Tag: cameron

Enemies of the people, friends of democracy

By Daniel Margrain

The ruling last Thursday (November 3) by three High Court judges to allow MPs the right to a vote over the decision to Brexit was welcomed by this writer. Campaigners won their battle to defeat Theresa May’s attempt to use the Royal prerogative as a means of overriding parliamentary sovereignty. The decision of the judges to apply what is a matter of constitutional law, means that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote in parliament. Below is the 2015 Referendum Bill Briefing Paper which appears to be consistent with assertions in the liberal media that the referendum result is advisory, not mandatory:

To reiterate:

“The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented.”

Following the judges decision, and despite the legal clarity, some of the tabloid printed media ran with inflammatory headlines. The Daily Mail – the paper that in the 1930s supported Hitler fascism, for example (see graphic above) – referred to the judges responsible for upholding the rule of law, as “enemies of the people”. Even some Tory politicians got in on the act. Sajid Javid, for instance, described the decision as “an attempt to frustrate the will of the British people.”

What Javid appears to be unaware of, is that in British law it is not the role of an independent judiciary to uphold and implement the will of the people but to uphold the law. Parliament and elected MPs are subject to the will of the people, not judges.

Javid’s stigmatizing language undermines the important role played by an independent judiciary in terms of its ability to curtail crude populism. The undermining of the independence of the judiciary and the promotion and normalization of referenda, is concomitant to the prevailing hate-driven agendas of the tabloids. But this also fits into a wider right-wing political narrative in which simplistic binary approaches to often complex problems are preferred to process and nuance.

For example, in order to garner the support of right-wing  fringe elements, the former PM, David Cameron, stated that Article 50 would be triggered automatically following any vote to leave. This modus operandi has continued under Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, who continues to argue for a “hard Brexit” claiming that Article 50 should be invoked immediately without any parliamentary scrutiny or oversight.

These kinds of inferences to fascist ‘mob rule’ was effectively what the Conservative MP David Davies was arguing for when, on Twitter, he stated the following:

Nov 3

“Unelected judges calling the shots. This is precisely why we voted out. Power to the people!”

Here Davies is calling for a non-independent judiciary. The one word for a country where the judiciary is not independent, and where the law is expected to reflect the temporary feelings and emotions of the public – often built upon superstitions, lies and exaggerations – is “dictatorship”. The German constitution banned referenda precisely because they know how fascists came to power.

Modern, secular based constitutions that separate the judiciary from parliament exist in order to prevent the drift towards fascism. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s the job of the Conservative Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss MP, to defend the independence of the British judiciary. But instead of coming to their defense by publicly criticising Javid’s or Davies’s comments, or reprimanding the editors of the Daily Mail, she has remained almost silent.

By arguing against the decision of the High Court judges, Javid and Davies are, in effect, arguing against the legitimate right of British judges to enact British law in the context of the British sovereign parliament. From the perspective of the ‘leavers’ this would seem ironical since they were the people who were most anxious to press the point about the need to ensure Britain maintained its sovereign parliamentary status.

In the avoidance of confusion, parliament (legislature) makes laws and the government (executive) implements them. The role of the judiciary is to check the legality of those laws. The separation of these powers is an integral part of the proper functioning of the state. In ‘An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution (1915, 8th edition, p.38), Professor A.V. Dicey explains the precedent by which the principle underpinning British parliamentary sovereignty is set and, consequently, on what basis the Referendum Bill above was formulated.

Professor A.V Dicey’s century-old legal precedent states, “No person or body is recognized by the law as having a right to override or set aside the legislature of parliament” which “has the right to make or unmake any law whatever.” This simple precedent means “that it cannot be said that a law is invalid as opposed to the opinion of the electorate.” 

In this context, referenda are irrelevant because “the judges know nothing about any will of the people except insofar as that will is expressed by an act of parliament.” The point about the separation of powers is that the legislature and the judiciary protect the public from the possibility that the executive will act against the interests of society of which an all-powerful unchecked state is emblematic. But it also exists to protect the public from itself.

How does this play out in terms of the referendum?

Parliament not only has a responsibility to the 17.5 million British people who voted for Brexit, but it is also responsible to the 29 million people who didn’t (see graphic below).

The role of MPs, in which parliament is sovereign, is not to represent the wishes of the public (a common misconception), but rather to represent the interests of the public in their totality. In this sense, therefore, the interests of 29 million people override the wishes of 17 million people. The interests of the people in the country as a whole, in other words, are not served by committing economic suicide.

As almost the entire professional career of elected politicians is based on them scrutinizing legislation, it follows that what they regard as being in the best interests of the public carries more weight in the decision-making process than people who voted in the referendum on the basis of what they read in the Daily Mail or as a result of the lies uttered by politicians like Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

The fundamental nature of British representative parliamentary democracy is that the public elect a representative not a delegate. The sovereign and inviolate aspect of the system, in other words, means that British constituents elect MPs who they think will exercise their best judgement by voting – Whips notwithstanding – on issues that reflect their best interests.

As the majority of MPs supported remain, and the majority of constituents voted to leave, adopting the rationale described means that, logically, the latter voted against their own interests. Ensuring MPs vote in the best interests of their constituents is what parliamentary sovereignty means. In this regard, all of the pro-leave MPs who said the result of the referendum was a reflection of parliamentary sovereignty, were lying.

It is clear that the Tories wanted to by-pass the law in order to initiate a ‘hard Brexit’ without laying out the terms of such a strategy. The fact that the judges have forced a parliamentary vote – barring any successful appeal to the Supreme Court – means there now has to be proper scrutiny of its terms in advance of the vote. This is in sharp contrast to the continuation of the empty and meaningless “Brexit means Brexit” platitude uttered constantly by Theresa May.

David Cameron, called the referendum, clearly in the anticipation that his side would win. He also must of been aware that a victory for leave would not have been triggered automatically as the information contained in the leaflets sent to all households stated. In any event, the former PM resigned following the result of the referendum precisely because he knew he couldn’t fulfill the promise he had made to the electorate prior to the vote. Cameron’s unelected successor, is therefore tasked with clearing up a mess set in motion by the incompetency of her predecessor.

During the previous election campaign, the Tories manifesto promise was to remain in the single-market. Having so far failed to call an election over the debacle, May’s authority is highly questionable. She didn’t have a mandate before the judgement and she has even less of one now. My advise to Jeremy Corbyn and his team is to prepare for an early election.

‘Move along, nothing else to say’: A summary of Cameron’s role in the Panama Paper’s scandal.

By Daniel Margrain

David Cameron’s speech to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon (April 11) was clearly intended to draw a line under the Panama Papers scandal. The Public will keep this in mind when the Tory government remind us all about “belt tightening”, “austerity” and “we’re all in this together”. The government has 92 special advisers on its books whose combined wages costs us, the British taxpayer’s, a massive £8.4 million a year, one of whom we learned this past week is paid £53,000 to “advise” Cameron’s wife about her choice of wardrobe. Maybe the British public should insist these “special advisers” run the country and cut out the middle man?

Cameron was pulled into the Panama Papers debacle last Monday (April 4) after details of Ian Cameron’s (the PMs deceased father’s) dealings featured in the first batch of documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca. This is a problem for David Cameron because he had previously made statements condemning tax reduction schemes by saying they were “wrong”, which is a word he frequently uses to describe problems he appears to have no intention of ever addressing. In 2012 he said “tax avoidance is morally wrong.” Last Monday (April 4) he again stated that those who attempt to hide their money from the UK tax authorities were “wrong”. However, when the tax affairs of his own family were brought into the media spotlight, he appeared to change his tune by claiming that such affairs were “a private matter”.

The next day (Tuesday, April 5) he said:

“In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares..I have a salary as a Prime Minister, and I have some savings which I get some interest from and I have a house which we used to live which we now let out while we are living in Downing Street and that’s all I have.”

The British public were supposed to be impressed with this outward selfless expression of personal “frugality”. He continued“I have had no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. So I think that’s a very clear description”.  This was obviously part of a carefully prepared and scripted speech by his “special adviser’s” that sounded like a hundred lawyers had poured over it into the early hours to ensure its absolute accuracy to the last syllable. Cameron’s statement, in other words, might of been accurate but it wasn’t necessarily clear.

By Tuesday afternoon, Number 10 had sent out another clarification – a clarification of their previous clarification. This third clarification said, “To be clear, the Prime Minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds. The Prime Minister owns no shares.” It then went on to say, “It’s time for people to either put up or shut up in relation to questioning Cameron’s tax affairs.” (adding the word “peasants” to the end of the sentence would not have sounded out of place).

However, it’s clear the people won’t shut up. Cameron will discover that his attempts to draw a metaphorical line in the sand in relation to this ongoing scandal won’t be heeded in quite the way that he and his advisers would like. They have totally underestimated the public mood and the extent to which the British people recognize that a week of Cameron’s shenanigans represents merely the end of the beginning as opposed to the beginning of the end. The public are only now warming up for the long haul as Cameron tries his best to put his role in the scandal to bed.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday (April 6), there was a fourth clarification which stated that “there are no offshore funds or trusts which the Prime Minister, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future.” Crucially, Cameron’s lawyers and advisers had thus changed the tense. On Thursday (April 7) afternoon, there was a fifth clarification: Cameron maintained that he had nothing to hide. He revealed for the first time that both he and his wife had sold interests worth more than £30,000 in Blairmore which uses bearer shares to protect the privacy of investors’. As with money, whoever bears bearer shares owns them but they are much more portable in that they can be moved around without any paper trail. Consequently, due to the criminal implications associated with them, they have been banned in the UK. Ironically it was the tax swindler, Cameron, who banned them.

Blairmore used more than £30,000 worth of bearer shares to protect the privacy of the Cameron family’s offshore activities. David Cameron insisted that he didn’t personally benefit from any funds from his fathers tax efficient holdings other than the £30,000 described. This is clearly nonsense. As the political satirist Mark Steel in brilliantly comic fashion highlighted, this presupposes that a young David Cameron would have paid for his elite privately funded education at Eton using money he had earned himself after having saved up while undertaking a paper round.

When interviewed by ITVs inscrutable Robert Peston, who sounds like he eats a vowel and pickle sandwich every day for lunch, Cameron said that his father had left him £300,000 and that he couldn’t reveal the source of every bit of the money because his Dad was no longer around to answer any questions about it. Peston asked Cameron how he could of been certain that some of the £300,000 didn’t come from offshore sources. The answer the PM gave was that he and his advisers couldn’t be certain. This, in other words, is code for the money did indeed come from offshore sources. So unless Cameron spent the £300,000 on sweets and comics, then he is currently benefiting from offshore funds.

Let’s make a fairly safe bet and assume that he spent the £300,000 on a relatively secure investment such as property. A decade ago, a £300,000 deposit would have landed a huge investment – particularly in London – in a comfortable family home. The point being, unless Cameron blew the money, on say, cocaine and hookers or otherwise spent it unwisely (which is extremely unlikely), it’s ludicrous to suggest that he will not be benefiting from offshore funds in either the present or the future. It should be remembered that about 15 years ago Cameron bought a house with a mortgage in Oxfordshire with financial help from his father. We, the public, also helped out Cameron by paying the interest on that mortgage for the remainder of what the house cost.

The Cameron family still owns it and its value has increased to over £1 million. It will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. So too will the £300,000 worth of assets from his father increase in value. This £300,000, remember, is a sum Cameron claims neither he, his wife or children have benefited from. So contrary to the assertions of Cameron and his advisers, the notion that he is not benefiting, and will not benefit from, his fathers business in future is also an obvious nonsense. In addition to all this, he owns a second home in Ladbroke Grove in London worth £3.5 million and rising.

It’s inconceivable that Cameron would of been unaware of his father’s financial dealings in Blairmore given that he was himself involved in the Blairmore fund for 14 years (1996-2010). Secondly, the notion that he was somehow oblivious to the fact that Blairmore boasted that it was able to avoid UK tax or, thirdly, that the MPs Code of Conduct compels MPs to declare a financial interest to fellow MPs prior to participating in House of Commons business, are also too far fetched to garner any credibility.

As far as the political and media establishment are concerned, the revelation that Cameron was implicated in the Panama Papers scandal comes down to a question of PR/media mismanagement, as opposed to recognizing that his actions are immoral and, if the law was applied equally, illegal enough to warrant a prison sentence. Let me be clear about this: The super rich elites like Cameron who avoid or evade their taxes, live in the society that the rest of us who do pay our taxes are also a part of. They do not exist as a separate hermetically sealed entity isolated from the rest of humanity.

So they need to be compelled by law to pay their fair share of taxes in order that we are all able to maximize the revenues that accrue for the greatest possible utility. Failing to participate in UK society while presuming to tell the rest of us how it should be run, is incompatible with democracy. What the super rich clearly regard as their inalienable right not to pay tax, is indicative of the fact that 78 per cent of MPs are millionaires compared to just 0.7 per cent of the British population in general. Unfortunately, therefore, democracy has become a by-word for a self-serving system in which MPs effectively represent themselves and the interests of the wealthy.

This explains why the government places a greater emphasis on tackling benefit fraud which represents a relatively tiny proportion of revenue loss compared to the resources that goes into tackling tax evasion and avoidance of the one per cent of the super rich. It might also explain why HMRC chief Edward Troup was a partner at the law firm that acted for Cameron’s offshore fund. What is certain is that these kinds of cozy relationships and practices are contributing to an astounding rate of inequality in which 62 people currently own the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – 50 per cent of the world’s total population.

In terms of Britain, the end result is that tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK treasury a massive £95 billion a year which is enough to fund the entire NHS in England. The surreal irony, in light of all these shenanigans, is that during last Saturday’s London demonstration, tax payer funded police were seen outside Downing Street lining up to protect the one per cent of super rich tax dodgers from the 99 per cent of tax payers.

Another piece of surreal theatre was illustrated by the fact that the demonstration in London last Saturday was barely reported by the BBC but – in the name of impartiality – the demo outside the Iceland parliament received widespread coverage. Despite the efforts of the chattering corporate media class, their counterparts within both the Tory government and the Blairites of Labour’s  PLP, this is a scandal that the public will ensure will not go away any time soon.

War & terrorism differentiated by the power the state has at its disposal

By Daniel Margrain

The twisted ideology of terrorist Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) is as repugnant as it is depraved and inhumane. It’s to the credit of the family members of those individuals Emwazi killed, such as the widow of David Haines, that they stated publicly the preferable course of action would have been to have ensured the killer was brought to trial. This would of course have been the legal and moral approach to have taken. Moreover, it would have emphasized the divide between the democratic process pertaining to justice on the one hand, and the illegal act of extra judicial killing on the other. It’s this principled divide that separates liberal democracies from that of terrorist barbarism.

It was therefore revealing that David Cameron praised the “quick fix” nature of Emwazi’s political assassination, while Jeremy Corbyn agreed with the family members by expressing grave doubts about the government’s policy of extrajudicial killing. Cameron’s subsequent cynical political grandstanding in front of the world’s media was intended to give the false impression that the West are winning the battle against ISIS while simultaneously depicting Corbyn as weak and unpatriotic.

But the reality is that the “patriotism” implied by Cameron’s stance on Ermwazi’s death resulted in the latter’s martyrdom which the terrorist sought from the beginning. Thus the likelihood is that his killing will be a further recruiting agent for ISIS in Syria that the attacks in Paris are an extension of.

As the words from the terrorist statement claiming responsibility for the slaughter in the French capital make clear, the kinds of sadists who gloat about the massacring of people enjoying their warm Friday evening in the bars and cafes of the city are warped individuals who have no moral or ethical scruples about who they kill or how.

But it’s also worth highlighting that among the religious obscurantist language contained in the statement, there are also references to “Crusader’s” which although on the surface is crude, is nevertheless an expression of something that’s fundamentally political in nature. In that sense, the statement is no different from the majority of Bin Laden’s public statements in that it provides secular, not religious rationales for the attacks.

Nowhere in the statement does it justify terrorism against the West as a means of subordinating Western unbelievers to the true faith, but uses the phrase “crusader nations” when describing Germany and France “attended by the imbecile of France (Francois Hollande).” This is the political underpinning to the dirty and inhumane method of terrorism displayed by the psychopathic killers.

The question is, would the killers have used these kinds of methods if they had at their disposal the high-tech operations and “clean” logistical tactics of their French counterparts that preceded the attacks? This includes Hollande’s 2012 arming of Syrian rebels that are in breach of a UN embargo, the emergence of France as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition, and its direct funding of rebel groups around Aleppo as part of the push to oust the embattled Assad regime. In addition, there is evidence of further French complicity in aiding opposition groups as well as Hollande’s pro-regime change rhetoric here and here, and fighter jet deals here and here.

The fact that the terrorists are unable to compete with the violence that powerful state actors can dish out means that the damage the latter are able to inflict is much more extensive and devastating than anything a suicide bomber can inflict. It is a mistake to think that all the individuals who fight under the ISIS banner are driven exclusively by ideological Islamist motives or that the terrorists represent an existential threat to our way of life.

It’s important to highlight some context in relation to this latter point. Terrible as these attacks were, they killed 0.01% – that’s one in ten thousand – of the population of Paris. There are over 600 murders a year in France. Many more people die every year in traffic accidents in Paris than were killed in this atrocity.

It’s arguably the case that many who ascribe to the ISIS death cult do so because they have, in part, been radicalized as the result of a deep sense of injustice and oppression which is then expressed by a commitment to a religious outlook and way of behaving. I disagree with the view of many of those on the “left” who argue that Islamist terrorism has nothing at all to do with Islam. It’s my contention that those who commit terrorist acts often self identify as Muslims so for them Islam is the issue.

The fact that tolerant Muslims claim that their radical counterparts are not authentic Muslims seems to me to be a canard because both factions will justify their own actions by recourse to their own specific interpretations and cherry picking of their religious book in order, in the case of the latter, to justify secular political grievances. This was the case of what is known of the background of one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta:

“The grievances he loudly and frequently articulated against the United States and the Muslim autocracies that the United States supports were almost entirely secular. Most of those who knew him before 1996 stress not Atta’s religious piety…but his implacable fury at the plight of the poor and the indifference of the rich… He was bitterly angry at the visible juxtaposition, in Cairo, of extravagant and frivolous luxury with mass squalor and hopelessness. Egypt’s elite, in particular, was hypocritical, he believed. They showed a ‘democratic face’ to the West, while displaying complete indifference to the misery of ordinary people at home. They had sold their country to the West for trinkets.”

Just as Emile Henry, the French bomber of the café at the Gare St Lazare more than a century ago, saw bourgeois women and children as “guilty” by association, so there are people suffering from imperialism across the world (and not just Muslims) who see the ordinary inhabitants of the oppressor nation as equally “guilty” by association with what “their” nation is doing. This is a terrible inversion of the argument that says that because Hollande, Cameron and Obama were elected, their actions in unleashing war are legitimate. The terrorist logic is that the population cannot be “innocent” because they voted for these politician’s. This is the politics of despair.

The only “strategy” the West seems to have against the ISIS terrorists which extends beyond the “sticking plaster” approach implied by extrajudicial killing, appears to be to continue to drop more indiscriminate bombs from a great height on the people of Syria creating the kind of collateral damage that the sadists who created the carnage in Paris could only dream of. This is because the West is not fighting a traditional standing army of a recognized state that’s easily identifiable, but a set of well armed, financed and organised collection of individuals who are highly mobile.

Leading Western politicians’ seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that what is supposed to separate our democracies from the tyranny of the terrorists is the concept of the rule of law. Our leaders’ promotion of a policy of bombing Syria “even harder” towards democracy makes us no different in essence from the tactics used by the terrorists we condemn, thus making the concepts of war and terrorism distinguishable from one another only in as much as the former is indicative of state power.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

By Daniel Margrain

The momentous nature of Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory should not be underestimated. It has to go down as one of the most sensational and politically earth shattering events in modern British political history – the impacts of which are sending tremors throughout the entire establishment. After the announcement was made that Corbyn had won, it was obvious that the smiles, handshakes and applause of the vast majority of the calculating and opportunistic labour elite were as a fake as Blair’s claim that Saddam was about to attack Britain within 45 minutes.

A pointer to the overwhelming inspiration underlying Corbynism was the fact that no less than 160,000 volunteers who seemingly emerged out of nowhere, were recruited to the cause. The grass roots support that Corbyn engendered – by far the biggest of its kind in history – was almost certainly the catalyst that propelled him to victory. Although the activists were mainly young people, they were by no means exclusively so. In fact the demographic was wide ranging.

Corbyn’s straight talking, lucidity, and unambiguous commitment to a programme of anti-austerity brought many older activists who had felt betrayed by the direction the party had gone under Blair, back into the fold. To put Corbyn’s victory into context, he secured a higher percentage of votes than Blair got in 1994  Even more significant, the 554,272 votes he achieved was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair received.

This would indicate that Corbynmania is no flash in the pan, but on the contrary, represents a new optimism that things really can be better given the right circumstances. Decades where nothing happens can all of a sudden transform into the possibility where decades happen all within the blink of an eye. Neoliberal ideology, which for many was perceived to have been fixed and immutable has, with the rise of Corbynism ,the potential to be swept away.

The excitement that surrounds Corbyn in 2015, therefore, marks a more significant change within the labour movement than the superficial controversy of ‘third way’ Blairism in 1994. Blair’s subsequent general election victory in 1997 cemented the ideological coming together of the Red-Tory axis that this writer hopes Corbynism will shatter to the dustbin of history. What is certain is that September 12, 2015 will be remembered as the day in British political history that Blairism officially died.

When Corbyn was first nominated, he was seen by his opponents both inside and outside the party as a joke candidate. But an indication of how they are now taking him seriously is the extent to which the mainstream media are unanimously attacking him. The Tories, who apparently voted for him because they thought it would enhance their future electoral prospects, are the ones now claiming he is a danger to national security.

But the more they attack, the greater is his support. Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor, Gideon Osborne and MP, Priti Patel have all made exactly the same public statements attacking Corbyn. Clearly, all of them have read the same memo issued from Whitehall. The fear mongering and demonizing propaganda, intended for news bulletin soundbites, is so transparent that it’s comical.

The Tories got this tactic from the Republican Party in America who repeat the same propaganda over and over again hoping that some of it sticks which it invariably does. Of course, the media play their part by uncritically reporting it. An example was the way Fox News repeated the lie that President Obama was a Muslim who was born outside of America.

The phrase repeated in the UK media is that “hard-left” Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to the security of our country, economy and every UK family. In the interest of consistency, why don’t the media who describe security-risk, Corbyn as “hard-left”, apply the euphemism “hard-right” to Cameron whose illegal wars greatly increase the risk of domestic terrorist activity? Gove said:

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is a deadly serious demand from her majesty’s opposition that we put the future of this country in the hands of the MP for Islington North…There can be no room for doubt or ambiguity about what Jeremy Corbyn would do if he formed the next government. He would pose a direct threat to the security of our country, the security of our economy and the security of every family…. He would weaken our defenses and make Britain less safe. By choosing Jeremy Corbyn over his rivals, the party have now endorsed deserting our allies like Norway. He proposes leaving the NATO alliance just as the growing threat from Islamist extremists requires international solidarity.

Or to put it another way, Corbyn wants Britain to stop trailing after America to launch another war that got us into this mess in the first place. Gove continues:

“Corbyn would also reduce our armed forces further unilaterally, scrapping our nuclear deterrent whilst terrorists and state sponsors of terror seek to develop nuclear weapons of their own.”

Just think about that for a moment. In the unlikely event that terrorists get hold of a nuclear weapon, they are not going to put it on the back of a rocket and send it from where they are living because they will be easily detectable from space and consequently we would be able to respond in kind. Terrorists are insane but they are not stupid.

What they are more likely to do is Fed Ex some kind of small device in the hope that it would be undetectable which, therefore, totally mitigates against the effectiveness of a state like Britain to be able to use nuclear weapons as a targeted response.

Gove then goes on to criticise Corbyn for his apparent economic incompetency by suggesting that his policy of printing money would be inflationary, overlooking the fact that his own government flooded the bankers with money. The stated aim was that the banks would lend the money back to us with interest so that they would make more profit. But the bankers went one better than that by using the money to buy shares in their own companies thereby increasing the value of those shares and hence the amount of bonuses they were able to award themselves. Conversely, Corbyn’s stated aim is to give the money to the people as a means of generating growth.

Gove then misquotes Corbyn as saying that the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy. But what Gove failed to mention, was that Corbyn was not describing the death as a tragedy, but the fact that Bin Laden wasn’t put on trial, imprisoned and therefore punished for longer.

Why is Tory economic dogma seen as mainstream, but Corbynism extreme?

Sixty-six years after the foundation of the welfare state, under the current Conservative government, every aspect of it is under attack. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act, for example, will remove the duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive health service, while the requirement in the act that up to 49 percent of services can be tendered out to “any qualified provider” will rapidly lead to the privatisation of the NHS in England and Wales. Already between a quarter and a half of all community services are now run by Virgin Care [1].

In social care, a combination of cuts of around 30 percent to local authority budgets since 2010, increasingly restrictive eligibility criteria for services, and inadequate personal budgets will leave millions without the support they need and increasingly dependent on the family, and in particular women family members [2].

And in place of what was once called social security, unprecedented cuts across all areas of benefits, especially disability benefits, the introduction of sanctions regimes which have contributed to 500,000 people being forced to use food banks, and a bedroom tax affecting around 600,000 people will increase the number of children living in poverty by 200,000 [3].

All of this has been underpinned by a brutal ideological offensive against people on benefits which explains the reason for the growing rates of sickness benefit claims are for those who suffer from depression and anxiety [4], as well as the increase in the rate of suicide among those on benefits [5].

The ideological attack on the poor is predicated on the governments’ insistence that those able to defend themselves least, pay the costs for a global economic crisis which began in 2008 but was not of their making [6].

Over the last forty years, successive Labour and Tory governments’ have been committed to rolling back the post-war welfare settlement under the guise of debt reduction premised on neoliberalism which involves a change to the function of the state as less ‘welfare provider’ to more ‘pro-business facilitator’.

Many people believe that the neoliberal assault that embody these changes began with the 1979 Thatcher governments’ limited (by today’s standards) publicly-owned asset stripping. But this is a myth. It was actually under the Callaghan administration that preceded Thatcher that the initial structural changes happened  As Colin Leys (p.41) notes:

From 1976 onwards Labour…. became “monetarist”. It’s leaders accepted that full employment could no longer be achieved by government spending but must be sought through private sector growth. For the necessary private investment to take place, prices must reflect real values, and this in turn required “squeezing” inflation out of the system and permitting the free movement of capital. In 1978 Treasury officials began preparing to abolish capital controls

But it is the assault by the trio of Cameron, Duncan Smith and Osborne on, not just the welfare state, but the entire ethos of the public sector in general, that has taken things to a new level. This is demonstrated, in part, by Osborne’s intention to sell off £31bn of public assets in 2015-16. It is clear that the Tories are using austerity and the neoliberal ideology that underpins it, as an excuse to expand the pro-business facilitator model to areas within the public sector that Thatcher could only in her wildest of dreams imagined.

That said, this approach has limits in terms of maximizing utility to capitalists within a modern state. It is precisely this kind of rationale that explains why the former governor of the Bank of England announced that the current situation is “the worst crisis at least since the 1930s” [7].   

As this writer has pointed out previously, even venture capitalists realize that proper welfare provision for those not working as well as a substantial increase in the the minimum wage for those in work, is necessary to prevent the capitalist system that they benefit from collapsing in on itself [8].

In 1943, the Tory MP Quintin Hogg warned that “If you don’t give the people social reform, they will give you social revolution” [9]. This is as relevant today as it was then.

It’s therefore in nobody’s interest that wages are kept depressed and the unemployed and sick are continually made to suffer. The fact they continue to suffer unnecessarily is the reason why a political space has opened up for the likes of Jeremy Corbyn to move into.

Although much of the mainstream media are characterizing Corbyn’s policies as unworkable, misguided and extreme – and seemingly doing everything in their power to undermine and discredit him -, these are nevertheless policies that are, in truth, mainstream and pragmatic. This explains why an increasing number of economists have publicly come out in support of the kinds of economic policies Corbyn articulates [10].

These policies are economically credible, popular with the public and, for most of the world, regarded as mainstream:

In 2009, most of the world was following mainstream economics of the kind that Corbyn is proposing today in undertaking a fiscal stimulus to combat the impact of the financial crisis. But in the UK a certain politician decided to ignore ‘economic credibility’, and instead proposed doing the opposite: what has subsequently become known as austerity [11].

The imposition of 40 years of neoliberal economic dogma pursued by successive Labour and Tory governments’ has failed the people of Britain who rightly, in my view, see Corbyn as the catalyst for change. As time goes on there will be increasing pressure not just from below, but from the top, for the Tories to change course.

As the open letter to the Guardian by over 40 leading economists illustrates, this is already starting to happen. If the government refuse to acknowledge that austerity and neoliberalism have failed, and thus continue to stick rigidly to their failed ideology of cuts and austerity, the British people will eventually elect a figure like Corbyn into power on a mandate to do something about it. That time is coming closer with every passing day.

Equality And Social Justice – Cameron Style

The mainstream media today confirmed the Tories commitment to equality and social justice with their announcement of their plans to ensure that UK citizens aged 18-22 are (in line with anti-EU discrimination law), to be exempt from the same rights to tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit as their immigrant counterparts.

Government lawyers have stated: “Imposing additional requirements on EU workers that do not apply to a member state’s own workers constitutes direct discrimination which is prohibited under current EU law” (1).

So, apparently, in order to be compliant with EU law, UK citizens within the 18-22 age group must forgo these benefits on the basis that it’s discriminatory because immigrants are not entitled to them.

But instead of raising the bar by insisting that both UK citizens and immigrants within this age range be entitled to benefits on an equal basis, the Tories have decided to lower it by insisting that neither group are entitled to anything. In other words, equality in the gutter as opposed to equality at the dinner table.

The reason so many immigrants – many of whom risk their lives –  want to come here is because of the perception that the UK is a relative economic powerhouse. However, any cuts to benefits will not deter people who are primarily motivated by the need to improve the lives of themselves and their families as a result of perceived greater work opportunities this country allegedly offers.

The government have done nothing to dispel myths that the UK is a land of milk and honey. This would suggest that their plan to cut welfare across the board in order to adhere to EU law was planned. As blogger Mike Sivier put it: “The migrant situation is a crisis of the Tories’ own making and they are using it to hammer their own fellow citizens” (2).

So what next do the government have in the pipeline you might reasonably ask?

The Tories are ideologically opposed to the welfare state. This latest move is, I would suggest, part and parcel of their intention to get rid of it altogether by stealth. It’s a remarkable state of affairs when our only hope out of this morass appears to be Jeremy Corbyn.

The Benefit Sponging Elite

Last night another row erupted after it emerged that hedge funds rushed to gamble on RBS shares falling in value after government plans to start selling its stake were leaked last week. (file image)

I was in my local cafe earlier today and nearly choked on my bacon sandwich at the sheer audacity of the banksters. I happened to glance over at the adjacent table at the copy of the Daily Mail somebody had left open. I generally detest this rag, but have to admit that every now and then it does come up with the occasional nugget.

The paper does appear of late to be on a mission to undermine Osborne and the Tories. As I alluded to in post on August 4, it was clear that the Tory Aristocrat had garnered some insider knowledge prior to the part sell off of RBS thus providing the opportunity for his mates in the City to, once again, pillage the public purse- this time to the tune of a cool £1bn (1).

This was money which no doubt could have been better spent on bailing out a non-taxable status charitable organisation like, for example, Kids Company run by Camila Batman (and robber?) ghelidjh. Maybe an extra billion added to the £3 million Cameron nodded through to the bankrupt charity would have saved it?

But anyway back to the latest banking scandal. With her insider knowledge and connections as a former City banker, it’s highly conceivable that Treasury minister, Harriet Baldwin. who defended the sell-off, would have advised Osborne on the matter.

The Daily Mail’s Banking Correspondent, James Salmon, revealed that hedge funds rushed to gamble on RBS – a ploy known in the market as ‘shorting’ – “may have generated profits of more than £10 million, This is because the bank’s share price fell in the days before the government sell-off.” (2).

Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury select committee, said: “Yet again hedge funds and bankers are making money and the public are losing out.” (3). A few days ago former City trader, Tom Hayes,was given a 14 year sentence for his role in rigging the Libor interest rate. (4). But he is merely the sacrificial lamb for a much wider and systematic corruption that begins at the very top. The fact that these kinds of abuses are allowed to continue in the context in which people struggling on benefits are jailed for stealing food (5), is the scandal of our time.

The former Republican analyst Mike Lofgren, disgusted with what his party had become, said the following about the economic elite in the United States:

“The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it ” (6).

He might as well of been talking about the UK, which is basically little more than the 51st state. Osborne and Cameron identify more readily with a transnational elite than with the other people of this nation. The proof is in the pudding. On behalf of this elite, the government gives away a staggering £93bn a year in corporate welfare – a sum bigger than the deficit.(7). It champions the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; a graver threat to the interests of this nation than Islamic extremism.

And yet there is a iron-cast consensus between the Tories and the Labour hierarchy in terms of their unwillingness to tackle the problem. This explains why the latter distance themselves from the populist Jeremy Corbyn who wants to put and end to this kind of revolving door political cronyism.

The real benefit spongers are not those who feature on low brow documentary programmes, but rather they are the elites who occupy the corridors of the plush buildings within the City of London.