openDemocracy en Don't forget the role of the press in Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The lies of Britain's papers have been key to shaping the country's current predicament </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image:</span></span></span></p><p class="Body"><em>They lied and they got away with it and that’s outrageous – s</em>ince the referendum this sentiment has prompted hundreds of thousands of words of commentary, and rightly so. A crisis so grave and unexpected inevitably makes us suspect some underlying, fundamental shift that we must hurry to comprehend, and so ideas that were not previously at the centre of our thinking have arrived there, with a bang. </p> <p>We ask ourselves whether we have entered a post-factual society dominated by emotion, whether social media are killing the truth, whether society is fracturing in ways that traditional political discourse can’t express. </p><p class="Body">In the excitement and confusion, however, it is worth reminding ourselves how much of what we have experienced is <em>not </em>new. If we do that, then at the very least we should have a clearer picture of what has really changed, which in turn might help us to respond better.</p> <p class="Body">Who lied? Politicians for one. There is nothing new about that. The press for another: the right-wing dailies and Sundays that dominate the national newspaper market lied again and again, and no one could say there was anything new in that.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Anyone else? A good case is made that news broadcasters assisted the liars by presenting lies and truth on an equal footing in the name of ‘balance’, but this too is hardly a new problem: look at the history of climate change reporting. And whatever they may have done wrong, the broadcasters can’t reasonably be accused of deliberately lying to the public.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Then there are the social media, the algorithmed, bitesized bubble-world in which many if not most of us now experience news. That is certainly new, although it is easy to exaggerate how new – many people in their twenties today can’t remember life without social media while few in their thirties can have much recollection of life before the internet. That’s a lot of people.</p> <p class="Body">The distorting effects of internet and social media activity may well have influenced the referendum outcome and they definitely need close study and debate. But we don’t yet have evidence that they played a decisive or even a significant role. And we can say with confidence that the lies which appear to have made a difference – and the emotions to go with them – did not originate on Facebook, on Twitter or in blogs, though no doubt those media provided an echo-chamber for them.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">And despite persistent claims that in some post-modern way ‘facts don’t work’ in politics any more, the referendum experience does not begin to prove that, for this important reason: fact-testing was not allowed to function properly in the campaign. </p> <p class="Body">Yes, there were debates and confrontations in which remainers challenged leavers and vice versa, and yes there were online fact-checkers at work, from Full Fact and other dedicated and serious bodies, but none of this was able to shake, discredit or erase the lies.</p> <p class="Body">We need to confront this: the forces that generated and defended the lies were not new but old. Those lies were crafted by politicians and the right-wing press, and above all it was the power of right-wing newspapers, notably <a href="">the Mail</a> and <a href="">the Sun</a> but also <a href="">the Express</a> and the Telegraph, that ensured that lies could not be effectively exposed for what they were.</p> <p class="Body">Far-fetched? Paranoid? Not in the least. The enterprise began decades ago, when these papers adopted the EU as a scapegoat. Anything that could be blamed on a supposedly overweening, top-heavy, mad and unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy was blamed on it, and from the 1980s onwards fictions were created about its decisions.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Thus they created the climate. Once the referendum became a real possibility they proceeded to whip up the storm, confecting new lies of their own and propagating those of others for all they were worth. </p> <p class="Body">Getting away with this was easy because, despite the Leveson Report and the will of parliament, when it comes to ethics and accuracy the national press remains free to mark its own homework, answerable only to a complaints body (‘IPSO’) entirely of its own design. IPSO is the discredited Press Complaints Commission with new window-dressing: even if it wanted to raise standards of accuracy in reporting it does not have the power. </p> <p class="Body">Thanks to IPSO, therefore, these papers lied to their millions of readers every day with complete impunity, and it is hardly surprising that the lies steadily grew bigger and more brazen. </p> <p>But surely, you might think, there were truthful journalists capable of challenging the lies in other publications, online and on screen. Surely in the internet age every liar can be called out. This is a misconception. </p><p class="Body">Truthful journalists exist, and there are papers such as the Financial Times and the Guardian which have a serious commitment to accuracy, but they have nothing like the reach or power of the Sun and the Mail. As for the Mirror, which opposed Brexit, it may still have a daily sale of almost a million but in comparison with the two market leaders it is poor, understaffed, muddled and unimaginative. </p> <p class="Body">And just as they dominate the newsstands, the Mail and the Sun – prodded along by the ever more reckless Express – are able to set the agenda for broadcast news. </p> <p class="Body">If the Mail goes big on anything, and it does that every day, the editors in the television and radio news studios rarely have the nerve to ignore that claim or that subject, no matter how crazy it might be. And thanks to the legal obligation to provide balance the views of the Mail and the Sun, however blatantly dishonest, are almost always at least half the picture. </p> <p class="Body">Meanwhile, of course, in their own pages these papers almost never present a balanced view. On the contrary, they blot out the opinions and activities of their adversaries so far as they can, and on those occasions when they have no choice but to engage (perhaps because those adversaries have managed to make their point on television) they resort to the personal, to mockery, to mudslinging and to more lies. </p> <p class="Body">This is the power of the megaphone. This is how the truth gets lost, and how those who seek to test facts on behalf of the public are drowned out, marginalised and hamstrung.</p> <p class="Body">At the same time, the arguments are vigorously infused with emotions, so that reason is pushed to the margin. Neither Twitter nor Donald Trump invented this; newspapers have been piping outrage, fury and contempt into our homes and lives for decades. Paul Dacre, the editor of the Mail, doesn’t talk about informing his readers, he talks about making them laugh, making them cry and most of all making them angry. </p> <p class="Body">These were the forces at work in the referendum and very little about them was new. Most of the same things happened in the 2015 election, and look at the result then. </p> <p class="Body">They also happened, to give another recent example, in the response of these and some other newspapers to the gravest crisis they have experienced in decades: the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Their campaign of lies and thuggery in relation to that inquiry, combined with their power over a mystifyingly compliant David Cameron, ensured that even though parliament approved reforms to press regulation, and even though public opinion was overwhelmingly behind the changes, nothing happened.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">A little further back, similar methods were used in the press assault on the family of Madeleine McCann.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">This is not to suggest that the referendum outcome was exclusively the work of Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and their ilk. Other people and other factors, including factors wholly unrelated to the EU, played their parts. Farage, Johnson and Gove, for example, were capable of contriving evasions and distractions of their own, while the Remain campaign was, to say the least, unsophisticated and lacklustre. </p> <p class="Body">But this much is surely clear: <em>the Leave victory, which relied so heavily on falsehood, would not have been possible without the full-blooded commitment of the right-wing press</em>. This means that, while it is right to scrutinise other, newer factors that may have been at work, it would be a mistake to lose sight of the vital role of editors and proprietors. </p> <p class="Body">Two further points need to be made and the first is this. Deliberate press dishonesty may be old and familiar, but it always was and it still is absolutely wrong. It is an offence against civilised society and a betrayal of the responsibilities of journalism. In the words of the journalist <a href="">Peter Oborne</a>: ‘Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.’ </p> <p class="Body">If that sounds high-minded, then consider this. As a society, we choose to subsidise our newspapers every year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds by zero-rating them for VAT, and we do that on the grounds that those newspapers are essential to us because they provide the information we need as citizens if we are to make democratic decisions. Now ask yourself: are the Sun, the Mail and the Express performing that role?</p> <p class="Body">Finally, this is not just about the past. It is also about the future. If you imagine that one day a couple of years hence it will be possible to have a reasoned national argument about whether the terms of Brexit are good for Britain or ruinous, then think again. Unless something changes, exactly the same storm of falsehood will engulf that discussion as did the referendum.</p> <p>Equally, if you believe that five or ten years from now it might be possible to reach some reasoned national view about whether Britain has gained or lost by Brexit you are kidding yourself. The Mail and the Sun – they may not exist as print papers but there is every reason to assume they will still enjoy great power – will do all they can to prevent a rational, fact-based public assessment.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">This is a bleak prospect, but change is possible and it can begin now. We came close in the aftermath of Leveson, and the structures have all been created. When David Cameron lost his nerve, however, or had his lead jerked by the editors and proprietors, he failed to deliver the sticks and the carrots needed to make the system work. </p> <p>A stroke of a pen, quite literally, is all that is needed now to initiate the process of protecting the British public from press abuse while at the same time painstakingly safeguarding freedom of expression. It can be done, if the government will do it. Perhaps together we could shame it into doing so. </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/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Brian Cathcart Fri, 29 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Brian Cathcart 104382 at The banality of Golden Dawm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With Golden Dawn having entrenched themselves as the third-largest party in Greece, can they still be considered a 'criminal gang'? Or is this just the new political normal in Greece?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Golden Dawn rally in Athens, Jan 2016. PAimages/Yorgos Karahalis. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Golden Dawn remains Greece’s third most popular party. Since 2012, the party has succeeded in maintaining the solidarity and <em>groupness </em>of its voters intact during a series of electoral contests (local, national, and European). </p><p>Nevertheless, Golden Dawn’s leadership is currently standing trial on criminal accusations and this has complicated the operation of the party. The questions addressed here are: How significant is Golden Dawn as a political actor and what does this imply about Greece’s <em>stateness</em>? Does Golden Dawn still manage to attract voters on the basis of its opposition to immigration and how?</p> <h2><strong>The phase of consolidation (2011-2013)</strong></h2> <p>Golden Dawn succeeded in emerging as Greece’s third most popular party during the period between 2011 and 2013. </p><p>Throughout these turbulent and transitional years, the party managed to successfully locate the present into the context of the past in its rhetoric. Accusations levied against Brussels over the harsh terms of the Memorandum interweaved in the speech of the party-leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, with allusions to older ‘injustices’ inflicted upon Greece by the Great Powers (e.g. the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the Asia Minor catastrophe in the 1920s). </p><p>Most importantly, Golden Dawn’s ‘bottom-up’ campaign into Greek politics largely benefitted from the party’s street-level engagement, as an <em>extra-institutional</em> actor, with the objective to combat ‘immigrant criminality’ in the underprivileged quarters of inner Athens, Piraeus, and western Thessaloniki. By contrast to, say, the division of labour between Jobbik and its militant segment (the <em>Magyar Gárda</em>) in Hungary, Golden Dawn functioned as a centralized agent.</p> <p>Back then, the party’s rise to popularity was facilitated by two major catalysts: The one of them was the public disillusionment with the PM Antonis Samaras over the reversal from his erstwhile anti-austerity rhetoric and the admission of the EU’s Memorandum of Understanding. The other was the alleged incompetence of the state authorities to manage the complexities of immigration and battle ‘immigrant criminality’ efficiently. </p><p>The period between 2011 and 2013 saw a string of unidentified physical assaults against immigrants and refugees across Greece. The most noteworthy was the attack on a colony of Egyptian fishermen in Piraeus, in June 2012 (whose legal employment in Greece had been agreed upon in a bilateral treaty between the Greek and Egyptian governments). </p><p>Meanwhile, Golden Dawn had already consolidated its status as Greece’s third largest party in the June 2012 parliamentary elections (with a considerable appeal among the police and the security forces, especially in the constituencies of inner Athens).</p> <p>Although many had hinted at the party’s violent street-level engagement, the authorities remained questionably idle. Nevertheless, the stabbing and murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a hip-hop artist and self-styled antifa activist, by an alleged Golden Dawn affiliate (Georgios Roupakias) in September 2013 turned out to be a watershed. </p><p>The then PM Antonis Samaras swiftly cracked down on the party and ordered the arrest of Nikolaos Michaloliakos, Ilias Kasidiaris (Golden Dawn’s second-in-command) and the rest of the leadership. Several commentators argued that Golden Dawn had underestimated the persistence of <em>ethnocentrism</em> in Greek society before targeting a rival who was ethnically Greek himself. </p> <h2><strong>Golden Dawn under the SYRIZA/ANEL government: A slow return to political <em>normality</em>?</strong></h2> <p>During its days in the opposition, SYRIZA had called for the swift acceleration of the legal procedures against Golden Dawn. Party-representatives had regarded the delays in the legal process as highly suspicious. They even spoke of a <em>modus vivendi</em> between the previous government and Golden Dawn whereby the latter had, informally, taken over the policing of underprivileged urban quarters from ‘immigrant crime’. </p><p>The leaked conversation between Ilias Kasidiaris and Panayiotis Baltakos (a former New Democracy MP) in April 2014 added further substance to these accusations. Nevertheless, as soon as the new government took over (January 2015), the stagnation in the court case against Golden Dawn has been prolonged. Moreover, the party’s leadership and Georgios Roupakias himself were temporarily released on bail until the trial is completed. </p><p>Therefore, what were the obstacles that made the SYRIZA/ANEL government ostensibly renege from their initial pressures and commitments? These hindrances fall under two categories: <em>macro-political</em> and <em>micro-political</em>. </p> <p>Starting with the macro-political ones, the transformation of Greece’s formerly two-party system (consisting of PASOK and New Democracy) saw the formation of two, equally feeble, government coalitions: the previous one, consisting of the old bitter rivals (New Democracy and PASOK), and the current consisting of SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (ANEL). </p><p>With specific regard to the latter, a <a href="">series</a> of <a href=";view=itemlist&amp;layout=category&amp;task=category&amp;id=10&amp;Itemid=137&amp;lang=en">opinion-polls</a> hint at SYRIZA’s continuous decrease in popularity. As it became clear during the tenure of the New Democracy and PASOK condominium, a fragile government often corresponds to weak <em>stateness</em>. This refers to the low capacity of the institutions to enforce authority and implement the rule of law in a coordinated and efficient manner throughout the territory of the state. </p><p>It was largely this weak <em>stateness</em> which enabled Golden Dawn to commence its grass-roots engagement and emerge as a powerful extra-institutional actor between 2011 and 2013. </p> <p>With regard to the micro-political catalysts, Golden Dawn remains Greece’s third most popular party with a steady performance in five electoral contests since 2012 (three national, one local, and one European). Some of the latest opinion-polls estimate the party’s popularity to range between 8 and 8.5%. There may even be some grounds to assume that a certain percentage of SYRIZA’s more apolitical voters have diverted their support towards Golden Dawn in a <a href="">gesture of protest</a> to Alexis Tsipras’ seeming capitulation to the creditors. </p><p>More importantly, the SYRIZA/ANEL government badly needs the parliamentary majority in order to pass not only the terms of the ‘Third Memorandum’ but also a series of domestic legal measures (e.g. the new law proposed on the licenses of private TV-stations and the new draft law on the national electoral system). In a recent statement that was met with much controversy, the SYRIZA MP and Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, Nikos Voutsis, reiterated that: ‘…in a democratically-elected parliament, all voices must be heard; including those of parties such as Golden Dawn’. </p> <p>Golden Dawn’s leadership did not grant its assent to the new draft law on the national elections. However, the government’s attempts to lure them into doing so may serve as an early indication for Golden Dawn’s gradual return to political <em>normality </em>largely as result of Greece’s weak <em>stateness </em>and the short-term objectives of the ruling coalition. The party’s success in maintaining (if not increasing) the solidarity and <em>groupness</em> of its electorate intact, in the light of the criminal accusations, further substantiates this claim. </p> <h2><strong>Immigration politics and prospects for the future</strong></h2> <p>Vehement opposition to immigration and insistence on a ‘hard borders’ approach still form key component of Golden Dawn’s political platform. Ilias Kasidiaris and other high-rank members (e.g. Ilias Panayiotaros) have participated in the latest mobilization against the hotspots for refugees in the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesbos, and elsewhere (e.g. northern Greece). </p><p>Nevertheless the party’s public engagement over immigration has lost much of its older violent connotations. On the one hand, Golden Dawn’s leading core has come to realize the limits of their previous strategy despite Greece’s weak <em>stateness</em>. More urgently, the major preoccupation among the party’s leadership is how to achieve a more lenient decision in the ongoing court case.</p> <p>At this given moment, it might appear rather precarious to proceed to sound predictions over the possible trajectories for Golden Dawn in the immediate future. However, in the event that a more lenient court decision is finally achieved, one might foresee the party’s evolution along the following paths. </p><p>First, the more youthful and dynamic Ilias Kasidiaris is very likely to overshadow Nikolaos Michaloliakos in the party’s leadership. This, in turn, may lead to Golden Dawn’s progressive <em>‘Jobbik-ization’</em>. This means the gradual dissolution of the more militant segment(s) from the political <em>core</em> and the cultivation of a public image which might render the party more popular to a wider spectrum of the electorate (e.g. pensioners and other older voters). </p><p>Nevertheless, this scenario remains highly subject to the interplay between Greece’s weak <em>stateness</em> and the immediate political (also legal) developments.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&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/golden-dawn-organising-encouraging-sustained-by-violence">Golden Dawn: organising, encouraging, sustained by violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/othon-anastasakis/far-right-in-greece-and-theory-of-two-extremes-0">The far right in Greece and the theory of the two extremes</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"> Greece </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? Greece Vassilis Petsinis Fri, 29 Jul 2016 22:04:11 +0000 Vassilis Petsinis 104391 at Why a second independence referendum is not inevitable in Scotland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the complexity of post-Brexit Britain, a second independence referendum in Scotland isn't the dead-cert some think.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image: Yes Scotland</span></span></span></p><p>The consensus is that a second independence referendum is now inevitable. The SNP assertion in its 2016 manifesto of the Scottish parliament’s right to hold a referendum “if there is a significant and material change” has taken on renewed relevance, especially since the only quoted example was “being taken out of the EU against our will”. </p> <p>After the 62-38 vote to Remain in the EU in Scotland, Brexit has highlighted the democratic deficit once more. This is in addition to Trident renewal and the proposed scrapping of the Human Rights Act. Post-Brexit polling has shown a 10 point bounce for independence. In this context, Alex Salmond has said that Indyref2 is ‘inevitable’ if Scotland can’t stay in the EU and that this will have to take place within the Brexit timetable.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there are a number of factors which could prevent a new referendum from taking place. These include: debates over the timing for Indyref2; the tactics currently being adopted in lieu of a new referendum and finally the drawn out negotiations over Brexit between Sturgeon, May and the EU.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Timing</strong></h2> <p>Despite being obviously committed to independence, Nicola Sturgeon is extremely cautious and very guarded in her language. On the possibilities post Brexit, she states:</p> <blockquote><p>“If we find that our interests can’t be protected in a UK context, independence must be one of those options”&nbsp; </p></blockquote><p>Similarly:</p> <blockquote><p>“Everything, up to and including independence, is on the table”</p></blockquote> <p>Therefore, even once Scotland is refused continued membership of the EU, it is still seen as an “option” rather than a certainty. This is presumably why Salmond saw fit to directly contest this by saying that without EU membership within the UK, a second referendum was “not just on the table, but inevitable”.</p> <p>This proxy war between Salmond and Sturgeon over tactics is also evident in the depute leadership campaign currently under way in the SNP, initiated after the previous incumbent, Stewart Hosie, was forced to step down. </p> <p>The main dynamic of this depute leadership election exposes the caution of Nicola Sturgeon in relation to the increasing impatience of elements of the SNP membership. In short, to win the contest, you have to make loud noises about Indyref2 and the certainty of independence.&nbsp; </p><p>Whilst all the candidates are making these noises, the eventual victor will influence how likely Indyref2 actually is. Tommy Sheppard is the most reliable in this respect, given his desire to mobilise the grassroots of the party and his aim of a clear campaigning focus.</p> <p>Tied in to the discussion about timing is the requirement of elements of the SNP and the Yes movement to have a clear 60/40 in favour before pro-independence supporters can safely call it, lest the indy flame be extinguished forever.</p> <p>However, to consistently get 60/40 for a sustained period is a serious ask. Waiting for the perfect time to strike is just as likely to mean independence is never achieved as acting decisively. In addition, it is not too far fetched to say the 10 point bounce may be temporary, especially if those supporting independence do not campaign whilst everything is still in flux and whilst people are most open to ideas and discussion.</p> <p>Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has said that he is “sceptical of the chances of victory in a premature second attempt” and warned against starting a campaign “with no timescale to work to”.</p> <p>Ronnie Cowan has further argued that campaigners for independence should “take a break” and wait for a “clearer picture” to emerge post Brexit.</p> <p>Whatever the intent, comments like these have the effect of encouraging passivity within the Yes movement and of limiting the influence of more radical voices (since grassroots campaigners don’t have access to the media in the same way, what else can be done but grassroots campaigning?).</p> <p>Although the SNP conference in October will debate independence, it seems unlikely that anything will be any “clearer” by that point. At the risk of considerable understatement, the uncertainty over post-Brexit discussions could last a very long time. It is worth remembering that this whole process is unprecedented and two years may well be a minimum rather than a maximum timescale.</p> <p>So, given the importance of the 60% trigger to some key players, the tactics deployed now matter a great deal and may well be undermining the case already. </p> <h2><strong>Tactics</strong></h2> <p>Firstly, as journalist Jamie Maxwell has pointed out, this campaign is already being pitched as maintaining stability versus disruption and will hence target the wealthy and the business lobby. </p> <p>A lot was made of Kerevan’s <a href="">article in CityAM</a> with his talk of post independence “fiscal consolidation”. The Herald headline of “5 years of austerity” was perhaps unfair given that he didn’t actually say that and that he also spoke of “shared economic pain” which potentially allows for tax rises on the super-rich. However, even being this generous, the key point is that he opened himself up to this criticism precisely because of whom he was trying to court. Appealing to the wealthy is not going to win a new referendum and will ensure far more votes are lost than could ever possibly be gained. This is without even mentioning the dispiriting effect it will have on the wider Yes movement.</p> <p>Secondly, the tactics of elements of the Yes movement with respect to the EU are also problematic. If anything, the land of “milk and honey” caricature of Scottish independence would be better applied to the EU. This is especially true since Scotland in the EU would have even less power than the UK does in that relationship.</p> <p>Moreover, the EU issue will not motivate people to campaign. Many of the poorest in Scottish society voted Leave and for independence. In the latter case, the correlation of benefit claimants and Yes was particularly high. Although the EU will inevitably be part of the discussion, moving away from a social justice focus will not even maintain the support that currently exists, let along increase it. Moreover, as Neil Davidson has pointed out, some 400,000 people voted Leave in Scotland. It should go without saying that too much emphasis on the EU will fail to appeal to many of these voters.</p> <p>Similarly, whilst Sturgeon has been very aware that the Leave vote was not simply racism, comments from Alan Cummings about “<a href="">stupid English people</a>” seem particularly counterproductive and misguided. Ironically, it is precisely this kind of patronising attitude that helped to drive the Leave vote in the first place.</p> <p>Lastly, is the question of the EU negotiations and the general uncertainty surrounding these.</p> <p>Theresa May said that she will delay triggering Article 50 “until Scotland’s position becomes clear”. (It is pleasing to see so much consideration given to the Scottish people – I don’t doubt that motivation for a second). The truth is, rather than any consideration of democracy, this reflects May’s need to work through tensions in her own party (largely hidden behind the Parliamentary Labour Party’s self destructive idiocy). After-all, it is worth remembering that the UK government still do not know what position to take in the negotiations.&nbsp; </p><p>In a strange way, there is a temporary mutuality of interests between Sturgeon and May in this delay. For Sturgeon, she wants to show that she is not bashing the Indy button at the first opportunity and is genuine about trying to preserve Scotland’s EU status. It is also entirely possible that this is about managing contradictions in the SNP over tactics and to take some of the heat out of the indy flame post Brexit. </p> <p>The problem with all of this is that whether it is UK/EU or UK/Scotland discussions, drawn out negotiations reduce us all to spectator status. The popular meme “Don’t worry the Sturge has got this” perhaps sums up a dominant sentiment that could emerge. </p> <p>As indicated previously, the problem here is that these negotiations could last a very long time and the energy for indy could easily dissipate in this context.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>Having outlined why there is nothing inevitable about Indyref2, the question remains what the wider independence movement should do to ensure that it does.</p> <ol><li><p>Don’t allow the Yes movement to be trapped in the “perfect timing” strategy which says we need 60/40. This could easily mean that there is never another indyref and the opportunity is lost forever.</p> </li><li><p>Encourage Tommy Sheppard to hold public meetings on the need for a campaign now. This will shape the depute leadership debate and help to motivate the Yes movement. This will also help independence campaigners to reach the hallowed 60% if that is what people think is necessary.</p> </li><li><p>Maintain the key focus on social justice questions. Neither appealing to businesses and the super-wealthy nor running a campaign entirely on a pro-EU ticket will work and will lose more votes than it could ever gain. The EU question will not motivate people in the long term and there is a need to reach out to the 400,000 people who voted Leave in Scotland.</p> </li><li><p>Argue for Nicola Sturgeon to set a deadline for her 5 key demands, at which point if there is no agreement with the EU, we will start negotiations with the UK for Indyref2. At present, Theresa May is making the running. Give her another front to fight on and force the issue. For people waiting for a clear picture, realise that uncertainty will be a permanent feature of UK politics for the foreseeable future. </p> </li><li><p>Join the pro-independence demonstration tomorrow (Saturday 30th July) in Glasgow setting off at 10.30am from the Botanic Gardens.</p> </li><li><p>Call an emergency Radical Independence Conference immediately. Times of political uncertainty are not the time to fall back but the time to act. Whatever people have said, the campaign has started. If the left wants to influence the debate, it has to act now.</p> </li></ol><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</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 reset Danny McGregor Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:37:37 +0000 Danny McGregor 104389 at Power and precarity: the class politics of the Labour leadership race <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour's hotly-contested leadership election is underpinned by issues of class and poverty. Yet the class dynamics at play are seldom openly addressed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Scott Heppell / PA Wire/Press Association Image"><img src="//" alt="Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Scott Heppell / PA Wire/Press Association Image" title="Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Scott Heppell / PA Wire/Press Association Image" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Scott Heppell / PA Wire/Press Association Image</span></span></span>The conflict between the so-called 'corbynistas', and those affiliated with Labour’s centre, right and Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is&nbsp;to an enormous extent&nbsp;underpinned by issues of class and poverty; but few address these issues in anything but the most off-the-cuff and pejorative terms.</p><p>The most obvious example, most frequently circulated and from the Corbyn camp, is that Labour’s centre is effectively 'red tory'; out of touch with the issues of inequality and precarious livelihoods that now blight the UK. The second example I encounter most frequently is levelled more personally at Corbyn. His middle class background and status – shared by some of his loudest supporters – allows him and his supporters to be pinned as people kept alive by trust funds or inherited wealth, granting them the luxury of a jolly in the politics of socialism. Helpfully or unhelpfully, (depending on how polarised we have become), there is truth in both sides of the argument.</p><p>In picking through the dogma, the first thing it seems necessary to establish is that poverty and its precarity are both a form of trauma and a form of minority-status. It is traumatic because it robs you of even the most modest and rightful comforts of a life, and because it places serious obstacles of time, space and resources between you and the future you might have wanted for yourself. In doing so, it blinds you to those opportunities and attributes you do still possess, and it robs you of peace of mind, and of a timeline that extends long enough in front of you for you to plan your own best interests. Life leaves your control. The state of high emotion – anger, resentment, despair, numbness – that this induces (and corbynism is seen by many as an antidote to) can eclipse your ability to make pragmatic decisions. Indeed, this is arguably one of its key features. But any to the right of Labour’s internal spat who would use this instability as evidence that their 'safe hands' should guide the party are glibly underestimating the injustice at the heart of the mood. It is also, crucially, quite possible to have irrational reactions as part of a response to very deep and totally rational grievances.</p><p>This need for empathy extends into the second part of the understanding; that of poverty and class sharing features with minority-status. Statistically, this is not the case: those suffering relative and absolute poverty, or gross material insecurity, now represent a number growing steadily towards a majority in demographics and regions of the UK. Nevertheless, the similarity between their position and those of a minority-status is that those in precarity are deviant from the set of norms and images about 'normal life', and from the political debate and sense of belonging, that is assumed to represent the outlook of the country. This debate&nbsp;does not relate to their lives and so they do not relate to it.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">This debate&nbsp;does not relate to their lives and so they do not relate to it.</span></p><p>This exclusion is corrosive to the self-worth of those it marginalises, but also weakens those mainstream norms, as consequence of the vast numbers of perspectives it fails to see, understand, internalise and so represent. Who is to uphold this norm when it represents normality for increasingly few? Just as men should seldom explain to a woman alleging sexism that they are mistaken and only angry, and just as white people should refrain from explaining to those of different skin colours that their perceived racism is in fact not racism but only their own anger, nor should the materially comfortable, whatever their good-intentions or apparently pragmatic path to a solution, respond to the anger of the dispossessed with only a critique of the anger rather than the dispossession. In the main, you cannot have both material security and an intimate understanding of those without it. Those who claim to are performing a twofold disservice in that they are (1) likely to fog the true circumstances and emotions of precarity and scarcity, while (2) denying those suffering it even the right to articulate the terms of their own experience.&nbsp;This is not to make it an exclusive condition, but as is so often the case, empathy and listening are more welcome than assured explanations.</p><p>The British class system plays a peculiar hand in this relationship, for it produces a culture whereby the better-off often emphasise and subtly glorify their own privations. I am always curious when invited to ‘scrappy’ meals that are comprised of artisan products that never would have appeared on any table I knew growing up in the Midlands. I find those who are better-off will often outline proudly the nature of stints in shit jobs, whereas to most workers of those jobs they represent either only normalcy, frustration, or maybe a minor point of shame. This trait was explored so perfectly and anthemically in Pulp’s <a href="">Common People</a> (1996) it is almost unfair, but the song's mix of cultural observation and social awareness is a sublime piece of musical and lyrical accuracy. If ever it even were the case, class can no longer be used to explain everything in modern Britain; but that is not to say that it no longer explains anything.&nbsp;</p><p>While all of the above might read as a standard defence of the Corbyn project and its associated offshoots, it is not intended as such. For all that I share many of his values, and for all that genuine political principles are not the monopoly of the most hard-up (who all too often have no time or heart left for politics), Corbyn has a very different background to my own - a background I only ever encountered at and since university. Without meaning to be excessively critical, I place Corbyn within that group of people who want the world to be a fairer place, and engage with vigour in the task of making it so, but seldom in their own personal history have had the direct need for it to be that better place. A by-product of this same lack of personal necessity is that others, predominantly in Labour’s centre and right, can give off the sense that, in their help for the betterment of other peoples’ lives, they are committing a benevolence for which we should be grateful, meanwhile agonising at the stubbornness of those who refuse to seize at someone else’s prognosis of their best interests. Nothing could be more off-putting.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">[they] want the world to be a fairer place, and engage with vigour in the task of making it so, but seldom in their own personal history have had the direct need for it to be that better place.</span></p><p>If this characteristic in the PLP and centre creates a lack of empathy, in Corbyn and his followers it often produces something of an over-empathy that – moreover – is directed at characters and notions that are not entirely real. The noble working class, rooted in salt of the earth communities and trades, did and does exist, but so too do other forms of poverty: working poor and workless poor that are often less outwardly noble-seeming, more complex to address. People are not necessarily well-served by only projections of valour and struggle.&nbsp;</p><p>In this outlook, the existence of ‘struggle’ is particularly troublesome, for implicit to a struggle is the idea of an adversary. And if you have an absolutist expectation of adversaries then that delivers a bias towards enmity, when sometimes alliances might be the better tool. This is problematic in much Labour talk about Tories, and now even more problematic in the way much of Momentum seems prepared to disregard the PLP. So it follows that both sides of the feud are content to shed the asset of the other; whether that is the PLP’s contempt for the numbers and enthusiasm of corbynism, or corbynism’s contempt for the expertise, experience and – however differently expressed – commitment of the PLP (not to mention the power vested in the offices they currently hold). If the issue of who started Labour’s civil war has become too great a tussle of chicken and egg, Corbyn’s handling of the media is maybe another facet of the same trend. Seeing hostility rather than opportunity&nbsp;has caused instances where the possible advancement of corbynism was missed - for example, refusing to discuss David Cameron’s personal links to revelations in the Panama Papers, because he Corbyn was asked about it on his doorstep. In life you more often convert your enemies than actually defeating them, and so effective brokerage is more important in politics than dogmatic notions of victory.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">You more often convert your enemies than actually defeating them, and so effective brokerage is more important in politics than dogmatic notions of victory.</span></p><p>Quite probably far too late, this notion of brokerage has entered the Labour spat in the casual-seeming suggestion from Corbyn’s leadership rival,&nbsp;Owen&nbsp;Smith, that the former perhaps be given a sort of presidential role within the Labour p<span>arty. If Labour is to avoid a split, and the poor personal polling of Corbyn with the wider electorate is to be dodged, then something of this nature must eventually take place. However, one presumes that substantive change rather than personalised symbolism would be more to Corbyn’s liking, and simultaneously more reassuring to the wider electorate. A dynamic of class and tone, however, once again brings itself to bear, in that Smith and the PLP should recognise that these overtures are an unusual offer for the outsider to put to the favourite, and that Smith is asking and not granting a concession.&nbsp;</span></p><p>The need for humility is both crucial and absent on all sides. In many ways, both are united by a similar resistance to democracy in which the PLP refuses to acknowledge the mandate and passion of Corbyn’s supporters and voters, and those supporters in turn refuse to acknowledge the wider electorate’s attitude towards Corbyn. Despite this, similarities are also beginning to proliferate between newly announced policies from&nbsp;Owen&nbsp;Smith, and those long-linked to corbynism. Smith has now proposed wealth taxes, inheritance tax and capital gains increases, national investment and repeal of the Trade Union Act, all without any of the fierce criticism Corbyn received for raising the same issues&nbsp;(and indeed with a statesmanlike glow leant generously to a very new MP).&nbsp;It becomes evident that the&nbsp;<em>Corbyn</em>&nbsp;part of 'Project Corbyn' is now the main sticking point.</p><p>Here too exists a disparity that has commonalities with class in the UK, specifically around the increasingly heard charge that Corbyn is a populist – a particularly barbed word in an age of Brexit and Donald Trump. As Smith’s policy proposals coalesce with Corbyn’s, it is impossible not to ask why one is populism and the other not. Furthermore, populism is not a monopoly of opposition for contenders such as Corbyn: “<em>Brexit means Brexit”</em>, “<em>British jobs for British workers”</em>, “<em>Son of a bus driver</em>”, “<em>Hardworking families</em>” and “<em>We can only afford X because we have a strong economy</em>” are all populist tropes that have been used by both governments and successfully elected mayors in recent times; what is being singled out then is not so much Corbyn's populism as his outsider status within parliament.&nbsp;</p><p>This sort of labelling, disparity, and subtle aspersion is likewise what underpins the class system. The labels are damning and stick not because they are levelled and substantiated in strident terms but because nobody would feel the need to. The power is in the subtlety of the judgment on a thing's value, and the assumption by the judge that they were entitled to cast it. Class structures are resolute precisely because they permeate everything and are hard to pinpoint; when you criticise the modern Tory Party, you criticise a body that stands squarely atop nearly two centuries of history, cultural prestige, and major crossovers with civic institutions. As such, that criticism is inevitably directed at only the last speech, policy or U-turn, and rather than the entire, well-embedded body. corbynism, on the other hand, has a body that is narrow and weak; with few major supporters, scant cultural capital to burn, and only a ten month history, the latest criticism is inseparable from the whole because the whole is so small. The mass resignations triggered by Brexit might be regarded as taking to the weakest available target as if it were a punchbag; a Labour equivalent of Francoise Hollande bombing Syria because French and Belgian citizens had attacked Paris.</p><p>The power corbynism does still wield is doubtless confined primarily to within the Labour Party itself. In return for democratic overhaul of that structure, and (re)enshrinement of corbynism in Labour values, there would once have been much to be said for taking a moral high-ground and walking away from the PLP body that refuses to be governed on such terms. Perhaps Corbyn’s doggedness to hang on in may yet prove a decision that usefully and legitimately strengthens both Corbyn’s hand, and even the Labour Party as a whole, should any such deal be forthcoming.</p><p>Labour’s centre, meanwhile, should heed the fact that much of the loyalty to Corbyn stems from a distaste for the fashion in which he has been treated, rather than to the man himself. Many (probably including Corbyn) would defer to a genuinely unifying prospective leader who embodied the values Corbyn was voted in on, and&nbsp;Owen&nbsp;Smith and the Party centre now also seems to share. For as long as both sides refuse point-blank to relinquish what power they have, they simultaneously cancel out their own by denying that of the other half. Growing ever more sure that strength is found in an imposed, clan homogeneity that neither faction will bow to, the sad and ironic fact is that both would be stronger, and certainly more resilient, if from the outset they could strive to avert the false promise of such an outcome.&nbsp;Perhaps in this there is an unlikely lesson to be drawn from the negative examples of class systems and precarity; a set of ideas and circumstances that are hard to define, and consistent but not always coherent, makes for a terrifying opposition.</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/ben-margulies/solidarity-forever-why-labour-shouldnt-split">Solidarity forever? Why Labour shouldn&#039;t split</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-owen/breaking-impasse-how-to-avoid-labour-split">Breaking the impasse: how to avoid a Labour split</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 Julian Sayarer Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:36:58 +0000 Julian Sayarer 104385 at "The majority of Hungarians are apathetic, indifferent, and devoid of hope." An interview with Gaspár M. Tamás <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jaroslav Fiala speaks to Gaspár M. Tamás about the brutality of capitalism, Orbán’s Hungary, and the failure of the European system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//[1].jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//[1].jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gaspar Tamas. PD.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Recently, Europe has been experiencing dangerous times: the crisis of the Eurozone, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right, Brexit, and so on. Is liberal democracy in peril?</strong></p> <p>Nobody can say that liberal democracy has not liberated some people and that some kinds of servitude have not been obliterated. But the current system has run into a number of contradictions. We are experiencing a serious crisis of liberal democracy, which coincides with the “death” of socialism. The necessary condition of liberal democracy was the existence of the workers’ movement. It was the result of a compromise in which, in exchange for inner peace and stability, social democracy had given up some of its revolutionary demands and had become part of the bourgeois state. </p><p>As a result, the lower classes were represented. The inner balance between classes within western welfare states, with privileges for the proletariat, its trade unions, social democratic and communist parties and the international equilibrium between reformed and limited capitalism and the Soviet bloc led to what we today call “liberal democracy”, which existed between 1945 and 1989. Western European labour legislation has followed Soviet and socialist legal patterns from the 1920s, so have legal measures concerning gender equality and family law. This is proven by recent legal-historical scholarship.</p> <p><span>Paradoxically, what is lacking from liberal democracy today, is socialism. This is the reason, why there is no countervailing force that keeps liberal democracy democratic. Today´s ruling classes are not threatened from within. Thus, they can do what even fascists wouldn’t dare to do. They are smashing real wages, pensions, welfare systems, public schools, free healthcare, cheap public transport, cheap social housing and so on. Who will stop the ruling class?</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Is it possible to save liberal democracy?</strong></p> <p>I don’t think so. Liberal democracy was an extremely complicated system. The ruling classes in liberal democracy were limited from the left by the workers’ movement and, from the right, by the forces of the past – by the remnants of the aristocracy, of the church and of monarchy. Liberal democracy on its own is unlikely to survive. In spite of what the liberals think, the far right is no danger for capitalism. Danger for life and limb, but not for capital and not for the state. </p><p>Don’t forget that Adolf Hitler was considered to be the saviour of western civilization from communism. Even people who despised him, such as Friedrich-August von Hayek – the free market zealot, who was after all an anti-Nazi émigré – claimed that Hitler might have been a monster but that he had saved Europe from communism. For people like Hayek, fascism was a preventive anti-communist counterrevolution. Which it was. That it ruined and exterminated half of Europe? Pity. Do you think the bourgeoisie would hesitate now? I don’t think so.</p> <p><strong>You live in Hungary. Many from the outside world are horrified by the government of Viktor Orbán, who is annihilating liberal democracy. On the other hand, some people see a certain alternative or an “interesting choice” in Orbán. What would you say to them?</strong></p> <p>Orbán is doing exactly what you dislike in your own country but since he is doing it without resistance, he seems to be more coherent and successful. There are some admirers of Viktor Orbán in eastern Europe who wouldn’t put up with his system in Hungary for a single day. They admire his talk about national pride, they find it funny that he would “brutally” attack America, the EU, and so on. </p><p>In reality, Hungary is sustained by western European, mostly German capital. We have low taxes for big business, there are “sweetheart deals” for Mercedes and Audi, which aren’t exactly anti-western or anti-capitalist forces. Orbán destroyed the social system. The hospitals are empty because there are no doctors and nurses. People are dying on the corridors. My little daughter goes to an elementary school in the centre of Budapest, and there is no toilet paper and no chalk to write on the blackboard. Orbán is a miserable failure in all respects. And a neoliberal failure at that. The budget is balanced, the debt is down, and the lower forty per cent are starving. Problems are solved just by silencing criticism.</p> <p><strong>Why Orbán has been successful as a politician then?</strong></p> <p>The majority of Hungarians are apathetic, indifferent, and devoid of hope. My country is a very sad place where people say that they can’t do anything in order to forward their aspirations or to change anything. Mr Orbán knows that the secret of success is to support this passivity and apathy. He realized that he should put a stop to the quasi-totalitarian mobilization of society. The first phase of his rule was to mobilize crowds with xenophobic and ethnicist slogans and use extreme militant groups. </p><p>Now all the mobilization networks have been disbanded, as they could become a voice of social discontent. Orbán has destroyed functional bureaucracy, too. Public administration hardly exists, regional administration is officially and openly and completely terminated. Experts, intellectuals, “enlightened&nbsp;<span>bureaucrats” are fired by their thousands. Inner controls don’t exist anymore. Cultural institutions, publishing, periodicals, research, higher education, quality press, good museums and theatres, art cinematography have been destroyed. So have independent media. The result is a dysfunctional state. </span></p><p><span>So, when someone tells you that dictatorship means “law and order”, you should laugh. It means corruption, disorder, total chaos. And it also means the bitter&nbsp; hopelessness of the body politic, which is the true secret of Orbán’s power.</span></p> <p><strong>There has been a lot of criticism of East-Central European countries because of their refusal of solidarity with refugees from the Middle East and Africa. But if we look to the west, there is a lot of racism and resistance towards the refugees as well. What has happened in Europe?</strong></p> <p>The same causes that explain western racism have appeared immediately in eastern Europe and have caused identical phenomena. First, the multinational states of East-Central Europe like Masaryk’s and Havel’s Czechoslovakia and Tito’s Yugoslavia had vanished. We have created small, ethnic, monocultural, monolingual non-republics, in which we are supposed to live.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Orbán is a miserable failure in all respects. And a neoliberal failure at that.</p><p><span></span><span>After 1989, it seemed to us that in this part of the world, the normal shape of a state is one that is inhabited by a single ethnic group. Still, Prague and Budapest are full of rich but non-white people, tourists and business people settle here, and nobody is objecting. They are not beaten up as racial inferiors. There is no racial antipathy. Rich people don’t count as aliens, as Muslims, as blacks, as migrants…</span></p> <p><strong>You mean there is also class hatred…</strong></p> <p>For the European poor, refugees are competitors on the labour market. They are considered “welfare rivals”, and the result is social and moral panic. But the anti-refugee hysteria is not totally crazy. The mass influx of refugees would be a great burden on the welfare system, especially in Central-Eastern Europe. These are poor countries. </p><p>Of course, the problem could be solved. But when you see that our welfare system as it is now cannot take care of our own populations, can you imagine what will happen? The current Hungarian government is not able to sustain railways, post offices, elementary schools that have existed for two hundred years. People know perfectly well that their states are not functioning. The panic is explained by the conservative intelligentsia in culturalist or openly racist terms. </p><p>Although the problem is the depletion of the welfare state and of social solidarity and a rigid, anti-popular class politics. Racializing and ethnicizing social inequalities is the oldest tactic of the bourgeoisie. In America, “unemployed” has been made to mean “black”, in eastern Europe, “unemployed” means “Roma” or “Gypsy”. Recipients of&nbsp; “welfare”, of unemployment benefit, of social assistance of any kind are classified as “criminal elements”, “single mothers” (i. e., “immoral women”) and, again, coloured people. Even indigents, members of the underclass are tolerant of the destruction of the welfare structure which is clearly advantageous to them, because it hurts racial aliens.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>What should be the reaction of the left to this state of panic?</strong></p> <p>If we had a compassionate and egalitarian welfare system, we could enlarge it, and accept refugees. But at the same time, let’s be fair to ourselves. Am I or are you responsible for the dismantling of the welfare system? The responsibility rests with the ruling classes and political elites of the last thirty years. And if someone says, “You cannot just open the frontiers because you will destroy the fabric of society”, you can reply, “The fabric of society has already been destroyed, and this is why it is so difficult to welcome refugees. And this is the fault of the establishment”. </p><p>Unfortunately, it is my generation that created this 100% capitalist utopia in East-Central Europe that does not exist anywhere in this radical form, certainly not in the west. The Czech Republic is more of a market society than Austria or Britain. Unlike what the liberals say, the rule of the market in &nbsp;East-Central Europe is absolute and complete. If we are so-called serious intellectuals, we have to be objective, and recognize that our societies are facing insoluble problems. How can people show solidarity in a system which is not solidary at all, which is selfishness itself? Many politicians in today’s Europe, especially on the far right, promise some sort of welfare state, but only for “hard-working”, home-grown, respectful white people.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Look at people like David Cameron, François Hollande, Miloš Zeman. These people have no idea, they’re just blundering around.</span></p> <p>But the point is that they won’t do it. This is just talk. These are middle class movements that fear and despise the lower classes and the poor. They are open partisans of the class society – class warriors from above. They aren’t proposing anything new, they are just defending the repression, the exploitation and the injustice of today. Look at the situation in Poland or in Hungary. Have these societies had become more generous, more cohesive, and more collectivist at least within the white middle class? Of&nbsp;<span>course not. This is just rhetoric.</span></p> <p><strong>Why do the people still believe in their promises?</strong></p> <p>There is no real left. A famous quote says: Every extreme right victory shows the failure of the left. And the remnants of the traditional working class have changed as well. 90% of the Austrian industrial working class voted for Norbert Hofer, the far-right candidate. But this is only 10% of the whole working population in Austria. </p><p>This has become a relatively privileged group, which is defending its own class position against competitors on the labour market – against refugees, against the unemployed, against migrants and against women who’d work for less. Voters are blaming women, ethnic minorities and migrants, instead of demanding to be integrated into a higher wage/dole/pensions system. But for being integrated into a higher wage system, you need a strong left social democracy, which does not exist.</p> <p><strong>Could a strong left-wing social democracy be created again?</strong></p> <p>Hardly. If a new left of any kind will come into existence, it will have to represent and to mobilize not only the remnants of the old industrial working class, but a much larger mass of people, the complete proletariat-precariat without capital property. If not, these people will become something like the ancient Roman proletariat. They will be kept alive by gifts, state donations, and spectator sports. They might become a reactionary force serving the interests of tyrants. That was the role of the “proletariat” in the late Roman republic and the early Roman Empire. We may end up in a society torn apart by competing class egotisms that will be uglier than what we have now. </p><p>We are sitting here in the beautiful sunshine of Prague, it is quiet, pretty, and still there is peace. But so it was in June 1914. It was also very peaceful. The crash of whatever nature may not come today, it may come in ten years. But the system is highly unstable. That is the lesson of all of this.</p> <p><strong>Who are the main enemies of Europe today?</strong></p> <p>All governments of Europe, without exception. The riders of the apocalypse. They don’t know what they are doing. The conservative leaders of the past, however nasty they might have been otherwise, had some traditional sense of what you “don’t play with”. You do not play with your country, however defined, just for the hell of it. Look at people like David Cameron, François Hollande, Miloš Zeman. These people have no idea, they’re just blundering around. This is really serious. Then look at all the decadence around us – the falling intellectual level of most institutions, the general cultural crisis and illiteracy of the middle class, including so-called professionals and so-called intellectuals. </p><p>We need a countervailing power to present-day capitalism in order to insure, simply, the survival of humankind. Capitalism left on its own obviously cannot and will not do it. This is not the old and bad bourgeois system. It is much worse. We must create new political structures, if there is still time for it. I am not at all certain that there is.</p><p><em>This article was originally published at <a href="">Political Critique</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/slavoj-zizek-benjamin-ramm/slavoj-i-ek-on-brexit-crisis-of-left-and-future-of-eur">Slavoj Žižek on Brexit, the crisis of the Left, and the future of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis">The meaning of the refugee crisis</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"> Hungary </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? Hungary Jaroslav Fiala G. M. Tamás Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:17:49 +0000 Jaroslav Fiala and G. M. Tamás 104383 at Independence Day for the BBC? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In an uncertain ‘Brexit Britain’, we must ensure that the BBC remains a public broadcaster, as free as possible from state interference.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="BBC director-general Tony Hall. Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Independence Day for the BBC?" title="BBC director-general Tony Hall. Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Brexit is actually far worse news for those commercial rivals than it is for the apparently beleaguered Corporation. In the current context, Lord Hall’s much criticised licence fee deal last year now looks a pretty shrewd bargain – while all UK broadcasters will struggle with the impact of the devaluation of sterling and potential recession, only the BBC has a guaranteed, inflation-proof, income for the next five years, protecting it at least from the forecast rise in RPI. </p><p>The main commercial broadcasters, on the other hand, are facing a significant drop in advertising income – Claire Enders <a href="">of Enders Analysis</a> recently told the Lords Select Committee on Communications that it could be as much as five to ten per cent. At the same time rising inflation and the weakness of sterling will put pressure on their production and acquisition costs. The slump in the share price of ITV, one of the great UK media success stories of the last few years, tells you everything you need to know about where that may end.&nbsp; But if the BBC is (comparatively) insulated from the economic fallout from Brexit, there is still some crucial unfinished business to be settled around the Charter.</p> <p>The most important issue is governance and the <a href="">BBC’s independence</a> – which still hangs in the balance. The erosion of the BBC’s independence over the last Charter period had been relentless – top slicing of the licence fee to fund government pet projects; two indefensible licence fee settlements where the public interest was noticeably absent; and a flawed governance system imposed on the BBC against its wishes at the end of the last Charter renewal process which left the BBC’s ability to defend itself weakened by confusion over who was really in charge and which contributed to a series of pretty catastrophic management mistakes. At the same time the licence was cut in real terms each year, while commercial rivals continued to grow.</p> <p>Sir David Clementi’s review came up with a sensible proposed new structure for the BBC – a unitary Board to run the Corporation and an external regulator (Ofcom) to regulate it. Even those of us who would have preferred a bespoke regulator accepted his proposals as a workable solution and far better than the hapless Trust. The crucial issue is: who appoints the members of that powerful new unitary Board? Clementi envisaged a Board with, as a minimum, a majority of independent members appointed by the BBC itself&nbsp; – six to seven non-executives and two to three executives out of a Board of 14 to 15. The report sets out two options for the appointment of the rest of the Board: ‘a specially devised system which is independent in all respects’ or ‘appointment by the government, subject to certain safeguards’.</p> <p>Clementi set out his safeguards if the government chose the second option. The chair and deputy chair would be appointed from a very short shortlist and subject to parliamentary scrutiny: the other four board members, representing the interests of the Nations and the English Regions would be appointed by the government both for their relevant expertise and for their understanding of the issues in the Nations and English Regions. The politics of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are <a href="">so different</a> from those of Westminster that Clementi envisaged assessors from the nations having a role in the appointments. The government duly went for <a href="">this option</a> in the White Paper.</p> <p>In his evidence to the House of Commons culture committee in June, <a href="">the BBC’s director-general</a> Tony Hall accepted that the government was going to appoint the six – and put his faith in a public appointments system that he hoped would provide independent-minded people with the right skills. The committee members were less sanguine about escaping government interference – they had had un uncomfortable argument in an earlier session with John Whittingdale, the <a href="">former</a> culture secretary, over what some of the committee saw as his interference in an appointment at the National Portrait Gallery. </p> <p>John Whittingdale argued that because the new BBC board would have no editorial role pre-transmission, there was no threat to BBC independence. The Charter would make explicit the convention that the director general is editor-in-chief and the Board only gets involved in programme matters after the programme has been broadcast. While this is a useful safeguard, its value should not be exaggerated. In practice, no BBC Board has intervened pre-transmission since the disastrous decision of the Governors in 1985 to pull a controversial documentary <em>–</em> <em>Real Lives: At the Edge of Union – </em>under pressure from Margaret Thatcher and her government. That BBC Board was notoriously packed by the government of the day with people of a similar point of view to it and went on in 1987 to fire the director-general, Alasdair Milne, after years of miserable conflict between the Board and the management. Even so, when I was on the BBC Board from 2004 to 2010, the Governors and later the Trustees found themselves lobbied strongly on occasions to intervene ahead of transmission – on the controversial <em>Jerry Springer The Opera</em>, for example – and had to remind themselves why, although theoretically they could, that it was a terrible idea. </p> <p>But even if it does not intervene ahead of transmission, the new Board will have a big say in editorial policy – through the complaints system, the editorial guidelines and the general processes of review and budget allocation. On top of that, the new structure will give Ofcom the final word on the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s journalism. So far, Ofcom has proved itself to be an effective, independent and fair-minded regulator of commercial broadcasting – but regulating the BBC is a much bigger and more fraught job and Ofcom will find its staff (and its own, government-appointed, Board) under far more pressure and scrutiny. </p> <p>And the proposed structure leaves the BBC with a Board with some potentially very dangerous fault lines – between non-executives chosen (by the BBC) for their expertise and independence and those chosen (by the politicians via the public appointments process) for what might be seen as their political acceptability. Given the complexities of post-devolution politics, you could also envisage tensions between the political appointees from the Nations and the political appointees from the Westminster government. Although there is general agreement that the non-executives representing the Nations should not be ‘shop stewards’, lobbying for their part of the UK, that may be easier said than achieved.</p> <p>The only positive development in recent weeks has been the decision to allow the current Trust chair, Rona Fairhead, to continue as chair of the new unitary board. We should all wish her and Peter Riddell, the new Commissioner for Public Appointments, the very best of luck in ensuring – through these crucial board appointments which will need to be made over the next few months – that the BBC retains what really makes it, as the White Paper promises, distinctive – the fact that it is a public, rather than a state, broadcaster.</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="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/tom-griffin/2008/06/11/bbc-falling-short-on-nations-coverage">BBC &#039;falling short&#039; on nations coverage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-over-75s-what-is-truth">The BBC and the over-75s: what is the truth?</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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Brexit and the BBC Brexit Charter Renewal Independence Richard Tait Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:14:41 +0000 Richard Tait 104384 at Who is Owen Smith? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What do his on-the-record comments and voting record tell us about the challenger for the Labour leadership and his differences with Jeremy Corbyn?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Owen Smith - image, Owen Smith</span></span></span></p><p>Labour leadership contender Owen Smith MP has <a href="">stated</a> he is “going to be just as radical” as Jeremy Corbyn. “Jeremy has been right about so many things”, Smith <a href=";theater">argued</a> at the launch of his campaign. This pitch to Labour voters has been taken up by the Saving Labour group hoping to dispose Corbyn, with its supporters <a href="">telling</a> members of the public “there is no real difference… between Owen Smith and Jeremy”. </p><p>Is this true? How does this framing of the leadership contest fit with Smith’s actual political record?</p> <p>Smith has already been criticised for his previous senior positions at Big Pharma corporations. “Smith worked for Amgen as its chief lobbyist in the UK for two years before becoming MP for Pontypridd [in 2010]. Before that he was a lobbyist for US drug firm Pfizer from 2005”, <a href="">notes</a> the Guardian. “While at Pfizer in 2005 Smith endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering NHS patients easier access to private-sector healthcare”. According to The Times newspaper Smith stated in a press release “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda.” For Lisa Nandy MP (“a cracking Labour MP” – Guardian journalist Owen Jones) Smith’s senior role at Pfizer is a good thing <a href="">because</a> “having seen how a pharmaceutical company and capitalism operates from the inside is probably quite important, to be honest. If you are going to critique it, you need to understand it.”</p> <p>Responding to questions about his position with Pfizer on the BBC Today Programme, Smith stated “I’ve never advocated the privatisation of the NHS” and “I believe in a 100 percent publicly owned NHS free at the point of use”. Nandy repeated this narrative in her interview with Owen Jones, replying “Yes” when Jones asked her to confirm Smith “wants an entirely publicly run National Health Service – no privatisation?”</p> <p>In the real world, when Smith unsuccessfully fought the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election and he was asked about the involvement of the private sector in the NHS by Wales Online, he <a href="">replied</a>:</p> <p>“Where they can bring good ideas, where they can bring valuable services that the NHS is not able to deliver, and where they can work alongside but subservient to the NHS and without diminishing in any respect the public service ethos of the NHS, then I think that's fine.”</p> <p>Asked about the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes introduced by the Blair Government, Smith responded: "We've had PFI in Wales, we've had a hospital built down in Baglan through PFI. If PFI works, then let's do it.” In the same interview Smith sings the praises of New Labour’s introduction of academy schools, which was strongly opposed by the teaching unions. "I'm not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances”, noted Smith.</p> <p>In July 2015 Smith abstained on the government’s welfare bill, which the government’s own figures <a href="">confirmed</a> would push 330,000 children from low-income families further into poverty, with single mothers and ethnic minorities hit particularly hard. Now running for the Labour leadership, Smith told the BBC’s Andrew Marr his vote was a mistake that he now regretted. How sincerely he believes this is brought into question by his appearance on BBC Newsnight in September 2015 when he confirmed his support for the £26,000 benefit cap, <a href="">saying</a> "We are in favour of an overall reduction in the amount of money we spend on benefits in this country and we are in favour of limits on what individual families can draw down.” In March 2015 the Guardian <a href="">reported</a> the UK Supreme Court had “found that the effect of the policy [the benefit cap] was not compatible with the government’s obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child”. </p> <p>Earlier this month Smith voted to renew the UK's Trident nuclear weapons. Asked by Marr if he was prepared to “annihilate possibly millions of people” by firing Trident, Smith <a href="">replied</a> that “You’ve got to be prepared to say yes to that.” But wasn’t he once a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, asked Marr? When did he realise he was wrong? “About 15 years ago”, Smith replied. This doesn’t fit with a June 2006 Daily Mail report, which <a href="">noted</a> “Yesterday Owen Smith… came out in opposition to the Trident nuclear deterrent”. </p> <p>Noting Smith entered parliament in 2010, the Guardian’s Zoe Williams <a href="">argues</a> he cannot be “tarnished by the Blair years and the vote on the Iraq war.” Indeed, though he was a Special Advisor to pro-war Labour cabinet minister Paul Murphy in 2003, Smith and his supporters have repeatedly highlighted his opposition to the war. However, interviewing Smith in 2006 Wales Online <a href="">noted</a> “He didn’t know whether he would have voted against the war”, with Smith arguing “the tradition of the Labour party and the tradition of left-wing engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition, and one that in South Wales, from the Spanish civil war onwards, we have recognised and played a part in.”</p> <p>As this suggests, even if he did oppose the war in 2003 Smith continues to repeat the delusional framing of the pro-war camp. For example, introducing the topic of Iraq in his campaign launch speech, Smith <a href=";theater">referred</a> to the UK as “a country that has traditionally, patriotically intervened around the world to help impose and understand our values across the globe.” And again he tried to ride Corbyn’s coattails, noting “Iraq was a terrible mistake. Jeremy has been right about that.” The problem for Smith is this isn’t what Corbyn or the mainstream anti-war movement argue. Let me explain: if I slip on a banana skin – that’s a mistake. If I spill coffee down my shirt – that’s a mistake. If I spend months planning an illegal and aggressive invasion of another country that leads to the deaths of over <a href="">500,000</a> men, women and children and over <a href="">four million</a> refugees, then that’s a crime, and a massive one at that, as Corbyn <a href="">implicitly</a> suggested in his response to the publication of the Chilcot Report.</p> <p>Corbyn, of course, also opposed the 2011 Libyan war – just one of the 2 percent of MPs who did. Smith supported the military intervention which steamrolled over <a href="">peace initiatives</a> being made by the African Union, enabled ethnic cleansing and the levelling of the city of Sirte, destabilised the country and region, increased the number of terrorist groups operating in Libya and exacerbated the refugee crisis.</p> <p>Interviewed by the Telegraph in June 2006, Smith <a href="">argued</a> Tony Blair was a socialist. Asked if he has any policy differences with Blair except for the Iraq War, which he said was a mistake, Smith replied “No, I don’t think so.” The Telegraph’s take on Smith? “About as New Labour as you can get”. The Independent’s take on Smith for their <a href="">report</a> on the by-election was similarly blunt: “A dyed-in-the wool New Labourite.”</p> <p>Big Pharma lobbyist? Radical? New Labourite? Socialist? Blairite? Corbynista without Corbyn? Who, exactly, is Owen Smith? Looking at his record of following the prevailing political winds, it seems Owen Smith will be whoever he needs to be for political gain.</p> <p><em>*Buzzfeed journalist James Ball recently </em><a href=""><em>criticised</em></a><em> a Twitter meme based on a similar </em><a href=""><em>article</em></a><em> I wrote for openDemocracy titled ‘Who Is Angela Eagle?’. Comparing the selected points my article highlights about Eagle’s voting record with her overall voting record, Ball argued “can prove what you like with being selective with voting records”. As I explained to Ball, my article about Eagle – and this article – is about highlighting political differences between the challenger and Corbyn on key issues that may be of interest to Labour voters and the broader general public. It is not a complete record of Smith’s political career, obviously. I would hope readers don’t need me to tell them that Smith is not a moustache-twirling, Disney villain and has, I’m sure, made many positive contributions in his political career.</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/john-heathcliff/post-factual-labour-leadership-election">The post-factual Labour leadership election</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 Ian Sinclair Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:35:49 +0000 Ian Sinclair 104381 at Welsh football, Brexit and the future of British national identity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Wales' performance in the European Cup helped build a cross-racial national identity. But more must be done if everyone from Wales is to feel accepted as Welsh.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="170" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: FA Wales, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>The achievements of the Welsh national football team in the Euro 2016 tournament in France this summer have been remarkable for many reasons. Not only did the team reach the semi-finals, the best performance in Welsh football history, but the players managed to whip up the type of national engagement that those working in the Welsh government could only dream of. Thirty-three thousand people packed inside the Principality stadium in the capital Cardiff to watch the game being beamed on a giant screen live from Lyon. </p><p>The football team’s simple hashtag of #togetherstronger urged fans that if we, as Welsh supporters, stick together, we can achieve great things. Such is the power of national identity that strangers can imagine themselves as belonging to each other because of where they call home. Notably, the Welsh football team represented the nation’s diversity: from Neil Taylor, whose mother is from Calcutta to Hal-Robson Kanu and captain Ashley Williams who are both from mixed-race heritages. Around Wales, people of different backgrounds – including many who do not follow football – felt united. We all felt that this journey belonged to all of us. &nbsp;</p> <p>It was also during the Euro tournament that UK voters decided to leave the European Union, with majorities in England and Wales voting in favour of Brexit and majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland against. In many ways, even as Wales felt most united, the whole of the UK has looked anything but cohesive or together. </p> <p>Worryingly, post-Brexit hate crime has seen a surge. Tell MAMA, an organisation that measures anti-Muslim attacks, received 33 reports within <a href="" target="_blank">48-72 hours of the vote</a>, whereas they usually receive around 40-45 a month. <a href="" target="_blank">Shocking videos and images</a> continue to emerge of racist attacks against those perceived as being foreign or supposedly out of place. </p> <p>With some attributing the rise in post-Brexit hate crime to an increase in the number of xenophobic versions of British nationalism (and their followers), we must address what kind of society we want to be and what national identity means in an increasingly diverse age. </p> <p>Now is as important time as ever for us in Wales (as well as the rest of the home nations), to recognise the potential of a more plural, diverse and inclusive sense of national identity. </p> <p>My research on how Welsh Muslims negotiate their faith with their Welsh and British identity in their everyday lives shows that Welshness and Britishness matters regardless of faith. Having a strong sense of place is integral to how everyone constructs a sense of home. And contrary to political rhetoric on the far right, there is no contradiction between feeling both Muslim and Welsh or Muslim and British. </p> <p>The attachments that people have to where they grow up are immensely important to feelings of wellbeing and belonging. For the people I talked to, being Welsh is a salient part of their identities and mattered in both profound and banal ways. Whether it’s the feeling of longing for Wales when visiting the homeland of their parents, taking part in the national holiday St David’s Day or identifying as Welsh when in England because of their strong Welsh accents, there are many ways in which Welsh identity is reinforced in the daily lives of Muslims.</p> <p>A major challenge for our society is how much others can accept that Welsh, English and Scottish identities can be multifaceted. A white Welsh non-Muslim hearing an ethnic minority Muslim speaking with a strong Welsh accent might understand that she grew up in Wales, but might not accept that she can be Welsh. </p> <p>Such attitudes can have a deeply negative impact, not only on the way Muslims are perceived and treated in public, but upon how they self-identify. Those in my research who experienced racism or Islamophobia, stressed to me that this made them feel like they didn’t belong and questioned if they ever will be able to be considered Welsh or British by the wider community. </p> <p>The challenge is therefore to ensure that a diverse nation is not something which is only reflected sporadically – when there is an <em>Eid al</em><strong>-</strong><em>Fitr</em><strong> </strong>celebration or when a politician wants a quick photo op hugging someone who isn’t white. Rather, we as a society, including politicians, the media and people in the street, must continuously acknowledge the positive contributions that ethnic and religious minorities have long been making and continue to make to Wales and to the United Kingdom as a whole. </p> <p>These contributions are many and span many different fields – from sports to business to the arts, and they are becoming more prominent in the Welsh national narrative. The football team at the Euros was reflective of the participation of ethnic cultural and religious minorities in local and national sporting teams. The Welsh Yemeni fashion designer Haifa Shamsan, who started her fashion label Maysmode from her flat in Butetown Cardiff Bay, is making her mark on Islamic fashion, and has her models confidentially model Maysmode designs at the Senedd Building, the house of the Welsh Assembly. Welsh language songwriter Kizzy Crawford sings about her Welsh and Barbadian heritages.</p> <p>An increasing number of different third sector organizations and charities in the field of diversity and race relations, have mobilised around the Welsh Assembly since devolution. One of these organisations, a Swansea-based youth charity called the Ethnic Youth Support Team, responding to a planned White Pride demonstration, launched a <a href="" target="_blank">‘we too are Welsh’</a> campaign that argued you don’t have to be white to be Welsh. </p> <p>Today, Welsh identity is being embraced by ethnic and religious minorities in creative ways, and Wales is stronger because of this. For a more inclusive national identity to develop, people of different backgrounds must feel like they can contribute to how Wales and Welshness is constructed, so they can claim ownership over their own identities. Government institutions, third sector organisations and ordinary people must create opportunities where meaningful contact and dialogue across faith and culture can develop every day. And we must as a society work to foster a sense of belonging and attachment that can be harnessed in an inclusive way, binding people in a common community, regardless of faith or ethnicity. If this happens in Wales, Scotland and England, only then will we become stronger together. </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-moon/same-but-different-wales-and-debate-over-eu-membership">The same, but different: Wales and the debate over EU membership</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 reset Geraint Rhys Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:00:00 +0000 Geraint Rhys 104349 at Transforming the mortgage system and challenging the Zombie Economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By developing stable mortgage finance institutions that do not require government bailouts we can break the “doom loop” between the financial sector and the British state.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/woodleywonderworks. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Since the 2010 election, “austerity” measures have been introduced to reduce government spending in Britain. The main aim of the introduction of austerity was to reduce the budget deficit to generate confidence to markets and stimulate an economic recovery in light of the Global Financial Crisis. Whilst the implementation of austerity measures has reduced the budget deficit, there has been <a href="">little economic growth in Britain as a result of these measures</a>. The social consequences of the cuts in social services implemented as a result of the austerity plan, combined with a poor economic recovery, has seen <a href="">the poorest in Britain hit the hardest</a>. </p> <p>Such an experience of austerity contrasts greatly with the fortunes of the financial sector, which has been thriving since receiving <a href="">£107.6bn in government support</a> in light of the financial crisis. The large financial institutions were bailed out by the British government after the crisis as they were considered “too big to fail” due to the systemic risk they pose to the economy. This relationship between large financial institutions and the British state has been identified as a <a href="">“Doom Loop”</a>, as the need for the government to act as a safety net provides a perverse incentive for large banks to engage in greater lending risks than they otherwise would.</p> <p>Many of the large financial institutions required a bail out as they were overly exposed to risky investments in the real estate sector through excessive lending on mortgages. Mortgage lending has become increasingly attractive for British banks as the loans offer a strong rate of return and property as collateral. Mortgage lending is a key aspect of the increasing financialisation of the British economy, which has seen the level of mortgage debt relative to GDP increase from 56% in 1992 to 86% in 2012. Although reducing mortgage lending may be seen as a way to make banking more stable, that would not be ideal as being able to access mortgage finance is important for many families in Britain to access homeownership. Therefore, an alternative solution to breaking the “Doom Loop” between the financial sector and the British state could be to develop stable mortgage finance institutions that do not require government bailouts. </p> <p><strong>A solution from Denmark</strong></p> <p>Danish mortgage finance institutions are very different from British banks, and were established in 1797 after the Great Fire of Copenhagen in 1795 to provide housing finance to rebuild the city. Traditionally, Danish mortgage institutions have been established as non-profit co-operatives that are owned by their members who are borrowers that take on mortgages from that institution.</p> <p>Danish mortgages are funded by covered bonds and are based on a “match-funding” balance principle, where the mortgage institution acts as an intermediary between investors and borrowers. Mortgages are only granted once the borrower has provided a detailed and fully documented account of their financial position, which makes all loans “prime” mortgages. Once a borrower is approved for a loan, the mortgage institution sells a bond to a third party investor, and then provides the proceeds from that bond sale to the borrower for a mortgage. However, the balance, duration, and the interest rate of the bond and the mortgage are identical. </p> <p>For example, the mortgage institution could sell a DKK 1m 30-year bond with a 3% interest rate, and then issue a DKK 1m 30-year fixed mortgage with a 3% interest rate. Therefore, the mortgage firm does not make any profit on an interest rate margin between the bond and the mortgage. The mortgage institutions generate revenue by charging an annual “mortgage arrangement” fee that amounts to approximately <a href="">0.5% of the outstanding loan amount</a>, which is significantly lower than <a href="">interest rate margins charged by British banks</a>. As non-profit institutions, any profits made at the end of the year are redistributed to all of the borrowers. </p> <p>The cash-flow on the mortgage is equal to the cash-flow on the bond and the mortgage is held on the balance sheet of the credit institution throughout the entire duration of the loan. The mortgage firm holds the credit risk, which acts as an incentive for the lender to maintain a robust credit policy to ensure the borrower is able to make the mortgage repayments that are passed onto the investor. Therefore, in contrast to the originate and distribute model of mortgage funding using mortgage backed securities in Britain, the Danish mortgage system can be thought of as a distribute and hold model that is funded externally.</p> <p><strong>Investor Stability</strong></p> <p>Denmark’s total outstanding mortgage debt is approximately 130% of GDP, which is much higher when compared to Britain’s, which is close to 86% of GDP. Although Denmark has a much higher total mortgage debt burden than the UK, <a href="ådet_engelsk_2012_skaerm.pdf">no Danish mortgage institution has defaulted on a covered bond or has ever gone bankrupt</a>. This is despite facing a <a href="">series of severe economic challenges</a> since 1797, such as the bankruptcy of the Kingdom of Denmark in the early 19th century, the Great Depression in the 1930s, German occupation during World War II, the inflation crises of the 1970s, and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Furthermore, the Danish financial regulator stated that the Danish mortgage system “<a href="">has never led to credit losses</a>” since it was instigated over 200 years ago.</p> <p>Implementing a Danish-style mortgage system in Britain could result in the absence of credit losses in the mortgage market, which could break the “doom loop” relationship between large financial institutions and the British state. Removing the fiscal burden on the state from bank bailouts could relieve the financial pressures on state spending in other areas, which could lead to the reversal of the austerity policies in Britain. Although it would be too late to reverse the current austerity policies, adopting a Danish-style mortgage system could prevent austerity measures being implemented on future generations.</p> <p>Such a mortgage system would compete for “prime” mortgage loans with British banks by offering access to cheaper credit with longer and more stable lending terms. Banks would then be forced to offer second position loans that are not guaranteed by the use of the property as collateral, which could encourage banking investment away from real estate and into other areas of the British economy, where it is desperately needed. </p> <p>The Danish mortgage model is also able to fund a variety of different housing tenures in Denmark, such as co-operative housing. However, in Britain, there is a relatively narrow set of tenure options such as private rentals, social rentals, and private homeownership. Increasing the supply of housing is an important part of solving Britain’s housing crisis, however, an increase in the housing supply could also be supported by introducing a <a href="">wider variety of housing tenures</a>, which could be funded using the Danish mortgage model. Additionally, this mortgage model is also used by different municipalities in Denmark to build social housing and there have been calls for <a href="">more social housing to be built</a> in Britain. Therefore, adopting the Danish-style mortgage model may be a way for local British councils to provide for the social housing needs of their communities.</p> <p>Establishing mortgage institutions in Britain that are based on the Danish mortgage model could challenge the logic of the Zombie Economy by breaking the “Doom Loop” that sees the British state repeatedly bail out large financial institutions. The absence of mortgage credit losses could relieve fiscal pressures on state spending, which could further remove the threat of austerity policies being implemented in the future. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This contribution was part of the Beyond the Zombie Economy conference hosted by the&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London, and funded by the ESRC,&nbsp;for more details visit&nbsp;</em></p><p><br /><strong><em>Part of the <a href="">Anti-Austerity and Media Activism series</a> with Goldsmiths.</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/austerity-media/ruth-cain/bringing-up-neoliberal-baby-post-austerity-anxieties-about-social-repro">Bringing up neoliberal baby: post-austerity anxieties about (social) reproduction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/sara-de-benedictis-rosalind-gill/austerity-neoliberalism-new-discursive-formation">Austerity Neoliberalism: a new discursive formation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/austerity-media/carl-packman/challenges-and-opportunities-of-unbanked-and-under-banked">Challenges and opportunities of the unbanked and under-banked</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 Media activism and anti austerity James Wood Fri, 29 Jul 2016 11:17:01 +0000 James Wood 104378 at Jeremy Corbyn, impartiality and media misrepresentation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Another academic study has found systemic bias against Jeremy Corbyn in the British media.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// rally_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// rally_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, photo: John McDonnell</span></span></span></p><p>The media don’t seem to rate the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn that highly. This is hardly headline news. Indeed, allegations that media outlets have been especially hostile to Corbyn is met with widespread indifference by commentators who say they would expect nothing less. It is, after all, the responsibility of journalists to nail the flaws and inadequacies of public figures.</p><p>We believe, however, that the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have gone beyond the normal and entirely legitimate investigation of a politician’s record and appear to be aimed at purposefully destabilising, rather than soberly evaluating, Corbyn’s leadership. As a recent <span><a href="">letter to the Guardian</a></span> signed by over 100 media academics argued: ‘We do not expect journalists to give any elected leader an easy ride but Corbyn has been treated from the start as a problem to be solved rather than as a politician to be taken seriously.’</p><p>We now have three pieces of substantial empirical research that all reach similar conclusions about the comprehensive denigration of Jeremy Corbyn together with the disproportionate amount of attention paid to his critics.</p><p>Last October, the Media Reform Coalition <span><a href="">assessed</a></span> press coverage of Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader. This was immediately following the unprecedented scale of his victory and before any negative poll ratings concerning his performance. Out of a total of 494 news, comment and editorial pieces, 60% were negative about Corbyn with only 13% positive. The research concluded that the ‘press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn…with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage.’</p><p>Earlier this month, researchers at the <span><a href="">London School of Economics</a></span> looked at over 800 articles on Corbyn in eight leading newspapers. They found that the majority of coverage overall was either ‘critical’ or overtly ‘antagonistic’ and concluded that the press had moved from a ‘watchdog’ to an ‘attack dog’ role that was aimed at delegitimising the Labour leader because of his willingness to depart from the political establishment. </p><p>The media commentator Roy Greenslade <span><a href="">responded</a></span> in the Guardian by arguing that this was hardly surprising and that readers would neither demand ‘unbiased political coverage’ nor be ‘unduly influenced’ by the shenanigans of an over-excitable press.</p><p>It’s true that every attack that comes either from the usual suspects in the right-wing press or from the slightly more unexpected source of the <em>Guardian</em> simply bolsters the anti-establishment credentials of Corbyn to his supporters. But to argue that anti-Corbyn sentiment in the national press will have absolutely no impact on the undecided and the wavering is a fantasy.</p><p>That is why this week’s new <span><a href="">research</a></span> by Birkbeck, University of London in association with the Media Reform Coalition, that focuses on broadcast and online coverage of the current Labour leadership campaign is especially important – and worrying. Television news is not simply the most widely consumed source of news but it’s also supposed to be impartial in a way that no one expects the press to be. Similarly, the internet is often said to offer a counterweight to dominant newspaper owners and is, at least theoretically, able to offer a much more diverse range of issues and perspectives.</p><p>However, instead of impartiality and diversity, the research identified further evidence of misrepresentation and hostility. Twice as much television airtime was given to critical, rather than supportive, voices of Corbyn in the main evening bulletins while there was a huge imbalance towards the issues promoted by critics of Corbyn – a phemonenon that was especially pronounced in headline stories. There was also a strong tendency within the BBC’s bulletins to use pejorative language when referring to Corbyn and his supporters with the latter regularly described as ‘far left’ and ‘hard core’ despite the fact that many of Corbyn’s ideas – concerning, for example, opposition to public spending cuts and <span><a href="">rail nationalisation</a></span> – are shared by millions of UK citizens. The report points to a reliance on a kind of militarized discourse and notes ‘the degree to which the Labour leadership and its supporters were persistently talked about in terms that emphasised hostility, intransigence and extreme positions.’ Corbyn’s opponents, on the other hand, are all too regularly described as ‘moderate’ in both their political views and actions.</p><p>Online stories were a little more balanced than this but nevertheless they were still almost twice as likely to be written by, or focus on, sources critical of Corbyn with the most balanced coverage to be found in those outlets that do not (or at least no longer) operate on legacy platforms – titles like the <em>Independent</em>, <em>IB Times</em> and <em>Huffington Post</em>.</p><p>We are not arguing for a kind of ‘impartiality’ that effectively led to much of the broadcast coverage of the EU referendum being <span><a href="">constipated</a></span> and where ‘sense’ and ‘nonsense’ were all too often offered up as equivalents. We want the media to be neither an attack dog nor a poodle. Of course journalists should be able to ask tough questions of Corbyn but they should not do so on the basis that he occupies some sort of ‘extreme’ position on the political spectrum that is an affront to good old British ‘common sense’. </p><p>We expect that the media should ask the same tough questions of Owen Smith as well as Corbyn and that they should attempt to give the same airtime to supporters and critics of Corbyn. Journalists should be especially careful when assigning descriptive labels to a particular set of political views such as ‘moderate’ or ‘hard’. They should avoid the use of single anonymous sources and should provide proper evidence when serious claims are made about violence and intimidation. Indeed, if more journalists pledged to investigate the roots of Corbyn’s popularity and the reasons for Labour’s hugely increased membership, as opposed to thinking that these developments are somehow a ‘problem’ that needs to be tackled, our political culture might be just a little less poisonous and a little more robust.</p><p id="docs-internal-guid-59b4805d-362a-797f-5439-6b9be55ffa45" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>Please donate to openDemocracyUK </span><a href=""><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us keep producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></strong></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>From watchdog to attack dog:</p> <p>The LSE report can be downloaded <a href="">here</a>.</p><p>A video highlighting some of the results can be watched <a href="">here.</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="/uk/greg-philo/is-britains-media-biased-against-left">Is Britain&#039;s media biased against the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/tom-mills/general-strike-to-corbyn-90-years-of-bbc-establishment-bias">The General Strike to Corbyn: 90 years of BBC establishment bias</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 Justin Schlosberg Des Freedman Fri, 29 Jul 2016 11:00:01 +0000 Justin Schlosberg and Des Freedman 104376 at