significant influence on local government decisions. </p> <p>If anything, the English feel even less empowered than the British, and, according to the Centre for Towns, the most English towns feel least well represented. But this is a civic and democratic crisis across identities, not just for the English.</p> <h2>What is to be done?</h2> <p>If you are still with me, I hope the inter-related challenges I outlined earlier are beginning to take shape.</p> <p>I want to foster an England that is more optimistic about the future than it is nostalgic for the past; an England in which there are shared aims, shared identities and a shared idea of the common good. </p> <p>We need to enable the English and English identity to be fully expressed and accepted in the national debate, as legitimate as any other identity, and to encourage its development as inclusive.</p> <p>We need to create the institutions in which those shared aims and the common good can be developed.</p> <p>And we need to ensure that the average person in England feels far more empowered to shape their locality and their nation than they do at present.</p> <p>There has been some talk by Gordon Brown and others of a new union of the nations and the English regions, but these proposals are inadequate, undemocratic and far from radical. They give other nations enhanced rights, including treaty powers; but English legislation and English finance would remain in the hands of the UK government. </p> <p>The regions, a modern invention, bear only an occasional and coincidental relationship to real local and regional identities. And in a small, crowded, nation, English legislation needs to be made at English level by English democracy. </p> <p>I would argue that the only system of governance that can meets our pressing is an English Parliament coupled to radical statutory devolution within England.</p> <p>Westminster needs to move beyond the formal mechanism of English votes for English laws to allow English legislation to be fully made by elected English MPs. That is a demand that has been consistently enjoyed majority support, British identifiers as well as English, since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. It should evolve, initially at least, as a dual mandate Commons in which English MPs sit both as members of an English Parliament and of a union parliament. </p> <p>At the same time, to overcome the regional disparities of wealth and opportunity, or to reduce the material divisions in England, we need a fundamental shift of power and resources from Whitehall to England’s localities. This devolution must be underpinned by statutory rights to take decisions locally.</p> <p>Perhaps the moment for change may be coming. In the BBC survey a third expressed no opinion on changes of governance. This is a debate that is starting, not one that is ended. But exclude them, and 62% support an English Parliament. 73% support the devolution of power to combined authorities, a remarkable result given how new they are, but it strongly suggests that building on existing institutions in localities that we understand, is likely to be the best way forward.</p> <p>Since Brexit, England is being taken more seriously across the political spectrum and amongst liberal and left intellectuals. The Constitution Unit has analysed options for an English Parliament. The very commissioning of the BBC’s poll recognised England’s growing significance.</p> <p>The emergence of a network of symbolically powerful elected mayors, backed by business as well as local authorities may create a powerful voice for change for all parts of England.</p> <p>Few people now argue that Whitehall can solve the regions’ problems. Just ask Northern Rail passengers. Yes, the call for an English Parliament raises questions about the future of the union, although less sharp if the first step is a dual mandate Commons. But, in any case it seems unlikely, post-Brexit, that we will get through the next few years without facing questions about the structure and future of the union; whether from the Irish border, renewed calls for Scottish independence, or the simple impossibility of the UK government representing both UK and English agricultural interests at the same time.</p> <p>Those coming debates will not be able to exclude England. Lord Salisbury’s Constitution Reform Group has laid the groundwork for a serious re-founding of the union. The political parties have not reached this conclusion yet. It may still take them some time. But I would suggest that this is the time for the civic consideration of England’s governance to begin. Large sections of the public want change, they have a sense of direction. Now is the time for civil society groups, faith organisations, unions, business and local authorities to lead that essential, overdue public discussion.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</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="/uk/david-marquand/england-ireland-scotland-wales-time-for-all-to-jump-in-to-debate">England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales - time for all to jump in to the debate</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk John Denham Thu, 16 Aug 2018 13:24:20 +0000 John Denham 119307 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Looking at Lexit : Everyday Lexiteers - Interview 3 : Oliver https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/xavier-buxton-oliver-eagleton/looking-at-lexit-everyday-lexiteers-interview-3-oliver <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"When viewed in [the] Europe-wide context, it becomes clear that a vote for Leave is not a vote for UKIP or for neoliberalism. In fact, it may deprive such forces of the international structures which sustain them."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33011394.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33011394.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem arrives at the Finance Ministry after his meeting with Greek Fin. Minister in Athens on September, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>As part of our Looking at Lexit series, we’ll be asking left-wing Brexit voters about their reasons for voting Leave. Our third “Everyday Lexiter” is Oliver, a recent graduate now working as an editorial assistant.</em></p><p><em></em><br /><strong>Describe your political outlook/background/loyalties</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Becoming disenchanted with Obama was a significant part of my political education. I went to his inauguration at the age of eleven and got swept up in the euphoria, only to look back on the 2008 inaugural ceremony and question my uncritical participation in it. I later joined the Irish Socialist Party and began campaigning against the EU-IMF austerity regime which had been devastating the country since the crash. The group did a lot of good work, but was run by tunnel-visioned ultra-leftists whose outlook was too obstinate to be effective. They ended up expelling me after I wrote a satirical play about Trotskyist fringe parties. </p><p dir="ltr">I moved to England in 2015 and became a member of Corbyn’s Labour. I usually describe my outlook as Leninist, in the sense that I believe socialist principles should always complement the concrete analysis of concrete situations, and that revolutionary politics should allow for maximal flexibility and improvisation without yielding to reformism. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Describe, in two or three sentences, your political utopia: what your ideal community would look like, and how would it function?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I think that any revolutionary act creates new possibilities which lie beyond one’s current cultural horizons. For me, socialists should try to create that space of possibility by exploiting capitalism’s contradictions, supporting its oppressed groups, and creating forms of collectivism to counter its atomising effects – but we shouldn’t try to draw up some utopian blueprint which will inevitably become ossified and redundant. Instead, we should unite behind a few broad principles (radical equality, mass democratisation, collective ownership) and use them to propel us towards a future which is unthinkable in the present: a future in which the texture of everyday life – not just the structure of our state apparatus – is deeply affected by political transformation. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What was your main reason for voting for Brexit?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">As a teenager, I followed Yanis Varoufakis’ confrontation with the EU in great detail, and felt unable to forget it when the Brexit referendum was announced. The Greek debacle left no doubt as to what happens when a progressive movement gains popular support and political traction inside the EU: it is subjected to what Varoufakis rightly called ‘economic terrorism’, forced to betray its mandate and stripped of its power by an unelected technocracy. The sight of Syriza politicians breaking down in parliament – knowing that their EU-imposed legislative programme will condemn millions to hunger and destitution, yet having little alternative given their failure to plan for Grexit – is haunting, and underscores the EU’s contempt for both democracy and dignity. </p><p dir="ltr">I could never support such an institution as a matter of principle. But in realpolitikal terms, the necessity of Brexit is just as urgent. It is naïve to think that Labour would escape the fate of Syriza – that the EU would not use Britain’s treaty obligations and state aid rules to prevent any deviation from neoliberal orthodoxy. It seemed to me that, faced with the unpalatable prospect of a Tory Brexit, left-wing Remainers wilfully ignored the ways in which social change is incompatible with EU membership. Their ability to neglect this fact also signalled a broader political defeatism: we’ll never win an election anyway, so why not keep the EU as a bulwark against Tory deregulation? Why opt for ‘national sovereignty’ when our sovereign decision-makers will be Conservative for the foreseeable future? Meanwhile, those who believe that the left might soon take power (a belief validated by the last general election) seemed more willing to prepare for that outcome. An ineluctable part of that preparation is Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">The short-sightedness of the Remain position also struck me as incompatible with the kind of structural thinking which the left claims to deploy. For me, the most compelling reasons to remain were the reluctance to galvanise xenophobic nationalism and the fear that Liam Fox’s libertarian cronies would hijack the economy. But even these arguments rely on viewing Brexit as an event with exclusively national significance. They do not reckon with the EU’s capacity to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment across its member states, impose ‘structural reforms’ which entrench an extreme free market ideology, and sign trade agreements that threaten workers’ rights internationally. Instead of seeing Farage and Fox as nutters to be reined in by the EU, we should understand them as symptoms of a far-right free-trade movement whose rise is abetted by the EU itself. When viewed in this Europe-wide context, it becomes clear that a vote for Leave is not a vote for UKIP or for neoliberalism. In fact, it may deprive such forces of the international structures which sustain them. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Were you influenced by any politicians? Friends, family, colleagues?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I was influenced by Tariq Ali’s unequivocal support for Brexit. During a crisis of confidence some months after the referendum I asked him whether he still believed it was a progressive result, to which he replied ‘Of course’ with total, relaxed certainty. But, aside from that, all my friends and family were Remainers. I found it instructive that many of them seemed to accept the dominant middle-class opinion in a manner which reminded me of uncritical Obama supporters and (in a very different way) of the ideological lemmings whom I met in the Socialist Party. I was instinctively allergic to that Remainer herd instinct – especially since it affects the very people who describe Leave voters as brainless, impulsive and easily manipulated. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How would a Labour-led Brexit differ from a Tory one?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In either case, the EU will try to make leaving as costly and unappealing as possible. But I think Labour’s policy on the customs union is more coherent than anything proposed by the Tories, and Corbyn’s commitment to solving the Irish border question is sure to win him a morsel of goodwill in Brussels. Labour would liberate Britain from the constraints of the single market (whose worst aspects would be retained by the Tories) while also forging a ‘soft’, humane and sensible approach to immigration. Concessions will have to be made by any British negotiator, but the reclamation of sovereignty would be accelerated by a left-wing government which cares more about popular self-determination and less about the flow of capital. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What would have to change about the EU, or the UK’s relationship with the EU, for you to support continued or renewed membership?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It would have to ditch the euro, radically overhaul the ECB, drop plans for further political and economic integration, become democratic, accountable and transparent, flatten out destructive hierarchies in the EU27, change the functioning of the European Parliament, and send Jeroen Dijsselbloem to live with Greek fishermen for the rest of his days. None of this seems likely. </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/julian-sayarer-xavier-buxton/everyday-lexiteers-interview">Everyday Lexiteers - an interview</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/julian-sayarer/looking-at-lexit-everyday-lexiteers-interview-3-niall">Looking at Lexit : Everyday Lexiteers - Interview 2 : Niall</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 Xavier Buxton Oliver Eagleton Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:06:44 +0000 Oliver Eagleton and Xavier Buxton 119303 at https://www.opendemocracy.net BBC Diversity – getting through The Moral Maze https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/simon-albury/bbc-diversity-getting-through-moral-maze <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"This story starts with an invitation to appear as witness on “The Morality of Diversity”&nbsp;in the BBC Radio 4 “The Moral Maze” series, presented by Michael Buerk..."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/EnoAlfred(SAed).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/EnoAlfred(SAed).jpg" alt="lead lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eno Alfred Adeogun. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>This story starts with an invitation to appear as witness on “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bbr3zs">The Morality of Diversity</a>”&nbsp;in the BBC Radio 4 “The Moral Maze” series, presented by Michael Buerk. The programme describes itself as “Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories.”</p> <p>The story doesn’t quite end with this – when I wanted to give an example of BBC failure to recognise BAME merit:</p> <blockquote><p>Albury: ‘Can I give you an example?’</p><p>Buerk: ‘No you can’t…</p><p>Albury: ‘If I can’t give you an example, I might as well leave – if you can’t deal with facts?’</p><p>Buerk: ‘I keep repeating, we haven’t got somebody from the BBC to answer that thing, so you have made your point.’</p><div>Albury: ‘But the BBC know what I’m going to say * – it’s a waste of time.&nbsp; I am giving you examples and you are refusing to hear them.’</div></blockquote> <p>Outside the studio, I tweeted:&nbsp;</p> <p><em>‘</em><em>Why did the BBC invite me to discuss diversity and then refuse to let me give an example of BBC ignoring BAME merit or quote from BBC Board member Tim Davie’s diversity report</em><em>?’</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mail on Sunday <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6002979/I-muzzled-Moral-Maze-trying-criticise-BBC.html">reported</a>: “I was muzzled on Moral Maze for trying to criticise the BBC's record on diversity, says an equality campaigner who appeared on the Radio 4 show” </p><p>A former Ofcom bigwig emailed me:</p> <p><em>“Frankly I too was amazed at how shoddy a production it was, not only the ridiculous attempt to prevent you offering even modest criticism of the BBC, but the fact that their level of thoughtfulness, insight or willingness to debate seriously never got above that of the lounge bar loudmouth. Michael Buerk, a man I have admired in the past, sounded bored and mentally off duty.&nbsp;<br /> I suppose like many people of my background I have slipped into an assumption along the lines of: ‘All broadcasters are now well aware of how hot an issue diversity is and how much scrutiny they’re under. Things are definitely heading in the right direction and doors are being successfully opened everywhere’.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>In fact, I have said words to that effect pretty regularly over the past few months. I suspect your view is very different and I reckon you’re right and I’m wrong... there needs to be more heavy and sustained booting of a lot of those doors before they’ll start to budge.”</em></p> <p>So, what’s the story?</p><h2><strong>The beginning</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>It all began with an email from a researcher:</p> <blockquote><p><em>Dear Simon,</em></p><p><em>I’m looking for possible contributors to our Radio 4 programme The Moral Maze tomorrow (live from BH London, 8pm Weds July 25th).</em></p><p><em>Our topic for debate is ‘diversity’. A universally-available, collectively-funded service, like the BBC or the police force, is only legitimate if it represents and serves all sections of society – ideally in the right proportions. Unless we measure and adjust diversity, the argument goes, we cannot address the unfair power balance in society.&nbsp; But is diversity a moral good in itself?&nbsp; It doesn’t necessarily make outcomes better or fairer. Why should we strain for diversity of gender or ethnicity in a workforce but not for diversity of intelligence or of political opinion?</em></p><p><em>That’s the territory. If you’d like to join the discussion, please give me a call.</em></p><p><em>Best wishes,</em></p><p><em>Peter</em></p></blockquote> <p>If “That’s the territory”, that’s my territory. I gave Peter a call. I told him, I’d just returned from a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, I was fired up, that for me diversity in publicly funded organisations was about Justice – publicly funded organisations shouldn’t get the money if they didn’t’ have the mix.</p> <p>Peter, playing devil’s advocate, put some provocative statements. I’d started as a television researcher 49 years ago. I knew Peter wanted to know if I could string words together and I thought he needed to know what I’d say on the show.</p> <p>Peter concluded the BBC would like me to be a witness on the programme. The topic would be Merit versus Diversity and I would have about 7 minutes. I said I’d do it. I thought a witness would be required to give evidence. I started reviewing my evidence.</p><h2><strong>The evidence</strong></h2> <p><strong>1. BBC ignoring BAME merit</strong></p> <p>From Peter’s email, it seemed clear I needed to address the issue of Merit v Diversity in the BBC. I knew the BBC had ignored merit in BAME talent, failed to recognise it when it was under its nose, and had failed to develop BAME talent when it had it. I reminded myself of some clear examples.</p> <p><strong>Nima Elbagir</strong>, for example. Over the past seventeen years, the BBC has often said it needs more BAME talent.&nbsp;Nima Elbagir is a black Muslim woman who speaks fluent Arabic. In 2008, she picked up two Foreign Press Association awards and was shortlisted for Royal Television Society Young Journalist of the Year award.&nbsp;</p> <p>I used to run the RTS. I was running it in 2008. The BBC always has a lot of people at the RTS TV Journalism Awards.&nbsp;In 2008, they will have seen her work and heard her name but, despite the BBC’s enthusiasm for greater diversity, none of them was interested enough to seek her out. The BBC never approached Nima Elbagir. CNN did.</p> <p>Just 8 years later, in 2016, working for CNN, Nima Elbagir won RTS Specialist Journalist of the Year. The RTS jury praised her “determination, bravery and deep humanity.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Nima Elbagir had also been among the three nominations for RTS Television Journalist of the Year 2016 alongside Sky’s Alex Crawford and Channel 4’s Matt Frei. No one from the BBC made the cut that year.</p> <p>Nima Elbagir is a clear example of the BBC not recognising BAME talent when it was right under its nose.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rkl_0148.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rkl_0148.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nima Elbagir with RTS Specialist Journalist of the Year Award. Richard Kendall. RTS. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p><strong>Marcus Ryder.</strong>&nbsp; For eight years, Marcus Ryder worked as Executive Producer BBC Current Affairs Scotland. He wasn’t getting anywhere, despite picking up a fistful of awards, including:</p> <p>1. Winner British Journalism Awards 2015 – Panorama “Catch Me If You Can” on drugs in sport, including Nike’s involvement<br /> 2. Winner Royal Television Society Current Affairs 2015 – “The Dog Factory” which helped change the law in how dogs are raised and sold in the UK<br /> 3. Winner BBC Ruby Awards Best Investigation 2014 – Panorama “The Innocent Serial Killer” into a serious miscarriage of justice of a convicted serial killer.<br /> 4. Winner Foreign Press Awards 2012 – “Who Stole The Jerseys” investigation into football corruption.</p> <p>In Scotland, Marcus Ryder was responsible for running twenty to thirty people.&nbsp;In August 2016, Marcus Ryder quit the BBC and the next month turned up in Beijing as:<span> Chief International Editor China Global Television Network Digital</span></p> <p>From Beijing, Marcus Ryder now oversees several hundred journalists, in a bigger job, for a bigger outfit, with a huge reach.&nbsp;China Global Television Network has&nbsp;a total revenue of $6.6 billion which is larger than CNN and the BBC.</p> <p>From his own analysis of the data in the latest BBC Annual Report, Marcus Ryder <a href="http://blackonwhitetv.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-good-bad-and-ugly-bbc-diversity.html">concluded</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“In 2018, the BBC figures reveal that BAME staff were more likely to leave the BBC than their white counterparts, and even fewer received severance pay when they leave. Most I know have literally just handed in their notice and left, fed up with the lack of progress and glass ceilings.”</p></blockquote> <p>Marcus Ryder is an example of the BBC failing to develop BAME talent when it had it.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/marcus_ryder_beijing.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/marcus_ryder_beijing.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marcus Ryder. RTS. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p><strong>Eno Alfred. </strong>Eno Alfred was raised in Barnet.&nbsp;She was one of the few students from her Academy who made it to a Russell Group University, LSE. At LSE, Eno was recruited by the&nbsp;Columbia School of Journalism and was given a couple of scholarships for its MA course in New York. Eno specialized in broadcasting. Columbia provides the world’s top training. When you leave Columbia, you’re ready to go – and Eno went!</p> <p>Eno Alfred worked at the United Nations, The Daily Beast, The Atlanta Post, Fortune magazine and Global Trade Review.&nbsp;Like many black people with a commonwealth heritage, Eno aspired to work for the BBC. Eno applied for fifteen jobs at the BBC:</p> <blockquote><p>Broadcast journalist (online news),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>broadcast journalist,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>assistant producer (children's presentations, CBBC &amp; Cbeebies),</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>press officer,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>broadcast journalist (news online, Sheffield),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>broadcast assistant,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>broadcast journalist (BBC breakfast),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>production co-ordinator,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>assistant producer pool (BBC Children's),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>monitoring journalist,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>trainee studio manager (news programmes operations),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>production co-ordinator,&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>assistant producer (The One Show),&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>production trainee scheme,</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>BBC North opportunities pool.</p></blockquote> <p>Despite Eno’s outstanding training and experience, she was not once called for an interview.&nbsp;</p> <p>Eno then tried her luck in Nigeria, where her parents were born. Within a year she was a presenter on Good Morning Nigeria and a reporter/producer on “30 minutes,” an investigative strand.</p> <p>Eno has married. She is now Eno Adeogun and works for Premier Christian Radio.</p> <p>At the BBC, The Moral Maze falls under ‘Religions and Ethics’. BBC Religions and Ethics likes to win Jerusalem Awards for “original, engaging Christian broadcasting.” Two days before this Moral Maze, Eno Adeogun was shortlisted for a Jerusalem Award for her documentary “Egypt Church Bombings: One Year On", visiting Egypt on the first anniversary of the twin suicide bomb attacks at churches on Palm Sunday.</p> <p>Of these three examples, Eno’s was the story I had decided to tell on The Moral Maze. It was the evidence I was banned from giving on the failure of the BBC to recognise BAME merit when it was banging on the door.</p> <p><strong>2. Merit versus diversity</strong></p> <p>In 2007, a <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters">McKinsey report</a> demonstrated that research made it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>I wasn’t sure this would impress on The Moral Maze. I’d trotted out my own arguments before but I thought I should see what others were saying.</p> <p>MIT. Via Google, the first thing I found was an <a href="http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/diversity-or-merit">excellent piece</a> “Diversity or Merit” from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading universities.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The author, Chris Peterson, an Assistant Director at MIT Admissions,&nbsp;argued convincingly that Diversity or Merit was a false dichotomy. Bingo! I thought “false dichotomy” would be a good term for the Moral Maze.&nbsp;</p> <p>Peterson quoted what MIT told high school students:</p> <p><em>“When we admit a class of students to MIT, it's as if we're choosing a 1,000-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain&nbsp; – together. We obviously want people who have the training, stamina and passion for the climb. At the same time, we want each to add something useful or intriguing to the team, from a wonderful temperament or sense of humor, to compelling personal experiences, to a wide range of individual gifts, talents, interests and achievements. We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other”.</em></p> <p>Peterson’s article concluded:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“when it comes to each applicant, we are not looking for merit&nbsp;or&nbsp;diversity. We are looking for merit&nbsp;<strong>and</strong>&nbsp;diversity.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>It's not either/or.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>It's yes/and.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>In the programme I only had time for one short quote from MIT:&nbsp;</p> <p><em>“we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.”&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Next, I found “<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/merit-vs-equality-argument/">Merit vs Equality</a>? The argument that gender quotas violate meritocracy is based on fallacies”.&nbsp;The author was&nbsp;Professor&nbsp;Rainbow&nbsp;Murray, at Queen Mary University School of Politics and International Relations. The summary said:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“The case against gender quotas often involves the argument of merit. The logic is that we should recruit on the basis of merit, not gender; quotas recruit on the basis of gender and so are by definition unmeritocratic. This is a myth used to justify the privilege-based status quo, argues Rainbow Murray. By focusing on political recruitment, she explains why merit and quotas are not mutually exclusive but that in fact, quotas are essential to a meritocratic system for they open up politics to everyone.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>I hadn’t got far into this impressive piece before I realised the name Rainbow Murray rang a bell. I checked the list of Moral Maze witnesses and saw that Rainbow was to be one of them. I found her email and told Rainbow:&nbsp;</p> <p><em>“I think you can do this better than me. My plan is to lean on specific compelling examples where BBC has ignored BAME merit to illustrate the false dichotomy. I can’t see that we need to speak ahead of the show. We’re both on the same side.”</em></p> <h2><strong>* Albury: “But the BBC know what I’m going to say…..”</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>I’d started my career on top current affairs programmes, Granada’s World In Action and BBC’s 24 Hours. Later, I’d been involved in broadcasting legislation and regulation and been a founder of an ITV company, Meridian.&nbsp;</p> <p>I put myself in the Moral Maze producer’s shoes. It was a live programme, always risky, so I emailed some comfort with the sources for what I might say. I never imagined this would cause such intense discomfort. I said:</p> <p><em>“I have attached a Word document which I think it might be useful to circulate to all participants when they arrive before the programme.”&nbsp;</em></p> <p>It was the list of BBC jobs Eno Alfred had gone for. I wouldn’t have time to read them out and I wanted the panel to know what they were.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>I went on:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“ I am so used to sourcing everything I say that I am sending you some key links:</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>The latest BBC Diversity report</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/bame-career-progression-and-culture-report.pdf">http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/bame-career-progression-and-culture-report.pdf</a></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/simon-albury/diversity-at-bbc-at-last-significant-progress-but-still-long-way-to-go">https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/simon-albury/diversity-at-bbc-at-last-significant-progress-but-still-long-way-to-go</a></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="http://blackonwhitetv.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-good-bad-and-ugly-bbc-diversity.html">http://blackonwhitetv.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-good-bad-and-ugly-bbc-diversity.html</a></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>What I have to say about ring fenced funding and my criticism of the BBC approach (never challenged) is in my evidence to the Lords Communications Committee:</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-fee/written/21757.html">http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-fee/written/21757.html</a></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-fee/written/25513.html">http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-fee/written/25513.html</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/04/the-bbcs-diversity-strategy-is-not-good-enough">https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/04/the-bbcs-diversity-strategy-is-not-good-enough</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>I have contacted everyone I plan to mention by name.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em><span>Strictly Confidential</span></em></p><p><em>…….</em><em>&nbsp;Former&nbsp;DCMS broadcasting Minister Ed&nbsp;Vaizey has agreed to me saying something he told in in private and I am&nbsp;also seeking similar comfort via Matt Hancock's SPAD.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>This&nbsp;may seem like overkill to you but any success I have had on the issue has depended on being unchallengeable and&nbsp;respecting confidences.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Later I told the BBC:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“ I want to quote Martin Luther King on conscience and say</em></p><p><em>"When it comes to BAME employment on UK programmes, the BBC has had no conscience and it has not done what is right. But politicians like Ed Vaizey and Matt Hancock have seen what was right on diversity and have acted on a moral imperative."&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>I think that is combative and provocative and should lead to an engaging live debate - for which I am now very prepared.</em></p><p><em>OK?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>I was never told any of this was not OK. It seemed to be perfectly in line with how the programme described itself. I was exchanging emails with Rainbow Murray, when I got a call from the producer. When it was over, I told Rainbow: </p><p><em>“Your email crossed with a call from the producer who is now clearly worried about what I might say about the BBC. He wanted me to talk about other broadcasters and I had to tell him Ofcom had said the BBC was far behind Channel 4 and that this year on like for like data I expected it to be behind ITV.”</em></p> <p>Picking up on the producer’s anxiety, I had offered to let him find someone to take my place on the show. Now I know why this offer wasn’t accepted. To its credit, the BBC had gone to some possible BAME witnesses before it came to me. It hadn’t found it easy to find someone to say “Yes”.</p><h2><strong>Naïve</strong></h2> <p>I had been naive. I had never properly listened to The Moral Maze. I’d tried to listen to an edition recommended by the researcher but, in the end, I had given up bored.&nbsp;</p> <p>I hadn’t realised that you aren’t give seven minutes to give the evidence you had discussed with the BBC. You are given seven minutes in which a couple of the stars of the show, the panellists, use you as the subject on which to demonstrate their cleverness.</p> <p>After hearing the programme, an experienced broadcaster emailed me, “I’m assuming that you’d never listened to it if you’d ever heard it before, though you would have got that they have no interest in evidence whatsoever - it’s a really dull North London dinner party.”</p> <p>Nevertheless, although I didn’t get to present my evidence, I did get to say some things worth saying and I did override Buerk’s objection to quote a recent ground-breaking report, sponsored by BBC board member Tim Davie, which admitted for the first time:</p> <p>“Figures in the Nations and Regions (for BAME employees) are very low even though many BBC locations are in cities and towns with high BAME populations. Numbers of BAME employees in the creative areas are also low”.</p> <p>If you’re wondering about my other points, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bbr3zs">you can find me 03.26 into the show</a>. &nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Reviews</strong></h2> <p>Somewhat dazed, after my bit, I was led out of the studio to the Green Room. On my phone, two messages were waiting. The first, a word from a distinguished actor, “Bravo.” Actors know that’s what you need to hear when you step off the stage, whatever your performance. The second from a British Council bigwig, “You were brilliant. You are going to be banned by the BBC!”</p> <p>The most you can hope for on such programmes is that people on the same side of the debate will be happy with what you said.&nbsp;Others were not impressed. One tweeted:</p> <p>“Just heard you on the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/moralmaze?src=hash">#moralmaze</a> podcast. You are the most pompous, misinformed, illiberal crypto-stalinist idiot I have ever heard. You should be banned from the airwaves for ever so we don’t have to hear your tortuous dribbling crap ever again.&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/snowflake?src=hash">#snowflake</a>”&nbsp;</p> <p>Debating diversity on and with the BBC is truly entering a moral maze.</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-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"> Equality </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> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Civil society Conflict Culture Equality Ideas International politics Simon Albury Thu, 16 Aug 2018 11:42:52 +0000 Simon Albury 119300 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scottish independence needing more minds than hearts, brave or not https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/patrick-chalmers/scottish-independence-needing-more-minds-than-hearts-brave-or-not <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Scotland, the question of self-determination is intimitely tied to the question of land</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Eigg.AnSgurr.Canthusus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Eigg.AnSgurr.Canthusus.jpg" 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'>Eigg. Photograph, James Gray, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">From the white sands of Camusdarach beach on Scotland’s sparsely populated west coast, on a clear day at least, a distant slither of land draws your eyes out to sea. Called Eigg for the iconic notch of rock towards its southern end, the island carries a modern tale of how residents freed themselves from rule by absentee landlords. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s some story – one that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/26/this-island-is-not-for-sale-how-eigg-fought-back">nationalists like to tell</a> in arguing the case for more powers being given to the people of Scotland. By freedom they mean independence from the United Kingdom’s three other countries – England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For absentee landlords, think successive British governments based in Westminster.</p><p dir="ltr">Telling stories is one thing, however compelling. Getting people to listen, let alone to take heed, takes uncommonly inspiring narrators. That’s a tall order right now with plenty of Scots, like their fellow Britons, tied up in knots over Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet crises focus people’s minds, as Eigg residents can testify.</p><p dir="ltr">Islanders’ attentions more usually look to vagaries of West coast Scottish weather and tides – far more pressing than politics. Indeed Maggie Fyffe describes a day of splendid sunshine and oil-calm waters as we speak on the phone, the sort when whales might honour the island’s ferry travellers with a splash by.</p><p dir="ltr">Fyffe arrived on Eigg with her partner Wes in 1976, invited in by the new owner Keith Schellenberg to create a craft enterprise. They were among a couple of dozen people drawn by the charismatic Yorkshire-born businessman, a former Olympic bobsleigher and vegetarian. Plans for a tourism-led revival ticked all the boxes for reversing an exodus of locals and the place’s gradual demise. The collective future looked set fair.</p><p dir="ltr">Things didn’t work out that way – with broken promises of work, and long-lease rentals in renovated housing among many things that soured relations over two decades. Schellenberg eventually sold to a German artist whose own grand plans, and finance, quickly failed.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Leaving limbo</h2><p dir="ltr">The artist’s prolonged absences prompted residents to realise their island risked being sold a second time in as many years. That galvanised enough to prepare a community buyout. Many were lodged in limbo, living in unsecured tenancies with all the associated the uncertainty. By reviving a previous public appeal for funds, they raised the £1.5 million sought by the artist’s creditors to buy the land in communal trust.</p><p dir="ltr">That was 21 years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">The time since has been revolutionary for residents, who’ve more than doubled in number to 100 or so. Adults who grew up on Eigg have returned, settling down and starting businesses and families. Patchy power supplies from noisy diesel generators are long gone. Instead <a href="http://www.isleofeigg.org/eigg-electric/">Eigg Electric</a>, community owned, supplies constant power from hydro, wind and solar sources, relayed via batteries. </p><p dir="ltr">Each venture has had something of learning independence by doing, says Fyffe, secretary and ex-chair of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, which owns the place.</p><p dir="ltr">“Before the buy out, I was totally illiterate about computers. We went to the primary school to do computer lessons,” says the 69-year-old between puffs on a cigarette. From small-scale beginnings, islanders successfully completed their £1.5 million renewable energy scheme.</p><p dir="ltr">Like Eigg, but bigger, Scotland’s history is peppered by crises brought by forces from outside. Its residents, both locals and new arrivals, have yet to embrace the idea that a collective response could be to take more powers into their hands. </p><p dir="ltr">The most recent crisis was the global financial crash of 2007-2008, which pretty much destroyed two Scottish stalwarts: the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland. The latter began back when the country was last independent, in 1695. Both were bailed out by Westminster and remain controlled from London.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Two tales of crisis</h2><p dir="ltr">For all the dented pride and personal losses to investors and bank pensioners, little came of the crisis in terms of powers being brought closer to citizens. Contrast that with what happened in Iceland and Ireland, cultural cousins of Scotland’s. Political fallout in each fired ground-breaking innovations in democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">In Iceland, that meant crowd-sourcing a new constitution, even though the project eventually stalled. Scots activists <a href="http://scottishconstitution.scot/">have a plan for the same</a> but can’t do much about without independence.</p><p dir="ltr">In Ireland, the indignity of an IMF bailout and accompanying austerity also sparked plenty of anger <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080">but also concrete plans for action</a>. Effects from one of the latter still play out in a series of randomly selected public juries. The latest ran its course with Ireland’s vote to abolish the country’s de facto ban on abortion. Scottish activists dream of juries too. One idea they have is for a second chamber in Holyrood, the Edinburgh parliament. Members would be randomly selected from all citizens, not elected, making it more representative than one with members chosen by voters.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, Scotland’s independence activists don’t want for cutting-edge ideas. Their problem is more in getting enough people to adopt them.</p><p dir="ltr">Common Weal director Robin McAlpine knows the story. His organisation, its name derived from Scots for common wealth, pours forth ideas for socially progressive government in Scotland, independent or not.</p><p dir="ltr">The latest is a book length “How to start a new country”. It lists detailed practicalities for moving from an eventual “yes” vote in referendum to formal independence. That was lacking from debate in the 2014 referendum, when 55% of Scotland voted no. Among the recommendations are for a National Commission charged with giving future voters credible details of what they’re voting for, as free as possible from party political spin.</p><p dir="ltr">Ideas are all very nice, of course. That’s what they’ll remain as long as people lack the head space, appetite, or imagination to see them into action.</p><p dir="ltr">McAlpine<a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/15634630.Robin_McAlpine__Here_s_four_very_important_things_we_ve_learned_by_talking_to_No_voters/"> reckons</a> the public wants Brexit sorted before independence ideas get any sort of hearing. Even then, swaying the soft No voters of 2014 will take hard facts, presented within concrete plans and with evidence from real-life examples. Independence talk will best be done outside party politics, and with the volume turned low, or else risk being tuned out entirely.</p><p dir="ltr">“We need to achieve a ‘conversation of ideas’, not a fist-fight between opposing politicians… It’s us, having conversations in pubs, at work, at home, out shopping,” he says.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Act as if we own the place</h2><p dir="ltr">Common Weal is one of a dozen organisations pushing for more grassroots power in Scotland, gathered together since 2016 as <a href="https://ourdemocracy.scot/">Our Democracy</a>. For all the apparent weariness around politics, its call to “Act as if we own the place” certainly draws a crowd. About 500 people paid to attend the all-day Democracy 21 meeting in Glasgow last June, passing up the chance of shopping, Saturday sunshine and World Cup Football group matches.</p><p dir="ltr">But independence will take more than the odd conference – the Scots have history when it comes to political disengagement. The roots lie somewhere in the nature of what it means to be Scottish.</p><p dir="ltr">Journalist, broadcaster and author Lesley Riddoch’s not so shy. She’s been arguing a case for Scottish independence for years.</p><p dir="ltr">Her book “Blossom”, published before the last referendum, took a good-cop-bad-cop approach to saying why Scots should run their own affairs. She showcased examples of independent-minded flair, like in Eigg, alongside galling stories of inequality behind the “Scottish Effect”. That doleful term describes how poorer Scots’ lives fall short of European averages due to compounded deprivations, made worse by drug and alcohol misuse, suicide and violence.</p><p dir="ltr">“Scotland cannot blossom while so many are disempowered and stuck in hopeless lives,” Riddoch wrote in the book. Among the remedies she trained her sights on were better housing provision and land reform, ideas she used the case of Eigg to illustrate.</p><p dir="ltr">Land questions can seem abstract to anyone not having to worry about where they live, how long they can stay and for how much rent. Those were exactly the ones that finally fired up Eigg residents, their housing often tied to jobs, something quite common in rural Scotland.</p><p dir="ltr">Andy Wightman equates land ownership patterns directly to equality and fairness. The land rights campaigner and Green party Member of the Scottish Parliament says Scotland has “the most concentrated pattern of private land ownership in the developed world”. Not least is the fact that 432 landowners hold half the country’s land, a figure reformers like to wave at their opponents.</p><p dir="ltr">Wightman says Scots land law is unlike virtually any other European country’s. The place saw nothing of the revolutions or democratic reforms that empowered other European peasantries and their commons. His book, “The Poor Had No Lawyers”, lays out the sorry detail of how things came to be this way in Scotland. It’s basically a tale of concerted theft over centuries by the rich and powerful, usually ignored or abetted by distant government. Making things worse today, fiscal and monetary policies set in London inflate land and house prices across the UK. The effect is that poor people overpay in rent and struggle to buy houses or land on which to build them or start a business.</p><p dir="ltr">Scotland getting its own parliament in 1999 brought land questions closer to home. The new assembly enacted a law giving rural communities first right of refusal on land for sale. </p><p dir="ltr">Those who’ve benefited are in community land buyouts, each with <a href="https://vimeo.com/183320871">personal stories </a>of increased autonomy. The Scottish government wants <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/12/5735">a million acres of land</a> (400,000 hectares) in community hands by 2020, its stated aim being to boost local level control and democratic accountability. The target moved a bit closer with the recent community purchase of Ulva for £4.4 million – a West coast island similar to Eigg but with far fewer year-round residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet wholesale land reform, rural and urban, has yet to come.</p><p dir="ltr">Back on Eigg, Fyffe confides that even after the buyout, independence remains a mind game.</p><p dir="ltr">“Right at the beginning, when we bought Eigg, there were a few years when people talked about ‘they’re’ as opposed to ‘we’re’. It took a few years to get used to the idea.”</p><p dir="ltr">Fellow Scots, those who’ll decide any future independence vote, have still a way to go.</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/marco-biagi/bringing-power-to-people-through-statute-book">Bringing power to the people, through the statute book</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondthesquares/robin-mcalpine-christina-psarra/solidarity-needs-to-be-infectious">Solidarity needs to be infectious: a conversation between activists in Greece and Scotland</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 Patrick Chalmers Thu, 16 Aug 2018 11:14:14 +0000 Patrick Chalmers 119301 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ten years after the crash, civil society has come a long way. But much more remains to be done https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/ten-years-after-crash-civil-society-has-come-long-way-but-much-more-remains-to- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">The public still don’t think that the financial system is working in their interests.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge. The most political campaign for me that summer was the fact that I was getting paid below minimum wage because they could top up my salary with tips.Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge. The most political campaign for me that summer was the fact that I was getting paid below minimum wage because they could top up my salary with tips. At the same time, the western world was on the verge of financial collapse that would not only change the course of my future work, but also deliver such a shock to the world order that nothing would ever be the same again. So what has changed in ten years? I’m guilty of banging the angry drum that nothing has changed, and saying that finance is still totally self-serving. In absolute terms, this is true. The vast majority of new loans continue <a href="http://positivemoney.org/2018/06/how-has-bank-lending-fared-since-the-crisis/">to pour into financial and property markets</a>, and this hasn't really changed since the crash. Lending to the productive economy, including SMEs, has not grown. It was the failure to reform the financial sector, and the vacuum of conversation about what must be done, that allowed the conversation to morph into the need for austerity, which was of course completely untrue. But looking under the bonnet of the headline figures about our stagnating economy, rising food bank use and record high stock prices, there is some good news. We are building an army of voices who didn’t exist ten years ago. The public know that things are not fixed. Today we at Positive Money have <a href="http://positivemoney.org/2018/08/british-public-dont-trust-banks/">released a poll</a> showing 66% don’t think banks work in their interests, and 63% are worried about another crash. The conversation is changing. Here are ten things that have changed over the past ten years, including some huge achievements, that should be cause for hope and celebration. </p><strong>1. Occupy captured the public’s imagination</strong><p> The Occupy movement struck a chord with many of us. It said that the system is unfair and broken, and we need something new. People camped outside St Paul’s, and there were book groups, workshops and lots of other activity that encouraged people to wake up and realise that we need something new. Importantly, it repeatedly made the news, and memes like ‘the 99%’ stuck and exploded across the world. The challenge of Occupy was always going to be ‘how do we take its passion, voice, energy, and impact and channel it into a self-sustaining movement?’. And now, in the years after Occupy, do we avoid saying the inevitable ‘we need another occupy’ whenever a meeting full of activists and campaigners get together? </p><strong>2. A civil society movement exists</strong><p> We now have an ecosystem of institutions, campaigners, organisers, thought leaders, and economists focused on reforming the banking and finance sector, and its growth is accelerating. Organisations that were set up before the crash, like Robin Hood Tax and Share Action, have grown in size, profile and impact. New organisations like my own, Positive Money, as well as the Finance Innovation Lab and Finance Watch have established themselves as key NGOs with expertise. Larger NGOs like Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, and WWF have allocated resources towards recruiting people dedicated to looking at the finance sector. Think tanks started work on finance and banking. The New Economics Foundation set up a banking and finance team and have done an awesome amount of research on issues ranging from financial system system resilience to stakeholder banks. IPPR, Demos, and Respublica have all looked at alternative banking models. Work focusing on how people at the sharp end of the finance sector are affected, such as from Responsible Finance and Toynbee Hall, continues to grow. Unions are finding their voice in criticising the financial sector. A coalition of organisations are organising a large event to mark ten years after the crash, which will be taking place on 15th September. </p><strong>3. Women are leading the movement </strong><p> Anna Laycock heads up Finance Innovation Lab, Catherine Howarth leads Share Action, Maeve Cohen is the Director of Rethinking Economics, Miatta Fianbullah leads the New Economics Foundation, Faiza Shaheen is the Director of CLASS, Sarah-Jayne Clifton heads up Jubilee Campaign, Jennifer Tankard is the Chief Executive of Responsible Finance, Sian Williams is the Director of Policy at Toynbee Hall, Grace Blakeley at IPPR has been doing some fantastic work on Financialisation and Tax, and the brilliant Christine Berry has been doing excellent work across the movement. This is a fantastic development, which is not totally unconnected to the next point. </p><strong>4. There is a culture of collaboration and systems thinking</strong><p> Civil society has always been victim to a human characteristic prevalent in modern society – competition. Starting essentially a new sector and movement, we knew we had to do things differently. Finance and civil society is clearly a David and Goliath situation. If we spend time competing with each other, we won't be able to move fast enough. That’s why when I joined Positive Money at the end of 2012 I wanted to work with the movement and create a culture of support. So I partnered with Charlotte Millar and Chris Hewett, both then at the Finance Lab (which was set up by three amazing women and a great man) to set up the <a href="http://transformingfinance.org.uk/">transforming finance</a> network. An important aspect of creating this collaborative culture was that we have several ‘systems thinkers’ amongst us. Systems thinkers are able to hold uncertainty, hold tensions, have humility, and can adapt, innovate, and most importantly evolve. <a href="http://donellameadows.org/archives/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/">Donella Meadows’ paper ‘leverage points’</a> was a key text for us. Systems change attitudes results in less ‘my policy is bigger or better than yours’, and more ‘how can we work together to move our common agenda forward?’ </p><strong>5. The rethinking economics movement is growing strongly too</strong><p> The crash also triggered a shaking up of the economics establishment. A close relative of the financial reform movement is the rethinking economics movement. As well as fantastic student and university focused organisations like Rethinking Economics, there is a growing number of thinkers writing about how we need to ditch neoclassical economics and be more pluralist in our approach. Even new institutes are being set up such as Mariana Mazzucato’s <a href="https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/">Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose</a> at UCL. </p><strong>6. The tax justice movement seized the opportunity to make gains </strong><p> The shock of the crash, followed by hijacking of the narrative by austerity, presented an opportunity for the tax justice movement. In the UK we saw the flourishing of direct action groups like UKUncut and tax experts like John Christensen and Richard Murphy. Large NGOs also got on board, which allowed it to cut through the public consciousness. This hard work meant that even David Cameron picked up the baton to ensure tax avoidance was clamped down on. A key reason for the success of the tax justice movement was having some key bits of infrastructure in place before the crash, including experts, grassroots activists and large NGOs working on it. </p><strong>7. More must be done to reform regulation&nbsp;</strong><p> It would be remiss to write about the last ten years without saying something about what has happened in the world of regulation. Whenever I go on panels to talk about regulation I generally complain about how regulation is a mess. It’s a tricky point of view, because obviously as civil society we all want banks to have greater regulation, but is more regulation good if the premise on which its developed is based on problematic first principles? For example, ring fencing will be in place by January 2019, but it has always been about a false logic that retail banking is safe, while investment banking is the risky side. But the 2007/8 crisis emanated from the retail arm in the first place, so <a href="http://positivemoney.org/2018/07/regulation-to-the-rescue-5-problems-with-ring-fencing-basel-iii-and-competition-in-the-banking-sector/">ring fencing wouldn’t stop another crash</a>. Basel III looks at risk-weighting of assets which categorises lending into the productive (or real) economy as high-risk, whilst mortgages are low risk, even though it was mortgage lending that was a key factor in causing the crash </p><strong>8. The Bank of England is now a risk manager </strong><p> After the crash the Treasury took positive steps to add financial stability to the Bank of England’s mandate. The Bank now understands that to predict a crash it must look at the system as a whole, rather than just individual banks balance sheets. Its regulatory approach since the crash has been focused on how to ensure a bank can fail without bringing down the whole system, and as such they have been looking at bank bail-in regimes. While it is an important step forward, it doesn’t go far enough to meet the Bank’s mission which is ‘to serve the good of the people of the UK’. If it was to take its mission seriously, it would look at how banking is failing to serve our domestic economy, and how monetary policy has nothing to offer in the event of another crash. Similar to regulation, this approach can be thought of like a ship sailing off a cliff and crashing, and then continuing in the same direction to sail off another cliff, but along the way making sure there is less mess this time. We might be calculating the risk of sailing off the next cliff in a more complex and rigorous way, but we are not thinking about changing direction. </p><strong>9. Building the new </strong><p> Buckminster Fuller famously said that ‘to change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’ Several leaders from civil society’s financial reform movement are now also building the new. Tony Greenham, formerly Director of Banking and Finance at NEF, co-author of <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Does-Money-Come-Ryan-Collins/dp/1521043892">‘Where Does Money Come From?’</a> and more recently Director of Economics at RSA, is now working full time on developing new co-operative banks in the South-West and <a href="http://www.glmbnk.co.uk/">London</a>. The Finance Innovation Lab runs a <a href="https://financeinnovationlab.org/fellowship/">Fellowship</a> developing the leadership capacity and business skills of innovators building a new financial system – one that works for people and planet. Alongside Finance Watch, the Finance Innovation Lab is also sounding the alarm about fintech – which is not all cute and cuddly. We’ve also seen more interest in credit unions, as well as complementary currencies popping up, such as the Bristol Pound. </p><strong>10. Changing the old</strong><p> The story of RBS is probably the best example of the challenges associated with changing the old, and of the strong inertia inside the government and regulators. <a href="https://neweconomics.org/2017/01/rbs-not-victim-reckless-behaviour">As a result of the emergency bail-out package in October 2008</a>, the British public acquired a majority shareholding in RBS (almost 80%) at a total cost of £45.5 billion. Among the many examples of how RBS fails to serve the UK economy, including consumers and businesses alike, probably the worst is the Global Restructuring Group (GRG). It was found to be deliberately pushing SMEs towards insolvency in order to shore up RBS’ own capital position, in some cases then buying up their assets cheaply. Despite economists, campaigners, and researchers continuing to call on the government to think of alternatives for RBS, <a href="https://neweconomics.org/2016/10/taking-control-of-rbs">namely turning it into a network of regional banks</a>, the government is fixed on selling it back to the private sector at a loss to the public. </p><strong>Where do we go next? </strong><p> We must continue to work together by forming alliances and coalitions, increasing our expertise and skills, and building new infrastructure for the movement. We must appreciate our different tactics and theories of change, and tackle different parts of the system at the same time. We must bring down the old, while also building the new. We must challenge the neoclassical thinking that underpins the status quo, while also developing new policy prescriptions that can be implemented now. To do all this successfully at the same time, we need more people. </p><strong>Brexit means finance is at a crossroads </strong><p> The government, the City, Mark Carney and the Bank of England all want our financial services sector to be our ‘engine of growth’. Carney said he wants to see it double in size over the next ten years. We know that the bigger our finance sector is, the more detached it is from our domestic economy, and the more detached it is from real people, jobs, work and investment. What 2008 should have shown is that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t have a bloated financial sector in the City of London serving itself and global financial markets, because it will always undermine the kind of economy we are trying to build for most people here in the UK. As Michael Hudson’s book aptly puts it, the finance sector is ‘<a href="http://michael-hudson.com/2015/09/killing-the-host-the-book/">killing the host</a>’. The stakes are high, but if the last ten years have taught us anything, it is that if we aren’t in the game, we definitely can’t change things. So let’s get stuck in.</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 Fran Boait Thu, 16 Aug 2018 10:23:14 +0000 Fran Boait 119298 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The BBC and Cliff Richard: in terms of press freedom, this is a sideshow https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/bbc-and-cliff-richard-in-terms-of-press-freedom-this-is-sideshow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The BBC has dropped the idea of appealing against the award of damages to Cliff Richard for invasion of privacy, but continues to muddy the waters with fake legal arguments.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cliff richard.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cliff richard.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Sir Cliff Richard speaking last month after being awarded damages against the BBC. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Images</em></p><p>On August 15th&nbsp;the BBC finally threw in the towel. On the last day before it had to decide whether to seek permission from a Court of Appeal judge to take the Cliff Richard case to appeal, it announced it would not challenge the judgement. The BBC now faces rulings by Mr Justice Mann, the trial judge, on how much of Cliff Richard’s costs it will need to pay, which will inevitably take its total bill well above the current £1.9 million. The amount could rise perhaps to £2.25 million, making the decision to name the entertainer as the subject of a police investigation easily the most expensive editorial error in the BBC’s history.</p> <p>Yet whilst admitting defeat the BBC continued to churn out false claims about the significance of the case, and continued to be supported by outside journalists who seem not to have read the original judgement.</p> <p>The BBC claims that Mr Justice Mann’s ruling makes it illegal to report the fact of a police investigation into an individual, which is wholly untrue. As the judge went to great lengths to explain, all he did was exercise the dual elements in the 1998 Human Rights Act, balancing freedom of speech (article 10 of the Act) against the right to privacy (article 8).</p> <h2>No new legal precedent</h2> <p>Under the Act, there is no absolute right to freedom of speech, nor to privacy. What the judge said was that the presumption of privacy in principle extends to those being investigated by the police, unless a public interest argument trumps that presumption. He did <em>not</em> say anything to the effect that it would normally be illegal to name the subject of an investigation, as the BBC’s legal correspondent claimed on its own news programmes on Wednesday. The judge emphasised that he was just looking at this particular case, and was not creating any precedent.</p> <p>An obvious example of public interest would be – as the judge put it – a desire to “shake the tree”: encouraging other possible victims of a criminal to come forward (as had happened in a number of cases where men accused of sex abuse faced additional allegations once the first allegation was publicised). But that has almost always happened only after the accused has been arrested, or charged: something that never happened in Cliff Richard’s case. Indeed, in this case, the police deliberately chose <em>not </em>to “shake the tree” by naming Cliff Richard. But the BBC took that decision out of the hands of the police (and pragmatically declined to advance that argument as a public interest defence when the case came to court).</p> <p>The judge could find no public interest element in the BBC’s decision to name Cliff Richard.<em> It was therefore inevitable that the BBC would be found to have invaded his privacy. </em>If it had simply named him once, in a late night bulletin, the damages would have been minimal: indeed, it is highly unlikely that Cliff Richard would then have spent even £4,000 pursuing an action against the BBC, let alone £4 million.</p> <p>That anyone – journalists, lawyers, the BBC – could have drawn from Mr Justice Mann’s ruling the idea that a new legal principle had been established is astonishing. There were two more journalists from outside the BBC, plus the BBC’s own Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan, spouting this nonsense on Wednesday’s Radio 4 “The Media Show” yesterday. The judge had simply done what many judges had done before: implement the provisions of the 1998 Act.</p> <p>Of course, the BBC’s overwhelmingly bad behaviour in the way it reported the story has led to it being ordered to pay significant damages, which in practice will be dwarfed by its contribution towards Cliff Richard’s costs, and by its own legal costs, when a simple apology two years ago could have saved all those millions.</p> <p>Mr Jordan raised a point today that the BBC’s lawyers had argued in court: that Mr Justice Mann had allowed a claim for damages to include damage to reputation, which was a new development. Yet as the judge very reasonably pointed out, if the invasion of privacy led to reputational damage that could be demonstrated and measured, why should the plaintiff not be compensated? And even this does not change the law: any future claim for such damages will be assessed by some other judge, looking at the particular facts, and the issue may at some point end up in the Court of Appeal. In terms of the main question of press freedom, it is a sideshow.</p> <h2>The BBC is now mis-reporting the case</h2> <p>Meanwhile, the BBC continues to publish comment that is simply incorrect, not least in a statement from its Director-General, Lord Hall, who said, “we believe that the judge erred in law in finding that broadcasters and journalists, when reporting on matters in the public interest, normally have no right to publish the name of a person who is the subject of a criminal investigation”. </p> <p>The judge said no such thing. He simply said that the broadcaster or journalist had to specify the public interest involved in order to override the right to privacy. In this case, the BBC’s attempt to do so was so feeble that he had no hesitation in dismissing it. However many times the BBC reiterates its false claim – and other journalists recycle it in the belief that they have an absolute right to name suspects, irrespective of the requirement for a public interest to be established, and of the 1998 Act – it remains false.</p> <p>I have a further concern: the way the BBC has reported this issue on its own broadcast outlets. Today on The Media Show, host Amol Rajan gave David Jordan a good going over, but the other two guests on the programme were both firm believers in the big lie about the threat to free expression, citing the possibility of flushing out further allegations by naming a suspect – a line of “public interest” defence the BBC did not offer in court, for the simple reason that the police themselves had expressly chosen not to name Cliff Richard. Indeed, Rajan even re-broadcast the same, mistaken, opinion from an earlier show, expressed by former BBC Director-General Mark Thompson (who seemed not to have read Mr Justice Mann’s judgement).</p> <h2>Critical voices</h2> <p>Three times in the last month I have been approached by the Today programme on this topic, most recently to see if I would support the BBC in seeking to appeal. When I replied that I thought an appeal would be a big mistake, no invitation to appear materialised. Former BBC chairman Lord Patten has used an appearance on Newsnight to lambast the BBC’s behaviour, and Lord Grade, another former chairman, has done the same in a brief article in The Times (which itself persistently misreports the case in its leader columns). Anna Soubry (a former journalist and lawyer) occasionally appears on the BBC correcting some of the mis-statements, but still they keep on being repeated.</p> <p>Even Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, has opined that “Parliament should now urgently consider whether such a step towards individual privacy against the protection of society’s overall liberties is acceptable” – a bizarre interpretation of the judge’s ruling. </p> <p>No doubt following the same logic, Lord Hall yesterday wrote to the Attorney General, asking for his office to review the law over naming suspects. He was immediately rebuffed in a curt response saying this was not a matter for the Attorney General’s office, and that the letter needed to be “re-directed” (without a suggestion as to where).</p> <p>It will take a great deal of accurate reporting to dislodge the impression that Mr Justice Mann has “changed the law around the naming of suspects”. That reporting will clearly not come from the BBC, or, indeed, the great bulk of what used to be called Fleet Street, with their vested interest in limiting the right to privacy.</p> <p>There is, of course, another reason why the BBC continues to obfuscate and mislead on this matter: to avoid having to deal with the utterly indefensible behaviour of its most senior news executives, and, consequently, its deep resistance to settling with Cliff Richard. Lord Hall effectively acknowledges that he supported this refusal to admit fault, in an email to BBC staff today saying: “we tried hard to explore a settlement before this came to court, but it would only have been possible to do so if we had conceded that it was unlawful to identify Sir Cliff in our reports. We couldn’t do that.”</p> <p>Yet Mr Justice Mann decided it <em>was </em>unlawful, and it is hard to find anything in his careful judgement as grounds for disagreeing. The BBC should have realised this four years ago when it reported the story with minimal concern for Cliff Richard’s legal right to privacy, and certainly two years ago when it had a chance to settle. </p> <p>Instead it chose to expose itself to public humiliation in a court hearing, and to spending over £2 million on defending the indefensible. But by continuing to argue that black is white and that the judge “erred in law” (maybe he will sue for libel if the BBC carries on saying that), resignations and disciplinary action can be avoided: so, no change there, then.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-cliff-richard-what-threat-to-press-liberty">The BBC and Cliff Richard: what threat to press liberty?</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> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk openJustice David Elstein Thu, 16 Aug 2018 10:02:11 +0000 David Elstein 119297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to break the impasse on Labour’s anti-semitism mess https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mark-perryman/how-to-break-impasse-on-labour-s-anti-semitism-scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Labour should adopt the IHRA code, with the Home Affairs Select Committee’s caveats</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chuka.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chuka.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'>Chuka Umunna MP, who was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee when it published its report into antisemitism.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Labour and anti-Semitism. It’s an almighty mess. As each summertime day goes by another fateful twist: a long-forgotten speaking engagement, a mislaid wreath-laying. Each episode greeted by an avalanche of &nbsp;criticism and never mind the rights, wrongs and facts of the matter. The summer silly season may have provided a mediated amplification, but this is still a mess of considerable proportions. And whatever our stake in it, it’s a mess showing no signs of going away, which is surely what the vast majority of Labour members simply, if sometimes wrongly, want to happen. </p><p dir="ltr">Entrenchment by both ‘sides’ has produced an impasse. This does nobody any good, most importantly of all for the serious and legitimate cause: opposing antisemitism – a cause helped neither by overblown claims that a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government poses an ‘existential threat to Jewish life’ in this country nor by campaigners claiming that this is simply another coup against the Corbyn Labour leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">Jeremy’s reputation is staked on a no compromise version of politics, in the words splashed across a best-selling T-shirt ‘Since Day One’. &nbsp;This is in large measure the root of his appeal, and it is no accident that one he shares this with his fellow seventysomething Left superstars Sanders and Mélenchon. A refreshing break from the politics of spin with no substance via fudge and nudge. &nbsp;At the same time there is no legitimate reason on earth why a Jewish community that has suffered the calamitous horrors of the Holocaust should budge an inch on the issue of anti-semitism and to ask them to do so denies us all vestiges of humanity. And thus an impasse.</p><p dir="ltr">But politics isn’t defined by principle it is given meaning by change made possible by compromise. Knowing how to give, and take, without losing our sense of purpose is the art of politics. Anything else leaves us on the sidelines while the rest of the world moves on, without us. This is what both ‘sides’ in this most intractable of disputes is failing to recognise, and neither is doing themselves any favours as a result either. </p><p dir="ltr">As a pro-Corbyn (to declare an interest I’ve edited a book about him The Corbyn Effect) Labour member who I like to think would never, ever countenance anti-semitism while politically like most on the Left, pro-Palestinian, this summer has been profoundly depressing. Beyond the bubble of online debate, such as it is, it feels like I’m having the label ‘anti-semite’ stuck on me, whether I like it or not, and I very much don’t. You end up giving up hope, or worse, much worse excusing the inexcusable so your ‘side’ might win.</p><p dir="ltr">And then tucked away on the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/07/labours-antisemitism-code">Guardian letters page</a>, given next to no other publicity, adopted as far as I know by no by any leading figure on either ‘side’ a modest, yet brilliant suggestion. Thankyou <a href="https://twitter.com/barry_edwards">Barry Edwards</a>, the only knowledge I have of you is via your Twitter feed biog ‘Fourth-generation Islingtonian, third-generation Arsenal supporter’. For your brilliance I’ll even forgive you the latter as Barry, right now you’re the best friend I’ve got on this. </p><p dir="ltr">I’ll come to what Barry proposed in a moment. First, it’s important to understand that there are, like any definitions, especially ones that seeks to be legally-binding, entirely legitimate reservations about the IHRA’s definition. The meaning of anti-semitism is contested, not the sheer awfulness of its existence. These include the former judge in the court of appeal <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/27/antisemitism-ihra-definition-jewish-writers">Stephen Sedley</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brian-klug/code-of-conduct-for-antisemitism-tale-of-two-texts">Brian Klug</a> Honorary Fellow of the Parks Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations. Theirs are serious-minded voices it would do well for no one to dismiss lightly. And within the Jewish community itself the status of the IHRA definition is bitterly contested by minority voices too.</p><p dir="ltr">But to break an impasse it is important first to recognise and understand the terrain. And like it or not the IHRA has assumed a central position in how Labour is currently being defined, one that is virtually immovable without the most fundamental of breaks. Those on Corbyn’s side who favour such a breach and booger the consequences have to explain why this, why now. Especially as Stephen Bush has pointed out in the New Statesman, and not as a Corbyn cheerleader either, the ambiguities in the IHRA definition will be sorted out when cases come before them by the party’s NEC where the Left enjoys a comfortable majority and most pundits expect will continue to do so including after the current NEC elections. Sure Corbyn won’t be leader forever but again most pundits expect him to be succeeded by someone with similar politics. If he isn’t , then the onslaught against the Left will be full on and this IHRA definition row simply a long-forgotten footnote to the story.</p><p dir="ltr">So I’m with Barry. Adopt the contentious working examples, the definition has already been accepted, in full but follow the advice of the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee on how. Eh? Yes this is what Barry, unlike most, has spotted. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2016 this committee produced <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/inquiry2/">a detailed report on anti-semitism</a> in the UK including consideration of the IHRA definition. Its conclusions were as follows: </p><p dir="ltr">“We&nbsp;broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications&nbsp;to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the&nbsp;context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism&nbsp;to permeate any debate. The definition should be amended to add the following&nbsp;caveats:</p><p dir="ltr">“It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of&nbsp;Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.”</p><p dir="ltr">‘It is&nbsp;not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same&nbsp;standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular&nbsp;interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without&nbsp;additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.”</p><p dir="ltr">And then they added the crucial recommendation: “We recommend that the&nbsp;IHRA definition, with our additional caveats, should be formally adopted&nbsp;by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political&nbsp;parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an&nbsp;incident or discourse can be regarded as antisemitic.”</p><p dir="ltr">The committee, which is cross-party, passed the report unanimously, Labour &nbsp;committee members voting for it, included Chuka Umuna. The credentials of the advice are entirely non-partisan and followed careful scrutiny of the issues. Barry? He’s suggesting that thus, as the committee specifically advises political parties to do so, Labour incorporate these caveats alongside the already accepted definition and now add all the working examples too. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Yes there will be those, on both ‘sides’ who won’t be satisfied with this. But to most this will be Labour following non-partisan advice of all the right credentials. &nbsp;The party will have staked its position on the moral high ground. Those who refuse to accept it left sniping from the sidelines rather an as of now either occupying centre stage ripping opponents, or each other on their own side, to shreds, and in some cases, both. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">All that is needed now is the small matter of those involved in this impasse but not entirely entrenched on one side or the other to give Barry’s proposal the support it surely deserves. And if that happens Barry mate you surely deserve the order of the red rose or summat. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/kieron-monks/can-corbynite-left-make-peace-with-zionism">Can the Corbynite left make peace with Zionism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-hirsh/stop-accusing-jewish-community-of-conspiring-against-left">Stop accusing the Jewish community of conspiring against the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brian-klug/code-of-conduct-for-antisemitism-tale-of-two-texts">The Code of Conduct for Antisemitism: a tale of two texts</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 Anti-Semitism and the left Mark Perryman Wed, 15 Aug 2018 13:22:51 +0000 Mark Perryman 119278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why there need to be checks on mainstream economics https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/why-there-needs-to-be-checks-on-mainstream-economics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Pluralist economics can make the mainstream profession more aware of its significant blind spots.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This summer I attended a behavioural science school at the University of Warwick.This summer I attended a behavioural science school at the University of Warwick.This summer I attended a behavioural science school at the University of Warwick. Among the speakers was the economist Paul Frijtas, who <a href="https://twitter.com/TheEconocracy/status/1011924836271230978">said</a> something that sparked my attention: <em>“Individually economic ideas can be fantastically idiotic, but as a whole they provide the bureaucracy with a framework for thinking about the right things, communicating and looking at the data.”</em> This is quite a disarming rejoinder for us critics of mainstream economics, in that it already concedes most of the substantive points we might make about unrealistic assumptions, limited methodology and empirical issues (many of which Frijtas himself did not shy away from making for the duration of the School). Instead it throws up a different challenge: are any of our alternatives feasible, practical and comprehensive enough to provide a general framework for thinking about economic problems? We may <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/problem-economics-not-economists/">call</a> for adopting a variety of perspectives – pluralism – but I am increasingly of the view that none of them can suffice in this regard. </p><strong>Pluralism as a check</strong><p> Any call for utilising pluralist economics needs to be clear on exactly how it would be put into action. Like it or not, the mainstream has a wide range of tools ready for use in situations: from business cycle management to competition regulation; from environmental protection to health policy; and for estimating the effects of both early education and criminal rehabilitation programs. Although there are many schools of economics which would ideally be incorporated into the pluralist’s toolkit, none of them are sophisticated enough to replace mainstream economics entirely. Schools such as feminist, behavioural and ecological economics are non-starters because they are designed to highlight <em>specific</em> (and important) features of the world which the mainstream has historically missed, rather than to present a full alternative vision of economics. There are several approaches which are more general, including the well-established schools of Austrian, Marxist, and post-Keynesian economics. But it would be difficult to persuade institutions which utilise economics to embrace the former two for the simple reason that they usually object to the existence of these institutions altogether. Many Austrians would like to get rid of all governmental functions but the ones that facilitate basic market operations, which is not helpful for an economist working in the Government Economic Service (GES) or Bank of England (BoE). Marxists would go one step further and do away with the market operations as well, making it difficult for a private or public sector economist to whole-heartedly embrace the use of Marxist economics. Post-Keynesians offer a <a href="https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/post-keynesian-economics-14674">sometimes appealing</a>, non-burn-it-all-down vision of capitalism, but they are often focused on macroeconomics and are at best ambivalent about many of the microeconomic policy tools of the mainstream such as cost-benefit analysis, econometrics and auction theory, all of which are easily actionable for practitioners. The lack of workable alternatives outside macroeconomics makes it difficult to see what a ‘post-Keynesian GES/BoE’ would look like. At the other end of the spectrum, Agent Based Computational Economics (ACE) – which <a href="http://www.rethinkeconomics.org/journal/agents-agents-everywhere/">I wrote about recently</a> – offers a variety of flexible simulations which could in principle be applied to nay problem. But this approach is arguably <em>too </em>flexible at this stage, such that there is not a standard framework from which analysis can be benchmarked and compared across problems. So what is the role of pluralism? Increasingly I believe that it should function as a much-needed check on the mainstream, since if economic ideas can be “fantastically idiotic” then it goes without saying there are things they can miss. As the Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas put it “the construction of theoretical models…necessarily involves ignoring some evidence or alternative theories… [sometimes]… I simply fail to <em>see </em>some of the data or some alternative theory”. Pluralism can make the mainstream more aware of these blind spots. If you think that to cast pluralism as a mere check on the mainstream is to diminish its role, you are mistaken. Highlighting problems the mainstream cannot see and proposing an alternative framework where necessary is hugely valuable, both intellectually and from a policy perspective. Feminist economics, for example, would highlight issues such as the gendered impact of recessions, or of infrastructure investment in developing countries. They would also suggest counting household and care work in GDP, which can drastically alter its level, growth of and volatility (up, down and down respectively, in case you’re wondering). Ecological economics would force economists to look at the impact of economic activity on the environment, questioning whether growth represented true ‘progress’ or whether it was just borrowed by depleting natural resources and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/06/domino-effect-of-climate-events-could-push-earth-into-a-hothouse-state?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WhatsApp">destabilising ecosystems</a> . As with feminist economics, a revealing way of doing this is to incorporate ecological concerns into GDP estimates.&nbsp; And just as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2015/jul/23/rise-nudge-unit-politicians-human-behaviour">governments across the world</a> have recognised that behavioural economics helps to simplify a vast range of government policies based on insights about how humans actually make decisions, the GES have recently recognised such ecological considerations in their <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/685903/The_Green_Book.pdf">Green Book</a>. However, we have a long way to go before pluralism is part and parcel of the economists’ toolkit, and this can have deleterious social consequences. Around a decade before he was appointed Chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke dismissed the post-Keynesian Hyman Minsky’s <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp74.pdf">Financial Instability Hypothesis</a> – which posited that investors can become overconfident, getting sucked into speculative bubbles and ultimately crashing the economy – on the grounds that “the best course of action is pushing the rationality postulate as far as it will go”. Needless to say, this faith in the self-regulating power of financial markets was widespread among economists, policymakers and politicians in the run up to the crash. Subsequently, the mainstream is trying to <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-29/what-economists-still-don-t-get-about-2008-crisis">incorporate</a> Minsky into its models, but the presence of post-Keynesians on monetary policy committees, in financial regulation authorities and as talking heads on the media would have been more helpful <em>in the run up </em>to the crash – which is why the phrase ‘too little, too late’ springs to mind. Who knows what other insights we have missed, or are currently missing due to the intellectual straightjacket placed on understanding and policymaking by the mainstream? To return to my above examples, Marxists might have voiced concerns about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendency_of_the_rate_of_profit_to_fall">falling rates of profit</a> and <a href="https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/2011/09/08/comment/chris-dillow/investment-dearth-worsens-4irz6QhRgb6yok5KRTAYNN/article.html">declining investment</a> in the 2000s, while Austrians would have taken a step back to ask policymakers whether intervention, particularly in the form of low interest rates, could actually improve the situation at all. </p><strong>Checks, checks and more checks</strong><p> Of course, in a discipline as broad and socially impactful as economics, pluralism of economic ideas will not be enough. An obvious extension that is needed is interdisciplinarity: as this New York Times column <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/upshot/what-if-sociologists-had-as-much-influence-as-economists.html">pointed out</a>, some knowledge of sociology – in particular the fact that work is not just a source of income but of identity and self-worth – might have helped economists to notice the problems emerging in former manufacturing hubs in the United States, seeing and speaking to them as individuals rather than as simple ‘costs’ in models of trade. No doubt similar insights could be gleaned from psychologists, anthropologists, geographers, philosophers and even <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/can-economists-and-humanists-ever-be-friends">humanities scholars</a> if they had more of a seat at the policymaking table. Any collection of experts making political decisions – no matter how diverse their expertise is – also needs to be accountable to the public. As a recent <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/20/ordinary-people-learn-economics-manchester-classes">Guardian article</a> about public economics education noted, the alienation and distrust people feel towards the economy and those they perceive to have power within it, believing that “economics is something that’s done <em>to</em> them, by people sitting far away in Westminster or the City”. One participant encapsulated the extent to which expertise shuts people out of democratic debate when she said “information is power…if I can learn in this class, maybe others will listen to me.” Ensuring that experts were accountable to the people they served through public consultations and education programs would help to alleviate this sense of disconnection from economics and politics, and would likely help the experts too. The locals may not help you program your DSGE model, but they can highlight issues such as the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/10/blunt-heckler-economists-failing-us-booming-britain-gdp-london">regional economic disparities</a> which have proven so salient since the financial crisis, a fact that dovetails nicely with the approach of sociologists and anthropologists to actually go out and speak to people. The Science Communication movement has <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1075547001023002004">learned</a> a lot from this two-way, interactive model of participation, where both experts and non-experts are deemed to have valuable contributions. A final, much-needed check on mainstream economics it the need for an ethical code akin to that of doctors. Relatively speaking, egregious ethical violations are rare in economics, but egregious violations needn’t be rare to be harmful, as some economists’ <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cje/article/36/1/43/1716631">connections</a> to the financial sector during the financial crisis showed. An ethical code combined with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/commentisfree/2017/jul/27/how-about-a-little-accountability-for-economists-when-they-mess-up">professional sanctions</a> would prevent and punish such violations to the benefit of both society and of those economists (i.e. the vast majority of them) who have done nothing wrong. Yet there is also a more general problem with ethics in economics: the embedded tendency to recommend policies based on purely ‘technical’ criteria without recourse to ethical considerations, something which only make sense if you consider the normative propositions of mainstream economics ethically neutral. Yet growth, efficiency and ‘Pareto optimality’ are no less politically contestable than economic freedom, well-being and security, even though the former are the focal points of most economic models. <a href="http://et.worldeconomicsassociation.org/papers/codes-of-ethics-for-economists-a-pluralist-view/">Sheila Dow</a> has outlined a vision for ethics which tries to take a more pluralist view, outlining the professional duty of a discipline which has a large degree of socio-economic power. </p><strong>From here to there</strong><p> Ideally all or most of these checks would take place in the same person’s head, aided by a fully reformed economics education which encompassed pluralism, ethics, interdisciplinarity and communication. However, this is still a long way off, and in any case it is admittedly a little much to ask every economist and expert to be constantly aware of all of these issues in every decision they take. Thus, the inclusion of individuals, guidelines and consultation processes which involve people with different perspectives and create accountability mechanisms would be a valuable first step to pushing economics back in the right direction whenever it became too fantastically idiotic.</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 Cahal Moran Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:44:01 +0000 Cahal Moran 119272 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK Labour supports a United Nations Emergency Peace Service https://www.opendemocracy.net/howard-peter-langille/uk-labour-supports-united-nations-emergency-peace-service <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘What’s radical one year may be accepted the next.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Eisenhower_farewell.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Eisenhower_farewell.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address, 1961. Wikicommons screengrab. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;‘We the people’ share a problem – one that’s defied solution since the United Nations was founded – how to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’? The worst wars may be elsewhere for now, but they are not going away.</p> <p>Over the past decade, the incidence of armed conflict tripled. Last year, UN officials warned of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/11/world-faces-worst-humanitarian-crisis-since-1945-says-un-official">worst humanitarian crisis</a> since 1945. Then, the world also simply watched as nearly a million Rohingya people were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. Now, sixty-nine million people are desperately fleeing war, violence and persecution. In June, the <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/crisiswatch">International Crisis Group</a> reported deteriorated situations in: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia, Somaliland, Mali, Niger, Taiwan Strait, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iran and Yemen. More recently, the <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2018/06/Global-Peace-Index-2018-2.pdf">Global Peace Index 2018</a> estimated the annual cost of war and violent conflict at a staggering $14.7 trillion (US). Even children recognise that’s unsustainable.</p> <p>UN peace operations definitely help, but they’re now relegated to post-conflict stabilization – putting a lid on a crisis – once the fighting slows to allow the start of a peace process. For every operation, the UN faces an arduous process of renting the highly-valued resources of its member states, negotiating around their terms and accepting their conditions.&nbsp; Instead of <a href="https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/ipi_e_pub_improving_un_rapid_deployment.pdf">UN rapid deployment</a> to prevent worse, routine delays allow worse. Now, it usually takes six-to-twelve months to deploy. As a result, conflicts tend to escalate and spread, setting back the prospects for development and disarmament for decades. Then, they also require larger, longer UN operations at far higher costs. </p> <p>The UN confronts a crisis. With the Trump administration pushing for unprecedented military spending while making deeper cuts to the UN budget, there will be even less chance to stem violent conflict. The ‘<a href="https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/yb_18_summary_en_0.pdf"><em>SIPRI </em>Yearbook 2018’</a><em> reports, “</em>the number of personnel deployed with peace operations worldwide continues to fall while the demand is increasing.” </p> <p>Sadly, on the issue of UN reform, the official preference is for austerity ‘do more with less’ and, for more of the pragmatic, incremental approach (the tippy-toe steps), which haven’t worked for twenty years and won’t work to inspire more. But can’t we step up to do better? </p> <p>There is no magic wand. But Labour’s Manifesto, <a href="https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf"><em>For the Many, Not the Few</em></a> suggests a very promising step: “Labour will commit to effective UN peacekeeping, including support for a UN Emergency Peace Service.” &nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Labour’s Manifesto proposal</strong></h2> <p>A <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/h-peter-langille/united-nations-emergency-peace-service-one-step-toward-operational-prevention-and-p">United Nations Emergency Peace Service</a> (UNEPS) is one step towards meeting these serious, recurring challenges. </p> <p>With this one development – effectively a standing ‘UN 999’ first responder for complex emergencies – the UN would finally have a rapid, reliable capacity to help fulfil four of its tougher assigned tasks. A UNEPS is designed to help prevent armed conflict and mass atrocity crimes, to protect civilians at extreme risk, to ensure prompt start-up for peace operations, and to address human needs where others either can’t or won’t.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ten core principles are central to the proposal. A UNEPS is to be:</p> <ol><li>a permanent standing, integrated UN formation;</li><li>highly trained and well-equipped; </li><li>ready for immediate deployment upon authorization of the UN Security Council; </li><li>multidimensional (civilians, police and military); </li><li>multifunctional (capable of diverse assignments with specialized skills for security, humanitarian, health and environmental crises); </li><li>composed of 13,500 dedicated personnel (recruited professionals who volunteer for service and are then screened, selected, trained and employed by the UN); </li><li>developed to ensure regional and gender equitable representation; </li><li>co-located at a designated UN base under an operational headquarters and two mobile mission headquarters; </li><li>at sufficient strength to operate in high-threat environments; and,</li><li>a service to complement existing UN and regional arrangements, with a first responder to cover the initial six months until Member States can deploy. </li></ol><p>Aside from sufficient police to restore law and order, a UNEPS includes a military formation to deter aggression and maintain security, as well as an array of civilian teams to provide essential services for conflict resolution, human rights, health, disaster assistance and peacebuilding quick impact projects. </p> <p>Arguably, its most distinctive feature is that it would be a standing UN formation, prepared and ready to serve in diverse UN operations, immediately available upon authorization of the UN Security Council. With advanced doctrine, training and equipment, UN operations could get off to a good start quickly at the outset of a crisis. A UNEPS could also serve as a vanguard, strategic reserve and a modest security guarantor, both to deter violent crime and respond, when necessary, to prevent and protect. Clearly, it would also help to develop higher standards system-wide.</p> <p>Unlike previous proposals, a UNEPS is to complement existing UN arrangements, with a &nbsp;service that’s gender-equitable. It is likely to be both a life-saver and a <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/la/book/9781137603388">cost-saver</a>. </p> <h2><strong>A cooperative process</strong></h2> <p>The proposal for a <a href="http://globalcommonsecurity.org/drpeterlangille/initiatives/united-nations-emergency-peace-service-uneps/">United Nations Emergency Peace Service</a> (UNEPS) largely stemmed from a former <a href="http://www.worldfederalistscanada.org/programdocs/UNEPSfiles/RR_eng2.pdf">Canadian government study</a> on UN rapid deployment in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. That was a cooperative process carried out in close consultation with multinational partners, military advisors and the advice of UN officials. It was followed by a multinational initiative of twenty-eight UN member states in the Friends of UN Rapid Deployment. On a routine basis, the plans are updated to ensure it corresponds to the more recent developments in UN peace operations.</p> <p>The inspiration for the earlier <a href="http://www.centerforunreform.org/?q=node/517">option</a> and <a href="https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137603388">ongoing efforts</a> was wider, but often from Sir Brian Urquhart, the study’s co-chair and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs. In his words:</p> <blockquote><p>This venture is of the greatest importance both to the UN as a responsible institution and to the millions as of yet unknown, innocent victims who might, in the future, be saved by this essential addition to the UN’s capacity to act on their behalf. There is one overwhelming argument for the United Nations Emergency Peace Service. It is desperately needed, and it is needed as soon as possible.</p></blockquote> <p>Among the useful insights from the earlier process and similar experience are the following:</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; First, when the need is most evident, the prior preparation isn’t. To succeed, there would be a need for a viable, widely appealing plan, with a global constituency of support.&nbsp; The UNEPS proposal covers both.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Second, any new UN service would have to complement existing UN and regional arrangements and correspond to the requirements of complex emergencies. A multidimensional ‘first-responder’ of civilians, police and military in a coherent UN formation does both.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Third, to be cost-effective, a new service would have to be multifunctional and capable of various assignments in security, humanitarian, health and environmental crises. There is little tolerance within the UN system for any post or service that is idle, under-utilized and expensive. With a modular formation, UNEPS’ deployments can be tailored for a wider array of mission-specific requirements.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fourth, official consultations world-wide revealed near-unanimous opposition to the term, ‘UN Standing Force’. Yet that concept might be reframed and redesigned to do better and do more. As a result, the focus shifted to a standing emergency group/service composed of individuals volunteering to serve who would be screened, selected, trained appropriately and compensated with status similar to UN civil servants. The UNEPS option ensures that the UN would have dedicated personnel within a dedicated service.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">People and politicians tend to be more receptive to legitimate emergency services.<strong> </strong>&nbsp;They’re easier to defend; another armed force is far tougher. But there’s no agreement on this either.</p> <h2 class="xmsonormal"><strong>A UN ‘Standing Force’</strong></h2> <p class="xmsonormal">To cite one example, <a href="https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/sustainable-security-global-ideas-for-a-greater-britain">Paul Rogers and the Oxford Research Group</a> now suggest a UN ‘Standing Force’ that draws from national militaries, with UK forces in a lead role. While perhaps more convenient, this option leaves national governments and military establishments in control to decide if, when and how they may contribute. As with the UN standby arrangement system and the earlier SHIRBRIG, governments and militaries tend to wait, watch, assess the risks and usually decline participation. In short, with a few exceptions, northern militaries proved to be far better at standing by than standing up to help.</p> <p>Do we really want a United Nations where national military establishments have even more influence? A militarized UN is neither needed nor a coherent plan for military transformation. Isn’t that<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/beyond-%E2%80%9Cliddism%E2%80%9D-towards-real-global-security"> liddism</a> on a new level? Are national militaries likely to support participation in a UN Standing Force? No! They would neuter any prospect of it working. And, a UNEPS offers a more promising alternative. As the official <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/piquant/Langille/Towards+a+Rapid+Reaction+Capability+for+the+United+Nations.pdf">Canadian study</a> on rapid deployment highlighted: </p><blockquote><p>UN volunteers offer the best prospect of a completely reliable, well-trained rapid reaction capability. Without the need to consult national authorities, the UN could cut response times significantly, and volunteers could be deployed within hours of a Security Council decision… Ultimately, a UN rapid reaction capability can be truly reliable only if it no longer depends on Member States of the UN for the supply of personnel for peace operations.</p></blockquote> <p>Clearly, a UNEPS would help to offset the political pressure many contributing governments face when confronted with awkward decisions about whether to deploy their people into potentially high-risk operations. </p> <p>Understandably, many now ask what might be able to intervene and stop the brutal wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen? But perhaps the key question is why those conflicts had to escalate into larger, longer wars? A rapid and reliable UN ‘first responder’, arriving at the outset, with an array of useful services, might have had a far better chance of preventing each from ever becoming a war. No, a UNEPS isn’t designed for war-fighting or large-scale enforcement action. But it’s sufficiently robust to work within armed conflict in either a civilian protection role or in preventing escalation and spread.</p> <p>Finally, if there is one lesson that should have been learned over the past decade, it’s that security in the future is likely to depend on our capacity to help others, not on building more capacity to fight more wars. </p> <h2><strong>Costs and cost-effectiveness&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>Obviously, a UNEPS would be costly to develop; $3 billion in start-up costs, with annual recurring costs of $1.5 billion, shared proportionally among 193 Member States. Yet it should help to prevent the escalation of volatile conflicts; to deter groups from violence; and, to cut the size, length and frequency of UN operations. Even with success in just one of those areas, it would provide a substantive return on the investment. </p> <p>In the UK and elsewhere, the ‘costs’ tend to be assessed against preferred priorities and interests. Developing a UNEPS is roughly equivalent to the cost of building four naval frigates, similar to the cost of refitting four diesel submarines, close to the base purchase price of thirty-five F-35 multi-role fighter jets and almost one quarter the cost of the sale of LAV6 (light armoured fighting vehicles) to Saudi Arabia. Officials often berate the cost of UN peace operations yet seldom question whether the more expensive war-fighting systems are needed or useful in wars that threatens our species.</p> <p>In making the case for UNEPS advocacy <a href="http://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/13/11/2013/gp-responses-shouldn%E2%80%99t-uneps-advocacy-be-front-and-centre">Robin Collins</a> astutely notes,&nbsp;ʺif political will is the central issue – and it is – that roadblock is not being held up by the costing formula." Understanding the wider potential here may help to explain a lot, including the current lack of political will. </p> <h2><strong>Wider benefits</strong></h2> <p>As early as 1961, officials in the US State Department <a href="http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/arms/freedom_war.html">identified</a> a UN Peace Force as the key to disarmament. In their words,</p> <blockquote><p>There is an inseparable relationship between the scaling down of national armaments on the one hand and the building up of international peacekeeping machinery and institutions on the other. Nations are unlikely to shed their means of self-protection in the absence of alternative ways to safeguard their legitimate interests. This can only be achieved through the progressive strengthening of international institutions under the United Nations and by creating a United Nations Peace Force to enforce the peace as the disarmament process proceeds.</p></blockquote> <p>These are intimately related, overdue processes with the potential to free up substantive resources for addressing other pressing global challenges. </p> <p>A more effective UN, which can actually prevent armed conflict, protect civilians and begin to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ would encourage a progressive, overdue shift. A big joint project might help to revitalize cooperation among the more powerful states on the UN Security Council. </p> <h2><strong>The impediments</strong></h2> <p>So, why haven’t governments supported such an option? Political realism – the pursuit of power – dominates and incurs a deep dependency, while stifling vision and idealism. Most of the UN’s 193 member states maintain independent national armed forces to deter perceived aggression either from neighboring countries or intervention from abroad, as well as to maintain sovereign control over citizens. In the absence of a rapid and reliable security guarantor, governments assume the international level is marked by more anarchy than cooperation. Many see ‘self-help’ with traditional military approaches as the only available option to secure their interests.</p> <p>Occasionally, a fraction of these military resources are used progressively in support of a UN peace process. But, most are constantly engaged in preparing for more war. As Dwight Eisenhower’s <a href="https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&amp;doc=90&amp;page=transcript">farewell address</a> warned in 1961, this dependency has deepened: </p> <blockquote><p>This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.</p></blockquote> <p>With globalization, the military-industrial complex has expanded worldwide into finance, banking and insurance sectors, big oil and gas, logistics and tele-communications, media, academe and high-tech. The military-industrial complex sets the global agenda by harmonizing interests and building bridges to ensure their constituents get a piece of the pie. For those with the resources, investing in protracted violent conflict remains a pretty safe bet, with substantive profits and few risks, especially when aligned to overwhelming political, economic and military power.</p> <p>For now, the net effect is that people and governments have a small, underfunded, semi-dysfunctional peace system dominated by an extravagantly funded war system. So, one critical question is what might start to take the profit out of war? In his 2015 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/sep/24/pope-francis-addresses-congress-annotated">address</a> to the US Congress, Pope Francis tried a combination of persuasion and guilt:</p> <blockquote><p>Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.</p></blockquote> <p>Yes, it’s our shared duty to confront the problem. But how? Recently, the UN managed a wonderful Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but the awkward question for many parties is ‘how and with what’ might the shift be effected without a very expensive build-up of conventional forces? An unarmed, <a href="http://nvpf.org/">nonviolent civilian peace force</a> may merit consideration as a nice step, doing wonderful work, but is it sufficient to provide the security guarantor that many countries need before dismantling the offensive capacity of their armed forces? As <a href="http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD2.5.pdf">John Burroughs</a> writes, "the abolition of nuclear weapons will not be possible so long as nuclear deterrence holds sway as an alleged means of defense and ensuring peace and security." Yet governments sustain nuclear deterrence, the arms trade and the war system at enormous expense, not only because it serves powerful interests and profits, but also from perceived insecurity due to the lack of a viable UN system to deter aggression and maintain security.</p> <h2><strong>What’s next?</strong></h2> <p>Writing in prompt response to the mention in the Labour Manifesto, the head of the <a href="https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/un-peacekeeping-and-the-2017-election">Oxford Research Group</a> greeted UNEPS as a “supranational standing army” as “the most radical of the ideas” within its pages. &nbsp;Another astute <a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/22350/in-the-u-k-elections-a-post-brexit-internationalist-vision-comes-into-focus">source</a> of ‘strategic purpose’ in UN affairs followed up, lamenting the leadership of Corbyn, then ridiculing Labour’s support of a UNEPS as, “… the sort of concept that you only promise to back if you write a manifesto believing you have no chance of victory”. Yet just last month, the same source concluded his<a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24974/under-assault-multilateralism-needs-big-ideas-more-than-ever"> column</a> conceding, “right now, agonizing caution is not going to save the global system. Big ideas just might.” </p> <p>Yes, heavier opposition and unwarranted influence are also inevitable from those dependent on or profiting from the prevailing approach, particularly the expert gatekeepers within the security sector. But Labour could encourage a better, more inclusive approach. </p> <p>Labour’s Manifesto remains popular as does the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service, although more could be done if simply to explain the idea and its potential. A UNEPS is no panacea, just one step toward <a href="http://www.wfmcanada.org/2016/12/sustainable-common-security/">sustainable common security</a>. The wider enthusiasm for progressive options is unlikely to fade. With a modest boost enabling prior preparation and outreach, a UNEPS might be ready and worthy of a serious push around and abroad. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>In his seminal study of A United Nations peace force, William R. Frye provided a useful observation:</p> <blockquote><p>Establishment of a small, permanent peace force, or the machinery for one, could be the first step on the long road toward order and stability. Progress cannot be forced, but it can be helped to evolve. That which is radical one year can become conservative and accepted the next. </p></blockquote> <p>Who knows? In the recent words of <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-44819444">Jeremy Corbyn</a>, "when we unite together with common objectives, we can all win."</p> <p>&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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </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 United States UK H. Peter Langille Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:18:17 +0000 H. Peter Langille 119271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Labour’s economic policy really neoliberal? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/is-labour-s-economic-policy-really-neoliberal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Acknowledging the risk of capital flight and currency devaluation is not neoliberal – it is the only responsible path.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britain’s economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his <a href="http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/08/06">Tax Research</a> website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as “deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking”.Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britain’s economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his <a href="http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/08/06">Tax Research</a> website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as “deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking”. They might also be puzzled to discover that this denunciation was provoked not by a new policy statement from John McDonnell, but by a two-sentence comment on someone’s Facebook page by James Meadway, McDonnell’s “chief economic adviser”, on what’s known as ‘modern monetary theory’ (or MMT). According to Meadway: <em>“MMT is just plain old bad economics, unfortunately, and a regression of left economic thinking. An economy ‘with its own currency’ may never ‘run out of money’ but that money can become entirely worthless”</em> In his first response Murphy produced a series of what he claimed to be ‘entirely fair extrapolations’ from those two sentences alone. These concluded with the rather unfair claims that Meadway believes that “achieving full employment and growth will leave the currency valueless”; that under a Labour government “austerity will remain in place”; and even that we can “expect Labour to deliver more Tory economic policy”. Murphy has a well-deserved reputation as a leading figure in the tax justice movement who, as a trained accountant, has expertly dissected the tax avoidance practices of multinational companies and the failures of successive British governments to crack down on them. He is also a vigorous advocate of MMT, which explains why he was so annoyed by Meadway’s somewhat dismissive Facebook comment. Sadly, however, he now seems to have descended into quite seriously misrepresenting Labour’s policy position, and this has much wider implications. One curious aspect to this is that Murphy’s onslaught is almost entirely focused on just one strand of Labour’s current economic policy. This concerns the so-called ‘Fiscal Credibility Rule’ which was formulated by two Keynesian critics of Conservative austerity policies, Simon Wren-Lewis and Jonathon Portes. The rule commits Labour to balancing the budget for current (day-to-day) spending over the first five years and borrowing only to invest in reconstructing the economy. In his first two blogs Murphy disregards all Labour’s proposals for public ownership, ‘democratisation’ of the economy including support for cooperatives and workers’ rights, financial regulation, a national investment bank, and even policies he himself has supported such as a financial transactions tax and cracking down on tax havens. In a third blog, responding to a defence of Labour policy <a href="https://criticalfinance.org/2018/08/07">by Jo Michell</a>, Murphy is dismissive of what he terms unspecified ‘supply-side reforms’. This suggests that Murphy has paid less attention to the debate that has been taking place within McDonnell’s team than The Economist magazine, which devoted a critical but <a href="https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/05/17/corbynomics-would-change-britain-but-not-in-the-way-most-people-think">respectful three pages</a> to those same reforms. Equally problematic is Murphy’s failure to acknowledge what he must know to be the case. Borrowing to invest is very different in its consequences than borrowing to finance tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which is what the Conservatives have been doing since 2010. If Murphy wants ‘demand-side’ policies to generate full employment and growth, job-creating investment programmes, whether they be for housing or for renewable energy and sustainable transport, will be far more effective in achieving those goals. By comparison the ‘multiplier effects’ on aggregate demand of tax-cuts are much more limited, because corporations and the very wealthy are more likely to save the money or invest outside of the national economy. A close reading of Murphy’s argument reveals, however, the critical implication of his reliance on MMT thinking. Murphy believes that governments do not need to borrow on the money markets at all because the Bank of England can simply create as much money as needed with a few keystrokes on a computer. MMT argues that this is what normally happens when Governments spend. It claims that taxes as well as bonds sold to the ‘public’ are only necessary to withdraw excess money from circulation and avoid inflation (an argument which is not that modern, as it harks back to what Keynes argued during the Second World War). As Meadway acknowledged, MMT advocates are correct to insist that states with ‘sovereign currencies’ (which critically no longer includes any of the countries inside the eurozone) can never run out of money. Central banks can create as much of it as they want with a few strokes on a keyboard. Indeed, the so-called quantitative easing (QE) programmes pursued by all the major central banks since the financial crash of 2008 has provided the most spectacular possible confirmation of that. Trillions of dollars, euros, pounds, and yen have been pumped into the system’s money markets over the last decade which, while helping to restore bank balance sheets, has also fueled a boom in asset prices (bonds, shares and property prices) which has mainly boosted the wealth of the 1%. Back in 2013, the fifth anniversary report of the <a href="http://www.greennewdealgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Green-New-Deal-5th-Anniversary.pdf">Green New Deal Group</a>, to which Murphy contributed, called for Green QE. This, along with measures to prevent tax dodging, was to finance a programme of spending on green infrastructure projects of around £50 billion a year. Creation of a Green (or National) Development Bank would bypass the private banking system by issuing bonds which the Bank of England could purchase along with all the other bonds it has been purchasing under its QE measures. The advocates of this plan argued persuasively that this would be a far better use of the additional QE money than feeding into property prices in cities such as London. So what’s the problem? And why did Meadway follow up his initial Facebook comment with the rather cryptic observation that ‘Any country that isn’t the US trying to apply MMT’s prescriptions would find itself in the same position’ i.e. ‘close to catastrophe’? As one commentator quoted by Murphy asked: ‘Why is the US different?’. Meadway did not respond to this, but Wren-Lewis himself has <a href="https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2018/08/labours-fiscal-rule-is-progressive.html">replied to Murphy’s</a> critique of the allegedly neoclassical economic assumptions behind his models. I am not concerned here with that rather technical debate. In my view the critical question, which neither Murphy nor Wren-Lewis address, is what happens to the exchange-rate if the Bank of England keeps on pumping out more money when other central banks have called a halt to QE? The MMT school originated in the USA amidst a current of heterodox Keynesians who are understandably insouciant with respect to the strength of the dollar. They stress the willingness of foreigners who want to sell to the US to not only accept dollars in payment, but to hold onto those dollars for extended periods of time. Central banks in China and the rest of East Asia (especially since the region’s financial crisis in 1997/8) as well as the Gulf states of the Middle East continue to hold billions of dollars in their reserves. Indeed, any attempt to swap sizeable quantities of those reserves into another currency or gold would lead to a sharp fall in the dollar and reduce the value of their remaining assets. In summary: the US is different because it retains the <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/exorbitant-privilege-9780199596713?lang=en&amp;cc=cz">‘exorbitant privilege’</a> of controlling the only national currency which also functions as world money. This of course is not true of the pound. But when the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan were all engaged in pressing those keyboards and generating extra liquidity to compensate for the implosion of the global banking system, the Bank of England could join in without worrying about the exchange-rate. A future Labour Government cannot assume it will be in the same situation. If it was, and interest-rates fell again to very low levels, the fiscal rule would, as Jo Michell noted, be suspended and fiscal policy can be used “with all means necessary”. Murphy sneeringly commented that in this case the rule would be "just a sham". He also sneered at the very idea that “Labour thinks it has to live in fear of the money markets. And so bankers. And so their supposed ability to manipulate exchange rates”. Unfortunately, the experience of other radical social democratic governments in Europe (France in the early 1980s, Sweden in the early 90s) as well as the not so radical Wilson/Callaghan government of the mid-1970s suggests that any future Labour government should be worried about the money-markets. Even if exchange-rates are not simply ‘manipulated’ by what in the 1930s was termed a ‘bankers’ ramp’, they are vulnerable to intense speculative pressure. A Corbyn-led government, with its commitments to all the other radical measures Murphy ignores, may well have to ride out a period of capital flight and a sharp fall in the pound. Being aware of this possibility is not "neoliberal". The recent crash of the Turkish lira (by 45% at the time of writing) is an illustration of what can happen in the course of a few days. Some might respond that a fall in the pound will make exports cheaper abroad and contribute to reducing the current account deficit and rebalancing the economy. But Britain’s economy is also far more dependent on imports than the US, and after decades of deindustrialisation rebalancing will take some time. Meanwhile, the higher prices of imported food, energy and manufactured goods will cut into living standards – as they did after Brexit – and potentially fuel an inflationary spiral. In an extreme case this process can, as in Venezuela in recent months, make the currency worthless. Of course, the British state remains in a far stronger financial position than Venezuela or Turkey, but regardless of Brexit we do not and will not inhabit an autonomous national economy. The wartime economy, sometimes referenced when MMTers quote the Keynes of the 1940s, was managed on the basis of tight controls over both prices and cross-border currency flows – as well as cheap raw materials from the Empire and dollar credits from the USA. Today, we have a national economy inextricably enmeshed in both the European and the world market. Most of the major banks and corporations operating in Britain are multinationals capable of transferring funds from one currency to another with the stroke of a keyboard. Imposing effective controls over speculators and tax dodgers will require at a minimum cooperation with the European Union. The best thinkers in the Marxist tradition always understood that socialism in one country was not a sustainable option. One could say the same today for the unfettered demand-side Keynesianism advocated by Richard Murphy and the MMT school. Does that mean we should abandon hope and reconcile ourselves to more austerity? Certainly not. A radical break with neoliberal policies of spending cuts, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing, and anti-union legislation remains on the agenda. There is much that still needs to be thought through about how to manage the threat posed by the money markets which Murphy blithely wants to ignore. There are policy proposals which I disagree with, such as retaining Trident nuclear submarines and wasting more money on HS2, and I am skeptical about recent proposals for a universal basic income. However, I also attended the daylong New Economics conference in London in May which was open to all Labour Party members. What most impressed me was not the lineup of headline speakers, but the diversity of contributions in workshops I attended on finance and housing, and the openness to debate on questions such as alternative forms of public ownership and the urgent challenge of climate change. If Richard Murphy wants to contribute to those discussions, I hope and suspect he would still be very welcome to join.</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 Pete Green Tue, 14 Aug 2018 09:09:56 +0000 Pete Green 119256 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the Corbynite left make peace with Zionism? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/kieron-monks/can-corbynite-left-make-peace-with-zionism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How does the current Labour antisemitism debate relate to potential states in the Middle East?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-RefugeesEscortedFromRamlaOperationDanny.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-RefugeesEscortedFromRamlaOperationDanny.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Palestinians being expelled from Ramla in July 1948. Image, wikimedia.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">At the bitter heart of the antisemitism saga tearing Labour apart is a question over the legitimacy of Israel.</p><p dir="ltr">Within the crowded section of the Venn diagram where the Labour left and Palestine solidarity overlap, there is widespread and steadfast refusal to accept the events of 1948. The brutal expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians, the razing of hundreds of towns and villages, and the massacres of Deir Yassin and Lydda remain unpardonable sins that must be redressed. From this perspective, the solution is obvious: a reversal of Zionism, the unmaking of the Jewish state as it is presently constituted, and the return of refugees languishing in the camps of Beirut and Amman, still holding their keys to lost homes across the length and breadth of Mandatory Palestine, in accordance with UN resolution 194. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The moral and legal case for the rights of refugees, and the people that remained to suffer slow erasure and systematic subjugation, is watertight. Palestinians were victims of historic injustice as surely as were the Native Americans and Aborigines of Australia. No just solution to the conflict could exclude their claims for liberation and restitution. But their supporters may have to think a little harder about what rigid opposition to Zionism means to Jewish people, and whether efforts to keep fighting the war of 1948 are politically useful for Palestinians.</p><p dir="ltr">Zionism is a term that is loose enough to allow for any number of interpretations, serving as a Rorschach Test for beholders to project their values upon. The common basis is a belief in the right of Jews to a home in the Promised Land but the form and nature of that home is fiercely contested.</p><p dir="ltr">The dominant form of Zionism today is that of the ‘Iron Wall’ doctrine theorised by Ze’ev Jabotinsky and practiced by Likud, based on the use of military might to secure a position of unassailable strength for the Jewish population from which to dictate terms to defeated Arab adversaries. Some hardliners go further and subscribe to an expansionist vision of a Greater Israel that takes territory from neighbouring Arab states. Labour Zionists envisaged a utopian society built around communes by and for the proletariat. Liberal Zionists emphasise the need for a two-state formula with the establishment of a Palestinian nation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.</p><p dir="ltr">Decent pro-Palestinian activists are assiduous in separating Zionism from Judaism, striving to prevent critique of the Jewish state spilling over into attacks on Jewish people, even where opponents glory in demolishing that distinction such as in Benjamin Netanyahu’s<a href="https://www.haaretz.com/netanyahu-in-d-c-i-will-speak-for-all-jews-1.5303440"> claim</a> to speak for “the entire Jewish people.” A British court affirmed the distinction and the right to oppose Zionism in a 2010 tribunal<a href="https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-uk-jews-shocked-by-harassment-verdict-1.5237258"> that ruled</a> “a belief in the Zionist project, or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment, cannot amount to a protected characteristic.”</p><p dir="ltr">But the awkward truth is that the vast majority of Jewish people are committed to some form of Jewish homeland. Arguing against Zionism makes an impossible demand of them, not least for the uncomfortable blank space that exists when we consider exactly how the Jewish nation might be dismantled in practice, a space that is readily filled by the nightmares and scars from a history of pogroms and the attempted extermination that led to the creation of Israel. </p><p dir="ltr">Pro-Palestinian activists are often frustrated by the refusal of liberal Zionists to support their campaigns and positions when they should in theory be natural allies in a fight for universal human rights. Instead, particularly at times of war and crisis, liberals often<a href="https://jstreet.org/press-releases/reaction-to-escalation-of-violence-in-israel-and-gaza/#.W2rQvdJKjIU"> align more closely</a> with right-wing Zionists whose hawkish and often openly racist attitudes to Palestinians should not be possible to square with their own values. One major contributor to this state of affairs is that anti-Zionism is a red line that few Zionists, and by extension few Jews, are willing to cross no matter what horrors are perpetrated by the Israeli state, and what chauvinism takes hold among its supporters. To take an unyielding position against Zionism is to make an opponent of all Jews who cannot countenance the dissolution of a Jewish homeland, and drives progressive Jews into the orbit of the ultra-nationalist right.</p><p dir="ltr">Fresh thinking is required to break the impasse and isolate the hardliners. Given the flexibility of Zionism, it should be possible to fight for justice for Palestinians without making an enemy of the term. Calling for a Palestinian state is an explicitly Zionist position as it assumes a Jewish state alongside it, a position that is endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, as well as Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation back in 1988. Even Hamas has<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/hamas-accepts-palestinian-state-1967-borders-170501114309725.html"> tacitly accepted</a> the two-state formula.</p><p dir="ltr">Given that the breakdown of the peace process, the spread of settlements, the rightward drift of the Israeli government, and the uselessness of the Palestinian leadership have greatly diminished any prospect of a Palestinian state, solidarity activists could even campaign for a binational state without rejecting Zionism. To use Naftali Bennett’s logic against him, Israel could be encouraged to annex the West Bank and declare sovereignty from the river to the sea. This would remove the issue of competing nationalisms at a stroke and shift the focus to a campaign for equal rights for all citizens, which the Israeli government could either grant or administer a permanent and undeniable system of Apartheid. Pursuit of equal rights need not entail anti-Zionism as a Jewish homeland would remain, albeit a shared homeland.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond the final status formula of one or two states, every other issue that Palestinians and supporters campaign on can be pursued without being couched as anti-Zionism. Activists can attack the destruction and disruption caused by the Separation Wall, the rigged justice system that imprisons Palestinians without charges or recourse, the massacres in Gaza and the crushing of dissent in the West Bank, the demolitions of homes and villages, the illegal land grabs of settlements, the expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem, and the segregation of Hebron without needing to preclude any form of Zionism. To accept Zionism, activists need only accept that Jews also have a right to live in the Holy Land.</p><p dir="ltr">Neither do campaigners need to positively affirm Zionism. Certainly, it is asking a lot for Palestinians to endorse a movement that has entailed 70 years of dispossession and subjugation. Whatever forms Zionism might be able to take in the abstract, the reality experienced by Palestinians has always been brutal. Several of the radical, pro-Palestinian activists of the Jewdas collective have skirted the issue by identifying as non-Zionists, neither signing up to an ideology that has wrought so much destruction, nor antagonising the many Jews who support at least the idea of a Jewish homeland.</p><p dir="ltr">Supporters of the Palestinian cause should see opportunity in the present controversy over the language used to describe the conflict, which Labour is seeking to codify. Lazy and offensive language, obviously undesirable in itself, is a gift to opponents seeking to derail conversations about Palestinian grievances and discredit supporters of Palestinians. Invoking Zionism will generally have more validity than Nazi metaphors in criticism of Israel. But activists would benefit from accurate descriptions of the abuses they object to without recourse to a nebulous and inflammatory concept that obscures more than it illuminates.</p><p dir="ltr">On a pragmatic note, the precarity of the Palestinian position supports the case for a new approach. If Palestinians are to avoid the fate of Native Americans and Aborigines, herded into isolated enclaves with only a residual, diminished identity, urgent action is required to forestall that ongoing process. Since much of the Palestinian liberation strategy is invested in efforts to build international solidarity, inspired by the example of South Africa, the imperative to expand and mobilise an effective global movement is clear. Dropping the requirement for anti-Zionism would lift a major barrier to participation in the movement for progressive Jews as well as people who sympathise with both sides, while exposing the intransigence of hardline nationalists who refuse to recognise the validity of Palestinian claims. The fantasy of reversing Zionism is not one that Palestinians have time to indulge, the better strategy is to shape its course.</p><p dir="ltr">On another pragmatic note of lesser but still great importance, an explicit acknowledgement by the Labour left of the right of Israelis to remain in the Holy Land – defanging the lurid claims of an “existential threat” and of Jews being “driven into the Sea” – has a chance of breaking the impasse that risks splitting the party and maintaining power for a Conservative government in thrall to the surging nativist right. Presently there is little prospect of a unified and effective Labour movement while opposing factions snipe at each other from impenetrable bunkers.</p><p dir="ltr">A statement from Jeremy Corbyn that Labour is not opposed to Zionism would at least give embattled progressive Jews a reason to believe in the party, and give his critics something to think about.</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="/jonathan-shamir/zionism-history-of-contested-word">Zionism: the history of a contested word </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"> Palestine </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 Palestine Israel Anti-Semitism and the left Kieron Monks Mon, 13 Aug 2018 12:11:45 +0000 Kieron Monks 119245 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Backlash podcast episode 4: the men's rights movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/backlash-podcast-episode-4-mens-rights-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>50.50 attended an international gathering of men's rights activists in London and spoke to some of the men, and women, involved in this movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_7.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_7.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Assembled delegates at the Men’s Rights Conference in the London’s Excel Centre. Picture credit: Justice for Men and Boys.</span></span></span>For our fourth episode of The Backlash podcast, we went inside one of the world’s largest gatherings of men’s rights activists (MRAs) in London, and spoke to some of the men, and women, involved in this anti-feminist movement.</p><p dir="ltr">We hear from Alastair (who didn't give us his surname) from the UK fringe political party Justice for Men and Boys which organised the conference. We also speak to Karen Straughan, a revered figure within the MRA movement and “the most famous anti-feminist in the world.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><iframe width="100%" height="120" src="https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;feed=%2F5050od%2Fthe-backlash-episode-four-the-mens-rights-movement%2F" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Lara Whyte (LW):</strong> Hello and welcome to The Backlash: a podcast series tracking threats against women’s and LGBT rights, brought to you by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/">50.50</a>, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy. I’m Lara Whyte and I am your host.</p><p dir="ltr">In July, 50.50 spent a weekend attending the International Conference on Men’s Issues in London, where men’s rights activists from 24 different countries gathered to discuss the evils of feminism and what can be done about it.</p><p dir="ltr">Concepts like mansplaining, manspreading, rape culture on campuses were all used as examples of how feminism and women’s rights have supposedly 'gone too far'.</p><p dir="ltr">When we talk about the backlash against feminism or women’s rights, men’s rights activists – or MRAs, as they call themselves – are a movement that we think needs serious and critical attention.</p><p dir="ltr">I wrote a dispatch on the conference for 50.50 and promptly received torrents of abuse – as the conference organiser emailed all attendees urging them to troll me in the comments section of our website.</p><p dir="ltr">There has been some extreme cherry-picking of the article, and claims of misrepresentation as I wrote how, when I walked into the room before the conference began, I was briefly the only woman in a room full of white men. It was worth mentioning, because it was the first thing I noticed as I entered, and it was quite intimidating. I did not say there were no women in the movement – there are – and at the conference there were a tiny handful of non-white attendees, including a speaker from the Indian men’s rights movement.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/16747525382_d32e43d8a7_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/16747525382_d32e43d8a7_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Men’s Rights Movement in India. Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/127681690@N02/16747525382">Amit Deshpande/Peter Wright/Flickr.</a> CC BY-NC 2.0.</span></span></span>At the conference I spoke to a woman named Karen Straughan, who I really tried to understand in a lengthy interview where she talked about women's privilege and why she's never identified as a feminist herself.</p><p dir="ltr">Karen is a revered figure within the movement – and is loved for being, quote: “the most famous anti-feminist in the world.”</p><p dir="ltr">Before we go into that interview, here’s a man called Alastair from the British anti-feminist political party Justice for Men and Boys, which organised the conference. This is the description of feminists, and feminism, that he gave to openDemocracy’s Adam Bychawski, who was at the conference for 50.50.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Alastair: </strong>There is no pleasing them, there's no making deals with them. They are ideological terrorists. They are obsessed with their ideology and, regardless of what they say, they will attack you and resort to criminal and terrorist activities: bomb threats, violence, disrupting peaceful meetings and then, of course, just lies and slander.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Adam: </strong>And have you experienced that yourself?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Alastair: </strong>Personally no, but I have seen various examples. Just look at the famous case of Big Red, attacking the cafe meeting and then screaming that feminists don't hate men we just hate patriarchy and using various expletives.</p><p dir="ltr">So there has been case after case of feminists and feminist-aligned institutions attacking peaceful people just gathering to talk about their problems because they want to control the narrative. They are offended by men talking without women – no, without feminists – supervising. Feminism is an evil ideology and I want it to be equated with, say, the Westboro Baptist Church.</p><p dir="ltr">Other feminist organisations, I would rather have them classed as con groups. They are not charities, they are massive cons. They just lie about statistics to grab money. So that's not terrorism it's just con artistry. Like, wow, women's aid and things. They lie about statistics to get money, playing on people's sympathies – so they're just con artists.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Feminism is an evil ideology and I want it to be equated with the Westboro Baptist Church.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So, that’s what we are dealing with there.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/girlwriteswhat">Karen Straughan</a> is a Canadian anti-feminist who has been writing and video blogging on gender issues since 2010. She has almost 200,000 subscribers on YouTube which, from the MRAs I spoke to at the conference, seems to be a vital platform for this movement. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Karen opened the conference with her keynote address which was called: “Why women must consign feminism to the dustbin of history.”</p><p dir="ltr">We spoke for about 40 minutes, and covered a lot of topics. She is a charismatic and incredibly engaging woman, and so her activism on men’s rights seems to add a certain legitimacy to this movement – which is why I wanted to talk to her to try to dig down into why she does what she does and what motivates her.</p><p dir="ltr">In Karen’s keynote address, she spoke about why she would give up her right to vote if it led to men and women having equality – and remember that she thinks that women have more privileges than men.</p><p dir="ltr">So I start here by asking her why she would possibly give up her right to vote.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_5.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karen Straughan during her keynote speech. Photo: Lara Whyte.</span></span></span><strong>KS:</strong> I would if I felt like that was something that I had to do in order to make things more fair or redress an imbalance, I would certainly do that. That doesn’t mean that I want to, or that I would choose to do so for no reason whatsoever, so...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> So what is the reason then?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Well, you know, when women got the vote – when men got the vote, they got the vote, largely in the US, they got the vote because their voting rights and their citizenship rights were tied to conscription. And when women got the vote and full citizenship rights they didn’t have any similar obligation placed on them.</p><p dir="ltr">Women got the rights, got all the same rights, they didn’t get any of the obligations to the state. So I think that’s not fair. Personally, I would rather women be made to register in the selective service in the US, I think they should be held more accountable, as citizens, and have similar obligations to men.</p><p dir="ltr">You know, people say there’s no draft in Canada, but that’s just one act of parliament away from happening if it’s ever necessary, right? And if women aren’t included in that draft, then I don’t know that they deserve their vote.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So what about the obligations on women to continue the population?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> There are no obligations on women to do that. Would you...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But without those bodies none of us would be here...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>True. What we have is this idea that women have an obligation, you know, in quotation marks, to give birth, when women have no such obligation and they haven’t for at least 50 years.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> And so you think that’s a privilege, that women have more privileges than men? Is that correct or am I putting words into your mouth there?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Um, I think that women definitely have more privileges than men. Because a privilege is something that you get for nothing. Right?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Women definitely have more privileges than men. Because a privilege is something you get for nothing. Right?”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So what are those privileges?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Well, if men got the vote because they’re draftable, and women got the vote for nothing, that’s a privilege.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But do you not think everyone should have the vote?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I think everyone should have the vote too, I just don’t think that only men should be drafted. And I think that the way we frame it now, it's all of these horrible men, who kept the vote away from women for no good reason whatsoever, when in reality the majority of women didn’t want the vote and essentially fought against getting the vote, some of them because they were worried that they would be drafted, and they didn’t want that.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But fundamentally you do agree with the principle that women should be able to vote...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I think that every adult should be able to vote, sure.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So when you say 'I would give up my vote,' you are just being provocative, you don't really mean it?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>Not really, because I would, I absolutely would.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> You’re Canadian;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>Yes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>There’s a lot of Canadian women in this movement. What's that about?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I don’t know; cabin fever? I have no idea why that is, we’re a little bit weird I guess.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>And what did draw you to the movement – and I’m trying to avoid the 'why are you here' question – if you could just kind of take me through the steps, like did you identify as a feminist?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> No.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>Never?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Never.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But some of the arguments that the men’s rights movement put forward, to me as an outsider, do seem to be in line with some of the feminist goals…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Yes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>It’s not about the goals, or its not about the stated goals – feminism isn’t just a prescription, right, it’s a description as well. So it not only says here’s what we want society to look like, in the future, it also describes what they feel society actually looks like right now.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s a diagnosis, right, so they are essentially saying: here is the disease, here is the mechanism as to how it operates and here is what we need to prescribe in order to get to a healthy body. And I think that they have the entire paradigm of disease wrong, the entire model and conceptualisation of the disease wrong.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/800px-Toronto-Slutwalk.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/800px-Toronto-Slutwalk.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Slut Walk protest in Toronto, 2011. Photo:<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toronto-Slutwalk.jpg">Anton Bielousov.</a> CC 3.0</span></span></span><strong>LW:</strong> What has feminism got so wrong?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>Oh, that society is a patriarchy, where men oppress women for their own benefit. Who is raising these men who allegedly created a society that hates women? And how can you actually look at the men around you, that you care about, and say that you and people like you constructed a society based entirely on oppressing the people with whom you form the most intimate personal relationships with from the moment you are born. Oppressing them for your own benefit. What kind of psychopath would a man have to be to decide that this is how I want society to operate? That I want to oppress these women for my own benefit.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“What kind of psychopath would a man have to be to decide that this is how I want society to operate? That I want to oppress these women for my own benefit.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>But did they not just inherit this society where they had a privileged position so therefore they're unwilling to give it up?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I wouldn’t call it a privileged position at all.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> Why not?</p><p><strong>KS: </strong>Why not, well, OK – have you ever spent any time being shelled in a trench?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> No, thankfully not.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> There you go. Well, you know, that was just something that men... all it took was social pressure from young women. There was a story I read on...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> Was that not more about government winning territory and utilising both men and women to do that?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Yeah, they utilised women to manipulate men into giving their lives. And why would men give their lives at the behest of women if they were interested in oppressing women?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> Your talk was about how women need to demolish feminism…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>I think you need to appeal to their basic sense of fairness. I think women do have a sense of fairness when it’s sort of really presented to them in bold terms.</p><p dir="ltr">So many of the women who have come into sort of the men’s movement or the non feminist and anti-feminist activated sectors of society it's because they had sons and they saw how their sons were treated at school or saw how their sons were treated by the system. They don’t want to dope their kid up with ritalin, just because the teacher doesn’t like his boy behaviour.</p><p dir="ltr">Things like that…</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“They don’t want to dope their kid up with ritalin, just because the teacher doesn’t like his boy behaviour.”</p><p><strong>LW:</strong> Within every newsroom that I’ve worked in, I’ve experienced a man on my level earning more. Have you never experienced any kind of sexism within your work that’s made you think: oh, something’s not really right here?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Not in terms of pay, no…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> So you’ve never been a victim of sexism?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/5816885834_4a98ce02e0_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/5816885834_4a98ce02e0_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Australian Services Union Protest, 2011. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/asu_nsw/5816885834">ASU/Flickr.</a> CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.</span></span></span><strong>KS:</strong> Sure I have… not in terms of pay. And frankly, as far as pay goes, it wouldn’t really, you know, 50 cents an hour doesn’t bother me, I’ve always been a minimum wage worker, up until I started doing this. So that’s just arguing over pennies and...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>It’s value, and it's a sense of...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>OK, you know you have a right to be angry about that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it's systemic, across society, it may just be in places where you’ve worked, or in a particular industry. You know, I could tell you that female runway models make 10-100 times more than male runway models…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> And male footballers make 10-100 times more than female footballers.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>That’s right, there you go, and there’s not necessarily any injustice there. Because female runway models bring in more money for the client, right, and so do male footballers, bring in more money for the league. So, essentially, what you're looking at: some of these issues are systemic, maybe; you can’t assume that all of it is sexism, and you don’t necessarily have to assume that any of it is sexism, because some of it can be explained just by personal preference of women.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> So you were featured in the film Red Pill. So one of the things that really struck me in that film was that there was a discussion of a loss of status for men, a kind of, a loss of income, a loss of place, and that women were kind of blamed directly for that. But at no point was there any discussion of capitalism. The economic realities of our time are that a few people are incredibly rich and everybody else is getting poorer, and the film really didn’t go into that.</p><p dir="ltr">And the men’s rights movement, from my so far limited experience of it, just seems to be anti-women it doesn’t seem to be anti-the other contributing factors that have led men to this space where they feel like they’re not being taken seriously, where their pain isn’t being heard…</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/800px--womensmarch2018_Philly_Philadelphia_-MeToo_(39096875124).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/800px--womensmarch2018_Philly_Philadelphia_-MeToo_(39096875124).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's March in Philadelphia, 2018. Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:-womensmarch2018_Philly_Philadelphia_-MeToo_(39096875124).jpg">Rob Kall.</a> CC 2.0.</span></span></span><strong>KS: </strong>OK, well, here’s the thing: it hasn’t really mattered what system we’ve been operating under, men’s pain has not been heard. So, communism, you know, men’s pain was not heard. Capitalism, men’s pain was not heard. Socialism, men’s pain is not heard. Men’s pain is not heard. It doesn’t really matter what economic system we’re working under these are deep psychological, social-psychology problems right, that are intrinsic to us as human beings, they’re not some kind of bi-product of whatever economic system we’re using, they’re endemic to all of them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Men’s pain is not heard.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>But it feels like feminism and women’s rights are being blamed for the conditions of where we are at the moment, and feminists would be advocating for some of the same things here… you know, men’s pain should be heard, they shouldn’t have to be strong, boys should be able to cry...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I know, and it seems very surprising then that when men’s rights activists talk about their feelings, the male tears coffee mugs come out on Twitter, you know, from feminists, from the very feminists who say we want you to talk about how you really feel. When men talk about that, then they get: wha-wha, man-baby beer tears, sorry I hurt your man-feels.</p><p><strong>LW: </strong>But is that not more about the corporate capture of feminism and how capitalism is just making feminism…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Oh no, feminism has always been just absolutely rotten, right from the declaration of sentiments and probably before, it’s just absolutely rotten. It’s had a streak of man-hating a mile wide running through the middle of it, and go read the declaration of sentiments, read it with an uncharitable eye, okay, and look at it as a list of grievances: men have been horrible to women, end of story, period.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But is the men’s rights movement not doing kind of the same thing by blaming women?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>We don’t blame women.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>Second part of that question is what’s it like being a woman within the men’s rights movement?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> It’s excellent, it’s excellent, it’s awesome to be part of this movement. One of the things that always struck me is, because I come to a lot of these things, and I have never ever in anyway felt uneasy or unsafe; there’s some wacky guys here sometimes, right, at these things, they’re a little socially awkward, they’re a little goofy, for sure. But I’ve never felt in anyway endangered while I’ve been here.</p><p dir="ltr">But, you know, there was this male feminist I did an interview with, and I did a sort of conversation with him online, about a year and a half ago, and he seemed desperate to jam me back into a female victim box – he seemed absolutely desperate to essentially say what you've said to me here, some of the things that you have said to me here, you know: don’t you feel you’ve been victimised by sexism? Don’t you feel you’ve been treated unfairly? Well, of course I have, everybody has. But he just seemed determined to cram me back into this box of female victimhood, where he could, I don’t know, be my rescuer and the rescuer of all woman and then, like 8 months later he shot his girlfriend to death.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> He’s not a feminist – if he shot his girlfriend, he’s not a feminist.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> But what is feminism? Other than trying to keep women in a box where they concentrate constantly on their victimhood. What I get out of the men’s rights movement is the feeling that I can serve, that I have something to offer people who are not like me, that I have something to give to society, something unique, something valuable, right, that I have an obligation and a responsibility to pick that up and carry it forward. Not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others. That is a massively huge feeling. Feminism, all it ever told me was, you know: poor you. And that's just not who I am.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“What I get out of the men’s rights movement is the feeling that I can serve.”</p><p><strong>LW:</strong> So do you get abuse from people online?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> No…. I get the odd bit from feminists, the odd feminist will be like, you know, you’re a traitor to your gender, or you just want male attention. I just, generally I just ignore it. Every once in a while someone will put an actual argument rather than a slur, and I’ll get involved in a conversation, but generally it’s pretty, I keep things pretty genial.</p><p dir="ltr">But 99% of the feedback I get is positive, so…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>What do you think is the biggest myth about the men’s rights movement that you would like to bust?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> That we hate women, that’s the biggest myth that I would like to bust. I have never seen anybody at any of these events who I could describe in any way as hating women. Men are angry at women, at times, particularly, and I think, honestly, justifiably so. It’s justifiable to be angry like, when you ask, how do you convince women to give up these advantages, and it’s like: because that would be fair?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>What advantages do you mean?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>Like advantages in family court, the assumption that the mother is the best parent...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But feminists would agree with you on this.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Except that they fight shared parenting bills.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>I think it was you that said earlier that a lot of shared parenting bills were brought in by women.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> They are brought in by women but they're not brought in by feminists.</p><p>You said: you guys seem so anti-women. And we are not anti-women. And honestly even when we talk about how men have specific masculine virtues – or like when I was saying there weren’t any women swimming through the caves in Thailand, rescuing those kids – like, you know, that’s fine, that’s fine. Because women have other things that they do, that they're good at, that men aren't necessarily good at, or don’t want to do.</p><p dir="ltr">And you know the whole idea is that we are complementarian, that we are together, and that we each have strengths and weaknesses and we balance all of these things out. That is what we want. We don’t want men and women to be in competition with each other – that’s just a recipe for unhappiness for everybody, especially children.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>You said something in your speech about gallons of water that would be saved if families stayed together. What did you mean by that?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Well, when you have a divorce and you have a family now living in two separate households instead of one, you use more water, you buy more refrigerators, and washing machines, and TVs...</p><p><strong>LW:</strong> Yeah, I get that, that’s not what I’m asking…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>If we didn’t have the divorce rate that we do, and if people were getting married at the age they were in the 1970s and staying married, then 30 billions gallons of water a year in the US would be preserved because we would have a lower consumption rate.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“If we didn’t have the divorce rate that we do… 30 billions gallons of water a year in the US would be preserved because we would have a lower consumption rate.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But why would you stay in an unhappy marriage? You are not advocating for that are you?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>Unhappy, define unhappy. And how long does unhappy last? And can you work on it to make it less unhappy, or even back to happy? They surveyed women, I forget how many, what the sample size was, but they asked them what they were going to do and they followed them for 5 years, and asked them how happy they were, and the women who decided to end their marriages were less happy than the ones who decided to work on it and stick it out.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>That’s seems to be a really traditional, heteronormative view of the family...</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="375" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Paul Townsend/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong>KW:</strong> But my family never decided what I was going to do with my life.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> If I could clarify, what I was trying to say there is, you know, the traditional family with the man being the head of it and the family staying together…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> I haven’t necessarily talked at all about…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> But that’s what it seems like to an outsider when we talk about families staying together…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>So you’re saying when women are the head of the family, families split apart... is that what you're saying?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>No, I’m not saying that…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Because that’s what it seems… when men are the head of the family, families stay together, when women are the head of the family, families break apart...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> Well, no, it’s normally when a family breaks apart that the woman becomes the head of the family not necessarily through choice but circumstances… but I suppose the point I was trying to ask you about was, in a wider sense, there seems to be a kind of over-romanticising of the past within this movement…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Not really…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW: </strong>So you talk about your sons in the talk and how a lot of women come into this kind of advocacy after having sons. Why is that? And you talked about the tricks, the pitfalls, that girls can destroy boys' lives, what are they?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Oh, any kind of false allegation, for sure, even if it doesn’t really go anywhere other than rumour, it can destroy your social reputation as a boy.</p><p>Paternity fraud, going off birth control without telling him. How’s that? I know a guy, one guy whose wife ‘oops’-ed him for four out of their five kids.</p><p><strong>LW: </strong>And told you, and didn't tell...</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS: </strong>She told her sister and her sister told me. I think after the third time he pretty much knew. But by then he was stuck; it was cheaper to keep her. And every time he said he wanted a vasectomy she said she’d get a divorce. Well, yeah, she hasn’t worked the whole marriage, he’s stuck paying alimony, and she’d get custody and oh my goodness there’s his entire life in ruins, in shatters.</p><p dir="ltr">You know, like, honestly you realise that when men rape women, the legal system at least tries, at least acknowledges that those women have been wronged, but when women rape men, the legal system is the instrument that they use to do it.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“When women rape men, the legal system is the instrument that they use to do it.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> So you’re one of the most high profile women within the men’s rights movement, and more women are joining this movement, why do you think that is?</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>KS:</strong> Because I think that they see something wrong, and part of the reason why I do this isn’t just because I want my sons to be OK, I want my daughter to be OK too, and the world that I am leaving them. I’m not going to be here forever, and they're going to inherit this shit, this complete shit pile, OK, and so I feel like I have an obligation to try and make things at least liveable for them.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>LW:</strong> So that was Karen Straughan – and as you've heard, this movement and the men, and women, who lead it are complex. </p><p dir="ltr">Some of what they say actually chimes with feminist thinking, like when they talk about shared parenting responsibilities. But then other messages are just baffling: the suggestion that women, overall, are more privileged than men, or their obsession with men dying in wars for women.</p><p dir="ltr">We'll continue tracking the men's rights movement on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">50.50</a>, openDemocracy's gender and sexuality section. Before you go, I wanted to draw your attention to two fantastic pieces from the last month that you might have missed. Both of these pieces can also be read in <i>Español</i> – for those of you who can speak and read Spanish.</p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/diana-cariboni/conscientious-objectors-threaten-abortion-rights-latin-america">How ‘conscientious objectors’ threaten women’s newly-won abortion rights in Latin America</a> – it’s an amazing piece by Diana Cariboni. And also on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/roc-o-ros-rebollo/how-pamplona-is-fighting-sexual-violence-during-running-of-bulls" target="_blank">sexual violence at the San Fermin running of the bulls festival in Pamplona</a>, we have a special piece by Rocío Ros. So do check those two pieces out.</p><p>You have been listening to The Backlash, by 50.50, openDemocracy’s gender and sexuality section.</p><p dir="ltr">Big thanks to the team at the International Men’s Rights Conference this month including Camille Mijola, who is one of our feminist investigative journalism fellows, also to openDemocracy's Adam Bychawski, who did some great reporting with these MRAs.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">50.50</a> is an independent feminist media platform. You can find us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/5050oD" target="_blank">@5050oD</a>, and you can support our work by <a href="http://bit.ly/2pNDYDE">donating on our website</a>. Help us track the backlash against women’s and LGBT rights.</p> <p><b><i>This episode of The Backlash was presented and produced by Lara Whyte. Audio editing and music production by Simone Lai.</i></b></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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <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> 50.50 50.50 uk UK Equality Podcast Tracking the backlash patriarchy gender Camille Mijola Adam Bychawski Lara Whyte Mon, 13 Aug 2018 09:28:51 +0000 Lara Whyte, Adam Bychawski and Camille Mijola 119093 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's time for Labour to understand the Conservative Dilemma https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jon-trickett/its-time-for-labour-to-understand-conservative-dilemma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Boris Johnson's racist comments demonstrate the new strategy of the Conservative party. Labour need to understand what it is if they are to win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Rt_Hon_Boris_Johnson_MP,_Secretary_of_State_for_Foreign_and_Commonwealth_Affairs,_UK.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Rt_Hon_Boris_Johnson_MP,_Secretary_of_State_for_Foreign_and_Commonwealth_Affairs,_UK.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'>Boris Johnson. Image, Suzanne Plunkett, Chatham House, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">So we know that Boris Johnson is prepared to use racist imagery. But is he also a fool?</p><p dir="ltr">To answer this question we have to go to the heart of the Conservative Dilemma. Because there is not simply an ideological war raging inside the Tory party. The fact that he is now reportedly under investigation for his comments about Muslim Women reveals clearly the underlying tensions in the Tory high command. Nor is it simply a question of personal ambition. Though there is plenty of that.</p><p dir="ltr">There is also a major debate about the electability of the Conservatives as a majority government. Let’s remember that they have only gained a majority once in the last 23 years and that was a slender victory which they then threw away in 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">It is this which explains Boris Johnson's actions. An unprincipled man shackled to a lowering lust for power coldly calculating a route to office for the Conservatives which means jettisoning a significant part of their identity. Even if Theresa May succeeds in neutralising him, there are others on her backbenches (and some in office) who are more than willing to take up the mantle.</p><p dir="ltr">Cameron’s project was to attempt to build a centrist coalition based on a socially liberal Tory party with austerity economics. Although in 2015 he resorted to an election strategy based on a form of English Nationalism, pitting England against Scotland. In 2017, May abandoned the liberal part of this project altogether and offered austerity with 1950’s Tory values.</p><p dir="ltr">But if we put aside for a moment the swings and roundabouts of the last two elections, it is possible to see a long term secular decline in the Tory vote. In 1992 Major persuaded over 14 million people to vote Conservative. In 2015 they got just over 11 millionvotes and in 2017 over 13 million.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of factors have led to this situation but it is clear that the maneuvering at the head of the Conservative party in part reflects the struggle to find a new electoral strategy. </p><p dir="ltr">At the core of the Conservative Dilemma is the transformation of the English middle class which was traditionally the backbone of the Tories’ electoral base. But the English middle class has changed beyond all recognition in recent decades.</p><p dir="ltr">Middle class occupations have become increasingly restricted to graduate entry. And the experience of going to university, usually away from home, and the expansion of university places for a time to people from working class backgrounds, challenged the Tory values which had for so long been ingrained in the middle class. Cameron grappling with gay marriage for example was an attempt to re-establish a link to voters whose values were no longer the same as older Tory generations.</p><p dir="ltr">Equally, the nature of middle class employment changed. It became more insecure; pensions were not so advantageous and salaries were under pressure. Meanwhile the effects of austerity began to bite. University fees, increasing problems in the housing market, outsourcing of public sector professional occupations, all added pressure on this part of the electorate. If you were employed in the private sector too, life was difficult as the economy went global and decisions about your future were made in some remote headquarters often thousands of miles away.</p><p dir="ltr">The tendency of Britain to become increasingly unequal also played a part. Whilst for the overwhelming majority of the population incomes were in decline, especially since the banking crash in 2008, the richest saw an explosion in their wealth. The richest 1000 increased their wealth by £466 billion in the last ten years.</p><p dir="ltr">For small and medium sized employers in traditional sectors outside the financial sector there was a squeeze on profits and the opening of the market to global forces added to the problems faced in the Tory heartlands.</p><p dir="ltr">Across the whole of Britain – but most importantly for the Tories, in its English heartlands – a sense of anxiety about the present and the future had begun to emerge. Thus arose a feeling that the country was no longer working for most people. Also, there has been a growing a sense of disaffection with the British Establishment, whose political voice was always the Tory party.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent elections Labour’s policies increasingly resonated with voters who the Tories had traditionally taken for granted. Between 2005 and 2015 Labour’s proportion of ABC1 voters held steady. This process accelerated when Jeremy Corbyn became leader. At the 2017 election Labour increased its share of ABC1 voters by 12 points compared with 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">What has been described as a “populist moment” had arisen in Britain. Widespread distrust in politics, underpinned by uncontrolled economic and social change, meant that more of the same would no longer work.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">We are familiar with the changes in the Labour party, but there has been less discussion about the implications of these underlying trends within the Conservative party. And this is where the recent activities of Boris Johnson and his cronies become clearer – though no less reprehensible.</p><p dir="ltr">Their project is an attempt to take the current populist moment to the right and build a reactionary populist movement supposedly offering relief to the millions of people who want to see change. Of course they will not tackle the real cause of alienation and decline because they can’t reject either austerity or neoliberalism, nor do they want to confront the British Establishment of which they are part.</p><p dir="ltr">Their answer in large part is to blame foreigners both in the form of the EU and also in dog-whistle commentary about Muslims for the difficulties which the country faces. They have looked across the water to Washington and have recently broken bread with President Trump’s most right wing advisors. They have employed the same ragbag of social media consultants and used deceitful techniques during the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Their purpose is to create a revolting new electoral coalition of voters based on a narrow minded English nationalism and racism, both overt and covert. Their intention is to create a Conservative party which resembles the early alt-right French political formation became known as poujadism. They have little problem with extreme right wingers like Farage and even ‘Tommy Robinson’. They would take pressure off the stagnant rate of profit in the indigenous private sector, outside the financial sector, by a ruthless attack on the living standards of workers and a further vicious cycle of ‘deregulation’.</p><p dir="ltr">And who is to say that they won’t succeed if we continue to either laugh at, or ignore, their small minded ways as if they are just personal eccentricities or foibles? The answer to this question is that the Labour party has to form a barrage with all progressive political and social forces in the country against this reactionary tide.</p><p dir="ltr">We can be confident that if we face it full square on, and in unity, that we can defeat racism, and show that austerity is cutting into the very fabric of our communities. We can demonstrate that inequality is damaging the lives of millions of people which is rewarding only a few thousand at most.</p><p dir="ltr">But to do all this we have to show that we can give a progressive expression to the populist sentiment. I believe Britain can find an inclusive brand of modernity which offers a proper future to all. But this will require a huge effort from our whole movement as we seek to change the rules of the game whilst simultaneously confronting a dangerous enemy. And it will require discipline and unity from our half million members.</p><p dir="ltr">It would be grossly irresponsible, and it would repeat the failures of earlier generations on the left, if we continue exclusively to face inwards with our party preoccupations. Of course there are matters which we must settle. But we have a programme which is the best in many generations; a leadership at last which won’t be bent by Establishment forces; a mass membership with no contemporary parallel in western Europe. And crucially we have a population which is desperate for a change in direction.</p><p dir="ltr">Whatever happens to Johnson, it’s time for Labour to face outwards and to prepare ourselves for the coming struggles with a rabid opponent. We only need to look across the Atlantic to see what happens if the left fails to unite around a radical candidate against the true enemy.</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/jon-trickett/england-is-restless-change-is-coming">England is restless, change is coming</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jon Trickett Sat, 11 Aug 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Jon Trickett 119225 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Stop accusing the Jewish community of conspiring against the left https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-hirsh/stop-accusing-jewish-community-of-conspiring-against-left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Antisemitism isn't just about individual intent. It's about culture and stories and practice, and the UK Labour party has a serious problem</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Corbyn.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Corbyn.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn. Image, Chatham House</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Towards the end of his life, the work of my teacher and friend Robert Fine came to focus more and more on the struggle within the left against antisemitism. This was continuous with his lifelong concern about the importance of what happened inside the left, and specifically the ever present tension between democratic and totalitarian thinking. Antisemitism has consistently been not only a threat to Jews but also a visible symptom of the rise of anti-democratic politics. Fine’s last book, written with Philip Spencer, was called ‘Antisemitism and the Left: On the return of the Jewish Question’.</p><p dir="ltr">The key insight, signposted in the title, is that ‘The Jewish Question’ is always the wrong question; it is never about Jews, but always about antisemitism. In his libel case against Deobrah Lipstadt, Holocaust denier David Irving kept returning to the Jewish Question:</p><p dir="ltr">"Why have they been so hated for 3000 years that there has been pogrom after pogrom in country after country?"</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-left">There is a consensus within the Jewish community that there is a serious problem of antisemitism in Labour</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span></span>The answer, of course, is that antisemitism is never a response to what Jews do, it is caused by what antisemites do. Even when Jews do bad things, the work of transforming this into an antisemitic narrative is the responsibility of the antisemites. Sometimes Jews are held collectively responsible in subtle ways. For example, an assumption of guilt becomes the norm. Jews may be free to disavow, but already being Jewish in a political environment has become more difficult; and the precise nature and intensity of the required disavowal is sometimes beyond what Jews are willing and able, under duress, to offer.</p><p dir="ltr">There is currently an unprecedented consensus within the Jewish community in Britain that there is a serious problem of antisemitism in the Labour party and that Labour’s stubborn replacement of the IHRA definition with a home-made version is symbolic of that problem. The consensus reaches across the four main religious communities, Liberal, Reform, Masorti and Orthodox; the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies, the Community Security Trust and the Union of Jewish Students; Jewish journalists like Hadley Freeman, Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen and Daniel Finkelstein; Jewish scholars of antisemitism like David Seymour, Robert Fine, Philip Spencer, Anthony Julius, Simon Schama, Eve Garrard, Lesley Klaff; the three major Jewish newspapers speak with a single voice; Jewish Labour MPs such as Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge, Ian Austen, Louise Ellman are in agreement. The voters of Barnet have twice told the party what they think in clear and unambiguous terms.</p><p dir="ltr">How did Judge Macpherson help us to make sense of this kind of situation? He did not say that if somebody says they experience racism it must be true; neither did he say that victims of racism have the right to define their own oppression. But he did say that victims of racism should be taken seriously. There should be an initial presumption that their view is right.There is also a small but noisy group of antizionist Jews, who mobilize their Jewish identities politically in the hope of amplifying their voices, who speak ‘asaJew’, who say they do not experience antisemitism and who are not able to sniff it around them. This is not a case of two Jews, three opinions, but of a united community and a tiny oppositional faction. </p><p dir="ltr">Nancy Hartsock classically argued:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">A standpoint is not simply an interested position (interpreted as bias) but is interested in the sense of being engaged . . . . A standpoint . . . carries with it the contention that there are some perspectives on society from which, however well-intentioned one may be, the real relations of humans with each other and with the natural world are not visible.</p><p dir="ltr">But ‘The Jewish Question’ begins with the opposite presumption, that one should start by assuming that the Jews, at least those who refuse to disavow Israel, are up to something sly when they say they experience antisemitism. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes Jews are accused of being ‘hysterical’, as the President of the Board of Deputies was by a veteran Jewish socialist in a recent radio debate; there is a long antisemitic tradition of the misogynistic ridiculing of Jews; we are accused of being shrill or paranoid.</p><p dir="ltr">But more often we are accused of the opposite: being calculating and dishonest. The standard response to Jews is not that they have misjudged the situation, perhaps for understandable reasons related to their history. Most British Jews after all, are descended from those who tended to worry about antisemitism; European Jews who assumed that everything would turn out fine don’t have many descendants.</p><p dir="ltr">The standard response to Jews is that they know that their claims of having experienced antisemitism are false, and they persist in making them anyway for selfish tribal reasons. It is a nasty little trick to silence the voice of the Palestinians and to smear their great supporter Jeremy Corbyn. The debate about antisemitism, in this view, is just an underhand way of trying to win the Israel-Palestine debate.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover this is the charge made against the community as a whole, not only against particular individuals. It is the community as a whole which is accused of ‘pouring petrol on the fire’ or of orchestrating a ‘cynical attempt to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’. Make no mistake, the charge against the Jewish community is that it is involved in a conspiracy against the left. Any individual could get it wrong. But when a whole community gets it wrong together, in an organised and co-ordinated way, and in bad faith, then the allegation is one of Jewish conspiracy to lie and to smear. </p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The charge against the Jewish community is that it is involved in a conspiracy against the left</p><p dir="ltr">More and more, antisemitism, racism and xenophobia are portrayed as the cry of the oppressed while antiracism is constructed as a discourse of power, mobilized by a cosmopolitan global (neo)liberal elite to silence that voice and keep the oppressed down.</p><p dir="ltr">A small number of antizionist Jews, constantly re-branding themselves into organisations with new names, make it their central political work to give evidence against the Jewish community and to explain to non-Jews how its claim that antisemitism is a serious problem in the party is in fact fabricated. If I was a non-Jewish socialist who had been educated into antisemtic ways of thinking by Jews, I would be furious when I found out what had happened.</p><p dir="ltr">The effect of the construction of a ‘Jewish Question’ is particularly marked in its effect on left wing Jews. When Peter Willsman bombastically declared that he wasn’t going to be lectured by Trump fanatics with no evidence, he was also talking about Labour Jews. It is after all us who have been at the forefront of the battle against the antisemtism which was imported into the centre of our party by the Corbyn faction. Labour Jews know even more clearly and intimately what Labour antisemitism is like than Trump supporting Jews do. And I can tell Peter Willsman one thing very clearly: not one of us Labour Jews supports Trump. Not one of us.</p><p dir="ltr">But we are used to what ‘The Jewish Question’ does to us. It constructs us as belonging to the Jewish community which follows the Trump line; or the Tory line or the Blairite line or the neoliberal or neocon line. We are not heard as ourselves but only as spokespeople for Jewry. It makes us aliens in the Labour movement, on the left, in the unions and in sociology departments. It puts us outside of the community of the good, of comradely debate and of rational discussion. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Young people on today’s left are being educated to recognise those who raise the issue of antisemitism as being more hostile to progressive politics than those who themselves slip into antisemitism. In this way, left wing and democratic Jews are being excluded from their political community and are being made politically homeless. Antisemites have always positioned themselves as victims of the Jews; Corbyn is positioned as the victim of Margaret Hodge and Ian Austen, who are disciplined as though they are aggressors, for speaking out against antisemitism.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">This debate makes no sense if we do not talk about Corbyn’s record of siding with antisemites</p><p dir="ltr">Skwakbox, a supporting voice of the ruling faction, tweeted that ‘The Jewish War against Corbyn risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain’. Imagine people on the left in any other context being unable to understand and de-code such threatening victim-blaming.</p><p dir="ltr">Jeremy Corbyn responds by repeating, in general terms, his opposition to antisemitism. But what he is not able to do is to demonstrate that he understands what contemporary left wing antisemitism is. In particular he is not able to make the link between his own politics of trenchant and often irrationally overblown hostility to Israel, and the appearance of those examples of antisemitism &nbsp;amongst his supporters which everybody can recognise as antisemitic. </p><p dir="ltr">This debate makes no sense if we do not talk about Corbyn’s own record of siding with antisemites, of offering political support to antisemites and of making alliances with antisemites; of considering some kinds of antisemites to be part of the global struggle against oppression. Whatever the ‘true’ aggressor is named, be it capitalism, imperialism or modernity, it is considered responsible for war, poverty, famine and alienation; and anybody who opposes it, even if they are antisemitic, are considered to be on the progressive side. And then Israel is positioned as being a key element to that global structure of violence and oppression. And the democratic states are positioned as global exploiters and aggressors. </p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn has been paid to make propaganda on Press TV in English for the Iranian regime; he has used that platform to say that he sees ‘the hand of Israel’ behind Jihadi terrorism in Egypt when we know that it is Iran which finances Jihadi terrorism across the region; he has used that platform to complain that the BBC is biased, in particular in favour of the view that Israel has the right to exist; as though there was something inappropriate about that.</p><p dir="ltr">Cobyn has jumped to the defence of Raed Salah, the man who mobilized medieval blood libel against Jews, saying that he was not dangerous; and he has jumped to the defence of Stephen Sizer, who claims Israel was behind 9/11, portraying him as the victim of a Zionist smear; and he has supported the ostensibly pro-Palestinian campaign of Holocaust denier Paul Eissen, claiming that Eissen’s politics were not public knowledge at the time. Corbyn sided with those responsible for the Nazi-style mural which showed Jewish caricatures getting rich off the back of the workers.</p><p dir="ltr">Corybn famously referred to Hamas and Hezbollah and ‘friends’, but more damningly, in the same speech, he judged those Jew-hating organisations to be dedicated to peace, to the good of the Palestinian people, and to political and social justice. If somebody claimed that the KKK was dedicated to the good of the US South, we would have no problem in reading that as a statement of political support for the Klan.</p><p dir="ltr">On Holocaust Memorial Day Jeremy Corbyn booked a room in Parliament for an alternative event which would take the spotlight off the Holocaust and other genocides and instead make the case for the claim that Jews are the new Nazis and that Gaza is run by Israel like a piece of Nazi genocidal infrastructure.</p><p dir="ltr">The list goes on. Jeremy Corbyn needs to account for his own political history in relation to antisemitism. He needs to explain why he got these things wrong and what he has learnt from it. But he stubbornly refuses, offering instead watery politicians’ apologies for offence caused. He doesn’t only need to apologize to Jews he needs to apologize to the Labour party and to the British electorate.</p><p dir="ltr">The farce of botching up a home-made definition of antisemitism to allow Labour people to continue to do things which are internationally recognised as antisemitic is embarrassing. The Labour claim that no rhetoric against Israel could be antisemitic in the absence of antisemitic intent is a break with antiracist scholarship and activist practice. Macpherson dealt with this decades ago. When he said there was a problem of institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police, he specifically did not mean that individual officers were guilty of racist intent. He made clear and explicit what we all knew, which was that racism appears as norms, as practice, as politics, as discourse, as ways of doing things, as ways of thinking and as canteen culture.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The IHRA definition is quite explicitly not a substitute for political judgment</p><p dir="ltr">The examples of antisemtism which we can all recognise in our party (the pockets, as our leader called them) are connected to the politics which have moved into the centre of our movement from the periphery, and of which Jeremy Corbyn himself, and his ex Communist Party advisors, Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray, are symbolic.</p><p dir="ltr">Like a Police Federation rep from 1982, Jeremy Corbyn keeps on saying that if there are any antisemites, he will expel them; there’s a bad apple in every barrel, and not just in ours. But political antisemitism is an objective, external social phenomenon, not just a moral corruption inside the souls of some bad individuals. And there is a specific and authentically left wing tradition of political antisemitism which is not seen in other places. </p><p dir="ltr">The IHRA definition is not perfect but the quest for textual perfection is misplaced. It is quite explicitly not a substitute for political judgment. When it says, for example, that comparing Israel to Nazis may be antisemitic, it is clear that this is a judgment which must be made, depending on the complex interaction of context, intent, how the action is understood and what effect it might have. &nbsp;IHRA is a political document which takes account of the fact that there is a long, and currently strong, tradition of left wing antisemitism.</p><p dir="ltr">There have been claims that IHRA chills free speech and in particular that it interferes with Palestinians’ rights to define their own oppression. This is quite wrong. Diverse Palestinians are free to define their oppression as they see fit, some in antiracist terms and some in the antisemitic terms of the Hamas charter; but if they want to be members of the Labour party then they are not free to define their oppression in antisemitic terms. But it is not Palestinians, by and large, who are responsible for the antisemitic rhetoric and exclusions in our movement; it is more often those who are drawn towards expressing their feelings of anger against Jews, than those who are doing the hard work of solidarity with people in the Middle East, people who are for peace, who are for the Labour movement, and who are against racism and antisemitism. The most committed Palestine Solidarity activist I have ever known, John Strawson, who taught law for years at Birzeit University in the West Bank, has recently resigned from the Labour Party in disgust at its political culture of antisemitism. We need to think about why we are no longer able to provide people like him with a political home.</p><p dir="ltr">More and more we are seeing people on the right declaring that the real problem of antisemitism comes from the left and from Muslims; and this is answered by people on the left stating that the real threat of antisemitism is to be found in European and American right wing populism. Everybody points at the people whose politics they already hate, and they say: ‘The real problem is over there!’ &nbsp;But of course, we all need to start over here, within our own political family.</p><p dir="ltr">Never has it been more important for Labour to embrace democratic politics but never has its anti-democratic tradition been more to the fore. We should understand antisemitism as a warning about our own movement, not as a fiction invented by alien and right wing Jews. We might soon find ourselves with the job of clearing up the disaster of Brexit; we might find ourselves in a straight fight with a Boris Johnson, full-Trump, Tory Party. &nbsp;The stakes could not be higher and we have to get ourselves into shape for a defence of democratic life.</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/shaun-lawson/enough-of-these-disgraceful-slurs-against-jeremy-corbyn">Enough of these disgraceful slurs against Jeremy Corbyn</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 Anti-Semitism and the left David Hirsh Thu, 09 Aug 2018 16:21:07 +0000 David Hirsh 119215 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the Londoner on hunger strike for his dad in Bahraini prison https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/andrew-smith-ali-mushaima/meet-londoner-on-hunger-strike-for-his-dad-in-bahraini-prison <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ali Mushaima in on hunger strike outside the Bahraini embassy in Kensington, demanding basic rights for his political-prisoner father.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ali embassy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ali embassy.jpg" 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'>Ali outside the Bahraini Embassy. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I am doing it to save my father’s life.” Ali Mushaima is on his seventh day of hunger strike. His father, Hassan Mushaima, is currently in Jau Prison, Bahrain. He is seven years into a life sentence for organising against the regime during the 2011 uprising. </p><p dir="ltr">While in prison, Hassan has been beaten, tortured and degraded. His situation is made even worse by his complicated medical conditions. He suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes, gout, and a urinary tract infection, as well as being a former lymphoma cancer patient. Despite his medical history, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/30/bahrain-end-degrading-treatment-activists">Human rights Watch says</a> that he has had medical care withheld.</p><p dir="ltr">His case has also been <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/bahrain-cruel-denial-of-medical-treatment-endangers-lives-of-jailed-activists/?utm_source=twitter&amp;utm_medium=article&amp;utm_term=&amp;utm_campaign=social">taken up by Amnesty International</a>. “That anyone can bring themselves to treat people with such cruelty is unbelievable,” says Lynn Maalouf, the organisation’s Middle East Research Director. “[He] should not have been arrested, tried or imprisoned in the first place... [He] must be released immediately and unconditionally.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I felt like I had no other choice” explains Ali. “My father is 70 years old and is being denied basic medical care.” Ali’s hunger strike began on August 1st outside the Bahraini Embassy in Knightsbridge, London, and he has not moved since: “I had to act. I didn’t want to wait until he got even worse.” He is demanding that all medical treatment and medicine is restored for his father, as well as full visitation rights and access to his books and personal possessions. </p><p dir="ltr">His father, Hassan, was once an MP in Bahrain. He had been living in the UK since 2006 for medical reasons, but went back to Bahrain during the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising. He was arrested three weeks later as part of a widespread crackdown. The crackdown was severe, with <a href="http://bahrainrights.org/BCHR/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/BahrainTheHumanPrice.pdf">over 500 political prisoners</a> arrested in the aftermath of the 2011 protests. </p><p dir="ltr">“He was fighting for freedom, democracy and dignity,” says Ali, who was charged in absentia as part of the same trial. One year later Ali <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/07/bahrain-revokes-activists-nationalities">had his Bahraini citizenship revoked</a>. If he returns to Bahrain he will be arrested.</p><p dir="ltr">The abuses against campaigners have continued. <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde11/6790/2017/en/">A recent Amnesty International report</a> found that in the 12-month period preceding June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities. The report also accused the regime of torture, clamping down on free assembly and dismantling political opposition.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the repression in Bahrain, the UK government has continued to arm and support the regime, with over <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/licence?use=military&amp;date_from=2011-02-01&amp;region=Bahrain">£80 million worth of arms</a> having been licensed since the uprising. Ali believes that the UK and other ‘complicit’ governments bear a responsibility for the terrible situation his father has been put in. “As long as the UK is supporting the regime it will only make things worse. It’s giving political, military and technical support to a regime that is torturing people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, and after years of close cooperation, the UK <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-bahrain-military-base-juffair-royal-navy-mina-salman-middle-east-hms-queen-elizabeth-a8291486.html">opened a naval base in Bahrain</a>. The opening, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/15/bahrain-paying-royal-navy-base-human-rights-criticism">largely paid for by Bahrain</a>, is part of a broader long-term regional strategy. Lt, Gen, Sir Simon Mayall, Britain’s former special advisor to the Middle East, welcomed it in saying “Britain has been in the Gulf on an ad hoc basis for the past 40 years. Now we have demonstrated we are here to stay.”</p><p dir="ltr">Over the last six years, Whitehall and Downing Street have provided £5 million-worth of assistance to Bahrain in support of its ‘<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2018-06-25/HL8932/">reform programme</a>.’ In theory this was established to build effective institutions, strengthen the rule of law, and ensure police and justice reform. In reality it has provided a figleaf of legitimacy to a system that continues to punish opponents and quash dissent.</p><p dir="ltr">One thing that has helped Ali is the support he has received from other campaigners and passers-by. There have been protests and vigils in support of his demands, with people coming from across London to support him.</p><p dir="ltr">The strike is taking its toll on Ali’s health. “My body is getting weaker” he says matter-of-factly. “I have already lost more than five kilos. The weather has been very hot recently, and that has only made it harder. But, despite that, I feel strong inside. My spirit is high and I know that I’m doing what is right.”</p><p dir="ltr">Please <a href="https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-of-the-uk-theresa-may-mp-bahraini-authorities-are-killing-my-70-year-old-father-help-me-save-him?recruiter=147536110&amp;utm_source=share_petition&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive">sign and share this petition</a> in support of Ali’s demands.</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="/abdulnabi-alekry/bahrains-uprising-and-its-movement-for-radical-change">Bahrain&#039;s uprising and its movement for radical change</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 Andrew Smith Ali Mushaima Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:37:51 +0000 Andrew Smith and Ali Mushaima 119187 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back off, Boris, Muslim women don't need to be saved https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anjum-peerbacos/back-off-boris-muslim-women-dont-need-to-be-saved <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Boris Johnson should learn to dress himself before he lectures Muslim women on what to wear.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/6058771534_450a907a59_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/6058771534_450a907a59_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image, Garry Knight, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It has almost been four weeks since BJ was in the headlines – now we can’t have that can we? He obviously needs to be the centre of attention and was probably going into withdrawal. So any colleagues or observers that believe this likening of Muslim women to ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letter boxes’ was accidental or a jibe, a joke, a passing comment – you are very much mistaken. </p><p>The reality is that BJ is not as concerned with riling the Muslim population as he is with furthering his own bigoted and far right political ambitions. In one fell swoop he managed to regain the lime-light, pander to the far- right and alienate the Muslim community and stoke the racist fire further. Wow quite an achievement BJ – well done! And to be done so seamlessly. It was so simple. Just say something or write something that would be unsavoury bigoted controversial and ultimately racist towards – guess who? It’s the Muslim women – again. We seem to draw the short straw every time! It’s as though he is instantly propelled into the limelight where he can pander to the far right supporters and his own circle of Elitist White Men in their Ivory Towers in one fell swoop; like whisking away a tablecloth and causing the crashing of all the crockery on the table in the aftermath.</p> <p>Despite not having a plan for Brexit and being a vehement pro Brexit campaigner, despite resigning as Foreign Secretary, despite embarrassing us on an international stage at almost every given opportunity he still manages to waltz back into the open journalistic arms of The Telegraph. The Telegraph paid him £5000 for his recent piece where he has made the outrageous and racist comments against Muslim women and the niqaab. Imagine being incompetent at everything and then being paid a large sum of money to be racist, anyone would think he was Tommy Robinson.</p> <p>On a serious note as a woman no man is in any position to tell me what I can and cannot wear. Least of all a man that is an Etonian Mess and can barely dress himself. I don’t think that we all want to dress as caricatures of ourselves thanks very much. The Muslim women in the UK have been given the right to choose their attire. Why should the state and government dictate what women should wear? Would it be acceptable for the government to dictate whether or not a turban could be worn or the kippah. In all examples no harm is being caused to others and a matter of choice with regards to one’s faith is being demonstrated, so what difference does it make to the likes of BJ and his cronies? None – so bugger off!</p> <p>Also just in case you were not aware Muslim women do not need to be saved by old White Men – so get over yourself BJ. We do not need your White Saviour Complex to hold us back – we are perfectly capable of making our own decisions. I have two sisters that do not wear a hijab or headscarf, I do and I have two sisters-in-law who wear the niqaab and burkha. (They are two separate items of clothing in case you were unsure). We are all one family, and all the women are completely capable of dressing themselves, how they see fit. Clearly colonial and imperial legacies die hard and your need to civilise, emancipate, and free us from our traditional and religious choices is nothing to do with your White Colonial elitist selves – not, so back off! We do not need to be saved. </p> <p>Muslim women in the UK are: doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, inventors, writers, politicians, activists, mayors, students and so much more. BJ you and yours make it harder to be the above in the UK. We have seen a substantial rise in Islamophobia attacks especially post-Brexit. We are making our contribution to British society, so please acknowledge these traits and characteristics and stop dehumanising us as ‘letterboxes’, and vilifying us ‘bank robbers’. Please recognise us for the individuals we are with the individual right to choose how we dress. There is so much more to us than the way we bloody dress so can we get past that please already? We are you. We are British. This is our home and I wouldn’t have it any other way.</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="/transformation/mathew-guest/why-boris-is-wrong-about-burka">Why Boris is wrong about the burka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/val%C3%A9rie-hartwich/dangers-of-burqa-ban">The dangers of a burqa ban</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 Anjum Peerbacos Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:45:12 +0000 Anjum Peerbacos 119183 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's time for the participatory society https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-mccoll/its-time-for-participatory-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our political model isn't made for an era of universal education. It's time to unleash our collective genius: and a new centre in Edinburgh is looking to do just that.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/33551998361_5d81d3ebb6_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/33551998361_5d81d3ebb6_z.jpg" 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'>Participatory budgeting in New York. Image, Costa Constantinides. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The world abounds with both opportunities and crises. We live in a time of unparalleled progress – scientific breakthroughs offer to achieve everything from a cure to cancer to self-repairing glass. We are more connected than ever before. We have the opportunity to replace many low quality jobs through automation. And we have more information about the world than in any previous era. But these opportunities are clouded by the rise of political chauvinism and threats ranging from climate change to<a href="https://longitudeprize.org/"> antimicrobial resistance</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Citizens are more educated than ever before, but we have legacy systems of decision-making. We still vote once every 4 or 5 years, and while governments often consult on what they do, this involves relatively small numbers of people in a meaningful way. For all its achievements, consultation is failing to match the expectations of a demos which expects high levels of inclusion in decision making through the market, and in the workplace. The popularity of participatory budgeting schemes, and other manifestations of participatory politics – such as the<a href="http://citizensassembly.co.uk/brexit/about/"> Brexit Citizens’ Assembly</a> – hints at the potential for wider deployment of participatory methods. These methods have been taken up by the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government committee to investigate the<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/housing-communities-and-local-government-committee/news/citizens-assembly-faq-17-19/"> future of adult social care</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">While there are many causes for optimism, we know that, left to trawl the internet for information people may be taken in by ‘fake news’ and conspiracies. But we also know that when people are deliberatively engaged in the process of decision making – through the sorts of participatory techniques that underpin Participatory Budgeting and Citizens’ Assemblies – that those people can properly assess the opportunities and threats, and have access to rational consensus.</p><p dir="ltr">When the political theorist Edmund Burke<a href="http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch13s7.html"> wrote</a> that an MP “owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion” he did so in a context where most were unable to assess and judge the great issues of state. It is odd that politics and public policy decisions remain so impervious to involvement. This is especially so in a society where basic education is universally available and citizens are continually engaged in judgement and decision-making through much more autonomy in the workplace and regular consumer decision-making. Bringing these skills into public decision-making is not just the right thing to do, it is now a necessity for the survival of a democratic society.</p><p dir="ltr">There are a number of areas where this is particularly important. When it comes to harnessing the opportunities of ubiquitous and pervasive data, we urgently need a participatory process that allows a realistic assessment of the risks of government use of data. The<a href="http://nuffieldbioethics.org/"> Nuffield Council on Bioethics</a> has pioneered some of the techniques required in this task (and is considering expanding the discussion to data policy), but this needs to be applied much more widely, and with levels of participation that reflect how widely the effects of any decision will be felt.</p><p dir="ltr">We can understand the underlying issue as a failure in the public sphere – where the intersection of public institutions, media and citizens is incapable of synthesising the available information into appropriate courses of action. We have both the tools and the opportunity to move beyond the public sphere and towards a deliberative society. Now is the time to seize this opportunity.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent technological developments make this opportunity even more important. The last decade has been marked by a transformative increase in the availability of data. This new data comes in many forms: it is easier to track steps using a phone or personal fitness device than it is to count them yourself. It is easier to count mobile phones passing a turnstyle than employing someone with a clipboard to do the same. It is easier to assess what economic activity there is in an area by web-scraping job adverts than it is to undertake a detailed study. This new data should turn our understanding of the world on its head. Where previously when making a decision we needed to go into the world to actively pursue information, now much of that information is close at hand. While we still need to access it, that is much easier than it once was.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.nesta.org.uk/report/big-mind-how-collective-intelligence-can-change-our-world/">Collective intelligence</a> offers us the opportunity to make human interventions of more value. Instead of expending time and effort measuring what’s happening, devices are doing this for us. We can bring these data sets together to make sense of the world. This can greatly improve decision making.</p><p dir="ltr">And improved decision making is becoming ever more important. We all know that there are a variety of serious challenges facing the world today – from antimicrobial resistance to climate change, and on to the aging population. Our cities are struggling to deal with air pollution, and our some are even at risk of running out of water. These challenges are easy to agree to - but often prove difficult to resolve. They work across disciplinary, governmental and other boundaries. The solutions to these problems don’t fit into the silos through which our legacy systems work.</p><p dir="ltr">A different way of solving problems comes when we set them out as<a href="https://www.nesta.org.uk/project/challenge-prize-centre/"> challenges</a>. A challenge approach works by setting out a problem, such as regulation of urban drone use or managing variable supply in a renewables-based energy network, and inviting researchers, developers and citizens to pitch ideas on how to solve these problems. It can break down disciplinary boundaries and administrative silos, create understanding, investment and ultimately - solutions that we might not otherwise have found.</p><p dir="ltr">These challenges could be of direct political contestation - as with abortion rights in Ireland, or they could be more local - on approaches to air pollution in a particular municipality. Or they could be longer-term issues - such as the regulation of artificial intelligence. There will be particularly significant opportunities for bringing arts-led approaches to help understand, represent and interpret the evidence and arguments that are required to involve participants in the citizens assemblies, and to more broadly communicate the work of the Institute. The opportunities to bring music and art into debates about the future will increase the impact of the this approach, and allow alignment with creative imaginings of the future.</p><p dir="ltr">In the Republic of Ireland<a href="https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/"> Citizens’ Assemblies</a> have been used to deal with a variety of issues, ranging from equal marriage to abortion. These issues have proved intractable through traditional political structures –- which are marked by self-interested approaches. By bringing together demographically balanced groups that reflect the major views, a resolution emerges.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, we have more methods for bringing people into decision-making processes. Both online and in-real-life we can build more effective ways of including people. Where social media has connected people much more effectively than ever before, so participatory approaches can make use of digital tools to make better decisions. By better identifying the challenges that people see, and matching this with the many exciting possibilities we can rebuild our public sphere.</p><p dir="ltr">These approaches are particularly relevant to institutions of learning. With Universities now measured on their<a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/impact-weighting-increased-uks-ref-2021"> impact</a> (and with this measurement becoming more significant), and seeking new ways to make sure that their research is more relevant to challenges, a new opportunity arises. A process of identifying great global challenges, assessing different approaches to addressing these challenges through participatory methods and using this to inform research guarantees impact. It is a win-win, allowing academics to validate their research, and citizens to be involved in the process of commissioning and design of research.</p><h3 dir="ltr">How could this work in practice?</h3><p dir="ltr">The opportunity to deliver on a programme of this sort is enhanced by the substantial investment in estate and curriculum that has been delivered through the City Deals for both<a href="https://www.ed.ac.uk/human-resources/jobs/chancellors-fellowships/the-university-data-driven-innovation"> Edinburgh</a> and Glasgow. In Edinburgh, the rhetoric of ‘challenge’ has already been taken up in the design of the<a href="https://efi.ed.ac.uk/"> Edinburgh Futures Institute</a>. This adds physical manifestation to an already existing public sphere and creates the conditions to catalyse the move towards a deliberative society and participatory democracy. The University of Edinburgh already has substantial expertise in this area through the work of<a href="http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/staff/politics/oliver_escobar"> Oliver Escobar</a>, co-director of<a href="http://whatworksscotland.ac.uk/"> What Works Scotland</a> and the<a href="http://www.urbantransformations.ox.ac.uk/project/smart-urban-intermediaries-trans-european-research-learning-and-action/"> Smart Urban Intermediaries</a> programme.</p><p dir="ltr">The dominant political approach in any era is manifested in its architecture. The German theorist Jürgen Habermas identified the Palace of Versailles as a bricks-and-mortar example of absolute monarchy. So physically vast and so overpowering as to leave the subjects of the French King in no doubt of who wielded power on behalf of god. We have the opportunity to create a concrete manifestation of the participatory society.</p><p dir="ltr">By bringing together a challenges approach with a citizens assembly methodology, we can identify, test and surface the areas where change is needed. When we bring researchers and practitioners together we can begin to address these areas where change is needed. By including citizens at every point we demonstrate that research aligns with popular concerns. The process has impact woven through it and will begin the process of prioritising problems, accounting for social, environmental and economic change, and rebuilding trust in society.</p><p dir="ltr">This is not an attempt to replace curiosity-led research, but rather to allow researchers and practitioners to better understand which questions should be addressed, and to - if they choose - direct their research to answering these questions. The approach itself will be open to experimentation, iteration and development. By comparing the effectiveness of different ways of identifying challenges, building participatory techniques and measuring impact we can create learning that can be widely shared.</p><p dir="ltr">If the Palace of Versaille was a manifestation of the feudal political order intended to awe subjects into submission through the sheer scale and majesty of the buildings, so the aim of<a href="https://efi.ed.ac.uk/"> Edinburgh Futures Institute</a> should be to create a deliberative space where citizens can realise a participatory democracy. It can be a built manifestation of the participatory society. And through harnessing the information now available to us, and the insights of citizens, we can create a public sphere worthy of awe.</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="/peter-davies/participation-and-foresight-putting-people-at-heart-of-future">Participation and foresight: putting people at the heart 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 uk Peter McColl Tue, 07 Aug 2018 15:48:28 +0000 Peter McColl 119173 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Neoliberalism drives climate breakdown, not human nature https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/alex-randall/why-new-york-times-is-wrong-about-climate-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Attempts by the New York Times to blame humanity as a whole for climate change let the real culprits off the hook.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_b9ecf90239_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_b9ecf90239_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Quarrie Photography, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Many zoos have an exhibit like this: a wall with a hatch, and under the hatch words like “Do you want to see the most dangerous animal in the world?”. Of course everyone does, and before they open the hatch they speculate as to what the animal behind the hatch will be. A lion? A crocodile? However, when you open the hatch there is a mirror, and you see yourself staring back. You are the most dangerous animal in the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Of course this is nonsense. Not everyone who opens that hatch and sees themselves looking back is equally dangerous. We are not all equally responsible for destruction of the world’s ecosystems. Some humans who open the hatch probably are responsible for a great deal of destruction. Other are not. Many people bear the brunt of someone else's destruction. </p><p dir="ltr">The idea that all humanity is equally and collectively responsible for climate change – or any other environmental or social problem – is extremely weak. In a basic and easily calculable way, not everyone is responsible for the same quantity of greenhouse gasses. People in the world’s poorest countries produce roughly one hundredth of the emissions of the richest people in the richest countries. Through the chance of our births, and the lifestyle we choose we are not all equally responsible for climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">But we are not all equally responsible in a more fundamental way. Some people through the power they wield, have stood in the way of halting climate change. Not because they were stubborn or incompetent or failed to understand the seriousness. But because they acted in pursuit of a fundamental re-organising of our economies during the 1970s and 80s. And this shake-up militated against the kinds of policies and government intervention that might have halted – or at least slowed – climate change. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This is the point that is missed in ‘<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html">Losing Earth</a>’, the New York Times’ 30,000 word feature on climate change. The piece charts the failure of the US government to act on climate change between 1979 and 1989. During this period we knew enough about the issue to act, but didn’t. The piece sets out to explain this failure. </p><p dir="ltr">‘Losing Earth’ presents the failure as one of political tragedy. Politicians and policy makers simply couldn't agree. Not because of the undue influence of lobbyists, but because – as humans and politicians – they could not look far enough into the future. They could not take political risks now, in return for the long term safety of the planet. </p><p dir="ltr">As humans we cannot engage with complex long term problems. We favour short term comfort over long term safety, even when this is illogical. Our political systems are set up to favour short term political wins. Our politicians think only as far ahead as the next election. This failure to stop climate change was no one’s fault, ‘Losing Earth’ argues. It happened because we’re human, and because our electoral systems aren’t geared up for this kind of problem. </p><p dir="ltr">But is this really why the US didn’t act on climate change during the 1980s? </p><p dir="ltr">The late 70s and 80s were also a time when the economies of most developed countries underwent a fundamental restructuring. </p><p dir="ltr">Since the end of the Second World War the economies of Europe and the US had been growing steadily. Ordinary people had been taking home and ever growing slice of this new economic growth. In the US, unionised workforces were consistently negotiating better pay and conditions. In Europe people also began to see the benefits of nationalised healthcare and house building. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The very richest people in society had also been getting richer as developed economies grew. But the slice of the pie they were keeping was shrinking. In 1940 the wealthiest 0.1% kept about 20% of all the money earned. While the poorest 90% (almost everyone) kept about the same. By the mid 70s the slice kept by the 0.1% had dipped to around 7%, while the slice kept by the 90% had climbed to over 30%. The US economy was still vastly unequal, but it was becoming more equal. Many working people were gaining, at the expense of very rich. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Untitled presentation.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Untitled presentation.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US wealth inequality over time. Data from Saez and Zucman, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2016, 131(2): 519-578. Adapted from Business Insider.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">We should not pretend that the gains of working people were evenly shared. These figures disguise cruel inequalities amongst the 90% shaped by race, religion, gender and geography. </p><p dir="ltr">By the middle of the 1970s it was clear to the wealthiest in society that something had to change. More and more of the spoils of economic growth were going into the pockets of ordinary people. Across the Western world, governments were taxing growing profits and spending them on housing, healthcare and education – mainly for the benefit or ordinary people. </p><p dir="ltr">The economy, and people’s expectations of it, needed a shake up. Crucially, a shake up that reversed the growing trend of economic equality. A shake up which would return the 0.1% to the position they had been in during the 1930s and 40s when they were keeping a much greater cut of the all the money that was earned. </p><p dir="ltr">To do this they turned to a collection of political ideas that had been largely ignored since their formation in the 1920s. These ideas and the economies shaped by them have come known as neoliberalism. </p><p dir="ltr">These ideas held that the role of the state should shrink. Government – neoliberals believed – stood in the way of prosperity. The size of the state should be reduced, the number of people on the public payroll should go down. Areas that had been the domain of government – healthcare, house building, transport, energy – should no longer be. Instead these should become the domain of private enterprise.</p><p dir="ltr">Markets should decide what receives investment and what does not. If there is demand (say) for new energy generation then the price of electricity should provide the signal for power companies to build it and profit from doing so. The government should step back and let the market decide what happens. </p><p dir="ltr">In addition, regulation and corporate taxes of all kinds should be stripped back. This – they argued – would drive more investment. Environmental regulation controlling pollution simply prevented businesses providing energy to people cheaply, they argued. Taxes on polluting substances did the same. Stripping these away – they argued – would give people what they wanted. In place of regulation the proposed consumer choice. If people wanted non-polluting products – if that mattered to them – they would pay extra for them. And businesses would respond to this demand by providing them. </p><p dir="ltr">The ideology and the practice of neoliberalism were not always consistent. While the ideology demanded the withdrawal of the state, many private businesses continued to demand (and receive) vast government subsidies. In the US during the 1980s the government continued to sponsor billions of dollars worth of research into fossil fuel extraction. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For an introduction to the rise of neoliberalism these <a href="https://culturepowerpolitics.org/podcasts/">podcasts are very good.</a> </p><p dir="ltr">The impact of these changes on the overall economy was also well understood by those who proposed them. As responsibility for infrastructure, energy, housing and the other usual domains of the state – moved to the private sector so did the money. These became new areas in which to make profit. The lack of regulation, lower taxes and subsidies meant making these profits was easier. </p><p dir="ltr">The wealthiest 0.1% began to see their share of the society’s wealth increasing. Starting around 1974 the economy swung around in favour of the richest. Their slice of all the money earned began to climb, while the slice taken home by the 90% began to fall. This trend has continued until now. In the US levels of income inequality have returned to where they were before the Second World War. This was the drive behind this vast shake up, and it worked. </p><p dir="ltr">The reshaping of the US economy took place during the period covered by ‘Losing Earth’. It was during the decade – 1979 to 1989 – that neoliberalism truly entered the political mainstream. </p><p dir="ltr">In order to address climate change the US (and other nations) needed to do things that were no longer politically possible. Fossil fuels needed to be taxed in order to reduce their consumption. Carbon emissions needed to be taxed, or capped. The government needed to invest heavily in renewable energy. Or it needed to force energy companies to do so through legislation. </p><p dir="ltr">These things might have been possible in previous decades, when governments saw this kind of investment and legislation as their job. But in this new neoliberal era, these kind of interventions were impossible – especially for the US. </p><p dir="ltr">So the US government's failure to act was not a political or human accident as ‘Losing Earth’ holds. Rather, the economy of the US had very deliberately been re-shaped. It had been re-shaped in order to return economic advantage to the very wealthiest people, who had been losing that advantage over several decades. However in doing this, the US government had stripped itself of the tools it needed to address climate change – regulation of polluting businesses, taxation of carbon emissions and state investment in energy alternatives. </p><p dir="ltr">We did not lose the earth in the 1980s. Rather, the tools governments needed to act had been taken from them. </p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-jackson/catastrophism-is-as-much-obstacle-to-addressing-climate-change-as-den">Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial</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 climate change Alex Randall Tue, 07 Aug 2018 13:19:41 +0000 Alex Randall 119165 at https://www.opendemocracy.net International Aid groups must reform in the face of sexual abuse scandals https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/stephen-twigg/international-aid-groups-must-reform-in-face-of-sexual-abuse-scandals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sexual exploitation of aid recipients is far too common. Here's what the sector must do to clean itself up</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/17318473052_8fd1dbb84b_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/17318473052_8fd1dbb84b_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UK Aid workers in Nepal. Image, DfID, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The International Development Committee, which I chair, found sexual exploitation and abuse of aid recipients by aid workers and peacekeepers has been an “open secret”. The sector requires reform, from funders to aid deliverers. Victims and survivors must be at the heart of any response.</p><p dir="ltr">Our initial inquiry was in reaction to the Oxfam Haiti expose. However, we heard that sexual abuse of beneficiaries by aid workers and peacekeepers is more widespread, with cases in many countries. &nbsp;The range of offences included extreme sexual violence and manipulation, often of children. We heard of a “culture of denial” within UN and aid organisations, fewer resources for safeguarding, complainants being ostracised or sacked and victims feeling penalised. </p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/2002-Report-of-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-Save%20the%20Children.pdf">2002</a>, a United Nations report uncovered allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of refugees in several African nations. Forty aid agencies, and nine peacekeeping battalions, were implicated. The scandal made international headlines.</p><p dir="ltr">Further reports have uncovered similar abuses by UN staff, humanitarian workers, contractors and local staff across many countries. Common themes were under-reporting of incidents and flawed case management. Most recently, a <a href="https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/2017-12_voices_from_syria_2nd_edition.pdf">2018</a> report on Syria said “sexual exploitation by humanitarian workers at distributions was commonly cited by [study] participants as a risk faced by women and girls when trying to access aid”.</p><p dir="ltr">More often than not, it was “<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-in-the-aid-sector/oral/78764.pdf">powerful men as gatekeepers to food, shelter and security</a>” exploiting and abusing “<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-in-the-aid-sector/oral/78764.pdf">women and girls because they are powerless, they are vulnerable and they are voiceless</a>”. We know that most aid is delivered by dedicated, hard-working individuals in very challenging environments. But the whole sector is tainted by a few who abuse their position and power.</p><p dir="ltr">The aid sector’s response has been poor, with more concern for reputations than victims. Policies, codes of conduct and other measures are developed but never effectively implemented. There is a worry in the sector that transparency about incidents leads to reputational damage and loss of funding. This in turn affects their ability to deliver aid. However, ignoring or hiding the problem doesn’t make it go away.</p><p dir="ltr">What needs to change? We need both a cure and prevention. Empowering beneficiaries is crucially important, not least to encourage more reporting. There needs to be some form of staff vetting and screening to root out previous perpetrators. Those perpetrating the abuse must be held to account. </p><p dir="ltr">Critically, victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse must be the priority. Without a victim and survivor centred approach “<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-in-the-aid-sector/oral/86718.pdf">you are designing a system in a vacuum that, essentially, nobody will use</a>”. We welcome indications that the voices of victims and survivors will feature prominently at DFID’s autumn international safeguarding conference. We must ensure the experiences and views of victims and survivors are also embedded into future decision making over both policies and practicalities.</p><p dir="ltr">The key is improving reporting mechanisms to understanding each case, respond to them, and ultimately, resolve them.</p><p dir="ltr">A victim-centred approach to reporting means:</p><ol><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">acknowledging the vulnerability of those who are being asked to report, recognising the many barriers to reporting; and building this understanding into the approach adopted </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">improving the knowledge and understanding of beneficiaries’ rights amongst both beneficiaries themselves and aid workers and peacekeepers</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">a proactive approach to gathering testimony - &nbsp;creating spaces where victims can talk about abuse</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">providing support services to those who do come forward (legal, medical, psychological etc)</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">keeping them informed about the progress and outcome of their investigation</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">establishing an ombudsman for when the established channels fail</p></li><li>Practitioners have developed “two decades of recommendations”. Now, resources are needed to back them up.</li></ol><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="/transformation/mike-aaronson/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-why-pick-on-charities">Sexual exploitation and abuse: why pick on charities?</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 Stephen Twigg Tue, 07 Aug 2018 11:49:51 +0000 Stephen Twigg 119160 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opinion: The Electoral Commission’s DUP decision shows again how the rules that should protect our democracy are failing https://www.opendemocracy.net/opendemocracy-investigations/opinion-electoral-commission-s-dup-decision-shows-again-how-rules-that- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK’s elections watchdog has decided it “does not have grounds to open an investigation” into the DUP’s mysterious £435,000 Brexit donation—once more raising questions about how British democracy is regulated.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/3995373_dcf949bb.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="DUP Election poster © Copyright Rossographer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/3995373_dcf949bb.jpg" alt="" title="DUP Election poster © Copyright Rossographer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence." width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>© Copyright Rossographer, Creative Commons Licence.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Here at openDemocracy we have been talking about the Democratic Unionist Party’s mysterious £435,000 Brexit donation for a long time. Since breaking the story in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">February 2017</a>, we have published <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money?page=1">dozens of follow-ups</a>. Among them have been serious questions about how much the party knew about who gave them the money andto direct links between the front man for the donation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">Saudi intelligence</a> services.</p><p dir="ltr">Then, in June, BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team broadcast an hour-long <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">investigation</a>. Would the Electoral Commission, finally, investigate the DUP’s Brexit donation? This week we found out that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/02/electoral-commission-drops-investigation-into-dup-over-brexit-spending">it will not</a>—but quite why is still unclear.</p><p dir="ltr">There are already serious questions hanging over how our democracy is regulated. The Electoral Commission found that a number of Leave campaigns, including Vote Leave and Arron Banks’s Leave.EU, broke the law, issuing <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/who-actually-are-vote-leave-brexit-boris-johnson-michael-gove">record fines</a>. But the response from politicians has been muted and the financial penalties are tiny compared to the stakes involved.</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the same campaigners have openly mocked the laws intended to protect our democracy: this week, Veterans for Britain organiser David Banks filmed a YouTube video of himself paying his £250 electoral fine dumping it in loose change on their floor, while Banks filmed himself taking a <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/leaveeu-founder-arron-banks-takes-lie-detector-test-in-bid-to-prove-he-didnt-accept-russian-funding-a3901751.html">lie detector test</a> to ‘prove’ he had no unsavoury Russian connections. Now comes the news that the largest donation in Northern Irish history will remain shrouded in secrecy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">In the Spotlight</h2><p dir="ltr">Spotlight’s film—based on months of painstaking investigative work by reporter Jim Fitzpatrick and his team—laid out the main questions hanging over the DUP donation: who are the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Constitutional Research Council</a>, the group that took advantage of Northern Irish donor secrecy laws to funnel £435,00 to the DUP? Why did the party spend more than a quarter of a million pounds on an advert in the Metro, a newspaper that does not even circulate in Northern Ireland?</p><p dir="ltr">But Spotlight also brought new material into the public domain. We already knew that the DUP had spent more than £32,000 on social media with an obscure Canadian data analytics firm called Aggregate IQ. The official UK-wide Leave campaign, Vote Leave, spent around £3m with the same company. But Spotlight revealed that Aggregate IQ’s contact at the DUP was Lee Reynolds, a local councillor seconded to Vote Leave for the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Under UK electoral law, political parties have to know the ultimate source of any money they receive. openDemocracy had already questioned how much the DUP knew about the Constitutional Research Council. But the BBC broadcast an audio recording of the party’s treasurer, Gregory Campbell, asking, “How would I or anybody in our party be expected to know who the individuals are that are involved in the organisation?”</p><p dir="ltr">Spotlight discovered that the DUP Metro ad was booked not by the party itself but by the Constitutional Research Council’s chair, Richard Cook. Meanwhile, cybersecurity expert <a href="https://www.irishnews.com/magazine/2018/05/02/news/brexit-campaign-groups-collaborated-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt-mps-told-1319961/">Chris Vickery</a>&nbsp;told BBC journalists that he had found no evidence of any specific DUP work done by AIQ during the referendum—instead he alleged that the DUP’s spending was lumped in with that of Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">As openDemocracy has reported, the DUP bought merchandise from the same <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Cambridgeshire-based suppliers</a> as Vote Leave and targeted social media ads overwhelmingly at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north">voters in England rather than Northern Ireland</a>. Spotlight also raised the possibility of co-ordination between the different campaigns.</p><h2 dir="ltr">No investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">So, after Spotlight there were even more questions about the DUP’s Brexit donation. The Electoral Commission, two years on the from the referendum and almost 18 months after our first stories, decided it needed to find out more. The regulator wrote to BBC Northern Ireland. Spotlight replied detailing every significant allegation from their film and its source. Most could have been checked in a matter of hours, if not minutes.</p><p dir="ltr">This week the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-referendums/conclusion-of-assessments-into-allegations-regarding-certain-eu-referendum-campaigners">announced</a> that it will not be investigating the allegations made in Spotlight.</p><p dir="ltr">The commission said there was no “significant information” beyond what was in Spotlight’s programme. But Spotlight gave the regulator full details of where its extensive evidence came from, including the names of openDemocracy journalists and our collaborators. We never received a call.</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement the watchdog hinted that Northern Irish donor secrecy laws had influenced its decision—but Spotlight’s allegations have little, if anything, to do with donor secrecy. They hinge on co-ordination, a charge that the Electoral Commission recently found Vote Leave guilty of in relation to donations worth more than £600,000 to BeLeave, a micro-campaign run by student <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">Darren Grimes</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">BBC News—which seemed reluctant to cover the Spotlight investigation—<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-45046316">reported </a>comments from the DUP following the commission decision, saying ‘the BBC employed a man who actively opposed the UK leaving the EU to make this programme’. That the BBC would not seek to defend more robustly its own excellent work on this story is regrettable.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission decision not to investigate Spotlight’s serious evidence is deeply worrying. Last year, openDemocracy revealed that in internal emails the Electoral Commission found Grimes’s spending was “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">unusual</a>” but decided not to act. Subsequently the regulator did investigate, and found that Grimes had broken the law, fining him £20,000 last month.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Chocolate fireguard</h2><p dir="ltr">Bodies such as the Electoral Commission are supposed to act as a fireguard for British democracy. But increasingly it feels like it’s buckling under the heat of the current crisis.</p><p dir="ltr">On paper, the UK has the kind of rules and regulations that a democracy needs to function properly. There are laws, independent regulators, oversight committees at Parliament. But time and again over the past year and a half we have found that the regulation process is failing, whether that’s the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">think tanks with charitable status</a> offering donors access to government or the ministers <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">not recording meetings with lobbyists</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy’s founder, Anthony Barnett, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">has pointed out</a> that Brexit is, in large part, about a new space in the constitutions of modern states: regulation. And it’s increasingly clear that, just as the regulations which are supposed to protect our climate and our financial institutions have clearly failed us, so too has the regulation defending our democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">So where does that leave the DUP’s Brexit donation? Due to Northern Ireland’s donor secrecy laws it is nigh on impossible to find out the names behind it. (An official divulging the information risks a prison sentence.)</p><p dir="ltr">We will continue to investigate, as I’m sure will our colleagues at Spotlight and elsewhere. But without the prospect of effective rules and regulations with real penalties, the threats to the UK’s democratic processes are likely to grow rather than recede.</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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Brexit Inc. openDemocracy investigations Fri, 03 Aug 2018 16:17:04 +0000 openDemocracy investigations 119125 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The anti-semitism crisis shows the Labour leadership needs to get better at listening https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/antisemitism-crisis-shows-labour-leadership-needs-to-get-better-at-listening <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Team-Corbyn need to get better at listening – starting with the organised Jewish community.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/34292338920_22a0f9fe7e_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/34292338920_22a0f9fe7e_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn. Image, Chatham House, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Labour leadership's problem, now verging on crisis, over anti-semitism is of course hugely relevant in and of itself. At best the leadership, or at least those in positions of ultimate control and authority, seem to have a tin ear when it comes to the persecution of a minority in their party and society who horrifyingly understand persecution better than most. But it is also the wider issues of political culture that is revealed here that matters – a culture which tends towards a rigidity and therefore a brittleness that will be the Labour leadership’s undoing unless it is transformed. </p><p dir="ltr">Every political venture has its strengths and its weakness. The strength of the Labour leadership’s is rooted in its outright opposition to the Blair years, its utter lack of any connection to that regime and the hope they provide of a more left wing future. This hope has revitalized the party and its electoral performance in 2017. There are holes to pick and points to be made against this analysis but they currently carry little weight. Labour is being led in a very different direction and lots of people love it, like it or prefer it to any of the other options that have been on the table. </p><p dir="ltr">But all our upside are also our downsides. The same is true of Labour’s leadership. For forty years the current leadership were in the wilderness, marginalized and unduly and unnecessary dismissed by many in the rest of the party – not least because on some big calls, such as Iraq and the economy they were wholly or largely right. But the very characteristics that made them so attractive in 2015, their moral certainty, their conviction, the lack of taint, now threatens them. Because the flip side is a politics that can’t compromise when necessary, that finds it hard to trust and reach out, to build alliances, to admit it might have got something wrong – when the common narrative they want to push is that they were instead always right. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">A tight circle has the benefit and the comfort of strong internal agreement. Indeed, it was a space in which those hard years in the wilderness could be endured. It allows a command and control structure to be established. It can decide and direct. But it is inflexible, it can’t spot problems coming down the track and react to them with speed. Instead its reaction is to circle the wagons tighter. It is a culture that is tripping them up in Opposition over one, albeit important, issue. How will they cope if they get into government and there is a relentless stream of such issues to which you need to react to quickly and deftly, that you have to negotiate on, win opponents and enemies over and compromise on. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This isn’t a recipe for soggy centrism – that has been tried and failed and since 2008 has been and will remain redundant. Instead it’s a recognition that even the most transformative politics has to be negotiated – that is what politics is – the negotiation of difference. The complexity of modern politics is just too great for a small group or individual to manage. Faced with governing complexity, Gordon Brown famously responded by getting up earlier each morning. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Leadership that has a hope of dealing with the scale and pace of change in the world today must be able to express its vulnerability, to say sometimes ‘we don’t know’, that ‘we got this wrong’, it must be willing and able to conduct a meaningful dialogue with people who they might disagree with – because that is the way we learn, adapt and conduct a better future through negation – not imposition. A political leadership that carries the seeds of hope must be open, democratic and see itself not as the saviors of the people but the servants. </p><p dir="ltr">Of course no leadership should be naïve. There are some in the party who will use and abuse any issue to get their hands back on the wheel. Yes, if the leadership had accepted some of the demands of the Jewish community then some would have demanded more. But that’s more reason to look, act and think big, to be generous, humble and open. Instead, Labour’s leaders have been too defensive and should have had a full and open dialogue with all sections of the Jewish community. </p><p dir="ltr">For now the Labour leadership may ride out the anti-Semitism storm. But it is doing Labour a huge amount of unnecessary damage and bodes very badly for a future that will demand a very different political culture. Politics isn’t a battle for control – it’s the search for meaningful collaboration. Only through mutual cooperation can we hope to solve the economic, social and environmental threats we face. It is our very interconnectedness in the modern world that demands this approach.</p><p dir="ltr">Mary Parker Follett, a socialist feminist from the early years of the last century made the important distinction between ‘power over’ and ‘power with’. ‘Power over’ is power as domination: the ability through the state to make people do what they would otherwise not do. This can of course be necessary to ensure, for example, we pay our taxes and fasten our seat belts. But in a non-deferential and complex world, ‘power over’ has limitations and always fails to unlock and unleash the full potential of people, as they remain unwilling cogs in a machine of limited creative and productive capacity. </p><p dir="ltr">‘Power with’, along with its accompanying ‘power to’, is transformatory precisely because it means that politicians and people work together in the co-creation of a better society. At every point the future is negotiated, rather than imposed. In such a world, knowledge is dispersed and therefore any project is going to be better informed and more adaptable, and the people engaged in it are likely to be more committed precisely because it is ‘their project’. In a world of ‘power with’, no one view dominates, meaning politics can become much more creative and meet all the changes of the complex world we now live in. </p><p dir="ltr">The Labour leadership must start to practice the art of ‘power with’ and should do so first with the Jewish community. If it doesn’t it will fail, not necessarily now but at some stage. </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/shaun-lawson/enough-of-these-disgraceful-slurs-against-jeremy-corbyn">Enough of these disgraceful slurs against Jeremy Corbyn</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/rob-abrams/when-i-found-antisemitism-on-left-jewdas-were-there-for-me">When I found antisemitism on the left, Jewdas were there for me</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 Anti-Semitism and the left Neal Lawson Thu, 02 Aug 2018 15:22:31 +0000 Neal Lawson 119107 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Fake news’ and Facebook: symptoms not causes of democratic decline https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/des-freedman/fake-news-and-facebook-symptoms-not-causes-of-democratic-decline <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Westminster's Fake News Inquiry has some good recommendations, but provides too many scapegoats for our failing politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/banks at fake news.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/banks at fake news.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks at the Fake News Inquiry. Image, Parliament.tv, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">It’s pretty rare for the <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/">report of a minor parliamentary committee</a> to generate such a buzz but perhaps less surprising when the topic is ‘fake news’ and the main villain of the piece is one of the world’s most valuable – and controversial - &nbsp;companies, Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">Traditional news outlets have queued up to congratulate the chair, Damian Collins, and members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee for confronting the horrors of misinformation, condemning the monopoly power of giant tech companies and revealing the ways in which Facebook has facilitated disinformation and hate speech, in particular in relation to allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 Brexit vote. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/british-fake-news-committee-says-democracy-is-facing-a-crisis/2018/07/27/b706c236-91b4-11e8-ae59-01880eac5f1d_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.7eb656b67785">Washington Post</a> described the committee as a ‘plucky little panel’ while the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/28/world/europe/uk-facebook-fake-news.html">New York Times</a> hinted that its findings had influenced the decision of the US Senate Intelligence Committee to launch a similar investigation on foreign intervention into domestic affairs. Matthew d’Ancona in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/29/elections-fake-news-second-referendum-digital-disinformation">the Guardian</a> insisted that this was ‘an admirable example of how parliament can use its powers to frame public policy and urge legislature and executive to respond with equal vigour’ while the New Statesman congratulated the report on coming up with an effective means of regulating tech platforms.</p><p dir="ltr">I can’t remember an official inquiry being received with such gusto but then the report is rescue remedy for legacy media and centrist politics at a time when both have taken some serious knocks. For example, it makes some important conclusions about how to tackle power and wealth in the digital age and confronts some highly insalubrious characters. The lack of transparency about the source of Vote Leave’s finances as well as the behaviour of Arron Banks and Dominic Cummings ahead of the referendum shows everything that is wrong with the role of big money in elections.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile Facebook has, up to this point, miraculously escaped serious regulatory scrutiny. As Siva Vaidhyanathan shows in his elegant new book, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/25/anti-social-media-how-facebook-disconnects-us-undermines-democracy-siva-vaidhyanathan-review">Antisocial Media</a>, Facebook is a surveillance ‘machine’ that weaponises friendship and fuels bigotry without the possibility of redress or meaningful debate. It is, he argues, great for entertainment but terrible for deliberation.</p><p dir="ltr">In this context, I agree with a number of the report’s recommendations, including its call for algorithmic audits to enforce accountability, industry levies and a reclassification of tech companies so that they are required to accept specific responsibilities and liabilities. Such measures are long overdue. </p><p dir="ltr">The report, however, is concerned with far more than just algorithms but with the very nature of democratic life. It <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/">argues</a> that, thanks to targeted advertising and unscrupulous data sources, ‘our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions’ are both ‘at risk’. ‘Fake news’, it appears, is the main cancer that is undermining our electoral processes and fostering ‘hyper-partisan’ views which are polarising contemporary politics. </p><p dir="ltr">This is a very myopic view of a political communications system that has for many years relied on misinformation, spin and cosy relationships between political and media elites. Our political culture was corrupted long before Mark Zuckerberg and even Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix were on the scene. Highlighting the evils of social media at the expense of legacy media in promoting bigotry ignores the more everyday racism of popular news outlets, for example the entirely lawful and openly anti-immigrant front pages that dominated the Mail and the Express throughout the Brexit referendum. Focusing on Banks and Cummings, as vile as they are, without an historical narrative about the decline in public trust of official politics, deflects our attention from the serious damage done to democratic institutions when Tony Blair lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and when Alastair Campbell released his <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/12/iraq-dossier-case-for-war">‘dodgy dossier’</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The report actually acknowledges the frailty of the term ‘fake news’ in that it refers to hugely different practices – from falsehoods deliberately concocted to undermine elections and referenda through to perspectives that are simply seen as unwelcome and controversial – and suggests that government should, from now on, refer to misinformation instead. This is probably a sensible step, particularly in the light of <a href="https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/news-you-dont-believe-audience-perspectives-fake-news">academic findings</a> that reveal that most ordinary users see the difference between deliberate misinformation and mainstream journalism as one of ‘degree’ and fail to make a clear distinction between them. While being aware of the extent of misinformation online, users interviewed by researchers from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism actually ‘placed more emphasis on journalists and politicians as purveyors of fake news’. Little wonder therefore that the ‘fake news’ report has been greeted so positively by many journalists. The fact remains, however, that misinformation is not the exclusive property of Russian plutocrats and <a href="https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/">Macedonian teenagers</a> but also lies much closer to home with the ‘legitimate’ activities of our own security services, government communications and legacy media.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, we lack sufficient empirical data about the scale and impact of deliberate misinformation circulating through channels like Facebook. So while <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook">Buzzfeed famously found</a> that in the final three months of the 2016 US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from elite media, economists <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w23089">Allcott and Gentzkow</a>, on the other hand, conducted a huge analysis of social media data from the election and found that the average adult saw and remembered a mere 1.14 fake stories. None of the ‘false news websites’ studied by <a href="https://agency.reuters.com/content/dam/openweb/documents/pdf/news-agency/report/dnr-18.pdf">Reuters researchers</a> during the 2018 Italian and French elections had an average monthly reach of over 3.5% compared to the dominant news sites of Le Figaro and La Repubblica which had a monthly reach of 22% and 51% respectively. The fact is we simply don’t know how big a problem ‘fake news’ is in terms of its material impact on voting behaviour although it certainly provides official politics with some useful scapegoats in such a polarised political climate, not least the idea – powerfully challenged <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2018/7/27/noam_chomsky_on_mass_media_obsession">by Noam Chomsky recently</a> – that the Russians aren’t just coming but have arrived in domestic politics.</p><p dir="ltr">The irony of the Commons select committee receiving such a positive response about its ‘fake news’ report is that it did little under its previous chairs to address the deregulatory climate which allowed Facebook and Google, as well as the Mail and the Sun, to assume such dominant positions in our media diets. ‘Fake news’ is not an exception to but the logical result of a commercial media system that privileges short-term rewards and commercial impact. The rise of programmatic advertising and the domination of advertising by Google and Facebook are hardly peripheral developments but part of a structural readjustment of the media. So while it’s welcome that the Committee is now identifying digital monopolies as a ‘problem’, it was the lack of ‘plucky’ behaviour by politicians and regulators that allowed them to become such a problem in the first place.</p><p dir="ltr">So hats off to the Committee for finally realising that something needs to be done to tackle the unaccountable power of tech giants. But if we imagine that democracy only started to wither with the arrival of social media and if we refuse to acknowledge the role of our mainstream media and centrist politicians in paving the way for the latest ‘crisis of democracy’, then we’re bound to keep repeating the same mistakes.</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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry">What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry</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 Des Freedman Thu, 02 Aug 2018 11:21:26 +0000 Des Freedman 119101 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On the wrong side of history: the dangers facing Brexitland https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/tahir-abbas/on-wrong-side-of-history-dangers-facing-brexitland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Britain is sadly leading the way in a regressive, narrow-minded and divisive politics... I am leaving behind a Brexit Britain that is rudderless, leaderless and completely hollow within."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32401490.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32401490.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Big Ben, at the House of Commons in Westminster, London. Victoria Jones/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>A few days ago, I packed my bags and left. After two years of living and working in London, I took the decision to leave the UK and take up an academic appointment at Leiden University in The Hague. Not only am I now able to teach in the area of sociology of terrorism that fascinates me but I can also continue my research and writing in what is a specialist field of study that combines different social science interests, including the important area of social policy. However, the timings of my movements could not have been more prescient. I arrived in London ten days after the Brexit vote. I had followed this issue closely from Istanbul, where I was living and working, and believed there would be no way that a discerning British population would ever accept this useless Tory ruse. To say that I was flabbergasted when the result emerged would be an understatement of immense proportions.</p> <p>Before returning to London, I was living in Istanbul for nearly six years. I moved to Turkey at a time when it was ‘the model’; balancing the forces of Islam, democracy and capitalism; becoming a beacon to all. However, this changed in recent years as the country headed towards authoritarianism, nationalism and populism – diseases affecting many Muslim majority countries led by strongmen seen in mythical terms. </p> <p>After many years of teaching and living in a country with so much richness, history and character, the politics began to change and I ended up on the wrong side of history. Less than ten days after I left the country, Turkey endured a failed military coup that resulted in the loss of 250 lives and the introduction of emergency rule. It ultimately led to hundreds of thousands of people purged, arrested or incarcerated for their affiliation (alleged or otherwise) with the movement alleged to be at the centre of this dramatic political event. </p> <p>Suffice to say, my former University disappeared from the face of the earth, students were scattered all over the public sector and academic staff, both foreign and Turkish, had their contracts cancelled with immediate effect. Existing divisions in Turkish society heightened because of this event, leading to the emergence of an executive presidential system that effectively places one man at the helm but with few internal checks and balances.</p> <h2><strong>A climate of fear </strong></h2> <p>Populism, nationalism and a form of fascism and the deeply flawed inward-looking myths about the greatness of the nation have engulfed many western European nations, with Britain sadly leading the way in a regressive, narrow-minded and divisive politics led by the uber-elite and ultra-nationalists. This manufactured climate of fear, hate and indifference has seeped into all aspects of social, cultural, economic and political life. It is a disdain towards the poor, the old and the infirm. It is racism, snobbery and cronyism of the highest order. It is a sad state of affairs reflecting a decline in thinking, lack of new ideas of any sort and the desire to hold onto the existing but repeatedly-proven-to-be-failing neoliberal globalisation economic model at all cost. </p> <p>The British ‘Brexiteers’ have come to dominate the debate on Britain leaving the EU – a decision made upon a referendum that was not legally binding. This uber-elite, with their tentacles in politics and government, could not muster the idea of the EU legislation against offshore tax havens that London has become famous for over the last five decades. For this they are willing to overhaul forty years of integration with the continent on all matters of trade, movement of labour and the exchange of intellectual, political and cultural ideas. This exclusive sub-set of the population felt that external agents hell-bent on undermining the ‘will of the people’ were controlling ‘their country’ and used all the dark and dubious methods at their disposal to whip up an already beleaguered and battered Britain.</p> <p>Because of the selfish perspectives of individuals with limited outlooks that promulgate this whole endeavour, I am leaving behind a Brexit Britain that is rudderless, leaderless and completely hollow within. From the initial campaign to today, the British people have endured a hoodwinking of immense proportions. Since the introduction of austerity in 2010, a completely avoidable policy that was always going to create more problems, divisions in society have continued to grow. The superrich are becoming an even greater subset of the population that has more wealth relative to others but is also distancing itself from the ordinary people more than ever. Austerity led to resentment towards immigrants, minorities and the ‘undeserving’ poor. These sentiments were ratcheted up further by carefully targeted online and off-line messages to appeal to the disaffected, disillusioned and disagreeable who were directed to blame those closest to them geographically but presented as seemingly the most distanced culturally. </p> <p>The refugee crisis that arose because of interventions in Syria affected populations across Europe as groups made their way through the Balkan route into western Europe. Islamophobia and racism went hand-in-hand, with Brexit permitting self-selecting elites to reproduce but also legitimise this animosity and intolerance towards others. These are dangerous times globally, with populism affecting the US, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Turkey, India and potentially Pakistan. I could see it bubbling away in Turkey, especially towards the end of my time there, when ISIS had come to the fore and terrorism was increasingly becoming the new normal in Turkey. When I lived on Fifth Avenue during my NYU Fall Semester stay, I also saw it in New York after the 2015 San Bernardino attacks. These led one neighbour on my street, Donald Trump, to state on record his desire for a ‘Muslim ban’ if he got elected as President. In the UK, there were five terrorist attacks in 2017. Now the UK is in an unprecedented time of uncertainty, affecting every part of society, public and private, open and closed. As the Brexit campaign revelations increasingly reveal foul play, this further sullies the already shadowy waters that surround this redundant escapade.</p> <h2><strong>Fresh outlook</strong></h2> <p>In moving to The Hague to research and teach in areas deemed too sensitive in the UK – namely, the sociological parameters of what drives extremism and radicalism – I take on a fresh outlook. Ever since the ‘war on terror’, the UK has focused on a narrow perspective on the causes and the solutions. Prevent is a focus into communities based on the view that by de-radicalising Muslims through top-down measures, terrorism can be prevented. It is also an attempt to connect UK internal issues with those leading to the movement of foreign fighters into theatres of conflict. The net outcome is to pathologise communities by taking attention away from local-structural issues and global-geopolitical matters. In the Dutch context, where concern exists on matters of radicalisation and terrorism among diaspora Muslim groups, analysis, engagement and policy development have nuance. The norm is less alarmism in general and more sensitivity concerning the delivery of effective solutions while working with an array of partners. </p> <p>Stark differences between the academy, government and civil society lead to gaping holes in the UK. Left-leaning academics regard all ‘Prevent’ as necessarily bad in the main. The UK government is paralysed by Brexit, but the internal departments working in the area of countering violent extremism are too numerous and are spread across Whitehall, with a lack of clarity on what each is doing and to what end. Civil society organisations are active, vociferous and confident of expressing their reservations about policy and practice. However, all of these UK constituents talk past each other, such is the intensity with which individuals and groups are entrenched in their positions.</p> <p>Fortunately, options are on the table. This includes abandoning the whole idea altogether; carrying out a second referendum where the people will get to vote on the ‘deal’; and the possibility of a Tory government collapse in the autumn with another election on the horizon. However, various Blairites and other right-leaning politicians within the Labour Party may push for another attempt to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party. It is easy to feel disempowered. </p> <p>However, it is important to remember that the people, not the politicians who rule over them, often define history. A great deal of momentum is shifting attitudes and changing political behaviour around Brexit. This is emerging from all sides of the political divide. With this in mind, I remain optimistic that the British people will do the right thing in the end. Meanwhile, I continue my work and my ongoing engagements with colleagues in the EU, the UK, North America and across the Middle East.</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="/conflicts/democracy_terror/islamist_journey_around_faith_nation">&quot;The Islamist&quot;: a radical journey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-terrorism/muslims_3120.jsp">Muslims in Britain after 7/7: the problem of the few</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Brexit2016 Tahir Abbas Wed, 01 Aug 2018 07:32:06 +0000 Tahir Abbas 119085 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs, accused of offering US donors access to government ministers, is among right-wing think tanks meeting monthly. Conservative MPs have attended, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" 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'>55 Tufton Street, where many of the meetings take place. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK’s leading right-wing think tanks discuss strategy and tactics at regular monthly meetings that have been attended by Conservative MPs, openDemocracy has learned. Among those in attendance are the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians and campaigners say the meetings raise concerns about transparency in British politics. Separately, openDemocracy can reveal today that the IEA also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. The IEA does <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">not declare its funders</a>,</p><p dir="ltr">The regular think tank meetings are chaired jointly by staff from the pro-Brexit website Brexit Central and low-tax campaigners the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, chair of the Tories’ policy commission, recently tweeted his thanks to both Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby and TPA campaign manager James Price “for their invitation to speak at Tuesday meeting of think tanks”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The think tank meetings have taken place at 55 Tufton Street, home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them are the TPA, until 2015 the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus around humans causing climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">Monthly meetings are regularly attended by at least 30 people including representatives from free-market think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies, and news site Brexit Central, as well as the IEA and the TPA. A source familiar with the meetings said that it was an opportunity “for everyone to convene together and align their messaging towards the same goal” on everything from Brexit to Labour party policy announcements.</p><p dir="ltr">Meetings are said to include a number of guest speakers and updates from each think tank, as well as planning of future activities. “You would divvy things up, sometimes might say, ‘The IEA would do that,’ or, ‘The TPA should so this,’” the source added. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Ministerial access</h2><p dir="ltr">The TPA, Brexit Central and the IEA have all confirmed to openDemocracy that they participate in the monthly meeting. Some of these groups had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/vote-leave-whistleblower-sues-taxpayers-alliance-for-unfair-dismissal">previously dismissed</a> reports that they attended fortnightly meetings involving various right-wing think tanks. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA’s access to government ministers and senior officials have been in the spotlight this week after an investigation by Greenpeace and The Guardian secretly filmed the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood telling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">undercover reporters</a> that his organisation was “in the Brexit-influencing game” and that US donors could get to know ministers on “first name terms”. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is a registered charity. The Charity Commission is currently investigating the think tank over <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-iea-thinktank-over-cash-for-access-claims">concerns about its political independence</a>. Separately, questions have been raised over whether the IEA should be registered as a lobbyist. The IEA said that the Guardian story was “incorrect”, adding, “We have put in a complaint calling for a retraction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the think tank hired Shanker Singham, whose work on trade for another think tank, Legatum, proved controversial. The Charity Commission later <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">concluded a report he had co-written</a> on the benefits of Brexit had “failed to met the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>” to the Brexit process, including regular meetings with a host of ministers. Singham’s contact with Steve Baker, a former minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, came under particular scrutiny after <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.tskv2xp0V#.pc1bznqBj">BuzzFeed reported</a> that Baker had failed to declare frequent meetings with the adviser. Baker told BuzzFeed that they had not discussed government business and so there was no requirement to register the meetings. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, is also one of the IEA’s most vocal supporters, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">crediting its founders</a> with inspiring deregulations, union reforms and business tax cuts that “saved Britain”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Revolving door’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s revelations about the regular think tank meetings, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “This raises further concerns about the role and influence of the IEA and other shady, non-transparent lobby groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems as if there is a revolving door between right-wing lobbyists, undisclosed donors and senior hard Brexiters expressing undue and unaccountable influence on this extremely important area of public policy.”</p><p dir="ltr">Till Bruckner, advocacy manager for transparency advocates Transparify, said: “Politically influential nonprofits that take money from hidden hands behind closed doors raise red flags because it is completely unclear who funds their operations, and for what purposes. Democracy is undermined when political agendas and discourse are influenced by dark money groups. For this reason, elected representatives and the media should steer clear of them."</p><p dir="ltr">After responding to openDemocracy’s queries earlier today, James Price of the TPA published some of his responses on the campaign group’s <a href="https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/tpa_confirms_that_people_can_meet_in_room_and_disagree_in_good_faith">blog</a> confirming that the meetings take place. </p><p dir="ltr">“The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding—which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media),” Price told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA communications officer Nerissa Chesterfield said that the regular meetings “involve like-minded groups, the purpose of which is to update each other on the reports and research they have published or are currently working on. Yes, the IEA is among the regular attendees and we attend to outline and explain our latest research.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby said: “In a personal capacity I chair a monthly meeting of individuals on the broad centre-right with an interest in public policy.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Tobacco cash and ‘astroturfing’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Greenpeace/Guardian investigation revealed for the first time that the IEA has long received funding from the oil company BP. openDemocracy can reveal today that the group also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. In a letter to the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which holds shares in the company, BAT confirmed that it contributed “circa £40,000” to the think tank in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, and expected to do so again in 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The website <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2016_.22Broadly_Similar_to_2015.22_and_.22Likely_be_the_Same_in_2017.22">Tobacco Tactics </a>has previously revealed donations from British American Tobacco up to 2016, and that the think tank has worked with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International within the last five years. The current status of these relationships is unknown.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked about these donations, Chesterfield commented: “We respect the privacy of our donors and don’t place a list of them in the public domain; a cornerstone of a free society is being able to associate freely and we want to uphold that. However, our donors are free to make their donations known if they wish to.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">previously revealed</a> that in 2014, the IEA received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and to promote privatisation of each of these areas. </p><p dir="ltr">Chesterfield rejected allegations that funders influenced IEA publications. “We make independent editorial decisions and then seek funding. The work we undertake is work we will do regardless of whether it raises donations,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which the TPA, the IEA and others appear in the media has also attracted attention. A <a href="https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_DirectorGeneral_of_the_BBC_Tony_Hall_BBC_Stop_giving_airtime_to_organisations_whose_funding_is_not_transparent/?aglhIab">campaign has been launched</a> by South West England Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calling on the BBC not to invite guests who do not divulge their organisation’s funders. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: “The more we understand about the activities of these groups, the more it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with ‘astroturfing’ on an industrial basis, with big-money donors hiding behind a veneer of legitimacy to push their own narrow agenda. We need a clear and unambiguous picture of who is behind this model, and a ban on them appearing in the media until we have this transparency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the groups involved in the monthly think tank meetings had strong links with the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott founded the TPA and is ‘editor at large’ at Brexit Central.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was appointed to the IEA’s board earlier this year. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, whose BeLeave campaign received more than £600,000 from Vote Leave in the final weeks of the referendum, had previously worked for Brexit Central. Grimes was recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">fined £20,000</a> by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law over donations to BeLeave, the campaign that he headed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>On August 1 this piece was amended to reflect that Business for Britain is no longer based at 55 Tufton Street and that James Price corresponded with openDemocracy as well as publishing portions of this correspondence on the TPA website.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</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 DUP Dark money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:26:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 119082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we headed for dustbowl Britain – and what could that mean for our wildlife and our food? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/darren-baxter/are-we-headed-for-dustbowl-britain-and-what-does-that-mean-for-our-wildlife-and-our <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New figures show Britain has lost a third of its most threatened wildlife in recent years – harming both our natural heritage and our ability to produce food. This is the most pressing political issue of our time.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hedgehog.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/hedgehog.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: It's not just hedgehogs who are hit by hotter, drier summers. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisbourez/21092984765/">Denis Bourez/Flickr</a>, CC 2.0</em></p><p>This summer’s heatwave is a sign of the new normal. Scientists have long predicted that a warmer climate will lead to an increased frequency of hotter weather. As the global death toll rises and forests burn in the Arctic Circle, it should be clear that we have irrevocably changed our planet.</p> <p>But in the intensity of the coverage focussed on the heatwave, we must recognise that the damage we are doing to our planet is threatening the preconditions on which humans thrive.</p> <p>It is in this context that government released its&nbsp;<a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/726725/UKBI_2018.pdf" target="_blank">2018 UK Biodiversity Indicators</a><span>&nbsp;this month</span>. These figures show that human impacts on the planet through intensive agriculture, urbanisation and climate change, led to the loss of a third of our most threatened wildlife, half of our woodland birds and nearly half of our butterflies since 1970, and nearly a quarter of our pollinating insects since 1987.</p> <p>It is findings such as these which led Scientists to warn that we are currently in the midst of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089" target="_blank">sixth mass extinction</a>, the last being that which wiped out the dinosaurs.<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/11/chris-packham-springwatch-warns-of-ecological-apocalypse-britain" target="_blank"> Spring Watch presenter Chris Packham has warned of an ‘ecological apocalypse’ in the UK</a>.</p> <p>Underneath these figures, we are seeing a significant change in our natural environment. The natural flora and fauna we associate most with the British countryside is under threat.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/wildlife-extinct-revolutionise-food-farming-species-declines-wiped-out-a8233511.html" target="_blank">Hedgehogs, skylarks and birds of prey are all facing terminal decline</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-heatwave-weather-effect-nature-animals-birds-wildfires-temperatures-a8431541.html" target="_blank">This summer’s heatwave is making it hard for birds, such as robins, blue tits and blackbirds, to find water and at the same time evaporating the habitat of frogs, toads and newts.&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is easy for many people, particularly those living in urban areas, to see the crisis unfolding in the countryside as remote and disconnected from their lives – a regrettable but seemingly inevitable reality. In fact, the release of these figures by government garnered little interest. But environmental collapse is already having significant impacts on human life.</p> <p>Our natural environment is essential for human existence. The loss of bio-diversity exposes crops to a greater threat of pests and disease and harms soil fertility, whilst the loss of pollinators specifically threatens the ability of plants to reproduce, undermining the whole food chain and wider eco-system. All of this hits the agricultural system to provide sufficient food.</p> <p>These impacts cannot be underestimated. Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned that we are only 30 to 40 years away from a radical depletion of soil fertility, and with it our ability to produce food in the UK.</p> <p>At the same time, the<a href="https://bbsrc.ukri.org/news/food-security/2017/170113-pr-gfs-programme-unveils-environmental-tipping-points/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Governments research programme on food security</a>&nbsp;argued that if intensive methods of farming continue alongside our warming climate we could experience events which will fundamentally alter our ability to produce food. For example, drought conditions in 2012 meant that East Anglia came close to experiencing a dustbowl, like that in US in the 1930s.</p> <p>Were this to happen, it would destroy a large proportion of the country’s ability to produce high value agricultural crops such as potatoes, and with it bring major economic and social consequences. This threat has not dissipated and should be of particularly concern as we look out on our currently parched countryside.</p> <p>These pressures occur at a time when globally, if diets continue as they are now, we will need to produce as much food over the next 50 years as we have produced in all of human history, placing even greater pressure on our agricultural system.</p> <p>These are all signs of an unfolding crisis. While Brexit dominates political thinking at present, political leaders over the next few decades will need to rapidly get to grips with a world that humans have fundamentally altered and an environment in which risk is non-linear and compounding, adversely impacting on the economy, human health and our social and political systems. This is most pressing for the millennial generation, those born between 1981 and 1997, who will both inherit and act as first responders to the coming environmental collapse.</p> <p>At&nbsp;IPPR&nbsp;we are working on a project that aims to develop an understanding of how to respond to this crisis. Our central argument is that environmental collapse will be the defining challenge of the coming decades and politicians will need to address it through two major efforts.</p> <p>Firstly, we need to recognise that our economic system and the degradation of our environment are inextricably linked.&nbsp;<a href="https://goodlife.leeds.ac.uk/" target="_blank">As analysis from the University of Leeds shows, no country has been able to meet the basic social needs of its population without going beyond its environment’s limits.</a>&nbsp;Any response will require ensuring that future economic activity can deliver what is needed socially but is also safe environmentally. To achieve this, we must reimagine our economic norms and institutions so that they are able to deliver environmental restraint alongside greater equity.</p> <p>Secondly, we need to ensure that our society and economy are resilient to the damage that humans have already done. This will mean us investing in infrastructure, both social and physical, as well as technologies and systems that allow us to live within an environment that we have fundamentally changed.</p> <p>On both fronts, politics is currently failing to deliver. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adapting-to-climate-change-national-adaptation-programme" target="_blank">governments national adaptation plan</a> (which sets out what it, the private sector and civil society are doing to ensure our resilience to climate change) has been criticised for failing to fully live up to scale of the challenge we face as a society.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theccc.org.uk/2018/07/19/the-new-national-adaptation-programme-hit-or-miss/" target="_blank">Of the 56 climate risks facing the UK that have been identified by the government’s Committee on Climate Change, only 19 are addressed.</a></p> <p>In the context of this heatwave, of wild fires and bio-diversity loss, it is clear that future generations will need to take bolder action. The decline of butterflies in the English countryside is easy to dismiss now, but the full consequence of environmental breakdown will be harder to ignore. It is imperative that both the current and upcoming political generations understand the scale of the coming crisis and seek to develop the tools to address it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/climate-change-vs-brexit-distraction-emergency-opportunity">Climate change vs Brexit: the distraction, the emergency, the opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/is-britain-sleepwalking-into-food-crisis">Is Britain sleepwalking into a food crisis?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/tomas-remiarz/brexit-food-and-land-ownership-its-time-for-new-direction">Brexit, food and land ownership - it&#039;s time for a new direction</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 Darren Baxter Tue, 31 Jul 2018 14:41:53 +0000 Darren Baxter 119078 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Brexit threatens activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/amy-hall/why-brexit-threatens-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May’s Brexit not only reduces democratic and judicial oversight of future decisions – it could restrict UK activists’ ability to protest bad decisions, free from interference and intrusive surveillance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/fracking demo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/fracking demo.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: Anti-fracking protestors in Preston, June 2018. Credit: Andrew McCoy/Zuma Press/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>The struggle to pass the EU Withdrawal Act was one of the biggest political upsets of the Brexit process so far. One of the major sticking points was human rights. Several related amendments proposed by the Lords were voted down by Parliament last month, leaving human rights advocates reeling.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“As a result ordinary people will now have fewer legal tools to fight back when Parliament puts the interests of the powerful ahead of equality, fairness and human dignity,” <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/press-releases-and-statements/needless-step-backwards-uk-libertys-response-eu-withdrawal-bill">said</a> Martha Spurrier, Director of the human rights organisation Liberty after the vote.</p> <p>The EU Withdrawal Act transposes EU law into our domestic law, but it will also remove the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union from UK law. It has also given ministers ‘Henry VIII powers’, which enable them to amend or repeal legislation without the usual parliamentary scrutiny.</p> <p>What does this mean for activists who may want to take legal action against environmentally destructive companies or policy, or defend their right to protest and collectively organise?</p> <h2>Lack of scrutiny</h2> <p>The Henry VIII powers are one of the most controversial aspects of the EU Withdrawal Act for human rights campaigners.</p> <p>“It basically means ministers behind closed doors rewriting the statutes and then presenting them to parliament in a pretty impoverished procedural process which only allows parliament to either vote it up or vote it down. There’s not much debate and they can’t amend it,” says Corey Stoughton, Advocacy Director at Liberty, explaining that the usual set of processes and opportunities for intervention would not be there.</p> <p>This could make influencing policy change and formation, in relation to former EU laws, even harder for environmentalists.&nbsp; </p> <p>“An engaged citizen activist has very little opportunity to feed into that process,” says Stoughton. “By contrast, powerful interests who have the capacity to gain audiences with minsters have much more power and influence over how minsters use those powers to rewrite EU laws… it’s about fear of disproportionately powerful and wealthy interests being able to influence policy in a way that isn’t particularly democratic.”</p> <h2>Fundamental Rights &nbsp;</h2> <p>The argument goes that the loss of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not a big deal because the right to freedom of assembly and association is in Article 11 of the UK’s <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1">Human Rights Act</a>, which interprets the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).</p> <p>“The thing about this right is it can be limited,” says Joelle Grogan, a lecturer and legal academic at Middlesex University. “The state could create a situation that would limit your right to go and protest.”</p> <p>There are various restrictions on this, including that it would need to be “in the interests of national security or public safety”. </p> <p>Kevin Blowe of the <a href="https://netpol.org/">Network for Police Monitoring</a> (Netpol) points out that the Human Rights Act usually only comes into play after someone feels their rights have been infringed – it doesn’t necessarily stop the thing from happening to them in the first place. “The only compensation sometimes is the payment of some money which doesn’t really deal with the issue about why it was that the forces of the state, mainly the police in relation to rights of assembly and rights of expression, do not understand these issues in the first place.”</p> <p>Grogan says that the loss of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is something for activists to consider. “This is to me the greatest threat of Brexit, in terms of human rights,” she says. Its scope is also wider as it applies to European institutions as well as at the national level.</p> <p>A key thing about the Charter, compared to the ECHR, is that it can be used to strike down or disapply any primary legislation that violates human rights, based on the ‘<a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/sites/default/files/Bringing%20human%20rights%20home%20-%20Jan%202018.pdf">general principles of EU law</a>.’ &nbsp;</p> <p>“The courts can often take a strong sense of protecting protest as part of democracy, but this is limited,” says Grogan. “If they are ever faced with an Act which says no-one can protest against this environmental regulation, for example, there is nothing they could do.” </p> <p>According to the <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/774/774.pdf">right by right analysis</a> of the EU Withdrawal Bill, produced by the House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights, the loss of the Charter could diminish the enforceability of the right to freedom of assembly and association.</p> <h2>Restricted resistance </h2> <p>While the EU Withdrawal Act and current Brexit process may not present a direct threat to the right to protest, there are other aspects which could have an impact on activists. For example, increased restrictions on freedom of movement could restrict activists who want to cross borders to take direct action, or work in solidarity with others. </p> <p>There are also added concerns for EU citizens who are migrants in the UK. Grogan says that people with criminal records for activism may have a reduced chance of formalising their immigration status in the UK post Brexit. “You would be immediately subject to the hostile environment,” she says. “Being able to find out what information is held on you and what information is being used about you is very important.”</p> <p>For Blowe, one of the biggest concerns about Brexit for environmental activists is the potential loosening up of regulations that apply to businesses, of which the fracking industry is a prime example. “I think the weakening of the regulations will make it easier for companies to get away with a lot more,” he says. “The institutions that are responsible for this regulation – the Environment Agency and so on, have been gutted over 10 years of austerity and don’t have enough staff that can actually deal with this stuff.</p> <p>“Direct action protests are always a last resort, so if it becomes a lot simpler for companies to get away with breaking planning regulations and environmental regulations the last resort will arise an awful lot quicker.”</p> <p>Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights covers the protection of personal data, including stipulation that data concerning individuals must be processed after their consent, or “some other legitimate basis laid down by law”. It also says that everyone has the right of access to any data collected that concerns them, as well as the right to have that data rectified. </p> <p>In the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ right by right analysis, the protection of personal data is highlighted as being one of the areas where there would not be equivalent legislation in the UK once the Charter is removed due to “the vast number of exemptions and derogations from these rights provided for in the Bill.”</p> <p>“EU data privacy rights have been one of the most critical tools to fighting mass surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Act,” explains Stoughton. This much contested legislation allows the state to undertake mass surveillance, including hacking lage numbers of computers, phones and tablets and collecting data about people’s digital communications </p> <p>and records about those communications created by our devices. It also allows the creation and linking of huge ‘bulk personal datasets’.</p> <p>“Depending on how courts interpret the privacy rights that we have under the Human Rights Act, the EU Withdrawal Act may prove to be a danger to encourage growing government surveillance, unconstrained by the safeguards that are needed to make sure that the surveillance powers aren’t used to spy on people engaged in protest activity,” says Stoughton.</p> <p>Liberty has made several legal challenges to the Investigatory Powers Act, including a successful High Court challenge in April. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was referenced several times throughout the <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/press-releases-and-statements/liberty-wins-first-battle-landmark-challenge-mass-surveillance">ruling</a>, which concluded that Part 4 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is incompatible with fundamental rights in EU law.</p> <p>Whatever the legislation, Blowe points out that the police can often find ways to conceal what data they are holding on activists as “they tend to fall back on law enforcement and national security exemptions and just say, well, we can neither confirm or deny.”</p> <p>He points out that new GDPR regulations could potentially be used by campaigners to target companies who may also be gathering information about activists and sharing it between them.</p> <p>GDPR will remain part of UK law after Brexit and Blowe does not seem worried that it, and other data protections, will be significantly amended straight after. “I can’t imagine, given the complexities and the fact that data is shared internationally, that there is anything that a post Brexit government can do to undermine data protection regulations,” he says. </p> <p><strong>A sign of things to come?</strong></p> <p>In their 2017 <a href="https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto">manifesto</a> the Conservatives said that, while they wouldn’t repeal or replace the Human Rights Act during the Brexit process, they would “consider our human rights legal framework,” once it was over. The promise to remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights was only extended for the duration of this parliament.</p> <p>As Home Secretary, Theresa May promised to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/sep/30/conservitives-scrap-human-rights-act">scrap</a> the Human Rights Act and her party’s 2015 manifesto reiterated that promise, saying it would introduce a British Bill of Rights. </p> <p>“You are seeing these increasingly negative narratives around human rights and their importance,” says Grogan. “There is a concern that this is only going to get worse and it’s going to build into this narrative that human rights are only for minorities, only for criminals, only for terrorists and we should get rid of human rights because they are only being used for bad people.”</p> <p>But how likely is it that the next government will scrap the Human Rights Act as soon as it takes power? “I wonder how much of a priority it is behind trying to sort out trade negotiations, agriculture and all the other horrendously complicated things that they’re going to need to do,” says Blowe, who points out that a government would not need to get rid of the Human Rights Act to restrict the right to protest. “That’s happened pretty much consistently over the last 15 years. There have been bits of laws that have given the police additional powers,” he explains.</p> <p>Stoughton says that while there is nothing about the EU Withdrawal Act that will necessarily make it easier to repeal the Human Rights Act, the sounds the Government have made on it have left her concerned.</p> <p>“Given the chance, there are definitely constituencies in government, including the Prime Minister, who would love to eradicate the Human Rights Act from the statute books. The degree to which they used the Withdrawal Bill to advance an anti-human rights political agenda to abandon the [EU] Charter of Fundamental Rights was really quite disturbing.”</p> <p>But she also notes that a strong fight was put up against this, including from key people within the Tory party. “When the government comes for human rights there will be a fight. I think the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is one thing, but if they come for the ECHR the fight will be far more intense… there are reasons to be optimistic.”</p> <p>While it seems the way that police behave can sometimes be down to luck, dependent upon how well they know the law and how they interpret it, it can also be argued that laws can help defend against some of the worst treatment of activists by police paid to protect property and financial interests.</p> <p>Human rights laws and other legal protections can also be used by activists to hold the state to account on a range of issues, from protest policing to surveillance. As we leave the EU and ministers seek to amend such laws, we may need to put up a fight or see them quietly erased.</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="/openglobalrights/stephen-hopgood/brexit-and-human-rights-winter-is-coming">Brexit and human rights: winter is coming</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/amy-hall/fracking-giants-grasp-for-dirty-brexit-bonanza">Fracking giants grasp for dirty Brexit bonanza</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">Trump&#039;s visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brendan-montague/soft-clean-brexit-or-hard-dirty-brexit-great-unpicking-of-eu-regulations-begins">Soft clean Brexit or hard dirty Brexit: The great unpicking of EU regulations begins</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/brendan-montague/of-red-tape-and-brexit-red-herrings-in-war-between-business-and-enviro">Of red tape and Brexit red herrings in the war between business and the environment</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. Amy Hall Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:39:36 +0000 Amy Hall 119077 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We should bridge the earnings gulf between legal aid and commercial lawyers https://www.opendemocracy.net/geoffrey-bindman/rich-and-poor-in-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Much of the income of City law firms comes directly from the public purse at many times legal aid rates. How can this be justified?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1,_rue_d&#039;Astorg,_75008_Paris.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-1,_rue_d&#039;Astorg,_75008_Paris.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Clifford Chance, Paris office. 1 Rue d'Astorg. Wikicommons/ Antonin garric. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the former Lord Chief Justice, has called on the Government to act over the widening gulf between huge earnings at City law firms and the funding of public sector legal advice. (<em>The Times</em>, 25 June 2018). In 2012 and 2016, Lord Justice Rupert Jackson, who recently retired at the age of 70, &nbsp;produced his blockbuster reports on litigation costs running to over 1200 pages. Yet his Herculean labours barely touched on the problem highlighted by Lord Thomas. </p> <p>It would be unfair to blame Sir Rupert. His task was not to examine disparities in lawyers’ pay but to &nbsp;review the system which enables one party (usually the successful one) to recover from another some or all of the costs of litigation. </p> <p>His brief was limited to “recoverable” costs. “Actual costs” – the amount the client owes his lawyer – were outside it. His remit did not include the fundamental question: why are some lawyers paid so much more than others? </p> <h2><strong>Loser pays</strong></h2> <p>The principle that the loser pays the winner’s costs is deeply embedded in our system and it is important that the calculation of those costs – which are often less than the actual costs – should be fairly conducted and supervised. This is the main function of an army of costs specialists – costs judges, draftsmen, costs counsel and solicitors. Yet the bulk of legal work in the commercial field at least is&nbsp; “non-contentious”. There is no losing party involved, so the full costs are the responsibility of the client alone. The solicitor and the client agree the terms of their arrangement (“retainer”), which includes hourly rates or other forms of charging and an estimate of how long the work will take. When the job has been done, the solicitors submit their bill and the client is expected to pay up. Actual costs can still be charged even when offset by recoverable costs (if recovered). <span class="mag-quote-center">”You can challenge your solicitor’s bill if you think you have been charged too much.”</span></p> <p>Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974 provides for ultimate judicial supervision of charges for both contentious and non-contentious business. The Government website GOV.UK states categorically: ”You can challenge your solicitor’s bill if you think you have been charged too much. Ask the Senior Courts Costs Office to make a detailed assessment of your bill. They can reduce your bill if they think it’s too expensive.”</p> <h2><strong>What criteria?</strong></h2> <p>What criteria do they apply? Efforts have been made in recent years to establish meaningful rates for recoverable costs. The Costs Committee of the Civil Justice Council in 1999 drew up detailed “Guideline Hourly Rates”, calibrated according to the experience of the fee earner and the locality of the practice for use by judges required to make summary assessments. These were endorsed by the Master of the Rolls and have been updated several times. &nbsp;</p> <p>In 2014, however, the then MR, Lord Dyson, decided not to change the rates fixed in 2010 and they have not been changed since. The highest hourly rate for the most experienced solicitors based in the City of London is £409. However, Guideline Hourly Rates were not meant to determine what&nbsp; solicitors could charge their own client. As Jackson said in his final report: ”it is not feasible to preordain how much clients must pay to their lawyers in every individual case. Also, that would be an unacceptable interference with freedom of contract. The best we can do is to restrict the recoverable costs.”</p> <p>Ultimately, the only determinant of actual costs is “market forces”. It is true that the client must be given full details of the terms of business, including the persons who will carry out the work, their charging rates, and the projected cost. This information must be updated regularly as the work progresses. Costs budgeting in advance is also now routine since the Jackson reforms. But once this&nbsp; has been done, the client has little choice but to pay up.</p> <h2><strong>Legal Aid</strong></h2> <p>Legal Aid is a different world. The Government guarantees to pay the lawyers but the Government (through legislation) determines rates of pay. The client has no say in the matter except when a contribution is called for. The lawyer’s choice is: take it or leave it.<span class="mag-quote-center"> The lawyer’s choice is: take it or leave it. </span></p> <p>We are still some way from explaining the huge disparities between the earnings of &nbsp;solicitors in different areas of law, especially between those in the commercial sector and those serving the public at large. Allen &amp; Overy’s highest paid partner last year received £3.5 million. The Financial Times reported average profit per equity partner of “magic circle” firms last year: Allen &amp; Overy £1.51 million; Linklaters £1.56 million; Clifford Chance £1.375 million excluding “annuities”, the amount of which is not disclosed); and Freshfields £1.547 million. Increases are already being reported for the current year. In such firms newly qualified solicitors can expect starting salaries upwards of £80,000 (even as much as £140,00). By contrast, the Young Legal Aid Lawyers have recently surveyed their 3500 members, all qualified solicitors for up to 10 years. More than half reported salaries of less than £25,000 and one-third below £20,000. Note that their work demands no less knowledge, skill or stress than commercial law. I know because I have done both.</p> <p>What Lord Thomas describes as the huge earnings of City law firms must largely depend on high hourly rates. In February 2016, the Independent highlighted a report on the cost of law by Jim Diamond, a costs lawyer with 30 years experience in City firms who has been reporting annually on charging rates. Diamond claimed that partners in Magic Circle firms were charging “an average of £850 to £1100 an hour”. He described this as “an epidemic of over-charging”. Even outside the magic circle, it was recently reported by Legal Business that Lord Justice Leggatt in the High Court described costs claimed by the firm Weil Gotshal as “obviously unsustainable “. The top hourly rate demanded was £946 per hour. A trainee was charged at £282 per hour. The Court ordered a substantial reduction.</p> <p>By contrast legal aid rates are specified in great detail by the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations. Many of the rates laid down are for a complete task, regardless of the time taken. Here are some random examples. Legal representation in care or supervision proceedings under the Children Act 1989 is paid for at a maximum of £63.06 per hour in London (£59.26 outside London). In other cases rates for preparation, attendance and advocacy vary between £55 and £70 per hour. In public law cases generally, advocacy fees range from £75.83 for hearings up to an hour long to £612.90 for a full day. These are the fee levels which have led to the recent industrial action taken by junior barristers. <span class="mag-quote-center">These are the fee levels which have led to the recent industrial action taken by junior barristers. </span></p> <h2><strong>Oligopoly</strong></h2> <p>Why then do commercial clients continue to pay exorbitant fees? While undoubtedly” magic circle “ and other City firms are in competition for substantial corporate clients, price competition seems to be avoided. Is it entirely coincidental the partner profits mentioned earlier are so similar to each other?&nbsp; Do we have here an example of oligopoly, when firms in the same business tacitly avoid price competition to keep up the level for all? Those who make the decisions within client firms are not usually spending their own money. However inflated, the total legal fees are often dwarfed by the sums involved in the transactions advised upon. And earnings may not seem excessive when compared with the earnings of the moguls and financial wizards who lead the big commercial clients. <span class="mag-quote-center">Earnings may not seem excessive when compared with the earnings of the moguls and financial wizards who lead the big commercial clients.</span></p> <p>Underlying the dramatic gulf in earnings described by Lord Thomas is the gulf in the self-image of commercial lawyers and those who serve what Lord Thomas calls the public sector. The former have become businesses, seeking to maximise profit. The latter, serving the impoverished and the disadvantaged, are performing a public service. Lord Thomas is referring to the latter. </p> <p>Ironically the public sector, in the form of Government and public authorities, frequently finds itself paying high fees to City solicitors. A recent example is Carillion. The joint parliamentary committee investigating it discovered that Slaughter &amp; May delivered bills for over £8 million for legal advice in the 8 months before its collapse. How many hours were charged at what rates by what fee earners? This has not been reported. What we do know is that much or all of this bill was paid by the public because &nbsp;Carillion was mainly engaged in outsourced public projects.</p> <h2><strong>The public purse</strong></h2> <p>Indeed much of the income of City law firms comes directly from the public purse at many times &nbsp;legal aid rates. How can this be justified? And of course, indirectly, much other income comes from corporations whose own income derives from the public.</p> <p>Lord Thomas poses a real dilemma which echoes the growing global polarisation of rich and poor examined by economists such as Thomas Piketty. British justice has become a saleable commodity on the international market. Senior judges are despatched overseas to drum up business. (One of them told me so himself). The financial success of City firms boosts our economy. Cutting their fees would damage it. </p> <p>So it is argued. But if we are to restore legal aid and redress the imbalance in access to justice, where will the money come from to pay for it? Would it not be fair to recoup from the commercial sector some of the profit they have received from the public purse? During his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice, Michael Gove favoured a levy on the highest earners in the big law firms but was turned down flat by them. Lord Thomas could add the weight of his authority to the revival of this proposal.</p> <p><em>This article first appeared in the <a href="https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/rich-poor-law">New Law Journal</a> on July 20, 2018.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 UK Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality openJustice Geoffrey Bindman Mon, 30 Jul 2018 10:16:36 +0000 Geoffrey Bindman 119060 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DUP’s Facebook ads for Brexit targeted voters outside Northern Ireland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Information released by Facebook shows the DUP said Brexit would be “better for our borders”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A DUP Facebook advert, as released by Facebook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">New Facebook data released by the parliamentary inquiry into Fake News shows that online adverts from the Democratic Unionist Party during the Brexit referendum campaign were targeted overwhelmingly at England, Scotland and Wales, rather than at the DUP’s home territory of Northern Ireland, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">The Facebook data also shows that the DUP adverts included an image saying a Leave vote would be “better for our borders”— a claim that has proven controversial in Northern Ireland, where many voters have expressed concern about what Brexit will mean for the borders with Ireland and with the rest of the UK. The other adverts said “better for jobs”, “better for family budgets” and “better for security”.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP adverts were arranged by the firm AggregateIQ and funded with a £435,000 donation from an unknown source. They were seen by up to 4.7 million times in England, Scotland and Wales, but only up to 860,000 times in Northern Ireland itself, according to openDemocracy’s calculations.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> openDemocracy first started investigating the DUP’s Brexit campaign after coming across pro-Brexit posters in Scotland funded by the party, and a wrap-around advert in Metro newspaper, which appeared across England, Scotland and Wales. Metro isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation to the DUP came to the party via a group called the Constitutional Research Council, which is chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives party. Speaking about Cook at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, described Cook <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-07-04/debates/4FEC9C7F-CFE0-4CC0-8B98-58927A0A54E2/PrimeMinister">as having</a> “a trail of involvement in illegal activities and foreign money”.</p><p dir="ltr">The new information from Facebook, released by the Fake News Inquiry, also included adverts from Vote Leave and from the BeLeave campaign. The two groups were recently fined by the Electoral Commission who found that BeLeave’s campaign was co-ordinated with Vote Leave, and therefore that its expenditure on these advertisements should have been counted as Vote Leave expenditure, which took Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit by more than £500,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, raised concerns about the revelation. She said:</p><p dir="ltr">“These figures raise further questions as to whether there was any co-ordination of campaigns throughout the EU referendum in order to get around legal spending limits.</p><p dir="ltr">‘With the DUP’s messaging in this social media campaign, particularly around "securing borders" and their targeting strategy geared more towards a GB rather than NI audience, questions must be asked as to why precisely these were chosen and whether the large campaign donation which they received from the shadowy Constitutional Research Council came with any direction as to how the money should be spent and where. </p><p dir="ltr">‘This is just one of many concerns which have been aired around the DUP’s alleged conduct during the referendum, as well as the wider campaign. The Electoral Commission should be looking closely at these figures and following up to ensure full transparency.’</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP did not respond to our request for a comment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:29:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 119050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The BBC and Cliff Richard: what threat to press liberty? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-cliff-richard-what-threat-to-press-liberty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asking the Court of Appeal directly for leave to appeal could result in another opportunity to expose the dubious behaviour of the BBC news division, and at a higher judicial level.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24021049.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24021049.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Director general Lord Hall unveils proposals for future of BBC, 2016. Anthony Devlin/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On July 18, Mr Justice Mann handed down his judgment in the case brought by Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC for invasion of privacy. Eight days later, the BBC applied to him for permission to appeal, which he rejected. The BBC may yet approach the Court of Appeal directly, egged on by columnists in certain newspapers who have misread the judgement, and believe it to be a threat to press freedom.</p> <p>On Thursday, August 14, 2014, nearly four years ago, the BBC had led its lunchtime television news bulletin with helicopter footage of a search carried out by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) of an apartment in Sunningdale owned by Sir Cliff. The search followed an anonymous complaint made by a man about an alleged sexual assault 30 years previously, when the complainant was 13 years old. </p> <p>The SYP did not name the target of the search, but the BBC did, in nearly sixty news reports on television that day and the next (as well as countless radio ones): broadcasts, in the judge’s view, “presented with a significant degree of breathless sensationalism”. In awarding the entertainer record damages, the judge made scathing comments about the BBC’s behaviour, and was dismissive of much of the evidence offered by BBC witnesses under oath.</p> <p>Immediately afterwards, standing outside the court, the BBC’s Director of News, Fran Unsworth, who had been Acting Director at the time, and had authorised the use of Cliff Richard’s name, said she needed to absorb the full “200-page” judgement (actually 122 pages, well worth reading) before deciding whether to launch an appeal, claiming – so she said – that freedom of the press was endangered by a judge ruling that factual coverage of a police operation could be unlawful. This was an argument taken up by a number of commentators, including some legal experts; perhaps because they had not read what the judge actually said.</p> <p>The judge’s findings were admirably lucid. “The fact is that there is legislative authority restraining the press in the form of the Human Rights Act [of 1998], and that is what the courts apply in this area. The exercise I have carried out in this case is the same exercise as has to be carried out in other, albeit less dramatic, cases”. </p> <p>The balancing act in each such case – and each case is individual, binding no future judge – is between articles 8 and 10 of the Act, protecting the right to privacy on the one hand and the right to free expression (exemplified by the press) on the other. Mr Justice Mann emphasised that neither right was unfettered, and worked his way through all the arguments on both sides in this particular instance.</p> <p>His first analysis was whether there was a right to privacy when an individual was being investigated by the police, and of that he had no doubt. Even the issue of a search warrant (a low-level escalation of such an investigation) would very rarely justify identification of the target, and it would be a police decision as to whether to make such identification. The judge cited the Leveson Report in support of his ruling, and it is hard to believe that the Appeal Court, or the Supreme Court, would disagree with him. </p> <p>Even then, his ruling leaves it to media outlets to decide for themselves in future situations whether to identify the target of an investigation or search (assuming they know the identity), and whether there is a public interest they could point to that would over-ride any right to privacy. If they were then sued, they could take their chances in court, just as the BBC has done in this case. Unfortunately for the BBC, Mr Justice Mann could see no public interest that required Cliff Richard to be named. The notion – much touted by national newspapers across the political spectrum – that this ruling inhibits press coverage of police activities is simply misconceived. The BBC, in the judge’s opinion, obtained Cliff Richard’s name, and its subsequent confirmation by the SYP, by improper means, and then effectively ignored his privacy rights enshrined in the 1998 Act. It is hard to see how “press freedom” is thereby brought into play. &nbsp;</p> <p>There may well be a public interest in disclosure where someone has been charged (though even that is not a universal rule), and such might also sometimes be the case when a person has been arrested. Even so, it is quite normal for the media to follow whatever formula is adopted by the police: for instance, “a 40-year-old man from Brentford has been arrested”. But the judge was clear that there were no such circumstances in this case, and that the BBC’s decision to name Cliff Richard at all – never mind the helicopter hired to film the search of his flat, and the huge prominence given to the story – was “an invasion of Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a big way”, made despite the BBC knowing well in advance that the police had decided not to publicise a name.</p> <h2><strong>The leak</strong></h2> <p>The BBC argued in court that, although Cliff Richard had a right of privacy against SYP (public authorities being specifically mentioned in the act as not being allowed to interfere with the right to privacy except in particular circumstances, such as where there a danger to public safety), he did not have one against the BBC, which had learned of his identity separately from the SYP (though the SYP had then confirmed it). </p> <p>Mr Justice Mann might have been willing to consider that argument, if the BBC had obtained the name legitimately. But the BBC’s own evidence was that it had come from a source that had clearly breached police confidentiality, such that, in internal email exchanges, news executives acknowledged that they could not have published Cliff Richard’s name as a target of a police investigation simply on the basis of the leak.</p> <p>Nor did the judge accept that the BBC could ignore Cliff Richard’s right to privacy once it had received confirmation from SYP that he was under investigation, and that his UK home would be subject to a search warrant. This was because he believed the BBC had obtained that confirmation by illegitimate methods. Indeed, it is hard to see how someone’s right to privacy could be ignored by a media outlet just because it had gained unauthorised or questionable access to confidential police information. </p> <p>The BBC tried to argue that investigations of historic sex offences were a subject of significant public interest which ought to be reported: and the judge agreed that the <em>fact </em>of an investigation might be a matter of public interest; but naming the target required a much higher level of significance, and in this case amounted to no more, in his view, than the BBC encouraging gossip-mongers in its pursuit of scoops and headlines. </p> <h2><strong>Negative publicity</strong></h2> <p>As a result, he concluded that all the negative publicity about Cliff Richard that followed the BBC’s extensive and exclusive coverage of the search, and identification of its target, was primarily the BBC’s fault: which is why he awarded such high damages. When comparing the £190,000 awarded to Cliff Richard to the £60,000 awarded to Max Mosley a decade earlier (which he re-valued to £76,000 in today’s money), he concluded that this invasion of privacy was at least “twice as bad”, not least because of the world-wide publicity resulting from the dozens of news reports the BBC had broadcast, with great fanfare and huge prominence for the story on its bulletins. </p> <p>The judge said: “I regard the present case as much more, not less, serious than <em>Mosley</em>, and worthy of a much greater sum, not a lesser sum, than <em>Mosley.</em>” He did not think the award likely to “chill” press activity: “it is not an excessive figures; there is no punitive element; it is a genuine compensatory figure”.</p> <p>He awarded a further £20,000 in aggravated damages with regard to the BBC’s submission of its story for the Royal Television Society’s “scoop of the year” award (though he noted it failed to win): a clear case, in his view, of adding insult to injury.</p> <p>He assigned to the SYP sole liability for £5,000 of the damage, for its role in the affair, and also decreed that 35% of the rest of the final damages bill was attributable to the SYP. The police force had settled with Cliff Richard in May 2017, apologising to him, and paying him £400,000 compensation and £300,000 as an advance contribution to his costs, which it had also agreed to pay. In court, the SYP argued that the BBC should make a proportionate contribution to that settlement, and on July 26 the BBC proposed paying the SYP £315,000 and Cliff Richard £850,000 as contributions to their costs.</p> <p>The judge made clear that much of the expense incurred by Cliff Richard in legal and public relations fees that he had incurred defending himself during the two years between the BBC broadcast and the closing of the SYP investigation (he was never arrested or charged) should be recoverable from the BBC and SYP; and possibly lost earnings, too.</p> <h2><strong>Privacy</strong></h2> <p>If the parties do not settle the issue of costs, along with other claims of aggravated damages, Mr Justice Mann will decide the matter. It seems inescapable that the BBC will be required to pay a large additional six-figure amount over and above the £2 million already imposed or offered: the debacle is far more costly than Newsnight’s libelling of Lord McAlpine six years ago (he received £185,000 in damages, and a swift apology, after being wrongly identified as a child abuser). That huge error indirectly led to the departure from office of Director-General George Entwistle after a mere 54 days in post.</p> <p>It is reported that Entwistle’s successor, Lord Hall, who is also a former BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, was personally involved in the decision two years ago to reject an offer from Cliff Richard to withdraw his litigation in exchange for a public apology: that would have saved the BBC over £600,000 in legal costs fighting the case, plus the damages, special damages and additional damages now awarded, and its share of Cliff Richard’s costs. </p> <p>The BBC argues that, in the case of McAlpine, it made a regrettable factual error: with Cliff Richard, the facts broadcast were true. But that misses the point – the evidence in this case is that the BBC barely considered Cliff Richard’s right to privacy (it did worry about defamation), and therefore failed to ask itself whether there actually was any public interest in naming him, with the attendant risk of damage to him (and in due course to itself) in pressing on.</p> <p>The BBC’s editorial guidelines offer seven possible reasons for over-riding a person’s right to privacy on public interest grounds: none fits this case, though Fran Unsworth, giving evidence, cited “exposing or detecting crime” and “protecting people’s health and safety” as being relevant. The judge struggled to see how that was. Fortunately for her, he concluded that what<em> he </em>thought relevant was rather more important than what <em>she</em> thought.</p> <p>She also said she was concerned about possible future criticism if the BBC did not report what it knew (no doubt thinking back to its long silence on Jimmy Savile): but again, the judge rejected her concern. “There was no obligation on the BBC to report [what it knew]: future criticism of the nature feared by Ms Unsworth does not matter”. </p> <h2><strong>The “huddle”</strong></h2> <p>Fran Unsworth was asked in court what legal advice she had taken, but – apart from saying that she had indeed sought advice before naming Cliff Richard – she failed to specify whether that advice had covered the issue of privacy and the balance between articles 8 and 10, as opposed to defamation. What the BBC witnesses said was that there had been a 15-minute management “huddle” on the newsroom floor on the day of the search, with Fran Unsworth at the heart of it, and that at 12.30 she authorised the naming of Cliff Richard in the 13.00 news bulletin. </p> <p>The judge refrained from pointing out that by this stage the BBC had committed to tens of thousands of pounds of expenditure, not just in deploying a helicopter to overfly the Sunningdale apartment block, but despatching news teams to Portugal and Barbados to seek responses from Cliff Richard at his respective homes there. The BBC’s contract with ITN (they shared the costs of the helicopter on the basis of also mutually declaring breaking news stories to each other when using it) had been carefully sidestepped (something of which the judge took a dim view). </p> <p>The news division was far too committed by 12.30 that day to pull back. Indeed, even if cold feet had prevailed at the last minute, the sheer scale of investment, impossible to conceal from a wider circle than those who had been included in the planning group (a limitation designed to protect the scoop, not Cliff Richard), would have almost certainly have led to the name becoming public. <span class="mag-quote-center">That Lord Hall... chose to go to the court rather than settle is yet further evidence of how the privilege of having public money to spend on one’s mistakes leads to abuse.</span></p> <p>That Lord Hall, even after having time to reflect on this failure to weigh the issue of privacy properly, chose to go to the court rather than settle is yet further evidence of how the privilege of having public money to spend on one’s mistakes leads to abuse. If the BBC decides to appeal the judgment – as it is still contemplating, despite an initial rebuff of the idea from the trial judge – the strong likelihood is that even more hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent.</p> <h2><strong>“right to reply”</strong></h2> <p>The judge acknowledged that the BBC had sought out spokesmen for Cliff Richard, on the day of the search, ostensibly in the pursuit of a “right to reply”, according to BBC editorial guidelines. Yet this effort could not commence until after the search had started (otherwise it might in theory have impeded the search, though, as it turns out, as soon as the management agents at the apartment block contacted Cliff Richard to let him know of the arrival of the police, he authorised their entry to the apartment). </p> <p>With Cliff Richard’s public relations advisor, Phil Hall, abroad on holiday, and Cliff Richard himself travelling in Portugal, it took some time to get a message through that the BBC wanted urgently to talk to him about a story. The judge felt that the closing off of the “right to reply” opportunity by 1pm (in his view, in order to protect the scoop) meant that “the BBC did not quite comply with what it itself saw as the ethical requirements of its journalism”.</p> <p>Phil Hall took a different view of the “right to reply”: he saw the carefully framed offer, lacking full detail of what he was expected to respond to, as an effort to get his client to corroborate whatever story the BBC may have had, and so get it off the hook on invasion of privacy – more subterfuge than ethical journalism. It is reasonable to surmise that the BBC’s lack of frankness with Phil Hall was designed to avoid the danger of an injunction, which the judge thought would most likely have been granted.</p> <p>Certainly, by 12.30 that morning, with or without a response from Cliff Richard, the BBC was determined to name him. Phil Hall was only emailed a paraphrase of the SYP statement at 12.24, which he passed on to his client’s lawyers. At 12.45, he pointed out to the BBC researcher who had sent it that the police had not named the owner of the property being searched. She told him that the BBC knew it was Cliff Richard. That did not reduce his concerns. Only when, a few minutes later, the BBC 13.00 news bulletin led with the story did he realise what was going on. </p> <p>At one point in the bulletin, Dan Johnson, the reporter who had obtained the original “leak”, said to camera: “despite our efforts this morning we have not been able get any response from Cliff Richard or his representatives” – a comment the Judge termed “hardly fair”. Within the hour, a statement describing the allegation as entirely false was issued by Phil Hall: but by then, the damage had been done – immense damage, as it turned out. &nbsp;</p> <h2>SYP&nbsp; &nbsp;</h2> <p>What led SYP to settle with Sir Cliff was not the the search of his property, but its improper co-operation with the BBC over the search, which came about as a result of Dan Johnson calling SYP’s head of corporate communications, Carrie Goodwin, on July 9, 2014, and surprising her with the extent of his knowledge of the Cliff Richard investigation, as well as by saying he was ready to go public with his information. </p> <p>This knowledge was based – so he said – on a tip-off he had received a month earlier (he never explained why he had sat on it for so long). She immediately notified the Chief Constable of this breach of confidentiality and the danger of pre-emptive coverage of the case by Johnson, which might jeopardize the investigation. </p> <p>Johnson was invited to a meeting with Detective Superintendent Matthew Fenwick, to whose overall supervision the case had been assigned, after its transfer from a broader investigation into historic sex abuse, entitled Operation Yewtree, run by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).</p> <p>Fenwick and Goodwin met Johnson on July 15, 2014, and it was this meeting – and the conflicting accounts of it – which proved the nub of the case in court. According to Fenwick and Goodwin, Johnson told them what he knew (which, as Fenwick admitted, was pretty much what the SYP file contained). That, at least, is what the judge believed, accepting the evidence of the SYP witnesses rather than of Johnson, who claimed in court that he knew very little (other than the identity of the target) till the South Yorkshire Police put him in the picture. </p> <p>The judge rejected that evidence as implausible (why would SYP go into panic mode if he knew nothing more than that?) and as being in direct conflict with all the available written evidence (emails, and notes of meetings and conversations).</p> <p>The judge did not subject Johnson’s story of the tip to much scrutiny, as it did not really bear on the matters in dispute. Johnson claimed that someone with knowledge of Operation Yewtree told him (why?) that “another celebrity” was being investigated, and he “guessed” it was Cliff Richard, which his source then confirmed, having previously declined to provide the name. This is deeply implausible, other than as an advance attempt to protect that source, should the identity of the person involved ever become known to the Metropolitan Police: but it was not central to the issues the judge had to decide. </p> <p>Goodwin and Fenwick felt they were dealing with damage control as a result of a leak from – or near – Operation Yewtree, almost certainly by a serving MPS officer. Johnson’s threat to publish what he had (which could have de-railed the investigation, by naming Cliff Richard, and making any search of a home fairly pointless), led them to offer co-operation in the shape of giving advance notice of when a search of Cliff Richard’s UK residence would take place (that Cliff Richard lived mostly in Portugal and Barbados left the police with few alternatives if they were going to search anywhere).</p> <p>The SYP have been much criticised for the size of the eventual search operation (a month after the meeting with Johnson), at a location not owned by Cliff Richard at the time of the alleged offence, and 30 years after the victim claimed to have been assaulted. What possible incriminating evidence could they expect to find there which would require 8 officers, 5 vehicles and a search lasting 5 hours?</p> <p>It is hard to resist the conclusion that the scale of the search was therefore a product of this negotiation: having committed to an agreement that the BBC would be warned in advance, SYP could scarcely have turned up with one vehicle and three officers, and stayed the bare hour that in reality is all it could have entailed in normal circumstances. SYP had no doubt they were being blackmailed, which is the word they used in internal correspondence and in court: a terminology which the judge broadly endorsed.</p> <h2><strong>Blackmail</strong></h2> <p>BBC managers knew all about Johnson’s behaviour, and were filled with glee that the SYP were “over a barrel”, and that “Dan the man” had “nailed them to the wall” (according to internal emails produced in court). Senior executives told themselves that, of course, Johnson was not empowered to publish anything without their approval, but declined to inform the SYP of this, eager as they were to enjoy the fruits of his journalistically enterprising approach. Indeed, given that Johnson’s tip-off was most likely an illegal breach of police confidentiality, he and the BBC would have been most unwise to publish Cliff Richard’s name before it was confirmed by the SYP. &nbsp;</p> <p>The judge described the SYP witnesses as honest, careful, reliable, clear, credible and materially correct. The best he could say for Johnson was that he was “not fundamentally dishonest”, but could “twist matters in order to pursue his story” and twice left the SYP under a false impression because “his enthusiasm for his story got the better of his complete regard for truth”. </p> <p>Other BBC witnesses fared no better: of Declan Wilson, Johnson’s boss as North of England Bureau Manager, the judge said “various aspects of his evidence were unsatisfactory, some particularly unsatisfactory: the totality of his evidence needs to be approached with caution”; as for Gary Smith, the UK News Editor, he was “obsessed with the merits of scooping news rivals”, could not always be regarded “as a reliable witness”, and was “defensive and evasive”, especially with regard to email traffic after the July 15 meeting with the SYP, which was “significantly inconsistent with the BBC’s case”. </p> <p>Likewise, Jonathan Munro, Head of Newsgathering, who had little involvement with the affair but had signed the “statement of truth” with regard to the BBC’s case, and then “wilfully failed to acknowledge inconsistencies” in that case: he “refused to acknowledge the plain effect of some of the internal emails”. As for his boss, Director (no longer acting) of News, Fran Unsworth, she was honest in her testimony, but there was “one respect in which I do not accept her evidence” because it was “tinged with wishful thinking”.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The cusp of the argument in court was the BBC’s claim that Fenwick and Goodwin had fabricated the notes of their July 15 meeting with Johnson so as to conceal the “fact” that they had volunteered most of the information about Cliff Richard to Johnson – a libel that would have cost the BBC yet more hundreds of thousands if it had been made outside the privileged sanctuary of court proceedings. The judge not only dismissed this allegation but demonstrated from the available evidence that it could not possibly be true. </p> <p>Internal BBC emails confirmed that Johnson had made the threat of early publication, and there was undisguised glee within the news department at this prospective scoop. “Sit Down When You Read This” was the heading of one internal email. “Congratulations. And Jubilation. I want the world to know I’m happy as can be,” came one reply. On August 17, Munro emailed Unsworth to alert her to the fact that Johnson may have “given the impression” that he would have “compromised the enquiry”: but that does not seem to have given either of them pause, or deter them from subsequently spending 13 days in court defending his behaviour.</p> <p>There was speculation that Cliff Richard might be arrested – “gripped” – at Wimbledon: an editorial fantasy, given that the Wimbledon tennis tournament was already over. Indeed, Fenwick told Johnson that no arrest – let alone charge – was likely, as the complainant’s story was too weak to put to prosecutors (he was apparently confused as to which Sheffield football ground was the location of the alleged offence). Johnson seems not to have passed on this rather important information, though his notes confirm he was given it.</p> <p>Indeed, he appears to have told his bosses that Superintendent Fenwick would go on camera naming Cliff Richard: “Dan’s source is the SIO” – the senior investigating officer (which was not quite true: Fenwick was not the case’s SIO) – his work is “bloody cracking”). Fenwick did indeed agree to do a statement to camera, on the day of the search, but without naming the target – somewhat frustratingly, as far as the BBC was concerned, as Fran Unsworth would now have the invidious task of deciding whether to name the search target.</p> <p>Johnson had further misled the SYP, in the judge’s opinion, lulling them into a false sense of security by telling them that he “hadn’t said anything yet” to his bosses, at a time when those bosses were rubbing their hands with glee at how he was “nailing them to the wall”: but that only bore on his general reliability rather than the merits of the case. </p> <h2><strong>BBC and SYP</strong></h2> <p>The cordial – if wary – relationship between the BBC and the SYP almost came unstuck on the day of the search, when a BBC crime correspondent, Danny Shaw, recorded a piece to camera – which he then placed on the BBC website – saying that the tip off to the BBC from SYP “appears to be a deliberate attempt by the police to ensure maximum coverage – this is not illegal but the force may have to justify its approach in the months to come”.</p> <p>Perhaps prompted by this, a reporter on Channel Four News an hour later stated that the name of the target “should not have been publicized save in exceptional circumstances”. SYP immediately complained to the BBC, and Johnson tried – in vain – to persuade Shaw to withdraw his mistaken claim. The next day, senior executives eventually mollified the SYP team by tweeting that Shaw’s piece had been wrong, and that the source for the BBC’s naming of Cliff Richard had not been the SYP. </p> <p>Yet, in court, the BBC’s QC tried to re-run a version of the Danny Shaw line: that the SYP had encouraged the naming of the target, not – to use the judge’s expression – to “shake the tree” in case other complainants might come forward (that was evidently not the case, as SYP so carefully avoided naming Cliff Richard), but so as to enhance their reputation. </p> <p>The judge took a dim view of this line of defence: why would the SYP want to draw so much attention to one of their weakest cases, which they did not expect ever to come to court? To that, the BBC had no answer, and Mr Justice Mann gave short shrift to the entire conspiracy theory. If the board of the BBC gets round to reading his dissection of the defence case, they will surely ask some serious questions about the Corporation’s strategy and tactics.</p> <p>The BBC tried to argue that, once it had its tip-off, it was entitled, even duty-bound, to publish Cliff Richard’s name. The judge was having none of this: article 10 enshrined certain rights in relation to freedom of expression, but these were not absolute, and certainly did not amount to a duty. In any case, “Mr Johnson wrongfully exploited previously acquired confidential information to manoeuvre SYP into its further disclosures”.</p> <p>The BBC claimed that a privacy suit could not include compensation for reputational damage (which was the province of defamation law): but again Mr Justice Mann demurred. “I think the exact opposite is the case. The facts of this case vividly demonstrate why damages <em>should</em> be available for an invasion of privacy resulting (inter alia) in damage to reputation.”</p> <h2><strong>“Get the BBC out of jail”</strong></h2> <p>The BBC had one last throw of the dice. Because the SYP are a public authority, they should not be allowed to seek from the BBC a contribution to the settlement they had agreed with Cliff Richard. The ingenious argument rested on the fact that public authorities cannot claim rights of free expression under article 10, and so have no “balancing” process available in judging liability. Indeed, by extension, said the BBC’s QC, the SYP should be entirely responsible for the damages awarded against the BBC.</p> <p>The judge described this as a “get the BBC out of jail free” argument, and was “not displeased to find” that “such a strange result” could not actually flow from the Human Rights Convention. Where there are two wrong-doers, he said, “I cannot understand why the non-state perpetrator should get off scot-free. Nor am I troubled by the absence of any authority which supports this position. That could well be because it is obviously right.”</p> <p>The BBC is still mulling over whether Mr Justice Mann was “obviously right” in finding for Sir Cliff, and making the award he did. When Gavin Millar QC, for the BBC, tried to argue to the judge on July 26, in seeking leave to appeal, that he had been wrong on the law and wrong in his analysis of the facts, Mr Justice Mann was dismissive to the point of rudeness: it was the BBC, not he, that had failed to understand the law and the significance of its actions.</p> <p>An appeal would be costly, and is unlikely to succeed. Even asking the Court of Appeal directly for leave to appeal (the only step remaining other than settling its bill) could result in an embarrassing rebuff for the BBC, or, perhaps worse still, another opportunity to expose the dubious behaviour of the BBC news division, and the unimpressive performance of its witnesses at trial, to yet more scrutiny, and at a higher judicial level. A failed appeal might well be the mistake that costs Lord Hall his job, just as the McAlpine affair cost George Entwistle his. </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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Culture openJustice David Elstein Fri, 27 Jul 2018 10:32:42 +0000 David Elstein 119044 at https://www.opendemocracy.net NHS pay deal row intensifies as nurses call for union leader to quit https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-pay-deal-row-intensifies-as-nurses-call-for-union-leader-to-quit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Calls for resignations and for NHS pay vote to be rerun as Royal College of Nursing chief admits they gave incorrect pay deal information.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/pay deal story 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/pay deal story 2.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: Nurses pay protest 2017. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved</em></p><p>Furious members of the Royal College of Nursing last night <a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScapLCouL3tNwINQU5MiaJsNatBlaZ39h6IgXP5fjFTBslNbg/viewform">launched a petition calling for the union’s leaders to stand down</a> over their handling of communications about this year’s NHS pay deal in England.</p> <p>OurNHS understands the petition is well over halfway to the required number of signatures to trigger an emergency general meeting, another of its demands. It was started after the head of the RCN, Janet Davies, last night took the unprecedented step of writing to members to apologise that they were given incorrect information about the pay deal that they voted on in the spring. Ms Davies acknowledged that many have received less than the RCN told them they would.</p> <p>Her email comes after <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-staff-discover-they-will-get-hundreds-of-pounds-less-than-they-thought">OurNHS exposed last week</a> that many NHS staff felt disappointed and upset&nbsp;as it emerged that many would not immediately get the full pay rise they were expecting.</p> <p>The email, seen by OurNHS, shows that their concerns were justified. In it, Ms Davies says:</p> <p>"I wanted to write to you myself over the recent NHS pay deal.&nbsp;It has come to my attention in the last 24 hours that the deal was not as straightforward as we said and for that I offer you a sincere personal apology.</p> <p>"I’m as dismayed and angry as you are and will fight the corner of members at every turn.&nbsp;In good faith, we told all members that they would receive a 3 per cent uplift this summer. I now find that this is not the case for everyone.”</p> <p>Ms Davies went on, "I can assure you that I am demanding answers for you. In the meantime, I can only apologise for this unnecessary confusion and assure you that I am determined to resolve it.&nbsp;Your elected Council and Trade Union Committee will be meeting in the next few days and I will update you on next steps."</p> <p>Along with the other main unions, apart from the GMB, the RCN had recommended the pay deal to members.</p> <h2>Anger from below</h2> <p>Last night there was renewed fury amongst RCN activists and members. Anthony Johnson, a health visitor, RCN member and former ‘pay champion’ (members who help organise local action around pay) told OurNHS that the RCN “shouldn’t have trusted the government… It seems like they’ve just gone for the deal and been screwed over, but they’ve sold the deal so it’s their fault”. </p> <p>Asked about the assertion by some unions that the deal was understood, Mr Johnson replied, “No way is that true that staff understood. People were still passing around incorrect information right up till the vote.” Many staff have been making similar comments both to OurNHS and on social media in recent days, as payslips land on NHS staff doorsteps this week.</p> <p>Mr Johnson’s views are echoed across social media. Many NHS staff are furious with the government. Lauren Gavaghan, a consultant psychiatrist,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/DancingTheMind/status/1019835168260001798" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>&nbsp;that the debacle was “Jeremy Hunt’s parting gift to NHS staff”. The anonymous @GPConsortia account <span><a href="https://twitter.com/gpconsortia/status/1019936011416162305" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>&nbsp;merely, “Swine.” Retired doctor Mark Cheeseman&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/stilton54/status/1019674728968196097" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>,<strong>&nbsp;“</strong>The NHS worries why it’s losing so many staff. And then double-crosses the ones they have got on a pay deal.”</p> <p>Another NHS worker commented on OurNHS’s original story<strong>, “</strong>I'm a band 6 nurse at spine point 27, with incremental date of end of January. I cast my vote based on information given to me from the pay calculator [from unison],&nbsp;which indicates that in year 1 my pay would increase by £1,672. According to these newly released figures from [the nhs employers site] above, my pay will actually increase by £491, and I will have to wait until my next incremental date before I see the pay rise I voted for. Since my pay was always going to increase on my next incremental date, I feel that I was misled.”</p> <p>Another commented, “I work with highly intelligent, analytically astute people who are used to dealing with numbers and figures on a daily basis... and they were inveigled by the purposely Byzantine structure proposed.”</p> <p>Gordon Marsden, a Labour MP and shadow education minister,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/GordonMarsden/status/1022398603971776513" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>&nbsp;in response to an openDemocracy update last night, “Looks like Jeremy Hunt got out of [Department of] Health just in time ...another 'con' from a discredited 'Con' Govt They’ll sneak things out to dodge scrutiny … &amp; now misrepresent underpar NHS rises.”</p> <p>Many were angry with both the government and the unions who recommended the deal. One NHS scientist&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/wakeyrule/status/1022369064184889344" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>, “The gasps of disbelief from NHS staff as they open their pay packets is reverberating around the Trust where I work. Overwhelming feeling is that the Unions have been hoodwinked by the Govt.”</p> <p>A community health nurse&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/IsiSiewruk/status/1022199715587399680" target="_blank">replied</a></span>&nbsp;to a tweet by the RCN that mentioned a 3% pay rise, saying “That’s just not true though is it. It’s around 1.5 percent until increment date, so not 3% for the full year. The NHS Employer tool also shows that will also happen in year 2 and 3 for me. Not how it was sold to staff before the vote.”</p> <p>An advanced nurse practitioner&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/scarymonstertwo/status/1022164916432789504" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>, “Rather than an apology, how about a public denouncement of the deal, an apology and a declaration to fight it and poll members for action?”</p> <h2>Official responses</h2> <p>Danny Mortimer, head of NHS Employers, told OurNHS today that this was “an issue between the RCN and its membership”. He said, “The letter states that the RCN has in error told members in one of its documents that they would all receive ‘a 3 per cent uplift this summer’… This miscommunication is very unfortunate and clearly the RCN will need to review all of its communications to understand the extent of its error.” In response to a specific question NHS Employers confirmed to OurNHS that <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBails/status/1021707924404662272">a poster showing the apparently higher pay figures</a>&nbsp;(ie, including a full year's increment for those staff not at the top of their bands) was put up on their website 21 March and taken down on 13 June, and told us that “materials explaining are regularly updated in light of feedback and questions".</p> <p>An RCN spokesperson told OurNHS, “This is not about reopening the deal. Despite some delays to payments, over the three years the deal has to run, members will receive the full amount promised. We are sorry for any confusion caused about what members were due to receive this month.” </p> <h2>Trouble for the Tories</h2> <p>The pay offer came at a point when the government was under considerable political pressure. After one of the hardest winters in NHS history, union leaders were loudly pointing out that eight years of zero or 1% pay rises (a real-terms cut of 14% after inflation) was contributing to serious and worsening staff shortages.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/06/enough-is-enough-nurses-protest-against-pay-cap-outside-westminster" target="_blank">For months, nurses had been warning the government</a>&nbsp;that unless pay was addressed properly they would take historically unprecedented strike action.</p> <p><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nurses-vote-overwhelmingly-to-strike-for-first-time-ever-over-1-pay-rises-a7735451.html" target="_blank">Four out of five nurses&nbsp;were prepared to strike</a>&nbsp;over pay, according to an initial RCN ballot of its members during the 2017 election campaign. The government’s pay cap was widely seen by commentators to have contributed to the Tories’ poor performance in that election. Asked during the campaign why nurses were having to rely on foodbanks, Theresa May told the BBC that there were “many complex reasons”—a response for which she was widely criticised.</p> <p>In March 2018 Jeremy Hunt, then health secretary, tweeted that he was “Delighted to confirm pay rise of between 6.5 and 29% for NHS staff who have worked so hard over a tough Winter, in a £4.2bn deal.” Hunt told Parliament, “Rarely has a pay rise been so well deserved for NHS staff, who have never worked harder.”</p> <h2>Pensions problem</h2> <p>In further developments, fresh concerns have emerged about the impact of&nbsp;<span><a href="http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102665899193&amp;ca=e2244e75-6316-43e3-939c-7792b7a1680b" target="_blank">pensions</a></span>. The leaders of the GMB have expressed disappointment at the actual increase, and both&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.labournet.net/ukunion/1807/nhspay1.html" target="_blank">activists</a>&nbsp;in other unions</span> and the GMB leadership have reiterated their previous concerns about the deal, including the impact of inflation and changes to&nbsp;payments for unsocial hours. The GMB&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/GMB_union/status/1022216933649907715" target="_blank">tweeted</a></span>&nbsp;yesterday, “We couldn’t recommend Jeremy Hunt’s dodgy NHS pay offer to our members. And so we didn’t.”</p> <p>OurNHS has also seen materials that the RCN circulated to its reps and pay champions before the vote on the pay deal, asking them to recommend the deal even if they didn’t fully understand it. One leaflet for reps tells them to “encourage [members] to say yes to the deal”. Another says, “We believe it’s the best deal we can expect in the current climate of austerity and we’re now recommending members accept it. As a pay champion, we expect you to spread the word about the deal.” Inside, the FAQs include: “<strong>The pay deal looks complex, do I need to learn it all?</strong>&nbsp;The short answer is no. We don’t expect you to advise members on the pay deal. You should signpost them to&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.rcn.org.uk/nursing-pay" target="_blank">www.rcn.org.uk/nursing-pay</a></span>&nbsp;and pay meetings where they can ask questions.&nbsp;<strong>What if I don’t agree with the deal?&nbsp;</strong>… If you strongly disagree with the deal we hope that you will still give out the leaflets and put up the posters…you can also have your say when voting opens on 23 April.”</p> <p>Some staff who did ask questions told OurNHS they got short shrift. Mr Johnson says that when he raised questions about aspects of the pay deal, including unsocial hours payments, he was told “you don’t understand maths”.</p> <p>NHS Employers told the Health Services Journal last night they were “disappointed” at the RCN’s email to its members yesterday, and “surprised as no concerns were raised with us”.</p> <p>In a separate statement NHS Employers focused on a separate issue, which is that whilst the pay deal will be applied to this month’s pay packets, staff won’t get the backdated pay till August rather than July.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The RCN represents 435,000 members.</p> <p>This week NHS doctors are also&nbsp;<span>up in arms about their own, separate pay deal,</span>&nbsp;as it emerged on the last day of Parliament that they, like other public-sector workers including police officers, would this year receive a below-inflation rise of 2%. This is less than the independent NHS Pay Review Body recommended, and comes after doctors, like other NHS workers, have endured years of pay austerity.</p> <p>Calls for the vote to be re-run are widespread,&nbsp;with prominent NHS blogger Roy Lilley saying,<strong> “</strong>Tonight the RCN have ‘apologised’ for ‘the dismay’ I think a re-ballot is called for. Only&nbsp;<span><a href="https://twitter.com/GMB_union" target="_blank">@GMB_union</a></span> opposed the award and they are right<strong>.”</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-staff-discover-they-will-get-hundreds-of-pounds-less-than-they-thought">NHS staff discover they will get hundreds of pounds less than many thought</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 Caroline Molloy Thu, 26 Jul 2018 13:14:13 +0000 Caroline Molloy 119029 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Forget 'big tent' politics - we need space for a progressive camp site of parties and movements https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/forget-big-tent-politics-we-need-space-for-progressive-camp-site-of-parties-and-movem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To win back a fractious public currently feeling betrayed by broken promises of 'control', politicians must admit that power has to be shared - including through a better electoral system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/corbyn glasto.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/corbyn glasto.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Jeremy Corbyn - who has not yet committed to PR - addressing a crowd at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival. Credit: PA Images/Ben Birchall, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>The so-called return to two party politics at the last election, when the Tories and Labour scooped up over 80% of the votes between them, was always a retro-blip not the return of the old binary order. Brexit and much more are driving fissures throughout our very tired party political system. We know that Brexit voters, disillusioned with the Chequers Deal, have started to ebb back to UKIP. At the weekend we learned from the Sunday Times YouGov poll that 38% would vote for a new right wing party committed to Brexit, while 24% are willing to back an anti-immigration, anti Islam Party. Meanwhile Vince Cable does or doesn’t hold talks on a new centrist party that looks like its coming down the track with or without him. Labour is split asunder by huge political and cultural divisions. In Scotland the SNP start to ride a new wave of popularity over Brexit fears. Whatever this is, it ain’t old two-party politics.</p> <p>But a myriad actual and possible parties, that reflect the complex reality of the world we live in, are rendered impotent or are left still born by a political and democratic system built not for these many parties but just for two. The pressure for change will grow inexorably but so too will the politicians grip on their waning hold on power. Something will have to give! </p> <p>To be clear, its not just that elections don’t deliver decisive outcomes anymore – they haven’t for almost a decade and show no signs of doing so in the future. But even if they did, the ability to command the levers of power has long gone. Power and politics were separated when economic and financial might went global and then, to cap it all, everything went digital. Neither the nation state, nor any government can now take back control. The old promise of strong government is for the birds.</p> <p>In this maelstrom, Brexit was the demand for a democratic revolution but the only narrative the nation was offered was to go back to an era before power from politics were separated – as if globalisation could be wished away. Against the feeble offer of the neo-liberal dominated Euro-technocrats, this homage to a long-gone moment, to offer the undeliverable promise take back power, spectacularly triumphed – not least because the EU was only ever a partially formed democracy. There was no counter-narrative around a 21st century democratic transformation that could feasibly reconnect power and politics– the first step of which would be proportional representation (PR) but then would shift up a gear to all sorts of direct and deliberative forms of local, national and regional democratic reform – not just to politics but to daily life – at work, in public service and civil society.</p> <p>This crisis of democracy is easier to feel than observe and is better defined in Colin Crouch’s term as a ‘post-democracy’, given that while we still practice the rituals of voting, our democratic institutions are so hollowed out and power now so dispersed that its almost meaningless. That is why Brexit sent an electric shock through the system – because for once every vote counted and real change, whatever you like it or not, was an option. </p> <p>The crisis though has been a long time coming. Back in the 1950s, the British cyberneticist W Ross Ashby conceived the Law of Requisite Variety – which states that any governing body must be as or more complex than the entity it is governing. Put simply, complexity must meet complexity. In the ensuing half a century the relatively simple linear society of back then has exploded with power being dispersed in every direction, with little or no accountability. </p> <p>Over this period two systems of governance have been tried and have been found wanting. First the bureaucratic state eventually toppled over, in the East most spectacularly but eventually in the West too and with it the idea that a technocratic and a managerial elite could usher in benign progress from above. Its successor ‘organising principle’, the free market, at first glance seemed set to solve the complexity issue given is invisible hand guiding myriad buyers and sellers. But time has exposed the fact that instead of variety the free market tends only to a monopoly of culture, corporate dominance and crisis. Complexity cannot be met if there is only one alternative. </p> <p>Since 2008, its been time for a new organising principle for society, one based on the complexity of our age and guided by the concept of a future that must be negotiated by all us – not imposed by anyone of us. </p> <p>The block, of course, is the many politicians who would rather some semblance of control some of the time, than admit real power must now be shared and given away. While they stumble on, pretending to be in charge, when palpably they aren’t, everyone else knows a broken system can’t fix a broken system. </p> <p>But by accident, rather than design, we might get the democratic breakthrough we urgently need. Tory divisions over Brexit and Labour divisions over almost everything are unleashing centripetal forces – pulling the parties within parties apart – maybe for good. More and more Westminster players have an interest in a variety of parties and PR instead of being locked in the doom cycle of first past the post. Of course PR isn’t a panacea. It just means the negotiations shift from within the two blocks to across the many parties. But then the differences become obvious and open and people will get to vote both for parties they really believe in and know that their votes will count. From that point the rest of the bigger transformation of our democracy can take place. </p> <p>The refusal to recognize and honour the democratic moment will result in one thing and one thing only – the further rise of the populist authoritarian right as our so-called democracy proves itself, again and again, unable to deliver the conditions in which we can be fully human. That will require not just one big tent under which we fight like cats or pretended to agree to fool the electorate at least at election time – but a camp site of progressive parties and movements.</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/neal-lawson/why-future-of-progressive-politics-relies-on-greens">Why the future of progressive politics relies on the Greens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/its-time-to-start-planning-for-post-election-progressive-alliance">It&#039;s time to make plans for a post-election Progressive Alliance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/dear-labour">Dear Labour</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 Neal Lawson Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:16:12 +0000 Neal Lawson 119006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our privatised water system has failed – it’s time to look for alternatives https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/our-privatised-water-system-has-failed-it-s-time-to-look-for-alternatives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> One of the most remarkable aspects of Joseph Bazalgette’s London sewage system was its pump house. The elaborate ironwork at Crossness pumping station transformed a home for raw sewage into a monume... </div> </div> </div> One of the most remarkable aspects of Joseph Bazalgette’s London sewage system was its pump house. The elaborate ironwork at Crossness pumping station transformed a home for raw sewage into a monument to public utilities. As one construction worker in BBC Two’s new series The Five Billion Pound Super Sewer put it, the pump house is so splendid, “it could be a hotel”. Bazalgette’s tunnels were built in 1865 to accommodate the waste of 2 million people. Since then, London’s population has ballooned to 9 million, putting pressure on its creaking sewers. The BBC's Five Billion Pound Super Sewer series focuses on the present-day solution to London's sewage problems: a new “super sewer” that will stretch 15 miles and collect excess waste from the Victorian network before transporting it towards the East End. But the series washes over the super sewer’s murky finance structure. Thames Water, the private company responsible for London’s sewers, claims it was too burdened by debt to pay for the sewer project. Instead, the new pipeline will be financed through price increases on water bills charged to London residents, which are set to rise £20 to £25 per year by the mid 2020s. According to the Consumer Council for Water, among household outgoings citizens are most likely to be in <a href="https://www.ccwater.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Living-with-water-poverty-in-2014-Report-of-research-findings.pdf">arrears</a> with their water bills. Meanwhile, Thames Water will continue to pay millions of pounds in bonuses and dividends to its directors and shareholders (its CEO Steve Robinson is set to receive a £3.75 million bonus in 2020). Together with the UK government, Thames Water has created a separate company, Bazalgette Tunnel Ltd, which borrowed £1.2 billion from a package of investors and £700m from the European Investment Bank. The government has promised to step in and shoulder the risk lest the project encounter financial difficulties – which looks likely, given the complications inherent to drilling a subterranean pipeline. Thames Water has a dodgy history of siphoning profits while dumping toxic sewage. Every year, 39 million tons of raw sewage makes its way into London’s river. After UK water regulator Ofwat hit the company with a record £20 million fine in 2017, Thames Water promised to change direction. It elected a new CEO, and said it would stop dumping untreated waste. But such retroactive regulations are a sticking plaster. England's water industry was sold off in 1989. During the first decade of privatisation, household water bills soared by <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=maude+barlow+blue+future&amp;rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB792GB792&amp;oq=maude+barlow+blue+future&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57j0j69i61j69i60j69i61j0.2371j0j7&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">147%</a>. Thames Water is the perfect example of why privatising natural monopolies is a terrible idea. Arguments in favour of commercialisation go something like this: in order to be successful in a competitive marketplace, a company has to acquire the best possible knowledge of market conditions. Incorrect knowledge will lead to mistakes that will eventually bankrupt unsuccessful firms. Unlike the government, which does not exist in a state of market competition, successful companies will possess the best knowledge of market conditions and consumer preferences, and will therefore be better placed to act competently and efficiently when delivering services. Market competition will ensure both citizens and governments get a better deal. Yet this Darwinian picture doesn’t apply to essential resources like water. First, as the case of Thames Water shows, market competition doesn’t function when you’re dealing with a resource that has to be managed at scale and is necessary to all humans. Thames Water is a monopoly with no competitors. Without competition, there is no incentive to provide a better service to customers. This is why Thames Water has idled into complacency, extracting profits and dumping waste without investing in the infrastructure that London’s sewers require. Competitive markets normally offer consumers an array of options that differ in quality and price.  But there’s no such choice with water bills. Either you pay up, or your water supply is turned off. The truth is, citizens aren’t really consumers. The consumer is the government that has outsourced water supply, while the citizen is little more than a voiceless service user without any of the choice benefits typically associated with a market system. Second, a company cannot have perfect knowledge of a market beyond the immediate future, particularly in a world where environmental conditions are rapidly changing and deteriorating. There’s a difference between knowing how an industry works at present, and knowing how decisions will affect that industry in the future. Thames Water’s decision to pollute the ecosystem with untreated sewage is a case in point: the present-day impetus of generating shareholder value eclipses the long-term degenerative effects of pollution. Instead of leaving crucial decisions about environmental stewardship to for-profit companies, water should be managed with greater public involvement and participation, giving people a say in how this common resource is safeguarded for the future. Paris is one example of how this works in practice. After years of price increases under a water system controlled by global giants Suez and Veolia, mayor Bertrand Delanoë put water remunicipalisation on the ballot paper. In 2008, the city transferred water services from Suez and Veolia to the publicly owned <a href="https://research.ncl.ac.uk/media/sites/researchwebsites/gobacit/Anne%20Le%20Strat.pdf">Eau de Paris</a>. Since then, Paris’ water prices have fallen below the national average, saving approximately €76 million in water bills from 2011-2015. Instead of paying dividends to shareholders, Eau de Paris reinvests profits into the system. It has increased free access to water and sanitation in addition to maintaining water supplies for those living in squatted accommodation. The UK Government, in line with the United Nations, recognises water as a human right. But it doesn’t stipulate how water should be managed. Instead, the government <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/36540/uk-position-human-right-water.pdf">says</a>, “the [UN] right does not prescribe any particular model or role for public and private sectors”. This cynical sleight of hand cedes power to the private sector. As water activist Meera Karunananthan notes, sanitation companies have lobbied hard since the UN recognised the right to water, positioning themselves as best placed to deliver this right by claiming that governments don’t have the funding or expertise to do so. Thames Water exposes the holes in these arguments. It has siphoned rents to shareholders without investing in infrastructure or showing any regard for its environmental impact. It has brought virtually no competitive benefits to government or water users. Instead of prolonging Thames Water’s extractive reign, it’s time to look for alternatives.<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 Hettie O'Brien Wed, 25 Jul 2018 10:21:09 +0000 Hettie O'Brien 119000 at https://www.opendemocracy.net