Author: Daniel Margrain

I graduated in 2001 with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Human Geography and Social Policy. I then successfully completed my masters in Globalisation, Culture and the City at Goldsmiths, London. I am a massive fan of the musician Neil Young. My favourite book is Murder In Samarkand by Craig Murray. My favourite album is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and my favourite film is Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. I have traveled widely and fell in love with Cuba and Madagascar. My other interests include politics and current affairs and social and urban theory.

Why capitalism is safer in Corbyn’s hands

By Daniel Margrain

“If we don’t get inequality under control then it’s likely to lead to war. Inequality and the rise of a super rich elite is undermining the foundations of capitalism. The trappings of capitalism could be swept away by the pitchfork of revolution unless capitalism is fundamentally re-imagined.”

The above is not a quote by Jeremy Corbyn, Nicolas Maduro or Bernie Sanders, but by American venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer. During a 2015 interview with BBC journalist Stephen Sakur, Hanauer said, “If capitalism doesn’t change fundamentally, it will destroy itself.”

“In my state”, he said, “since 1990, close to 100% of growth has been accrued to just 1% of the top earners. People are beginning to get angry and increasingly less patient with a system that rewards nearly all of the benefits of growth to a tiny minority at the top.”

This ‘gushing upwards’ of capital towards the top of the socioeconomic pyramid is not indicative of regulated free-markets, but an extreme form of crony capitalism in which the publicly owned assets of the state are systematically stripped and the spoils distributed to an elite economic and political class.

The potential bailing-out of Carillion, farm, housing and rail subsidies, public sector retrenchment, quantitative easing and share giveaways, are some of the ways in which corporate welfare continues to greatly enrich the wealthiest in society. Figures reported in the Guardian indicate that the richest 1% in Britain have as much wealth as the poorest 57% combined.

No morality

Hanaeur is clear that his argument isn’t intended to be a moral one but a pragmatic solution to a growing crisis: “I’m not saying that we capitalists should pay workers more because we feel sorry for them. But the more they get paid, the better it will be for venture capitalists like me”, he said.

Hanaeur added:

“The more money ordinary folks make, the greater the opportunity people like me have to innovate, create enterprises and sell them stuff. The better they do, the better I do.”

When Theresa May recently described capitalism as the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, what she failed to grasp, but what Hanaeur understands, is that economic growth is the culmination of collective human labour. In other words, it’s the latter that gives rise to what Hanaeur terms a “thriving middle class”, not the other way round.

Similarly, in her critique of the austerity myth, author of The Production of Money, Ann Pettifor, argues cogently that “taxes are a consequence of investment and spending. They are not its cause.” The cornerstone of Tory economic policy is not to invest to stimulate the economy in order to boost growth and generate tax revenues, but on the contrary, to attack the welfare state and public sector which has the reverse affect.

What Theresa May and other apologists for the existing system really mean, is not that capitalism is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, but rather that neoliberalism is the best economic model through which the elite class are able to financially enrich themselves by manipulating the institutions of society.

It is not only leading politician’s on the political right of the spectrum who apparently have difficulty in untangling socio-environmentally protected notions of free trade from the cronyism associated with its neoliberal capitalist variant, but mainstream political commentators also. On Twitter (January 17), for example, radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, spectacularly mischaracterized Jeremy Corbyn’s correct evaluation at PMQ of the Carillion crisis.

He means “capitalism”. It isn’t perfect, that’s for sure, but it’s a millions times better than the alternative Corbyn is proposing.

Julia Hartley-Brewer added,

Presumably, Hartley-Brewer is of the opinion that consumer-based capitalist economies can be driven with only the extreme wealth of the few and that any attempts to buck the market by ensuring that employers pay their staff a minimum wage of say £10 an hour will bring the said economies to their knees?

Reining-in

Hanaeur, whose primary motivation is to make money, recognises the absurdity of this kind of ‘booster of globalization’ argument. In the BBC interview outlined above, the venture capitalist argues that rather than being set free by deregulation, capitalism needs to be controlled through a system of planned and coordinated regulation:

“Capitalists have the idea that their things will be bought by everybody else as a result of higher wages paid by other capitalists”, he said.

Hanaeur added:

“But this logic of paying higher wages to staff to help improve business activity more generally, is resisted since capitalists will insist on paying their own workers next to nothing thereby not absorbing the costs themselves.”

Hanaeur’s argument can essentially be summarized thus: There is a need for capitalism to be reined in, in order to save the system from the rapacious actions of competing capitalists who are driven, as Marx put it, by their need to “accumulate for accumulations sake”.

In principle, Hanaeur’s view is no different from the minority of capitalists in 19th century Britain who argued in favour of the introduction of the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s which set down a maximum length for the working day.

Hanauer’s pragmatism is closer to Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for society than it is to Theresa May’s and underscores the undeniable truth that the ability to accumulate for accumulations sake doesn’t necessarily lead to higher profits.

Contradiction

One of the contradictions inherent to capitalism is that the system as a whole needs to spend money to make profits, yet every individual capitalist wants to spend as little as possible. The lengths to which giant companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks will go in order to avoid paying tax shows how this dilemma is played out.

The failed neoliberal austerity experiment is what economist Paul Krugman describes  bluntly as “a con that does nothing but harm the wealth [of nations]. It has been discredited everywhere else: only in Britain do we cling to the myth”, he said.

Contrary to mainstream media mythology, Corbynism and the notion of a reformed capitalism are, counter-intuitively, congruous concepts. It’s not only aspects like health and social care that are safer the further they are, ideologically, from neoliberalism, but from the perspective of capitalism’s longevity, so is the economy.

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The systematic destruction of the NHS

By Daniel Margrain

Dr Bob Gill who has worked for the NHS for 24 years, and is currently seeking crowdfunding for his documentary filmThe Great NHS Heist, was interviewed as part of a short video presentation produced by the UK journalist co-operative, Real Media.

In the interview, Dr Gill discusses how the move towards privatizing the NHS has been an agenda-driven project continued over many years by successive Conservative and Labour governments’.

Over the course of the twelve minute talk, Dr Gill highlights some of the issues the NHS faces. These are the key 23 assertions he makes in the presentation:

  • The intention of successive governments’ has been to transform a publicly-funded free at the point of delivery healthcare system into something that is driven by the need for profit.
  • The privatization agenda has been a well-planned long-term project.
  • Successive governments’ have understood NHS privatization is not in the public interest and thus they have devised alternative narratives in order to deceive the public.
  • A key component of this deception has been the deliberate cultivation of a ‘scapegoating’ culture in which the elderly, immigrants, overweight etc are blamed for government under-investment in the NHS.
  • This lack of investment is portrayed in the media as NHS Trust ‘overspending’.
  • The hospital network has been deliberately saddled with toxic loans.
  • In legal terms, the 2012 Health and Social Care Act abolished the NHS.
  • The result was the emergence of a Quango headed by NHS England’s Simon Stevens who has the day-to-day power of managing the service.
  • In 2014 Steven’s introduced a five year ‘Sustainability and Transformation’ Plan (STP).
  • The STP will move the NHS closer to the private US insurance system through a process of re-structuring, dismantling, integration, means-testing and merging of existing NHS services.
  • Both the NHS workforce and the general public are largely unaware of these plans which have been made deliberately complex and drawn-out over many years.
  • This drawn-out complexity is yet another part of the plan to deceive the general public and NHS staff alike.
  • NHS reforms are reported in the media in a positive way. This is despite the fact that the said reforms will result in the destruction of the service.
  • The British Medical Association (BMA) is largely complicit in the privatization agenda.
  • Jeremy Hunt, whose powers are limited, is being used by the media as a distraction.
  • Simon Stevens, who has the real power, has been deliberately set-up by the media as a ‘saviour’ for the NHS, whereas Hunt is portrayed as the ‘bad guy’.
  • Simon Stevens ambition for the NHS is to hand it over to his former colleagues at United Health in the U.S and the U.S insurance industry.
  • Stevens is “the most dangerous public servant in the country.”
  • The NHS is subject to competition law and is under constant threat from internationally negotiated trade deals.
  • The service is geared-up to work against the interests of the patient.
  • The NHS is heading in a direction in which doctors will be incentivized to deny patient care.
  • The introduction of the principle of private insurance will result in a more expensive system with worse outcomes.
  • The plan to fully privatize the NHS is “endemically fraudulent”.

Dr Gill alludes that the deliberate asset-stripping of the NHS ranks as one of the greatest crimes inflicted on the British people. The jewel in Britain’s crown is being whittled away in front of the public’s eyes.

All the while the Conservative government has convinced large swaths of the public that Simon Stevens is the saviour of the service when in truth he is its principal destroyer. Like a TV illusionist, the government is involved in an incredible sleight of hand – some may say, collective hypnosis – of the British people.

The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is essentially a public relations figure for the government and the corporations it represents. Where the blows of both NHS workers and the public alike would arguably be better targeted is towards NHS England boss, Simon Stevens, whose power to be able to shape the future direction of the NHS far exceeds that of Hunt.

Although it’s highly encouraging that an estimated 250,000 people attended one of the biggest national demonstrations against NHS cuts in London in March last year, it is somewhat perplexing to this writer why Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in his otherwise excellent post-demo speech, failed to mention the nefarious role played by Stevens which is crucial to the entire NHS debate.

How is it possible for activists and campaigners to get anywhere near the bulls eye with their arrows when the correct target hasn’t even been identified by the leader of the opposition?

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Moving full steam ahead towards the disastrous U.S healthcare model?

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for NHS is breaking, pics

The shocking indifference shown by Theresa May towards the plight of stroke victims in the NHS and the systems ongoing crisis in which patients have been photographed sleeping on a hospital floor, is indicative of a public service that the UK government is determined to break. As Dr Bob Gill cogently argued, the Tories are deliberately under-funding the NHS to erode public confidence in order to manufacture consent for privatisation. The governments aim is to reconfigure the service from a free at the point of use healthcare system, towards a fee-paying US model.

In their 2017 election manifesto, the Conservative government said they would increase NHS spending by at least £8 billion in real terms until 2022. But King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation figures show that NHS spending per person is set to fall by 0.3% in 2018/19 compared to the year before. Research undertaken by the former, indicates that UK funding for the health service is falling by international standards.

The think tanks have argued that even based on the government’s current spending plans, there is likely to be a spending gap of over £20 billion by 2022/23. They have also said that the NHS will need an extra £4 billion next year alone “to stop patient care deteriorating”. In 2013, NHS England said it faced a funding gap of £30 billion by the end of the decade, even if government spending kept up in line with inflation.

Under-funding has inevitably impacted on staffing levels. The shortage of nurses within the NHS has reached dangerous levels in 90 per cent of UK hospitals, and the amount of doctors per capita is the second lowest among eleven European countries.

On six out of nine measures of varying sorts, the UK did worse than any other advanced country in the world. Under the Tories, the erosion of the principle of a free at the point of delivery service is undermining what Sir Michael Marmont refers to  as “the optimal allocation of resources.”

However, despite all the problems the government has thrown at the NHS, the UK is still ranked a relatively respectable 10th in the world in terms of efficiency compared to the U.S ranking of 44. The latter reflects the fact that the marketization of health care in the United States is long established.

Given the figures, one might reasonably ask why the UK government appears to be insistent on dismantling something that, despite its faults, essentially works for the mass of the population, by subsequently restructuring it in the image of a system that doesn’t? The answer to this rhetorical question is, of course, that the said restructuring is intended to maximize profits for the few.

Shortly after president Trump’s inauguration this time last year, UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt made a fleeting visit to the U.S. It was rumored that Hunt took this opportunity to discuss with US financiers moves to carve up the NHS in order to bring it closer to the US insurance-based model.

The U.S model the UK is moving towards

The requirement of the US Affordable Care Act (which was signed into law in March 2010 but in reality is unaffordable for large swaths of the US population), is that people are forced to buy private health care insurance if they fail to qualify for public health programmes – namely Medicare and Medicaid. However, the insurers have created plans that restrict the number of doctors in hospitals.

These “ultra narrow networks” have resulted in the reduction of at least 70% of health facilities within communities throughout the U.S, thereby restricting access to care for people with serious health problems. This means that increasingly Americans are paying higher premiums but are not getting sufficient access to services they need. They are, therefore, having to find money upfront, largely because their insurance policies do not provide adequate cover for their injuries or illnesses.

So America is still seeing high rates of people who are either delaying, avoiding getting access to the care they need, or are being confronted with medical debts. Research shows that tax-funded expenditures account for 64.3 percent of US health spending, with public spending exceeding total spending in most countries with universal care. Yet, 33 million people in the US do not have access to health insurance cover.

The delivery of a NHS-style healthcare system in the U.S is hamstrung by the narrow commercial interests of the corporations who lobby Congress. The conflicting interests that a succession of American presidents face relates to the close relationship they have to members of Congress who need to get reelected. If Congress speak out against the interests who are funding their campaigns, they’re not going to get that funding.

Dysfunctional

Tiny efforts to try and patch together what is clearly a dysfunctional U.S healthcare system is further undermined by the Heritage Foundation. This conservative Think Tank came up with the model of forcing people to buy private insurance and to use public tax dollars to subsidize the purchase of this insurance. In other words, as a result of a process of publicly funded corporate welfare, billions of funds are shifted into the hands of private insurance companies.

America’s healthcare costs are the highest per capita of any country in the world with some of the worst outcomes. Attempts to reform the US system are undermined by the insurance companies whose only function is to be middlemen between the patients and the health professionals.

The U.S government’s treatment of healthcare as a commodity instead of a public good is out of sync with the rest of the developed world and illustrates the extent to which, more broadly, the giant corporations have usurped democracy in the United States.

Currently, the U.S is the only industrialized nation on the planet that has used a market-based model for healthcare. Alarmingly, whether the British public want to admit it or not, this is the direction of travel both the Tories and NHS England, under Simon Stevens, are taking the system of healthcare provision in the UK.

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How the establishment have engineered the NHS crisis

By Daniel Margrain​

A century or so ago, the Russian Marxist Nicolai Bukharin understood that the growth of international corporations and their close association with national states was symptomatic of how both aspects hollow out the parliamentary system. It is now widely recognized that the power of private lobbying money draws power upwards into the executive and non-elected parts of the state dominated by corporations. Consequently this leads to a reduction in democratic accountability and public transparency.

Internal markets, market testing, contracting out, privatization, encouraging private pensions and all the rest, are mechanisms that are intended to depoliticise the process of social provision, so making it easier to refuse it to those deemed not to deserve it on the one hand, and to clamp down on the workers in the welfare sector on the other. This ethos became established in the late 1980s under Margaret Thatcher during her third term in office.

Removing the foundations of the welfare state

Following the advice of the then chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Sir Roy Griffiths in 1987, the Thatcher government set about removing the foundations upon which the welfare state had been built. Camouflaged in the language of ‘public-private partnerships’, Tony Blair’s New Labour took this one stage further as a result of his envisaging the state as the purchaser rather than direct provider of services. Whole entities within the public sector have increasingly been outsourced, health and social care services privatized and competition and the business ethos introduced into public services in the form of managerialism and New Public Management.

Thus, within residential care, patients have been recast as customers. The aim is to ensure the domination of the market by a small number of very powerful multinational corporations whose primary concern is not the welfare of the residents in care homes which they own or patients in hospitals but with maximizing profits.

The carving up of the NHS opens up one of the worlds biggest investment opportunities. Indeed, its exploitation by private interests is proceeding at a pace. This is hardly surprising given the 2014 revelation that 70 MPs have financial links to private healthcare firms while hundreds of private healthcare corporations have donated to Tory coffers.

There exists a symbiotic relationship between privatization and what Noam Chomsky refers to as a policy strategy of “defunding”. In line with Chomsky’s notion, the aim over the last three decades has been to shrink the NHS and bring it to the point of collapse as the basis for then claiming the only solution is more privatization. In Orwellian terms, health under-funding is portrayed in the media as “unprecedented levels of overspending by hospitals and NHS trusts.” 

Health and Social Care Act

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act removes the duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive health service and requires that up to 49 percent of services can be tendered out to “any qualified provider.” As early as 2013, between a quarter and a half of all community services were run by Virgin Care. Three years later, the corporation had won £700m worth of NHS and social service contracts.

The retreating by the state from the principle of universal health care provision, free at the point of delivery, can be pin-pointed to 1988 when Tory politician, Oliver Letwin, wrote a ‘blueprint’ document called ‘Britain’s Biggest Enterprise’ where he set out the stages governments’ would have to go through to achieve a US model of health care without the public noticing. The New Labour government under Tony Blair adopted Letwin’s principles. But prior to the 1997 General Election, Blair had to disguise the strategy by using dissembling language in order to get elected.

Once in power, Blair took several steps towards privatization. For example, he broke up the hospital network into foundation trusts which are essentially separate business entities. He also deliberately saddled hospitals with Private Finance Initiative (PFI) liabilities which involved the government borrowing £11 billion from private banks and financiers in order to justify the sale and breakdown of the NHS further down the line.

This culminated with the New Labour government introducing in 2009 what was termed the “unsustainable provider regime” which is a fake bankruptcy framework to justify closing hospitals. The £11 billion of PFI public money borrowed from the banks and injected into the NHS is, in the words of ‘Save Our NHS’ activist Dr Bob Gill, intended to “set up the infrastructure for the whole scale hand-over of our NHS to American corporations.”

Simon Stevens

Arguably, the most influential individual currently working in the NHS is former Labour councillor, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England. After having served under the Blair government, Stevens went on to work for the US private health care provider, United Health, where he campaigned against Obama Care prior to campaigning for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to be included within the UK health care remit. Those encouraged by the election of Jeremy Corbyn are still waiting to hear something from the shadow health team about this troubling development.

Controversially, Stevens introduced NHS England’s ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ which form part of the annual HHS Planning Guidance. ‘Sustainability and transformation’ is Orwellian-speak for the move towards the total reorganization of the NHS predicated on more privatizations and cuts.

Two years ago this month, Dr Bob Gill attended a meeting to get some insight into what the position of the then Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Heidi Alexander, was in relation to the direction NHS England was moving in under Stevens. What he heard were narratives that fitted into the ongoing privatization agenda. According to Gill, Alexander expressed support for Simon Stevens, despite his appalling track record. There is no indication that neither the Labour leader, nor current Shadow Health minister, Jon Ashworth, intend to take Stevens to task.

This is extremely worrying given that Stevens appears to be less committed to ethics and patient care, and more concerned with perpetuating the notion that medicine is a profit-based ‘conveyor belt’ service. Could it be the case that Corbyn has underestimated the extent to which the corrupting influence of corporations and the power of lobbying money have hollowed out the parliamentary system as outlined by Bukharin a century ago?

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Are the ‘liberal’ media betraying the people of the middle east?

By Daniel Margrain

 

Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media

In this article I will argue that the corporate mainstream media uncritically promulgate regime change narratives in the middle east that coincide with the interests of Western imperial power whose latest goal is the removal of president Bashar- al-Assad from power. As with Iraq, this goal preceded the stated justifications which were retrofitted to an act of aggression.

In 2011, Time reporter, Rania Abouzeid, announced the March 4 and 5, “Day of Rage” against the Syrian president, which was intended as an invocation to the masses in Syria to rise up against their “brutal dictator”. However,  the planned action ended up a complete failure.

At this stage, the empire pinned its hopes on the fact that the culmination of eight years of crippling U.S-led economic sanctions would be sufficient enough a catalyst for mass protests against the Assad government. However, the said sanctions had the reverse affect. On the March 29, 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at Central Bank Square in Damascus in support of their president.

Nevertheless, the pro-government rally was inaccurately portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally, not as a celebration, but as a “military crackdown [by the state] against civilians.”

A year later, on March 27, 2012, president Assad accepted in good faith the six-point Annan peace plan which was ostensibly intended to secure a diplomatic solution to end the growing violence in the country that escalated on March 17, 2011 in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa.

The mainstream media collectively failed in their duty to report the fact the imperial powers reneged on their obligations. To my knowledge, not a single prominent journalist brought to the public’s attention that the U.S and its allies broke their “crystal-cut commitment” to stop aiding rebel fighters which was an integral part of the agreement between the respective parties.

The jihadists continued to rain shells down on the cities of Hama and Homs despite Syria’s commitment that it would abide by the terms of the ceasefire on the condition that the West stop arming the rebels.

That the Western imperial powers have shown no intention of reaching a genuine peaceful outcome to the regional mess they instigated, has never been the preferred media narrative. In Iraq, for example, the evidence that NATO did everything they could to obstruct a peaceful resolution in the country is overwhelming but, to my knowledge, has not been reported as such.

The same can be said of Libya. According to the text of UNSCR 1973, the aim was to facilitate dialogue between the various factions in the country. But this was rendered absurd by the subsequent rejection by the West of proposals put forward by the African Union.

So why wasn’t this reported?

A rare voice of dissent was Seumas Milne who observed:

“If stopping the killing had been the real aim, NATO states would have backed a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, rather than repeatedly vetoing both.”

This is not a theoretical point. NATO flatly rejected all ceasefire and peace proposals in Libya and demanded that Gaddafi “step down” in much the same way they demanded it of Assad in Syria. The motives of the imperial powers and their proxies in the middle east are characterized as benign. But this is an illusion.

The fomenting of war and chaos in Iraq and Libya by the U.S and its allies, from which spawned al-Qaida and ISIS, are the same forces that are tearing Syria and, at the time of writing, Iran apart. Recent reports of widespread protests throughout the latter are the consequence of U.S economic sanctions of the kind used against Iraq and Syria. As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported, the said protests were fomented by the U.S State Department.

Iran is being punished for fighting Western-backed jihadists and standing in the way of US-Israeli hegemony in the region. But it’s unlikely the public would be able to reach this conclusion by reading the so-called progressive liberal press.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and The Caesar Torture Photos represent far more overt attempts at disorientating the public. The former, in particular, is arguably the greatest single piece of state-sanctioned propaganda to have been produced anywhere in the world.

By repeating the propaganda of Western governments, the media have consistently acted as stenographers. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making, and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

One day after the attack, a Guardian editorial claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame for the incident, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect”.

Journalist Jonathan Freedland’s reaction in the Guardian to the alleged chemical attack on April 4, 2017 in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, was a virtual carbon copy of the papers reaction to Ghouta almost four years previously.

Freedland wrote a day after the incident:

“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Freedland’s rush to judgement, was similarly adopted by George Monbiot. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) the writer claimed:

“We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”

Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of two former UN weapons inspectors, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Conclusion

Corporate mainstream journalism is predicated on sustaining the illusion that ‘progressive’ writers fundamentally challenge the status quo. The reality is, if journalists in highly influential positions really posed a threat to established power, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in.

As Upton Sinclair famously remarked:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Thus, highly paid corporate journalists are akin to gatekeepers. Their role is to manipulate public opinion in the service of power rather than to fundamentally challenge it.

One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which both the state and corporate media encourage a genuine diversity of opinions and the conditions for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mainstream corporate media have failed not only the Syrian’s but the people of Iraq, Libya and Iran.

The inability of corporate journalists to report truthfully, is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. Its highly concentrated nature has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.

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Britain: the university of corruption

By Daniel Margrain

In May, 2016, Roberto Saviano, an expert on the workings of the mafia, stated that “Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.” Given that the Western media tend to categorize the issue of corruption along geopolitical and racial lines, one would find it difficult to arrive at such a conclusion after having analysed a mainstream broadcaster like the BBC.

Thus, on an edition of last August’s BBC HARDtalk programme, host Stephen Sackur interrogated Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola in a way that he wouldn’t had he interviewed a UK minister. During the discussion Sackur repeatedly implied that the Nigerian government was systematically corrupt. At one point the BBC presenter related an ‘off mic’ incident that involved the Nigerian minister and the then UK PM David Cameron. The latter was said to have berated Nigeria after having described the country as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.

The irony of Cameron’s comment would unlikely have gone unnoticed by Fashola. In 2010 the UK government passed into law the Bribery Act.  Big business in the UK have repeatedly lobbied against this legislation, thereby undermining all attempts at preventing corruption.

The potential impact of the legislation is likely to be felt primarily, but not exclusively by, businesses. Why? Because bribery and corruption is an inherent part of big business deal-making. The notion that the British establishment occupies the moral high ground on matters of corruption is laughable. Instead, viewers to the BBC were conveniently invited to vent their anger towards a black politician in a far away country.

In 2013, Cameron visited one of the most corrupt and authoritarian countries on the planet, Kazakhstan. Its leader showered him with gratitude and praise. Kazakhstan’s former police chief is linked to the ownership of £147m-worth of London properties which forms part of the UKs status as a safe haven for corrupt capital.

This represents the tip of a huge ice-berg of corruption in Britain. Readers might, for example, recall the Straw and Rifkind affair, the MPs expenses fiasco, the on-going PFI saga that’s crippling the NHS, the long-running HSBC scandal and establishments complicit role in the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

In addition, the UK government is actively involved in the selling of armaments to the Saudi regime who are raining them down on the Yemeni people. A great deal of the trade in weapons of death takes place at the bi-annual international arms jamboree in London’s Docklands (of which UK royalty is, historically complicit).

Simon Jenkins is one of the few mainstream commentators to have remarked on the hypocrisy of the British establishment:

“The truth is that hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. They lecture Africans and Asians on the venality of their politics, while blatantly selling seats in their own parliament for cash. I hope some insulted autocrat one day asks a British leader how much his party has garnered from auctioning honours. The government suppresses any inquiry into corrupt arms contracts to the Middle East. And when does lobbying stop and corruption start?”

The point that Jenkins makes, namely that lobbying and corruption form a seamless whole, is a very good one. The widespread perception that Britain ranks 14th among the most corrupt countries in the world, is clearly indicative of the way in which the media misinform the public by ignoring the fact that corruption is embedded in the heart of the British establishment.

In bringing together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, David Whyte shows that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere. Indeed, as Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London, contends, “the network of egregious state and corporate corruption in Britain rivals any in the developing world”.

This is no accident. The function of the state has shifted from that of ‘direct provider’ to ‘pro-business facilitator’. The ideology that came to embody this change is neoliberalism. Rather than goods and services being administered democratically, the trend has increasingly been for the state to act as a purchaser of these services which have then been provided privately and indirectly. As each separate financial intermediary takes their slice of the financial pie, the temptation for corrupt practices becomes greater and the concentration of capital and deregulation of labour markets more acute.

With the balance of economic power tilted increasingly towards the rich who are able to buy the influence of politician’s, the impact on democracy has been devastating for millions of ordinary people. A hollowed-out system is one in which the 99 per cent increasingly find it difficult to establish some personal and meaningful pattern in a social world dominated by huge and distant monoliths whose power over the livelihood of billions seems absolute.

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UK government housing policy is driven by greed, not human need

By Daniel Margrain

The creation of major housing asset bubbles is a consequence of deliberate Tory government policy geared towards satisfying the asset diversification needs of the super rich rather than meeting the human need for homes for ordinary people to live in. In other words, the key motivating factor shaping government housing policy is not to end the housing crisis, but to bolster the investment opportunities of the rich which will make it worse.

In January, 2016, former Tory PM David Cameron, announced the government’s decision to demolish what remains of council homes and replace them with private housing. The Housing and Planning Bill, which became law four months after Cameron made his announcement, enabled the government to set this process in motion. The legislation is forcing families living in social housing and earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents nearly as high as those in the private sector.

It is also compelling local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land this housing sits on to property developers. The purpose is to create firm foundations for foreign investment funds and financial safe havens for billionaires.

It is this combination of factors that explains the exponential growth in the construction of new tower blocks throughout London and other major cities, vast swaths of which lie empty. The development that arguably symbolizes Britain’s housing crisis is the London sky-scraper, St George Wharf tower. Eighty-six per cent of the 214-units in the tower lie empty, while almost two-thirds of them are foreign-owned.

Meanwhile, rough sleeping estimates in England show an increase of 134 per cent since 2010. The most effective way to house people is through mass council house building. But this undermines the profits of private firms. One way investors do this is to hold onto land rather than developing it, so that prices are pushed upwards. As prices within the private rental market soar, more firms are trying to get their hands on the profits generated.

To help facilitate demand and attract investors, an assortment of private agencies that specialize in marketing and branding have emerged. “One of the things that attracts people to the UK is the relative stability,” said John Slade, CEO of BNP Paribas Real Estate in the UK. “The government remains absolutely committed to ensure that the UK remains one of the most open places for investment,” he said.

Bucking the market

But investment opportunities are undermined following any attempts to increase supply – a policy that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has publicly endorsed. “There is no convincing solution to the housing crisis that does not start with a new, very large, very active council house building project”, he remarked.

Corbyn’s intention is to buck the market by increasing housing supply. This partly explains why the elite media establishment – many of whom have extensive property portfolios – regularly attack the Labour leader in their newspaper columns.

Increasing supply would also adversely affect the investment opportunities of numerous politicians. The 126 MPs who declared that they receive rental income from property, represent over 19 per cent of the House of Commons, the vast majority of whom are Tories. It’s therefore in the joint interests of MPs and major property developers who lobby on their behalf to continue to push the market further into housing and to limit the building of affordable homes.

In the immediate post-war years (1945 to 1951) the Labour government built 1.2 million new council homes. In 1968, a record 425,000 homes were constructed, over 180,000 of which were local authority builds. The introduction, in 1980, of the Tories right to buy programme, reduced the existing council housing stock by 1.6m, while during the 13 years of the Blair and Brown governments, a paltry 7,870 council houses were built. In 1979, 42 per cent. of Britons lived in council homes. Today that figure is just 8 per cent. 

Filling the void

The impact on council house provision that stem from the policies of successive UK governments over the last 40 years has resulted in the gutting of the sector. With an in-work poverty rate in London of 58 per cent, and the average annual salary in the capital approximately one-twentieth of the house price average, the vast majority of the city’s workers can’t afford to buy their own homes. Private rented dwellings have filled the void.

According to 2015 research from Paragon PLC: “The private rented sector (PRS) is the second largest housing tenure, accounting for one-in-five homes in England alone, overtaking the social rented sector for the first time since the 1960s. This represents a significant increase in the number of households living in private rented homes.”

The report added:

“The PRS has more than doubled since 2001 and is now the second largest housing tenure…PRS is now home to 4.9 million households.”

But investors think that the change in numbers is down to the market reflecting what people want. Tory policy for housing focuses on getting people to buy houses. But this ideological drive is out of sync with the needs of capital. Investors need a political climate in which renting is encouraged.

But private market rents in London are not affordable for the vast majority of workers. The only option for many is housing associations. But government funds for this sector are drying up. In order to make money these associations are effectively forced to sell their properties to the private sector. The profits gained are then reinvested into their businesses reducing the overall availability of affordable housing stock. Essentially, housing associations behave like private companies.

Social cleansing

The consequences of the lack of availability of affordable housing are profound. It results in the effective social cleansing from major cities of the poor and those on middle incomes. Moreover, it reduces the demographic mix of locales, restricts social networks and undermines local economies upon which local businesses depend for their livelihoods.

The formal ordering and disciplining of the poorest within urban spaces has had the affect of pushing them to the periphery, out of sight and out of mind of urban powers for whom responsibility is increasingly disavowed. In this way, spaces are shaped by neoliberal economic forces which alter the landscapes of cities and re-package them under the banner ‘urban renaissance’. A Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn will begin to turn things around.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. I don’t make any money from my work, and I’m not funded. You can help continue my research and write independently.… Thanks!


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