Lord Ashcroft – The story of the Tory Donor who has dodged £127 million in tax

Michael Ashcroft – 95th richest person in the UK – is worth a respectful £1,350,000,000, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2017. Ashcroft has an interesting back story and appears to embody a classic story of success built upon savvy business acumen. That said, after establishing himself as a prominent figure in the city, he turned to becoming a major donor to the Conservative party. However, this Tory bank fund was not without its controversies originating from Lord Ashcroft’s non-domicile status which allows claimants to pay very little in UK income tax.
During his tenure, David Cameron was subjected to public pressures to reveal Lord Ashcroft’s tax status, but dismissed the pressure and insisted it was a private matter and therefore not admissible to the general public. This was because during the 2010 election cycle, the large donations received by the Tory campaign from Ashcroft, prompted Cameron to overlook this ethical quagmire by claiming it was his ‘patriotic duty’ to beat Labour candidate Gordon Brown. In response to this, then home secretary Alan Johnson accused the Tories of hypocritically weaponising ‘patriotism’ by allowing funding from someone he viewed as ‘basically unpatriotic’.

When the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats came into power, Ashcroft received nothing in return for his ‘generosity’ to Cameron’s campaign. The driving force behind this snub is believed to have been due to Nick Clegg’s intervention, blocking Cameron from appointing Ashcroft to a high ranking role in the new government.
Cameron later offered Ashcroft junior whip in the foreign office, to which Ashcroft replied ‘After putting my neck on the line for nearly 10 years – both as party treasurer under William Hague and as deputy chairman – and after ploughing some £8m into the party, I regarded this as a declinable offer. It would have been better had Cameron offered me nothing at all.’

Establishment quarrels aside, this ‘pay for play’ system cannot and should not be acceptable in a functioning democracy, let alone these figures feeling emboldened enough to openly discuss their disenfranchisement after failing to bribe their way into relevance.

In addition, because Ashcroft and many other non-domiciled establishment figures exploit loopholes in our taxation system, an amendment was introduced to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill in 2010.
The amendment requires all MPs and peers to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. This prompted Lord Ashcroft to surrender his status as a non-domicile resident in the UK to retain his seat in the House of Lords. However, in March 2015, Lord Ashcroft announced he was resigning his seat because his business activities did not allow him ‘to devote the time that membership properly requires’. This abrupt resignation of his seat was bizarre given his prominent interest in UK politics and thusly prompted the question – did he resign his seat to restore his non-domicile status and reduce his UK tax bill?

This question went unanswered by Ashcroft, but a document obtained by The Independent demonstrated in the week proceeding his resignation, Lord Ashcroft sold 350,000 shares in an American company netting him £7,600,000. If Ashcroft retained his peership, UK taxation law would have taken 28% of this through capital gains (£2,100,000). However, if the sale was completed at the beginning of a new financial year, he could reinstate as a non-domicile citizen and avoid this cost, as the shares were in an American company, and therefore regarded foreign earnings by the HMRC. A spokesman for Lord Ashcroft declined to comment on his tax status.

Margaret Hodge, then Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said ‘It cannot be right that the system allows people to opt in and out of non-domicile status depending on their circumstances in any given year’.
While Lord Ashcroft stood down from his seat, he continues to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on polling and owns several political websites including Conservative Home.

The Billionaire ex-Tory peer is aptly nicknamed as Britain’s ‘Pollfather’. However, it is no secret that as a House of Lords peer he ran polls and targeted marginal constituencies for David Cameron. Since he stepped down from the House of Lords, many have speculated that he was no longer beholden to the Conservatives and therefore regarded as a neutral pollster by which many believe will enable unprecedented tactical voting. This supposition of neutrality is difficult to maintain considering Ashcroft’s lifelong support of the Conservatives and even more so considering his estimated donations are said to top £10,000,000.

Ashcroft truly is an excellent pollster, but in 2005, when working in the interest of David Cameron, more controversy was born after he privately funded ‘the biggest political polling exercise in British history’.
The polls were carried out by YouGov and Populus, and estimated to have cost £250,000. However, sources told the Guardian, that the bills were paid by one of Ashcroft’s companies in Belize, which would have allowed him to dodge VAT of about £40,000.

Treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats told the Guardian: ‘This is quite serious. We are now not talking just about Ashcroft’s non-dom status, but about systematic tax avoidance in funding Conservative party activities such as polling. How far were the Conservatives aware that Ashcroft did not pay VAT, as would have been incurred by any normal polling activity?’

In response to the allegations, a Conservative spokesperson said ‘We do not recognise this as Conservative party polling.’ For those of us not familiar with the tongue of the ruling class, this roughly translates to ‘am a bovad?’

This more recent controversy concerning the right honourable gentleman’s dubious behaviour is not new, rather, more of the same. For instance, letters published by The Guardian between Tony Blair, Lord Thomson, and William Hague in 1999/2000 demonstrate a lifelong pattern of this behaviour.

Also, in 1999, Ashcroft’s international business activities were further marred in controversy after an intelligence research specialist for the US drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) leaked Ashcroft’s name as being on their radar.

The Times – Rupert Murdoch’s attempt at a high-brow paper – printed these allegations on their front page. However, if you trust Ashcroft’s Wikipedia page, ‘later investigation by various British media sources from information released under the US Freedom of Information Act showed that at no point did the DEA personally investigate Ashcroft’.

On March 31st 2000, Ashcroft came to be successfully nominated to the House of Lords and sought legal action against The Times. After a back-and-forth between the two parties, they decided to settle the issue out of court which resulted in The Times printing a full front page retraction of its allegations ‘The Times is pleased to confirm that it has no evidence that Mr Ashcroft or any of his companies have ever been suspected of money-laundering or drug related crimes… Litigation between the parties has been settled to mutual satisfaction, with each side bearing its own costs’.

So, this leaves two alternatives: 1) The Times openly admits to lying to its readership/country 2) Ashcroft and Murdoch cut a mutually beneficial deal behind closed doors

As a true believer in the excellent service Wikipedia provides, I, like everyone else who uses the site, should check the references for credibility. The previous quote claims to reference a Guardian article that wholly exonerates the right honourable gentleman – yet provides a hyperlinked source which doesn’t seem to exist, and while ‘technically correct’, is omitting key elements of what actually happened – including high ranking Tories leaning on the BBC’s Panorama investigation into Lord Ashcroft.

Ashcroft was correct when he said there wasn’t any evidence implicating him directly with crimes and the DEA was not investigating him of doing so. However, the tax haven he controls in Belize, as with most, encourages fraud, money laundering, drugs and bribery in the area with corruptible officials.

Ashcroft began his don’t ask don’t tell business venture in the early 1990s when he bought a controlling stake in the largest local bank – the Belize Bank – and encouraged local politicians to pass laws that encourage secretive offshore financial dealings, and rewarded such officials by paying annual registration fees to the government – to us common folk, these can be referred to as bribes.

This unregulated environment created a hot bed for illegal activities such as:
The Banner Fund. Two Californians funnelled UK/US tax payers out of $6.5mThe Ricke case. US drug smugglers moved $700,000 of ill-gotten gains into Belize offshore companies – though not proven. One $25,000 was reportedly paid into the bank controlled by Ashcroft – though no evidence the bank or Ashcroft knew the money was dirtyThe half-ton of cocaine. DEA arrested a trafficker linked to the Cali cartel. However, the embassy reported ‘he effortlessly escaped from imprisonment’ in 1995 – aided by incentivised officials. This fiasco ended with Washington listing Belize as ‘a major drug transit country’.

All this morally bankrupt, yet completely legal, activity began after the International Business companies (IBC) act was legislated in 1990 which allowed individuals to establish shell companies to outmanoeuvre one’s tax authority.

Due to the lack of credible government oversight during legislation, IBCs were not mandated to be audited. Therefore, fake/shell companies can declare profits without evidencing where the money came from – tax free of course – and then legally transfer the money to a bank account in their home country.

Ashcroft, however, has a different spin of events. In 1996 Ashcroft gave his interpretation of events at the US embassy. ‘Ashcroft insisted that little, if any, money laundering is conducted in Belize,’ said an embassy official.

However, for example, the aforementioned Ricke Case was not proven. This is due to the anonymous nature of IBCs. The properties were listed under ownership of several anonymous entities, of which the ownership was protected by the way the Act was legislated.

So, while Ashcroft was ‘technically correct’ that he was not being directly investigated for criminal activity, it is no secret that his bank and legislative efforts created this environment for nefarious activity.
So, in light of information discussed, it seems The Times were onto something which may not be illegal, but certainly ethically dubious.

Returning to the suggested possibility of a deal between Ashcroft and Murdoch regarding coverage of Ashcroft’s potential criminal activity, an interesting timeline of events emerges, particularly after Ashcroft’s 2004 $1,000,000 donation to the Australian ‘liberal’ party that was, and still is, backed by Murdoch. Was this the deal the two cut behind closed doors?

Ashcroft is just one of many establishment elites who exploit our archaic taxation system, to incur wealth that can objectively be viewed as stolen from UK government services such as the NHS, in order to bolster his economic and political status.

It is high time we expose these elitists and take action against ‘the few’ in the name of ‘the many’
We cannot continue to have an elitist party in government that turns a blind eye to elicit dealings and in return gets campaign donations.

Jacob Rees Mogg – Ignorant or Evil?

Corrupt, elitist and Authoritarian. Jacob Rees Mogg shows everything wrong with the current Conservative party.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been seen as the new young(ish) rising star of the Conservative Party. The “MP for the the early twentieth century” has begun to top online leadership ballots in recent weeks which has thrust him further into the spotlight. There has been feeble attempts by the right to humanise Rees-Mogg, through copycat groups like Moggmentum (Momentum) and meme pages like “Middle class Memes for Rees-Moggian teens”. However it is clear to see that the homophobic Brexiteer is truly the symbol of everything that’s wrong with the tory party and by extension the government of this country.
The easiest way to judge an MP is on their voting record. To put it lightly, Rees-Mogg’s is awful. He has continually voted for his own personal gain, not his constituency’s. He voted against raising taxes for those earning over 50 grand a year i.e. himself. He voted against raising capital gains tax, protecting himself and his mansion. He voted too to reduce corporation tax, which is leading to an increase in his profits from his own stockbroking firm. All of this is frankly disgraceful but nothing compared to his moral track record. He voted for the removal of finical support for apprenticeships. Shooting hundreds of young people in the foot, forcing these young people away from trades and secure working into the land of zero hours contracts and then has the audacity to claim that the way out of poverty and into a house is work. Good luck getting a mortgage when you haven’t even got a contract or any hope of saving 20,000 pounds. We haven’t all got noble fathers to project us into the fast lane. The cherry on the cake is his blatant homophobic attitudes, he voted against equality law and against gay marriage hiding behind his catholic religion despite the softening of the catholic church towards LGBT community. Rees-Mogg also has archaic views on abortion, in a recent interview, he stated that he thought all abortion was wrong in all circumstances, even as a consequence of incest or rape or to save the life of the mother. Despicable.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is always a familiar face in the house of commons, he has a great myriad of talents in the realm of public speaking. He used to hold the record of the longest word spoken in parliament and has plans to regain this title. Jacob Rees-Mogg is also the primary filibustering expert in the Tory party. The ability to talk bills out of the house has been used numerous times, for example he and a colleague were able to talk for two hours about the pros and cons of delaying the start to the meetings. These meeting were about the NHS. The vote to bring in a bill, which would have reduced the damage caused by the 2012 care act, was unable to be debated. Filibustering is an awful, archaic, undemocratic practice which has been the death of many good bills. Indeed in the USA the republican party which is hardly a hallmark of a good moral compass, wishes to get rid of it, yet our possible future prime minister counts it as part of his skills.
However his most atrocious comments have come this week. Claiming the increased usage of food banks was ‘uplifting’. Claiming somehow that is it due publicity of food banks that is raising the usage. Not the disastrous working conditions of our poorest citizens caused by his parties gutting of our welfare state. We must ask our-self is it ignorance or morality that fuels these despicable beliefs.
The British public would never get behind this man. The man claims to have six children but in my book you are not a father if you’ve never changed a nappy, never had to get up at 3 every night to calm your crying child. Mogg instead passes it off to a paid nanny. If by some disaster he became the leader of the Tory party before 2022, the next election would be handed to Corbyn on a silver platter, much like the ones I’m sure the aristocratic Jacob Rees-Mogg ate off as a child. The working class voters that backed May in the 2017 election would never stand behind the an old Etonian. The pain of the last old Etonian MP, Cameron, is still very much felt today by those lower income families. The public have learnt not to stand behind a plummy voiced millionaire stockbroker. The tory party will sign their own death note by putting Jacob in power. That’s one bonus I suppose.

Portugal shows Corbyn’s economic plan is strong and stable

We have been told time and again that Corbyn’s economic policies are in the land of fantasy. That he’d bankrupt us before bedtime and send us back to the 1980s in Venezuala. Portugal’s Socialist government have shown that to be a malicious lie spread by those who serve the Conservative party.

Portugal went a similar way to Britain after the financial crash and following European debt crisis. It elected a Conservative government to cut it’s debt in 2011. However it did need a bail out from the IMF which it received on the promise of Austerity reforms, the bailout was €78bn.

Just like in our nation services were privatised, VAT raised and public sector jobs took a pay freeze if they were lucky. Education got a 23% cut, health and social security went the same way.

The result was 17.5% Unemployment in 2013, a 41% jump in company bankruptcies and year after year of net economic decline. The best annual GDP growth of the nation was 0.9% in 2014. Every other year saw the economy shrink.

However in 2015 a Socialist coalition got into power. Their radical reforms included raising the minimum wage, lifting a freeze on pensions and cancelling pay cuts for civil servants. Sound familiar? The clincher, to really show they are the Portuguse Corbyn’s Labour, they introduced 4 new bank holidays.

The opponents of this government pronounced it fairy-tale economics. Sure to bankrupt the economy.

That didn’t happen.

What did was a full economic recovery. The economic growth jumped, 13 quarters of consecutive growth followed. Unemployment reduced by 7.7% since it’s peak.
Now Socialist government’s have a reputation of creating short-term growth at a long-term cost.

When I informed one of my centrist writers of their recovery he said this:
“The problem with Socialist governments is they can generate short-term growth but pile on the debt long term”

Portugal has halved its deficit in two years. Our austerity measures have taken off 3/4 in 7 years, but we will not achieve a balanced budget until 2025 if Theresa May is to be believed.

We do not need austerity to reduce our debt. And we cannot continue with Austerity if we wish to keep our public services.

Investment led growth is the way to go.

Privatisation costs the taxpayer £13.5 Billion a year

Why Nationalization should be at the heart of cutting our deficit
In the run up to the 2010 election George Osbourne Promised to have the deficit down to zero by 2015. Theresa May says that year will now be 2025. Labour will achieve a surplus without austerity.
The solution to our deficit is there, it’s bringing in industries to the public sector, but it means the loss of profits for our financial elites.
Ever since the Global Financial Crash Labour have been criticized as being careless with this nation’s economy, however it would seem Corbyn and Labour do have a model for reducing our deficit quickly, without the harmful effects of Austerity.
The secret to helping our consumers and fixing our deficit lie in reversing the harmful effects of Privatisation of key industries. The evidence for such can be seen across Europe, where Corbyn’s Social Democratic vision has already been installed in the Nordic nations.
Our nation’s deficit currently stands at £52 billion, Labour via Corbyn’s plan to take industries on board and bring about a large tax base are the best party to bring that down to zero.
Corbyn’s way to a government surplus lies in his most left wing policies. The nationalisation of Britain’s key industries: Energy, water, the Royal Mail and our trains. He also has plans to introduce public bus companies. Corbyn’s personal views also include having state owned banks, the government does have stakes in some high street names like RBS, and previously owned stakes in Lloyds. Savings also can be found in the NHS where the rot of privatisation is beginning to drain dry the pocket of the taxpayer and fill the pockets of large corporations.

Privatization has the support of the people and the savings to me made from an economic plan labelled insane, are truly remarkable. The numbers are alll here.
Providing water is the most obvious industry to be nationalized. The resource is vital to all humans and due to the infrastructure there is a natural monopoly. The regulator ofwat decides the prices and the corporations simply make the money. The consumer has no choice who to buy their water from yet under Thatcher’s government in 1989 English and Welsh water was privatized for a quick profit. Scottish and Northern Irish water still remains in public hands. The water companies in 2013 made £2.05 billion in profit. 7 of the 19 private companies paid no tax on those profits as well. These profits could be made by the community for the community instead of being sucked up by shareholders.
Another industry Corbyn pledged to nationalize was the energy companies. Despite those who live in Calais are 24 miles from a place where this exists, France. Corbyn’s claims were branded as a fantasy. Energy prices have been rising dramatically ever since the Tories took power and even Theresa May moved to stop that rise. May pledged to copy Ed Milliband’s price freeze proposal but has since U turned and let British Gas up it’s electricity prices by 12%. With market regulation failing nationalization looks like the only option. The Big Six energy companies made aggregate profits of £2.55 billion in 2015, a decline on the profits registered in the years following the financial crisis. Labour only want to partially nationalize Energy companies to help reduce fuel poverty in the UK but nevertheless their is large financial incentive in having the energy companies in public ownership should the government want to run them for profit.
The most recent privatization to be made by our government was Royal Mail. Prompting Dennis Skinner’s infamous quip to Blackrod in 2013, “Royal Mail for sale, Queen’s head privatized”. The Royal Mail was sold in 2013 for £3.3bn. Shares in the company then rocketted 40% in the same day, and calls for Vince Cable to be sacked as business secretary emerged. Labelled a conspiracy against the tax payer, Labour are keen to undo the mistakes of the coalition government. The Mail recently posted Profits of £335 million in 2016. Yet more money that has been siphoned off from the public.
However the large saving are to be made in the NHS, which the Tories are selling off bit by bit under our noses. Total spending by NHS into non NHS services is now at 10.9%, and with Theresa’s May support for the Naylor report we could see more of our health service put into private hands. Privatization has only made the service less efficient and the money wastes is substantial. The main loss for the taxpayer is via PFIs, Private funding iniatives, that were started by John Major’s government but continued by all governments since then. PFIs cost the taxpayer £6 billion a year. They are a financial disaster. However they are not the only sector of the NHS that has been sold off and is now costing us dear. In the recent £2bn injection of funds to the NHS, £901 million went to private companies rather than front-line services. We can see from PFIs that in the long run these private contracts will only lose us money. Corbyn’s pledge for a 100% publicly run NHS seem to make lots of sense. The actions of previous governments have cost the taxpayer huge chunks of money.
Whilst not in Labour’s manifesto, Corbyn believes some banks should be in public ownership. Most people would disagree with this until they realise what benefits it allows. We currently have RBS in public ownership. It has made £940 million in profit this year despite facing a large legal costs, £396m, over mis-sold US mortgages when it was owned by the private sector. If RBS continue to make profits at this rate it could make £2 billion in profits this year. The bank is 72% owned by the tax payer. However the government did formerly own a 43% share in Lloyds, rescuing it after the financial crisis. Once it began to make profits Osbourne sold it off. The bank made £2.5 billion in profit in the first 6 months of this year despite setting aside £350 million for PPI costs. If the taxpayer still had it’s stake in Lloyds it would have made £2.15 billion this year from it’s profits.
The private trains companies made £407 million in profit last year. These are mainly foreign governments state owned companies, like Abellio who run Scots Rail, but also large private companies like Virgin. The taxpayer pays £4 billion every year on rail infrastructure, as this is nationalized, but leaves private companies to make the profits off them. And the British state owned franchises operate a better service than private companies, Transport for London being the best example of this. There are few places in British politics were corporate interests are so blatantly obstructing the will of the general populace. Especially considering we can take them on for free once the private franchises expire, and make these profits without additional borrowing. Nationalizing the trains is a no brainer.
When we witness the huge expenditure we pay every year to fill the pockets of corporations you wonder where the claims that a Left wing government would bankrupt this nation come from. When we see the financial benefit nationaliation can bring the state, will we continue to call plans to do so economically naive?
The final figure: £13.5 Billion

Trump’s first real test of resolve

The current situation regarding the relationship between the US and North Korea is that of great tension. Trump is faced with a nation developing nuclear capabilities, and the motivation is widely believed to be to deter US intervention in Kim Jong-un’s regime.

The US are unlikely to try to topple the regime if North Korea could respond with a nuclear attack. Kim Jong-un sees nuclear weapons as the key to avoiding the fates which befell Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. To the US, however, the concept of a nation not within NATO, i.e. not controllable, possessing nuclear weapons, is disturbing, and they would like to keep the number of nations that fit this criterion to a minimum. What an American administration cannot have is a North Korea that is capable of striking the US mainland.

In an attempt to achieve their goal, North Korea have been conducting regular missile tests over the past few years, with 12 tests since February alone. The legality of nuclear tests is a grey area. However, whilst for most countries the testing of nuclear weapons is illegal, North Korea, not being a signatory of any of the relevant treaties, is not bound by such laws. There are other complicating legal factors, however, so the US could potentially use international law as a justification for evasive action.

Throughout the Obama administration, the attitude to the tests was condemnation, while the general attitude was that it would not be ideal were North Korea to attain the capability, but since Trump has taken office, the tests have increased in frequency, and intelligence suggests North Korea are getting uncomfortably close to having a weapon capable of striking the US – some even suggest they are there already. It should be added that Japan and South Korea, both US allies in the region, are already very vulnerable.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on research carried out by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency which suggested that North Korea had successfully developed nuclear warheads for missiles within reach of the US. In a move that shocked both Washington and the world, Trump responded robustly, stating that future threats would be ‘met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ Whether being so provocative was wise it remains to be seen – Obama was too weak regarding North Korean missile tests, but you could argue Trump has gone too far in the opposite direction.

Since Trump’s statement, North Korea have developed a plan to launch a missile strike into the sea near to Guam, a US overseas territory. The situation therefore is on a balance. The key middle man in this therefore is China. Since taking office, the China – USA relationship seems to have improved under Trump, and China have vowed to defend the US if North Korea launched a first attack. If, however, Trump launched a preemptive strike, I suspect China would side with North Korea; it’s highly unlikely they’d remain militarily neutral.

Trump has a bit of a problem here. We know for certain that if North Korea were to strike Guam instead of testing a missile nearby, it would be an attack on US citizens and soil, and Trump would have to respond with force, lest he undermine the ‘fear factor’ in his country’s nuclear deterrent. The same would be true for the UK. If an aggressor attacked us with nuclear weapons, the only option would be to retaliate. If not, our nuclear deterrent would become obsolete and the ‘fear factor’ of our nuclear arsenal removed.

Having retaliated, Trump would therefore move to destroy the North Korean capability. Given that their missiles are land based, this would be fairly easy. It would be a case of wiping out the missile launch sites. Whether Trump deemed it fit to attack Pyongyang as well as the launch sites would probably depend on the death toll in Guam. However, it should be stressed that whichever he chooses to destroy, he could do it using non-nuclear ordinance. This would be preferable. He’d destroy the target, whether it be the launch site or Pyongyang, without making the area uninhabitable with radiation fallout, and without radiation fallout into South Korea, a US ally. There is a possibility that a strike aimed at Guam could be neutralised mid-air, preventing loss of life. I suspect even if the US were able to destroy a missile headed for Guam, they would treat it as an act of war and would respond in a way similar to how they would if it had impacted Guam.

Throughout all this, the message from the Trump administration has been clear: we will try diplomacy, but if not, military options are on the table. This is exactly how one must act when faced with an aggressor. Try diplomacy, but if diplomacy fails, military options become real options. Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s UN mission, have been in contact, and media outlets have also reported that Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, has also been in touch with Pyongyang.

On Friday, 11 August, Trump tweeted: ‘Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!’ The key here is ‘should North Korea act unwisely.’ The military options to which he refers will not be used unless North Korea were to launch a first strike. The statement seems to therefore rule out a pre-emptive strike.

The best advice throughout the days and weeks ahead are to remain calm. Nothing is going to happen suddenly. It should be remembered that North Korea have nothing to gain out of attacking Guam, and will be well aware that to do so would be suicidal on a national scale. Trump may seem mad and unpredictable, but in fact I believe he has shown in this latest episode that he is predictable, and will do what is necessary to keep America – and the world – safe.

What angers me are references to World War Three. Should this boil over, and I stress that I see this as incredibly unlikely, the outcome will be the destruction of North Korea. No country will come to their aid, thus the term ‘World War’ is completely inaccurate. The situation is likely to calm down. Whilst the media have a habit of overreacting in international relations and spreading panic, this is likely muscle flexing and nothing more. Trump’s handling of the situation doesn’t worry me, nor does his access to the nuclear launch codes.

Royal Navy vital to a Socialist Britain

 

Its often assumed by many, even some of Labour’s own MPs, that if a truly socialist government gets into power then we can say goodbye to our long held naval superiority, even if since the 1920s its been quality over quantity. However there are a plethora of reasons for keeping up investment into the royal navy. Having a powerful military force allows the UK a louder voice internationally, allows for a projection of “soft” power and also provides essential employment and training for thousands of individuals. It is a shortcoming of our species but it is essential to realise that the entire world will not turn peaceful overnight. If the UK rolls back its navy then we can quickly see what little say we have on the geopolitical stage slip away, especially after Brexit. Continued investment in new ships, boats and personnel will only increase the UK’s global presence which will allow for a much stronger platform to act as an example nation for socialism.
The expansion of the Royal Navy would free the UK from being the USA’s poodle in foreign affairs. If we truly wish to forge our own destiny in international politics, something we have not done since the Suez Crisis, we go against the Neo-Liberal consensus of going hand in hand into foreign lands for questionable reasons. Blair made these mistakes, Labour must not continue this. Corbyn, despite reports, is not against legal Un sanctioned humanitarian intervention. He is just against the US going where it pleases, driven by corporate desires and forgetting possible long-term damage. This has befouled the west’s reputation to the developing world, and set a poor example of hegemonic abuse to China and other Bric States.
It is also vital to realise that the role of the royal navy is not what it once was. We traditionally see the navy as our global war projection with almighty sea battles fought in both the world wars reinforcing this view. However in modern times the Royal Navy has become more of a “soft” power rather than military. Yes, I know we still have destroyers and frigates fighting ISIS in US carrier groups, but the navy has adapted far beyond that.
In 2004 after the tragedy of the Tsunami the navy frigate HMS Chatham was there offering humanitarian support, actions that have been repeated all over the globe, in Haiti among other places. The ebola crises was another example of royal navy setting up relief teams and helping the locals. All of this not only directly helps people it also raises the UKs moral standing in the global community meaning more nation states are more likely to follow in the UKs example and we end up with a global community that pulls together and helps one another out. An example set by our very own Royal Navy. We must learn to understand that a military’s purpose is for good, and can be applied for such in areas of crisis, not just war zones.
It is also very important to consider the great changes that have happened to UK industry, we have have seen our manufacturing base fall by two thirds in the last thirty years. However one area we still have some semblance of global leadership is the high end manufacturing. Our car companies are blazing a trail, for example Jaguar Land-rover beginning development of “see through” cockpits allowing drivers to look down through their car floor at the road and our microchip start ups are being snapped up for billions by foreign companies. However China is beginning to switch its self from just purely mass manufacturing and “sweatshops” into high tech laboratories meaning a massive loss of jobs unless we are able to keep up. The Navy is one avenue whereby people can get the funding to gain the knowledge and understanding to be able to leave the navy and go on to make huge differences in the technology world. Too many potential STEM students are being put off by the vast cost incurred by going to university and a stable promised job on the other end as well as support throughout will ensure a steady stream of well trained personnel able to contribute.
It is quite clear to see that we cannot begin to scale back our navy, as we have seen in successive Tory plans, reducing the 12 frigates down to eight. As it has so many uses beyond providing death to foreign lands. It has uses such preventing the shipment of heroin that funds ISIS, protecting the fishing rights of the Falkland islanders and mapping the ocean floor to name but a few.
The military may be an easy target for socialists for a place to cut government spending but losing further jobs by cutting Naval development is economically unwise, despite its cost to the tax payer. It is essential that political mistakes don’t get passed on to the services. Iraq wasn’t the fault of the army for example. We on the left must be able to look beyond all of this and realise the vast benefit of having these services.

Mass strikes the key to giving Erdogan headaches

Erdogan’s regime has been responsible for the arrest of 50,000 people since July 2016, including 231 Journalists. Most under charges of terrorism in response to the failed coup against Erdogan. Following this, Turkey voted Yes in its constitutional referendum to approve 18 constitutional amendments.
The amendments designed to give Erdogan further executive powers to deal with problems in Turkey has been criticized for rendering Parliament useless and granting Erdogan excessive political power. Erdogan has used this round up those who oppose him and bring about controversial change to areas such as education, where the teaching of evolution is now banned.
Protests against Erdogan’s creeping Authoritarianism have become more common, climaxing with the opposition parties’ 450km Justice march from Ankara to Istanbul. Starting on the 15th June the march directly protests the arrest of an MP who allegedly leaked documents showing the Turkish government had armed jihadists in Syria. It has been seen more as a symbol of defiance against Erdogan and his regime, and the eroding of democracy in Turkey.
The march led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, ending in Istanbul, was attended by tens of thousands with the peaceful protest in Istanbul, at the end of the walk, having hundreds of thousands join them.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ended the protest with a speech about his vision for the future and spoke of his 10 demands to Erdogan. The demands included: an end to the state of emergency, an independent judiciary, and the release of imprisoned journalists, politicians and others who were arrested during the purges that followed the coup attempt.
Erdogan claimed the protesters supported terrorists by making these demands.
The protest was mainly a failure. Failing to make it any progress on negotiations for the release of political prisoners and a regression to parliamentary democracy. Nor did it garner any attention in the Western media. Despite being started by an MP who may have evidence that Erdogan is helping to arm militant groups like IS.
As Mr Kilicdaroglu says “It’s not an easy task to fight against a dictator.” and his plan is to win to unseat Erdogan at the presidential elections in 2019.
However, if Turkey truly wish to impact Erdogan’s government it’s a mass strike not a march that they should be utilizing. The oppositions power lie in the affluence of the regions that are against Erdogan, this is clear when viewing the referendum results.
The regions against Erdogan are the urbanized, richer regions. The cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Antalaya and Ankara are clearly opposition strongholds, the No vote being higher than 70% in some of these cities. The Kurdish regions in the East are unsurprisingly against Erdogan’s rule.
These regions make up 72% of the country’s economy.
And that shows what the opposition to Erdogan must do. They must force Erdogan to concessions by bringing these regions to an economic standstill. An economy that is more vital to Erdogan than it is to Turks in the region. Money, he needs to enforce his will and keep rural regions on side and maintain links with the rich elite of the Turkish society. A protest that will physically affect Turkey.
The opposition control nearly all of the Mediterranean coast vital to its links with its main trading partners in the EU. Istanbul alone deals with 60% of Turkey’s imports and exports, the city as it has since its formation in 660BC holds vast political and economic worth. The city, straddling the Bosphorus strait, is the route money takes into Turkey. The city alone is 46% of Turkey’s economy. Erdogan’s opposition could bring down the Turkish economy without leaving Europe.
The key to utilising this weakness is communication and mobilization. It relies heavily on workers Unions or other organisations to mobilise huge numbers of people. Some of the largest industries in Turkey are associated with unions, especially in economically key industries. Turkey rank 4th in the world for Ship building and 8th for steel production. Interestingly, both of these industries have key industrial plants in both Istanbul and Ankara, including companies like Erdemir who are the nation’s leading steel producer. If the strikes can utilise these industries they would be a force to be reckoned with. However they would have to openly pit themselves against Erdogan, a dangerous thing to do at this time.
Erdogan is reliant on areas of his nation that do not agree with him. Reliant on cities that do not support him to keep trade flowing and keep his manufacturing sector alive.
He is not vulnerable politically or culturally but economically.
Erdogan’s opposition must do something more significant than march to show their strength, they must strike at his Achilles heel, the economy.

California- Secede to Succeed

Conservative American’s love telling others about the failures of Liberal policy. The strangling force of market regulation and government interaction. Yet in 2015 the two states with the highest growth are Oregon and California, growing at 4.1%. 1.7% higher than that of the national average.
California remains a model for social mobility, freedom and economic growth, yet ignored by the rest of American. Is secession just a pipe dream of radicals or is their some logic behind it?
Calexit has surged in popularity since the election of Donald Trump to the white house. A man 68.5% of Californian’s didn’t vote for. However the reasons for wanting independence go way beyond the man in the white house.
Economically an independent California is very desirable to California, it’s also a horror story for the USA’s federal tax system. An independent California would be the world’s 5th largest economy, an economy full of skilled workers and bright ideas. Growing at 4.1% in 2015, the Joint highest growth out of all of the states. Yet ask most American’s on California’s economy and they parrot back the Conservative media’s propaganda on an economy suffocated by government.
The truth, they’re right. The government of Conservative states and Washington’s Republican congress to be precise.
They lose $36 billion every year through federal taxes. For every dollar California’s pay in federal tax they get $0.90 in return. To be spent on tax cuts for co-operations and those on welfare, kept their by Republican party policy. And for this great commitment to helping deprived states they’re branded the loony left. America should be following California not ridiculing them. The state that has legalized Cannabis and looks towards Universal Healthcare is truly at the forefront of American politics.
The chance of California changing things from inside the Union is slim to none. The reason, representation. California’s electoral votes haven’t affected a presidential election since 1876. It seems they have no say in their leader. Furthermore they have limited say in their government, in the senate like every state they have 2 senators. The same as Wyoming and Vermont. Despite being 66x times more populous than the former. Why is someone in Wyoming worth 66 Californian’s in the Senate? This political discourse has led the feeling of secession. Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio “There’s such hostility …….that many citizens believe it would be smarter to leave than fight,” A truth that many Liberals in coastal states would echo. Not only due to the Conservative nature of today’s congress but also due to the corrupt and broken Washington machine.
Evidence for this can be seen no more clearly than Healthcare. Not the insurance system. It’s the inefficiency of Medicare that should raise eyebrows. Government per capita spending in the USA is higher than Canada. A nation that offers state provided healthcare to all citizens government pays less than a government that only provides it to over 65s. That means the Canadian government is 7x more efficient than Washignton. All down to the huge campaign donations Big Pharma give Republicans and Democrats every year. $4.4 million to Republicans and $2.6 million to Democrats. California should leave this corrupt institution behind.
California’s must be asking themselves if they benefit in any way by being part of the Union. Economically drained, politically stifled but they do need water so that’s one thing to add to the cons side.
The theme is evident, California is constantly held back by Conservative Americans. They must go it alone.

Universal Healthcare isn’t Socialism, it’s sensible

45,000 Americans die per year due to Washington politicians. This is not because of terrorism or war, it is because of the American healthcare policy. The price for all Americans is sky high healthcare insurance, caused not by Obamacare or over-regulation, but the pharmaceutical corporations. The solution for cheaper healthcare for everyone is to switch to a universal healthcare system. The Average American could save $4800 per year with the reform.
Donald Trump was elected on the promise of repealing ACA and replacing it with a plan to lower healthcare costs for all Americans and broaden access.
The answer to Donald’s promise is a universal healthcare system, with a single payer system. The only problem is, the Republicans would do anything to prevent this from occurring. When the GOP plan to repeal ACA, 24 million people will be forced to go without health insurance. If Americans want to pay less they must switch to a Universal System, the most efficient option would be a single payer government run system like the NHS in the UK.
The major criticism of ACA was the increase in costs to consumers. Health insurance costs are a major stumbling block for the average American. Moving to a single payer system would reduce healthcare costs by nearly $5000, and increase coverage to 100%
Americans spend nearly twice what Europeans do on healthcare. Check the data for yourself. Here is the healthcare spending of the OCED nations.

When comparing the average spending per capita the USA lead the way by a significant margin. However, when we look at the top 5 spenders a clear pattern emerges. The nations who spend the most are USA, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway and Netherlands, out of those nations only Norway has a state run system. Luxembourg has a composite service, while Switzerland and Netherlands have systems like the USA. This evidence shows that having a state run single payer system reduces the costs for the consumer average Brit pays less than half the average American does.
The reason most American’s think that the Universal Healthcare System is unwise is because they believe it will lead to a massive increase in tax and bankrupt the nation. The mistrust in government still runs strong in the US and tax is seen more as theft than a moral duty. In short, they think paying for those who can’t afford healthcare will raise their costs. The opposite is true. Once again if we look at the UK, we find that the UK’s top earners tax rates are 45%, only 5% more than the federal tax on the USA’s top earners. If America switched to the Canadian system every citizen would save on average $4,842 per annum on healthcare costs, a truly amazing saving. This shows that there will be no bankrupt nation, only richer citizens. By allowing the government to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies, prices can be lowered. Moving wealth from multimillion corporations to working class Americans.
The American system must reform to take insurance companies out of the process. The health care industry spends more on lobbying than the oil and gas industries, defence industries and aerospace industries combined. The corruption on the hill doesn’t only affect the GOP, it’s rife in the Democrats. America cannot make the mistake Obama made of allowing the corporations limitless power in pricing drugs and surgeries. Single payer is the route to take.
There are 2 major reasons the American system creates higher prices. The first is the mathematics of insurance. Insurance brings down costs for everyone by using risk pools. The larger the pool the lesser the risk for each individual. Expanding the pool to be Universal therefore reduces the price. Another reason is collective bargaining. In the US each individual must bargain themselves with the pharmaceutical companies for low prices. In the UK it’s the government who negotiates on mass. In the UK the consumer is therefore in a stronger position, allowing the prices to be negotiated down, it’s a similar principle to Workers Unions.

Most Americans would think they have the highest quality of healthcare on the planet. The fact is Most European nations rank higher. In the recent report from the Commonwealth fund assessing healthcare systems it was the UK that finished on top. The USA also has a lower life expectancy than most European countries. It also has higher infant mortality and maternal mortality. It does have some areas where it does better, cancer survival rates for example. However there is no evidence that the US citizens gets twice the healthcare of their European counterparts. Their healthcare is mostly at the same standard.
State run systems are Universal, free at the point of service, for example Britain’s NHS. This gives them a coverage of 100% of the population. In the USA, according to the National Health Interview Survey 10.5% of non-elderly Americans remain without any health insurance. This is down from 16.8% percent when Obama took office, due to ACA. This means 28 million do not have health insurance. This has disastrous results. Its knock on effects in Americans being unable to afford care, especially preventative care, causes 45,000 Americans die every year due to having no healthcare. Most people simply can’t afford it.
Do we really believe in America the richest nation on the planet that we should let citizens die for being poor?
The American system is so broken it would be difficult not to improve it. Expensive with poor results and poor coverage. Universal care with a single payer system would provide accessible, inexpensive care for all.