Category Archives: Politics

The Tory Election Victory

Many people were shocked and disappointed with the result of the General Election, where it seemed unbelievable that after 5 years of Austerity, the Tories were somehow able to increase their support among the electorate, and obtain an overall majority in parliament. However things aren’t quite so clear-cut, and there are a few points which should be remembered about the Tory election victory.

Rethinking Government Assistance: David Cameron
David Cameron – only re-elected because of our dysfunctional political system. Picture © World Economic Forum

Firstly the turnout was only 66%, which means that with 36% of the vote, the Tories were actually only supported by 1 in 4 people. Secondly, our ridiculous First-Past-the-Post system of counting votes means that their 36% of the vote gave them 51% of the seats in parliament and so an overall majority. This system is grossly unrepresentative of the way people voted, and to give it some context:

The Tories’ 36% share of the vote gave them 331 seats; whereas UKIP’s 13% share of the vote – a third as many as the Tories got – only gave them one seat.

In terms of numbers, the Tories got 11.3 million votes which gave them 331 seats; while UKIP, the Lib Dems and the Green Party combined got 7.4 million votes (just 4 million less) but only got 10 seats between them.

So the Tory victory was only actually achieved because they benefited from a grossly unfair and wholly unrepresentative system of voting – democracy it certainly wasn’t! (A system of Proportional Representation, as most other countries in Europe use, would have given a very different result.)

The third thing to remember is we shouldn’t underestimate how much advantage the Tories get by virtue of being financed by the business sector (and in particular the City of London, which provides over half their funding). Running an election campaign is like running an advertising campaign, and the more money you can put in the more you will get out. Our subversive system of private funding of political parties gives a massive advantage to any party – in this case the Tories – which puts business before people and so can count on the wealthy to bankroll it. To show just how uneven this particular playing field has become, the private funding of the main political parties in the year before the General Election was as follows:

Tories – £29million; Labour – £19m; LibDems – £8m; UKIP – £3.5m; Greens – £0.65m*

* Source: UK Political Info – http://www.ukpolitical.info/Donations.htm

With that kind of advantage in funds it really is no surprise the Tories were able to out-gun and out-campaign all the other main parties. They won because they were able to outspend everyone else with campaign materials and boots on the ground in constituencies. Combined with the advantage of the dysfunctional voting system, they only won because the election was unfair and totally undemocratic.

So, unfortunately, we now face the prospect of another 5 years of Tory rule, and ongoing Austerity. However while on the face of it things may look bad, I do think that events may well turn out rather differently than they might at first appear. Last September, after the Scottish Independence referendum, I suggested that the result, while appearing to be a defeat, could actually turn out to be a victory for the Scottish National Party and the cause of Scottish Nationalism. That is now coming true with the SNP sweeping all before them north of the border. Similarly I feel that what may appear to be a Tory victory will in fact prove to be a defeat for them. They have got very very difficult times ahead, and I believe they will soon be sucked into a maelstrom of their own making.

The Tories’ perennial problem – The European Union – is going to come back to haunt them. Picture © Lars Aronsson

Firstly, the EU membership Referendum. I don’t think for one minute when the Tories put that in their manifesto, they ever thought they would actually have to put it into practice. It was simply a cynical political ploy to stem the loss of voters to UKIP, and in so doing they hoped to hang on to enough support to be able to lead another coalition government. They could then quietly drop the policy during coalition negotiations. However by winning outright, they are now forced to hold the referendum, which is going to be very difficult indeed. The Tories have a very turbulent history in their relationship with the EU, and are very divided between their pro-EU and Eurosceptic wings. As things gear up for the referendum all those old divisions will surface, and there is a very real possibility the party will slowly tear itself to pieces on the issue. A strong leader, with statesmanlike qualities, could probably lead the party – and the country – through this period. But David Cameron is far from being that kind of leader, and will very soon prove to be out of his depth.

Secondly, the issue of resurgent Scottish Nationalism. The cohort of 56 SNP MP’s at Westminster are riding on the crest of a wave, and there are now going to be ongoing calls for ever-more political and fiscal powers to be repatriated to Scotland. Talks of ‘devo-max’, a federal United Kingdom, and separate parliaments for each of the home nations will ultimately lead to calls for another referendum on Scottish independence. All of this is going to be incredibly difficult to negotiate, and yet is largely a problem of the Tories’ making, as it was they who brought the whole question of an English parliament, and English nationalism, out into the open. They then made matters worse by cynically talking-up the SNP in order to exploit fears of an SNP/Labour coalition. The forces they have unleashed will now turn on them. Again a statesmanlike leader could navigate the country through these times, and so sustain the Union, but David Cameron is far from being that kind of man, and the final result of all this is very much in the balance.

And of course all these things will be going on while in parliament the Tories have only the slimmest of majorities, easily whittled down by a couple of by-elections and a few rebellious backbenchers. It is my view therefore that David Cameron will not be able to hold things together, and at some point long before the 5-year term is up, his party, and government, will implode and collapse. The people will not have to wait so long before expressing themselves through the ballot box once again, and hopefully this time they will get a government worthy of them.

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Our Disgraceful Finance Sector

People would have been shocked today to hear of yet another scandal involving our beloved banks*. Apparently they’ve now been caught fixing foreign exchange rates, and fines totalling £2bn are being handed out to all the usual suspects including HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland (being owned by the taxpayer doesn’t seem to inhibit their criminal activity), plus UBS of Switzerland and America’s J P Morgan and Citibank. We’ve become used to hearing these tales of financial malpractice, but what was particularly galling in this case was the fact that the rate-fixing was going on until October last year. ie 5 years after the crash of 2008, and even after the previous LIBOR fixing scandal involving the exact same banks. In other words, these people have no intention of changing their behaviour no matter what happens around them. Of course criminal prosecutions might change their behaviour, but as usual, although the banks have been fined, no individuals have been held criminally accountable for what in everyone else’s eyes is blatant fraud.

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Price Waterhouse – helping write tax laws and then advising companies how to avoid the laws they’ve just written! Picture © Unshaken City

However, as shocking as all this is, far more insidious was the announcement earlier this week that the Labour Party has received £600,000 worth of free advice from PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) the accountancy firm, to help formulate its tax policy*. Now, why would PwC want to give free advice to the Labour Party? Ah yes, that’ll be because PwC makes a lot of money advising businesses on how to avoid tax, and that job will be much easier for them if they get to help write the legislation which they can then advise businesses how to avoid. Absolutely disgraceful, and Labour’s justification for it that PwC are experts in the field holds no water whatsoever. PwC, like all the big accountancy firms, are a threat to the very fabric of our society, as they are at the heart of the system which undermines government revenue collection, and so forces Austerity and poverty on millions of ordinary people. To have them help formulate tax legislation is simply putting the fox in the charge of the chicken coop. Just imagine if the government wanted to formulate new legislation on paedophiles, and put Gary Glitter in charge of the inquiry. And then justified it by saying Gary Glitter was chosen because he’s an expert in paedophilia! There would be justifiable outrage at such nonsensical logic, and yet the government does this all the time with financial legislation, completely undermining our democratic processes. Whether it’s through companies framing legislation like this, or the so-called ‘revolving doors’, where individuals pass effortlessly between Whitehall and the corporate world, the tentacles of business are firmly entwined in our legislative processes, ensuring we now live in world where those with money control all the levers of power.

We need change. The Tory Party, as the party of business, are of course beyond hope in this area, but with the Labour Party now acting in exactly the same way it should be absolutely clear, if it wasn’t before, that they offer no meaningful alternative either. The only hope for getting a government which represents the interests of ordinary people is to sweep both these parties into the dustbin, and start afresh with a completely new breed of politician, driven by a desire to help other people rather than just to look after the interests of themselves and their cronies.

* Bank Fines: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2832260/Why-aren-t-crooked-bankers-prison-banks-fined-2bn-fixing-currency-rates-clamour-grows-dozens-traders-face-prosecution.html Labour Party/Price Waterhouse Coopers: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/12/pricewaterhousecoopers-tax-structures-politics-influence?CMP=twt_gu

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The Labour Party is Compromised

Many people will be aware of the corrupting influence that the private funding of political parties has on our democratic process. The Tory Party gets most of its funding from big business (and over half its funding from the City of London) so it’s no surprise they make policies which benefit the wealthy. However the Labour Party, in its efforts to break away from Trade Union influence, has now fallen into exactly the same trap, and events this week demonstrate the extent to which they too are now totally in the grip of big business.

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Ed Miliband: He may want to create a fairer, more equal society, but will the party’s donors let him? Picture © Mandate for Change

Firstly, one of their biggest donors, multi-millionaire Assem Allam*, who in recent years has given £210,000 to the party, has openly criticised Ed Milliband’s proposal for a ‘Mansion Tax’.  He also made his overall intentions pretty clear when he criticised proposals to increase other taxes on the wealthy, saying the rich should be looked after and encouraged, as they are the people who drive the economy (strange words for a Labour Party supporter you might think, unless he is clearly exercising some kind of vested interest!) Following on from this, other major Labour Party donors voiced similar concerns about the Mansion Tax, including Lord Noon* who described it as ‘hopeless and desperate’; while the party’s biggest donor, John Mills* – who gave them £1.65m last year – also criticised the tax, saying it would produce ‘all sorts of problems’ (especially for him, presumably, if he has to pay it.)

Now you may or may not think the Mansion Tax is a good idea, but it’s for parties to put policies in their manifestos, and then for the electorate to vote on them, not for wealthy individuals to use their money and influence to control government policy regardless of what the electorate wants. What will now inevitably happen is that should the Labour Party get elected, Ed Milliband will be leant on, and with the threat of losing crucial funding, the policy will be quietly dropped, or massively watered down. And with pressure mounting on him to backtrack on this tax, you can be pretty sure that similar pressure will also be applied should he make any other suggestions which increase taxes on the wealthiest and most privileged members of society. Instead, all the party’s biggest donors will no doubt be encouraging him to continue with Austerity: freezing public sector wages, cutting public services,  and slashing benefits given to the poorest members of society.

Many people still no doubt hold to the view that voting Labour is the best way to achieve a fairer and more equitable society, but with Labour now firmly in the grip of big business, that unfortunately is a sad illusion. With both the Labour and the Tory parties offering nothing but endless Austerity, the only way to change things is to vote for someone else at the next election, and hope that a coalition government of some sort will allow alternative ideas to be implemented. And top of those alternative ideas has to be a reform of the entire process of Party Funding, because as long as the wealthy can ‘buy’ the legislation that suits them, the wealth that capitalism generates will stay in the hands of a narrow elite, and millions of ordinary people will be forced to struggle in endless poverty.

*Refs: http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/Hull-City-owner-Assem-Allam-criticises-Labour/story-23074774-detail/story.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/10/06/ed-miliband-labour-john-mills_n_5926844.html

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Scottish Referendum

Though there are undoubtedly many bitterly disappointed people at the outcome of last night’s referendum on Scottish Independence, I personally am nowhere near so negative, and in many ways think that how things have turned out may actually have been the best possible result for those wanting political and economic reform in this country.

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Scotland may not get independence, but things are still going to get a whole lot better. Picture © W. L. Tarbert

Firstly lets put the result in some perspective: when the referendum was originally being planned, Alex Salmond and the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) wanted 3 options on the ballot paper: In, Out, and Full Devolution. This was clearly because, at the time, they didn’t feel they’d ever get enough support for full Independence, and a very successful ‘middle-way’ result would have been Devolution. The Westminster parties, not wanting to give up any more power than they had to, didn’t allow the Devolution option on the ballot paper, as they thought they would easily win a straight In/Out vote. Of course things turned out differently, the Yes camp ran a very successful campaign, and in the final two weeks the No camp were panicked into offering Devolution anyway, in their efforts to sustain the Union. Therefore, despite what it may look like, the entire campaign has been a victory for the SNP, who ended up getting what they originally wanted.

So the question remains: would full independence have been better for Scotland – I have to say I’m dubious. Despite the Yes campaign being lauded by all those wanting Political and Economic reform, the actual outcome may well have been somewhat different. For a start the SNP were intent on either using the Pound or the Euro as their currency, which means the Scottish economy would still have been at the mercy of the bankers in either Westminster or Brussels. One can absolutely guarantee that the outcome of that would have meant Scotland being forced to run a ‘Free Market’ economy – absolutely no different to what they have now. Secondly, those who think the SNP would have been more responsive to the needs of their people should bear in mind the SNP support TTIP, that absolutely evil piece of Free Market legislation coming our way, which makes corporations more powerful than governments.  And finally, in terms of political reform, the SNP are supporters of the Royal Family, which doesn’t really sound particularly reformist to me.

Also, whatever happened in Scotland, once the pain of the break-up had been completed, I suspect the rest of the UK would have just gone back to ‘business-as-usual’, with the City of London controlling our economy via their political wing, the Tory Party, and the other parties weakened by the loss of their Scottish voters.

So what do we have instead? The No Campaign’s rushed promises of Devolution have led us to nothing short of constitutional chaos, with not just massive changes in prospect for the way Scotland is run, but also talk of English Devolution (ie an English Parliament, to run alongside the Welsh and Scottish assemblies, and Stormont in Northern Ireland) and perhaps a Federal United Kingdom. People throughout the UK will undoubtedly get really engaged with this process, and in particular debates about what levels of power should reside where. Who knows where all this will lead, but by getting the electorate thinking in this way, there is the very real prospect of more power being passed back to local people, more accountable politicians, less corporate influence, and other profound changes to our rotten corrupt system. Independence for Scotland may have been better for Scotland (and that’s far from certain), but the results of last night’s vote will undoubtedly improve things for all of us.

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Iraq

It’s with some hesitation that I write anything on this subject – partly because it’s not really what this website is about, and partly because so much has been written on it already I don’t want to waste time going over well-trodden ground. However there are a few aspects of Iraq’s recent past which are rarely discussed, and I think it worth people considering them when forming an opinion.

It’s pretty obvious that Iraq is in a right mess just now, and it’s also pretty obvious that not much good came out of the Western military intervention in 2003. What is less clear, in the light of the Arab Spring and recent events in places like Syria, is how much better or worse things would have been if the West had never intervened. Personally I think that question is unanswerable. However it is fairly obvious there would have been a pretty severe uprising, though just how brutal the ensuing conflict would have been is impossible to know. If Syria is anything to go by it would have been pretty bad.

The Middle East is riven by a massive sectarian divide between the Sunni’s and the Shia’s, a divide that runs from Iran, through Iraq, Syria and the Lebanon, down through Kuwait and Bahrain. This is the source of much ethnic tension, particularly in places like Syria (where a Shia minority rules a Sunni majority) and Iraq (where, under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni minority ruled a Shia majority). Of course ethnic tension doesn’t have to lead to conflict, but the recent history of that part of the world has been a powder-keg of problems.

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Iraq’s borders were negotiated and decided upon by Britain and France after the First World War.

The entire region was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire until the First World War. In the First World War Turkey sided with Germany, and after being defeated, the area came under control of the League of Nations. In 1920 the country of Iraq was created, with France and Britain setting-up rather arbitrary borders which took little account of what the people in that region actually wanted. Full independence came in 1932, and the country was a monarchy until 1958, when there was a military coup, after which it was ruled by a series of dictators. Unfortunately this coincided with the cold war between Russia and the West, which meant that, all over the world, lots of nasty regimes were propped up as allies in a vast geopolitical game. Thus the repressive regime in Syria was supported by Russia, while in Iraq, Saddam Hussein skilfully played off the various factions so that he was at different times supported by both the Soviets and the West, both of whom were happy to turn a blind eye to his appalling human rights record. The net result of this was that the ordinary people of these countries never had the chance to express their will or guide their countries in the way they would have liked, ethnic tensions simmered, and brutality and violence became the norm. Under such circumstances extremism thrives, as ordinary people become ever-more desperate for change, and are ever-more likely to resort to violence as a means to achieve it. History also shows that whenever repressive regimes fall, things invariably get very much worse before they get better (think for example the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and, more recently, the dreadful genocidal war after the fall of Tito in Yugoslavia).

Against that backdrop it was pretty inevitable that when the repressive Iraqi military regime fell, all the simmering tensions between the Shia’s and the Sunni’s would burst forth, and bloodshed would be inevitable. Of course the Western Intervention in 2003 brought that moment forward – and any glimmer of hope that transition to a new system of government could be done relatively peacefully, was dashed by the absolutely unforgivable incompetence of Blair and Bush in having no post-invasion plan whatsoever. (They seemed to think that dismantling every organisational structure of Saddam’s regime and simply uttering the word ‘democracy’ would lead to a positive outcome – for that criminally negligent act alone they should stand trial.)

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Some of the 5,000 Iraqi Kurds gassed by Saddam Hussein during his attack on Halabja in 1988. Picture © نامعلوم

So, in my view, the problems we are witnessing now are not really the result of the 2003 invasion (though it may have made things worse) but the result of decades of Western support for a brutal regime simply because it was seen as a regional ally against Soviet Russia and, later, Iran. (During his 24 years in charge it is estimated that Saddam Hussein murdered some 250,000 of his own people in order to stay in power – and one can only wonder at the psychological effect on the population of having to live so long with such violence, fear and brutality.) If during all those years the people could have expressed themselves properly, things wouldn’t have got so severe that extremist violent views could now become acceptable to such large parts of the population. (It’s also worth noting that even now the same policy is being pursued with Saudi Arabia, where a brutal repressive regime is supported, because the West regards it as a regional ally.)

So, the people of Iraq are now suffering a catastrophe for which we are, at least partly, responsible.  What can we do about it? The answer now, sadly, is probably very little. The situation is too complex for us to be able to see our way to a solution, and it is highly unlikely that any Western intervention would achieve anything anyway other than to put more lives at risk. It will be painful to watch, but the people in that region have to find their own answers, something which for far too long we’ve stopped them from doing.

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Free Market Fundamentalism

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Mark Carney: The Bank of England governor finally recognises fundamental problems in our Economic System. Picture © World Economic Forum

Those of us opposed to the mantra of ‘The Market’ which is forever espoused by devotees of Free Market Capitalism, were pleasantly surprised when the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, spoke out last week against ‘Free Market Fundamentalism’. He was talking at a conference entitled ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ where he stated that if bankers didn’t give up the “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” way of doing business, then their industry would collapse*. That someone in such a high position in the City of London should utter such words was really quite extraordinary, and a sign that some at least at the heart of our Free Market system are starting to wake up to its flaws.

Many of us are campaigning to build a system and society that provides social and economic justice for all, as well as caring for the planet we live on. The far left Socialist view of tightly planned, highly regulated, state run economies has largely been discredited after the collective failure of Soviet Russia and the old Eastern Bloc. However, in proving that Capitalism was the superior system, we’ve now swung completely the other way, in favour of private ownership of everything with minimal regulation. This directly led to the financial crisis of 2008, and ever greater levels of inequality, with the already-wealthy able to play the system to increase their riches, while the poor are forced to endure falling living standards under Austerity. In addition the endless pursuit of profit means environmental concerns are constantly left by the wayside, threatening the very eco-system we need to survive.

Unfortunately fundamentalist thinking, in whatever area, is very difficult to shake off once entrenched, and that’s what we’re seeing with those people who have so strongly wedded themselves to the ideals of Free Market Capitalism. Even with all the evidence of how broken a system it is, many still cling to its ideology with an almost religious fervour.

Capitalism is indeed a powerful, efficient  and effective economic system, but in its pure ‘free market’ form it is utterly devoid of ethics, has no concept of social responsibility, places no value on the environment, and it encourages people to pursue short-term monetary reward over long-term social benefit. Therefore if Capitalism is to continue as our economic system of choice, it must be tightly regulated, with safeguards put in place to ensure it operates for the good of all, not just the few. Many of us have known this for quite some time, and perhaps, at last, some of those in power are starting to get it too.

http://www.moneyexpert.com/news/capitalism-could-destroy-itself-unless-bankers-begin-uphold-ethical-standards-says-bank-england-governor-carney/800582842

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European Elections

By winning the European election outright UKIP have certainly come of age, and they can now justifiably claim to be serious contenders for government rather than just fringe players picking up protest votes. The reaction to UKIP’s victory has been predictable, with the usual allegations of racism and personal attacks on Nigel Farage and other UKIP members, being bolstered with various allegations of corruption and incompetence. It’s also amusing that over the last few weeks the media has done its utmost to attack Farage and UKIP to try and bring them down, but since that policy backfired so terribly, UKIP’s opponents are now claiming all the publicity they got gave them an unfair advantage. They can’t have it both ways!

Critics of UKIP fall broadly into two camps: Labour/Conservative supporters who are absolutely terrified that their decades of political dominance is about to end; and radicals on the Left who see in UKIP (and the other European right wing parties who did so well in the elections), some kind of rerun of 1930’s Fascism which can only end in disaster. The Labour/Conservative axis deserve everything they get, because it’s their Free Market Capitalist policies which caused the economic crisis in the first place, and their adherence to the corrupt first-past-the-post voting system which has led to such widespread voter discontent with the existing political classes. The sooner those two parties are gone the better.

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Marine le Pen’s Front National won France’s European election vote. Picture © Jérémy Jännick

For the rest, there are undoubted parallels with the 1930’s, but we shouldn’t get too carried away  – the world is a very, very different place now from what it was then. Fundamentally what has happened is that for the last 70 years people have been terrified of Nationalism, as the last time  Europe went on a Nationalist frenzy we had two World Wars and tens of millions of people died. In the intervening period the EU has basically been a  political project to try and stop such things ever happening again, and Nationalist tendencies have largely been suppressed in favour of ‘Europeanism’. But you can’t force change on people against their will, eventually things revert to type, and now the pendulum is swinging back and people are losing their fear of openly expressing pride in their country. Nationalism is returning, and whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing is irrelevant: it’s a fact and we’re all going to have to work with it.

It’s very difficult to predict where all this will end up, but I for one don’t believe it’s true that pride in your country means you have to be racist, and nor do I believe that war is the inevitable consequence of Nationalist movements. What is clear is that the EU has become an out-of-control Free Market Capitalist project, and issues of uncontrolled immigration are just one of the many problems it has caused for its member states. With the rapid rise of Eurosceptic Nationalist parties the EU is going to have to reform itself pretty quickly, otherwise it will soon be breaking up. Likewise the political elites around Europe, who for so long have done what they like regardless of public opinion, are also going to have to change their ways otherwise they too will soon be swept away.

Right wing parties like UKIP may not be the answer (and in the case of UKIP specifically, their support of Free Market Capitalism means they most definitely aren’t the answer) but for now they’re the ones making all the running in bringing political change, and unless and until any other political groups can get their act together, it’ll be the Nationalist parties that continue to lead the charge in bringing down our rotten and corrupt political system.

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Politics and Business Merge

Many people will be aware of the corrupting influence of Big Business on our government, but this is now being taken to a new level with the latest trend for party leaders to hire corporate gurus to run their election campaigns. It was Tony Blair who introduced the whole idea of ‘spin’, assisted by his henchman Alastair Campbell, but at least Alastair Campbell had a genuine interest in the Labour Party, and a genuine belief in its policies. Now party leaders hire professional lobbyists and PR consultants, who will work for whoever pays them the most, whose only loyalty is to themselves, and who invariably use their new-found political influence to alter legislation for the benefit of  their corporate clients.

So we have David Cameron hiring Lynton Crosby, a £500,000/year consultant from Australia who has been called the “master of the dark political arts”. Shortly after his arrival at No. 10 David Cameron dropped plans for minimum pricing on alcohol, opted against plain packaging on cigarettes, and gave tax breaks to fracking companies.* The fact that Lynton Crosby’s consultancy counts Distillers (alcohol), Phillip Morris (tobacco),  and Dart Energy (fracking) amongst its corporate clients, left many people gasping with incredulity. He also has business interests in the Healthcare Industry just as the Tories are pushing ahead with privatising the NHS. Co-incidence?

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David Axelrod, who worked for Barack Obama before being hired by Ed Milliband. Picture © The White House

Not to be outdone, this week Ed Milliband announced he was hiring American David Axelrod (who previously worked for Barack Obama), as his election adviser, on a six-figure salary. Mr Axelrod is notorious for an advertising campaign he ran in the United States, where it was claimed consumers and small businesses were lobbying for energy companies to be allowed to charge higher prices, in order to guarantee energy security. It later turned out the ‘consumers’ were none other than the energy companies themselves, who conceived the advertising as a way to persuade the public to pay more. Despite widespread condemnation, Mr Axelrod’s company, ASK Public Strategies,  benefited to the tune of £8m from that dishonest campaign.*

And finally the Lib-Dems, where Nick Clegg has hired South African political strategist Ryan Coetzee as his £110,000/year special adviser. As well as causing controversy by being paid with taxpayers‘ money, Mr Coetzee has also been accused of improperly awarding commercial contracts while carrying out a similar role for the government in South Africa*. One South African source said that Mr Coetzee ‘specialises in blurring the lines between political work, civil service work and commercial work.’

What all these appointments signify is a trend away from any attempt at government for the people, with policies for the common good, but instead show new heights of corruption of the democratic process. And it is absolutely clear that unless we all do something very soon, the takeover of our democracy by corporate interests will be complete, and ordinary people will be little better than slaves in a world ruled exclusively by money and big business.

*Refs:  Lynton Crosby: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lobbying-scandal-ex-watchdog-tells-david-2100461 David Axelrod: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608117/Labour-hires-Obama-spin-chief-backed-higher-energy-bills-Axelrod-led-campaign-behalf-power-giants.html Ryan Coetzee: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608707/Cronyism-probe-Nick-Cleggs-controversial-election-strategists-role-4million-deal.html

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Farage vs Clegg

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Nigel Farage: Shaking up British politics. Picture © Euro Realist Newsletter

Whatever people may think about the content of the debate between Farage and Clegg, last night will prove to have a been a massive watershed in British Politics. For the first time in living memory, a major political debate took place, and neither the Tory Party nor the Labour Party were involved. The significance of this should not be underestimated.

For too long our political system has been dominated by the same two parties – parties who may have come from very different roots, but have over the years moved closer and closer together, to the extent that it is now very difficult to tell them apart. They both support Free Market Capitalism, they  both think Austerity is the answer to our economic problems, they are both in hock to big business, and they have both been corrupted by the power of money. Add to that career politicians who don’t know what real life is like, a desire to ‘spin’ every policy announcement, a complete inability to tell the truth, and it’s no wonder the British public have become increasingly disillusioned with the pair of them. Their combined share of the vote has dropped in every single election since the Second World War, and finally some other political parties are starting to make inroads into the system.

It matters not whether you think the Clegg’s Lib Dems are the only party who really care about people, or whether you think they sold out by propping up the Tory Party in government. It matters not whether you think Farage’s UKIP are a breath of fresh air, or whether you think they’re dangerous extremists. The fact they can have a debate with each other and generate such media and popular interest, shows that people are waking up to the fact that the two main parties have both become increasingly disconnected from society, and that neither of them are capable (or even interested) in reflecting the needs of ordinary people. As they can’t  bring about the change we need, that change is going to have to come from elsewhere. Last night showed that our political system is indeed changing, at last, and that can only be a good thing.

For more on what we can all do to help bring about a better society click here.

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Divide and Rule

STOP PRESS 20/10/14: This week the Social Integration Commission reported that our society is becoming ever-more divided between the rich and the poor. It said this trend was leading to more gated communities, higher crime, and racial ghettos; and that although this situation should never be allowed to occur, it was happening because successive governments were ignoring the problems of poverty and increasing inequality. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/rising-crime-racial-ghettos-price-4466671 Already in some appartment blocks in London there are separate entrances for the rich and the poor. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2714809/The-poor-door-Block-flats-separate-entrances-property-owners-housing-association-tenant-neighbours.html

STOP PRESS 2/10/14: At the Tory Party Conference this week it has been announced there will be pension changes which will enable the very wealthy to pass on even more of their inheritance to their children, and tax cuts which will disproportionately benefit the well-off: all of which will be funded by a freeze on benefits and continuing Austerity. The Tories are cynically continuing to bribe their so-called ‘core’ voters, with no concern for the hardship they will cause to everyone else.

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George Osborne: A good budget – if you’re already well-off. Picture © M. Holland

This week’s budget has laid the ground for where our political parties, and indeed our society, is headed over the next few years. The budget was actually very well put-together, if the objective of the Tory Party is simply to secure enough votes to get itself elected again, and not to create a better society for us all.

In our current – deeply flawed – political system, all a party needs to do to get a majority in parliament, and so form a government, is secure about 37% of the vote. There are two ways they can do this – either produce a manifesto which they believe is good for the country as a whole, and hope that 37% of the people agree with them; or produce a manifesto that specifically benefits around 35-40% of the population, and let the rest go hang. Guess which option the Tories are going for? As the party of the well-off they  have produced policies which benefit wealthy pensioners (scrapping annuities); people with lots of spare cash (making ISA’s more attractive); and of course the usual round of tax breaks for businesses. At the other end of society – people whose votes they don’t care about – they’re pushing ahead with benefits caps and of course the whole agenda of Austerity.

Free-market Capitalism inevitably leads to ever greater inequality and consequently an ever more divided society. Therefore as time goes on any political party which supports this economic system, will have to decide which part of our divided society it caters for (as it becomes impossible to produce policies which benefit everyone), and ignore the needs of everyone else. The Tories are inevitably targeting the wealthiest end of society. Some people might say they have always done this but that’s actually not true – Margaret Thatcher for example secured her massive majorities on a wave of Tory working class votes (something unlikely to be repeated now). Some people may look to the Labour Party for answers, but unfortunately, despite making favourable noises occasionally on things like energy prices, fundamentally they support  our current economic system, and therefore nothing will really change with them either (in fact they actually agree with the Tories on most economic policies anyway, and also don’t forget that people voted for Blair as a replacement for the Tories last time and look where that led!) The fact is nothing is going to get any better until we change our entire democratic and economic system, and that’s not going to happen with any of the main political parties or current batch of politicians. We need change, and only an upswelling of popular discontent will bring it.

For more on the inherent problems of the free-market capitalist system click here. And for more on how we might be able to start changing things for the better click here.

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