uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3031/all en Why isn't the full electoral registration process online? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas-toby-james/why-isnt-full-electoral-registration-process-online <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People are being turned away at polling stations because the electoral registration process is stuck in the 20th century.</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/UK_polling_station_sign.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/UK_polling_station_sign.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In many ways people in Britain live online.&nbsp;In 2015 it was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2015/time-spent-online-doubles-in-a-decade" target="_blank">estimated</a>&nbsp;that the average adult internet user spends over 20 hours a week connected to the web.&nbsp;With such a high level of internet use it seems obvious that the government should make public services more readily available online.&nbsp;</p> <p>The government’s own&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-transformation-strategy-2017-to-2020/government-transformation-strategy" target="_blank">strategy from 2017 to 2020</a>&nbsp;argued that ‘by harnessing digital to build and deliver services, the government can transform the relationship between citizen and state’. But such a promise risks being left unfulfilled if ministers don’t step up their efforts.</p> <p>One area where the government has previously made major progress is to make electoral registration available online.&nbsp;Alongside the introduction of individual electoral registration, the provision of an online system,&nbsp;<a href="https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/61405/" target="_blank">forthcoming research shows</a>, did much to reduce the anticipated decline in electoral registration rates alongside voter registration drives.&nbsp;The Victorian electoral machinery saw a major transformation.</p> <p>There has been huge uptake of this platform.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/performance/register-to-vote" target="_blank">Online registrations outnumber old-fashioned paper registrations</a>&nbsp;by two to one. But the process remains incomplete.&nbsp;You can’t check whether you are already registered. Instead, you must phone up your local electoral official and ask them.</p> <p>This antiquated system is out of touch with 21st&nbsp;century life styles of most people who may only get the time to register in the evening, when the electoral official has left the office.&nbsp;It is a problem for the voter and democratic process because an estimated 8 million people are incorrectly registered. It is another incentive not to register.&nbsp;Voters turn up at polling stations, thinking that they are registered,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/electoral-fraud-isnt-biggest-problem-british-polling-stations-it%E2%80%99s-electoral" target="_blank">but are commonly turned away</a>&nbsp;and denied their right to vote.</p> <p>It is also a problem for those administering the system. If you are unsure whether they are registered or not and your local authority isn’t answering the phone, it makes sense just to register again, just in case.&nbsp;As a result, electoral officials are bombarded with many duplicate applications.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.electoralmanagement.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Clark-Jame-EUREF-Final-Report.pdf" target="_blank">Research</a>&nbsp;has shown that this puts a great strain on electoral officials during peak times adding to their personal stress.&nbsp;The strain of the applications were so great that, as the registration deadline for the EU referendum approached,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/register-to-vote-site-crashes-an-hour-before-eu-referendum-deadline-a7070026.html" target="_blank">the website crashed</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the&nbsp;<a href="https://tobysjamesdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/getting-the-e28098missing-millions_-on-to-the-electoral-register-report-appg-on-democratic-participation-bite-the-ballot-dr-toby-james-clearview-research-2016-1.pdf" target="_blank">Missing Millions</a>&nbsp;called for an online electoral registration checking tool last year.&nbsp; Such a system is available in other countries including Canada and Ireland.&nbsp; It gives people an easy way to determine their status and take complete ownership of electoral registration process.&nbsp;</p> <p>So far the Government hasn’t committed to taking action though last week it acknowledged that the issue is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-02-08/63662/" target="_blank">‘causing concern among the electoral community. We are committed to tackling the issue.’</a></p> <p>This is a win-win reform.&nbsp;A modern electoral registration system must ensure convenience for the voter so that they can participate in crucial forthcoming contests.&nbsp; It must also be efficient for electoral services who are often resource strapped.&nbsp;Electoral registration information is freely available to the private sector with sufficient funds to buy it.&nbsp; It is time to give control of it back to people too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Caroline Lucas; Toby James Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:38:36 +0000 Caroline Lucas; Toby James 109746 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 10 things you can do to resist hard Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/10-things-you-can-do-to-resist-hard-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Article 50 is triggered, here's what you can do to stop Britain's slide to the hard right. Add your own suggestions in the comments.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whichever way you voted in the referendum, hard Brexit is not about fulfilling a democratic mandate to leave the European Union. It’s about Theresa May’s government using the process of leaving the EU to force through its hard-right <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">Daily Mail agenda</a> – at a high cost to the majority of people living in the United(ish) Kingdom. Here are ten ways you can resist, and we'd love to hear more from you in in the comments below. </p><h2><strong>1)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Join a migrant solidarity group </strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Mubenga.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Mubenga.jpeg" 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'>Jimmy Mubenga, Wikimedia</span></span></span></strong></p><p>What Brexit will mean for those who moved to the UK from other European countries is still up in the air. But let’s remember that there are already huge numbers on the rough end of Britain’s increasingly brutal anti-migrant rhetoric. And as Brexit fails to transform Britain into the Land of Hope and Glory that Boris Johnson and UKIP's Nigel Farage promised, we can be pretty sure about who will get the brunt of the blame from the prime minister who, as Home Secretary, brought us the infamous <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=racist+van&amp;client=firefox-b&amp;source=lnms&amp;tbm=isch&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiehuDv8vnSAhWLCsAKHTJBCFEQ_AUICCgB&amp;biw=1280&amp;bih=630">racist van</a>.</p><p>Long before Brexit, there was the tale of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga</a>, a 46 year old father of five, who was suffocated to death by the G4S security guards on his deportation flight. Right now, there’s people like Manchester’s <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ugandan-man-deportation-lgbt-asylum-seeker-home-office-amber-rudd-abbey-kyeyune-a7624901.html">Abbey Kyuyene</a>, who faces being deported to Uganda, where he can expect to be imprisoned for the rest of his life because he’s gay. There’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention-child-safeguarding">the child locked up for five months</a> alongside a convicted child abuser simply because he came here from somewhere else. And there’s the hundreds of people we imprison indefinitely just because they want to live here. </p> <p>There are the families Britain breaks apart because <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/charlotte-peel/families-broken-apart-because-theresa-may-thinks-they-arent-rich-enough-for-love">Theresa May believes</a> they aren’t rich enough for love. There’s the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">horrific conditions</a> we expect many of those seeking asylum in the UK to live in and there’s the people freezing in refugee camps just across the Channel. There are the workers who suffer exploitation rather than risk their paperless status being exposed and there are the families still dying in the Mediterranean as they attempt to make it to European soils.</p> <p>All of these situations were bad before Brexit. All of them risk becoming worse as the government and its cheerleaders in the press cast around for someone to blame for the fact that Brexit will fail to give people any more sense of control over their lives. </p><p>All across the country, there are migrant solidarity groups organising to stop their neighbours being deported, demanding the closure of detention centres and providing a range of kinds of practical solidarity. As hard-right Brexit accelerates, they will need more people, more help and more support. Powerful people like to scapegoat migrants because they believe they can be divided from their communities most easily. Organising those communities to fight back is the best way to scare them off. </p> <p>There’s Glasgow’s <a href="http://unitycentreglasgow.org/">Unity Centre</a>, <a href="https://manchestermigrantsolidarity.org/tag/liverpool/">Liverpool and Manchester migrant solidarity</a>, <a href="http://noborders.org.uk/">No Borders</a>, <a href="https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/">Calais Migrant Solidarity</a>, the campaign to close Yarls’ Wood, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/lgsmigrants/">Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants,</a> <a href="http://stopfundinghate.org.uk/">Stop Funding Hate</a>, <a href="http://www.star-network.org.uk/">Student Action for Refugees</a>, the People &amp; Planet <a href="https://peopleandplanet.org/undoing-borders">Undoing Borders</a> campaign… and many, many more people organising to support migrants here in the UK. Work out what’s going on near you, ask how you can help, and get involved – whether you speak another language, have research or legal skills, or can phone an airline to help stop a deportation, there are lots of thing we could all be doing to help our neighbours.</p> <h2><strong>2)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Stop the trade deal shock doctrine</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/stop-ttip-generic-fb.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/stop-ttip-generic-fb.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protests against the EU/US trade deal, "TTIP". Image: stop-ttip.org</span></span></span></strong></p><p>One of the most terrifying potential ramifications of Brexit is a Trump-May UK/US Trade deal. And a UK/China trade deal… and… I could go on. While the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy has vast problems, American agribusiness will be very keen to ensure that what replaces it is nothing like the careful environmental protections that eco-Brexiters like <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/18/the-new-lie-of-the-land-what-future-for-environmentalism-in-the-age-of-trump">Paul Kingsnorth</a> will have been hoping for. With vast corporations desperate to prise open British markets after decades of EU subsidy and protection, one of the most predictable consequences of Brexit is Britain’s countryside becoming the latest item shed in Westminster’s accelerating asset striptease. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">One of the most predictable consequences of Brexit is Britain’s countryside becoming the latest item shed in Westminster’s accelerating asset striptease. </p> <p>And the fire-sale of the English countryside will only be one item in such a negotiation. Expect US health insurance companies, with their famous lobbying heft, to try desperately to bury both mandibles into what’s left of the NHS. Expect all of the worst bits of the EU/US Trade Deal to be regurgitated back onto the table. Expect the return of some version of the ‘Investor State Dispute Mechanism’ corporate courts, which have been used to ban regulations designed to protect us from cancer or workplace accidents because they damage company profits.&nbsp; </p><p>And expect people to organise against them. <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/">Global Justice Now</a> and <a href="http://www.waronwant.org/">War on Want</a> have so far led the fight in the UK, working with partners across the world and winning astounding victories along the way. Of them, the former is probably easier to get involved with, as it has groups across the country. You can <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/join">join here</a>.</p> <h2><strong>3) Stand with Scotland </strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Forth_bridge_evening_long_exposure.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Forth_bridge_evening_long_exposure.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Forth Bridge, George Gastin, Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The Conservative party made very clear before the referendum that they expected to keep the UK as a whole in the single market. As such, May doesn’t really have any mandate for her hard Brexit. But the situation north of the Tweed is worse: Scotland voted by 62% to remain in the EU, and yet people here face being dragged out against their will. May hasn’t even been willing to consider any of the potential ‘special deal’ options proposed by the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems in recent months, along lines I once called a ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/reverse-greenland-letting-scotland-stay">Reverse Greenland’</a>. The only democratic way to resolve the constitutional conflict between the result of the 2014 independence vote, the 2016 result, and the situation Theresa May insists on dragging Scotland into is another independence referendum. </p><p>Last night, a majority of members of the Scottish parliament voted to hold such a referendum. For Westminster to block it would be a democratic outrage. And yet that is what Theresa May seems to be proposing to do. Pressure from outside Scotland will be key if Scots are to be allowed to vote on their constitutional future once more.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="https://www.writetothem.com/">Write to your MP</a> and demand that they allow they people of Scotland to vote on their constitutional future. (But make sure you read the next point first.)</p> <h2><strong>4) …and with Northern Ireland</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/peace-bridge-1-ilex-urban-regeneration-company-image.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/peace-bridge-1-ilex-urban-regeneration-company-image.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Peace Bridge, Derry, Northern Ireland. Discovernorthernireland.com</span></span></span></strong></p><p>If Scotland faces a democratic deficit, the North of Ireland faces disaster. Like Scotland, people in Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU. Unlike Scotland, there are significant reasons why Brexit will be a particular problem for people there. The imposition of passport and customs controls along the border between the North and the Republic will cause real economic harm. It will provide another opportunity to return to the old days of sectarian discrimination. The chances that border posts will become a target for violence, which could then escalate, are not trivial. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The chances that border posts will become a target for violence, which could then escalate, are not trivial. </p><p>And it’s not just the border. The EU and its human rights laws provide the framework for the Good Friday Agreement which has brought two decades of relative peace, and gave a constitutional framework in which people could be either Irish or British in both identity and citizenship, and live side by side without violence. </p> <p>So far, the British establishment has got away with treating Northern Ireland with disdainful disinterest. In the run up to the European referendum, their unique case was largely ignored by politicians and the media. In the run up to their recent election, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/lack-of-british-interest-in-northern-irelands-crucial-election-is-best-evidence-that-">no one paid any attention</a>. It’s only with the death of Martin McGuinness and the collapse of negotiations this week that the media has started to take note.</p> <p>What should happen in Northern Ireland? It’s too easy for those not from there to propose simple solutions: a united Ireland is certainly tempting, and may be the solution, but that’s as contentious a question as ever. Certainly, we need to make sure that the British government realises that there are people outside of Ireland who care about it. And so, again, a simple place to start may be <a href="https://www.writetothem.com/">writing to your MP</a> and demanding at the very least that they do all they can to prevent a hard border. You might even want to include points about both Scotland and Northern Ireland together.</p> <h2><strong>5) Take part in a Reclaim the Power action</strong></h2><p><strong><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 2017-03-28 at 00.32.37.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 00.32.37.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p>Leaving the EU means leaving behind inter-state collaboration on one of the defining issues of our time: climate change. And that means grassroots action will be more important than ever. Fortunately, the good folks at <a href="https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/">Reclaim the Power</a> (whose name long predates the similar sounding Brexit slogan ‘take back control’) are organising a wave of direct action against the fossil fuel industry, and offer you the chance to get your hands dirty in the fight against the fossil fuel industry. They tell you how to get involved <a href="https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/how-we-work/">here</a>. </p><h2>6) Confront racism where you see it</h2><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 2017-03-28 at 10.11.52.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 10.11.52.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: http://blacklivesmatteruk.org/</span></span></span></p><p>For people of colour, racism is a lived experience and, well, you don't need some white guy telling you what to do about that. But for those of us who aren't from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racialization">racialised</a> groups, we're going to have to up our game. There has already been a surge in reports of hate speech and worse since Brexit, and we all need to play our part in stopping it. Check out groups like <a href="http://blacklivesmatteruk.org/">Black Lives Matter UK</a> and see what you can do to help, and stand up to the racism which surrounds us all, whether that's a quiet conversation with an uncle or confronting fascists in the street.</p><h2>7) Read up on what the British empire was really like</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/695px-Punch_Rhodes_Colossus.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/695px-Punch_Rhodes_Colossus.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="596" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caricature of Cecil John Rhodes,Punch Magazine, public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>It often feels like a lot of this couldn't have happened if Britain had ever come to terms with its colonial history. British imperialists really weren't the cheerful engineers, kindly building railways for people in far off lands that our culture keeps trying to tell us about. It was all a lot more blood and torture-filled than that. And there is a whole lot more that most of us could be doing to learn about what really went on, and how it is Britain really got rich in the first place. </p><p>Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, find a few books or articles about what the British empire was really about – ideally written by people from the places we colonised – and begin to sample a flavour of the carnage and plunder that the UK unleashed on the world for centuries. One thing you might want to do is start with one war from the list below, find a book or article on it by someone from the colonised group, and take it from there:</p><p>The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Opium_War">Opium wars</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnatic_Wars#Second_Carnatic_War_.281749.E2.80.931754.29">Carnatic</a> wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Cherokee_War">Anglo-Cherokee</a> war; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontiac%27s_Rebellion">Pontiac’s </a>rebellion; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Mysore_Wars">Anglo Mysore wars</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Maratha_War">Anglo Maratha</a> wars; The American Revolutionary war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Rebellion_of_1798">Irish Rebellion</a>; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kandyan_Wars#First_Kandyan_War.2C_1803.E2.80.931805">The Kandyan</a> wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Turkish_War_%281807-1809%29">Anglo-Turkish</a> war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_Wars#4th_Xhosa_War.2C_1811-1812">Xhosa</a> wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ga-Fante_War">Ga-Fante</a> war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812">war of 1812</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Ashanti_wars">Anglo-Ashanti</a> wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Burmese_War">Anglo-Burmese</a> wars; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebellions_of_1837">Canada’s Rebellions of 1837</a>; The first, second and third Afghan wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Sikh_War">Anglo Sikh</a> wars; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagstaff_War">Flagstaff war</a> in New Zealand – and in fact <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_land_wars">the New Zealand</a> wars in general; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Persian_War">Anglo-Persian</a> war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_War">Black war</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857">Indian Rebellion</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Taranaki_War">First Taranaki</a> war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Waikato">invasion of Waikato</a>; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutan_War">The Bhutan</a> war; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klang_War">Klang war</a>; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titokowaru%27s_War">Titokowaru’s War</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1868_Expedition_to_Abyssinia">1868 'Expedition' to Abyssinia</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_River_Rebellion">Red River Rebellion</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zulu_War">Anglo-Zulu War</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikkim_Expedition">Sikkim Expedition</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zanzibar_War">Anglo-Zanzibar War</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Boer_War">Boer War</a>s; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Aro_War">Anglo-Aro War</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_expedition_to_Tibet">British expedition to Tibet</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War">Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War</a>; the I<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_War_of_Independence">rish War of Independence</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920_conflict_between_British_forces_and_the_Dervish_State">1920 conflict between British forces and the Dervish State</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1936%E2%80%931939_Arab_revolt_in_Palestine">Great Arab Revolt in Palestine</a>; The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British%E2%80%93Zionist_conflict">British–Zionist conflict</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War">Korean War</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mau_Mau_Uprising">Mau Mau Uprising</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EOKA">Cyprus emergency</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis">Suez Crisis</a>; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Campaign_%28Irish_Republican_Army%29">Border Campaign</a> against the IRA; the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War">Falklands War.</a>&nbsp;(Just a few, then.)</p><h2><strong>8) Join a trade union</strong></h2> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/TUC.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/TUC.gif" alt="" title="" width="450" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>photo: Timm Sonnenschein, TUC.</span></span></span></strong></p> <p>Brexit is also likely to mean a significant attack on rights at work. But, while the EU certainly helped drag Britain forward, it’s not international treaties which created the real pressure for workers’ rights in the first place: it was workers themselves organising for basic safety standards, weekends, paid holidays, sick pay and decent wages. Without the EU, we’re going to have to get good at that. Check out the TUC website and work out <a href="https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union">which one is for you</a>. If, like millions of people, you’re already a member but aren’t involved, then get in touch with your union and find out what you could be doing.</p> <h2><strong>9) Start paying for your media</strong></h2><p>Fewer and fewer people are paying for the news they read, watch and listen to. This means that journalism is more and more dependent on ‘native’ advertising and the patronage of vested interests, blurring the lines between editorial decisions and business or political ones. We can’t fix our politics without mending our media. And that means paying for it. You can set up a regular subscription to openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/donate">here</a> – but whatever media you read and value, support it.</p> <h2><strong>10) Come to the </strong><a href="http://theconvention.co.uk/"><strong>Convention on Brexit</strong></a></h2> <p>openDemocracy is proud to be a media partner for a <a href="http://theconvention.co.uk/">major national convention on Brexit</a>, where we will have the conversations that have been largely absent from parliament and the media. It’s happening on 12&nbsp;and 13 May in central London and will be the first large-scale event to offer organisations and individuals the chance to take part in crucial debates about the United Kingdom’s future, the wider changes that are sweeping western democracies and to debate and strategise together about what to do next.</p> <p>Be there.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://bit.ly/2nrbLAW"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555700/Article_Banner_v2%402x_0.jpg" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:15:14 +0000 Adam Ramsay 109711 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crowdpac is an open platform, and the new politics is coming https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/paul-hilder/crowdpac-is-open-platform-and-new-politics-is-coming <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People with all kinds of perspectives are using our platform to open up politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><b><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Steve_Hilton_2015.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Steve_Hilton_2015.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="556" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Hilton, Wikimedia</span></span></span></b>Telling fact from fiction can sometimes be a challenge – particularly in this age of fake news, clickbait and spin. To take just one recent example, last Friday the Telegraph ran a story that Arron Banks and Steve Hilton were “teaming up” under the headline, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/24/ukips-biggest-donor-david-camerons-former-strategist-plot-oust/">“Ukip's biggest donor and David Cameron's former strategist in plot to oust 100 Remain MPs”</a>. Sounds like a big deal, right? </p><p>I am Steve’s co-founder at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.crowdpac.co.uk">Crowdpac</a>, the open platform for new politics. As the person who runs all of Crowdpac outside of the US – <a target="_blank" href="http://www.crowdpac.com">where Steve focuses his own attention</a> – I am quite sure that I would know of any such plot. But that headline took me completely by surprise, because it was nonsense on stilts. </p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/Livlonanprsper">@Livlonanprsper</a> what are you talking about? <a href="https://twitter.com/CrowdpacUK">@CrowdpacUK</a> is an open platform for all - check it out and get involved! <a href="https://t.co/9N8tPYHIsC">https://t.co/9N8tPYHIsC</a> <a href="https://t.co/kJEBJKjVKp">pic.twitter.com/kJEBJKjVKp</a></p>— steve hilton (@SteveHiltonx) <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveHiltonx/status/845333969583456256">March 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>This, of course, did not prevent the story from being repeated far and wide: from <a target="_blank" href="http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/783291/Arron-Banks-UKIP-Tory-David-Cameron-s-former-adviser-UNITE-to-unseat-103-Remainer-MPs">The Express</a> to <a target="_blank" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/arron-banks-and-steve-hilton-teaming-up-to-oust-100-remain-backing-mps-at-next-election_uk_58d4fbece4b03787d3571476">The Huffington Post</a>, and all over social media. How did it happen? </p> <p>Take a moment to notice the quote marks nestling quietly around the Telegraph headline, and ask yourself: what’s really going on?</p> <p>The architect of Leave.EU, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-news-donald-trump-leave-eu-campaign-facts-dont-work-arron-banks-lies-referendum-a7111001.html">Banks once famously said</a>, “The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact – it doesn’t work. You’ve got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.” He and his wingman Andy Wigmore have enthusiastically embraced the post-truth world. Someone should ask them one day if they’ve ever studied the work of Vladimir Putin’s grey cardinal, political technologist <a target="_blank" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/richard-sakwa/surkov-dark-prince-of-kremlin">Vladislav Surkov</a>. They are certainly keen on <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/Arron_banks/status/826092291467132928">the uses of big data and artificial intelligence</a>. </p> <p>The facts are as follows. Crowdpac is an open platform for new politics  –  a place where anyone can crowdfund a campaign or nominate someone for office. We also provide voter information: for example, we map politicians’ positions transparently using big data to help you decide who to support. </p> <p>As co-founders, Steve Hilton and I come from opposite sides. While he was the Che Guevara of David Cameron’s Conservatism, I was building networked movements and platforms like <a target="_blank" href="http://www.38degrees.org.uk">38 Degrees</a>, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.avaaz.org">Avaaz</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://Change.org">Change.org</a> (and having <a target="_blank" href="http://38degreesdebunked.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/paul-hilder-38-degrees-director-and.html">rather less success</a> in persuading Labour to get their act together…). </p> <p>Today, Steve and I agree that the existing political system is breaking down, and that big money and vested interests have too much power. </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">During the last week the Greens raised over £10,000 to fund their by-election campaign in Manchester Gorton: <a href="https://t.co/PS2bwdq13O">https://t.co/PS2bwdq13O</a></p>— Paul Hilder (@paulhilder) <a href="https://twitter.com/paulhilder/status/845344277680943104">March 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>We are proud to be an open platform with a democratic mission. We talk all the time to politicians and campaigners from the left, the right and the centre.</p> <p>Crowdpac is still a start-up, but we have already hosted a wide range of campaigns on our platforms in the US and the UK. Over $6 million was pledged to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/74424/mr-trump-we-challenge-you-release-your-tax-returns-and-well-donate-to-these-veterans-organizations">a campaign pressuring Donald Trump to release his tax returns</a>. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/1577/support-deray-mckesson">Black Lives Matter co-founder DeRay McKesson</a> crowdfunded his run for Mayor of Baltimore on the platform. Doctor Kathryn Allen <a target="_blank" href="https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/181376/the-us-congress-needs-a-caring-physician">raised almost $500,000 on Crowdpac in the last two weeks</a> to challenge leading Congressional Republican Jason Chaffetz.</p> <p>In the UK, a wide range of Labour campaigns have successfully crowdfunded on Crowdpac, from the pro-Corbyn Momentum to the anti-Corbyn Labour First. Last week, the Greens raised over £10,000 to fund their by-election campaign in Manchester Gorton. Crowdpac has hosted several anti-Brexit campaigns in the UK, including the wonderfully creative We Are Europe (who produced the Trump-Boris kiss image and were later described as an “Anti-Brexit Gang” on the front cover of the Sun); and the Deliveroo drivers also crowdfunded their strike fund on our platform.</p> <p>Of course, being politically open and non-partisan, we encourage campaigns and campaigners from all sides to use our platform. We have discussed the benefits of using Crowdpac with Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and those who are or have been affiliated with UKIP, including Douglas Carswell and Arron Banks. In principle, all are welcome. (We also recently launched in France for the presidential elections, and have been talking with campaigns there.)</p> <p>Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore are controversial but effective campaigners. They are preparing to launch a new political movement called The Patriotic Alliance, which will attempt to replace UKIP by becoming a new Trumpian force in the UK. Before Christmas they talked about running hundreds of “independent” candidates to “drain the swamp” of British politics. They want to copy innovations like the direct democracy championed by the Italian Five Star Movement. They obviously seem keen on using Crowdpac, I imagine for multiple reasons. We’ve talked with them on more than one occasion; but I don’t know when they’ll set up their first campaign. </p> <p>Our conversations with Douglas Carswell go further back. When I covered his by-election campaign in <a target="_blank" href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/11/new-politics-how-old-political-consensus-melting-away">a 2014 “new politics” feature for the New Statesman</a>, he spoke enthusiastically about Steve. Douglas has just declared himself as an independent MP this weekend; and I understand Crowdpac features significantly in his new book <i>Rebel</i>. </p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="https://twitter.com/CrowdpacUK">@crowdpacUK</a> do wonderful work opening up politics to everyone. Authentically anti oligarch - not angry nativists <a href="https://twitter.com/paulhilder">@paulhilder</a> <a href="https://t.co/6sO0hkjLdX">https://t.co/6sO0hkjLdX</a></p>— Douglas Carswell (@DouglasCarswell) <a href="https://twitter.com/DouglasCarswell/status/845347486717939713">March 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Of course, Arron Banks and Douglas Carswell are not the best of political friends. So why are they both so interested in Crowdpac – an open platform where anyone can start their own campaigns? Perhaps because it <i>works</i>. </p> <p>Democracy dies in darkness; and it has never been clearer that the status quo is failing. It is time for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee. I lost a decade of my life to postmodernism in the 1990s, but it turned out to be good training for this bewildering moment. </p> <p>I believe firmly in truth, transparency and good old-fashioned democracy. I am unillusioned about the current crisis in our institutions, and determined to renew them for the networked age. For good or ill, I believe we could look back on this moment as the West’s 1989. I set out my analysis of the currently unfolding Political Revolution in a long-read essay which will appear in next month’s Prospect magazine. But <a target="_blank" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-hilder/weaving-networks-growing-conversation-of-world">as a co-founder of openDemocracy</a>, it feels appropriate to publish this real-time clarification here.</p> <p>Take any remaining scrap of complacency you may be clinging onto, light it on fire and throw it overboard. There are no guard-rails, no leaders smart enough to outsource all the answers to, and no guarantees of victory for the people you think are on the side of good. As Peter Thiel’s political consigliere Rob Morrow wrote back in 2008, this is a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.scribd.com/document/13586101/CL07-Q4-TheBullMarketinPolitics">“Bull Market In Politics”</a>. It’s time to get involved.&nbsp;Support a campaign you agree with – or start your own. Stand for office, or nominate someone else for any role in the country. The future will be built by what each one of us does now.</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/paul-hilder/breaking-point-of-democracy-your-country-needs-you">The breaking point of democracy: your country needs you </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 Paul Hilder Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:21:04 +0000 Paul Hilder 109699 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Should the law be changed to make sure the BBC does not lose out in the steadily changing world of digital viewing? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/should-law-be-changed-to-make-sure-bbc-does-not-lose-out-in-steadily-changing-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The BBC demands that all distributors of digital TV give prime slots to BBC content – but why should they have this right?</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/Purnell.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Purnell.jpeg" 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'>James Purnell. Image, BBC.</span></span></span></p> <p>Splash headlines about the BBC are not unusual in the solidly conservative British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Usually, they are negative, or even hostile: the “Torygraph” (as friends as well as critics often dub it) views the BBC with suspicion and even hostility, as a bastion of liberal values, overpaid bureaucrats and EU-friendly programme makers.</p> <p>The banner headline on Monday March 20th – <em>“BBC demands top billing in law”</em> – was actually triggered by an article on the paper’s opinion page written by one of the BBC’s top executives, James Purnell, bearing the heading <em>“British TV is being hidden by digital giants”</em>, and the sub-heading <em>“Netflix, Amazon and Sky are making home-grown programmes hard to find on their set-top boxes”. </em>&nbsp;I don’t know if those headings were chosen by the Telegraph or Purnell, but – like much of the article – they were undoubtedly misleading.</p> <p>Purnell is currently the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education, well-positioned to succeed Lord Hall as Director-General: previously, he was the Director of Strategy and Digital, and a decade ago he was Labour’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. James is a high flyer, and I have considerable respect for him.</p> <p>Even so, the campaign he was launching in the Telegraph struck me as symptomatic of the BBC’s occasional forays into political spin when the underlying facts offer very modest support. Essentially, Purnell was urging members of the House of Lords to support amendments to the Digital Economy Bill that would empower Ofcom to ensure that content from public service broadcasters – notably the BBC – would receive additional special prominence on all digital distribution platforms.</p> <p>Back in 2003, the BBC won a similar campaign to force digital platforms – essentially, Sky and the cable companies – to offer “due prominence” (that is, the first five slots) on their electronic programme guides (EPGs) to the five public service channels: BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. So what is the problem now?</p> <p>In&nbsp;early EPGs, the first 'screen'&nbsp;a viewer encountered when switching on simply listed all channels (with the five public service channels at the top), but more recent versions&nbsp;have a home page&nbsp;displaying a set of boxes, each&nbsp;containing&nbsp;viewing options. The top left box&nbsp;still&nbsp;lists all broadcast channels,&nbsp;but&nbsp;the other boxes&nbsp;offer genres, such as entertainment, sport, movies, news, kids, documentaries and so on, as well as catch-up and on-demand content; so the old 'due prominence' has been eroded to that extent.</p> <p>Purnell identifies a number of issues, but in a less than fully honest fashion. He praises the choice available to UK viewers, but of the ten programmes he name checks as part of his <em>“golden age of television”,</em> three are produced in the US (“Game of Thrones”, “Westworld” and “Stranger Things”) – which somewhat undermines his claim that “the UK’s broadcasting industry is the envy of the world”. Indeed, of the three BBC dramas he cites, one (“Poldark”) was a rather disappointing second series, another, “The Night Manager” (actually a co-production with a US cable service) undermined several excellent episodes with a clunker of a finale, and the third (series three of “Line of Duty”) managed the same trick, with a last episode of jaw-dropping absurdity.&nbsp; </p> <p>Just as disingenuously, he goes on to say that <em>“spending on British television programmes has fallen. The biggest media companies are American. Netflix and Amazon Video are focused on global content.”</em> This formulation carefully elides the fact that the steady and substantial decline in spending on UK originated content, for half of which the BBC is itself responsible (as Ofcom has laboriously demonstrated in a series of regular reports) long pre-dates the launch of Amazon Prime and Netflix in the UK. The implication that these on-demand services are somehow responsible for the fall borders on the dishonest.</p> <p>Purnell’s next beef is about the EPG slots for the BBC’s children’s channels, CBBC and CBeebies, on the Sky platform, <em>“below 12 US cartoon networks”</em>. What he omits to mention is that all the channels above the BBC in the “kids” section of the EPG are owned by Viacom, Disney or Warner, who launched their first services on satellite nearly 20 years before the BBC reluctantly joined them there, having finally recognized that dedicated children’s channels were the destination of first choice for kids who had choice. Indeed, for a while, Nickelodeon (majority owned by Viacom) was a BBC partner: and both Disney and Nickelodeon spend more on non-animation original children’s content every year than all the UK broadcasters combined.</p> <p>Indeed, it was not until the BBC itself evicted children’s programmes from its EPG-protected channels, BBC1 and BBC2, that BBC provision for children was fully relegated to the “kids” ghetto. If there is any anxiety that viewing of “safe, trusted, educational, British programmes without adverts” by our children is undermined by the Sky EPG, why not just restore the programmes to their previous home, on the protected services, BBC1 and BBC2, which between them dominate all UK viewing? </p> <p>During the passage of the 2003 Communications Act, the BBC had ample opportunity to persuade MPs that its planned children’s channels – and, indeed, its news and Parliament channels, as well as the services that later became BBC3 and BBC4 – should be granted the same EPG privileges as its main channels. </p> <p>It failed to do so, contenting itself with using the control of the dominant digital platform, Freeview, by the public service broadcasters, to do just that. In fact, Purnell never mentions Freeview in his article, and only the sharp-eyed will detect its omission in his use of the phrase “leading <em>pay-TV </em>platform” (my italics) to describe Sky. Given his silence over the placing of BBC News and BBC Parliament in slots 3 and 4 of the news section on the Sky EPG (behind Sky News and Bloomberg), perhaps we can deduce that legislation to force Sky to grant the BBC’s channels slots 1 and 2 in the news section is seen even by the BBC as possibly a touch of sledgehammer and nut.</p> <p>The most substantial of Purnell’s arguments is much more forward-looking: the perceived threat to consumption of public service content from the steady rise of on-demand viewing, as opposed to using linear channels. In truth, watching live TV still constitutes about 85% of all TV viewing, and catch-up – which is dominated by the public service broadcasters – accounts for another 7-8%. In other words, on-demand viewing of non-broadcast material constitutes a very small proportion of all viewing currently. </p> <p>But what annoys Purnell is that modern EPGs offer a home screen that provides such a wide range of viewing options – live, catch-up, on-demand, top picks – that the benefits of “due prominence” in the channel listings is diluted. He complains specifically about the new “Sky Q” box, where <em>“there is not one button on the remote control that takes you to live TV”.</em> Oh dear. Worse still, the “Top Picks” tend to be Sky’s own programmes (including ones that require additional pay-per-view costs, over and above a monthly fee – shocking, really.)</p> <p>The chances of Sky designing a new set-top box that its customers find less useful than previous versions is low: they spend millions on research to avoid just such an outcome. So the BBC will have to reconcile itself to a future pattern of programme search that is geared to the preferences of consumers rather than those of specific broadcasters. </p> <p>Purnell’s answer is to ask Parliament to force on-demand services to provide “due prominence” for public service catch-up offerings “<em>like i-Player</em>”. This “<em>like</em>” is another weaselly formulation, as the only catch-up service from the designated public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five) that provides exclusively public service content is – the i-Player. The equivalent services from ITV, Channel 4 and Five all include an array of programmes that never appeared on their public service channels: content from ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, E4, More4, 5USA and so on that are nothing to do with public service television, including all the programmes acquired from abroad that are not even British (which is true of the i-Player, too). Why should any platform be forced to give these services “due prominence”?</p> <p>All these manipulations of the broadcasting system simply contrive to drive consumers away. The EU is pressurising services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to commission more from within the EU, and both have begun doing so (they say it makes commercial sense to include locally made content in all the versions they launch overseas, so this pressure may be going with the grain). </p> <p>But the notion that they might be required to design a special home page in every territory in which they launch, giving prominence to catch-up services over which they have no control, and which may contain material that does even purport to be public service in nature, seems just the type of anti-consumer wheeze that only Broadcasting House could devise. Indeed, as Netflix and Amazon Prime do not actually make set-top boxes, and only offer as part of their service content which they have licensed, there is no question of <em>“home-grown programmes being hard to find on their boxes”. </em>One can only assume that a Telegraph sub-editor has simply misunderstood Purnell’s deliberately obscure article.</p> <p>Fortunately, the Culture Department has indicated that it has no interest in the type of amendments the BBC is urging, and the Digital Economy Bill is likely to pass with no such encumbrances. But that has never stopped the BBC asking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk OurBeeb uk David Elstein Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:00:59 +0000 David Elstein 109696 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dark corners of our justice system https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/eric-allison/dark-corners-of-our-justice-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By failing to allow access to prisons and youth detention centres, the Ministry of Justice is allowing abuse and violence to flourish.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30654454.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/PA-30654454.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>It was only through undercover filming that alleged abuse at the G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) in Kent, England was exposed. Photo credit: Press Association/Franziska Kraufmann. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It may be thought that here in the UK, we have nothing to learn from the American penal system. After all, the ‘land of the free’ locks up more of its citizens than any country on earth and though it only accounts for just over four per cent of the world’s population, it locks up some 22% of the world’s prisoners. And convicts in America suffer appalling conditions, with many thousands entombed in solitary confinement for years, decades even.</p> <p>However, there is one aspect of the US prison system the UK would do well to copy: the access it provides to the media. A thought occurred to me recently. I have been in many jails in England and Wales, both as a prisoner and since picking up the pen for the Guardian 13 years ago.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">How we treat prisoners will have a marked effect on how they treat us, when they are set free.</p> <p>In my previous existence, I was regarded as a troublesome prisoner by my keepers and was moved around the system frequently. But I reckon I have seen the inside of more American jails than those in the UK’s system. Yet I have never set foot in America and never felt the urge to do so.</p> <h2><span>The envy of the world?</span></h2><p>My knowledge of life in US slammers stems from the willingness of the prisons there to allow television documentary-makers to go behind bars seemingly at will. I have seen death row in several prisons, the obscene conditions in the Supermax facilities and the bedlam of county jails, the ‘front doors’ to the US penal system.</p> <p>But here in the UK – where it used to be commonly asserted that British Justice was the envy of the world – television viewers are rarely allowed to see what goes on in our jails and journalistic access to prisons, though improved under Michael Gove’s recent tenure as Justice Secretary, is still severely restricted.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Prisoners suffer abuse in dark corners, the only places where abuse flourishes. We should be shining a light on these places, only then can we guarantee our jails are abuse free.</p> <p>Does it matter, do we need to know? Absolutely. By and large, we know what goes on in most of our institutions. We can visit schools, hospitals,&nbsp;<em>et al</em>&nbsp;but our prisons remain largely out of the public eye. And it matters, because how we treat prisoners will have a marked effect on how they treat us, when they are set free.</p> <p>When prisoners suffer abuse, beyond the abusive conditions so many are held in, they suffer it in dark corners, the only places where abuse flourishes. We should be shining a light on these places, only then can we guarantee our jails are abuse free.</p> <p>Earlier this year, I was involved in the making of the Panorama programme which exposed the alleged abuse of children at the G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) Kent. A Guardian investigation in February this year revealed that the government and the Youth Justice Board, who oversee the detention of children, had been warned of the abuse by whistleblowers many years before, but no action was taken to investigate the serious allegations made.</p> <p>I had been on Medway’s case for some six years before we ran the story. I had spoken to many children who had been detained there and the stories of abuse they had suffered, or witnessed, rang true. It was clear to me that the STC was not fit for purpose.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Panorama sent an undercover reporter to Medway working as a guard. He had a hidden camera and recorded some disturbing footage. Only then was action taken.</p> <p>But we could not stand the story up, because we only had the words of the children and nobody listens to kids. Panorama sent an undercover reporter to Medway working as a guard. He had a hidden camera and recorded some disturbing footage; he shone a light, if you like. Only then was action taken.</p> <p>I spoke at length with two former residents of Medway who both suffered appalling abuse there. They complained, many times, but nobody listened. Perhaps the most shocking revelation they made was that, though both spent long periods at Medway, they never once met the then director of the facility. It appears he did not meet the children placed in his care.</p><h2><em><strong>Shining a light?</strong></em></h2><p>Had journalists been allowed access to Medway and other prisons, it is unlikely the abuse would have continued for as long as it did. But no lights were shining on these dark corners of the system.</p> <p>A stark contrast then to visit Spain and look at their juvenile detention system, as I did with a colleague, Simon Hattenstone in 2014. Since 1992, virtually all of the children’s prisons in Spain have been run by a not for profit charity Diagrama&nbsp;(<em>Tough love: is this a model prison for children?</em>&nbsp;November 7, 2014).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compared to youth detention in the UK, Spain are light years ahead.&nbsp;</p> <p>We visited two youth prisons, dubbed ‘re-educational centres’ and one secure children’s home, all run by Diagrama. In all three places, we were given absolute access. We chose the children we wanted to speak to and talked to them out of earshot of the staff. Diagrama offered to supply us with an interpreter, but did not object when we asked to take our own. There were no dark corners.</p> <p>Compared to youth detention in the UK, Spain are light years ahead. Perhaps the most telling statistic that emerged from our visit is this: Diagrama has not had a single suicide in any of the centres it has run since 1992. At the time we wrote about Spain, 33 children under 18 had died in custody, in England and Wales and all but two had killed themselves.</p> <p>I have a long list of prisoner sources across the spectrum of jails in this country. As a result, I have a blacklist of a dozen or so prisons and Young Offender Institutions, from where I receive regular accounts of abuse by staff. Can I report on it? No, because, at the moment, I only have the word of prisoners and, like the children abused in STCs, nobody listens to prisoners.</p> <p>Prior to the undercover reporter going into Medway, one of the Panorama team expressed concerns: ‘What if we don’t find abuse? I was asked. I replied. “If you go in a farm yard, you will find animal shit. Go into Medway and you will find abuse.”’</p> <p>I am equally certain that prisoners are being abused in the jails on my blacklist. In February, David Cameron gave a speech in which he endorsed the reforms planned by the then justice minister, Michael Gove. He spoke of prisons, closed off by high walls and barbed wire and said it would be easy to adopt an ‘out of sight. out of mind attitude’.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Why can’t I – and other journalists – demand admission?&nbsp;</p> <p>David Cameron said he wanted there to be no ‘no-go areas’ in the system. In fact, the whole of the penal estate in England and Wales is a no-go area. Yes, cameras are allowed in occasionally, but always on Ministry of Justice (MoJ) terms. And I repeat, under Michael Gove’s stewardship, media access improved.</p> <p>For example, in May 2016, Wandsworth, one of the most troubled jails in the country, opened it’s doors to the BBC. It was a brave move; the cameras showed a prison in meltdown; violent incidents an everyday occurrence, more and more prisoners suffering mental health problems and drugs freely available. Granting access was a calculated move by the MoJ; brought on , I was told, to counter the ‘Holiday Camp’ bunkum, regularly dispensed by the tabloids. It did that all right, shining a light on the violence (up 31% according to figures published in July 2016), the squalor and the tension.</p> <p>Wandsworth, although once synonymous with prisoner abuse by staff, is not on my blacklist of jails, those where the evidence of abuse is consistently strong. Why can’t I – and other journalists – demand admission? Let us see the segregation units, the prisons within prisons, where abuse, if it exists, usually occurs. And the Close Supervision Centres, where those prisoners deemed to be the most disruptive in the system are housed. These are the darkest of dark corners and the source of so many disturbing reports.</p> <p>The MoJ always deny reports of abuse, but I repeat, I have evidence. I am the prisons correspondent for a respected national newspaper. Let me do my job. If the system&nbsp;has nothing to hide, it has nothing to fear from a shining light.</p><p><em><strong>This article first appeared on the Justice Gap&nbsp;<a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2017/01/proof-magazine-dark-corners-justice-system/">here</a>&nbsp;and features in&nbsp;<a href="http://thejusticegap.com/proof-magazine/">Proof magazine</a>&nbsp;issue 2.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/prisons-places-of-harm-and-dehabilitation">Prisons: places of harm and dehabilitation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Eric Allison Mon, 27 Mar 2017 12:37:10 +0000 Eric Allison 109693 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Postscript to a letter to extremists https://www.opendemocracy.net/nafeez-ahmed/postscript-to-letter-to-extremists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can defeat extremism by building something beautiful together.</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-30658107.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30658107.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'>Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaking at the candlelight vigil in Trafalgar Square, London to remember those who lost their lives in the Westminster terrorist attack. Lauren Hurley/Press Association. March 23, 2017. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Islamist extremism is real, and it’s not going away. The Westminster attack is yet another reminder of that. </p> <p>But defeating it requires a different approach&nbsp;to what has gone on before.</p> <p>After the attack, my friend Muddassar Ahmed mobilised a group of British Muslims to form <a href="http://launchgood.com/London">Muslims United for London</a>, via the LaunchGood platform, to raise money for the victims and their families. Muddassar had been a witness to the attack on the day as he had been inside parliament when it happened.</p> <p>Our initial target was £10,000. Within a matter of hours we’d raised over £5,000. We then hit our target and more, shortly after lunchtime – within 24 hours after the attack. So we upped the target to £20,000. Today, not long after most businesses start work, we smashed our target of £20,000. So we’ve upped it again to £30,000.</p> <p>The general British public has overwhelmingly received the initiative in the spirit with which it was made: love, compassion and wanting to create something good in the aftermath of something so horrifying. <span class="mag-quote-center">In an article I wrote promoting the fundraiser, I’ve had comments from both the left and the right criticising the project.</span></p> <p>But not everyone felt this way.</p> <p>In an article I wrote promoting the fundraiser, I’ve had comments from both the left and the right criticising the project. </p> <p>One person complained that we’re ignoring the fact that there is a problem of radical Islam, illustrated by the grotesque atrocities of groups like ISIS and the Taliban toward other Muslims, minorities and women. How can we deny that there’s no problem? I don’t explain, they began, “why the Taliban/ISIS/Al Qaeda, &amp; other Islamic terrorist groups kill more fellow muslims than anyone else.”</p> <p>Another person complained that Muslims are, actually, mostly extremists. They cited a controversial Channel 4 poll which claimed that 34% of Muslims would not report to the police someone who sympathised with terrorists in Syria. Never mind that the poll’s methodology was flawed <a href="http://www.runnymedetrust.org/blog/whatmuslimsreallythink-programme-is-based-on-a-flawed-poll-skewed-to-find-a-them-and-us-narrative">according</a> to the Runnymede Trust, which criticised it for a selective sample focusing on segregated communities – or that as Miqdaad Versi in <em>The Guardian</em> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/12/what-do-muslims-think-skewed-poll-wont-tell-us">noted</a>: “… for the survey’s ‘control’ group  – consisting of randomly selected people from across the country of all or no faiths  – the figure is only 30%. And <a href="http://www.comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/BBC-Today-Programme_British-Muslims-Poll_FINAL-Tables_Feb2015.pdf">other polls</a> have found that 94% of British Muslims would report someone they knew who was planning an act of violence to the&nbsp;police.”</p> <p>Others took a totally different approach. “How many people were killed by US and British bombs yesterday, Nafeez”, asked one. On my Facebook, a British Muslim whom I promptly unfriended, commented on my update about the fundraiser reaching its target: “Why are you groveling?”</p> <p>So let’s tackle this head on. Bad ideas, extremist ideologies, don’t become prominent without a material infrastructure by which they are propagated. That takes money. And this is where we confront the deep politics of terror. A number of Muslim-majority governments have been exposed for <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/former-turkish-counter-terror-chief-exposes-governments-support-for-isis-d12238698f52#.ykjbujl90">consistently sponsoring</a> Islamist extremist groups through the <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/secret-pentagon-report-reveals-west-saw-isis-as-strategic-asset-b99ad7a29092#.2d04sw8f1">provision</a> of, collectively, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/us-relies-heavily-on-saudi-money-to-support-syrian-rebels.html?_r=0">billions</a> of dollars of financial and military support. Some of them have done so for <a href="https://newint.org/features/2009/10/01/blowback-extended-version/">decades</a>.</p> <p>Yet western governments often maintain a range of self-serving alliances with these regimes. They do so despite <a href="http://www.thecanary.co/2016/10/11/new-clinton-email-reveals-direct-support-for-isis-from-two-powerful-western-allies/">significant intelligence</a> on this sort of regional state-sponsorship of terrorism. The reasons for this are complex and systemic. At base, we are talking about interlocking financial interests. The fact that many of these countries, in the Gulf region for instance, hold much of the world’s oil reserves, also plays a significant role. And yet another related issue covers geopolitical and strategic concerns to maintain the stability of these regimes, to keep the oil flowing, to keep the world economy functioning, regardless of their tyrannical policies at home and support for terrorists abroad.</p> <p>In other cases, western interference and alliances with proxy groups tied to the same terror groups – in places like Afghanistan, Syria and Libya – has amplified and entrenched their activities. And to compound matters, western military interventions across the Muslim world have tended to <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/unworthy-victims-western-wars-have-killed-four-million-muslims-1990-39149394">indiscriminately kill civilians</a>, stoking grievances, driving some locals into the arms of militant recruiters, and providing fodder for the extremist recruiters who operate in western homelands.</p> <p>While vast majorities of Muslims continue to oppose the extremism of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, these processes mean that a festering pool of discontent still fuels the activities of militants in different parts of the world.</p> <p>And beneath all of this, we have the deeper, slower but inexorable biophysical processes of climate change, energy depletion, food crises and economic contraction which are <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/essays/after-mosul-coming-break-iraq-and-end-middle-east-1887306183">converging to weaken and undermine</a> the already largely fragile, autocratic regimes in the region. As these regimes become weaker, as states begin to fail, the ongoing influx of money to extremist groups by various powers for geopolitical purposes is radicalised by the short-sighted (and often self-serving) reactionary military solutions adopted by the west. <span class="mag-quote-center">The truth of the matter is that the problem of extremism is a shared reality for which the western and Muslim worlds are co-responsible. This may be unpalatable.</span></p> <p>Within this complex picture, it’s easy to focus on only one element of the mosaic of factors and blame the party that suits: we can blame ‘Muslims’, ‘radical Islam’, ‘the West’, ‘foreign policy.’</p> <p>The truth of the matter is that the problem of extremism is a shared reality for which the western and Muslim worlds are co-responsible. This may be unpalatable. Different sides would prefer to blame the other exclusively. But that is only going to compound the problem. </p> <p>So let’s be clear. Muslims United for London is about doing something real. It doesn’t address root causes – it cannot in itself solve the very real problem of Islamist extremism. And it clearly in no way challenges atrocities for which British or other western governments are responsible.</p> <p>What it does is simple. It follows the injunction of the Prophet Muhammad as follows: “What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.” </p> <p>For us, Islam is about protecting and sanctifying all life, our fellow species on the planet and the planet itself. ‘Allah’, the Divine Reality, conveys the concept of <a href="http://chickpeapress.co.uk/99-names/">‘crazy, unbounded love’</a>, and the Muslim is literally ‘one who surrenders’ their ego to this ultimate Reality (Haqq). </p> <p>Within the world, the Muslim is tasked to see her or himself as living in sacred trusteeship with our fellow creatures, and the entire Earth, holding a deep, fundamental responsibility to care for all, by embodying the ethical categories derived from the Divine Names (the Compassionate, <em>Ar-Rahman</em>; the Merciful, <em>Ar-Raheem</em>; the Just, <em>al-Adl</em>). </p> <p>These are Islamic principles I and a collective of western Muslims have attempted to elaborate in detail through our theological project, <a href="http://www.perennialvision.org/">Perennial</a>, which begins to illuminate an authentic, trans-sectarian but scripturally grounded exploration of Islam’s real teachings about human existence.</p> <p><a href="http://launchgood.com/London">Muslims United for London</a> is a small, humble, spontaneous gesture of humanity inspired by our faith. It is an illustration of what is possible when people come together in times of crisis. It encapsulates the sorts of actions that, in themselves, put to shame the disgusting atrocities of extremists in our midst. </p> <p>We can, and will, condemn and disassociate ourselves from those who abuse the name of Islam to kill, murder and rape. But we want to show that we can build something beautiful together too, and we’re doing it because <em>that</em> is the vision we aspire to.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See <a href="https://www.launchgood.com/project/muslims_united_for_london#/">Muslims United for London</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nafeez-ahmed/love-letter-to-extremists-after-london-attack">Letter to extremists after the London attack</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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Nafeez Ahmed Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:06:50 +0000 Nafeez Ahmed 109660 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The banality of terrorism https://www.opendemocracy.net/kieran-ford/banality-of-terrorism-story-we-ve-all-heard-before <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Current responses seem to normalise terrorism – cementing it into the everyday reality of daily life, in the same way that we accept poverty, homelessness or inequality. The way things are.</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/500209/PA-30658134.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30658134.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Candlelight vigil in Trafalgar Square, London to remember those who lost their lives in the Westminster terrorist attack. Yui Mok/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>So, once again, we face a terrorist attack in the western world. And moreover, not only do we face the reality of the bloodshed, the violence and the affront we all feel in the sense of a violation of security, we also face the need to respond. Each time these attacks take place, whether in Brussels, Paris or London (but perhaps not Baghdad) the same messages, texts and narratives emerge across newspapers, television screens and social media. What is interesting to note is how these narratives, themes and ideas are appearing increasingly lazy and inadequate. </p> <p>As soon as the events in Westminster began to unfold, each actor began to play their role – their lines rehearsed, their movements pre-determined and choreographed. News outlets poured across our social media with timelines of events, dramatic and amateur hand-held camera footage, action shot images, trigger warnings about graphic scenes we may find distressing (but cannot look away from), profiles of a hero captured in the moment, and speculative pieces on the character of the main suspect and any potential links to carefully constructed phrases such as ‘Islamist-inspired’ terrorism.</p> <p>Politicians then have their share of the narrative space offering their contributions: discourses of freedom, of never giving in, of being above this – Britain’s values won’t be defeated. Each political leader had their turn and had their say, and they all said the same thing. </p> <p>And then you have the critics. Those who point out how you weren’t upset by the bombing the other day in Kabul, those who mention the number of people who died yesterday in car accidents, those who blame British foreign policy, those who attempt to open the debate from the stock of narratives that come from more powerful voices.</p> <p>And of course, you have the more fringe responses: from racist tweeters jumping on a bandwagon to incite hate and division to those who perhaps support the actions of the attacker, taking pride in taunting victims. </p> <p>And yet, through all these diverse narratives there appears one common theme: they are all wearing thin. Each of these narratives appears tired, over-used, more emaciated than when last rolled out in a tweet or a post. In examining media responses, both print and social, there appears a potent sense of boredom, of tiredness, of having seen this story before and of knowing how it will probably end: tragedy for the victims, a tightening of surveillance and a spike in hate crime. </p> <p>The cracks in the political narrative are certainly more obvious than on their last outing. Take Theresa May’s speech on the night of the attacks for example: a sombre tone, a podium positioned for strength and leadership, a message of defiance, an emphasis on values. One can’t help but feel like these themes have simply been copied and pasted from the last time an attack took place – a template story taken from the shelf with only the dates and names altered. Quite equally, Sadiq Khan’s video lacked the leadership or poignancy of Ken Livingstone’s in 2005 – a speech, which even while delivered on video from Singapore, seemed to speak the voice of the Londoner, rather than the looping voice of the ‘terrorist attack responder’ of today: repeating ad nauseam exactly what has been said before. The speeches lacked punch, gravitas or a political energy on which a critical counter-terror policy could take hold.</p> <p>But these inadequacies in leadership and oratory demonstrate not the mediocre quality of current political leaders, but rather demonstrate the need for a profound shift in the way that such incidents are both spoken of and dealt with by political institutions and leaders. Seemingly endless and brazenly empty narratives around values, freedom and defiance cannot alter the fact that the public is aware that little is being done to alter the political landscape such that the next attack won’t take place. Instead, these repeated phrases instil a fatalistic and normalising mode of thinking in the wider public: there’s been another attack, I hope I’m not caught up in the next one. </p> <p>Yet, the critics equally need to reflect on their own narratives. The message that terrorists kill fewer people annually in the western world than bathtubs appears to fall on deaf ears. And not because of ignorance. Many people in society are aware of the irrationality of the heightened fear of the terrorist. Yet, as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued – it’s not that we don’t know what we do, it’s that we do know, and yet we still do it. We know we shouldn’t be as scared of the looming terrorist as the increasing number of cars on Britain’s roads, or the meagre provision of safe cycling infrastructure, and yet we still are. And that is not going to change by itself. If the critics want to change counter-terror policy, it is their narrative that must also shift. It needs a more creative response to burst through this complacent thinking.</p> <p>Responses to terror need a fresh approach if these responses are to play a constructive part in the production of a world where terror ceases to exist. Current responses seem to normalise terrorism – cementing it in the everyday reality of daily life, much in the same way we accept poverty, homelessness or inequality. We’ve accepted that this is just the way things are. This is unhelpful thinking both for policy-makers, and for those working on a more critical approach to terrorism. Terrorism is becoming banal. We need to shift that thinking.</p> <p>But what should that response be? </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nafeez-ahmed/isis-wants-destroy-greyzone-how-we-defend">ISIS wants to destroy the &#039;grey zone&#039;. Here&#039;s how we defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/oscar-reyes-bertie-russell/eight-lessons-from-barcelona-en-com-on-how-to-take-bac">Eight lessons from Barcelona en Comú on how to Take Back Control</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/ben-hayes/worried-about-return-of-fascism-six-things-dissenter-can-do-in-2016">Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016</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 class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk United States EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Kieran Ford Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:24:19 +0000 Kieran Ford 109647 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Northern Ireland provides just one of many loopholes for dark-money to flow into British elections https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/alexandra-runswick/northern-ireland-provides-just-one-of-many-loopholes-for-dark-money- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's not just Northern Ireland's dodgy party donation rules that need an overhaul - across the UK, privacy prevails.</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/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" 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'>Gregory Campbell MP, treasurer of the Democratic Unionist Party, who accepted a £425,000 donation through an unincorporated association, from unknown sources. Image: BBC.</span></span></span></p> <p>The revelation on openDemocracy that loopholes in Northern Ireland's party donation rules were used to anonymously <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">channel hundreds of thousands of pounds into the Brexit campaign via the DUP</a> is alarming, but unsurprising. Wherever political donation loopholes exist – and they do in abundance – individuals and companies are quick to exploit them. Political parties have shown themselves to be willing to accept donations that come through front organisations, in the form of a loan, or as smaller donations from numerous connected family members and friends – at least until they get caught out. The <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/222510/Q4-2016-donations-and-loans-summary-document.pdf">latest data</a> from the Electoral Commission has shown that far from Northern Ireland being an exception to the rule, wealthy individuals, corporate interests and trade unions dominate the political donors list. Donation rules need to be overhauled, or we risk a further corrosion of public trust in political integrity. &nbsp;</p> <p>Although the identity of the anonymous donor has now been revealed as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">the Constitutional Research Council</a> (CRC), this has only raised more questions. The CRC are not a registered company or an unincorporated association, nor are they a registered charity. They have no website, and virtually no information is available about the group online. The CRC’s Chairman, Richard Cook, is the former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative party and holds a range of directorships. Who else is behind the CRC and their £425,000 donation that funded the DUP’s Brexit campaign, remains a mystery. </p> <p>&nbsp;In Northern Ireland, unlike in the rest of UK, donations to political parties are anonymised under rules outlined in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). For years, the government has pledged to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, which would require simple secondary legislation, and yet reform has never materialised. &nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>Northern Ireland’s donations loophole is hardly an exception to the rule. Dark money runs throughout our political system. Existing rules that are meant to promote transparency are simply not comprehensive enough, and so long as loopholes exist, they will continue to be exploited, exploit them and political parties will be happy to help them along.</p> <p>Conscious of avoiding a potentially reputation-damaging activity, like offering cash for an honour, there are a plethora of avenues open only to the wealthiest, which facilitate stealthy donations to political parties. These are detailed in a satirical guide, <em>‘</em><a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5525bbf5e4b026f75314c09b/t/58b7f858197aea309050161e/1488451678701/UD_Mar17_DodgyDonor_final_web.pdf"><em>How to be a Dodgy Donor,</em></a>’ published by Unlock Democracy this month. For example, individuals can <a href="https://www.conservatives.com/donate/Donor-Clubs">pay £50,000 to become a member</a> of the Conservative party's 'Leadership Group.' Alternatively, <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/donations-and-loans-to-other-individuals-and-organisations/registers-unincorporated-associations">setting up an Unincorporated Association</a> enables donations of up to £24,999 to be made to a dinner club which can be passed on to a political party of choice without your name being published by the Electoral Commission. If a dodgy donor wants to disguise their identity, there are many ways to funnel cash into a political party – no questions asked, no names revealed.</p> <p>To robustly scrutinise the decisions being made by the government, the public needs to know whether they are being subject to undue influence. Transparency measures around party donations are in place to make this scrutiny possible. However, the measures in place do not go far enough to eradicate opacity. Whether it’s setting up a limited company through which to channel funding to a political party, or splitting up donations so that each individual transaction is small enough to avoid the Electoral Commission’s registration requirements, what’s clear is that if you have the money, the rules are easy to circumvent. Those seeking to leverage their wealth to influence a political party should be accountable to both Parliament and the public, and yet existing rules do not enable this scrutiny process to happen. </p> <p>Existing political donation rules create a system that inclines parties towards pandering to wealthy donors. In a healthy democracy, every citizen should be able to equally participate, and yet the current system enables the wealthiest in society to purchase political influence. If we want to stop the influence of big money in our politics, we need to introduce a low level cap on donations. By capping donations at £5,000, single donations could no longer have an overwhelming influence on campaigns. Politicians would have to appeal to a broader and more diverse audience to source their campaign funds rather than simply pleasing a few multi-millionaires. </p> <p>The cap would need to be the same for everyone: individuals, companies, unincorporated associations and members’ associations. The only exception being affiliation fees from membership organisations. This would diminish the opportunities for getting round the rules. The low cap would mean that using tricks, like splitting donations or setting up companies, require more effort that the potential benefits. (You would need to find a lot of people to donate on your behalf to accrue any significant donation). While banning corporate donations would open up new loopholes – individuals making donations and then being repaid by the company for example – the thresholds for company donations do need to be strengthened. The definition that’s currently applied – “carrying on business” – is as broad as to be virtually meaningless. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Brexit vote was in part motivated by a deep-set distrust of the political establishment and a dissatisfaction with the way politics is conducted. A perception prevails amongst at least some voters that those in Westminster work on behalf of the interests of the establishment elite, and not their constituents. The way we fund political parties only works to reinforce the perception that politicians are working in the interests of the privileged few, and not the many. </p> <p>A lack of transparency and dodgy donor scandals corrode the public’s trust in politics, giving rise to the impression that influence over policy and access to politicians can be bought. Closing Northern Ireland’s donations loophole is only a starting point: we need to overhaul political donation rules, and bring an end to donor leveraging their wealth to determine policy. Capping donations is the single biggest change to our party funding system that would take big money out of politics and force parties to work in the interests of everyone not just the privileged few. </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/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 even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</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. Alexandra Runswick Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:50:09 +0000 Alexandra Runswick 109641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When governments fail to defend the economic realm, citizens revolt https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/when-governments-fail-to-defend-economic-realm-citizens-revolt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The subordination of society to self-regulating international markets is the reason why British workers and industries so often fall prey to predatory financiers, writes Ann Pettifor. It is also a fun... </div> </div> </div> <em>The subordination of society to self-regulating international markets is the reason why British workers and industries so often fall prey to predatory financiers, writes <strong>Ann Pettifor</strong>. It is also a fundamental cause of current political crises throughout the west – just as Karl Polanyi described almost 80 years ago.</em> <em>‘I would rather see Finance less proud and Industry more content.’ </em>Winston Churchill fretting about a return to the gold standard, in a memorandum to Sir Otto Niemeyer, 22 February 1925 As this article goes to press, the British government finds itself onthe defensive and virtually helpless in the face of two potential global ‘megadeals’ that may lead to substantial job losses. The first is the failed US $143 billion takeover bid for Unilever by Kraft Heinz and its cost-cutting partner 3G Capital – a private equity company owned by Jorge Paulo Lemann, a Brazilian billionaire. Unilever has 7,500 staff employed in the UK. While the threat of a takeover appears to have been averted for six months, 3G Capital has mobilised up to $15 billion for the next megadeal, and still has Unilever in its sights. 3G was behind the Kraft–Heinz merger, finalised in 2015, after which 13,000 jobs were shed. As Warren Buffett says of his partner 3G, their joint investments have been highly profitable, but 3G specialises in ‘eliminating many unnecessary costs... very promptly’.1 The second threat is General Motors’ sale of its European arm, Opel, to the company behind Peugeot, PSA. Because Vauxhall is part of the Opel company, the jobs of 4,500 workers – building Vauxhall’s Astra cars in Ellesmere Port and Vivaro vans in Luton – are at risk. Furthermore, more than 20,000 people work in Vauxhall’s retail network, and 7,000 people work in its wider UK supply chain.2 Vauxhall is particularly vulnerable because the UK’s lax labour laws makes it easier for PSA to cut costs by firing workers and closing plants in the UK than it would be in, for example, France or Germany. Mrs Thatcher’s anti-union stance, inherited by successive Conservative and Labour governments, has exposed not only British workers to predatory behaviour by an unregulated finance sector, but also British industry. Unlike Churchill, Thatcher and her successors were content to see finance proud, and industry vulnerable. The latest ‘fire sales’ and intensified ‘asset-stripping’ of healthy British companies by big, global, tax-dodging finance corporations can be explained in several ways. The first is the prospect of Brexit, and the fear that British firms will lose access to the single market. The second is also explained by the Brexit vote: the 17 per cent fall in sterling, which makes companies – and indeed all British assets – cheaper for foreign buyers. The third is that global private equity firms have strong appetites for acquiring healthy firms, and then financing takeover deals with taxpayer-subsidised debt. These subsidies represent substantial foregone tax revenues for the governments concerned – foregone revenues that will rise as a share of GDP as interest rates rise. Indeed, what appeared to gall the Unilever board most was ‘the idea that it was expected to cover the bill on credit – by having debt raised against its own pristine balance sheet’.3 <strong>Presiding over the fire-sale </strong> Like parasites, private equity firms do not kill their hosts, as this would cut off the supply of rent (in the form of debt payments) gouged from healthy firms for many years into the future. Making a company pay for its own takeover by sacking employees, stripping assets and then systematically bleeding it of future revenues is capitalism at its most barbaric. The prime minister seems to understand this, but also appears impotent in the face of globalised finance. In her speech to the 2016 Conservative party conference she said, ‘Our economy should work for everyone’.4 But hers are empty words as she oversees the systematic culling of nationally significant British firms like ARM, the UK’s largest tech firm, taken over in 2016 by Japan’s SoftBank.5 In this sense the British government, unlike most European governments, fails at its most important duty: that of defending the economic realm to ensure the security of its citizens. And it is this failure of regulatory democracy to defend the livelihoods and living standards of its citizens that, I believe, lies behind the Brexit vote, support for Donald Trump, and the rising popularity of France’s far-right Front National. If democratically elected governments are not capable of defending citizens from voracious, parasitic capital, then citizens revolt. Rather than turning to social democrats perceived to be colluding with global, liberalised finance (or ‘globalisation’), they turn instead to a ‘strongman’ or -woman who promises to ‘build walls’ or exit the EU, and defend them from freewheeling, self-regulating markets in capital, trade and labour. <strong>Grounding the ‘almost planetary’ economy </strong> Karl Polanyi, author of <em>The Great Transformation</em>, explained this phenomenon in a series of lectures delivered in 1940, reproduced recently by PRIME economics.6 <em>‘Within national frontiers representative democracy had been safe-guarding a regime of liberty, and the national well-being of all civilized nations had been immeasurably increased under the sway of liberal capitalism; the balance of power had secured a comparative freedom from long and devastating wars, while the gold standard had become the solid foundation of a vast system of economic cooperation on an almost planetary scale. Although the world was far from perfect, it seemed well on the way towards perfection. Suddenly this unique edifice collapsed. The very conditions under which our society existed passed forever.’</em><em>7 </em> The gold standard, he explained ‘had become the basis of a world economy which embraced capital markets, currency markets and commodity markets on an international scale’. The apparently simple proposition that all factors of production must have free markets implies in practice that the whole of society must be subordinated to the needs of the global market system, Polanyi argued. This subordination of society to self-regulating international markets, and the detachment of this ‘almost planetary’ economy from the policymaking boundaries of a national democracy ‘developed into a catastrophic internal situation’ in the 1930s and was ‘the critical state of affairs out of which the fascist revolutions sprang’.8 History, of course, does not repeat itself, and because of the rise of new technology and other developments, today’s democratic governments face challenges different to those faced by governments in the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, Polanyi’s analysis of the impact of self-regulating international markets on democratic governments appears extraordinarily relevant to today’s events. <em><strong>This piece was written for the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)2050-5876;jsessionid=A8819AA3188A763A4CBEEC2BD9897487.f03t04">I</a><a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)2050-5876;jsessionid=A8819AA3188A763A4CBEEC2BD9897487.f03t04">PPR journal Juncture</a></strong></em> <ul> <li>1  Gapper J (2017) ‘Warren Buffett needs a new recipe for investing’, <em>Financial Times</em>, 22 February 2017. https://www.ft.com/content/e76558cc-f834-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71</li> <li>2  Blagg H (2017) ‘“Speedy changes” concerns: Unite GS to press case to PSA boss’, UNITE live blog, 23 February 2017. http://unitelive.org/speedy-changes-concerns/</li> <li>3  Vincent M (2017) ‘Who wrote the chat-up lines in Kraft’s clumsy courtship?’, <em>Financial Times</em>, 20 Feb 2017</li> <li>4  May T (2016) ‘Theresa May’s keynote speech at Tory conference in full’, <em>Independent</em>, 5 October 2016. 
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-speech-tory-conference-2016-in-full- 
transcript-a7346171.html</li> <li>5  Farrell S and Kollewe J (2016) ‘ARM shareholders approve SoftBank takeover’, <em>Guardian</em>, 30 August 2016. 
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/30/arm-shareholders-softbank-takeover-tech-lord-myners</li> </ul><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 Ann Pettifor Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:30:36 +0000 Ann Pettifor 109637 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ten years since the first bank collapsed, dodgy debt still threatens another crash https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/ten-years-since-first-bank-collapsed-dodgy-debt-still-threatens-another-crash <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ten years ago, on 2 April 2007, the US subprime mortgage lender New Century filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court. It was an obscure first domino to fall. But one and a half years later, Lehman Bro...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ten years ago, on 2 April 2007, the US subprime mortgage lender New Century filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court. It was an obscure first domino to fall. But one and a half years later, Lehman Brothers was insolvent, and global finance on the brink of meltdown. Whole bookshelves have been filled with the analysis of the crisis that followed. In essence, too much bad debt had accumulated in the system; on top of that, an impenetrable layer of derivatives had supercharged financial risks; and public regulators had been asleep at the wheel. You would think that, armed with those lessons, we would have vanquished system instability. But in its <em>Global Financial Stability Report</em> last fall, the International Monetary Fund warned that medium-term risks were rising once again. Market sensitivity – essentially, anxiety among traders – breached levels we hadn’t seen since 2009.<a name="_ftnref1" href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> Deutsche Bank’s wobbles last autumn were eerily reminiscent of the hot crisis years. Why is financial fragility still with us a decade after it burst into the open? First, the financial weight that our economies had grown before the crisis is still there – or rather: it’s back. The immediate post-crisis shrinkage of the financial sector was like a cleansing diet after gluttony. But the needles of many economic scales are moving in the wrong direction once more. According to the World Bank, the worldwide level of domestic credit to the private sector – households and non-financial firms – has roughly reached the level of 2006 again.<a name="_ftnref2" href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> In the US, it has increased by 10 percentage points of GDP since the post-crisis trough in 2011.<a name="_ftnref3" href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> Public debt burdens in many countries, especially in Europe, still hamper economic recovery. Over-the-counter derivatives, the principal villains in many crisis accounts, are also thriving: the notional trading volume of OTC interest rate derivatives, for example, has risen enormously since 2007, from roughly $1.7 trillion a day to more than $2.6 trillion a day in 2016.<a name="_ftnref4" href="#_ftn4">[4]</a> The repackaging and –selling of mortgages had collapsed in the wake of the crisis and never recovered. But at least in the US, the rest of this so-called securitization market has not budged much since 2007.<a name="_ftnref5" href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> Risk that disappeared from one corner of the financial system frequently re-emerged elsewhere in some distorted form. For example, regulators have forced derivatives dealers to set aside risk buffers for trades. That has pushed deals onto well-lit market platforms. But it has also encouraged traders to compress multiple deals into a single one, so that risks remain unchanged while the on-paper value sinks. (Much like there is more alcohol distilled into a one-liter brandy bottle than in the original wine.) This moving-risks-around pattern holds for our economies as a whole, as well. Mortgage defaults turned outsized private debt into losses for banks, which were bailed out by taxpayers and governments, which in turn were propped up by ultra-cheap money. That has not resolved the excessive debt problem, either. Instead, it has inflated asset and stock prices in defiance of lackluster economic growth. And it has eroded real returns and put a dangerous squeeze on insurance companies, pension funds and other investors, both big and small. The continued preponderance of finance in our economies wouldn’t be so worrying if regulators had finally found means to tame the beast. A key lesson of the crisis, after all, was that herding made individual risk assessments fallible. What made sense for isolated traders could be disastrous for system stability. Ergo, public authorities had to retake the reins. Risk assessment was too complex and consequential to leave the calculation of capital buffers to banks or default probabilities to private credit rating agencies. Alas, regulation has proven incapable of stamping out financial volatility. From accounting standards for derivatives to risk weights for sovereign debt – that private firms failed to gauge prices and risks properly didn’t mean that public authorities would fare any better. The crisis revealed that valuation routines are never foolproof. So public authorities understandably shied away from forcing mechanistic risk models onto markets – lest they would take the blame when eventually things would inevitably go wrong. Where does this leave us? The past decade has taught us that we should not wait for debt mountains and finance to shrink just by themselves, for risks just to disappear from the system, or for regulators to serve us a silver bullet with which it can be contained. All sorts of trickery – from special purpose vehicles to bad banks, accounting tricks and rock-bottom interest rates – can put an overburdened financial system on life support. But to heal our financial systems for good, we need to add a powerful new instrument to our tool kit: debt forgiveness where no reasonable alternative exists – whether in Greece, on bank balance sheets, or in the private sector. There is an upper limit on the debt that can slosh around the global economy before it starts wreaking havoc on debtors, creditors, and everyone else. Back in April 2007 New Century CEO Brad Morrice presaged that, even though his company had faltered, "the non-prime sector”– code for shoddy debt – “will remain an important part of the American economy”.<a name="_ftnref6" href="#_ftn6">[6]</a>&nbsp; Unfortunately, we have yet to prove him wrong. <a name="_ftn1" href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> IMF, Global Financial Stability Report, October 2016, p.6. <a name="_ftn2" href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FS.AST.PRVT.GD.ZS">http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FS.AST.PRVT.GD.ZS</a> <a name="_ftn3" href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FS.AST.PRVT.GD.ZS?locations=US">http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FS.AST.PRVT.GD.ZS?locations=US</a> See also here: <a href="http://bruegel.org/2016/10/private-sector-debt-matters-and-better-data-means-better-policy/">http://bruegel.org/2016/10/private-sector-debt-matters-and-better-data-means-better-policy/</a> <a name="_ftn4" href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> <a href="http://www.bis.org/publ/qtrpdf/r_qt1612f.htm">http://www.bis.org/publ/qtrpdf/r_qt1612f.htm</a> <a name="_ftn5" href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> <a href="http://www.sifma.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=8589959663">http://www.sifma.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=8589959663</a> <a name="_ftn6" href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-newcentury-bankruptcy-idUSN0242080520070403">http://www.reuters.com/article/us-newcentury-bankruptcy-idUSN0242080520070403</a></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Daniel Mügge Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:04:54 +0000 Daniel Mügge 109635 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Letter to extremists after the London attack https://www.opendemocracy.net/nafeez-ahmed/love-letter-to-extremists-after-london-attack <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Extremists seek to drive a stake through the arena of co-existence, to sow fear and hatred. But we Londoners are not going to turn on each other, because that’s not what we do.</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/558532/PA-30645757.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-30645757.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ambulances line Westminster bridge on 22 March 2017. Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>40 people injured. 4 dead.</p><p dir="ltr">An attack likely inspired by ‘international terrorism’ and Islamist-motivated.</p><p dir="ltr">We know that Islamist terrorists, from ISIS to al-Qaeda and beyond, target the so-called ‘gray zone’ — the arena of co-existence where people of all faiths and none live and work together.</p><p dir="ltr">They want us to turn on each other. They want Muslims and non-Muslims to hate each other, fear each other, and fight each other. That’s the apocalyptic ‘clash of civilisations’ they yearn for.</p><p>And what more apt symbol of the ‘gray zone’ than the British Houses of Parliament, and the melting pot of Londoners and tourists that flock to its gates everyday?</p><p dir="ltr">But the terrorist attack on London failed.</p><p dir="ltr">It failed because London is not going to turn on itself, just because some jumped-up extremist bastard terrified us for a day.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Extremists from the Western and Muslim worlds feed off each other like cannibalistic vultures, selling the same divisive rhetoric of unmitigated anger and xenophobic hatred.</p><p dir="ltr"><span>Oh don’t get me wrong. We have our fair share of fuckwits.</span></p><p>This fuckwit who calls himself ‘<a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/far-right-leader-tommy-robinson-scene-within-minutes-blames-it-islamic-jihad-1712182875">Tommy Robinson</a>’ is a former leader of the far right thug-club known as the English Defence League (EDL). He scrambled to the scene of the terror attack on our city, on all of us, and had this to say:</p><p dir="ltr">“This is the reality. The reality is these people are waging war on us. This has been going on for 1,400 years and while it’s going on the police leaders and the political leaders want to invite more.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sadly, there will always be extremist fuckwits who cynically exploit horrific attacks like the one that occurred on Wednesday afternoon in the heart of London, outside Parliament in Westminster.</p><p dir="ltr">People who tweet fake news like this:</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/558532/Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.16.26 AM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.16.26 AM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="478" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donald Trump Jr. rails at London Mayor Sadiq Khan. https://twitter.com/DonaldJTrumpJr/status/844594059679334400. Donald Trump Jr./Twitter. Public domain. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Here’s what London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, actually said:</p><p dir="ltr">“Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.”</p><p dir="ltr">Whether they realise it or not, people like Tommy Robinson and Donald Trump Jr. are effectively accomplices to the terror they claim to oppose.</p><p dir="ltr">Because they have the same goals as those who attacked London: to draw a line in the ‘gray zone’, to drive a stake through the arena of co-existence, to stoke fear and hatred among us, to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, to destroy unity in diversity.</p><p>Extremists from the Western and Muslim worlds feed off each other like cannibalistic vultures, selling the same divisive rhetoric of unmitigated anger and xenophobic hatred. But when they try to turn us Londoners against ourselves, they fail.</p><p dir="ltr">They fail because, fundamentally, they are weak.</p><p dir="ltr">Compared to what’s gone before, such as the multiple, simultaneous coordinated attacks in Paris, involving heavy weapons, extensive planning and military tactics, the London attack was rudimentary and unsophisticated.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not for want of trying. ISIS has been attempting to arrange an attack on London for the last year, and UK intelligence has picked up heightening signals of attack plans in recent months.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Far from buckling, in the days and weeks ahead, London will take a deep breath and send an upright middle finger to the extremists cheering on this attack, to fuckwits like Tommy Robinson exploiting it to sow division.</p><p dir="ltr">Whether or not it was inspired by ISIS, the attack on London was a futile act of cowardly desperation that demonstrates to the world how pathetic the extremists have become in their burning desire to remain relevant and remembered.</p><p dir="ltr">But we Londoners are not going to turn on each other, because that’s not what we do. We get on with things. We carry on. And, even if now and again we’re all a bit uptight and rushed — we carry each other.</p><p dir="ltr">Far from buckling, in the days and weeks ahead, London will take a deep breath and send an upright middle finger to the extremists cheering on this attack, to fuckwits like Tommy Robinson exploiting it to sow division, and to their soulmates across the pond like Donald Trump Jr. who still can’t get over the fact that we elected a Muslim to be our Mayor.</p><p>It’s starting now: My mate Muddassar Ahmed, who was in parliament when the attack happened, has just launched <a href="https://www.launchgood.com/project/muslims_united_for_london#/">Muslims United for London</a> along with my wife, Akeela, our friends Hassan Hoque and Mohammed Marika, and British MPs, Naz Shah and Yasmin Qureshi. The project is simple: raise money to support the victims and their families.</p><p>Yeah. This is London. Feel free to chip in.</p><p dir="ltr">Because London is for all of us, and we’re all London. We don’t care what colour you are, what country your parents were born, what religion you follow, or don’t, what your sexuality is, what your hair’s like, whether your clothes are fashionable or not.</p><p dir="ltr">But we do care about our city, a city where we’re all free to be who we are and find who we want to be, in whatever way we choose. And no bomb, bullet, or knife will ever change that.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was originally published under the title 'A Love Letter to extremists after the London attack' on <a href="https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/an-open-letter-to-extremists-after-the-london-attack-d201c8b3e0e8#.v5yh9tnaq">Medium</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See <a href="https://www.launchgood.com/project/muslims_united_for_london#/">Muslims United for London</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nafeez-ahmed/isis-wants-destroy-greyzone-how-we-defend">ISIS wants to destroy the &#039;grey zone&#039;. Here&#039;s how we defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/donald-trump-is-not-problem-he-s-symptom">Donald Trump is not the problem – he’s the symptom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/wrongs-of-counter-violence">The wrongs of counter-violence</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> Can Europe make it? uk Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:31:04 +0000 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed 109631 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What role for the Commonwealth? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/what-role-for-commonwealth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the Commonwealth a part-solution to Britain's trade woes post-Brexit? The government’s Article 50 bill cleared the Lords last week on March 13th: Commonwealth Day. Economists’ and MPs’ po...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Is the Commonwealth a part-solution to Britain's trade woes post-Brexit?</em> The government’s Article 50 bill cleared the Lords last week on March 13th: Commonwealth Day. Economists’ and MPs’ positions on what the Commonwealth offers post-Brexit Britain in terms of opportunities for trade and future prosperity have, meanwhile, become almost as heated as those on the referendum. In the red, white and blue corner, Brexiteers have been quick to claim the eagerness of Australia and New Zealand to sign free trade deals with the UK, with Boris Johnson heralding the Commonwealth’s “stunning” global GDP share and GDP growth compared to the EU’s as an indication of the UK’s bright prospects. Remainers are withering about what they see as muddle-headed imperial nostalgia. “Get real,” Conservative-turned-Lib Dem MEP Edward McMillan-Scott tweeted at his former party colleagues Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan as they welcomed former Australian premier Tony Abbott to an event earlier in the month – Australia represents 1% of UK external trade and the UK sells more to Belgium than to India, he told them. “The Commonwealth is many things, many good things”, says veteran Commonwealth diplomat, now Antiguan ambassador to the US Sir Ronald Sanders – but it has not been a trade organization since the end of Commonwealth Preference in 1973. At a much-vaunted meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers in London on March 9th, Lord Marland, chair of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) readily admitted that it can be no replacement for the EU for commerce. While covering a third of the world’s population, it accounts for one fifth of the value of goods and services the UK exports to the EU, and imports in a similar proportion (8.8% of total UK exports/10.6% of imports compared to 44.6% and 53.2% for the EU). It represents an assortment of wildly differing countries, from Singapore to Sierra Leone and from Belize to Bangladesh. More than half of the Commonwealth’s citizens are contained India’s borders. Aside from the UK, two-thirds of its GDP is generated by India, Canada and Australia. No Commonwealth leader outside these islands was a cheerleader for Brexit – Narendra Modi sees the UK as India’s gateway to selling to the EU; for Canada, Britain is its “key vector of interest” in the European Union. Twenty Commonwealth members have free trade or Economic Partnership Arrangements with the EU and 24 have them pending; only 5 are entirely outside the framework. A bilateral deal with the UK may not offer Commonwealth countries anything more than a deal with all 28 countries of the EU, and Brexit negotiations could delay any such agreements. The imposition of a multilateral Commonwealth free trade area would be unwieldy and disruptive for an equal partnership of nations. The EU has hardly held the UK back from growing its Commonwealth trade – UK exports to the Commonwealth rose 120% between 2001 and 2011. There are further problems: as former HM Treasury advisor Desmond Cohen points out, UK exports are highly integrated with European supply chains and there is no real way of substituting these without hugely increased costs. With a switch of trade to the Commonwealth, UK exports to the EU may fall foul of rules of origin requirements and get hit by higher tariffs. Economist Pankaj Ghemawat’s work on how a common language and shared imperial history boosts trade is cited by Commonwealth optimists – yet Ghemawat says those factors are outweighed by others in favour of the EU because of the distance of Commonwealth countries from each other and their GDP levels. And while Tony Abbott calls for a one page UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Tony Blair’s former Europe Minister Denis MacShane points out that the Australian Labor party sees a bilateral deal with the UK as a “third-best outcome”. These are powerful and perfectly logical arguments. But the reports making them tend towards catastrophist thinking – eg countries that have free trade agreements with the EU being unwilling to sign mirror agreements with the UK – and fail to reconcile themselves with the political circumstances of the vote for Brexit, and a government intent on carrying it through, with Parliament’s support. They also take altogether too much pleasure in the spluttering colonel stereotype, suggesting all Commonwealth trade advocates hanker after lost Empire, rather than look at the more humdrum things many are actually saying: about member states’ youthful populations, fast growth rates and common legal systems, and how the Commonwealth is a useful jumping off point for the UK to achieve a full complement of global trading partners. On the eve of the Trade Ministers’ meeting, for example, the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) was keen to promote its polling showing UK businesses’ enthusiasm for the government to prioritise trade with Australia, Canada, Singapore and India – an impetus for trade ties from the grassroots up. The 17% year-on-year fall in sterling following the referendum result has indeed given a fillip to British exports (equivalent to a 7% boost by the start of 2018, according to Standard &amp; Poor). For Tim Hewish of the RCS, it is vital not to talk the UK down, there are “small and symbolic things Britain can do to gear the wheels of trade agreements with countries keen to trade with us” – however confounding those agreements may in reality be to sign – and civil servants carping about “Empire 2.0” is a travesty. Hewish and others see international trade in starkly moral terms, with the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences offering, for instance, tariff-free trade on agricultural produce while tariffs remain on processed goods locking some developing countries into pernicious dependency. The Legatum Institute’s Shanker Singham, a former trade official, describes “extraordinary, Alice through the Looking Glass conversations” with ministers urging preferences to be maintained, with the added result that poor UK families pay more for their food. (The EU Commission denies its trade policies have held back development, a claim that backbench Brexiteer Peter Bone MP dismisses as “lying”, pointing to the size of the German coffee processing industry). With some lower income countries diversified enough that they would welcome free trade, the time is ripe for change – Hewish thinks that “you can eat values for breakfast”, with populations becoming wealthier under free trade that in turn gives them more say in how their taxes are spent, empowers women etc. In a speech at the Guildhall last Tuesday, Lord Howell argued that with the fragmentation of production processes and the emergence and rapidly falling cost of new communications technology, world trade is undergoing fundamental disruption. Pointing to a 2016 McKinsey report that found digital information flow now has more impact on GDP growth than trade in goods, he says that the service-dominated UK is ideally placed to benefit and that the Commonwealth's dispersed network fits the future trade blueprint "like a glove". Sir Ronald Sanders retorts that it is a fallacy to simply look at total value of trade – people can't eat services or build infrastructure out of them, the need for commodities including oil and gas continues, and current demand for services in the Commonwealth is very largely concentrated in a handful of countries. Shanker Singham thinks the brightest hope for UK trade is through reaching “plurilateral” agreements with a group of like-minded countries, citing the 2006 P4 agreement between New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile which provided the backbone for the Trans Pacific Partnership. Formulated on an open accession basis, such agreements carry much more market clout than bilaterals because they can quickly bring in large swathes of the world economy. Over time, Commonwealth countries’ shared values would attract more of them to sign up; developing countries with more liberalised economies like Ghana and Botswana would act as leading lights in their regions. However, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from TPP, the public dismay over the powers ceded to corporations in global trade deals and the UK’s circumspection over globalisation suggest that following this approach would be as fraught as anything in Britain’s current trade predicament. Intra-Commonwealth trade may still be “miniscule”, but it’s a great opportunity to diversify exports in terms of basket and destinations to reduce the UK’s vulnerability to shocks like the financial crisis, says Rashmi Banga, head of trade competitiveness at the Commonwealth Secretariat. "In India, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and the Caricom countries, there are openings for many new services and products – eg infrastructure, accountancy and legal services, [or] providing the technology to the India Smart Cities project. This is where UK services can grow exponentially”. The inaugural India-Commonwealth SME Association trade summit in May will present opportunities. Grow the value of trade now, and there may be more incentive to reach free trade deals after 2019. Meanwhile, Trinidadian economist Marla Dukharan gives hope to the prospect of UK bilateral deals gaining traction. In her view, regional association Caricom has been too weak and slow-moving to represent the Caribbean at the negotiating table, and each island should seek a more meaningful discussion over trade bilaterally with both the UK and the EU. The boisterously Brexit-friendly CANZUK movement with Tony Abbott and historian Andrew Roberts among its leading lights calls for free movement as well as free trade across Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. What do citizens of other Commonwealth nations think would sweeten relations between their countries and the UK? Gaston Chee, a Malaysian with an education business operating in China and Britain, contrasts how London and Beijing court his compatriots: it takes three months to get a bank account in the UK but less than 15 minutes in China. As for the May government’s insistence that foreign students return home promptly after finishing their courses rather than encouraging them to stay to build a business, “Do you think it is fair to have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds and not be able to attend graduation?”, he asks. Rajesh Thind, a British-Indian writer and filmmaker who has spent five of the past 10 years in Delhi and Mumbai, says Indians are predisposed towards trying to understand and to work with the UK, “but it comes from a muscular position of wanting a good deal and the securing of free movement”. This needn’t mean long-term immigration – “it could be two or five to ten years. A lot of people want to train up and go back”. Peter Bone MP says he is potentially open to this – “One of the great things about coming out of the EU is that if we want to decide that, we can”. Thind echoes the recent calls on Channel 4 News by dapper Indian MP Shashi Tharoor for Britain to come to terms with its actions as a coloniser – for much more practical reasons, to Thind’s mind, than post-imperial guilt. “The middle-ground in India is very self-aware that rapid growth since 1991 has been a) very unequally distributed and b) taken place in the context of bureaucratic inertia. Cities are teeming, infrastructure is creaking, manufacturing needs upgrading. We need expertise and partners… We can make the Indian success story part of the British story, but that will take a historical reckoning”. Brexit and its consequences occasion radical and courageous fresh thinking. The Commonwealth might yet assume an unexpected role in the UK’s economic future – but this might take a brave new departure by the immigration-chary May government, too.</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 Josh Neicho Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:08:56 +0000 Josh Neicho 109586 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sheffield campaigner scheduled for life-threatening removal to Cameroon on Friday https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/sarah-eldridge/Pride-Mbi-Agbor-Cameroon-Sheffield-City-of-Sanctuary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Blomfield MP works to avert deportation of Pride Mbi Agbor, a popular member of Yorkshire’s City of Sanctuary movement.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IMG_2587_mk2_large720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/IMG_2587_mk2_large720.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'>Pride Mbi Agbor, aged 32, trustee of City of Sanctuary Sheffield </span></span></span></p><p>Last week the British High Commissioner to Cameroon met the country’s 84-year-old president Paul Biya, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/18/nation-divided-tensions-mount-cameroon-english-speakers-marginalisedby/">reportedly urging him</a> to end the use of force against English speaking protesters.&nbsp; This week the British Home Office is planning to deport an English speaking Cameroonian who is a long term opponent of that same president and his government.</p> <p>Pride Mbi Agbor, 32, was arrested last Thursday while his solicitor was awaiting an expert report to back up his asylum claim. Since then, he has been held in Morton Hall immigration removal centre in Lincolnshire and has been told he’ll be flown out of the country this Friday.</p> <p>Labour MP for Sheffield Central Paul Blomfield said today: “Pride has become a really valued member of the local community. I’m working with his friends to make the strongest possible case to persuade the Home Office to stop Friday’s planned removal and review his case. There are real concerns about the position of the Anglophone community within Cameroon, which must be properly considered.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/18/nation-divided-tensions-mount-cameroon-english-speakers-marginalisedby/">The <em>Daily Telegraph </em>last week reported</a> that Cameroon was in “deep crisis” that threatened its survival as a state, as the government cracked down on protests by English speaking citizens.&nbsp; Protestors have been killed and the internet shut down in the predominantly French-speaking country, which subsumed the former British colony of Southern Cameroon when it gained independence in 1961.</p> <p>Pride came to the UK in 2009, to study computer engineering at Portsmouth University. Two weeks into the course he received the news that his father had been killed. Like Pride, his father had been active in the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), an opposition group that fights for the rights of Anglophone Cameroonians. Pride was urged not to return home, and to seek sanctuary in the UK.</p> <p>After completing three years of his four year course, Pride applied for asylum in the UK. His application was refused and subsequent submissions were also rejected. Pride continued his political activities with the SCNC, and was frequently photographed at demonstrations in London. He also kept himself busy in Sheffield, volunteering with City of Sanctuary Sheffield (COSS), attending St Marie’s Roman Catholic Church and helping with a gardening project. He was recently appointed a trustee of COSS.&nbsp; </p> <p>“I never imagined I’d find myself locked up in detention for trying to do the right thing,” Pride said, speaking from Morton Hall detention centre in Lincolnshire. “I just want to get justice for English speaking people in my country, to finish my course and help people here in Britain.”&nbsp; </p> <p>While pursuing his claim for asylum, Pride has become well known in Sheffield and the surrounding area, giving talks about the situation in Cameroon and volunteering for different groups. His friends are horrified at the latest turn of events and are appealing to the Home Office to halt the deportation and carefully consider the fresh application for asylum.</p><p>Speaking in happier times, about his volunteer work among destitute people in Sheffield, Pride said:&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>Volunteering has helped me because as an asylum seeker, if you don’t get involved you get drowned in your own despair and it can be hard going out and talking to people. By volunteering you meet people who want to get to know you and you have someone who can listen to you. When I started volunteering I made a lot of friends.</span><span>”&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Pride’s solicitor delivered a fresh claim to the Home Office on Monday.</p> <ul><li><span>If you feel moved to help Pride, please <a href="https://www.change.org/p/amber-rudd-mp-stop-the-removal-of-pride-mbi-agbor">sign this petition</a>, and write immediately to Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill MP at:</span></li><li><a href="mailto:Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk">Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk</a><span>.&nbsp;</span></li><li><span>And please forward an email copy to Pride’s solicitor: Dr Hani Zubeidi at </span><span><a href="mailto:zubeidi@btinternet.com">zubeidi@btinternet.com</a></span></li></ul><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 Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Sarah Eldridge Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:58:41 +0000 Sarah Eldridge 109574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Martin McGuinness's last political act was to usher in another new era https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/martin-mcguinnesss-last-political-act-was-to-usher-in-another-new-era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Sinn Fein leader, who died last night, was one of the most significant politicians in the UK and Ireland for a generation.</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/553846/640px-Scottish_and_Northern_Ireland_Ministers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Scottish_and_Northern_Ireland_Ministers.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'>Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and Alex Salmond in 2008. By Scottish Government - Scotland and Northern Ireland, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4288565</span></span></span></p><p>It's a cliche to say that someone's death marks the passing of an era. But in Martin McGuinness' case, it is literally true. Strategic to the last, he used his resignation – as he descended into grave illness, from which, last night, he died – to trigger an election in Northern Ireland which ended a century of unionist domination. <br /> <br /> Of course, it's not the first new era he's ushered in. McGuinness and his generation – on both sides of the divide – led their communities out of civil war, and into the difficult terrain of uncomfortable peace. They are perhaps the most significant politicians in recent decades in these islands, and will surely be remembered long after most of their contemporaries in London and Dublin are forgotten.</p><p>McGuinness, a lifelong Irish Republican whose politics were cast in the anti-Catholic bigotry of 20th century Northern Ireland, was a senior figure in the IRA throughout his early life, and accused of involvement in a number of bombings. He went on to be a key figure in the peace process, and ultimately, as a Sinn Fein politician, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister from 2007 until January this year, when, facing fast-declining health, he resigned over the Democratic Unionist Party's Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. Throughout this period, he served alongside Unionist first ministers – Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster. His relationship with Paisley, a hard line unionist also key to the peace process, was so good that they were famously known as "the Chuckle Brothers".</p><p>In the election that followed his resignation, the Unionist vote collapsed, with McGuinness' Sinn Fein coming within one seat of the Democratic Unionist Party, and the total number of Nationalists equalling the total number of Unionists for the first time since the partition of Ireland in 1921. The result was in part a product of deep fears in Northern Ireland that Brexit will bring with it a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, and that this in turn endangers the peace that McGuinness and his generation built.</p><p>Martin McGuinness died last night in hospital, reportedly surrounded by his family. He was said to be suffering from a rare heart condition.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/what-happened-in-northern-ireland-last-week-and-what-next">What happened in Northern Ireland last week and what next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/anger-and-impotence-in-northern-irelands-elections">Anger and impotence in Northern Ireland&#039;s elections</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Tue, 21 Mar 2017 10:27:25 +0000 Adam Ramsay 109568 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the arms trade has tried to hobble the body set up to stop it from abusing public money https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/joe-lo/case-study-in-corporate-political-influence-in-britain-how-arms-trade-has-tried-to-hobble- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There have long been concerns about the way arms companies have used and abused public money. Joe Lo of Campaign Against Arms Trade focuses on just one of the many ways that arms companies are profiteering at public expense.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/AJAX,_the_Future_Armoured_Fighting_Vehicle_for_the_British_Army_MOD_45159441.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/AJAX,_the_Future_Armoured_Fighting_Vehicle_for_the_British_Army_MOD_45159441.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A British Ajax tank. Photo: Richard Watt, MOD</span></span></span></strong></p> <p>What do you do when someone saves you money? Most of us would pocket the cash and say ‘thank you very much’. Yet when a military spending watchdog, set up in 2014, tried to ensure the Ministry of Defence (MOD) got value for money in the military equipment and services it buys, it saw the MOD being accused of interfering and obstructing its work, rather than being thanked on taxpayers’ behalf. </p><p>The Single Source Regulations Office (SSRO) was established to monitor the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulator-cuts-over-1m-from-rolls-royce-contract-with-the-mod">£8bn which the MOD hands out every year</a> to arms companies in contracts awarded without any competition. One of the main justifications given for awarding a contract in this way is that there is a limited number of companies that can supply the right equipment, so it’s in the UK’s interest to have a stable military supply chain. However, without competition, its becoming increasingly clear that taxpayers are paying far more than we should.</p> <p>This is no small matter. Even in the context of <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/defence-budget-increases-for-the-first-time-in-six-years">a bloated £35bn military budget</a>, £8bn is a significant amount of money. There are lots of industries and services that would be very grateful recipients of that kind of funding. To put it in context – it’s more than <a href="https://fullfact.org/economy/welfare-budget/">three times the amount government spends on unemployment benefits</a>, nearly five times the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2016/sep/13/why-does-resettling-a-refugee-cost-17000-in-the-us-but-85000-in-britain">cost of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees</a> and enough to pay for <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37383918">1.6 million hip operations</a>.&nbsp; </p><p>After a cautious start, the SSRO began making waves in September 2015 when it proposed what it claimed would be the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-changes-proposed-for-profit-rate-calculations-on-single-source-defence-contracts">most far-reaching reform</a> of the system since 1968. Among other things, it suggested a change to the way that profit rates awarded to arms companies are calculated. This included offering different profit rates for different types of work, which could save millions of pounds a year.</p> <p>While it doesn’t seem that radical, the proposal was certainly enough to get the attention of major arms companies. At the Defence Suppliers Forum (DSF), one of several forums for arms dealers, politicians and civil servants, the SSRO’s proposals were on the agenda. The Aerospace Defence, Security and Space Group (ADS), a trade body for arms companies, said it would hold a workshop to gather response from its arms dealer members and feed those into a consultation.</p> <h2><strong>Arms company interests fight back against moderate reforms</strong></h2> <p>A few months later, the SSRO announced that it had been overruled, Defence Minister Michael Fallon had ordered it to set one baseline profit rate for all types of work. In a statement, SSRO’s chair Jeremy Newman <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-method-for-calculating-profit-rate-on-single-source-defence-contracts-announced-by-ssro">said</a>: “We were keen to introduce this change now, but the statutory guidance issued to us by the Secretary of State instructed us to recommend a single rate for a further year.”</p> <p>Two weeks after the announcement, Newman resigned. An SSRO press release claimed he wanted to “focus on his other roles”. However, unnamed insiders <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/10/24/second-boss-of-defence-spending-watchdog-quits-in-eight-months/">cited by the Daily Telegraph</a>, said that he was frustrated by interference from the MOD, which was preventing the SSRO from doing its job.</p> <p>If the MOD and arms industry hoped his successor Clive Tucker would be more compliant they were wrong. One month later, the baseline profit rate had been <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-guidance-on-profits-on-single-source-defence-contracts-published">cut from 10.6% to 8.95%</a> as the SSRO tried to put it more in line with practice around the world.</p> <p>At that month’s DSF month, the rate change was on the agenda and the minutes state: “The MOD recognised that this methodology could usefully be developed further, and has asked the SSRO to review it over the coming months. Industry welcomed the opportunity to revisit the methodology.” To the SSRO’s credit the rate remained unchanged.</p> <p>In May, Tucker’s SSRO took on the arms companies again by taking over £1m off the roughly £70m figure Rolls Royce had charged the government for fighter jet aircraft engines. Tucker was forthright. “The law is very clear that the onus is on the contractor to justify the costs it wants to pass on to the taxpayer,” he <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulator-cuts-over-1m-from-rolls-royce-contract-with-the-mod">said</a>, “if the contractors won’t adhere to the guidance we have the ability and the will to impose a change when necessary.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/clive-tuckers-speech-to-the-defence-acquisition-conference-2016">The following month</a>, Tucker continued the tough-talking, telling a Defence Acquisition conference packed with arms dealers: “You may not always like what we do, but we want you to understand what we are doing.” </p> <p>His speech was followed by <a href="https://www.shephardmedia.com/news/defence-notes/farnborough-2016-industry-continues-fleece-uk-mod/">another press release</a> slamming arms companies for charging the taxpayer for ‘costs’ like Christmas parties, charitable donations and <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/07/13/arms-companies-charged-taxpayer-for-xmas-parties-and-charity-don/">commemorative mugs</a>. Tucker <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/defence-companies-and-mods-procurement-agency-failing-contract-regulations">said</a>: “For too long single source procurement went without effective scrutiny, and this is precisely the sort of inappropriate expenditure that the [2014] Defence Reform Act [which created the SSRO] was enacted to kill off.”</p> <p>All of this is unlikely to have pleased the arms companies. The SSRO held <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/defence-acquisition-and-procurement/oral/44154.html">a series of discussions</a> with industry over the summer and, in October, Clive Tucker resigned – the second chair to do so in just eight months. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/10/24/second-boss-of-defence-spending-watchdog-quits-in-eight-months/">According to the Telegraph’s Alan Tovey</a>, “sources close to the situation say he was frustrated by interference from the MOD, which was preventing the SSRO from doing its job.” A few days later, the arms companies and MOD met at the next DSF. </p> <p>We can only guess what was actually said in the meeting, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/561378/Defence_Suppliers_Forum_-_12_October_2016.pdf">but the minutes state</a>: “MOD is aware that industry has concerns about the Baseline Profit Rate centred around the methodology for calculating the rate rather than the rate itself….The process to find a new chairman for the SSRO is on-going.</p> <h2><strong>Will parliament act in the interests of the public or the arms companies?</strong></h2> <p>In November, the battle between arms dealers and the SSRO turned to Parliament, with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee holding an inquiry into military acquisition and procurement. Paul Everitt, the chief executive of the ADS <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/defence-acquisition-and-procurement/oral/44154.html">told politicians</a> of his opposition to the SSRO’s methodology and multiple profit rates. In a later session of the committee, SSRO chief executive Marcine Waterman hit back, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/defence-acquisition-and-procurement/oral/44154.html">telling the same committee</a> that the MOD and arms industry were not responding to most of its requests for information.</p> <p>Perhaps frustrated by MOD interference forcing her colleagues to quit, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/defence-acquisition-and-procurement/oral/44154.html">Waterman told Parliament</a> that the SSRO would be asking Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to grant it the enforcement powers which the MOD currently holds. When it was put to her, by Tory MP James Gray, that: “If you are going to be an independent regulator, you really do need significantly more muscle; otherwise, you will be having the wool pulled over your eyes all the time.” Waterman agreed.</p> <p>Whether she gets these powers or not is ultimately the decision of the government and Michael Fallon’s recommendation will carry great weight. One thing for sure is that it will be fought every step of the way by arms companies. As long as they are intimately involved in shaping military policy then it will be one that is committed to militarism and promoting their interests. If they will lobby this strongly against a moderate reform, what will they do when their interests are truly threatened?</p> <p>Public money should be spent on the public good. But at a time of cuts and austerity, and when public services are being cut, this is only one of the many ways that arms companies are maximising their income at the expense of the rest of us. The fact that has been allowed to go on for so long is more reflective of the level of influence arms companies enjoy, and of a foreign policy that puts military interests ahead of real peace and security.</p> <p>The first of the regular reviews into the whole SSRO framework is scheduled for this summer, it will be interesting to see who the government sides with. Will it be the arms companies and their desire for ever-greater profits – or will it be the interests of taxpayers and wider public services? We will soon find out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Joe Lo Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:35:41 +0000 Joe Lo 109566 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention-child-safeguarding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today’s inspection report reveals that children were detained among 400 adults. One detainee had been convicted of multiple offences against children. (See also: '<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention">People come in here normal, but they get ill</a>')</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main gate, Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincolnshire (HMIP)</span></span></span></p><p>A child was held for 151 days in a dangerous and prison-like UK immigration removal centre among adult men. Other children were held for 12 days and 36 days at Morton Hall, where staff had failed to put a convicted child abuser on their list of detainees who might pose a risk to children.</p><p>Some children were detained for long periods while local authorities argued over who was responsible for assessing their age.</p> <p>The details emerged today in <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/?post_type=inspection&amp;s&amp;location=morton-hall">a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons</a>, who paid a surprise visit to Morton Hall immigration removal centre near Lincoln last November.</p><p> Procedures for safeguarding children who visited the centre were “not properly implemented”.</p> <p>“In theory visits staff were made aware of detainees who posed a risk to children,” the inspectors wrote, “but one staff member could not tell us which detainees posed a risk. A detainee with convictions for offences against children and who had been held at the centre for several months was only added to the list during our inspection.”</p><p>(I have <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">documented instances</a> of the UK immigration detention authorities<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;careless approach to child protection).</span></p> <h2>Suicide and self-harm</h2> <p>Nearly half the detainees told the inspectors they felt depressed or suicidal on arriving at Morton Hall. Incidents of self-harm had tripled since the inspectors’ last visit in March 2013, and there’d been one self-inflicted death. </p> <p>During 2016 four detainees had narrowly escaped fatal or serious injuries as a result of tying ligatures. </p> <p>From May to October 2016 there’d been 16 incidents where detainees had set fire to their cells or to communal areas.</p> <p>Despite all this Morton Hall had no strategy for reducing self-harm.</p><h2>Home Office withholds “material facts”</h2> <p>Too many detainees were held for prolonged periods, the inspectors said. “There was a tense atmosphere on most residential units and many detainees, especially those detained for the longest periods, were extremely frustrated. Many cited the uncertainty of their immigration cases and the prison-like environment.”</p> <p>Thirty-one men had been held for more than a year, including three held for two years. </p> <p>Others were repeatedly bounced in and out of detention. Two men had each been detained on three separate occasions, spending more than three years each at Morton Hall. </p> <p>The inspectors found&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>inefficient</span><span>”</span><span>&nbsp;case work by the Home Office — errors, omissions, inertia:&nbsp;</span><span>“Material facts supporting release were omitted from one detention review. There was inertia by Home Office caseworkers in referring this same case for release; senior managers repeatedly said a release referral should be considered yet none was made.”</span></p><p><span> In another case the department took seven months to decide on an asylum application.</span></p> <h2>A relaxed regime?</h2> <p>Immigration removal centres are not supposed to be prisons. “Although this was a custodial establishment, we were mindful that detainees were not held because they had been charged with a criminal offence and had not been detained through normal judicial processes,” the inspectors wrote.</p><p>Morton Hall is a former prison run by the Prison Service for the Home Office.</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/536680/residential_unit.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/residential_unit.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Residential unit, Morton Hall (HMIP)</span></span></span></p> <p>Detention centre rules required “a relaxed regime” with “as much freedom of movement and association as possible consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment”. </p> <p>Instead, at Morton Hall inspectors found a prison, with razor wire fences, batons drawn, a punitive “rewards system”, and men locked up overnight.</p><h2>“Inappropriate” use of force</h2><p>In the six months before the inspection, there had been 125 incidents where force was used against detainees, much higher than in the similar period four years ago.</p><p>Batons had been drawn on five occasions in the previous six months. Inspectors said the available evidence did not show that these occurrences had been necessary or effective. They said: “Batons are not carried in most IRCs and this equipment is inappropriate for an immigration detainee population.”</p> <p>In defiance of inspectors’ recommendation four years ago: “Many detainees were still being transferred in the early hours of the morning, often to and from other immigration removal centres.” </p> <p>During September and October 2016, “there were 173 arrivals and 31 discharges from the centre between 10pm and 6am.” </p> <p>Some men were woken at 4.30am to be told they were leaving the centre at 6am. Inspectors called that “unacceptable”.</p> <p>The prison practice of locking men up overnight persisted regardless of inspectors’ objection four years ago — and despite evidence that it had contributed to a young man’s death at Morton Hall.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Rubel-Ahmed-011.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Rubel-Ahmed-011.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rubel Ahmed</span></span></span></p> <p>Rubel Ahmed was found hanging in his cell on 5 September 2014. He was 26 years old. Morton Hall’s Centre Manager <a href="http://inquest.org.uk/media/pr/jury-returns-critical-narrative-in-the-inquest-of-rubel-ahmed">accepted in her evidence to the inquest</a> into his death that locking detainees in their rooms was dangerous and that there were lessons to be learned from Rubel’s death.</p> <p>In August 2015 <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/rubel-ahmed/">Coroner Stuart Fisher warned</a>: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”&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/shinealight/john-grayson/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/roll-calls-body-searches-and-sex-games">Roll calls, body searches and sex games</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/inquest-jury-finds-failures-in-detainee-healthcare">Inquest jury finds failures in detainee healthcare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/ian-dunt/report-which-could-destroy-britains-immigration-detention-centres">The report which could destroy Britain’s immigration prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jackie-long/%27headbutt-bitch%27-serco-guard-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/dying-detainee-84-taken-to-hospital-handcuffed-to-chain-dvorzak-inquest-d">Dying detainee, 84, taken to hospital, handcuffed to a chain. Dvorzak inquest. Day 5</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/shinealight/phil-miller/satisfactory-uk-immigration-lockup-samaritans-dare-not-visit">Satisfactory? The UK immigration lock-up that Samaritans dare not visit</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 Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Clare Sambrook Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:15:00 +0000 Clare Sambrook 109560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Intrusive police surveillance deployed against peaceful protestors at Morton Hall. (See also: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor/feed">Child held for 151 days at Morton Hall</a>)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.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'>Demonstrators march on Morton Hall immigration removal centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <ul><li><strong>“Thanks for coming, get it out there, tell people what’s happening in here!”</strong></li><li><span><strong>Message shouted through the wire and steel walls of Morton Hall detention centre</strong></span></li></ul> <p>Eleven days into 2017 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/13/investigation-after-third-death-in-uk-immigration-detention-centre">Lukasz Debowski</a>, a 27-year-old Polish man, was found dead at a Morton Hall, a little-known immigration detention centre in rural Lincolnshire.</p> <p>Fellow inmates said that Lukasz was “young and quiet, never causing any trouble”, that&nbsp;<span>he had not committed any crime in the UK and that he had sought medical help for mental health problems.</span><span>&nbsp;They said he’d spent his time watching TV, playing games and at the gym. </span></p><p><span>They said Lukasz had killed himself, and that he’d been refused bail just before Christmas because he could not provide sureties.</span></p> <p>His partner, whose advanced pregnancy left her unable to attend the bail hearing, gave birth to the couple’s son on the day that Lukasz died. </p> <p><span>The mood at Morton Hall was low.</span></p> <p>Just a few weeks earlier, another Morton Hall detainee had died in hospital. A friend reported to the <a href="https://detainedvoices.com/tag/morton-hall/">Detained Voices</a> website that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> fell down in his cell “foaming at the mouth”, that nurses were called at 3pm, and Kabia was taken to hospital four hours later. </p> <p>“He was really a nice person and was always willing to help people,” said the friend, a fellow detainee: “He would just help people through the goodness of his heart for nothing in return.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> was reportedly 49 years old and stateless, probably from Sierra Leone. The friend said he had lived in the UK for 27 years. Detainees had heard that when Bai Ahmed Kabia was close to death, the Home Office had signed his release papers. </p> <p>“If he was given bail and left here. People would have been proud and happy,” said the friend. “But the way he left really weighs heavy on your heart. The media needs to know about this. This place is a stressful place. He’s been punished. We don’t have anyone to stand for us.”</p> <h2><span>Standing up for immigration detainees</span></h2> <p>Members of SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group) decided to organise a demonstration to highlight the deaths, to show support and solidarity for the 392 men locked up at Morton Hall, and to alert local and national attention to this little-known immigration removal centre in the Lincolnshire countryside. We chose the date, Saturday 11 March.</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/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.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'>Protestors march on Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (picture by Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>In early February I took a call from Lincolnshire Police Liaison Officer Jimmy Conway 997, a Group B Community Patrol Constable, who is based in Sleaford. He said that he and another liaison officer in pale blue jackets would be the only police presence (with ‘resources’ nearby but out of sight), and asked us to appoint our own security marshalls “to keep everyone safe”. He seemed relaxed. </p> <p>But then, things changed.</p><h2>Intrusive surveillance</h2><p>About 60 people travelled from Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham and Oxford to Morton Hall, near the village of Swinderby, 8 miles south west of Lincoln.</p> <p>On the morning of the demonstration, just as our coach was leaving Sheffield, PC Conway called me again. He said: “There will be a number of uniformed officers present now John, and a unit who will be filming – you will recognise them by the orange flashes on their jackets.”</p> <p>Surveillance as deterrence works. Some of my SYMAAG colleagues in Huddersfield and Sheffield had already chosen not to come because they were still in the asylum system. They feared surveillance and its effect on their asylum claims.</p> <p>PC Conway was true to his word. We were greeted at the gates to Morton Hall by a vanload of uniformed police and a van with members of the filming unit. As you can see from the picture: specialist filming cops were getting close-ups of demonstrators. This is pretty unusual in my experience — I have never seen them openly filming amongst demonstrators at the four Yarl’s Wood detention centre demonstrations I have attended.</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/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Intense police surveillance of a peaceful demonstration, Morton Hall, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>They didn’t like our photographer filming <em>them</em>. One officer asked him: “How long have you been here in the UK?”</p> <p>“Twenty two years,” he replied.</p><h2>Speaking from inside Morton Hall</h2> <p>We had some phone numbers for men locked up inside Morton Hall who had agreed to let us amplify their voices on our sound system. </p> <p>They told us management had tried to undermine the demonstration.</p> <p>“They play music and stop us being outside, they also bring ice cream,” one man told us. “When we heard chants and we managed to get outside. We then heard it was people supporting us people.” </p> <p>Another said: “We heard the protesting and they try to stop us going outside but we manage to. They tell us it’s about a football team.” </p> <p>And another: “I shut off the music, they will come and grab me today because I stopped the music.”</p><h2>“Freedom! Freedom!”</h2> <p>About 40 men gathered behind the wire fences. One climbed up the fencing and was able to shout to us. He was Nariman Jalal Karim, an Iranian asylum seeker who said he had been locked up in Morton Hall for six months. He was a physical education teacher who had left his family in the Middle East. For two hours, he chanted “Freedom! Freedom!”</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/536680/Climbed_fence.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Climbed_fence.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'>Nariman, at top right of picture, scales the fence and shouts 'Freedom! Freedom!' (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>One man, who <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-557324857/morton-hall-inmate-describes-treatment-inside-immigration-prison">spoke for eight minutes</a>, told us: “People come in here normal but they get ill. But they don’t care, they don’t care. There are people in here who shouldn’t be here — old people with grandchildren, some have not seen family for years.”</p> <p>“People need medical attention, for mental health, for diabetes. They need physical and emotional support.</p> <p>“They lock us up like prison and it’s bad conditions. They don’t want us to show how we are living here. People taking their lives, we have no release date. You’ve no idea what detention does to your mind and body.</p> <p>“A hundred of us sent a letter to the Home Office because of how long they are keeping us in here, but they never replied. They treat us like rubbish, leaving us to rot in here”</p> <p>Among us protestors on the outside of the fence was Kingsley, who had been locked up at Morton Hall. Our sound system carried his voice to the protestors on the other side of the fence.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="689" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kingsley at Morton Hall (Manuch)</span></span></span>“They refused me health care,” Kingsley said. “They treated me like a liar and I had to prove myself. It’s a disgrace. On my first night, I was in lots of pain. They did not believe me. By the third time I asked for help and was refused, I broke everything in the room. They finally called a nurse. They finally called the ambulance.”</p> <p>About the two recent deaths at Morton Hall, Kingsley said: “One man died because he was not given medical attention. You will be next if you don’t stand up for your freedom against oppression.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“You have to fight. Never work for £1 an hour. If you refuse to cook and clean, the place will not run. Keep fighting!!”</p> <p>By phone from inside Morton Hall, one man protested about mobile phones with cameras being confiscated. “They don’t want us to show what it’s like in here,” he said. “But we can’t even have pictures of our families and grandchildren to remember. We’re not prisoners, we’re not criminals, but we would be better off in prison, there we could have our phones.”</p> <p>Bill McKeith from the Close Campsfield detention centre campaign told the demonstration: “This is an important day to expose what’s going on in Morton Hall. There are ten detention centres in the UK, nine are privately run – this one is run by the Prison Service on behalf of the Home Office. It was a prison for men from 1985 then for women from 2009, and since 2011 the prison changed its name and became an Immigration Removal Centre for 392 men. But it’s still run like a prison – a badly run prison. The contract paid the Prison Service £11m of taxpayers<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;money in its first year, and presumably a lot more since then.”</span></p><h2>A safe place?</h2><p>Morton Hall, a former women’s prison, was ‘reroled’ as an immigration removal centre in May 2011. Within months —&nbsp; in September 2011 —&nbsp;eighteen men went on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-england-lincolnshire-14946764">hunger strike</a>&nbsp;to resist their removal to Afghanistan.&nbsp;</p><p>In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-18973240">July 2012 two men took to the roof</a>; many detainees were “upset” over the duration of their detention, the BBC reported.</p><p>The Prison Officers’ Association&nbsp;<a href="http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/topic/morton-hall-immigration-removal-centre/">told ITV News</a>&nbsp;in November 2012 that 150 detainees had protested and staff had “been forced” to use their batons. The POA blamed rising tensions on the mix of high and low-risk detainees.&nbsp;</p><p>On Christmas Day and 30 December 2012, staff and detainees were injured in disturbances involving scores of inmates. The POA&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">told the Guardian</a>&nbsp;that staffing levels were&nbsp;“at the very, very sharp end of what we believe to be safe”. But the UK Border Agency insisted:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">“Morton Hall is a safe place for detainees and staff.”</a></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/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main gate, Morton Hall (HMIP)</span></span></span></p> <p>In September 2014 Morton Hall again erupted in a protest after a 26 year old Bangladeshi man called <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/07/morton-hall-immigration-detention-centre-death-rubel-ahmed">Rubel Ahmed</a> was found hanging in his cell.</p><p>In March 2015 Morton Hall joined Yarl’s Wood women and people in Harmondsworth in a <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/protests-and-hunger-strikes-are-breaking-out-at-immigration-detention-centres-all-over-the-uk-009">hunger strike to highlight conditions across detention centres</a> which had been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, and a Channel 4 documentary exposing conditions in Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth.</p> <p>Across detention centres in the UK, figures show that there were 185 recorded incidents of self-harm in 2010. By 2015, that <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/rise-in-self-harm-at-asylum-detention-centres-10519471">number had more than doubled</a> to 409. In 2015 across the detention estate there <a href="http://www.no-deportations.org.uk/Media-2014/Self-Harm2015.html">were 393 suicide attempts</a>&nbsp;recorded. That’s an average of more than one a day. Morton Hall IRC with 51, was the fourth highest, and had 252 inmates listed as ‘at risk’ of suicide during the year.</p> <p>A team of prisons inspectors visited Morton Hall last November and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor">reported today</a>: “Half the detainees in our survey said they had problems with feeling depressed or suicidal on arrival. There had been a three-fold increase in incidents of self-harm since the previous inspection [in March 2013]. During the previous year, four detainees had narrowly escaped fatal or serious injuries as a result of self-harm.”</p> <h2><span>Protest and be punished</span></h2> <p>In a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-39244905">statement to the BBC Look North programme</a>, after the Morton Hall demonstration, the Home Office said it respected “everyone’s right to peaceful protest” but detention centres were “essential elements of an effective immigration system”.</p> <p>Directly after the demonstration Nariman and one of the people who had spoken on the phone to us, Raffael Ebison, were punished and shipped out of Morton Hall. I spoke to both of them whilst writing this article. </p> <p>Nariman told me: “I am in Brook House now, it looks like another prison. They sent both of us here yesterday (Thursday 16 March)”. </p> <p>Raffael said: “At the end of the protest on Saturday I was taken straight to the segregation block. We had to stay there till they sent us here to Brook House.”</p> <p>Campaigners at the demonstration continue to support and contact Nariman and Raffael in Brook House. Plans are already being made for another action at Morton Hall. We are determined to shut down Morton Hall…and all detention centres in the UK.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Author note: Thanks to Lizy for notes, and to Manuch for photographs.</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/shinealight/clare-sambrook/morton-hall-HMIP-immigration-detention-child-safeguarding">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/lotte-ls/rough-handling-and-restraint-UK-forced-removals-still-nasty-business">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/inquest-jury-finds-failures-in-detainee-healthcare">Inquest jury finds failures in detainee healthcare</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 Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:14:51 +0000 John Grayson 109549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Labour's problems are about far more than one leader https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/labours-problems-are-about-far-more-than-one-leader <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Everything that made Labour strong has been turned on its head. The party must embrace the future, or it will die.</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/JesseKlaver.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/JesseKlaver.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jesse Klaver, leader of the Dutch Green Left, which ate the Dutch Labour vote whole this week.</span></span></span></p><p>Yet another cold bucket of water has been tipped over the heads of Labour and social democrats everywhere. The PvdA, Labour’s Dutch sister party, has just suffered a catastrophic decline in support from 34 MPs to 9.&nbsp;It follows in the wake of PASOK in Greece, annihilation in Scotland, crisis in Italy and loss of power and influence for social&nbsp;democrats&nbsp;everywhere. In France next month the Socialist candidate is likely to finish fourth. Yes, Martin Schulz, the SPD candidate for the premiership, is enjoying polling success in Germany but this could just be the fact that he is the new face in the race.&nbsp; Come September it could look very different, not least because it’s unclear if he has any real sense of political project.&nbsp;So even if his does win office he is unlikely to win or build the power to do much. Its more likely to be Hollandism than anything transformative.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>So if you were harbouring any hope that there was some charismatic centre-left leader or technical fix to the existential crisis of social democracy – the Dutch result forces us to think again. To bring the debate back to these shores, the crisis of Labour simply cements the notion of the floor disappearing beneath of the feet of social democrats.</p><p>As such, the crisis of Labour is not really about Jeremy Corbyn, though he is clearly not helping and may like Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair be hindering the real renewal of the party. Labour can change its leader, but it’s unlikely to make any real difference without a fundamental change of direction.&nbsp;Here is why.</p><p>Everything that once made Labour and social democrats strong from 1945 for roughly 30 years has gone and everything that makes Labour weak has replaced it. The working class as the engine of Labour is now very weak and the factories of solidarity that produced such classes have long gone. The hierarchical and bureaucratic system of government and control (Fordism) that helped win us win the second world war and acted as a model for Labour to govern have gone too. Indeed memories of that war and the depression that preceded it, which bound the nation together in hope, have long since faded from our memories. Finally, the threat of the Soviet Union, which brought &nbsp;the capitalists to the table in 1945 to concede the welfare state to buy off any revolution in the West, evaporated decades ago.</p><p>Since then globalization, financialisation, individualization and consumerisation have weakened Labour further to leave it in its current feeble state. The forward march of Labour has not just been halted but reversed. </p><p>New Labour was just a blip that temporarily addressed the electoral weaknesses of the party without ever addressing the cultural malaise. The end of something old, not the start of something new as Alan Finlayson has written. Post the 2008 crash, Corbynism looks like another blip in the long decline of a movement that belongs to the 20th century but not yet, and maybe never, the 21st.</p><p>The idea that all Labour can do is swing between Bennism and Blairism leaves us without hope; a return to a 1975 siege economy and old style public ownership based on illusory ideas of full time employment or a return to the centrism of Blair, that got us into this mess, are neither feasible nor desirable. It’s not just that Blair’s electoral success can never be repeated, it helped poison the well of British politics. Let’s be honest, almost any Labour Leader could have won in 1997. New Labour then enjoyed 60 consecutive quarters of growth in which they lowered taxes, set the City free, refused to build public houses and then agreed to extend Europe to the east and allow mass immigration with no transitional agreement. Yes it did many good things – but it failed politically in terms of strengthening left politics – rather it weakened left politics. The whole project was based on the belief that left voters had nowhere else to go.&nbsp; We now know different. In Scotland the brick moved and only the SNP were left. Across the North UKIP and the Tories can mop up working class votes and in the South the Liberal Democrats might be well placed to win the remain vote. Labour is stranded in no man’s land. Electorally and culturally bereft. Can anything be done?</p><p>It will require far reaching change in terms of purpose, politics and policy. Labour must start with a fundamentally new vision of what it means to be human in the 21st century built on the recognition that we don’t die wishing we owned more things but had more time with the people we love, doing and creating the things we love. So if it’s time and autonomy we aspire to, then how do we get them? &nbsp; </p><p>The new approach Labour must adopt is called 45 Degree Politics. In the 21st century we are not going to be passive recipients of a politics done to us, we have too much influence through information and voice via new technology.&nbsp;But protests from the bottom up like pink hat march while welcome are simply fireworks that light up the terrain in a flash before darkness descends again. We need the resources and legitimacy of the state to sustain our action.&nbsp;45 Degree Politics is the meeting point of horizontal and vertical change, the fault line through which a new society can emerge. The zeitgeist of the 21st century is not the hierarchy but the network. The Corbyn wave is an outlier of this politics that’s bubbling up across the civic society and the economy – but to work, parliament and the state must be taken seriously. In terms of policy basic income, taxing the machines and a shorter working week would liberate us all to do the jobs and work we want, but also to care and create.</p><p>For such a transformative programme, the idea that Labour and Labour alone will usher in this new era is farcical. Scotland has gone, maybe for good. The Greens and the Liberal Democrats are not going away. Note, it was the Green Left that were the bigger winners in the Dutch elections. The basis of this complex future will have to be negotiated not imposed through proportional voting – a system that should deny the Tories are ever in power alone again.&nbsp;This in turn demands a progressive alliance to win power and change the system so that we can change society. The disastrous Copeland by-election and the 19% deficit in the polls are just symptoms of the fundamental cultural disjuncture between Labour's past, present and any future.</p><p>There is more than enough hope and substance to unite a huge majority of the 52% who voted for Brexit and the 48% who didn’t in a progressive campsite in which Labour is the biggest but not only tent. But can Labour get there? Can the likes of Clive Lewis and Lisa Nandy help the party transform itself?&nbsp;If they can’t then the last Labour government, like the last Dutch Labour government, will be just that.</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/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 Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:33:16 +0000 Neal Lawson 109493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The UK government’s attitude to refugees, then and now https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/merilyn-moos/uk-government-s-attitude-to-refugees-then-and-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain has a history of barbarism towards refugees.</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/500209/640px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S69279,_London,_Ankunft_jüdische_Flüchtlinge.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S69279,_London,_Ankunft_jüdische_Flüchtlinge.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'>Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939. Wikicommons/Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>While between 50-75,000 refugees were admitted to the UK between 1933-1949, this number was only about one in ten of those who applied. Even after the government knew about the camps, it turned its back on all those attempting to flee. (The Daily Telegraph was one paper that reported in June 1942 that over a million Jewish people had been killed). </p> <p>The government’s arguments were shared by leading members of the Jewish establishment: too many Jews would encourage anti-Semitism, and the more one takes in, the more will want to come. Better to have strictly controlled access and then assimilation will be so much easier.</p> <p>While not all the people trying to escape Nazism were Jews (the Communists for example are regularly ignored), the racism against Jews was only too real amongst sections of the establishment, right and left. The government, in particular the home secretary, the Labour MP Morrison, essentially refused sanctuary to Jews attempting to flee Vichy France. As Morrison repeatedly explained, letting them in would ‘stir up an unpleasant degree of anti-Semitism’. Finally, in late 1942, 1-2000 refugees were accepted. As David Cesarani has documented in <em>Justice Delayed </em>(1992), even after the end of the war, the Labour government refused to let Holocaust survivors into the UK, while admitting thousands of former waffen SS.</p> <p>But there were a few redeeming features: Kindertransport brought in about 10,000 children over a very short period: roughly between November 1938 and the outbreak of war. The home secretary, the very Conservative Hoare, provided group visas for all the children on one transport, so very different from today. There was even an appeal on the BBC, initiated by parliament, for foster homes for these children. </p> <p>Now the Kindertransport provides this government with a fig leaf: look what a generous welcoming country we are. While if anything, this government’s refusal to accept refugees is worse than in the 1930s. It is impossible to know exactly how many refugees would like to come to Britain today. Britain is one of the worst destinations for people seeking asylum. In 2016, Britain refused asylum to 71% of applicants. In 2016, it received 38,517 asylum applications (one per 1664 head of population), 3% of asylum claims in Europe and lower than any other country in Europe apart from Spain: less than 0.1% compared to, for example, Sweden with almost 2% and Austria with 1%. Despite its atrocious treatment of&nbsp; refugees in the Jungle and elsewhere, France, with a similar population to the UK, will be taking 30,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017 compared to this government’s promise of 20,000 over five years. Moreover, France, unlike Britain, provides asylum seekers with £65.59 a week plus accommodation. Indeed, unlike the UK, most European countries have proper resettlement programmes.</p> <p>Out of the 4.8m Syrian refugees, less than 4000 adults have so far been accepted out of the meagre 20,000 promised by the government over 5 years. There are 2000 refugees stuck in camps in Serbia. Only about 140 adults have been accepted from the Greek camps, although there are about 25,000 child refugees there, and about 65,000 adults. This barbarism is a product of the European agreement in March 2016, nominally to stop drownings at sea, but which now means refugees have to go through an endless and deadly bureaucratic nightmare. In 2016 more people in fact drowned: about 4,700. </p> <p>What especially stands out in this catalogue of barbarities is this government’s attitude to accepting refugee children. By comparison, the acceptance of the Kindertransport was generous. Children in need tug at the heart-strings and their proximity and desperation in France could have given the government grounds to present them as ‘exceptional cases’. But the opposite has occurred. Having persuaded Lord Dubs to drop the 3000 goal in his original motion to the Lords on the basis that the government accepted his proposal in principle i.e. that 3000 children in exceptional need should be accepted here, the government have instead taken just over 300 and said: no more. </p> <p>Even including children under the Dublin scheme who have family here, only about 150 children who were in Calais have been accepted since last September. Despite the House of Commons Home Affairs select committee calling on the Government to halt its plans to limit the number of child refugees to 350 under the Dubs amendment, last week, the Tory MPs (with a handful of exceptions) voted down a proposal to survey local authorities to see who could offer spaces, (Guardian, March 7, 2017). The committee’s report suggests that local authorities are ready to accept 4000 extra children. So this particular barbarism is not a result of local grass roots pressure. It is the government’s own.</p> <p>The government is tightening up on all criteria relating to refugees and to ‘immigrants’. Even for the few refugees who get here, only a tiny percentage is given the right to work. ‘Illegal’ refugees are regularly threatened with expulsion. In 2016, about 4,000 ‘illegals’ were expelled or ‘encouraged’ to leave. About 3000 asylum seekers were in detention in the third quarter of 2016. In October 2016, the government talked of sending home foreign doctors once enough ‘British’ doctors were available. Last month, in February 2017, it emerged that the Home Office has made 8127 requests to the NHS for patient details in the first 11 months of 2016, leading to 5854 people being traced by immigration enforcement. </p> <p>And while I am not equating the May government with the Nazis, emphasis on the State drawing a line between people born here or who come here to work, and on the refugee as the outsider and as a non-person, is reminiscent of the Nazi’s constant deadly talk of ‘undesirables’ now echoed by Trump. The Government’s irrational inflexibility about the rights of European residents in the UK suggests crude xenophobia. The Tories vaunt ‘Britain’ as if all who were born here share one unifying national interest (which they of course represent) but this is an excuse for crude xenophobia, a miasma, the construction of a dangerous unreality. It must make UKIP proud.</p> <p>As in the 1930s, the hysteria of the Daily Mail and other media outlets and the UKIP-lite talk of the government about an immigration crisis overwhelming Britain is legitimating the promotion of xenophobia, and a fear and hostility towards refugees. Remember the media storm about whether the young refugees arriving here were children or not, with David Davis wanting their teeth checked. As Baumann (2016) argued, the mass media with their incessant references to a ‘migration crisis’ (as in the 1930s) have constructed a ‘migration panic’.</p> <p>To end on a personal note: my parents fled Nazism early in 1933. My father spotted the rise of the ultra-right early on and became an active anti-Nazi. The Gestapo came knocking for him on the night of the Reichstag fire as they rounded up tens of thousands of their opponents. This time we must organise together and not be defeated. And the anti-racist fight is key to such a victory.</p> <p><strong>SUPPORT THE</strong> <strong>March against Racism,&nbsp;Saturday 18 March 2017</strong><strong></strong></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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Equality International politics Merilyn Moos Thu, 16 Mar 2017 18:17:39 +0000 Merilyn Moos 109475 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Sandra Mendoza and Veliama Sivaganam came up with Net Economic Outcome https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-fox/how-sandra-mendoza-and-veliama-sivaganam-came-up-with-net-economic-outcome <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> During recent conversation about Brexit, Trump, and widespread public dissatisfaction with the status quo in the US , Europe and elsewhere, I was reminded of a piece I wrote some years ago as part of ... </div> </div> </div> During recent conversation about Brexit, Trump, and widespread public dissatisfaction with the status quo in the US , Europe and elsewhere, I was reminded of a piece I wrote some years ago as part of a short book of essays and observations.  It was an attempt to spear some of the nonsense perpetrated both in academia and government about how large-scale economic activity is interpreted and “sold” to the public; and why that interpretation is wholly inadequate.  Although framed around two fictional characters and deliberately tongue-in-cheek, the essential details of the piece are as historically and factually accurate as I could make them. Net Economic Outcome as a concept was introduced by Sandra Mendoza and Veliama Sivaganamin a joint paper presented to the Third Women’s Econo-Solidarity Conference in Porbandar. Despite initial ridicule by academics and dismissal by policy-makers, radicals soon latched onto NETCO as a weapon in their war against capitalism; although it is far from certain that this was the authors’ original intention. The aim of the Porbandar paper was to elucidate what Mendoza and Sivaganam considered to be a universal confusion between “national or regional economic efficiency”, and the “efficiency of the firm”. Conventional wisdom held (as in many quarters it still does) that the two ideas went hand in hand: in other words, that an efficient private sector offered the best route to the welfare of the people and therefore to the success of the nation or the region in which it operated. Mendoza and Sivaganam suggested, instead, that private and public efficiency were not only different but, in many cases, mutually exclusive. In a capitalist economy, they claimed, an efficient firm endeavoured to maximise sales, while minimising labour costs and leaving the state with as many associated burdens as possible: pollution, waste, environmental degradation, road maintenance, worker training, social security, unemployment insurance, and so on. But was it economically efficient at national level, they asked, for people to buy superfluities (and create the resultant waste), or for a state to cope with employment instability caused by  downsizing or outsourcing, the displacement of small farmers and entrepreneurs by multinationals, the ravages of industrial pollution, and the societal disruptions that accompany extremes of inequality? The prospect of exceptional wealth might well be a spur to enterprise, but wasn’t it too often also a charge on the social fabric? Currency and commodity markets could net handsome rewards for a handful of businesses and individuals, but often by devastating countless numbers of impoverished people in stricken areas of the world. And what about natural and environmental disasters? Earthquakes, tsunamis, chemical spills, shipwrecked oil tankers could ravish the human environment and cause untold human misery – even though they usually resulted in greater economic activity and an increase in GDP as producers geared up to repair the damage. In economic terms, few things could be better than a catastrophe or a conflict fought in some distant territory where the loss of many lives would be counterbalanced by the enticing prospect of corporate super profits and unprecedented economic growth, first in arms sales, and then in rebuilding towns and industries. Mendoza’s and Sivaganam’s paper offered some provocative examples of how private sector efficiency could, and often did, mean “screwing the taxpayer”: overcharging on government contracts, bribing officials, blackmailing governments into awarding investment subsidies, circumventing environmental regulations, failing to compensate victims of industrial blight and so on. They went on to propose a different, more sophisticated analytical vocabulary for assessing economic efficiency and assigning financial responsibility, which would allow the social, environmental and infrastructural impact of corporate activities to be costed and charged. In a subsequent monograph “Owning up – Investors and the Invested”, the authors argued that so-called private investment is in reality a joint venture in which public goods – roads, railways, airports, an educated workforce etc are joined to private capital. Ownership should, therefore reflect the participation of all investors. Terms such as “Socio-environmental Cost Analysis”,  “Input Distribution”,  “Capital (Stock) Equivalence”, “Subvention Equity” and “Context Sensitive Accounting”, made their first appearance in this little book. The personal histories of both Mendoza and Sivaganam bear some relevance to the conclusions they reached about the nature of economic life. Sandra Mendoza was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras into a wealthy land-owning family. At seventeen, she began an affair with one of the gardeners at the family hacienda, by whom she became pregnant. When the affair came to light, the gardener was arrested on a rape charge and was never seen again – a not untypical fate in those days for a man who dared to bed above his station. Mendoza fled to Tuxla Gutierrez in Mexico where she lived for some time in deep poverty. The child – a daughter – died in infancy from a lung infection – Mendoza’s pleas to her family in Honduras for money to buy antibiotics having gone unheeded. By the age of nineteen, she was in Mexico City working behind the counter in a pharmacy and studying for a degree in Economics at UNAM. After graduating with distinction, she landed a job with Verduras y Aceites de Mexico S.A. – a subsidiary of a large US agroindustrial company. There she played a key role in developing an investment in the far western state of Baja California Sur where the company leased a stretch of semi-desert on the outskirts of the town of Santamaría and collared the local water supply to grow tomatoes for export. The project proved highly profitable, and Mendoza received a substantial salary increase on the strength of her contribution. On the other side of town, however, where farmers had cultivated the rich soil since the town’s foundation in the late eighteenth century, traditional irrigation channels ran dry and crops failed for lack of water. Proud horticulturists, accustomed to a dignified independence, began sinking into poverty. A few of them found low-paid jobs with the company; many sold their fields as building plots to wealthy newcomers for whom they ended up working as servants, chauffeurs, or even gardeners digging patches of the same soil that had once been theirs. The gap between rich and poor widened, social cohesion weakened; burglary and petty theft – formerly unknown – became commonplace. Beggars appeared on street corners. This was Mendoza’s first experience of the double-edged sword of western-style industrial investment. Government statisticians registered an increase in local employment and GDP; but who, Mendoza asked herself, were the beneficiaries? And who bore the costs? She wondered if a way could not be found of recognising recipient communities as co-investors and decision-making participants in new projects. Back in Mexico City, Mendoza met Carlos Restrepo Robles, the exiled Colombian human rights lawyer who was later <a href="http://www.abogacia.es/2013/03/25/la-muerte-de-otro-abogado-en-colmbia-eleva-a-seis-los-asesinados-en-lo-que-va-de-ano/">gunned down</a> at the airport on his return to his homeland. From him, she learned of the notorious <a href="http://www.es.lapluma.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=4913:2013-06-10-10-33-13&amp;catid=91:multinacionales&amp;Itemid=423">El Cerrejón</a> strip coal mine in the north of Colombia owned by a consortium of multinational mining companies. The mine had brought profits to the owners, but despair to local communities whose homes had been razed, fields destroyed, burial grounds desecrated and environment polluted beyond recovery. After Restrepo’s death, she visited the mine and saw for herself the devastation it had wrought on the locality and the indigence into which the former residents of the demolished <a href="https://reexistencia.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/tabaco-un-pueblo-devorado-por-la-mineria/">village of Tabaco</a> had fallen as a result. Determined to study the issues raised by what she had witnessed in Santamaría and Tabaco, Mendoza resigned from her job and, after turning down offers of scholarships from several western universities, she chose to read for a doctorate at the University of Porbandar.  “I didn’t need western professors telling me how people in countries like mine think and feel,” she explained to a colleague who questioned her choice. It was at the university in Porbandar that she met Veliama Sivaganam. Ms Sivaganam came from a very different background. Born into a poor family in <a href="http://www.pudukkottai.tn.nic.in/">Pudukkottai</a>, a rural district of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, she and her mother learned to read and write together – thanks to a literacy drive funded by an enlightened local charity. Sivaganam’s father made scant effort to follow suit. Like many men of the district, he had given himself over to the consumption of arrack – a locally-brewed liquor – on which he spent whatever funds he could lay hands on. Officially, private distilleries were forbidden in Tamil Nadu – the local government having awarded licences to a couple of large <a href="http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/todays-paper/tp-corporate/kals-distilleries-to-bottle-united-spirits-brands/article1070207.ece">national distillers</a> that produced IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor). Sales of IMFL through recognised brandy shops provided the government with tax revenues, thus ensuring – as is so often the case – an alliance of interests between government and big business. But that didn’t stop the illegal distilling of cheap arrack for which the demand proved insatiable and the rewards substantial. “In Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu’s least urbanised district,” wrote <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/547573.Everybody_Loves_a_Good_Drought">Palagummi Sainath in 1995</a> when Sivaganam was still a teenager, “official data show that an arrack distiller is arrested every 45 minutes; and one is convicted every two hours.” Illegal distillers  happily paid their fines – the amounts were derisory compared with their profits from the trade. Then they moved their equipment to another location and carried on as before. Arrack consumption, meanwhile, had become a source of grief and conflict within families. Husbands commonly financed their drinking habit from an already meagre household budget and then under its influence abused wives who had the temerity to complain. Children grew to dread their fathers’ drunken outbursts and the parental disputes they occasioned. On her twentieth birthday, Sivaganam joined a women’s group formed with the aim of declaring Pudukottai a dry region. They succeeded in having most of the illegal distilleries closed down – but only to find the brandy shops taking their place – backed by the state government and the big liquor companies. IMFL came to dominate the market and since it was more expensive than arrack, drinkers paid for the increase not by reducing their consumption, but by appropriating more of the household income. Children went hungry, but like whales feeding on plankton, big business and government got a little fatter. The protest movement intensified. Campaigners petitioned the authorities, organised protest marches, bombarded the local media with demands to be heard and read. Scandals came to light: a senior government official was found to be in the pay of a liquor multinational; another was discovered running an arrack distillery of his own. Some of the women suffered beatings and ostracism in their village. All the leaders received threats. The campaign <a href="http://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/documents/home_prohexc_e_pn_2016_17.pdf">continues</a> to this day – partially successful but never completely so – as is invariably the case with human effort. Sivaganam received repeated beatings at her father’s hands and narrowly escaped death when he returned home drunk one night, doused her with kerosene and tried to set her on fire. The poor quality of the fuel saved her: it had been adulterated with water. After this, she fled to Madras where she found employment – coincidentally also in a pharmacy – and took night classes in economics and political science at the university. Two years later, she published a paper – “Profit and Losses” the first of many on the social costs of large-scale corporate enterprise. In it she argued that Adam Smith’s ideal of business serving the people (even if unwittingly) had been reversed. The effect of western capitalism had not been to make the market serve the people, but to bend the people to the needs of the market. The paper was not especially original, but it contained useful references to Sivaganam’s experience in Pudukottai where the campaign against illegal arrack distilling had handed much of the market to external suppliers, allowing them to suck funds out of the area. For her degree dissertation, she conducted a study of two large-scale industrial investments: the infamous <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/3/newsid_2698000/2698709.stm?first=5">Union Carbide plant in Bhopal</a> where, on 2nd and 3rd of December 1984, a cloud of toxic vinyl chloride gas leaked into the air, killing 3,000 people in the first 24 hours and tens of thousands of others in the weeks, months and years that followed; and the <a href="https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227/new-independent-review-documents-failure-of-narmada-dam">Sardar Sarovar dam</a> on the Narmada River in Madya Pradesh where countless villages have been submerged, and upwards of half a million people uprooted and left with little provision for their livelihoods. In the course of this study, she began to form her theory of “default economics”, the term she coined for the failure of corporations and governments to account for the full social costs of their operations. “Only those expenses from which they can’t hide are counted,” she concluded in an oft-quoted peroration. “And these are considered solely in relation to the business or the project itself. Responsibility for the human costs of Bhopal or Sardar Sarovar accrue to some other entity: to the state perhaps or charity, to history or to God.” <em>(please note that whilst many of the events and contexts are real, this story is fictional)</em><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jeremy Fox Thu, 16 Mar 2017 17:00:51 +0000 Jeremy Fox 109488 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK government wants to move justice online - but can computers perform essentially human functions? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/geoffrey-bindman/uk-government-wants-to-move-justice-online-but-can-computers-perform-essentially <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Online courts may replace justice, empathy and judgment with compromise and efficiency.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/MicroATX_Motherboard_with_AMD_Athlon_Processor_2_Digon3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/MicroATX_Motherboard_with_AMD_Athlon_Processor_2_Digon3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A motherboard - lacking in the crucial skills of empathy and judgment. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Zander, CC-BY-SA-3.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Lawyers and the legal system have cautiously embraced the technological revolution. Advances in communication and processing information have already transformed legal practice. &nbsp;Yet doubts arise when technology begins to replace functions which seem to need exclusively human qualities, such as judgement and empathy.</p> <p>In September 2016 the Lord Chancellor announced that the £1 billion programme of court reform to which her department is committed would include an online court for civil disputes. The advantages of online communication in the stages leading up to the adjudication of a dispute are clear enough, but should we allow decision making without human intervention? We may accept the driverless car but are we ready for the lawyerless or even judgeless court? And is the litigant pursuing a claim or defence online on a level playing field with an opponent advised by a live lawyer? The danger in online justice is that the current imbalance between the parties with and without skilled assistance will grow ever wider.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The danger in online justice is that the current imbalance between the parties with and without skilled assistance will grow ever wider.</p> <p>In her announcement, Liz Truss, the UK's Lord Chancellor, referred to proposals made by Lord Justice Briggs in his <em><a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/civil-courts-structure-review-final-report/" target="_blank">Civil Courts Structure Review</a></em>, published in July 2016. The 62 recommendations in the report (most of which are about the distribution of responsibilities among the existing courts rather than the online court) have since been endorsed by the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls.</p> <p>Echoing Briggs, Liz Truss said: <span class="blockquote-new">“<em>we will create a new process to resolve many disputes entirely online using innovative technology and specialist case officers to progress routine cases through the system and reserving judicial time for the most complex cases…. When hearings are required , they may be held over the telephone or video conference, focusing court resources on the most complex and difficult cases.</em>”&nbsp; </span></p> <p>The Briggs proposal adopted by the Government does not in fact replace judges but it certainly seeks to remove lawyers. While limited at this stage to civil money claims under £25,000 it is obviously the thin end of the wedge if it is deemed successful, because it will cut costs. Indeed another online scheme for motoring offences and minor criminal cases is already being developed.</p> <p>The online civil court will be conventional - staffed by judges and civil servants. The final decision on substantive rights and duties will be made entirely by judges. However, the online court “will have resolution rather than determination at its heart”. Dispute resolution will no longer be “alternative”.&nbsp; Compromise, rather than the fairest outcome, will be the primary objective.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Compromise, rather than the fairest outcome, will be the primary objective.</p> <p>The scheme adopts the idea proposed by last year’s report <em><a href="http://2bquk8cdew6192tsu41lay8t.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/JUSTICE-working-party-report-Delivering-Justice-in-an-Age-of-Austerity.pdf" target="_blank">Delivering Justice in an Age of Austerity</a></em> published by the&nbsp;human rights&nbsp;and law reform organisation, <a href="https://justice.org.uk/" target="_blank">Justice</a>. The report proposed the creation of a body of legally qualified “registrars” – Briggs prefers to call them “case officers”. Their function is to manage the second stage of a process which starts with what Briggs calls “<em>automated online investigative triage</em>”. The first stage is entirely online, consisting of sets of sequential screens on which the claimant or defendant can formulate his or her grievance or response in an online pleading “<em>entirely free from legal jargon</em>” as Briggs says “<em>but identifying the key facts relied on</em>”. Within this process, for which models are available in British Columbia and the Netherlands, the parties will be required to exchange documentary and other evidence.</p> <p>The case officer, having received this material, will select the most appropriate means for resolution of the dispute which the material presents. A range of mediation opportunities can be provided, with the option for either party to go to the judge for the determination of substantive rather than merely procedural questions.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Unfortunately the online court risks endangering justice in all but the most clear cut cases.</p> <p>Using technological advances to improve the judicial system is an indisputable benefit but technological change which compromises justice in order to save money is unacceptable. Unfortunately the online court risks endangering justice in all but the most clear cut cases . </p> <p>It may help some of those currently denied access to the law because they cannot afford professional assistance, but only if they are computer literate or can be helped by those who are. But even for those who can navigate the system, can they match the capacity of a corporate or institutional opponent with professional assistance? </p> <p>The case officers or registrars are meant to be impartial. Their function, desirable as it may be, is to clarify issues and save judicial time. But they will not provide the lawyerless litigant with the vigorous partisan representation, tactical know-how, and experience available to an affluent opponent. </p> <p>A fair justice system and a fair society demand equality of arms and a level playing field. A number of recent economy measures – closing of courts, reduction of court staff, increased fees for litigants, draconian cuts to legal aid, fixed fees which reduce profitability for claimants’ solicitors – have combined to widen the inequality gap. The online court will widen it further.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">'Case officers' will not provide the lawyerless litigant with the vigorous partisan representation, tactical know-how, and experience available to an affluent opponent.</p> <p>Those who resist the onward march of technology are seen as Luddites, desperately hoping to save their jobs by destroying the machinery which makes them redundant.&nbsp; A reasoned approach to the issue may be more in keeping with the dignity of the profession, but redundancy is a very real prospect. Is our fate to be death by a thousand cuts?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/roger-smith/can-technology-save-access-to-justice">Can technology save access to justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/oliver-carter/justice-open-to-all-like-ritz-hotel">Justice - open to all, like the Ritz hotel</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk openJustice Justice for the rich alone? (openJustice) Geoffrey Bindman Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:47:51 +0000 Geoffrey Bindman 109440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Colonialism, climate change and the need to defund DAPL https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/amy-hall/colonialism-climate-change-and-need-to-defund-dapl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British firms lie deep at the heart of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy.</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/553846/29554803662_1992b65ca2_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/29554803662_1992b65ca2_z.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'>Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, St Paul, Minnesota; by Fibonacci Blue</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Back in 2009, when I was an undergraduate student, I went to a talk given by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation which had a significant impact on my understanding of environmental justice.</p><p dir="ltr">This was the first time I had been awoken to the devastation of the tar sands in Canada. I knew that massive fossil fuel projects were bad news for the climate but what stuck with me was the<a href="https://www.no-tar-sands.org/what-are-the-tar-sands/"> impact of the tar sands</a> on the people and their land. Why wasn't something being done to stop it? Aside from the relentless march of fossil fuel extraction and consumption, there's money to be made and the people in the way are poor and not white.</p><p dir="ltr">From <a href="http://platformlondon.org/2017/01/26/uk-high-court-shell-nigeria-spill/">Nigeria</a> to North America, many of the people on the frontline of struggles against extraction projects are <a href="http://grist.org/justice/frontline-communities-will-lead-the-fight-for-environmental-and-climate-justice-under-trump/">black, brown</a> or from indigenous communities. Recently one of these, the fight against the <a href="http://www.honorearth.org/daplsupport%20">Dakota Access Pipeline</a> (DAPL) has been making headlines.</p><p dir="ltr">The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline travels<a href="http://www.usace.army.mil/Dakota-Access-Pipeline/"> 1,168 miles</a> from North Dakota to Illinois, where it will join up with a second 774 mile pipeline to Texas. It will carry up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day once it is up and running, which could be within <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/10/native-nations-march-washington-dakota-access-pipeline">weeks</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">If the pipeline, which is laid underneath the Missouri River, fails it will pollute a vital water source for the Standing Rock Sioux people and thousands of others. This threat is very real. Sunoco Logistics, one of the companies behind DAPL has had more than 200 leaks since 2010, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pipeline-nativeamericans-safety-i-idUSKCN11T1UW">according to Reuters</a>. DAPL was re-routed away from Bismarck, a mostly white community, partly because of water pollution fears.</p><p dir="ltr">People of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been joined in their resistance by thousands of other indigenous people from across the region, as well as allies. At its peak, an estimated 10,000 people joined the water protectors at spiritual camps: <a href="http://sacredstonecamp.org/">Sacred Stone</a>, <a href="http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/">Oceti Sakowin</a> and others.</p><p dir="ltr">Water protectors were subjected to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/29/standing-rock-protest-north-dakota-shutdown-evacuation">extreme violence</a> from police and private security. There were mass arrests and hundreds were injured with the use of water cannons, tasers, pepper spray and many other weapons. UN officials have questioned the DAPL project, as well as the "<a href="https://www.rt.com/usa/379390-un-dapl-protests-rights/">unecessary use of force</a>" by the police. British private security firm <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/shine-light/g4s-securing-whose-world">G4S</a> is<br class="kix-line-break" /><a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/G4S-Admits-it-Guards-Dakota-Pipeline-as-Protesters-Get-Attacked-20160906-0036.html">one of the companies</a> hired to suppress water protectors, most of whom have now left the camps.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.colorlines.com/articles/judge-denies-tribal-request-halt-dapl-religious-claims">Earlier this month</a>, a federal judge rejected the request of the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux tribes to stop construction of the DAPL. The Standing Rock Sioux are now waiting for the result of another lawsuit due in April, which calls for a full environmental impact statement and careful consideration of the Tribe’s treaties before a permit is issued by a government agency.</p><p dir="ltr">On 10 March, thousands of people marched <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/10/native-nations-march-washington-dakota-access-pipeline">on Washington DC</a> to <a href="http://standwithstandingrock.net/march/">demand</a> respect of treaty rights and for Donald Trump to meet with tribal leaders. The Native Nations Rise protest also highlighted the global movement of indigenous nations and their right to protect their lands and environment. There were actions across North America and further afield. In the UK this included a protest outside a branch of Barclays in Newcastle, one of the financial institutions linked with DAPL.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.defunddapl.org/">divestment movement</a> around DAPL is growing and its targets include the British companies bankrolling the project through its <a href="https://nodaplsolidarity.org/about/">major corporate players</a> – Energy Transfer Partners and their subsidiary, Sunoco Logistics, along with Enbridge, Philipps 66 and Marathon Petroleum Corporation.</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/who%27s-banking-dakota-access-pipeline%20">Food &amp; Water Watch</a>, 35 banks have provide $10.25 billion in loans and credit facilities to support the companies building the pipeline.</p><p dir="ltr">Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland have lent $800 million to Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidaries, according to analysis by <a href="http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/12/01/dakota-access-pipeline-energy-transfer-partners-hsbc-rbs-barclays/%20">Greenpeace's Energy Desk</a>. International Commercial Bank of China, a Chinese bank with headquarters in London has given <a href="https://www.desmog.uk/2017/03/02/uk-green-party-calls-british-banks-immediately-stop-funding-dakota-access-pipeline%20">$120 million</a> in a DAPL project level loan.</p><p dir="ltr">The Royal Bank of Scotland, which lent over $250 million to Energy Transfer Partners and Energy Transfer Equity, has stated that it <a href="http://www.rbs.com/news/2016/november/rbs-relationship-with-dakota-access-pipeline-companies-ended-in-.html%20">no longer has a relationship</a> with DAPL companies.</p><p dir="ltr">Desmog UK<a href="https://www.desmog.uk/2017/03/02/uk-green-party-calls-british-banks-immediately-stop-funding-dakota-access-pipeline"> found that</a> Barclays has invested over $151.6 million in the pipeline companies whereas HSBC’s total investment value is $229.9 million. Barclay’s shares in Phillips 66 are valued at $54 million while HSBC has $59.14 million in shares invested.</p><p dir="ltr">The London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) has around £393,000 <a href="https://www.ipe.com/news/esg/campaign-group-targets-london-pension-fund-over-dakota-pipeline-holdings/10017556.article">holdings in three companies</a> involved in DAPL, including Energy Transfer Partners. LPFA is the biggest Local Government Pension Scheme provider in London and is worth £4.6billion. Mayor Sadiq Khan included divestment from the fossil fuel industry in his election manifesto and campaigners are <a href="https://gofossilfree.org/uk/press-release/london-funding-dapl/">calling</a> on him to stick to his word.</p><p dir="ltr">It's important to remember that the push for divestment is about more than climate change – it's also part of the fight for the rights and needs of people on the land. There are also questions to ask about where the money will be reinvested. Will it be done in a way that does not continue to harm frontline and <a href="https://policy.m4bl.org/invest-divest/">marginalised communities</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">“The investors and financiers will not move forward if the projects are deemed financially unfavorable,” Melanie Yazzie of <a href="https://therednation.org/">The Red Nation</a>, <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/03/defund-dapl-spreads-across-indian-country-as-tribes-divest/">told Counterpuch</a> in February. "We must continue to deny settlers their desired profits, profits they reap from colonizing our non-human relatives—the land and water.”</p><p dir="ltr">The indigenous communities at Standing Rock are battling to protect the water and ecosystems for future generations. They are doing this in a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/23/standing-rock-burning-dakota-access">context</a> of oppression and marginalisation in which Britain, a colonial power, is complicit. It is a battle firmly<a href="https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/indigenous-resistance-big-picture-behind-pipeline-protests"> rooted in history</a> as highlighted by Julian Brave NoiseCat and Anne Spice <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/standing-rock-dakota-access-pipeline-protest/">in Jacobin magazine</a>: "At Standing Rock and across indigenous territories, indigenous peoples are resisting hundreds of years of dispossession, subjugation, and elimination committed in the name of capitalist accumulation and white possession....</p><p dir="ltr">"The people who have endured centuries of dispossession and attempted elimination — the poorest of the poor, the most likely to be killed by law enforcement, the most easily forgotten — are still here and still fighting. They have built alternatives within and beyond capitalism for hundreds of years."</p><p dir="ltr">The struggle against DAPL could accelerate the growth of the international movement that has been working in solidarity with indigenous communities against extraction projects for many years.</p><p dir="ltr">As Suzanne Dhaliwal, director of the <a href="https://www.no-tar-sands.org/">UK Tar Sands Network</a> points out, this energy needs to stay within the wider movement against <a href="https://vimeo.com/198902656">settler colonialism</a>.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr"> She also highlights the importance of allies assessing their place within the movement. "As you join the movement to lift up indigenous rights and climate justice think about history and what is your place, commit to unpacking your settler colonial privilege, understanding the power you hold and how to take an appropriate role. How are you stepping into this movement that has been on-going for hundreds of years?”</p><p dir="ltr">Whatever happens with DAPL, indigenous communities across North America are continuing to<a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/pipelines-indian-reservations-2143066087.html?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&amp;ts=1481568845"> fight</a> many <a href="http://www.ienearth.org/10-indigenous-and-environmental-struggles-you-can-support-in-2017/">environmental battles</a>. As we work to be allies of the movement, this is an important question for all of us to ask ourselves.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Some useful resources and reading:</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.ienearth.org/">Indigenous Environmental Network</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.honorearth.org/">Honor The Earth</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://indigenousrising.org/">Indigenous Rising</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.honorearth.org/">Divest London</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://www.no-tar-sands.org/">UK Tar Sands Network</a></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://player.lush.com/tv/summit-indigenous-rights-face-climate-change-eriel-tchekwie-deranger%20">Eriel Tchekwie Deranger</a> on the extractive industries on climate, human and indigenous rights.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://vimeo.com/198902656%20">Faith Spotted Eagle</a> of the Yankton Sioux Nation, reflecting on the settler colonial mindset within the movement against DAPL.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/indigenous-resistance-big-picture-behind-pipeline-protests">Indigenous resistance: the big picture behind pipeline protests</a>, published by Cultural Survival in March 2017.</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/amy-hall/liam-fox-doesn-t-want-you-to-know-about-eucanada-trade-deal">Liam Fox doesn’t want you to know about the EU/Canada trade deal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brendan-montague/how-tobacco-killed-everyone-i-loved-most-and-what-i-intend-to-do-about-it">How tobacco killed everyone I loved most and what I intend to do about it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Amy Hall Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:31:13 +0000 Amy Hall 109482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit and the UK Parliament https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michael-bartlet/brexit-and-uk-parliament <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is the role of Parliament, not least by its select committees, to hold the government to account at every stage along the way. <ins datetime="2017-03-13T15:24" cite="mailto:Michael%20Bartlet"></ins></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-1144093.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1144093.jpg" alt="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'>Liberal Democrat peer Viscount Thurso in House of Lords in 1998, having failed to amend the Scotland Bill, bringing back a Scottish Parliament after nearly 300 years. Press Association archive. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>While the <em>Miller</em> case has been hailed as a victory for Parliament in the face of an overbearing executive, that is only half of the story. The <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0196-judgment.pdf">Supreme Court in <em>Mille</em>r</a> has restated the conventional narrative of parliamentary sovereignty; the most surprising aspect is that the case was needed in the first place. Why did it take the litigation of Gina Miller and Deir Tozetti Dos Santos &nbsp;to require the Supreme Court to make a decision that could equally forcefully have been articulated by the speaker of the Commons on the advice of his lawyers?&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The Supreme Court decision affirms the conventional story of parliamentary sovereignty. An understanding that has its origins in the decision of the Tudors to govern through Parliament and the seventeenth century struggle with the King; settled decisively in Parliament’s victory in the Civil War; confirmed in the Glorious Revolution, and the Bill of Rights (1689). </p> <p>Parliamentary sovereignty predates the creation of a unitary state, and is only given democratic force by the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, where Parliament is made subject to the people. But since the time of Albert Venn Dicey’s <em>An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution </em>(Dicey, 1885) – still acknowledged by the Supreme Court as the classical statement of Parliamentary Sovereignty – the doctrine has suffered a century’s long erosion with the growth of a supranational constitution; the judicialisation of human rights; a devolution settlement creating a quasi-federal state and the increasing reliance of the executive on delegated legislation. </p> <p>Now that&nbsp;Parliament has passed the EU Withdrawal Bill it remains the task of Parliament to provide for a meaningful vote on the ‘final deal’ regarding Brexit and ensure the rights of existing EU citizens, not least by its select committees holding the government to account at every stage along the way. It remains within Parliament’s power to ensure full control of the process throughout the negotiations. </p> <p>Far from thwarting the democratic will of the people, it is the responsibility of Members of Parliament in their role as elected representatives to scrutinise the decisions of the executive precisely as an expression of their constituency mandate. Members of Parliament who have no appetite for exercising their scrutiny reserve should make way for others who are more willing to do so. If Parliament collectively cannot fulfil that task it is time for a codified constitution to replace the fig leaf of parliamentary sovereignty with a set of entrenched and codified rights.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Sovereignty as a legal concept emerges from, but is not identical with political reality. According to a traditional doctrine it can only change as part of an iterative process involving a change of constitutional practice – such as the successful entrenchment of legislation. While relationships with the European Union, devolved legislatures and a culture of human rights have provided the context; the ineffectiveness of parliamentary accountability during periods of strong majority government has been a catalyst for change. </p> <p>The power of political parties inverts the model of executive accountability to Parliament by substituting executive control of the legislature. Where the executive dominates Parliament as seldom before, parliamentary sovereignty risks evisceration to a point where it becomes a criterion for the legitimacy of executive action of which it is no longer the source. By providing for a non-legally binding, pre-legislative, yes-no referendum on a complex set of constitutional relationships and then treating its result as set in stone as the ‘will of the people’ the Conservative Government has undermined the very parliamentary sovereignty that it claims to be restoring. Many MPs of all political parties no longer understand themselves as representatives but as mere delegates. It is not the use of a referendum that is the problem but the way it has been used. </p> <p>Nothing illustrates the atrophy of Parliament more persuasively than the fact that the debates regarding the scope of parliamentary sovereignty in <em>Mille</em>r began in the courts and affirmed a sovereignty that Parliament was unwilling or unable to claim for itself via Parliamentary process. If Parliament cannot reform itself internally as Stein Ringen <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/stein-ringen/my-350-on-brexit-responsibility">calls for in openDemocracy</a> there is a need for an extra-parliamentary movement for a codified constitution &nbsp;which would include the reform of the House of Lords, entrenchment of social and economic rights, a more proportional system of election and a transparent process for any citizen to raise their constitutional concerns via petitioning a constitutional court.</p> <p>The Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons under the chairmanship of Tony Wright was a first step. While the establishment of a Business Committee to give the Commons a role in setting its own business and the election of Select Committee Chairs (<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/stein-ringen/parliementarians-wake-up">see Mark Fisher</a>) gives the House of Commons the <em>theoretical</em> power to hold the government more effectively to account, the process requires the support of an active citizens’ movement that can engage with Parliament at an institutional level. Why do concerned citizens today have any &nbsp;less &nbsp;right to be heard constitutionally than those such as Gina Miller who have the resources to litigate in the High Court or the children of hereditary peers such as &nbsp;Lord Thurso who was elected to the House of Lords&nbsp;from an electorate of only three Liberal members eligible to vote? &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&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="/can-europe-make-it/stein-ringen/parliementarians-wake-up">Parliamentarians - wake up!</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 Michael Bartlet Tue, 14 Mar 2017 16:33:05 +0000 Michael Bartlet 109439 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why you can’t solve the NHS’s problems by banning smokers and the obese from treatment https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/why-you-can-t-solve-nhs-s-funding-problems-by-banning-smokers-and-obese-from-treatment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>NHS underfunding and legal changes are leading local NHS managers to deny healthcare to large groups of people who need it, on the basis of inappropriate ‘lifestyle’ rationing – meaning more pain, and more cost in the long run.</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/smoking-1026559_960_720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/smoking-1026559_960_720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>NHS England has previously been clear that even time-limited bans on particular groups of patients receiving treatment is inconsistent with the NHS constitution.</p><p> But now York is rationing surgery on the basis of smoking and obesity – with the support of NHS England.</p><p> The evidence is now coming through that this policy is harming patients, that it is discriminatory – and that it is spreading around England. It is time for ministers to take action and stop blaming ‘local decisions’.</p><p> On 1 February this year, the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) started delaying surgery to patients who smoked or had a body mass index of more than 30. The policy was first proposed in September last year, withdrawn then <a href="https://twitter.com/pmrleahy/status/803599201036681216">reintroduced in November</a>.</p><p> The reason: to delay immediate spend on surgery. However, it is a totally false economy, and although it may delay CCG spend now, in order to meet imposed spending restrictions, the Royal College of Surgeons says that it may actually increase NHS costs if patients develop complications while waiting for surgery. The College has been clear that rationing policies such as those implemented by the Vale of York CCG are unacceptable.</p><p> The York CCG’s ability to make rationing decisions comes direct from the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. The duty on the Secretary of State for Health to “provide or secure” the health service was removed from section 1 of the National Health Service Act 2006, and replaced by a duty to make provision for the health service. The list of services that the NHS had to provide—a principle that had been embedded in the NHS since its inception—was also removed, meaning there no longer had to be a universal list of service provision, and that each CCG could determine its own. In other words, it became a complete postcode lottery: where someone lives determines the healthcare they can access.</p><p> Jeremy Hunt told the Health Committee on 18 October 2016 that:</p><p> “When we hear evidence of rationing happening, we do something about it…we are absolutely determined to give people the clinical care that they need.”</p><p> He added:</p><p> “When we hear of occasions when we think the wrong choices have been made, when an efficiency saving is proposed that we think would negatively impact on patient care, we step in...”</p><p> Now is the time for Hunt to step in.</p><p> Under-funded and at risk of being put into ‘special measures’ the Vale of York CCG took the decision to ration surgery for up to a year for those overweight and up to six months for smokers. I was a senior physiotherapist in the NHS and I am all too aware of the risk factors created by people smoking and being overweight, not least when it comes to surgery. All clinicians understand the risk factors, which is why it is so important that money is invested in public health services.</p><p> Instead, the Government switched public health back to local authorities and slashed their grants.</p><p> In York, the council has completely cut funding for smoking cessation services and for NHS health checks. It also cut the health walks programme, which was a service to help people exercise more and lose weight.</p><p> In other words, public health measures to address smoking and weight were cut first, and then patients were denied surgery because they smoked or were overweight.</p><p> You really couldn’t make it up.</p><p> GPs are now writing to patients to ask them whether they smoke—not that they have a smoking cessation service to refer them to. They say that it is just “for their records”.</p><p> But patients who a GP wishes to be considered for surgery now have to fill out a form declaring their smoking and weight status. Does this letter than go to the surgeon to make a clinical assessment of the risks and benefits? No.</p><p> Instead the referral is diverted, and the patient is sent a generic letter and a leaflet telling them that they smoke or are overweight and need to change their ways.</p><p> As a penalty, they are denied surgery.</p><p> The specialist never gets the opportunity to assess the patient and make clinical judgements accordingly.</p><p> The Health and Social Care Act was supposedly going to put doctors, not bureaucrats, in charge. Here we have a system where clinicians are being undermined by diktats from bureaucrats; patients and clinicians have no say; and clinical evidence is left wanting.</p><p> The generic letter tells those who are obese that they have to lose 10% of their weight or reduce their BMI to under 30, or wait 12 months. Smokers have to stop smoking for eight weeks, or wait six months. They get a leaflet and a referral to a convoluted website. Any public health practitioner would tell you how inappropriate and ineffective this whole system is. There is no real help available.</p><p> The Royal College of Surgeons says that denying or significantly delaying access to NHS treatment does not help patients to lose weight or stop smoking.</p><p> Now those being denied surgery are paying a heavy price. I have spent much time talking to GPs and surgeons about this matter, as well as to patients. I have also talked to the CCG, which knows that the system is totally wrong, but because it is in a financial hole and NHS England has waved it through, it is just complicit. It is not standing up for patients in York. In fact shockingly it even delayed referrals made before the policy was introduced, so that the first thing that they received was their refusal letter.</p><p> So what is the impact on patients? Well, it is devastating. We already know that waiting times for surgery are going up, and delay in itself worsens conditions. It is true that some patients are exempt - those needing urgent care, the removal of a tumour, or trauma surgery. However, if someone requires a joint replacement because they have not walked well for some time due to osteoarthritis, is in pain, and, as a result of not walking, have put on weight, things are very different. With a new joint, they will be back on their feet. A 12-month delay in being referred – 12 months of degeneration, pain and not being able to walk easily – will mean a more complex operation, a patient who needs more physiotherapy and rehab. Bang!—there go all the savings from rationing and more, all at a cost to the patient and a risk that the long-term clinical outcomes will be worse.</p><p> The British Orthopaedic Association said:</p><p> “There is no clinical, or value for money, justification…Good outcomes can be achieved for patients regardless of whether they smoke or are obese”.</p><p> If someone were 20 stone, they would have to drop to 18 stone before having surgery, but if they were 18 stone, they would have to drop to 16 stone 2 lbs. Why is surgery safe at 18 stone in one case, but not the other?</p><p> I’ve also seen a patient who was prescribed medication that had a side effect of weight gain. They required surgery and were denied it because of their weight.</p><p> I have had a patient who is active and works full time, but is over the weight threshold. She needs surgery to enable her to conceive. She is not young. Surgery is needed now, as recommended by her GP. However, it was denied and could result in her never having a family.</p><p> A patient with hypothyroidism, a chronic condition that leads to weight gain, needs surgery for gastrointestinal abnormalities but, despite their condition, will be restricted.</p><p> One patient was a very fit body builder, but was refused surgery because of their high BMI. The case for delay has not been evidenced.</p><p> We know that there is a strong correlation between smoking and obesity, and social and economic deprivation. As the British Medical Association said, this could also be seen as rationing on the basis of poverty. Those with mental health challenges have a higher propensity to smoke, and those with chronic conditions are more likely to also have elements of depression and possible weight gain. Many people find it difficult to lose weight or give up smoking.</p><p> This policy is harming those with co-morbidities. It is creating problems, not solving them. As the Royal College of Surgeons says,</p><p> “It risks preventing a patient from seeing a consultant who can advise them on the best form of treatment...Surgery may be needed to help someone lose weight.”</p><p> David Haslam, chair of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, said that rationing of surgery concerned him. He says that the NICE osteoarthritis guidelines make absolutely clear that decisions should be based on discussions between patients, clinicians and surgeons, and that issues such as smoking, obesity and so on should not be barriers to referral. These are the experts.</p><p> The Vale of York CCG has gone down this route, and others are now following, with 34% of CCGs looking to ration on the basis of obesity or smoking. Harrogate and Rural District CCG and East Riding of Yorkshire CCG target smokers and those who are overweight with a six-month delay. Wyre Forest, Redditch and Bromsgrove, and South Worcestershire CCGs ration on the basis of pain impact. South Cheshire CCG requires a BMI of less than 35—not 30—as does Coventry and Rugby CCG. The policy is spreading. Although York is the worst example of rationing, every clinician knows that it is wrong and contravenes their professional duty of care.</p><p> Clinical decision making is needed. Patients have to be part of this too. And public health programmes need restoring. The passive approach of the CCGs is setting patients up to fail.</p><p> The policy is discriminatory, clinically contraindicated and financially perverse. I would be the first in this House to advocate health optimisation programmes supporting smoking cessation or providing help to improve diet, exercise, wellbeing and lifestyles, but to leave someone in pain or without a child brings our NHS into disrepute.</p><p> The rationing of surgery must end. It is time for Jeremy Hunt to step in, as he promised the Health Committee he would.</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/devon-canary-in-nhs-coalmine">Devon - the canary in the NHS coalmine?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-cuts-are-we-in-it-together">NHS cuts - are we in it together?</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 Rachael Maskell Tue, 14 Mar 2017 11:38:41 +0000 Rachael Maskell 109422 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nationalism – Scottish or British – is never enough. It always says: ‘We are the Good Guys’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gerry-hassan/nationalism-scottish-or-british-is-never-enough-it-always-says-we-are-good-guys <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to interrogate Scottish nationalism, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uOa64BUV5qU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Nationalism is one of the defining features of Scotland and modern Scotland. Last week UK prime minister Theresa May came north to the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow, asking the Scots to think again, lambasting the SNP and their ‘constitutional obsessions’ and ‘tunnel vision nationalism’.</p><p dir="ltr">Apart from the ridiculousness of the first point, considering the UK government’s obsession with Brexit, the second was in the tradition known the world over of majority nationalisms (British) lecturing minority nationalisms (Scottish) about the evils of nationalism. British nationalism, being the ideology of the state, doesn’t see itself or define itself as a nationalism – a story true the world over of state nationalisms: think America, Canada, Israel, literally anywhere.</p><p dir="ltr">The above should not be contentious. But it is to many. Some unionists blow a gasket at the thought that their ‘ism’ is a nationalism – British state nationalism, but such sentiments go with the territory. The blowback from London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s intervention on the similarities between Scottish nationalism and racism illustrated this.</p><p dir="ltr">It brought forth charge and countercharge, and as happens a lot in contemporary Scotland the loudest voices were talking in their bunkers, reinforcing their prejudices, and not engaging with opposing views beyond caricature. In this the British nationalism of the ‘Daily Mail’ and Scottish nationalism of parts of the blogosphere have much in common.</p><p dir="ltr">The main defence of Scottish nationalism by its supporters is that it is benign, progressive, moderate, outgoing, and above all, civic, and not ethnic in its character. Now this is broadly true about modern Scottish nationalism and the nationalism of the SNP, the two not being completely synonymous (while it is also true that not all supporters of independence are nationalists). But what the above list chooses to ignore is the obvious: that Scottish nationalism is a nationalism and what flows from that. Namely, that all nationalisms the world over and throughout history have limits, omissions, blindspots and profoundly, a good sense of conceit about themselves. </p><p dir="ltr">In the post-Khan debate, ‘Wee Ginger Dug’ (aka Paul Kavanagh) wrote in ‘The National’:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">Mainstream Scottish nationalism doesn’t make the claim that the Scottish ethnicity is morally superior or better than anyone else. It doesn’t even concern itself with defining Scottishness in ethnic terms. Scottish nationalism is a civic nationalism which defines Scottishness in terms of the future, not the past. Ethnic nationalism is about the past.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">‘The National’ liked this so much it quoted the above in a tweet. Many pro-independence supporters will read and approve of it. They will feel attraction, attachment and a sense of the familiar – that this is who we are as a people, nation and nationalism. And therein lies part of the problem.</p><p dir="ltr">The narrative of Scotland’s civic nationalism has become an official story: the preferred explanation of the SNP, independence supporters and progressives which supposedly tells who we are, why we are different, and which invokes a sense of exceptionalism (which again all nationalisms the world over do). </p><p dir="ltr">The story of our civic nationalism is one so familiar now it seldom gets investigated. While it captures something historic about Scotland and its nationalism, the actual language of its ‘civic’ characteristics only began to emerge in the early 1990s as the self-government movement found its voice again after the impasse of 1979.</p><p dir="ltr">The distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism – in this terminology was given priority and early usage by Michael Ignatieff in his 1993 ‘Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalisms’. He wrote that ‘Civic nationalism, maintains that the nation should be composed of all those – regardless of race, colour, creed, gender, language or ethnicity’ and that it was rightly called ‘civic’ because it envisages the nation as a community of equal, rights-bearing citizens …’ Previous to this academics of nationalism such as James Kellas spoke of ‘social nationalism’ and Yeal Tamir of ‘liberal nationalism’.</p><p dir="ltr">Nationalisms all over the world choose to create an imagined people, a political and historical community, and to emphasise the ties and bonds between past, present and future. This usually involves telling the story of ‘a good people’ and ‘a good society’ and within that some distinction between a ‘them’ and ‘us’, insiders and outsiders, which inform who is in the nation and who isn’t. </p><p dir="ltr">This isn’t some arcane debate. It matters in terms of pluralism, racism and identities. Several writers wrote post-Khan about the prevalence (or not) of racism, the legacy of slavery and Empire, and the degree to which Scotland has come to terms with its past, not just academically, but in popular and political attitudes.</p><p dir="ltr">Claire Heuchan, a Stirling University PhD student (and relevant here, a black woman) wrote a challenging ‘Guardian’ piece for which she received disgraceful abuse, which took exception with the notion of ‘fairer Scotland’ and ‘Scottish exceptionalism’. She wrote:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">Scottish exceptionalism – the idea of Scotland as a land of tolerance – is a fairytale. It is what allows Scotland to hold England accountable for all the wrongs of imperial expansion while denying this country’s own colonial legacy.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The CommonSpace writer Robert Somynne replied (also relevant here, a black man, and receiving of abuse), acknowledging that Heuchan was ‘correct that a nationalist feature is to define against as much as for an ideal or people.’ He went on to say: ‘I disagree profoundly with the article that she wrote’ without really specifying why, beyond a generalist observation that it posed ‘a critique of Scottish nationalism as simply being an oppositional defining force [that] misses the context of that defining.’ Frankly, that’s a bit evasive.</p><p dir="ltr">Heuchan’s argument should not be dismissed just because some find it uncomfortable. However, it is also true that Scottish nationalism should not just be pulled up on its evasions with the colonial legacy. All Scotland’s political traditions have some explaining to do, and have problematic foundation stories which matter to this day.</p><p dir="ltr">Where is, then, argument about Scottish Labour and imperialism? About how the party became a party of Empire, war and the British state, and turned away from its internationalist and anti-imperialist traditions? Or what about the Scottish Tories and Empire? This is rather germane to the present, with many Brexit debates invoking the re-emergence of the Anglosphere – which draws upon a predominantly white person’s set of histories and sense of communities. Maybe we could start to ask mainstream Scotland, whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dems, for their mea culpas.</p><p dir="ltr">Numerous ‘us’ and ‘thems’ need airing. The writer Henry Bell said last week that anti-Englishness wasn’t racism – a respectable and understandable position, but did so as if there could be no debating of the matter, stating: ‘The English in Scotland – holding a culturally dominant, non-racialised identity – do not experience racism’. This was because in his view ‘racism is not just discrimination but power dynamic.’ That’s one interpretation, but the racism wiki entry opens with the observation: ‘Racism is discrimination and prejudice based on their race or ethnicity. Today, the use of the term ‘racism’ does not easily fall under a single definition.’ Which at the minimum means there should be a debate about what constitutes racism.</p><p dir="ltr">Then there was the pro-independence blogger ‘Wings over Scotland’ (aka Stuart Campbell) and his comments during the Tory conference when Oliver Mundell, son of Scottish Secretary of State David Mundell, spoke. ‘Wings’ tweeted: ‘Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.’</p><p dir="ltr">No doubt ‘Wings’ thought he was being smart, funny and snide all at the same time, but it is a revolting comment. This is the world of ‘them’ and ‘us’, where any comment is fair game about opponents, and Tories in particular, and one laced with connotations of homophobia. Revealingly, ‘Wings’ defended it saying it was more ‘Toryphobic’ which underlines its ‘them and ‘us’ nature. Not one single senior SNP politician, many of who follow or retweet ‘Wings’, condemned it or pulled him up, though a number of party members did. In a country which has only in recent years come to terms with homosexuality and gay rights, when previously it was a forbidden subject and which produced a major cultural war with homophobes less than a generation ago, this isn’t good enough.</p><p dir="ltr">To be clear, modern Scottish nationalism has been a positive force for this country, as has the SNP. But all isms – and nationalisms in particular – contain problems, omissions and are never enough of an anchor, compass or guide – on the actual future decisions of an independent nation. That’s because in the Irish writer Fintan O’Toole’s words, nationalism is a ‘rocket fuel that can get you out of an old order’ or state, but ‘burns up quickly’.</p><p dir="ltr">If we (the various peoples who live in Scotland) are confident enough about ourselves, we cannot just insist that Scottish nationalism is about the good guys, and a virtuous story of our nation. Instead, there has to be an awareness of the sociology of nationalisms which involves more than citing Benedict Anderson’s point that all nations and peoples are ‘imagined communities’ or continually referencing how ‘civic’ our nationalism is and how tolerant we are. We should inhabit this terrain, live it, while recognising that there are other nationalisms and Scotlands out there.</p><p dir="ltr"><br class="kix-line-break" />Some pro-independence voices will read and dismiss the above, comfortable in their belief in our civic nationalism. Well here is a warning from these isles. British nationalism historically has been a civic nationalism – one which has articulated a multi-cultural, multi-national union of four nations. And look what it has descended into in recent years: regressive, reactionary, xenophobic and profoundly insular and nasty: something that is beginning to look like in places an ethnic nationalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Nationalism is never enough. This matters because the next indyref – the Second Independence Referendum – will be framed by many, including its main participants, as the SNP versus the Tories. That will entail two competing versions and claims of nationalism knocking lumps out of each other. It isn’t enough, and it will be pretty ugly in places.</p><p dir="ltr">The politics of ‘my nationalism is more virtuous than your nationalism’ versus ‘our nationalism isn’t a nationalism’ isn’t a very attractive one. Or one that offers much guide to the future choices of Scotland – independent or not independent.</p><p dir="ltr">Fundamentally, apart from looking at ourselves in the mirror honestly, we have to have a willingness to start examining and then defining what actually are our collective values, philosophies and traditions. Whether independent or not, we have to start acting as if we are independent i.e. taking collective responsibilities for our society, not pretending everything is rosy, and beginning to sketch out a post-nationalist future. As one observer said to me when I was writing ‘Scotland the Bold’: ‘How about a country that does not use the word ‘nationalist’ in its rhetoric?’ Maybe that only comes with independence, but we have to start preparing that mentality now. </p><p dir="ltr">Many nations before us have faced similar dilemmas – indeed, nearly every single nation which has become independent or had an independence debate. O’Toole reflected on the relevance of Ireland’s experience days before Scotland’s first independence referendum, and offered us the following advice:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">What has to be broken free of us is not just the big bad Them. It is also the warm, fuzzy Us of the nationalist imagination – the Us that is nicer, holier, more caring. What a free country quickly discovers is that the better Us of its imagination is not already there, fully formed, just waiting to blossom in the sun of liberation. It has to be created and in order to create it you have to genuinely decide that you want it.</p></blockquote><p>If we really want a Scotland of possibilities, enlightenment and advancement, which does good things, makes decent choices, and stands for values we are proud to call our own in the wider world, then we really need some signposts other than just nationalism – Scottish or British – and a mindset which dares to think beyond Them and Us.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Gerry Hassan Fri, 10 Mar 2017 12:37:14 +0000 Gerry Hassan 109367 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Sky bid: battle commences https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/sky-bid-battle-commences <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>No significant business decision at Sky has ever – ever – been taken without Rupert Murdoch's approval. So what difference might 100% ownership of Sky possibly entail?</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-30000060.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30000060.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'>Houston, TX, February 2017; Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Hall, and Lachlan Murdoch before Super Bowl LI commences at NRG Stadium. USA TODAY Network/Press Assocation. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The opponents of the bid by 21st Century Fox (or 21CF), controlled, through a 39% minority stake, by the Murdoch family trust (or MFT) for the 61% of Sky plc it does not already own (but which it effectively controls, also through a 39% stake) can celebrate: they have won their first skirmish.</p> <p>As widely predicted (including <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/rupert-returns">here</a>, “Rupert Returns”, on December 22), the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, has indicated that she is “minded” to issue what is called a “European Intervention Notice” (or EIN) in relation to the bid. This allows her to ask the relevant competition authorities (Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA) to report on two public interest considerations: “the plurality ground” and “the broadcasting standards ground”, to see if there might be a negative impact. </p> <p>It is important to remember that the threshold for intervention is low – “might”. Likewise, for Ofcom to recommend a full inquiry (which might take the CMA six months as opposed to their own six-week timetable for a preliminary assessment), the threshold of risk is still quite low, though higher than for the Secretary of State. However, it would only be if the CMA thought the risk of harm to plurality or standards was real and significant that it could recommend blocking the deal, or extracting concessions from the parties that would eliminate or ease those concerns.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>Ms Bradley sent an 8-page letter to the merger parties (21CF and Sky), published on the DCMS website on March 3, immediately after they informed her that they had submitted their proposal to the European Commission. The EU has the exclusive right to adjudicate on the economic implications of the bid, but carves out for the EU state most directly affected by a proposed merger the right to intervene, through an EIN, on public interest grounds. The parties had until Wednesday March 8 to submit reasons for not issuing an EIN, with a decision to be announced two days later. Sensibly, the parties acceded to her decision, allowing the review to go ahead.</p> <p>In simple terms, what this means is that the EU competition authorities will rule on whether there are any behavioural dangers that might arise out of the deal – unfair trading, exploiting dominant positions in one sector or territory in another, predatory pricing, and so on – whilst the UK can only intervene on the very narrow grounds of plurality and standards. As the EU has already approved the three-way merger between Sky and its German and Italian equivalents, there seems no basis for it objecting to a change of ownership of the combined entity, especially as the prospective 100% owner is already the controlling 39% owner.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>How about the UK dimension? Effectively, Ms Bradley’s 8 pages revolve around one issue only: the ownership and operation of Sky News. How much difference to the quality of Sky News could 100% ownership by 21CF make, as opposed to the current 39%?</p> <p>The last bid for this 61% of Sky was made in 2010/11 by what was then called News Corporation, but which has subsequently been divided into two separate companies with distinct groups of shareholders, 21CF and new NewsCorp. 21CF holds all the Murdoch entertainment interests, whilst new NewsCorp owns all the print and publishing assets (including The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK, through a wholly owned subsidiary, News UK). One of the issues that regulators would need to assess is what difference this splitting of the assets makes, as compared with seven years ago.</p> <p>The answer may be surprising: given that Murdoch – or rather, the MFT – controls both Sky (through 21CF) and the newspapers (through new NewsCorp) – the issue is not whether they are separate or combined as entities, but whether MFT’s own position across both businesses becomes unacceptable under UK plurality rules, either currently or if it were to own 100% of Sky.</p> <p>What sometimes surprises outside observers of these media investigations is how vague and subjective the judgements can be that regulators (and ministers) apply. For instance, what is ‘control’? Is there any significant difference to the way Sky is run as between its first two years (when NewsCorp owned 100%), the following two years (when NewsCorp owned 50%) and the last 25 years (when NewsCorp and then 21CF owned 39%)? Obviously, there are differences in process, and in corporate governance terms, but in trying to come up with anything substantial Ofcom will need to do better than last time, when it floated the idea that 100% ownership would give the Murdochs more control over the appointment of the editor of Sky News. That is easily proven to be untrue: no editor of Sky News has ever been appointed without MFT approval.</p> <p>As far as I could judge during my four years as Sky’s Head of Programming (in the 1990s), the Murdochs had complete operational control of Sky, down to scrutiny of every line of every annual budget, with just 39% ownership: but have never, during its nearly 30 years on air, ever tried to influence the content of Sky News, whatever percentage of Sky they owned. <span class="mag-quote-center">During my four years as Sky’s Head of Programming (in the 1990s), the Murdochs had complete operational control of Sky… with just 39% ownership: but have never, during its nearly 30 years on air, ever tried to influence the content of Sky News. </span></p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>Clearly, 100% control of a company allows you to dispense with some of the governance mechanisms that are required when there are outside shareholders, and especially when the company is listed on a stock exchange. These include appointing independent directors to the board, issuing regular financial reports according to stock exchange requirements and ensuring that a position of effective control is not abused to the detriment of the outside shareholders. 100% control also allows you to consolidate the activities of the subsidiary with the parent company, which has significant tax and accounting advantages.</p> <p>But none of this seems relevant to the first issue raised in the Bradley letter: the statutory need for there to be a “sufficient plurality of persons with control” of media enterprises. It so happens that there is no legal definition of “sufficient”, but we know from the last report on media plurality conducted by Ofcom that their only concern at that time over the current number of “persons with control” was the absence of internal plurality at the BBC, which is overwhelmingly (by a factor of 10) the dominant supplier of news consumed by UK adults. Even before the split between 21CF and new NewsCorp, the MFT position was not considered a threat to media plurality. Sky and News UK between them account for less than 10% of UK news consumption.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>How could the displacement of the tens of thousands of shareholders (none with more than a small percentage of the total) constituting the 61% of Sky not owned by 21CF constitute a reduction in plurality of “persons with control” over media enterprises, so as to render it suddenly “insufficient”? They exercise no control individually, and no meaningful control collectively. Note that the purchase of Channel 5 by Richard Desmond (which unquestionably reduced the number of “persons with control” over media enterprises, in eliminating RTL from the UK scene) was not subject to any kind of inquiry; nor, indeed, was the purchase by News UK of Virgin Radio and TalkSport, representing about 2% of the UK radio market. </p> <p>In 2010, Ofcom tried to construct a theory that 100% control was qualitatively different from complete operational control. This led me to describe their position as the “Ofcom paradox”, whereby if Murdoch had managed to buy 39% of every national newspaper, and thereby secured operational control, Ofcom would have regarded the outcome as of no significance, as all those enterprises would continue to trade under their previous names. Under such a scenario, Murdoch would control the editorial output of 100% of our national newspapers, but Ofcom would see no reduction in media plurality and therefore no grounds for intervention. So blinkered was the Ofcom approach that it attributed <em>none </em>of the 39% of Sky owned by NewsCorp to the “before” calculation of shares of consumption of news, but attributed <em>all </em>100% to the “after” calculation.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>Does the existence of outside shareholders, and a group of independent non-executive directors, currently constrain 21CF’s control of Sky News? The only evidence we have is from the last bid, when those very directors actually invited Murdoch to abandon Sky News in order to facilitate his take-over. As it turned out, the MFT’s refusal to close down a service into which it has pumped at least £500 million over the years, and its willingness to engage in a lengthy negotiation with Ofcom over a stand-alone structure for Sky News, meant that the last deal was not quite closed by the time the Milly Dowler revelations led NewsCorp to drop its bid. In short, the Murdochs were far more committed to Sky News as a service than the independent directors. </p> <p>The Bradley letter is coy to the point of naivety about the MFT’s control of both 21CF and new NewsCorp, describing its 39% holding in each as “potentially giving it control in the form of material influence”. Let’s not beat about the bush: Murdoch has complete operational control over both. Other than in the brief period after the merger in 1990 between Sky and BSB, to form BSkyB, no director of Sky, NewsCorp or 21CF has ever been appointed without Murdoch’s agreement.</p> <p>Even less credible is the notion that, because the MFT owns 39% of 21CF, and 21CF owns 39% of Sky, the MFT only “owns” about 15% of Sky! Once you have operational control of 21CF, then it is the <em>whole </em>of 21CF’s stake in Sky that you exercise, not 15%!</p> <p>Nor is there any question, as the letter speculates, as to whether the MFT “already has a degree of influence over Sky, which may or may not give it control in the form of material influence”. Murdoch invented Sky, saw it through its years of losses where it nearly brought down his empire, steered it through the merger with BSB which gave him express operational control in a 50:50 deal, and retained that control when the flotation of BSkyB (allowing the exit of the old BSB shareholders) required him to reduce his stake to below 40%. No business decision of any significance at Sky has ever – ever – been taken in nearly 30 years without his approval.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>So what difference might 100% ownership of Sky possibly entail? The Bradley letter floats several ideas that have been put to the DCMS. All of them, however, depend upon three unsustainable hypotheses. </p> <p>The first is that 100% ownership would give the MFT <em>more </em>control over the editorial content of Sky News than the present complete operational control, which would be used to “Foxify” its output (the Bradley letter more indirectly&nbsp; refers to whether 21CF shows “a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards in other countries”). The second is that, if they wanted to, the Murdochs could influence the content of Sky News in the same way as they can influence the content of The Times or The Sun. The third is that the impartiality rules all Ofcom licensees are obliged to observe might be undermined by manipulating the news agenda.</p> <p>The only ‘evidence’ I have ever heard in relation to the first notion comes from openDemocracy’s old friend, Professor Steve Barnett, of the University of Westminster, who recounts Murdoch telling him, some years ago, that he would have liked to have made Sky News more like Fox news, but that “his people” would not let him. I don’t know if Murdoch was gently spoofing Steve, but I do know that there have never been any “people” at Sky who were in a position to frustrate any of Murdoch’s wishes. Sky News has an almost impeccable record as a broadcaster, and has won innumerable awards. Fox News – which is actually available in the UK – is barely watched here and is far less respected. Murdoch is not a fool. He is not going to swap a valued asset for damaged goods, ever.</p> <p>Indeed, it may well be that it was at Fox News, under its formidable founder, Roger Ailes, that Murdoch found his ability to exercise control was – uniquely – limited. Now that Ailes has been forced out – under threat of multiple lawsuits for sexual harassment, but bearing a very fat cheque – it is possible that Fox News may become less raucous and combative, which is certainly what Murdoch’s children who are active in the business would wish. </p> <p>If he had wanted to offer a clone of Fox News to replace Sky News, Murdoch has had nearly 30 years to do so: but has declined the opportunity. There is not the slightest reason to imagine that this proposed transaction would change his mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>The second hypothesis is that the MFT could influence the content of Sky News in the same way as they might influence the content of the UK newspapers it controls. The problem with that notion is that it is illegal to do so. Strict impartiality rules apply to all news broadcasters licensed by Ofcom. Unless Ofcom is prepared to say that these rules are unenforceable, or that it is an ineffective regulator, this hypothesis must fail.</p> <p>In its previous report in 2010, Ofcom raised the possibility that the impartiality rules might be subverted by manipulating the news agenda for Sky News. But that possibility must surely also apply to <em>all </em>news broadcasters, as there is no universally agreed, or ‘objective’, news agenda. ITV News, Channel 4 News, BBC News, Al Jazeera News, Sky News, RT News and Fox News (amongst the many news broadcasters in the UK), not to mention Virgin Radio and TalkSport Radio (both owned by News UK and therefore controlled by the MFT) have different news agendas. Who is to say which, if any, is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ (or, indeed, ‘left’)? Either they are compliant with UK legal requirements, or they are not, in which case they will be issued with warnings by Ofcom and eventually lose their licence. It surely cannot be a reason to block a transaction that Ofcom believes the impartiality rules are too vague to enforce</p> <p>Again, it is important to apply a reality check: what evidence is there from the last 29 years that the MFT has influenced, or tried to influence, the content or news agenda of Sky News, whilst having complete operational control over the service? If there is none, why should 100% ownership make any difference? It is puzzling that Ms Bradley should give any credence to this completely speculative and unsupported hypothesizing, especially when its effect is implicitly to doubt her department’s ability, and that of the regulator it sponsors, to carry out their statutory duties.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>The issue of broadcasting standards, and the ability of 21CF to meet them, has slightly more substance. Unfortunately, the thrust of the minister’s letter is partially undermined by a basic error. It states that 21CF is “<span>the</span> successor company to News Corporation, which owned the News of the World at a time when illegal activities relating to the phone hacking scandal were carried out”. In fact, at best 21CF is ‘a’ successor company; but more accurately, new NewsCorp is the successor to old NewsCorp in owning News UK, which remains the publisher of the Murdoch newspapers. The only connection in operational terms was in the person of James Murdoch, who was CEO of News UK during the “denial” phase of phone-hacking, as well as being chairman of Sky for some of that time.</p> <p>The Bradley letter correctly and properly rehearses the harsh criticisms of James that the Commons Media Committee made in its report on phone-hacking and that Ofcom issued at the time that it carried out a “fit and proper person” test of Sky as a holder of broadcast licences. Ofcom actually stopped short of a negative finding on the issue as such. James’ stepping down as chairman of Sky may have played its part in that decision, but it was notable that Ofcom did not – as far as is known – run a new “fit and proper person” test when he returned to the chairmanship some years later. Clearly, James’ role as CEO of 21CF is part of the scrutiny that Ofcom is being invited to undertake: it is even conceivable that Ofcom, in its report, might imply that approval of the transaction would be dependent upon him stepping down from one or other position. I will address that prospect a little later.</p> <p>Ofcom has injected another ingredient into the mix (though the Bradley letter, saying it “encloses” the details, does not actually publish them): namely, a survey across ten years of the weaker compliance record of 21CF’s own services, most notably the international version of Fox News, as compared with that of Sky (most notably, Sky News).</p> <p>This is, of course, a legitimate point, and one that raises a question about foreign ownership of UK media more broadly. Given the very different standards that apply in the US with regard to “undue prominence” (where commercial products are regularly featured on programmes in a way that is forbidden in the UK) and “due impartiality” (where a number of US cable news services clearly tilt either to the left or the right in a way that is unacceptable in the UK), it would be an open question whether a media owner used to US practice could successfully adapt to UK requirements.</p> <p>But that is not a question that has ever been put to Viacom (when it acquired Channel 5 without any sign of an Ofcom intervention), or CBS, or CNN, or any other non-UK media owner in relation to their US outlets. The judgement must surely be how they operate channels actually licensed in the UK by Ofcom, which are typically their international feeds.</p> <p>Here, there is no doubt that Fox News has several times fallen foul of Ofcom’s broadcasting code, mostly for breaches of due impartiality, sometimes for replacing advertising breaks in the US feed with quasi-commercial features which Ofcom finds in breach of its code. It is wholly unsurprising that the compliance record of Fox News is worse than that of Sky News, whose output is finely tuned to the UK and its regulatory environment. </p> <p>But it is mildly absurd to project from that comparison the prospect of any deterioration in the record of Sky News should 21CF take 100% control of Sky: it is pure supposition, whereas the actual performance of Sky News under the control of the MFT, whether with 100% ownership, 50% ownership or 39% ownership by the companies it controls is available for examination over nearly three decades. Even if any weight could be attached to the supposition, it would be a huge stretch to say that, because the compliance record of Sky News <em>might </em>deteriorate at some point, the transaction should be blocked. In any case, Ofcom has plenty of sanctions to hand if it finds a service non-compliant, including removal of its licence. The BBC has committed much more serious breaches of the Ofcom broadcasting code than Fox News has – and been heavily fined for doing so – but has still been allowed to launch new services.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****</p> <p>How about James’ past failings in dealing with the phone-hacking scandal? As the Bradley letter states, time has passed. If he is acceptable to Ofcom as chairman of Sky (which appears to be the case), why would he be unacceptable as CEO of 21CF? In six weeks’ time, we will find out what Ofcom’s view is.</p> <p>The most significant difference between 2010/11 and the current proposed transaction is not the split of old NewsCorp into two separate entities; or the passage of time since phone-hacking; or the dramatically changing media landscape that puts so much emphasis on scale; or even the likely caution with which Ofcom will conduct its review compared with 2010’s error-strewn exercise.</p> <p>The difference that will matter is what the Murdochs have learned since last time. Then, they were sucked into a lengthy and bad-tempered negotiation with Ofcom, in the hope of avoiding a lengthy full inquiry by the Competition Commission (the forerunner to the CMA) that might have derailed the transaction’s timetable. This time, they have allowed plenty of time for Ofcom to do its worst, and then allow a grown-up regulator – the CMA – to adjudicate on the matter, in the belief that the media plurality objections will fail, and the broadcasting standards issue will be deemed too theoretical. They do not expect to close the deal till the end of 2017. <span class="mag-quote-center">This time, they have allowed plenty of time for Ofcom to do its worst… in the belief that the media plurality objections will fail, and the broadcasting standards issue will be deemed too theoretical. They do not expect to close the deal till the end of 2017.</span></p> <p>They will not make the mistake of negotiating with Ofcom: last time, a formula was found for spinning off Sky News which would have had disastrous consequences for that excellent service. This time, I expect the Murdochs will take a much tougher line, should push come to shove. </p> <p>They can legitimately say that they invented Sky News, nurtured Sky News, invested in Sky News and have sustained huge losses in maintaining its high production and editorial standards: so if UK regulators and politicians want to look that gift horse in the mouth, and demand that it be removed from their control, then they can offer to dispose of it (but without the brand name). In the absence of a buyer, they would reluctantly have to close the channel – thereby, as it happens, allowing the cash offer to the 61% to be sweetened in order to close the deal.</p> <p>Of course, none of this will be said, or even hinted at, unless and until the moment should come. It would be a strange system that produced an outcome which damaged media plurality in the name of protecting it: but at least those who believe that the influence of the Murdochs over UK media is too large, and needs to be diminished, will derive some satisfaction.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-elstein/rupert-returns">Rupert returns</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"> 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> uk uk EU UK Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics David Elstein Thu, 09 Mar 2017 10:45:37 +0000 David Elstein 109343 at https://www.opendemocracy.net For Britain to solve its economic problems, it needs to stop lying to itself about its past https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/trade-empire-20-and-lies-we-tell-ourselves <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> On trade, 'Empire 2.0', and the truth in Liam Fox's nonsense. In May 1840, William Gladstone said that he lived “in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards Ch... </div> </div> </div> <div dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr"><em>On trade, 'Empire 2.0', and the truth in Liam Fox's nonsense.</em></p> <p id="m_6000483310659409081gmail-docs-internal-guid-8f2b35ef-af37-93a2-cd52-d2d8d96db3b4" dir="ltr">In May 1840, William Gladstone said that he lived “in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China", and that he couldn’t think of "a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace”.</p> <p dir="ltr">He was talking, of course, about the Opium Wars. If you need a reminder, they’re the ones in which the UK used its superior naval power to murder Chinese people until they finally allowed British drug pushers to flood their country with the then equivalent of heroin.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of those industrial scale drug dealers – a Scotsman called Thomas Sutherland – understood that every big trade needs finance. And so in 1865, he and a few others founded the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation. HSBC is now the UK’s third biggest company, and still bogged down <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/outrageous-hsbc-settlement-proves-the-drug-war-is-a-joke-20121213">in drug-money scandals</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Britain’s second biggest company, BP, was founded as “Anglo Persian Oil” so that the UK could plunder newly found fossil fuels from Iranian soil. Our biggest, Shell, is similarly a long-term beneficiary of imperial might.</p> <p dir="ltr">Today, in the wake of Phillip Hammond’s budget, Britain’s multiply disgraced trade secretary Liam Fox is meeting with more than 30 Commonwealth ministers in London in an attempt to discuss multilateral trade links. While this is exactly the sort of strategy that many Brexit supporters have long advocated, The Times <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ministers-aim-to-build-empire-2-0-with-african-commonwealth-after-brexit-v9bs6f6z9">has reported</a> that the plan is derided by some civil servants as “Empire 2.0”. Which seems fair: Fox has <a href="https://twitter.com/LiamFoxMP/status/705674061016387584">a history </a>of colonial yearning.</p> <p dir="ltr">When the likes of Fox get all weak-kneed about the old days of the empire, we should perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that their nostalgia doesn’t extend to the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_War" target="_blank">genocide</a>, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/10/how_churchill_starved_india.html" target="_blank">forced famine</a>, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/boer_wars_01.shtml#eight" target="_blank">concentration camps</a>, <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/04/mau-mau-kenyans-share-stories-torture-160428131800531.html" target="_blank">castration with pliers</a>, or <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/04/mau-mau-kenyans-share-stories-torture-160428131800531.html" target="_blank">rape with broken bottles</a>, though the willingness to ignore all of these does tell us something important about the British psyche. What people are interested in returning to really is that other key element of imperialism: plunder.</p> <p dir="ltr">The trade secretary’s strategy, tied to Tory out-rider Melanie Phillips’ vainglorious ultra-nationalism i<a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/britain-is-the-authentic-nation-in-this-battle-vnf0c8nhx">n the Times</a> this week (top tip: never challenge the Irish to an argument about the history of these islands), is merely an official attempt to execute an economic strategy based on a growing cultural trend. In recent years, we’ve documented on openDemocracy the expanding fashion for what we’ve called <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/eight-reasons-scotland-is-more-remain-and-what-will-happen-if-its-dragged-out">British Empire Kitsch</a>. From the ever-flashier bling of November’s annual poppy-fest, (which takes place, as it happens, on the anniversary of the date that my great-grandfather was declared ‘missing presumed dead’ at Ypres, and which ‘commemorates’ his death and millions more with flashy light displays and poppies on the side of bombers); to Keep Calm and Carry On mugs; to Jubilee street parties bedecked with bunting in the design of the same Union Flags which flew over some of the first concentration camps; to that same blood stained icon becoming a fashion symbol; the years of the long recession have brought with them a nostalgia for a time when life was easier, and Britain could simply get rich by killing people of colour and stealing their stuff.</p> <p dir="ltr">All of this is made possible by lies: the lies many of us were told about what our great-grandparents were up to in India, the lies we told ourselves when we decided not to look too closely, the lies we told the peoples we subjugated: Britain is a country built so firmly on deceit, dishonesty and backstabbing that the symbol on our national flag is not just a double-cross, but a triple.</p> <p dir="ltr">But it’s not just about the traditional opium smoke of nostalgia and untruth. The yearning for the days of empire is the result of more than the old fashioned desire to return to some imagined glory days. At the core of what Fox says, there is in a way an important honesty. For the six years that George Osborne was Chancellor, the government spent its time trying to persuade people that our country’s biggest economic problem was our fiscal deficit. There is an interesting debate to be had about whether he really believed this, and <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-uk-national-debt-has-risen-by-555-billion-since-2010-under-george-osborne-a6947661.html" target="_blank">failed</a>, or was using it as an excuse to flog off public services and drive down wages, and <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/83e7e87e-fe64-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30" target="_blank">succeeded</a>, but that’s another question. In reality, the deficit which the UK really should be worrying about, and debating solutions to, has long been that in trade.</p> [caption id="attachment_817" align="alignnone" width="1460"]<img class="size-full wp-image-817" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/03/united-kingdom-balance-of-trade@2x.png" alt="" width="1460" height="680" /> UK balance of trade, from tradingeconomics.com[/caption] <p dir="ltr">And here, the stats really are serious: Britain’s balance of trade averaged <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/balance-of-trade" target="_blank">minus £1458.28 million</a> from 1955 to 2016. Our trade deficit has become chronic. As Des Cohen, who was in the Treasury’s economics team at the time, wrote for openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/from-concorde-to-hinkley-the-eu-and-britains-trade-and-investment-policy/" target="_blank">back in November</a>, it was the realisation that the Commonwealth wasn’t a big enough market for exports that lured Britain into join the EU in the first place. But, while leaving the Common Market certainly won’t help, joining it didn’t solve the problem either: our long term trade figures are a disaster. What Fox’s meeting highlights is that the government is being forced by Brexit to reveal its thinking in this area, and show that it really doesn’t have any better ideas than falling back on what the Financial Times' James Blitz calls '<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/bc29987e-034e-11e7-ace0-1ce02ef0def9">delusions</a>' and wishing that the last century hadn’t happened.</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s another way to look at this problem. As the New Economics Foundation’s Laurie Macfarlane told me when I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/podcast-property-is-theft-property-is-liberty-rethinking-land-and-housing-economics/" target="_blank">interviewed him</a> last week, “much of the increase in paper wealth... that’s happened in the UK... since world war two, has actually been not a result of producing more stuff: it’s basically the result of increases in house prices: asset price inflation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In other words, since the end of world war two – which marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire, the UK hasn’t really figured out how on earth to pay our way in the world. Even during the days of imperialism, our trade successes came at the barrel of a gun and with the advantage of being at the centre of a vast sterling zone: it’s not because of a nose for the market that BP and HSBC had their early success, but because of the gunships sat in the port behind them. As, over the decades, country after country has secured independence and left the Sterling Zone, we’ve resorted to inflating the prices of the assets we built up over a couple of centuries and more of empire, and rapidly flogged them off.</p> <p dir="ltr">Of course, much of this strategy still relies on our imperial remnants. Our Overseas Territory secrecy areas put London at the centre of the world’s money-laundering nexus. As Donald Toon, head of the National Crime Agency, described <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/f454e3ec-fc02-11e5-b5f5-070dca6d0a0d" target="_blank">to the Financial Times</a> “the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK”.</p> <p dir="ltr">The right loves to talk about how Britain is a ‘trading nation’. But that, of course, is just another lie. The truth is that we are terrible at trade. We buy much more than we sell, and produce little that anyone wants. We’re so bad at selling things to the rest of the world that the government has started producing <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwpXeLMTM2g" target="_blank">patronising adverts</a> trying to coax British businesses into the international market. Even in the days when people did pay for our stuff, it was usually under duress.</p> The process of Brexit is likely to be a series of humiliating meetings in which the country is forced to accept a procession of ruinous trade deal terms – ruinous, at least, for the majority of the population. As it does so, expect Dr Fox, or whoever succeeds him if he’s caught in another scandal, to return home, waving the Union Flag ever more vigorously, and insisting in ever more pompous terms that this is another great victory for the Mothership Britannia. People might even believe it. We’re good at accepting lies. </div> <div class="yj6qo ajU"> <div id=":1di" class="ajR"><img class="ajT" src="https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif" /></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 Adam Ramsay Thu, 09 Mar 2017 10:26:44 +0000 Adam Ramsay 109340 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A very British tug of war over Europe’s child refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/very-british-tug-of-war-over-europe-s-child-refugees <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Parliament has voted to silence the voices of local communities. Their message of European solidarity and warm welcome for refugees is an anathema to the politics of Brexit Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/c5e44b00-736b-4242-acd8-fa6f4d89267b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="An unaccompanied minor is reunited with relatives at St Pancras. Photo: Citizens UK/Safe Passage"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/c5e44b00-736b-4242-acd8-fa6f4d89267b.jpg" alt="An unaccompanied minor is reunited with relatives at St Pancras. Photo: Citizens UK/Safe Passage" title="An unaccompanied minor is reunited with relatives at St Pancras. Photo: Citizens UK/Safe Passage" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An unaccompanied minor is reunited with relatives at St Pancras. Photo: Citizens UK/Safe Passage</span></span></span>Symbolically resonant of the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36332557">Kindertransport</a> of World War II and pitched as a vote to ‘<a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/refugees-welcome-march-thousands-of-demonstrators-actors-and-politicians-join-london-protest-a3347396.html">choose love</a>’ and save more child refugees, the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39187290">Dubs amendment</a> tabled in Parliament this week proposed a small but systematic research exercise to calculate the number of spare beds that the UK’ s 418 local councils have at their disposal to put up child refugees languishing in the overcrowded camps of Greece and Italy. The census of places would have, in all probability, made a powerful case that parts of the UK are ready, willing and equipped to lighten the burden on neighboring states and offer sanctuary to more of Europe’s <a href="https://euobserver.com/investigations/132986">unprecedented</a> population of child refugees. The vote against this measure effectively shuts the door on hundreds, if not thousands of child refugees needing sanctuary.</p> <p>Having figures of available beds to hand would have put mounting pressure on the government to reinstate the short-lived child refugee resettlement programme, named after the former child refugee and Labour Lord Dubs who initiated it last year.</p> <p>After the government announced that it would resettle a total of just <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/08/dubs-scheme-lone-child-refugees-uk-closed-down">350 children</a> through the scheme before its closure, some 55,000 people signed a <a href="http://www.citizensuk.org/dubs_petition">petition</a> calling for the government to reinstate it. Their voices were echoed by a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dubs-amendment-child-refugee-gary-lineker_uk_58a20427e4b094a129edb6bd">swathe</a> of religious, public and civil society leaders. The vote by MPs on Tuesday has effectively silenced the voices of local communities whose message of European solidarity and a warm welcome to refugees is an anathema to the strictly controlled political climate of Brexit Britain.</p> <p>As an academic I am always alarmed when policy veers away from evidence and research. As an activist, I worry when the voices of local people and civil society are silenced and ignored. The government’s near unanimous vote against the amendment (287 to 267) was a cynical vote against transparency and against local communities. Yet it reflects a deeper malaise; the baton down the hatches mentality which has come to epitomize ‘Brexit Britain’ and which is typified by cries to keep Europe and its refugees out<em> </em>of ‘our’ business. </p><p>The reasons given for shutting the door on these refugees are many: 'there’s no space’; ‘it’ll only encourage more’; 'they’re not children but teenage boys (or men) waiting to pillage our towns’; and ‘what’s wrong with them staying in Europe anyway?’</p> <h3>Push and pull&nbsp;factors</h3> <p>So far, as Labour MP Yvette Cooper, new chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, stressed on Tuesday in Parliament, the UK has welcomed just 0.002% of the total population of child refugees in Europe through a safe resettlement route. And in 2015 we welcomed just <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7244677/3-02052016-AP-EN.pdf/">3.4%</a> (3,045) of Europe’s population of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. This number looks more inadequate when compared with countries such as Sweden and Germany which welcomed 35,250 and 14,440 unaccompanied minors respectively in 2015. Many other countries have taken significantly more, despite their significantly smaller national populations.</p> <p>The UK can, in legal terms, shirk its responsibility as, under the EU Common Asylum law, asylum seekers are required to make their claim for asylum in the first country of arrival. The EU law does include a burden sharing provision for situations of ‘mass influx’. But despite almost <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7244677/3-02052016-AP-EN.pdf/">90,000</a> unaccompanied minors arriving in the EU in 2015 alone, this provision was never triggered and the UK is the only EU member state to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/07/david-camerons-limited-promise-refugees-britains-impotence-outside-eu">formally opt out</a> of the relocation schemes operating in Greece and Italy.</p> <p>The UK government has frequently justified its refusal to relocate refugees from Europe because of its commitment to supporting refugees abroad in the ‘global south’. But supporting refugees outside of Europe does not absolve the UK government of its responsibility to support refugees who have fled to Europe. The international refugee regime has managed the function effectively since 1951 on a dual axes of supporting asylum seekers and refugee resettlement.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/CvdHI2GWIAAE_ap.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Civil society welcomes Dubs refugees. Photo: Safe Passage/Help Refugees"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/CvdHI2GWIAAE_ap.jpg" alt="Civil society welcomes Dubs refugees. Photo: Safe Passage/Help Refugees" title="Civil society welcomes Dubs refugees. Photo: Safe Passage/Help Refugees" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civil society welcomes Dubs refugees. Photo: Safe Passage/Help Refugees</span></span></span>But May’s government has another argument. Helping refugees ‘in the region’ (from which they flee), it is argued, inhibits the ‘pull’ factor that encourages children to take life-threatening journeys to reach Europe. By this same logic, the argument goes that by assisting southern European states in managing their high populations of child refugees through relocating to the UK those we can, we will encourage more to risk their lives and come.</p> <p>But rather than encouraging more children to reach out to smugglers and pursue dangerous routes, the evidence suggests that where safe and legal routes exist children are<em> less </em>not more likely to turn to irregular means. During the time the UK government agreed to take a limited number of child refugees from Calais and the legal right of unaccompanied minors to family reunification was operating more effectively, as Yvette Cooper pointed out in this week’s Parliamentary debate, irregular arrivals to the UK <em>decreased.</em> The scheme wasn’t encouraging trafficking as some have claimed, it was ‘putting traffickers and smugglers out of business’.&nbsp;</p> <p>Children calculate risks and often have a surprisingly nuanced understanding of politics and policies. And as MP Stella Creasy stressed to Parliament, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about ‘pull factors’, but for refugee kids the push factors remain the same.&nbsp;</p><h3>UK as El Dorado?</h3><p>It is simply not the case that most unaccompanied minors in Europe want to come to the UK, but some understandably do. Others end up here by accident. In the course of my Phd research with the <a href="https://becomingadult.net/">Becoming Adult</a> project I met unaccompanied minors in the UK who had risked dangerous crossings from Calais to find distant family members, having lost their close family in wars. Others were motivated to pay thousands for the perilous crossing, believing that their English language skills would help them to integrate better here rather than elsewhere in Europe. I also met individuals who had never chosen to come to the UK at all.</p> <p>Bilal*, a 17 year old Eritrean told me he never knew where he was going, just that the smuggler kept asking for more and more money which his family felt compelled to give. ‘I ended up in this city’, he tells me. ‘And I was like, where on earth is it?’ He knew nothing of the geography of Europe yet without knowing a soul he has integrated well into life and education, achieving an A in his GCSE Maths last year. Like most of the young refugees I interviewed, Bilal’s also grown a sense of local civic pride. ‘Now when people ask me where I’m from I say my city with pride!’ He jokes, ‘my friends who fled and are in other countries are now jealous, but only because some have heard of the football team!’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_1789_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Where am I? Geography lesson at a refugee centre. Photo: author"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_1789_3.jpg" alt="Where am I? Geography lesson at a refugee camp. Photo: author" title="Where am I? Geography lesson at a refugee centre. Photo: author" width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Where am I? Geography lesson at a refugee centre. Photo: author</span></span></span>My research also took me to Italy where I also met many unaccompanied minors and former unaccompanied minors who are happy and, on the whole, doing ok. But there is a huge issue of capacity and some are really struggling. Volunteering alongside support workers battling tirelessly to support these children with scant resources, I felt utterly ashamed that my country wasn’t doing more.</p><h3><span>Teenage boys!</span></h3><p>Along with fear of the ill-evidenced ‘pull factor’, the sustained <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3849646/Mature-years-fears-real-age-child-migrants-arriving-Calais.html">onslaught</a> directed by right-wing media towards the young refugee men who have arrived through the Dubs scheme in recent months seems to have scared certain MPs away from any measures in favour of refugee children. I’ve written <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">previously</a> of how young refugee men have been commonly framed in media as sexual predators and ticking time bombs, but also of their specific <a href="https://www.routledge.com/A-Gendered-Approach-to-the-Syrian-Refugee-Crisis/Freedman-Kivilcim-Baklacioglu/p/book/9781138693722">vulnerabilities and needs.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7244677/3-02052016-AP-EN.pdf/">90%</a> of unaccompanied minors who arrive in Europe are male, yes. Many of those I have interviewed for my research have endured unspeakable violence, experienced slavery on route and witnessed the deaths of fellow migrants – lynching on land and drownings at sea. One prominent international NGO has started speaking of this population behind the scenes as ‘the new vulnerable’. A friend of mine who fosters, recently welcomed an unaccompanied teenager into her home. He cried for his family most days which, his social worker commented, was unusual for a boy of his age. Not, my friend pointed out, if you think for a second about what he’s been through.</p> <p>Many of the teenagers are fleeing persecution specifically related to their gender – family blood feuds; domestic violence in polygamous families; forced conscription. Many have become orphaned by conflict and seek to reunite with distant relatives (relatives that fall outside of the strict family definitions in UK policy). For others, their flight represents a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">survival stragey</a> that is able to sustain their families back in the region of origin.&nbsp;</p><h3><span>A numbers game</span></h3> <p>We know that many local councils have explicitly told the government that they want to take more of these children through the Dubs scheme. Others, such as Hammersmith &amp; Fulham, expressed their surprise to hear the announcement that the scheme had been closed because of a lack of capacity, when their own requests to resettle more children through the scheme had gone <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/10/lord-dubs-calls-home-secretary-accept-more-child-refugees">unheeded</a>. Lewisham Council, for example, has to date received just 1 child to fill the 23 places they pledged. Bristol are waiting on 10, Birmingham on 79, a majority of Scottish local authorities have voiced a desire to support more children.</p> <p>As emerging findings from the Becoming Adult research demonstrate, challenges for some local authorities in welcoming refugees shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the difficulties for the government of managing disproportionate numbers in some regions over others. We know that when young refugees are not given the right support they can experience important threats to their wellbeing. Yet our research also demonstrates that where they are welcomed and supported, unaccompanied refugee children can thrive in our communities.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_3366.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Unaccompanied teenager in Italy. Photo: author"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_3366.jpg" alt="Unaccompanied teenager in Italy. Photo: author" title="Unaccompanied teenager in Italy. Photo: author" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Unaccompanied teenager in Italy. Photo: author</span></span></span>So where local authorities are being explicit that the beds are ready and the community welcome is there, how can the government still claim there is no appetite or capacity to help refugees currently languishing on the street or in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/10/child-refugees-greece-camps">overstretched</a> camps in the South of Europe?</p> <h3><em>‘Europe’s’</em> child refugees<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>The decision on Tuesday to vote against the Dubs amendment must be read alongside May’s rightly controlled Brexit/anti-refugee whip. It's important to stress the fact that the child refugees brought to Britain under the Dubs scheme are already in Europe because it’s a crucial element that has frequently been overlooked in our understanding of the popular and political backlash against them. As Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP that tabled the amendment to the&nbsp;<a href="http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/childrenandsocialwork.html">Children and Social Work Bill</a>&nbsp;stressed in her presentation to Parliament, the Dubs amendment is not just about helping child refugees, it’s about ‘European solidarity’.</p><p>While some wrongly <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/social-affairs/welfare/news/83965/theresa-may-faces-major-tory-rebellion-over-dubs-refugee">feared</a> that dozens of Tory MP’s would rebel against the whip and vote in favour of the amendment, in reality they didn’t. Spectators spoke of seeing the Prime Minister <em>physically </em>move MPs into the voting gallery; so May was able to retain her record never to have suffered a parliamentary rebellion.&nbsp;</p> <p>Post-Brexit, as the UK becomes more and more symbolic of a divided and unequal Europe, doing our small bit to assist refugees who have arrived in Europe is surely the least that is necessary to maintain our credibility in the continent?&nbsp;</p><p><em>*Name changed to protect anonymity</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona-and-jennifer-allsopp/mind-gap-why-are-unaccompanied-children-disappearing-in-thous">Mind the gap: why are unaccompanied children disappearing in their thousands?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system">Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-griffiths/invisible-fathers-of-immigration-detention">Invisible fathers of immigration detention in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/no-women-s-day-without-refugee-women">No Women’s Day without refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sabine-damir-geilsdorf-martina-sabra/separation-syrian-asylum-seekers-in-germany">A separation: Syrian asylum seekers in Germany</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alexandra-embiricos/back-way-to-europe-gambia-s-forgotten-refugees">The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/emmanuel-blanchard/eu-forcing-politics-of-inhospitality-on-its-neighbours"> The EU and its neighbours: enforcing the politics of inhospitality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">The refugee crisis: demilitarising masculinities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/500-eritreans">500 Eritreans</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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Democracy and government International politics 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gendered migration Jennifer Allsopp Thu, 09 Mar 2017 10:03:10 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 109335 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our criminal justice system is hiding its mistakes https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/emily-bolton/our-criminal-justice-system-is-not-merely-failing-to-learn-from-its-mistake <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If wrongly convicted of a crime, you would hope to find a transparent justice system that will help prove your innocence. But you might be better off in the Deep South.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Female_inmates_inside_their_maximum_security_prison_cells.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/Female_inmates_inside_their_maximum_security_prison_cells.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>England and Wales are lagging far behind Mississippi and Louisiana when it comes to a fair and open criminal justice system. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Officer Bimblebury, CC BY-SA 4.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Dean Strang, the lawyer whose defence of Steven Avery was documented in the Netflix series <em>Making a Murderer</em>, has spoken of a “tragic lack of humility” within the United States’ criminal justice system. Speaking <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2017/02/unacceptably-haphazard-steven-averys-lawyers-support-open-justice-campaign/" target="_blank">to the <em>Justice Gap</em></a>, he complained about “an unwarranted certitude on the part of police officers, and prosecutors and defence lawyers and judges and jurors that they’re getting it right.”</p> <p>Dean Strang is spot on. I spent nearly a decade in the Deep Southern United States investigating death penalty and wrongful conviction cases. At the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center and Innocence Project New Orleans, we dealt with scores of cases where the justice system had got it catastrophically wrong, condemning innocent people to life in prison or even death. In each case there was unwarranted certitude, humility was in short supply, and the result was tragic to say the least.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Our criminal justice system is not merely failing to learn from its mistakes – it is actually hiding them.</p> <p>In the US at least some lessons are being learned from these miscarriages of justice, thanks mainly to the dogged work of Innocence Projects around the country (documented this month, incidentally, in a <a href="https://www.innocenceproject.org/time-magazine-25-years-innocence-project/" target="_blank">special issue</a> of <em>Time</em> magazine). States have implemented reforms aimed at reducing the risk of misidentification by eyewitnesses and limiting the use of unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, to give just two examples. In New Orleans, the police <a href="http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/crime_police/article_80a8334a-a2ab-11e6-a99f-ff72cb52ad66.html" target="_blank">are even getting training</a> from Innocence Project lawyers on how to reduce the risk of putting the wrong person behind bars.</p> <p>In 2011 I began working to establish the Centre for Criminal Appeals, a charity and law practice that would investigate and litigate on behalf of wrongly convicted prisoners in England and Wales. Since becoming operational in 2014, the Centre’s lawyers and investigators have learned one overriding lesson in the course of our innocence casework. It is that&nbsp;our criminal justice system is not merely failing to learn from its mistakes – it is actually hiding them.&nbsp;A dearth of transparency inhibits miscarriages of justice from being overturned and hinders progress towards a more effective criminal justice system.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In an even greater snub to open justice, the current practice is that the digital audio recordings of trials are destroyed after just 7 years.</p> <p>To those who think the principle of openness is enshrined in our justice system, these claims may come as a surprise. It was an English judge who in 1923 made clear the “fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”. But the truth is that in this country we lag shamefully behind even the poorest states of the Deep South when it comes to providing transparency and access to information in our justice system.</p> <p>Take transcripts of trial proceedings. These are a basic tool for working out whether a conviction is safe or a sentence is fair. In the US, even states like Louisiana and Mississippi will provide this free of charge to appellants who can’t afford it – a right that can be traced back all the way to 1956.</p> <p>Here, in contrast, the poor have no such access. If you want a record of what happened at trial, you’ll have pay a private transcription company thousands, maybe tens of thousands of pounds. You could try asking the Legal Aid Agency to cover it, but they’ll likely say: “No, you can only have the testimony of a single witness, and only if you can tell us what it will prove.” &nbsp;In an even greater snub to open justice, the current practice is that the digital audio recordings of trials are destroyed after just 7 years. If eventually an innocent prisoner raises the money to obtain a record of their trial, they may simply find that it has been deleted.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In England and Wales a person maintaining their innocence has no ongoing right of access to&nbsp;<em>any</em>&nbsp;police or CPS files on their case.</p> <p>Next example: police and Crown Prosecution Service files. In most of the US, once a conviction is final all the police and prosecutor’s files on a case become a matter of public record. This means they can be reviewed to check for evidence of wrongdoing – such as the withholding of important evidence – which may establish whether an innocent person has been sent to prison. </p> <p>In England and Wales, in contrast, a person maintaining their innocence has no ongoing right of access to <em>any</em> police or CPS files on their case. They can request disclosure of documentation that they think might exist and might help prove their innocence, but such requests are frequently rejected as speculative. The only way of challenging a refusal to hand over files is by judicial review – a costly option for which it is very difficult to secure legal aid.</p> <p>Then there is access to physical exhibits for new forensic testing or expert review &nbsp;- which could yield evidence of a person’s innocence. In the US, all 50 states now have access post-conviction DNA testing enshrined in statutes. Some of these statutes may have shortcomings, but the fact that such access is embedded in law means the situation is favourable compared to England and Wales. As with police and CPS files, there is no right of access to physical exhibits here and requests to access them are frequently denied. Even more troubling is issues with such exhibits being destroyed. For example in one of our cases, <a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/the-disturbing-case-of-roger-khan-and-the-cost-of-cheap-justice/" target="_blank">that of Roger Khan</a>, a metal pole used to beat the victim and with unidentified DNA on it, was ordered destroyed after trial – meaning it can never be tested.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Open Justice Charter sets out the demands that will make it easier for gross injustices to be corrected in England and Wales.</p> <p>Some might argue that the harm caused by these open justice shortcomings is mitigated by the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the public body created in 1995 to review potential miscarriages of justice after a series of high profile cases. After all, the body has the unique ability to access any files or exhibits it wants in the course of its work. The trouble is, these investigatory powers simply aren’t used enough by this <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2016/03/way-back-court-appeal/" target="_blank">chronically underfunded</a> body which worries about losing “the hard-won trust” of the police forces and other organisations it requests records from – even though it has an absolute right to access them. Moreover, the CCRC is of course equally hampered by the early destruction of trial recordings and physical exhibits.</p> <p>As a result of the above transparency failings, we at the Centre for Criminal Appeals worked with academics and journalists on developing the <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2016/12/ojc/" target="_blank">Open Justice Charter</a>. The Charter, which was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/jan/31/destruction-of-court-records-hampers-miscarriage-of-justice-inquiries" target="_blank">launched in Westminster</a>&nbsp;on 31 January, sets out open justice demands that will make it easier for gross injustices to be corrected. Its proposed reforms will help identify the root causes of wrongful convictions, and increase our criminal justice system’s accountability and effectiveness.</p> <p>Responding to the Charter’s launch, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have a world-leading legal system and we are committed to upholding and strengthening the principle of open justice.”</p> <p>When I read this, I immediately thought of Dean Strang’s words, for the statement displays a sad lack of humility. First, we do not see a real commitment to open justice principles in England and Wales. Instead, we lag behind Louisiana and Mississippi when it comes to transparency. Second, we simply don’t have enough access to information to know whether or not we really have “a world-leading legal system”. In fact, our criminal justice system is like an airplane that keeps crashing, but with no one able open the black box to identify what is going wrong and why.</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/glyn-maddocks/what-does-it-take-to-overturn-miscarriage-of-justice-in-uk">What does it take to overturn a miscarriage of justice in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/children-in-custody-need-protection-not-cruelty-and-bullying">Children in custody need protection, not cruelty and bullying </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Emily Bolton Wed, 08 Mar 2017 16:45:49 +0000 Emily Bolton 109299 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No Women’s Day without refugee women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/no-women-s-day-without-refugee-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hand-in-hand with Trump, Theresa May is not merely playing to an anti-migrant populist crowd but helped to create it. This system is working as intended, but it must be disrupted.</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/541754/WWR5_0.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR5_0.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span>On International Women’s Day, 8th March 2017, the UK’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his first Spring Budget. Philip Hammond, who has been in post since July 2016, will carry a scarlet briefcase and hold it aloft outside 11 Downing Street for photographers. This ‘Budget Box’ will accompany the Chancellor to the House of Commons; it contains the speech he will give to announce the government’s taxation, forecast and spending plans for the coming year.</p> <p>On international Women’s Day, Women for Refugee Women will also be making a presentation to government. Representatives will meet and travel to the Home Office, carrying a large card addressed to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. It is signed by the attendees of the National Refugee Women’s Conference 2017, held a week before, and calls on Rudd to ‘stand up for women who are crossing borders for safety.’ It closes with an ask: of a meeting ‘to discuss how to build a more humane asylum process that gives every woman seeking sanctuary a fair hearing and the chance to rebuild her life.’</p> <p>Everything about the Budget announcement, lofty red box and all, is a performance – a display of state apparatus. The machinations of government budgets move cogs which, in turn, affect people’s lives. For the past seven years, the government has delivered austerity budgets which have systematically punished <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/austerity-women-ethnic-minorities-disabled-tax-welfare">women and minorities</a>. </p> <p>In this time, the machinations of state have also become increasingly hostile towards migrants and perceived migrants, compounded by the EU Referendum vote last June. It may have been less <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/12/vote-leave-campaign-nigel-farage">divisive</a> figures who won it for Leave, but it is in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants">Nigel Farage’s image</a> that May is fashioning Brexit. Border control is her <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2017/03/donald-trump-revises-his-muslim-ban-has-anything-actually-changed-2">red line</a>, dashing even the expectations of many of her own party’s <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-referendum-tory-campaigner-admits-brexit-immigration-some-control-a7102626.html">ardent Brexiteers</a>.</p> <p>Prime Minister May’s obsession with migration is in keeping with her long record at the Home Office. The racism which now <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crimes-racism-eu-referendum-vote-attacks-increase-police-figures-official-a7358866.html">flares</a> in the aftermath of the EU Referendum – and which blazes alarmingly in light of our own government’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/29/theresa-may-donald-trump-bond-love-thatcher-reagan">cosiness</a> with arch-racist Trump – was encouraged, too, by Home Secretary May. Jennifer Allsopp has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">traced</a> her record for openDemocracy 50.50: from the expansion of detention and destitution of asylum seekers to racist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">‘Go Home’ vans</a>. <a href="https://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2016/05/23/what%E2%80%99s-next-hostile-environment-immigration-act-2016-and-queen%E2%80%99s-speech">Landlords</a> and <a href="http://www.docsnotcops.co.uk/?page_id=10">NHS workers</a>, like border guards, are now required to profile their clients – invariably, this means racial profiling.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR409.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR409.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Letter to Home Secretary. Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span></p><h3><strong>“We are refugees – we are nothing!”</strong></h3> <p>The personal stories carried by refugee women, like the card for Amber Rudd, speak to the trauma of this Britain. At the National Refugee Women’s Conference, held on 1st March 2017, amidst panel discussions, keynotes and performances, one woman stood up from the audience and, through tears, shared her own experience. She told first of travelling from Eritrea to the UK and then, once here, facing more abuse and destitution: trying to make it in a new community, opening a café to support other women, but threatened, raped, disbelieved and left without any support.</p> <p>“My friends were drowned in the Turkish sea and raped on the Greek border…and now I’m here [in the UK] being told I’m not a refugee.” She cried, “we are refugees – we are nothing!” Women around her blinked back their own tears and knowingly shook their heads as she asked, “we came here to be safe, why is this happening to us here?”&nbsp;</p> <p>This plea is echoed throughout Women for Refugee Women’s latest <a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Way-Ahead-report-WEB.pdf?utm_content=buffer58bbf">report</a>, <em>The Way Ahead: an asylum system without detention</em>. Helen* tells of how she and other women were repeatedly raped by traffickers as they crossed the Sahara, imprisoned and tortured before the families of her fellow prisoners were able to bribe the guards to let her onto a boat to Italy. From there, Calais, where Helen discovered she was pregnant. She lost her baby on the journey to the UK, hidden under the floor of a lorry. “Now,” says Helen, “I live in a house with other women. I am not complaining because I have been in situations that were much worse, but life is hard…The waiting is so difficult.”</p> <p>Helen explains that she was not offered any guidance or support to understand the asylum system: “The person interviewing me was not sympathetic, but I told my story as carefully as I could. I didn’t know what evidence they needed. I feel l am trying to figure out the system in the dark, I don’t know how they make decisions and who determines what will happen to me.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR144.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR144.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span></p> <h3><strong>Hostile environments</strong>&nbsp;</h3> <p>Globally we are in the midst of a refugee crisis, with over 70 million people displaced worldwide; but, in May’s Britain, who cares about the lives ruined and the money wasted, if mythical ‘pull factors’ are somehow (also mythically) diminished? In fact, “hostile environment” was the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">descriptor</a> used by Theresa May in 2013 when she presented the way she wanted Britain to feel for “illegal migrants.” ‘Migrant’ then was a catch-all term for people (like me) who had moved to the UK from elsewhere in the world; now, as exemplified by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/02/irene-clennell-deported-uk-terrorist">Irene Clennell</a>, who was deported from the UK at the end of February, it is ‘a term of abuse.’</p> <p>Cases like Irene Clennell’s – living in the UK since 1988, married and with British children, then suddenly detained and deported ‘like a terrorist’ to Singapore with £12 in her pocket – beggar belief. Almost everything you hear about the immigration system does: pregnant women being detained, guidelines not followed, families separated.</p> <p>Grace* was initially denied asylum in the UK despite being a victim of torture and rape, and at risk of persecution in Uganda because of her sexual orientation. “The police brought a psychiatrist and he recognised I was a victim of rape and torture, but even so I was locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for five months.” On suicide watch, she was taken to the doctor but “they handcuffed me and the officers would stay in the room even during the consultation.”</p> <p>Some immigration cases have made national news: the case of a Jamaican man told to parent his British children ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-gov-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jamaica">by Skype</a>’ and the new Home Office <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/25/afghanistan-gay-asylum-seekers-home-office-illegal-homosexuality">guidelines</a> which advise LGBT asylum seekers from Afghanistan to ‘pretend to be straight.’ Few have, but most are alarming, like Helen’s and Grace’s and the Eritrean woman at the conference who couldn’t keep it in any longer. These are not exceptions or anomalies: they show the asylum system is working as per its design. The intentions behind the system are not to be supportive, or even fair; the aim is to reduce immigration.</p> <p>Because 80% of asylum-seeking women who are detained are subsequently released back into the community, it is often said that detention serves no purpose. But if the aim of the asylum system is to create a ‘hostile environment,’ then the purpose of detention is to contribute to this climate. It is inhumane and ineffective – a waste of life and also of resource – but the government, seemingly, would rather have it this way. </p> <p>At the National Refugee Women’s Conference Noma Dumezweni, currently playing Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, opened with her own experiences as a child of a refugee woman. She arrived at Heathrow on 17 May 1977 and, she said, were that today, “fast forward and I wouldn’t be here.” Dumezweni spoke about the importance of storytelling: “it might sound romantic, but our bodies are shaped this funny way to hold people…and they hold stories, too.” Sharing personal histories is an act of truth-telling and an act of community, “to make people know you are not alone.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR67.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR67.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span>We must push the stories of refugee women front and centre this International Women’s Day. They are human stories, our communities’ stories, and deserve to be told and to be heard. These thousands of women in the UK – tens of millions worldwide – each provide a fragment of the narrative of the UK asylum system, but also reflect it in full. This system is working as intended, but it must be disrupted. As the system is cold and mechanical, the antidote must surely be human stories and the empathy they inspire.</p> <p>Theresa May’s legacy of scapegoating migrants is deliberate. From ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15160326">catgate</a>’ to <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/health/2017/02/its-not-health-tourism-thats-thrown-nhs-crisis-its-cuts">health tourism</a>, she was a purveyor of ‘alternative facts’ some time before Kellyann Conway <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_facts">coined</a> the term. Hand in hand with Trump, May is not merely playing to an anti-migrant populist crowd but helped to create it. If we are to stand up to her, then we must stand with refugee women – and listen.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>*Names have been changed</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maria-al-abdeh/supporting-women-s-empowerment-during-armed-conflict-lessons-from-syria">Lessons from Syria on women&#039;s empowerment during conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/halliki-voolma/escaping-domestic-violence-according-to-law-you-are-not-here">Escaping domestic violence: ‘according to the law, you are not here’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/why-are-european-feminists-failing-to-strike-back-against-anti-immigrant-right">Why aren&#039;t European feminists arguing against the anti-immigrant right?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </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-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 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice gendered migration gendered poverty Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Ché Ramsden Wed, 08 Mar 2017 10:26:57 +0000 Ché Ramsden 109313 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The families broken apart because Theresa May thinks they aren't rich enough for love https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/charlotte-peel/families-broken-apart-because-theresa-may-thinks-they-arent-rich-enough-for-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A court ruling last month criticised the way that the government is implementing the minimum income requirement for those who want their partners to be able to live in the UK with them.</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/families broken.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/families broken.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: UK immigration law blogger</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I used to think that daddy lived in the phone. And then my mum said, “You know he doesn’t live in the phone, he lives in America”. It was kind of sad because I always thought that he was close to me because he lived in the phone.” Those are the words of a 10 year old boy, separated from his father by UK immigration laws.</p><p dir="ltr">“When she was younger, I used to tell my daughter that ‘I’m sending an airplane and then you will come to England”. My wife told my one day, “Don’t say that again”. I asked her why. She said because while she was sleeping an airplane came over our house and my daughter heard it. She woke up and &nbsp;ran out and called: “We are here, we want to go to our dad”. When I called on the phone, she cried and said: “The airplane that you sent just came here and they did not know us, they went away, please tell them that we are here waiting for you.” British father separated from his wife and nine year old daughter</p><p dir="ltr">In 2015 I travelled across the UK speaking to families who could not live together because they did not earn £18,600 a year. That is the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) for British citizens and settled UK residents seeking to sponsor a spouse or partner to come to the UK from outside the European Economic Area. It was introduced in July 2012 as one of the first major acts of Theresa May as Home Secretary. The requirement (which would not be met by 41% of the UK working population) is intended by the Home Office to achieve lower net migration, no matter the consequences.</p><p dir="ltr">The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of MM &amp; Ors v SSHD, which challenged the MIR, gives some hope to these families. Although the judges upheld the legality of the Requirement, they found the rules and official guidance to Home Office decision-makers unlawful in the way they are applied to children. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner intervened in the case last year to argue that the Family Migration Rules do not adequately safeguard the welfare of the children of affected couples, most of whom are British. An estimated 15,000 children have been affected since these rules came into force. Many have been separated from one of their parents as a result. The judges also ruled that alternative sources of income should be taken into account when considering whether refusing a visa would strike the right balance between “public interest” and the family’s rights to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">This judgment could help many separated families to finally be granted permission to live together in the UK. Judges in the immigration and asylum tribunals can already apply the ruling when deciding whether the refusal of a visa struck the right balance between the public interest and the rights of the family and we would expect more such cases to succeed on appeal. Depending on how the Secretary of State amends the rules and guidance, we may also see more visas granted on application.</p><p dir="ltr">To date, the Children’s Commissioner for England has received scores of letters from families about the devastation the visa rules are causing. I heard these stories first hand: of children who could only interact with their parents on Skype; fathers who had never seen their children; single parents struggling to find adequate employment while also caring for their children full-time because their partner could not get a visa; the thousands of pounds spent on maintaining two separated households, in addition to visa applications, legal fees and plane tickets. I heard directly from parents about the psychological harm the situation had caused their children, who suffered from severe separation anxiety, bed-wetting, eating problems and anger issues that had started after they were separated from their mother or father. I also spoke to the children themselves. These interviews formed part of a report published in September 2015 and submitted as evidence to the Supreme Court. </p><p dir="ltr">Last month’s ruling means that the government can no longer ignore children who are being harmed by their drive to reduce migration figures. International and domestic law gives primacy to the rights of children. The judges found that an arbitrarily high and restrictive threshold was being applied, where the best interests of children were only decisive in extreme circumstances, such as when there was no one else to care for them in the UK. This is unlawful. The Secretary of State must now rewrite the Rules and Guidance to caseworkers to ensure that children’s best interests are always considered and given adequate weight in every application. This should result in more cases involving children being successful.</p><p dir="ltr">The judges also held that alternative sources of income (such as support from family members or a spouse’s prospective UK earnings) should be considered when the income requirement is not met. Decision-makers must assess whether other sources of ‘credible’ financial support would show that a family would not be a ‘burden’ on the state if allowed to live together in the UK. This could then weigh in favour of granting a visa on the basis of their right to private and family life. </p><p dir="ltr">Currently, in the vast majority of cases, only the British or settled partner’s earnings are taken into account, even if they are not the main breadwinner. In some cases, British parents have been forced out of work and onto benefits in order to care for their young children without the support of their partner, who was stranded abroad. This is an illogical and counter-productive consequence of the rigidity of the Rules and allowing consideration of other sources of income may go some way to ensuring this does not occur in future.</p><p dir="ltr">The onus is now on the Secretary of State to implement this ruling swiftly and fairly. This includes reconsidering past cases that have been refused. We at JCWI will continue to lobby parliament and to fight for families divided by this law, in order to ensure that as many as possible benefit from this judgment. </p><p dir="ltr">“It’s sad to watch my son grow up without a father when it’s preventable, like it’s not a breakdown of a relationship, it’s British law that is stopping British families being together,” said one British mother of a three year old boy separated from his father. Now’s the time to seize on the opportunity of the Supreme Court judgment to make sure no more children are separated from their parents because of a net migration target.</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="/hsiao-hung-pai/breaking-rule-partners-under-pressure">A breaking rule: partners under pressure </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/usman-sheikh/theresa-mays-dangerous-record-on-immigration">Theresa May&#039;s dangerous record on immigration</a> </div> </div> </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 Charlotte Peel Tue, 07 Mar 2017 17:02:59 +0000 Charlotte Peel 109300 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What happened in Northern Ireland last week and what next https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/what-happened-in-northern-ireland-last-week-and-what-next <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Change in Northern Ireland has been a long time coming – and it isn't done yet.</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/History is ours.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/History is ours.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mural of the Chilean socialist Salvador Allende in Republican West Belfast.</span></span></span></p><p>There’s so much to say about the election in the north of Ireland last week that it’s hard to know where to begin. </p><p class="selectionShareable">But we should probably start by talking about the fact that the Conservative party got 0.3%. Because, I mean, it’s kind of hilarious. The party of government, the party which claims to represent all of the unions represented by that solitary ‘U’ in UK, the party whose leader was, as the votes were counted, standing on a stage in Glasgow talking about how much she cares about her beloved United Kingdom – this party understands that union so little that it can’t even muster a measly third of a percentage point in one of its four nations.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">We could talk about the fate of the SDLP, who effectively ended their long-term slump, aided by a young leader and the transfers from the Kamikaze Ulster Unionists. Oh, yes, and that means we need to talk a little first about the election system: Single Transferable Vote, where you rank candidates in order of preference, and once your preferred person is elected or knocked out, your vote, or the portion of it your woman didn’t need, is passed on to the next person on your list. That’s key.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">But back to poor Mike Nesbitt. As leader of the more moderate of the Unionist parties, he had said that his second preference would be going to the centre-leftish nationalist SDLP, Labour’s sister. Many unionists didn’t take this anti-sectarian stand well, and the UUP suffered, perhaps partly as a result (though they are in long term decline). But it does seem that those who stuck with the struggling party were more likely to direct their second preferences across the traditional community fault line than they have been in the past. Whether this happened because of Nesbitt’s leadership, or because of a general disgust with the dominant unionist party, the scandal-ridden DUP, it was one of the things which drove the ultimate, remarkable result.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Then there are the smaller parties: the SWP front People Before Profit took a beating for their pro-Brexit stand. Leaving the EU is deeply unpopular in the Nationalist areas where they made their two break-throughs back in May. That, combined with the reduction of constituencies from six to five representatives each, cost the left party its seat in Derry and meant that they only just held on in West Belfast, alongside an astonishing four Sinn Fein reps. And there’s the Traditional Unionist Voice: the BNP to the DUP’s UKIP. Their one rep, the working-class-Loyalist-come-QC Jim Allister, kept his seat despite the less proportional system.</p> <p class="selectionShareable"><a title="Belfast Child" rel="lightbox" href="https://i1.wp.com/bellacaledonia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/IMG_7782.jpg"></a>Steven Agnew, Northern Irish Green Party leader retained his place in North Down as did Green deputy leader and feminist activist Clare Bailey in South Belfast, who was first elected in May, and kept huge numbers of people up as we waited nervously for her eventual re-election as the final MLA in the small hours of Saturday morning, with the #awakeforbailey hashtag trending across the UK. Breaching both Green and Northern Irish stereotypes, the two politicians come from working class backgrounds on either side of the traditional divide, and their re-election became a focus for Greens across these islands, with delegations of canvassers arriving from Scotland the two weekends before the vote. It turns out it’s possible to believe in both independence and solidarity.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">The Lib Dem’s sister party, Alliance, had a good night too, with their vote going up by 2.1% and maintaining eight seats, despite the overall reduction. Their leader, Naomi Long – who held East Belfast in Westminster for a five year period which included seeing her office bombed by Loyalists – provided a charismatic front for centrist voters wishing to reject sectarian history and DUP murk.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">And we should pause a moment to note the failures, because they tell important stories too: alongside the Tories’ pathetic attempts to break into Northern Ireland since their bust-up with the Ulster Unionists after the 2010 election, there is UKIP, who won an Assembly Member from a defection just a few years back, but only got 0.2%. There is the Progressive Unionist Party; the only ever serious attempt at building a left wing party for working class Loyalists to vote for. It too once had Assembly members, but it lies in ruins and won only 0.7%. The attempts of its former leader and MLA Dawn Purvis to lure it away from the dark world of its paramilitary UVF roots seem to have failed, and the iconic feminist socialist is these days reputed to back the Greens’ Clare Bailey.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Likewise, we need to mention turnout, which rose by an extraordinary 9.8% since the May election: in part a Brexit bounce, in part, a tighter election than ever before, and in part, a clear sign that voter cynicism is evaporating.</p> <p class="selectionShareable"><a title="Belfast Child" rel="lightbox" href="https://i0.wp.com/bellacaledonia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/IMG_7793.jpg"></a>All of these events are vital context. But the headline figures are the headlines for a reason. Sinn Fein did astonishingly well, and came within one seat of being the largest party. Their campaign, with posters calling for “equality now” and “respect for all: equal marriage now” as well as demanding an Irish language act to bring parity of linguistic esteem, seemed to take them back to the 1960s strategy of wrapping up Catholic oppression with other minority oppressions and attempting to build solidarity across them. Their new leader in the North, the 40 year old Michelle O’Neill, doesn’t bring with her the IRA baggage of her predecessors – and nor do many younger voters. The party’s famous network of organisers seem as energised and disciplined as ever, and they turned out their vote by the fistful.</p><p class="selectionShareable"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_7761.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_7761.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sinn Fein placards on the Republican Falls Road, Belfast.</span></span></span></p><p>The Democratic Unionist party, on the other hand, took a battering. Having dominated Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the party retained its plurality by only one seat, and watched as a series of their most prominent politicians went the way of Douglas Alexander. In part, of course, this was the result of recent events: the trigger of the vote was the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, where half a billion or so of subsidies were pumped into a scheme through which those in the know could profit from burning wood-chips in barns and in chicken sheds and the like. At best this was gross incompetence which left a vast bill for a small place. And, worse, endless rumours about who was told how to profit from the scheme, and where the cash ended up, only played into a broad belief among many voters that the party of Ian Paisley has lost its moral compass since the reverend died. </p><p class="selectionShareable">It wasn’t just about so-called ‘cash for ash’ though. Brexit mobilised thousands of new voters to turn out (more, in fact, than the referendum itself). The series of articles that Peter Geoghegan and I wrote for openDemocracy about the secret donor who gave the party £425,000 to campaign for Brexit had, I like to think, some impact as journalists in Northern Ireland ably harried them on the provenance of the cash, and the party responded with the entertaining incompetence of a slapstick artist who trips and then trashes the room in an attempt not to fall over. First minister Arlene Foster’s embarrassing performances in the TV debates, which had higher audiences than their equivalents back in May, will have made many normally loyal Loyalists squirm, and perhaps encouraged a few to find alternative activities on voting day.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">But there’s a longer term story too. When knocking on doors with the Northern Irish Greens in the working class Loyalist Cluan Place back in 2015, I got a distinct whiff I recognised from a decade earlier. It felt remarkably like canvassing in Labour voting council estates in Scotland’s central belt in the mid-noughties. Person after person would spend five minutes listing the failures of the Democratic Unionist party, describing their horror at their representative’s support for cuts to local services and failures to deliver for the area. When talking about the sectarian divisions, they would say things like ‘we need to move on from all of that’. But they’d conclude that they would have to vote DUP despite everything. It was their history, after all. As with Scottish Labour, such a position probably isn’t sustainable.</p> <p class="selectionShareable"><a title="Belfast Child" rel="lightbox" href="https://i0.wp.com/bellacaledonia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/C6UBWh4XQAAUN4F.jpg"></a>In part, therefore, the decline of the DUP is, like the decline of Scottish Labour, not only a product of its own failures, though in both cases there are plenty. Ultimately, the parties both find themselves tied by their unionism to a British state which has had little economic strategy since the loss of its empire, beyond high finance and endless rounds of asset-stripping privatisation. Where Sinn Fein, like the SNP, have had to accept cuts to the block grant from Westminster, their voters see them as standing up against that austerity, as implementing it under protest. The DUP, on the other hand, are bound into ideological support for a British state which is hammering their working class base. And that’s a very difficult position to maintain for long – particularly if you combine it with conservative social values which only win majorities among those demographics that are gradually dying off, and support for a Brexit nationalism destined to do disastrous damage to the place over which you govern.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Likewise, that same austerity is fraying the fabric of support for the Union more specifically. I also spent a day wandering round Belfast in the weeks before Scotland’s referendum in 2014, talking to people about the question at hand. Though I asked about Scotland, they always answered for Ireland. And what numerous people there told me (and this is borne out in the polls) was that, though they came from a Catholic background and would see themselves as nationalists, they would in fact vote to remain in the UK were there a border poll the next day. Leaving the UK for Ireland would mean leaving the NHS, and social security, and the greater subsidies which the larger (if poorer per capita) UK can manage more easily than Ireland could. As Britain’s health service frays, job seekers find themselves sanctioned, and voters are forced to choose between EU subsidies and Westminster’s dwindling pocket-money, those sums seem likely to start to shift. Throw the prospect of a hard border – meaning border posts, meaning bomb targets, meaning a return of British soldiers to protect them, meaning who-knows-what, and the pragmatic case for unionism wilts some more. And once that goes, the beating drum of demographic pressure becomes audible once more: the 2011 census showed Catholics had almost reached parity with Protestants for the first time since partition.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;“I live in a Protestant area, my children go to a Catholic school, and I am black … I want a party which represents the whole community, not one part of it”. . . “We voted Remain. She doesn’t listen to the will of the people here. She only listens to the will of the people in England.”</p><p class="selectionShareable">Though of course, it’s not just about religious affiliation, and not everyone ticks those boxes anyway. A man I met on Belfast’s Falls Road a week and a half before the recent vote came from that majority of people in Northern Ireland: those who are neither dedicated Loyalists of Republicans. “I live in a Protestant area, my children go to a Catholic school, and I am black” he said. “I want a party which represents the whole community, not one part of it”. For him, in this election, that was Sinn Fein. And most of all, he was livid with Theresa May. “We voted Remain. She doesn’t listen to the will of the people here. She only listens to the will of the people in England.” Everyone can see, he told me, that “the UK is dead”, he was sad, but emphatic, “Scotland will leave in a couple of years.” And with a clear choice, as he saw it, between a dying UK and the EU through Ireland, there was only one option. Despite no background in Republican politics, he was desperate for a border poll, and newly convinced of the case for a United Ireland.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">Not everyone has made that journey yet, and it’ll take time. But it does feel, for now at least, like the direction of travel.</p> <p class="selectionShareable"><a title="Belfast Child" rel="lightbox" href="https://i0.wp.com/bellacaledonia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/C6E7RnzWgAAh4ZM.jpg"></a>Whatever the causes of Thursday’s dramatic shift, the overall result was extraordinary. The borders of Northern Ireland were carved with a scalpel through the island to ensure a permanent Protestant and unionist majority. But in the new assembly, for the first time ever, that majority is gone: the maths is a perfect balance: 40 unionists, 40 nationalists, and 10 cross-community Members of the Legislative Assembly.</p><p class="selectionShareable"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Northern Ireland graph.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Northern Ireland graph.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="selectionShareable">What this means beyond constitutional politics is key: the hard right DUP and TUV together don’t have the 30 seats they need in order to use the strange ‘petition of concern’ mechanism that was built into the Good Friday Agreement to prevent the minority rights of either sectarian side from being abused, but has in fact been used by the DUP to repeatedly block rights for other minorities, most famously equal marriage. While there is some suggestion that an Ulster Unionist or two may break ranks on that issue to block the majority who support the equalisation of marriage rights, there is a fighting chance that they won’t. Similarly, whilst progress on the matter is far from guaranteed (regressive politics isn’t the preserve of one party), the end of the DUP’s automatic block may allow for some space to discuss changes to the current anti-abortion laws which the pro-forced pregnancy party has always blocked.</p> <p class="selectionShareable"><a title="Belfast Child" rel="lightbox" href="https://i2.wp.com/bellacaledonia.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/C6FS9EYXMAAxiu6.jpg-large.jpg"></a>Then, of course, there is the question of what next. The Good Friday Agreement, on which the power-sharing Assembly is built, requires that the biggest nationalist and the biggest unionist party to each nominate someone for first and deputy first minister in order for a government to be formed. Sinn Fein have repeatedly said that they will refuse to go into government with DUP leader Arlene Foster until she has been properly investigated for her role in the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. And the DUP can’t be seen to give in to a Sinn Fein demand to replace their leader, no matter how dreadful she is. If the deadlock continues, then there will either be another election, or direct rule from Westminster – possibly in what’s called a condominium arrangement with Dublin. At the same time, the same Sinn Fein are working to topple a precarious government in the Republic, which embroiled in another scandal. Are they playing a clever and co-ordinated game of some kind? If so, it seems to be going well so far.</p> <p class="selectionShareable">And finally, let’s touch on the man who tipped the first domino. When Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, it was in part because of his unwillingness to work with the DUP’s scandal-ridden leader as allegations of malpractice circulated. But it was also because he has a serious illness. And his health is said to be rapidly deteriorating. McGuinness is from that generation of politicians in Northern Ireland who led their respective sides to lay down arms, make peace, and bring a relative calm to the last two decades in a troubled land. It’s looking increasingly like his final political move was signing not just a couple of resignation letters, but the birth certificate of another new era for Northern Ireland.</p><p class="selectionShareable"><strong><em>This piece was commissioned by and first appeared <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/03/07/belfast-child/">on Bella Caledonia</a></em></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="/uk/adam-ramsay/lack-of-british-interest-in-northern-irelands-crucial-election-is-best-evidence-that-">The lack of British interest in Northern Ireland&#039;s crucial election is more evidence that the union is dead</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Tue, 07 Mar 2017 15:55:34 +0000 Adam Ramsay 109294 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do you know who's watching you? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jen-stout/do-you-know-whos-watching-you <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain now has more surveillance than any other Western country, with worrying implications for anyone who might want to question the authorities.</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/OSX.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/OSX.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Blakespot, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The power of the digital realm has been demonstrated in recent months like never before. Hacking and cyberwars dominating geopolitics; algorithms and ‘filter bubbles’ supposedly influencing elections; increased anxiety around the ‘internet of things’. So when leaked emails revealed that US police forces <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-future/police-use-social-media-surveillance-software-escalating-and-activists-are-digital" target="_blank">keep tabs on Black Lives Matter</a> protesters with the help of a private company data-mining social media sites, was it so surprising?&nbsp;</p> <p>We know that the rich online map of our lives and activities is a dream tool for governments and companies seeking to quell protest and resistance. And yet in the UK, we’ve now granted authorities unprecedented spying powers.&nbsp;</p><p> wh </p><p>As the Investigatory Powers Bill came to the House of Lords last autumn, having already breezed through the Commons. NGO Privacy International warned in a Lords briefing: “We are on the brink of introducing the most pervasive and intrusive surveillance legislation of any democratic country in the world.” The peers were apparently unperturbed by this, and the bill passed its final reading, rather fittingly, on 31 October.&nbsp;</p> <p>And yet as we veer down this worrying path, discussion in the public sphere has been minimal; a recent <a href="http://www.comresglobal.com/polls/liberty-i-p-bill-poll/" target="_blank">poll</a> found that 72 per cent knew nothing about the legislation. Media coverage has been largely restricted to a handful of newspapers and blogs, and focused more on the more abstract principles of civil liberties and the right to privacy.&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s barely been discussed at all is the likely impact on the right to protest. For a state that’s always kept a close eye on its dissenters, the power to intercept communications in bulk, rather than on a case-by-case basis, is no doubt a tempting prospect. But the UK and US security services have been doing this for years anyway, as Edward Snowden revealed in 2013. The IP Act simply legalises this mass surveillance.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the act also grants sweeping new powers for the police to hack devices, for authorities to demand access to vast private- and public-sector databases, and for the retention of browsing histories for 12 months (though this latter power has been <a href="https://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2017/02/investigatory-powers-law-missing-draft-communications-data-code/" target="_blank">partially put on hold</a> after a European Court of Justice ruling). The potential for abuse and arbitrary targeting is huge.&nbsp;</p> <p>Anyone familiar with the way police and authorities treat protesters in the UK will be seriously worried about these provisions. But in my experience, most people just aren’t aware of what can happen to you if you join a direct action group, or go on a demonstration; they’re surprised and shocked to learn that you can be labelled a ‘domestic extremist’, photographed and questioned, followed for months or even years – without ever being convicted of a crime.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ongoing scandals such as undercover policing and blacklisting only brought to light what many activists knew or at least suspected: that the state’s law enforcement bodies not only gather detailed information on activists through intrusive surveillance, but also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/dec/15/kingsnorth-climate-change-environment-police" target="_blank">lie about police injuries</a>, turn a blind eye to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/27/disabled-student-claims-police-brutality" target="_blank">police violence</a> and abuse, and generally is willing to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/emily-apple/i-was-arrested-75-times-how-violent-policing-destroys-mental-health" target="_blank">ruin the lives</a> of people who have not actually committed any crime.&nbsp;</p> <p>The ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ brigade would argue that if you are not one of these wild protester types, you needn’t worry about these new powers. But the blacklisting scandal shows that you don’t have to take to the streets for the state or companies to spy on you – just get elected as a shop steward, or stick up for colleagues against management. Attend a union meeting, or try to make conditions at work safer. These actions were what caused thousands to be dubbed ‘troublemakers’ by the blacklisters, in a long saga that saw construction workers barred from employment for years, often with terrible personal consequences. They had no idea their names their names were on the secret files held in a Droitwitch office –&nbsp;and often blamed themselves for the years of unemployment during a construction boom. Some blacklisted workers committed <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/04/blacklisting-scandal-corporate-spying" target="_blank">suicide</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Files on over 3,200 people, held by blacklisting firm the Consulting Association, were discovered in the raid – among these, hundreds of index cards on activists. Incredibly, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) left the vast majority of files untouched; these were subsequently destroyed, so we’ll never know all the names. Crucially though, the Consulting Association’s CEO Ian Kerr <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/construction-property/article3665386.ece" target="_blank">confirmed</a> that construction companies met with an officer from the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, and discussed the codes used to classify activists on the blacklist. During an employment tribunal in 2012, ICO investigations manager David Clancy <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/mar/03/blacklisted-building-workers-court-hopes" target="_blank">confirmed</a> what many had long suspected – that in his view, some of the information held on the files “could only be supplied by the police or the security services”. &nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, the police have long maintained their own databases on <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/25/undercover-police-domestic-extremism-unit" target="_blank">thousands</a> of politically active people – particularly environmental activists but stretching to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/15/green-party-peer-put-on-database-of-extremists-by-police" target="_blank">politicians</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/20/police-legal-action-snooping-journalists" target="_blank">journalists</a> too. Such covert surveillance and intelligence-gathering has gone hand in hand with the more obvious tactics used against protesters in recent years: the kettling, stop-and-search, aggressive filming and outright violence which have landed the police in such trouble. The notorious Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was set up in 1968 to infiltrate and spy on campaigners. 1980s ‘public order’ legislation, and Blair’s slew of counter-terrorism laws, were used to hinder and stifle protest, and the undercover officers of the SDS and subsequent units established an appalling habit of developing sexual relationships with their female targets; now the subject of the Pitchford inquiry.&nbsp;</p> <p>With this level of surveillance waged against campaigners and trade unionists for decades, the addition of extra hacking powers on top of existing data interception destroy any notion of privacy, and is disastrous for the freedom to protest in the UK. When your mobile phone can become a bugging device, location tracker and file access point without your knowledge, your ability to meaningfully challenge the authorities through the tradition of peaceful protest is gone.&nbsp;</p> <p>When this hacking is carried out under so-called “targeted” warrants (a misnomer if ever there was one, as these permit the hacking of large numbers of people based on vague identifiers) –&nbsp;and when this can happen&nbsp;without audit trail, or notification, we’re in real trouble. Add to all this the recent proposals for a UK '<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/rebecca-vincent/theresa-may-britain-proposed-new-espionage-act-is-alarming" target="_blank">Espionage Act</a>'&nbsp;which could see whistleblowers and journalists jailed for just handling – let alone publishing – ‘sensitive’ information, and the situation looks even more dangerous.</p> <p>Given the track record of police and security services regarding campaigners, it would be absurd to suggest that these powers will not be used to target and undermine protest movements. It’s a global trend, too, and one that the UK is deeply involved in. A new <a href="https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/912" target="_blank">surveillance industry index</a> shows that the UK approved 113 applications for the export of interception tools in 2015-16, selling tools like IMSI catchers, which steal mobile phone communications, to countries such as Turkey, Russia, China and the Gulf states. The use of these interception tools to crush dissent is well-documented, as is the role of private companies in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/11/aclu-geofeedia-facebook-twitter-instagram-black-lives-matter" target="_blank">gathering intelligence on protesters</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg accidentally let the world know that he tapes over the microphone and camera on his laptop. And he’s a man surrounded by lawyers, experts, and advisers, with nearly limitless resources to protect himself from snooping. What chance do ordinary people, with limited awareness of the powers about to be used against them, stand?&nbsp;</p><p> With relatively little debate or scrutiny, the UK is embarking on a surveillance regime that goes beyond any other democratic country. Activists, journalists and even ordinary citizens will now have to find the difficult balance of avoiding the descent into paranoia, while learning how to protect our communications from an expanding surveillance state and its corporate contractors. </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/gilbert-ramsay/report-impacts-of-surveillance-on-contemporary-british-activism">Report: Impacts of surveillance on contemporary British activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/gilbert-ramsay-javier-argomaniz/authoritarian-britain-is-made-freer-by-eu">Authoritarian Britain is made freer by the EU</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 Jen Stout Tue, 07 Mar 2017 12:38:03 +0000 Jen Stout 109285 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The battle of Samsung and what you can do about it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/battle-of-samsung-and-what-you-can-do-about-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Samsung has been in more than a spot of bother over the last year. In October 2016, just two months after its release, the latest model in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note series was discontinued, as...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Samsung has been in more than a spot of bother over the last year. In October 2016, just two months after its release, the latest model in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note series was discontinued, as batteries within the phones had been causing them to combust. Exploding phones caused Samsung to lose its coveted spot as the smartphone vendor with the largest portion of global market share, falling behind Apple in the last quarter of 2016 for the first time since 2011. Samsung’s corner cutting and dangerous practices haven’t been reserved solely for consumers either – they’ve hit their workforce too, seeing them replace Foxconn as the poster child of worker rights abuses in the electronics industry. A group of workers, their families and trade unionists – Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS) – have been staging a sit-in at Samsung’s South Korean global exhibition space for over a year. SHARPS accuse Samsung of causing the death of more than 70 factory workers, and occupational disease of many others due to their exposure to toxic chemicals without adequate protection and are fighting for compensation for workers and their families, as well as for a full disclosure of the chemicals Samsung has required workers to use in manufacturing. Earlier this year a South Korean court confirmed that the Korean Workers Compensation and Welfare Service should pay compensation to an LCD worker – Kim Mi-seon, for Multiple Sclerosis she suffered through her work at Samsung – the first ruling of its kind. SHARPS campaign is not an isolated case. In October, the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) released a damning report on working conditions across all of Samsung’s supply chains, from China to Brazil and from South Korea to Indonesia. One of the most concerning allegations in the report is that Samsung operate a ‘no-union’ policy in its own factories and actively seeks to prevent the formation of unions at its suppliers. Attempts to restrict freedom of association are common with much of the global manufacturing industry, but few companies have been as effective as Samsung at achieving it. In 2014, it was estimated that across Samsung’s entire supply chain in South Korea, just 300 workers were members of trade unions. Samsung Electronics directly employs more than 300,000 people. Samsung’s ability to suffer relative impunity is a direct result of the significance the company has in South Korea’s economic and political system. The centrality of the company to the economy of South Korea allows their practices to go unchallenged. Samsung is gargantuan monolith that is responsible for more than a quarter of South Korean exports, has an annual revenue exceeding the GDP of Cambodia and Honduras , and is responsible for almost a fifth of South Korean GDP. Samsung is the largest of the ‘chaebols’ – vast, Korean, family run conglomerates which are often accused of engaging in aggressive monopolisitc behaviour and asserting significant influence over government officials and policy. So unfathomably large is Samsung, and so wide its influence, a common joke among South Koreans is to refer to their country as the ‘Republic of Samsung.’ Since the 1997 economic crisis that affected South Korea, along with other so called ‘Tiger Economies’ of East Asia, much has been written of the declining political influence of South Korea’s chaebols. The state no longer has a majority stake in any chaebol and numerous executives have been charged and convicted for white collar crime. In spite of this, the few CEOs found to have engaged in embezzlement, bribery, fraud and tax avoidance have been granted pardons or offered laughably lenient sentences. The true extent of corruption within the South Korean political system is slowly being revealed in the scandal that engulfed the currently suspended and impeached President Park. The scandal began to emerge at the close of 2016, with allegations that Choi Soon-sil, an associate of the president with no official government position, was granted access to confidential government documents, exerted influence over key aspects of state policy and extorted millions of dollars from the chaebols. As the scandal has boiled over into 2017, Samsung’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong was arrested on February 16th, with authorities alleging over $30 million were paid by Lee to Choi Soon-sil in return for political favours in addition to accusations of embezzlement and perjury. This isn’t the company’s first major run-in with the law. Lee Jae-yong’s father previously faced allegations of bribery of prosecutors, judges and political figures in 2008. He was sentenced to an almost $100 million fine and a suspended jail sentence after having been found guilty of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion, but was later pardoned by the then President of South Korea. Only time will tell if this corruption scandal will cause more lasting damage to the political system and the chaebols that prop it up. Pressure is coming both from outside traditional structures, with up to 2 million people regularly taking to the streets in South Korea in protest over the scandal, and in the courts. Perhaps the time has finally come for long overdue reform of the political and business models of South Korea. With it, there would come a unique opportunity to ensure the dignity and rights of workers across the country, but specifically at Samsung. In the meantime, the ITUC has gathered nearly 15,000 petition signatures calling for the abolition of Samsung’s no-union policy, and students across the UK and Ireland are taking action against and applying direct pressure to Samsung over the next two weeks, as international solidarity with Samsung workers grows. At a time when Samsung is under intense media scrutiny, we have a real chance of putting pressure on the company to improve working conditions within their supply chain. Samsung and the struggle to hold them to account is a key example of how public procurement is being used in solidarity with local organisers to put pressure on companies and defend workers’ rights around the world: with people across the UK campaigning to get their college, university, local authority or other public body to join Electronics Watch, an independent labour monitoring organisation in the ICT industry. You can sign the ITUC’s petition here.</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 Chris Jarvis Tue, 07 Mar 2017 10:31:12 +0000 Chris Jarvis 109280 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Responding to Brexit: breaking with neo-liberalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jon-bloomfield/responding-to-brexit-breaking-with-neo-liberalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The last of this series discusses how the damage caused by traditional left and social democratic party embrace of neo-liberal models of globalisation can be repaired, and social democracy reframed.</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-26433861.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26433861.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'>Eurogroup meeting. May 2016. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is talking with the Dutch Minister of Finance, President of the Council Jeroen Dijsselbloem and the Luxembourg Minister of Finance. Thierry Monasse/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the twentieth century the Left achieved social advances through the nation state. As Pascal Lamy expressed it when he was Head of the World Trade Organisation, “Historically, the success of social democracy was to promote a compromise between labour and capital, between the state and the market and between commercial competition and social solidarity. Globalisation has unhinged the balance by taking away all the domestic levers by which we maintained the compromise”<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>&nbsp; <span class="mag-quote-center">The task is to find new avenues for the social compromises that the left previously created.</span></p> <p>That is why talk about ‘building a new Britain’ or a ‘progressive economic nationalism’ (Colin Hines, Guardian letters 25 February) is so unrealistic; and why John McDonnell was unwise to speak about ‘the enormous opportunities’ of Brexit. Social democracy in one country is a non-starter in an interdependent world. With such an open economy, the UK trying to challenge international capital on its own would get nowhere. The fate that befell the Mitterrand government in France in the early 1980s should serve as a reminder to all those on the left who talk in such casual terms. The task is to find new avenues for the social compromises that the left previously created. Yet the articulation of a strategy that combines the national with the European has so far proved a step too far for all parts of the left. Over the past two decades it has been led up two cul de sacs. </p> <p>Firstly, for a brief moment in the 1990s with the world economy booming and the optimism of the ‘end of history’ moment, a benevolent globalization scenario seemed plausible, especially as overseen by two such fluent orators as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. As the Panglossian Peter Mandelson described it, “Globalisation offers all the best the world can offer. We must not sound as if we believe there is a tension between labour and capital, or competition and solidarity.”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> Such utopian optimism and naiveté was starkly exposed by global crisis. <span class="mag-quote-center">The articulation of a strategy that combines the national with the European has so far proved a step too far for all parts of the left.</span></p> <p>But worse, by believing all issues of class to be old-fashioned, Third Way social democracy left the field wide open to others. What begun as a marketing ploy – New Labour – quickly turned its opposite – Old Labour – into a term of contempt. Blair and Brown thought the traditional working class Labour constituencies had nowhere else to go and so they left the field free to the nationalist, populist and racist Right to exploit the grievances of older working class communities and those left behind by globalisation. The adoption of Blairite approaches elsewhere combined with the collapse of the Communist parties in France and Italy has had the same result throughout. As the free movement of labour across Europe meant increased competition for manual labouring jobs and renewed pressure on housing, social and health services, the neo-liberal operation of the Single Market became a growing issue that the nationalist Right has been able to exploit. <span class="mag-quote-center">The adoption of Blairite approaches… combined with the collapse of the Communist parties in France and Italy has had the same result.</span></p> <p>Secondly, within the countries that adopted the Euro, this situation has been exacerbated by German ‘ordo-liberalism’ – the mind-set that has hegemonised the European economic policy debate. The ideological and budgetary straitjacket of ordo-liberalism was enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty and its consequences were revealed during the financial crisis with disastrous political results for social democratic parties across Europe.&nbsp; They have sleepwalked into disaster. </p> <p>Scared to embrace Keynesian economics, these parties have colluded with austerity.&nbsp; As a consequence, social democracy has disappeared as a force in Poland and Hungary where they followed these orthodoxies; been butchered in Spain, massacred in Greece and has been stagnating elsewhere across Europe. </p> <p>The policy has been absolutely lethal to the EU’s reputation for displaying competence and delivering economic prosperity. Yet this is the philosophy that currently pervades all the key EU institutions and policy-makers. And it still retains its grip on key parts of European social democracy.<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>&nbsp; <span class="mag-quote-center">The historic question is whether European social democrats have the wit and energy to break from this straitjacket and work together with others to construct an alternative scenario for Europe.</span></p> <p>The historic question is whether European social democrats have the wit and energy to break from this straitjacket and work together with others to construct an alternative scenario for Europe. This is a task that requires the alignment and engagement of those far beyond the traditional forces of the Left and progressive movement. OpenDemocracy readers in the UK should be clear that this crisis is not a private affair of those within the Eurozone: it directly affects all those parties and movements wanting to shape Europe in a progressive direction. </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/PA-24973007.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24973007.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'>Eurogroup meeting. December 2015. Greek Finance Minister Euklid Tsakalotos and Eurogroup President Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Wiktor Dabkowski/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>As if that weren't enough…</strong></h2> <p>Yet this transformation cannot occur in a twentieth century fashion. The world has moved on. How?</p> <p>Firstly, the developed world is more fragmented socially: technological change and automation has taken its toll of the industrial working class, one could even say it has dug its grave. The concentration of capital has continued but is now accompanied by the dispersal of labour. Workers in the pits, shipyards, steel plants and engineering factories no longer have the numerical and social weight to be the self-defining core of the labour and progressive movement.</p> <p>Secondly, the reality of climate change and the environmental crisis means that green development has to be a signature tune of any twenty-first century progressive movement. That demands a new approach to the use of resources, with policies that establish a new relationship with nature as a priority.</p> <p>Thirdly, gender and race will play a far greater role in progressive politics. The contraceptive revolution has transformed the life choices of women and the demands of an equality agenda in economic, social and cultural life will grow. Francois Fillon and Jarosław Kaczyński may try to turn the clock back but the moves for equality at work, in relationships and wider cultural life, go with the historic grain. The same applies on race. Newcomers have settled in Europe’s cities from all corners of the globe. They, their children and now in many cases their grandchildren are making their lives here. Despite the efforts of Farage, Le Pen and Wilders there is no going back. Yet how to successfully weave issues of gender and race into traditional class-based narratives remains unclear. <span class="mag-quote-center">Despite the efforts of Farage, Le Pen and Wilders there is no going back.</span></p> <p>Fourthly, the ICT revolution means that the previous top-down, hierarchical structures are tarnished in the eyes of many citizens. A naive eulogy to ‘bottom-up’ or ‘the grassroots’ is inadequate. Rather, there needs to be recognition of the inter-dependence of power between the different spheres of government – neighbourhood, city, regional, national and European – and a concomitant devolution and autonomy of governmental power. Complementary to this, there needs to be a far greater decentralisation of power and responsibility within organisations. To give one example, Scottish Labour can no longer be a ‘branch office’ of UK Labour. </p> <p>Finally, underpinning these changes is the reality that in Europe, economics has leapt the boundary of the nation state. The optimal economic area is now continental in scale. Perhaps Japan is a partial exception. In small and medium-sized states, all the main production processes rely on integrated supply chains operating across borders. On a recent 30 minute trip along the M6 in the Midlands I passed lorries from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland and Spain, the physical reality of cross-European supply chains and integrated production – now threatened by the UK’s removal from the Single Market. Hence the need argued in these articles for the UK and Europe to retain a close working relationship. More than this, only a concerted attempt to combine the national and the European in a new way will be able to create a social Europe rather than an austerity Europe. <span class="mag-quote-center">Complementary to this, there needs to be a far greater decentralisation of power and responsibility within organisations.</span></p> <p>These five changes indicate why progressive politics is struggling to adapt to the scale of the transformation that is needed. At one level this is about developing new policies. When Benoit Hamon suggested taxing robots he was dismissed as a crank, yet less than a week later Bill Gates was repeating the idea. However, to focus primarily on policies is to make the mistake of many of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. The more profound and urgent issue is how to bring together a diverse range of forces in a new alliance. </p> <p>The declining role of the working class does not mean that you ignore it or deride it as ‘Old Labour.’ But rather how do you tell a story that brings working class communities in older industrial areas together with those working on their own, or in newer sectors of the economy and in the larger cities. And that requires a range of political skills and competences that understands both the strategic and the tactical; how to gain new allies and divide opponents. This combination of relevant policies; an appreciation of the importance of alliances; and the political and tactical acumen to develop and sustain them is more important than ever for twenty first century progressive politics. <span class="mag-quote-center">The issue is not to be distracted by calls from Tony Blair for a second referendum.</span></p> <p>In the UK, Brexit is the immediate test. The issue is not to be distracted by calls from Tony Blair for a second referendum. The key issue is to retain access to the Single Market. These articles have shown how that is a perfectly feasible option within the terms of the existing European Treaties. A shrewd leadership focused on this aim would be able to split major sections of the business and financial community from the Conservative Party and the tabloid press. But to do so, it would need not to fear making friends with the CBI and sharing platforms with John Major. The Trump insurgency and its European acolytes are sharp reminders of the need to create broad popular fronts and cross-class, cross-party alliances. Campaigning for the retention of the UK within the Single Market is the place to start.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> See Robin Cook. Point of Departure (2003)</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Ibid.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> The head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijesselbloem is a Dutch Labour Party minister, at least until the March 2017 Dutch general election, while German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel when leader of his country’s Social Democrats expressed fiercer hostility to the Tsipras government than Angela Merkel in June and July 2015.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jon-bloomfield/responding-to-brexit-taking-political-initiative">Responding to Brexit: taking the political initiative</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jon-bloomfield/responding-to-brexit-returning-to-social-market-model-on-migration">Responding to Brexit: returning to a social market model on migration</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 Jon Bloomfield Tue, 07 Mar 2017 08:22:17 +0000 Jon Bloomfield 109247 at https://www.opendemocracy.net