Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

A different kind of life is possible: Bruce Kent

After a US commander revealed the information to the Senate, the Ministry of Defence confirmed on Sunday that it has committed the taxpayer to fund a multi billion pound replacement of Trident, with nuclear warheads based on US technology.

Colin Archer and Dave Webb point out that, given the importance of finding large sums of public money to fund the now-urgent green transition, this is the right time to highlight the huge sums devoted to the military sector and top of the list is the UK’s commitment to nuclear weapons. The proposed slogan for Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is ‘Military spending costs the Earth’. 

Amongst the articles listed on the GDAMS international campaign website was one by Bruce Kent originally published in Peace News. The article opens with his tribute to the readable, international and interesting Peace News, before signing off, at least for a time. He thanked all on the team, especially the very modest editor and continued:

Hospital is always an eye-opening experience. Any London hospital is an international community on its own: a Portuguese doctor, nurses from the Philippines and all parts of Africa – all helpful and concerned even if very over-worked. My biggest shock came in a chat with a young trainee nurse. I asked if she did an eight-hour day. She just smiled. Her working day runs for 12½ hours. She lives at least an hour away in South London. So she has about eight or nine hours at home to sleep, cook, eat and have any kind of social life. Not fair. It’s not just money that the NHS needs but good working conditions as well.

In the run-up to the general election, both main parties promised many millions to be spent on increased NHS funding. Why did they not say this and do it long ago?

We can apparently afford £200 billion for a new set of very non-independent nuclear missile submarines. Missiles are on rotating loan from the US, which no one seems to notice. Not a word so far, in all the electioneering that I have heard, about nuclear bombs except for a contemptuous mention that Jeremy Corbyn would not ‘press the button’ – and so kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians far away.

Our concern about military expenditure is clearly a global one. Only recently a report came through my letterbox from the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) started by the International Peace Bureau in 2011.

(Right: Bruce and other campaigners attended a GDAMS protest and letter hand-in at the MoD in April 2019)

GCOMS concentrates every April-May on actions all around the world, highlighting the connection between military expenditure and the lack of money for real human needs. Last time, there were 110 events in 27 countries – with UK events in York, Bradford and London. Have a look at the work in progress on www.demilitarize.org.

The need is obvious. The money spent on war and the preparations for war is a scandal and ought to be commonly recognised as such. The global military budget is now not far off two trillion dollars a year. We now have the climate change campaigners with us.

To read the small print click here and use the magnifying glass symbol to read the data from SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Database (March 2019)

Military production involves the release of CO2 in massive quantities. The two great current perils, war and climate change, are dangerous twins.

Many of the events are fun to organise, such as the ‘Move the money’ selfie project, or stalls offering passers-by the opportunity to indicate their alternative budget choices (buttons in jam jars or buckets work well, labelled ‘education’, ‘green energy’, etc). We need a group campaigning on military expenditure to be active in every part of this country, but that means hard and imaginative work and energy. We need an enthusiastic volunteer to coordinate and encourage more GCOMS events next spring. How about you?

From “The Chance for Peace,” a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

The best quote that I can end with comes, rather surprisingly, from a US general. Dwight Eisenhower was never a hawk. He can’t have been popular in his world for saying that the nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 were never necessary. He had this to say in 1953 and you may well recognise the quotation: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is not a way of life. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron….’

Bruce ends: “A different kind of life is possible. Let’s together make it happen”.

 

 

 

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A new and better kind of politics: Nick Duffell

 

In 2017, Nick Duffell described how our votes could form a new and better kind of politics.

THANK goodness that voting seems to be coming back into fashion. Even if election results defy prediction, nothing could be worse than political apathy, which has lately been the norm — especially among the young — given the historic struggle for universal suffrage.

This apathy is understandable since Britain’s mainstream parties, whose hegemony our first-past-the-post system maintains, have been barely distinguishable over the past two decades.

Much as we would like it to be the fault of personalities or parties, the underlying cause is that global markets exercise such dominant control of national economies that — despite their rhetoric — every party ends up as the “business-as-usual party.”

This is not to say that those who understand the socially vulnerable (we can discount the Tories, ruled as ever by the ethos of “wounded leaders,” as described in my psycho-history of the same name) can’t make some difference. Of course they can. But only a bit, because so many of our problems are profoundly systemic.

The Grenfell tragedy highlights Britain’s failure to invest in social housing since the ’80s and our total unwillingness to regulate the rental sector and property speculation.

Getting these things right will require more than simply voting Labour, however well intentioned Jeremy Corbyn is, and however well he sidesteps the public-school bully style of politics that dominates Westminster . . .

Read on here.

 

 

 

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Reviews of John McDonnell’s ‘somewhat alarming publication’

Chris Giles, Economics Editor of the Financial Times, reviews Economics for the Many, a collection of essays by leftwing thinkers who support the Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, with an introduction by John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor.

Giles agrees that there is an urgent need for a galvanising economic manifesto for the new left in British politics, because the UK economy has performed poorly since the global financial crisis a decade ago, with stagnant real wages, feeble productivity growth, large cuts to vital public services and many households finding either good jobs or affordable housing out of reach.

“At the core of this programme is a new set of models, institutions and strategies that, if put in place, would in and of themselves produce vastly improved societal outcomes”. It includes:

  • a plan to build a radically fairer and more sustainable society, in which wealth is shared by all.
  • changing the ownership of companies,
  • ending short-termism in the financial sector,
  • a programme of green investment
  • and much greater regional devolution of state powers.

Giles notes some inconsistencies and omissions and complains that “precious little space is devoted to how Britain should deal with an ageing society, housing or how to manage the existing public sector responsibilities of health, education, police or the armed forces”.

He concludes: “If you want a new left coherent programme, this is not it . . . But for all its flaws, the book serves a useful guide to the thinking and language of the new left. Fellow travellers must oppose austerity, financialisation and neoliberalism, while rising to the challenge of radical democratic ownership of the means of production”.

The book will be available in paperback this month and its online blurb says: “With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, and the extraordinary turnaround in Labour’s fortunes in the 2017 election, we have a real opportunity to build an economy in Britain that is radically fairer, radically more democratic, and radically more sustainable”.

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The Telegraph’s Liam Halligan writes in the Spectator: Those wanting an idea of how the world’s fifth biggest economy might look under Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn should take a look at McDonnell’s speech. For more detail, you can read the book he edited – Economics for the Many – published just before the conference . . .

McDonnell (above) writes: ”Calls for the nationalisation of water, electricity and gas, the Royal Mail and trains, greeted with howls of outrage and press derision, are very popular with the public”.

Halligan comments. “To some extent, that’s true. A recent YouGov poll suggested around 60% of voters think the railways and Royal Mail should be back in public hands, with half wanting water and energy companies re-nationalised”.

He touches on some of the inconsistencies voiced by Giles but continues: “Having said that, this volume does pose some relevant and pressing questions – with McDonnell asking, for instance, if government should ‘deal with Big Data’ by creating ‘new digital rights’. He singles out:

  • a chapter by technology researcher Francesca Bria on ‘surveillance capitalism’, which raises similar key issues, ranging from ‘the monopoly power of the tech giants’ to ‘a new tax on digital platforms’;
  • an argument by Prem Sikka, the respected accountancy academic, that ‘tax revenues are under relentless attack from wealthy elites’ and ‘tackling tax avoidance and evasion is one of the major social and political issues of our time’. He’s not wrong;
  • Ann Pettifor’s call for investment into jobs relating to renewable energy – a policy we’re hearing much more of, after 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the New York Democrat primary this summer, on a ‘Green New Deal’ ticket. Almost certain to enter Congress in November, her agenda will be catapulted into the political mainstream;’.
  • Christopher Proctor’s chapter about the need for academic economics to get beyond its ‘theoretical strait-jacket’, to become ‘more open, diverse and relevant to the real world’ and
  • McDonnell’s call for ‘a real devolution of powers and resources out from the centre’ of the UK -adding it is, indeed, disturbing Britain is ‘the most geographically unequal country in Europe’ – with ‘the richest single area – central London – but also nine of Northern Europe’s ten most deprived areas’.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto promise of a corporation tax rise from 19% to 26% (the Tories plan a cut to 17% by 2021) and the party’s proposal for public spending to increase by around £75bn, a 10% uplift, over the next three years, leads Halligan to warn, “Such measures could well result in a much weaker currency, higher interest rates and slower growth. Similarly, Labour’s share transfer plans may provoke capital flight, curtail investment and, in the words of the Confederation of British Industry, ‘crack the foundations’ of prosperity’ “. And Halligan ends:

Amid corporate scandals, a massive housing shortfall and polarising wealth inequality, UK capitalism faces a crisis of confidence. Senior Tories, if they fail adequately to respond, are fools. For, as McDonnell writes in this somewhat alarming publication, his ‘better world is in sight’ “.

 

 

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Ending the damage the British boarding school does to its pupils – and to Britain

A motion approved by delegates at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton said a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and claimed that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice”. The party would therefore include in its next manifesto “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector”.

Below: the final paragraphs of an article first published here and also on this site, reproduced with two profile links added.

Psychohistorian and psychologist Nick Duffell speaks to Richard House about the distinct damage the British boarding school system does to its pupils – and Britain.

A file picture of Eton College

RH: Can you say more about how these traumas drive and distort the attitudes and decision-making of political leaders?

ND: Well, the main thing is that if you’ve been forced to completely dissociate from your natural vulnerability, you can never hope to understand the vulnerable in society.

Neuroscience now proves that if you don’t have emotional intelligence you cannot make good choices; for me, this is the science behind what economist Will Hutton says, that the Tory Party has consistently made bad decisions over decades.

And then there’s the duplicity habit, referred to earlier: if you have a strategic survival personality running your life, you lose touch with what’s true or what’s a lie; you can never be wrong — which is why, even now, Tony Blair cannot admit he was wrong over Iraq.

Boarding school survivors can’t join groups and become team players unless they’ve done the necessary inner work; so we haven’t even really joined Europe yet, despite feeling we should either lead it or quit it. In short, elite boarding is a terrible training for good leadership.

RH: It’s outrageous that, as Robert Verkaik outlines in his book Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, these schools receive massive fees, yet as charities pay no rates, corporation tax or investment-income tax. And were VAT charged on fees, it would yield £1.5 billion of tax annually. So what, in your view, is to be done? What line would you advise a left-Corbyn government to take with this toxic class-based schooling system?

ND: It’s vital that Corbyn engages some good advisers on mental health issues in the light of what we now know about psychopathology not only affecting the less privileged, but also the elite.

He should take note of George Monbiot’s recent suggestion in the Guardian of mandatory psychotherapy for would-be political leaders.

Boarding younger than 16 should be stopped, and the existing facilities become residential sixth-form colleges on the model of the Danish “efterskol” and the tax concessions to private schools should be reversed.

Original citation: Nick Duffell is a is psychotherapist, author and psychohistorian based in London. His books include Wounded Leaders, The Making of Them and (with Thurstine Basset) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. Richard House is a left-green Corbynista activist in Stroud.

 

 

 

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Financial Times: Labour is right, Britain’s private utility model is broken

 

On 19th May, Inside Business focussed on criticism of the UK’s privatised water sector for poor performance, high rate of leakage and failure to put in place adequate measures to help customers struggling to pay their bills.

The privatised water Industry in the UK. An ATM for investors, research published by Greenwich university’s Public Services International Research Unit in October 2018, suggests that the 40% increase in real household bills since privatisation was mainly due to continuously growing interest payments on debt – and not to growing costs and investments, as the regulator had reported.

Earlier, the Guardian noted that the chief executives of England’s privatised water companies banked £58m in pay over the last five years while customers have been faced with above-inflation rises in their water bills.

Inside Business noted that between their privatisation in 1989 and last year, English water companies ‘generated operating cash flows’ totalling £159bn in 2017-18 money, £36bn more than they spent on new pipes and infrastructure. At the end of this period they had paid £56bn in dividends and borrowed £51bn that customers will have to service and pay off over many years

It is suggested that this borrowing served only to pay financial returns to investors.

A year earlier, This is Money recorded that four water firms set up subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, more than a decade ago, as – at that time – rules in the UK prevented them from raising cash on the bond markets. Though this is no longer the case, many have continued to use the offshore firms as interest payments made through havens often do not incur tax as they would in the UK.

The Greenwich study suggests much of this borrowing by companies served only to pay financial returns to investors: “We show that the skyrocketing debt levels are primarily the result of disproportionate dividend pay-outs”.

Britain’s existing model ought to change. Michael Pooler, in the Financial Times, sets out two ways to solve the problem of private monopoly:

“One is the solution the Labour opposition favours, which is to eliminate it by putting the companies into “not for dividend” public hands. Then you can set whatever social objectives you choose. Eliminating dividends certainly dissolves the conflicts of private ownership. The Welsh and Scottish water companies both have this model — and the latter has not suffered a notable penalty in efficiency versus the English companies, according to the regulator”.

The other is offered by economist Dieter Helm In the 2017 Cost of Energy Review commissioned by government. He suggested increased oversight of utilities, with regulators setting the desired outputs (new transmission connections, flood defences) and then opening them up to competitive tender from anyone — private or even state sources. He points out that Britain’s energy systems face a period of upheaval in order to deal with the challenge of decarbonisation and concludes that a new approach might achieve this shift more flexibly, and align returns a little better with the real risk taken.

The FT notes the involvement of ‘financial engineers’ whose main objective was draining value from these private monopolies, adding that this is what has spurred the interest in renationalisation.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party has come out firmly for the renationalisation of rail, water, energy and the postal service. At the Labour party’s annual conference in September, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, promised to bring “ownership and control of the utilities and key services into the hands of people who use and work in them”.

The Greenwich analysis found that the public-owned sector in Scotland delivers the water and sewage service just as efficiently and at a lower cost to consumers and Inside Business (reluctantly?) concluded that the Labour party’s attempt to nationalise them ‘cannot be dismissed as a paleo-socialist blast from the past’.

 

 

 

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The FT , John McDonnell & Jeremy Corbyn agree on employee ownership, but not on the process

 

A Moseley reader draws attention to a report that Julian Richer, CEO & founder, is handing control of Richer Sounds, the hi-fi and TV retail chain of 53 stores to staff, transferring 60% of his shares into a John Lewis-style trust. His staff will also receive £1,000 for every year they have worked for the retailer.

In line with Corbyn/McDonnell policy proposals, Richer refuses to use zero-hours contracts and is one of the 14% of companies with a pay gap that favours women. Employee perks include access to company holiday homes and the company donates 15% of profits, which last year stood at £9.6m, to charity.

Wisely, the trust will operate according to a set of principles designed to ensure it continues to follow the course set by Richer over the past 40 years.

A colleague advisory council will be established to represent the interests of employees and shape the company’s future. Richer said the arrangement meant the company would avoid an “aggressive” outside investor “changing the strategy”.

A Financial Times article agrees that employee involvement on a voluntary basis is ‘a superior idea’ and stands a greater chance of reforming how businesses are run, adding “No form of control is perfect, but societies and economies gain from diversity of ownership including by employees”.

More than 350 businesses have now adopted the model – for example the 134-year-old Essex jam-maker Wilkin & Sons, whose employees own almost half the company through a trust. Many staff live in company accommodation on the estate surrounding the Tiptree factory, with trading profits used to buy back shares for the trust. Profits also go to support local projects including sports and arts organisations. At least 50 more are said to be preparing to move into employee ownership..

The Co-operative News presents the Shadow Chancellor’s proposal

At the Labour Party Conference last October, shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced that the Labour Party would legislate for large companies to transfer shares into an Inclusive Ownership Fund:

‘Decisions taken in boardrooms affect people’s pay, their jobs and their pensions. Workers deserve a real say in those decisions. . . The shares will be held and managed collectively by the workers. The shareholding will give workers the same rights as other shareholders to have a say over the direction of their company. And dividend payments will be made directly to the workers from the fund. Payments could be up to £500 a year. That’s 11 million workers each with a greater say, and a greater stake, in the rewards of their labour.” Labour also plans for a proportion of revenues generated by the “inclusive ownership funds” to be transferred back to public services as a social dividend

The Financial Times’ editorial board compares Richer’s ‘attractive arrangement’ with Labour’s proposed use of ‘force’ under Jeremy Corbyn.

“Whereas Mr Richer and others have been incentivised by the UK’s new employee ownership trust (EOT) structure, which allows entrepreneurs to pass majority control to a trust without capital gains tax, if elected, the Labour Party wants to ‘force’ all UK companies with more than 250 employees to move gradually into employee ownership. This would involve diverting 10% of their equity to “inclusive ownership funds” that would divide the dividends between staff and the government.”

It recommends a tax incentive instead of a ‘tax grab’

 

 

 

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A Marshall Plan for stability and sufficiency: proposed by Essex Quaker Ted Dunn and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Mass migration deprives developing countries of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Free movement of peoples, as practised in Britain, is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

Hines and Porritt call for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education” as government figures show that we currently have 1.38 million unemployed people seeking work.

Today, some of the mental and physical health risks to migrants are set out, for the first time, in a World Health Organization study

Migration is stressful: factors include loss of language, of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks

John Watson reports in Medscape that research suggests refugees or skilled office workers freely passing through borders opened to them by global trade, are connected by a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and somatic disorders (mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms).

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.

Programmes which would build peace, stability and sufficiency in troubled areas

Essex Quaker Ted Dunn, during the war, was a Friends Ambulance hospital administrator in Ethiopia. He spent the rest of his life as an organic market gardener and in meeting or contacting decision-makers in many countries to advocate regional peace and development programmes, sometimes compared with the Marshall Plan.

His work, though highly commended, met with indifference from the British Government and a general public preoccupied at that time with its own personal well-being and interests. A few of the recommendations may be seen below.

UK politicians and media have shown a similar lack of interest in Germany’s invitation to other developed countries to support the G-20 Compact with Africa – a Marshall-style plan to bolster the economies of poor countries and give people hope for the future.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller aims to develop joint solutions with African countries, with a focus on programmes for youth, education and training, strengthening economies and the rule of law.

The latest news (October ’18) is that Germany and Ghana have entered into a 100 million euros bilateral Investment and Reform Partnership agreement on investment promotion, increased use of renewable energy, promotion of rural youth employment, digital education for girls and women and fair taxation   and vocational training. More information may be seen here.

Like Dunn and Chancellor Merkel, Porritt and Hines advocate a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place.   

In agreement:

António GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world, urges all to work to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters said: “The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good”.

Professor John Roberts said in one of his newsletters, “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

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SOME COMMENDATIONS OF REGIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

A serious and thoughtful attempt to deal with what is perhaps the most urgent problem facing mankind – Lord Peter Archer, QC

The proposal is an idea which deserves the most serious consideration. H. Dale Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica

I very much support this initiative – Stuart Holland MP, when Shadow Minister for Development

World Peace through regional peace and development programmes should, for example, wipe out the apartheid system in South Africa – Ahaja Shehu Awak; Nigerian High Commissioner

You certainly have my support – George Foulkes, Shadow Minister for the UN

I am a keen proponent of Regional Development. The creation of an International Criminal Tribunal  (is) . . . the lynchpin of the future development of international law. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

I firmly believe the proposal represents a very wise and potentially creative way in which the world could deal with its most pressing needs  –  John Sarum, Bishop of Salisbury

I think regionalization of the world’s problems is the only feasible way. Johan Galtung, Peace Researcher, founder of the International Peace research Institute, Oslo

We here will do what we can to further encourage your ideas in Commonwealth capitals whenever opportunities arise – Christopher Laidlaw, then Assistant Director of the Commonwealth  Office 

It is clear that in the fifth decade of the United Nations era there is need for new thinking about the way forward in developing world order. Ted Dunn has added to his efforts in furthering public education on world peace a new work that suggests a practical formula for establishing peace through a step by step approach. He focuses on the regional dimension in a novel way – a proposal for official development programmes which are based on and integrate social, economic and political justice. The formula requires a meaningful relationship between rich and poor countries – one which would be advantageous for their common development and thus necessarily contribute to world peace. It is an imaginative and practically-oriented work, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the historical record. It is to be heartily recommended – Shridath Ramphal, when Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat.

 

 

 

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