Tories finally get something right with Heathrow expansion

I’ve always been a firm supporter of Heathrow’s expansion. As an amateur pilot myself (I have a LAPL), I’ve followed the topic intently for many years. It’s taken over two decades between Heathrow first declaring that they need to expand, to this approval. This is less of a political attack, and more of a reflective point on the way we do things in the UK…

Ministers described the backing for a new runway as a “historic moment” for the UK, and I’m inclined to agree. We’ve needed some good news for a while, and Chris Grayling, has delivered. The decision to renationalise the East Coast Mainline was the correct one (our article on that can be found here), as is this.

Why Heathrow Expansion?

Industry, including aviation, is growing.  More people are going on holiday than ever before. International trade is on the rise. The need to export cargo by air has never been greater. The latest figures from this time last year, show that the UK’s aviation industry is now worth £52bn in our overall GDP, 960,000 jobs, and £8.7 billion in tax revenue. 3.4% of the UK’s growing economy comes from aviation, with airports being the largest single contributor from the industry.

So fundamentally, to hold back our aviation industry with a lack of runways, holds back our economy. The amount our aviation industry grows is limited by infrastructure (runways), and this in turn limits the size of our economy.

The current situation

Heathrow is currently operating at 99% of capacity,  thereby increasing delay times when flights are disrupted, and risks losing destinations to other competing European airports like Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle. If an airport is operating at maximum capacity, it can no longer give landing slots to airlines that want to land in the UK, and help grow our economy. Again, very basic economics. The more ‘aircraft movements’ in a country, the more it grows, as researched by KfW, a German bank, in a recent study.

There is a global race to secure routes to emerging economies in Asia and South America. Britain needs to compete with other large international airports to secure these routes, and with Heathrow operating at full capacity, it can’t do that. Amsterdam Schiphol is operating at 62% capacity, allowing airlines to start new routes; there is no limit to the amount of growth from aviation Holland can have. Paris Charles de Gaulle is operating at 71% capacity. No other airport in Europe in under as much strain as Heathrow is.

There are more UK airports served by Amsterdam than by Heathrow.  From Amsterdam, you can fly to 24 UK destinations. From Heathrow, you can only fly to 7 UK destinations. Let that sink in.

Trade

In 2014, £101 billion worth of goods travelled via Heathrow, more than the sea ports of Felixstowe and Southampton combined. 33% of UK long haul export goods travelled through Heathrow in 2014, compared to 0.25% through Gatwick. 120 of the UK’s top 300 most profitable companies are based within 15 miles of Heathrow.


The biggest problem Heathrow seems to have experienced in the past decade or so is what Geographers would call nimbyism, or, ‘not in my back yard…..ism‘. By comparison, and to clarify, I am not condoning the Chinese system, but when China wants to build a new railway, or airport, those who live in the way are given compensation, and told they have 6 months to leave. Of course, deeply unfair for those people, but having said that, it means China ‘gets stuff done’.

Heathrow faces two problems. Nimbysim as mentioned above, and environmentalists. For those environmentalists out there let me explain something to you. Aviation isn’t going away. You can campaign. But it will not go away. Planes will merely get more efficient. Expanding Heathrow future proofs it for the type of aircraft you so crave: ultra fuel efficient ones.

In the past decade, the advancements in aviation fuel efficicieny have been staggering. So staggering in fact, I’m surprised the media don’t cover it.

If we take transatlantic flights as an example. 20 years ago, this was operated by the Boeing 767, which had a fuel burn per 100km per passenger of 3.34l. We know have the Boeing 737MAX, which has a figure of 2.13l. When you scale that up to the number of passengers it carries, and the distance, that is a vast increase in fuel saving.

We need an economy that doesn’t have a ceiling, above which we cannot grow. Like it or not, the region that right now has

  • The fastest GDP growth
  • The fast wage growth

is Asia, in particular the Far East. We currently export more to Belgium (a country who’s wages basically have’t risen in 10 years), than we do to China. The one thing that might save us from Brexit is trading with the roughly 6.7bn people who live outside the EU. Simple geography is we need planes and ships to do so, instead of the lorries we use to trade with the EU. I hate to use a Tory phrase, but to make the best of Brexit, and to ‘build a Britain fit for the future’, Heathrow must expand. So Labour, I suggest you back it.

May In Power Is No Justice For Grenfell Victims

Ostensibly, society needed Grenfell. Grenfell was a community in South West London; skilled, qualified, and, until last summer, full of life. In June 2017 Grenfell Tower went up in flames entirely due to government negligence, leading to families without homes to return too and having to spend Christmas in recovery from the most severe trauma imaginable.

Offensively to the victims and emergency services the issue of Grenfell has been hoist to the mast of politicking by those with the most to lose from a truthful account of that nights harrowing events. Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to hone the attack on Theresa May in an earnest endeavour to hold Tory rule to account for fanning a culture in which the poor are bereft of concern. However, the executive’s concern still concentrates on funding selfish elite lifestyles off the public safety purse. Insofar as the Tories are pioneers of spin, blaming Corbyn for somehow “using” the event is itself an admission of guilt and demonstrates that it is the Prime Minister who is the one really liable. Corbyn cried with and consoled the people, whereas May engineered a media spectacle flanked by armed security whilst dragging along the issue with her iron claws for months to suit a narrow agenda.

The last day of the Parliamentary inquiry into the causes and failures saw a broad list of outstanding charges and criminal negligence amongst a toxic culture of complacency and impunity that culminated in an unwillingness on behalf of the authorities to meet statutory safety requirements. Testimonies by victims and their families all laid the blame squarely at politicians’ feet.

Whereas incisive criticism has exposed incompetence in government and media when public atrocities occur, this particular episode has redeemed our press to the extent that they, to our knowledge, have not scoured the private life of victims in the way that is the raison d’être of post murdochian tabloid journalism. Indeed, the press has performed exemplary service in its role as an independent auditor of government. In its concern for justice for the victims, the liberal media proved it is itself alive and up to the task of upholding the most basic of moral principles. It unanimously concluded that the circumstances surrounding Grenfell were indicative of government negligence, a startling but plausible event when people’s safety is placed below the profit margin.

Enormous trauma and distress has ensued. It is partially assuaged by public solidarity and meaningful gestures of care. But the pain is compounded by the reminder of May in rule, a regent so far removed from rot, rust, and the raging fire that tore apart the lives of so many.

Community life is beautiful. May’s spectacle ought to be the only thing condemned to the ashes whilst the spirit of Grenfell will undoubtedly rise from the ashes and long outlive it.

Brexit: A journey towards inglorious isolationism

No one could have imagined a referendum that would incite such intense political division. Nor could anyone have imagined a vote, the so-called ‘victory’ for democracy, that would plunge Britain into this bottomless pit of political antipathy.

Yet in the last year alone, as the relationship between Britain and Europe voyages towards an irreversible impasse, the referendum has done exactly that. And, as the EU Withdrawal Bill kick starts an acrimonious cessation, you wouldn’t be blamed for wallowing in the overwhelming sense of waste as decades of political cooperation are consigned to the dustbin of history.

For Eurosceptics, Brexit supposedly signals the regaining of control; independence from a Europe dominated by Germany and the reassertion of British sovereignty. This is, of course, is naivety at its finest; a subliminal serving of the ‘Little England’ rhetoric that sparked this destructive process.

But, for Europhiles, such as myself, Brexit signals not the success of these lofty democratic ideals, nor rational objections to the EU’s shortcomings, but rather the rejection of what is best about Europe: a common identity, cultural pluralism, and a preference for pooled sovereignty over that of bickering national parliaments.

It is difficult to be anything less than scathing when writing about the whole affair. Being a student, Brexit risks impinging the future of so many of whom have benefited from the European Project. Indeed, the referendum of 2016 has achieved nothing except to divide the nation, forcing our country’s populous into an unbreakable political and economic straitjacket.

Whilst Britain becomes deadlocked in this labyrinthine ‘divorce process’, many people will question the purpose of such a destructive vote in the first place; a vote that, in reality, has sought nothing but the importation of toxic xenophobia and provincialism.

Throughout this process, there has tended to be too much focus on the domestic impacts of such a single-minded withdrawal from the Union: economic downturns, business effects, and immigration. Whilst, of course, these are valid concerns, we must surely worry how Brexit will influence the relationship between us and our European counterparts.

Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will be how our experience of Europe will at once change, and be maligned. The greatest appeal of our membership was the seemingly endless opportunities in education and career prospects. Now, this hangs very much in the balance. It seems we are not furthering our own image of a global Britain, but instead embarking on a voyage to inglorious isolationism.

As for Britain’s trajectory after negotiations, well, that remains uncertain. However, what remains clearest of all is that before 2016 our futures were not impeded by a seemingly avoidable saga of duplicity and demagogy, from the politicians whose inalienable task is to represent our best interests.

Indeed, what worries me the most is that, despite an outcry of public opposition, there seems to be no hint of a mea culpa from the Conservatives, who alone have plunged the country further into the storm of discord.

A melancholic image, perhaps, but certainly a reality. We should not be waving goodbye to Europe. Instead, we should be offering a firm kick up the backside of ‘hard Brexit’, whose very existence provides not a ‘brighter future’, but a bleak and murky reminder of our short-term gain, and long-term loss.

Homelessness and expense: The reality of the private rented sector

In the summer of 2017 the BBC aired ‘The Week the Landlords Moved In’? Indeed, The launch of the life-swap series was ironically contemporaneous with the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a disaster that continues to dominate the political agenda. The show focussed on exposing the problems with the private rented sector. 

In episode 1 when we meet Linda, the dichotomy between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-nots’ becomes clear, and we begin to understand the extent of the sector’s principal failings- affordability. Even holding down three jobs, this private tenant struggled to heat more than one room whilst facing a serious, yet regular shortfall in rent.

Despite narrowing the wider issue in its documentary form, the programme does highlight some harsh realities of the private rented sector. In exploring areas such as affordability and abject living conditions, ‘The Week the Landlords Moved In’ encapsulates all that is wrong with the current state of the sector. As time has progressed, its impacts have become increasingly more profound and widespread. Indeed, due to the lack of affordability, the loss of private tenancy remains the largest cause of homelessness in the UK, with over 18,500 households facing eviction from a privately rented home in 2016.

According to statistics derived from Shelter, the housing charity; private rents in 55% of local authorities in England are unaffordable. If this wasn’t chilling enough, the charity underlined its findings by stating that 38% of families with children have had to cut back on food purchases just to keep up with rent payments. Surely, it is morally objectionable that a choice between food or shelter still remains in 21st century Britain?

Undoubtedly the situation is dire. However, the private rented sector can serve a purpose. In the view of the former Housing Minister Grant Shapps, private landlords play an essential part in the provision of affordable housing, so much so that the government removed much of the regulatory red tape surrounding the sector. The former Minister also stated that the Government needed to play a more active role in house building. This has fallen to its lowest levels since the 1920s, meaning the dependency on private landlords is greater than ever. Indeed, with an increasing population, a lack of readily available social sector housing private landlords have found themselves in a highly favourable position. 

However, it is not only landlords that are to blame. The government has also failed in its role. We are currently experiencing a twenty-four year low in government house building (only 32,000 were built to the year of March 2016). Clearly then, the issue is not about the existence of private landlords, but the way in which they are allowed to operate. Indeed, for whilst the PRS is thriving, many tenants renting in this sector view it as simply unsustainable.

Having access to safe, affordable housing is fundamental, especially those who find themselves in the rental market. It is unsurprising then that such a right is recognised in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as part of the foundation. Yet, it is becoming clear that there is still much to be worked upon if private renting is to remain sustainable. Indeed, according to the English Housing Survey, private rents consume 35% of household income; the highest of any bracket.

With these facts being recognised, it is important to more rigorously regulate the private rented sector. Indeed, efforts could be made to introduce a national body in which all private landlords are subject to. But perhaps most important of all is the need for the government to meet the demand of housing. The state must start building affordable homes once again or the problem will only worsen. 

Five Questions We Should All Be Asking Brexiteers

It has been nearly two years since around 17.4 million Britons voted to leave the European Union. Yet, as The People’s Vote have indicated, each one of those 17.4 million Leavers voted for a variety of reasons. There were a number of pledges made in the Leave camp, from Boris Johnson’s lies regarding extra funding for the NHS, to greater sovereignty outside European jurisdiction.

And nearly two years on, we still have no idea where the Conservative government is leading us.

Alongside this, we have a much greater understanding of the implications of Brexit than we did in the run-up to the referendum.

Overall, any form of Brexit will have a negative impact on the country. A Hard Brexit, which Theresa May has intended to deliver, looks to be economically catastrophic.

Yet, despite this, support for May remains strong. Is this a sign that a majority of the electorate demands a Hard Brexit?

If true, it is a necessity to challenge the Hard Brexiteers. I want to ask them some simple questions concerning Brexit, and I want them to clarify their reasons for their decisions.

Do you want the economy to strengthen?

If so, then we should not implement a Hard Brexit. Though a Hard Brexit means we would leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, multiple organisations have proved that in nearly every single economic scenario, Britain shall be worse off leaving the EU.  The Office for Budget Responsibility state Brexit will make the UK economy 4.8% smaller, a hit of £100bn to our economy.  

Even if we were to stay in the Single Market and keep the Customs Union but lose control over negotiating European legislation, it is an option considerably economically stronger than a Hard Brexit. However to stay in both the customs union and the EEA and lose our seats in the European Parliament would be a strange move, and at that point Remaining within the EU should surely be back on the table.

As a member of the EU, we have been given a hugely vibrant, strong European market to trade and exchange with.

But surely we can establish new trade deals with other nations? True. However, the UK could be waiting until 2045 until deals with the USA, China, India, Australia and New Zealand can be reached.

Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union will mean food prices will rise and wages will decrease against inflation. No one wants this.

 

Do you want the UK to retain a high employment rate?

Then a Hard Brexit will certainly not guarantee retaining employment levels. It is estimated that the Single Market is linked to 3.3 million jobs in the UK. But even with a diminishing economy, many more of our jobs at risk. Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to pledge ‘jobs for many, not the few’ alongside the advocation of a Hard Brexit. He needs to enforce this, or lose the next General Election and much of his youth-driven support.

Leaving the single market would threaten 1 in 10 jobs in this country, leaving it could be a fatal stimulus dropping us into recession. The uncertainty of Brexit has already seen growth slow to a near standstill, with the UK economy growing at 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018, the economic risk of clattering out of the single market should not be underestimated.

Furthermore, with the thought that May might implement a Hard Brexit, EU immigrants who help drive our economy are less attracted to coming to the UK, decreasing the capacity of a range of sectors, from agriculture to education. More than 2,300 EU academics have resigned from UK universities because they are fearful of their future. And farmers are turning to China; there is much more demand for work in China, whereas EU immigrants who work in the agricultural sector are more concerned than ever regarding their place in the UK.

 

Do you want the UK to continue to increase its funding of the NHS? New housing? The environment?

A Hard Brexit will diminish the power to do so. Boris Johnson’s unacceptable lies during the run-up to the referendum must be accounted for – there will be no more extra NHS funding, particularly as the economy diminishes. There has also been speculation that the NHS will be part of a US-UK trade deal, increasing the price of drugs supplied by the NHS.

What we have to acknowledge is, with a diminishing economy, it also diminishes our capacity to improve housing, improve the environment, improve education. We will struggle to improve anything.

Brexit is estimated to mean a £36bn hit to tax revenue. That’s nearly equivalent to the budget for education for 5-16yr olds. Brexit will only lead to more cuts and the lengthening of austerity.

The UN has stated that environmental protections will significantly weaken post-Brexit. The construction sector has been hit with a blow in Scotland due to higher labour costs. And the UK will fall in global higher education standards after Brexit.

With a Hard Brexit, we will be unable to fund and build upon the foundations of British society which urgently need attention.

 

Do you want tighter immigration rules?

A Hard Brexit might not guarantee this. Yes, the UK will have the power to restrict its net migration levels. But India has already insisted that any trade deal post-Brexit will have to include an eased restriction on Indian-UK migration. New trade deals with other nations might also include an ease on immigration rules.

However, the biggest con the leave campaign managed to pull was on immigration. The EU, in Directive 2004/38/EC gives member states the clear right to deport migrants if they do not meet certain criteria, ie if they become a burden on the state.

What this means, is that the government recognise our level of immigration as being healthy for our country. Not only towards the economy but also due to our demographic needs.

Migrants remain a net benefit to the taxpayer, which the British native is not. EU migrants are a net benefit to the taxpayer to the tune of £20bn. Reducing immigration will mean higher taxes for the rest of us.

It is also worth noting with our ageing population we need more young working taxpayers to prop up the older generation.

Migrants are a necessity to this country.

 

Do you want to enjoy travelling on holiday to Europe?

It will be much harder to do so with a Hard Brexit. Prices for holidays have risen by 6%, according to Thomas Cook, whilst we might have to pay and apply for visas if we wish to travel to Europe post-Brexit. And it was only recently that the EU halted extra roaming charges whilst abroad.

Freedom of movement is a benefit we must cherish to explore and understand new cultures. It is a benefit which we take for granted.

 

If to any of these questions you disagree, I’d like you to think again.

Look how beneficial the EU is to Britain. Look how far we will falter if we apply a Hard Brexit. Do you want this? No. No one wanted this.

We voted to leave. But with greater knowledge of the implications of Brexit, we also have the opportunity to look again and change our minds. Would you continue to proceed the purchase of a house knowing that there were major issues with it?

Leavers are adamant that life outside the EU will provide the power to change society. But they are wrong.

Their views are based upon a major misconception surrounding the source of Britain’s issues. The referendum was a chance to provide the public with change, meaning the EU was targeted as the source of our issues. This is incorrect.

Instead of blaming the EU, let us blame the Conservative governments who have been in power. We have seen a reduced annual increase in the NHS from each Tory government. Homelessness is on the rise. Wages have gone backwards under the Conservatives.

Don’t blame the EU. This is a UK, national issue.

Yes, the EU is not perfect. But, as proven, it is hugely beneficial to our society. Let us indicate that the result of the referendum was not to do with our discontent with the EU, but our discontent with issues at home – our discontent with our own government.

We must realise that we are sovereign. We are not completely ‘held back’ by the EU. We have the power to change our society, but Tory governments have stopped us from doing so.

There is a mirage around the Conservatives. Driven by economics, they pledge prosperity – which only reaches the highest earners. Yet lower income earners continue to believe that the Tories are going to make a difference…except they never will. It is this ongoing belief that those of lower income will eventually prosper due to Tory ‘promises’ which holds the Conservatives up.

Lower income earners must understand that Tory promises are lies. A Hard Brexit will not increase low-earners’ standard of living. Standards of living will continue to decrease.

So we must all speak out against the Tories. Whatever your income level, your social status, your occupation – a Hard Brexit will be hideous for all. And this includes Labour.

Corbyn has shown he is also an advocate for Brexit. It is hardly a vote ‘for the people’. His ambiguity regarding Brexit is running thin.

He is not a man of the people if he chooses to allow a Hard Brexit.

We voted to leave. But we now must realise that leaving will not be beneficial. Let us push for a People’s Vote and reject a Hard Brexit. This will be the only route to regain control of our society and allow Britain to flourish once again.

Why Ireland should be a model for British Republicans

On Saturday May the 19th all the hype will be over and the next Royal Wedding will take place between Henry Windsor and Megan Markel. Indeed from much mainstream media coverage, it would seem that the entire country has brought into the pageantry in an obsessive way very much reminiscent of the last Royal Wedding in 2011. However are the public the fanatical Royalists that the media likes to claim? Not according to some polls, with Optimum claiming that fewer than half of 18-34 year olds agreeing that the monarchy should continue and that only 22% of the public want Charles to become King. In a similar vein, You Gov claim that 52% of respondents weren’t interested in the forthcoming Royal Wedding.

However, there is little discussion on the left regarding republican alternatives to the monarchy with the standard of debate on the issue on the rare occasions it is raised not being particularly edifying. Is this because of a paucity of ideas on the left regarding what a British republic would look like a lack of support for republican ideas on the left or a fear that moving to a republic is unpopular with the public? Another question worth asking is why did Jeremy Corbyn shy away from any debate on the issue when questioned about it by Jeremy Paxman during last year’s general election.

There have been figures within the Labour Party throughout its history who have opposed the monarchy. Jeremy Corbyn is obviously one example (although he has said that it isn’t a ‘battle that I’m fighting’) but other Labour leaders such as Keir Hardie, George Lansbury and Michael Foot were known republicans while that firebrand of the left Tony Benn introduced the 1991 Commonwealth of Britain Bill in Parliament which advocated a secular Britain with an elected President. Indeed Benn himself is quoted as saying ‘The existence of a hereditary monarchy helps to prop up all the privilege and patronage in our society’. There are a number of current Labour MPs who are Republicans such as Paul Flynn (Newport West), Emma Dent Coad (Kensington), David Crausby (Bolton North East) and Richard Burgon (Leeds East) announced that he believed the head of state should be elected when he was swearing his oath of allegiance to the Queen (the late Tony Banks MP for West Ham used to cross his fingers). In some ways perhaps it’s surprising that there isn’t more what is more anti-Socialist than the idea of inherited wealth and titles? How can the Monarchy be ‘for the many not the few’?

In terms of other parties the Green Party of England and Wales has an official policy of republicanism with Caroline Lucas being a particularly keen advocate while Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was famously disciplined in the Welsh Assembly for referring to the Queen as ‘Mrs Windsor’ and is a fervent republican as are many Plaid members although it isn’t official party policy. In Scotland, the SNP confirmed that they would keep the monarchy if Scotland became Independent but the Scottish Greens favour a republic.

However one of the dilemmas that republicans face is what sort of republic and indeed what sort of Presidency do they want? At the moment the republican movement appears timid and unclear in its vision perhaps just the sort of lack of clarity that helped the Monarchists win the 1999 republic referendum in Australia. Visiting the website of Republic, the main anti-monarchist campaign group offers some clarity pointing out that they want ‘the monarchy abolished and replaced with an elected democratic head of state’. There are also a number of statements about how the abolition of the monarchy will enhance the British democratic culture and improve tourism however, in general, it is short of substance.

Beyond rather tiresome comments about the failure of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth period one of the most common criticisms of British republicanism is ‘I wouldn’t want Blair, Thatcher, Trump etc’ as President. This ignores the fact that they became President it would be on the basis of a popular mandate and the fact that successive Prime Ministers have become increasingly Presidential. This clearly leads onto a discussion about the difference between a President as Head of Government and Head of State and in contrast a Presidential model where the President is a non-political Head of State. It seems clear that critics of republicanism site the Presidential systems they know best such as the USA, Russia and France where the President has both roles and can often act in a highly authoritarian manner.

However, surely British republicans need to avoid advocating for a ‘super President’ and argue for a democratically elected President to represent the country as Head of State rather than a hereditary monarch who is performing the role simply because they were born into the role. However, if the ‘super Presidents’ of the USA, France, Russia and China (who have now effectively appointed their President for life) aren’t suitable models where should we find inspiration? Germany could be one example with its ceremonial President performing very similar duties to the Queen. However, in terms of democracy there is a slight snag perhaps because of the fear of populism following the Third Reich the founders of the Federal Republic in 1949 decided that the German President should be elected by a federal assembly of German politicians. This may well be better than a hereditary monarchy but to a degree it smells of a political fudge and in Italy the situation is similar with the President being elected by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

However, there are better models. In Austria the President performs a largely ceremonial role and is directly elected, but in 2016 the Presidency became embroiled in controversy with the rerun election between the Green candidate Alexander Van De Bellen and the far Right Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer. However we can also look closer to home and see the Irish Presidency as a model. Since 1937 when the Irish Free State (the 26 counties free from British colonial rule renamed the Republic of Ireland in 1949) adopted its own constitution an Irish President directly elected by the people has performed the same ceremonial functions undertaken by the Windsor family in Britain.

Interestingly for a then staunchly Catholic nation, the first Irish President Douglas Hyde was actually a Protestant as was Erskine Childers President in the 1970s. The reverse situation is still impossible in the UK where Catholics are banned from being Head of State under the Sectarian Act of Settlement. As with any political system some Irish Presidents have been better than others with all Presidents prior to 1990 being members of the dominant Fianna Fáil party with Easter Rising veteran Eamon De Valera being the most famous but the key point has always been that unless unopposed Irish Presidents were elected by the people. Indeed while there have been bad apples such as Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh who resigned the Presidency in 1976 following a row over security legislation with his own government recent Presidents such as Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and the current incumbent Michael D. Higgins have been inspirational.

Mary Robinson was nominated by the Labour Party, very much the third force in Irish Politics, and won the Presidency in 1990 ending the Fianna Fail hegemony as the first female President who brought energy and experience based on her background as an academic and barrister. Robinson helped facilitate a gradual social liberalisation of Irish life particularly in relation to homosexuality as well as meeting a number of members of the British Royal family and then Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams which at the time was considered a bold move. Mary McAleese was the first Irish President to be born in Northern Ireland and helped build links not just with the UK by inviting the Queen to Ireland in 2011 but also Protestants in the Republic of Ireland by taking communion at a Church of England service. Michael D. Higgins was also supported by the Labour Party is a veteran left –winger who is also a fluent Irish speaker as well as a prolific poet and writer.

Isn’t it about time Britain joined our Irish neighbours in promoting egalitarianism, merit and talent over hereditary class-based privilege?

 

Israel commits act of hypocrisy and terror in murder of over 50 protesters

“Hamas seeks to massacre innocent men, women, and children.’ Israeli army statement, 13 May 2018. One day later, over 50 killed and thousands injured by the Israeli army.

This is not a post about Gaza or the number of Palestinians killed. If it was, it would surely be an example of unwarranted focus on Israel in which case it would be an antisemitic post. So this is not a post about Gaza or the number of Palestinians killed. Michael Rosen

The Oxford Dictionary definition of terrorism is, “The use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”.

The Israeli government definition of terrorism would be, “The use of peaceable words and actions, especially by civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
It has now reached the level of absurdity when, before criticising Israel, we must prove that we are not anti-semitic. But let’s do it.
My father was one of the first Allied doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The photos he made there, and later showed me of the skeletal prisoners, scarred my young mind. It was those haunting pictures that led me to a lifetime of anti-fascism.
At 16 I had my first contact with anti-semites. One Saturday morning, thugs from the British Movement, forerunners of the National Front, and shouting “You bloody Yids” beat me up in Bromley High Street for selling Peace News. I discovered the headquarters of the Zionist Federation, told them what had happened and they gave me Star of David badges. The following Saturday I, and a fellow pacifist wore these badges proudly and were beaten up again.
As a member of the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, I helped set up a support and defence group in North West London for Asian shopkeepers attacked by the National Front. Need I go on?
To anyone who would accuse me of being anti-semitic, I bring as my defence witnesses three prominent Jews. The first is Albert Einstein who said, “The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed … I believe it is bad.” 
Primo Levi was a survivor of Auschwitz. He said, “Everyone has their Jews and for the Israelis they are the Palestinians”.
My third witness would be Marek Edelman, last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw uprising. He wrote a letter in support of the Palestine resistance, comparing them to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw. He opened that letter of support with, “Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations – to all the soldiers of the Palestine fighting organisations.”
Myself and my three distinguished witnesses would today be defined as anti-semitic by those who continue with their blind faith in Israel, right or wrong.
For definition of ‘terrorism’, I will stick with the Oxford Dictionary.

Ignore the media, Corbyn’s Socialist Labour remain on the up

I have spent most of my life believing that socialism would never come via a vote in Parliament. I will never forget the start of a march on Westminster against the 1970s anti-union laws and agreeing with the speaker who recommended we don’t go there as he didn’t believe in disturbing the dead.

And on the Labour Party I took Ralph Milliband’s words seriously when he wrote: “Pious references to the Labour Party being a ‘broad church’ which has always incorporated many different strands of thought fail to take account of a crucial fact, namely that the ‘broad church’ of Labour only functioned effectively in the past because one side – the Right and Centre – determined the nature of the services that were to be held, and excluded or threatened with exclusion any clergy too deviant in its dissent.”

But Jeremy Corbyn changed all that for me and I have now joined the Labour Party. I am probably one of the few geriatric members of Momentum. At the recent local elections, and because of illness, I have been unable to join in party canvassing but try and help the party where I can. And I have Jeremy to thank for now believing that perhaps radical change can come about with a Left social democratic party.

That process started when Jeremy won the leadership, but it is a struggle in every sense of the word.

On the morning of 4th May, I woke and turned on the radio to hear thRight-wing MPs, Jess Phillips and Chuka Umunna, demanding an enquiry because the Labour Party had done so badly. I am not supposed to drink coffee, but was now on my third and it was only 8 am.

Why wasn’t Jeremy being interviewed or, at least, a shadow minister who would speak truth to this nonsense.

As the day went on it became obvious that these MPs were blatantly lying. The BBC’s own figures settled on the following.

Labour won 2,323 seats – up 62

Conservatives won 1,330 – down 32

Lib Dems won 536 – up 75

The Greens won 39 – up eight

UKIP won three – down 123

What in heaven’s name is their definition of ‘badly’.

There is no way the right wing of the Labour Party will tolerate Corbyn and his challenge to the consensual tweedle-dum, tweedle-dee politics of the last decades.

At the heart of this is the neo-liberal agenda of austerity for the many and riches for the few, privatisation and war.

Labour’s right wing MPs have and will actively continue to oppose any moves to the Left in their party and seem happy to sabotage a Corbyn leadership which has gathered together ½ million members. As even the ‘corporate’ media have recognised, any successes from the 3 May local elections have been attributed in no small measure to the dedication of Momentum members.

The ghostly ghouly Blair sits smiling on the shoulders of Tess and Chuka and the other right wing MPs who are ably backed by their non-recall salaries and their invitations to the front pages of the right-wing media and the comfortable sofas of BBC chat shows.

Elections and their results are important – Jess, Chuka and the BBC understand that well – which is why election results are misinterpreted, but we now need to stress that a socialist Labour Party is not just about elections. We must not return to the days of incumbency in place of insurgency, church politics in place of non-conformist dissent.

The Labour Party needs to return to the mass rallies we saw at the beginning of Corbyn’s ascendancy. Be present on picket lines and demonstrations. Stand with and lead popular protests on Grenfell and Windrush. Fight for and with the disabled and the welfare-robbed poor. Defend the NHS from the privateers. Be central to the anti-war movement and alert to those in their own ranks who have taken us to war in the past and likely to do so again – and soon.

The victory that was achieved yesterday was won by a socialist Labour Party, a party that continues to make ground, a party we should be proud to support and vote for.

Philip May profiting from wife’s military policies

Philip May

The dogs of war” were words first uttered by Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. “Cry Havoc,” he said, “and let slip the dogs of war.”

Enter stage right our Prime Minister’s husband, Philip John May. May is a banker and pension fund expert. He is a senior executive at Capital Group, a US investment company that controls $1.4 trillion in assets.

Capital Group’s portfolio includes JP Morgan Chase, ($7bn) Philip Morris International ($9bn), McDonald’s ($5bn) and significant investments in Amazon and Starbucks. Selling books, coffee, burgers and fags is not a crime, although some of these companies’ tax avoidance scams might be.

Since 2009, Capital Group has declared a turnover of £467 million, but declared losses of £125 million. Despite what might be considered a colossal business failure, in the same period Mr May and other Capital Group directors have pocketed £43million in salaries, pensions and other benefits.

Even the Daily Mail has said, ‘It’s very odd a business can pay substantial amounts to directors while not turning a profit.’

Capital Group proudly claim they are significant shareholders in weapons’ manufacturer, Lockheed Martin ($6.6bn), and are the largest shareholders in BAE Systems. Both companies are world leaders when it comes to profiting from death and destruction.

Before there was any evidence of a chemical attack and in a heartbeat, Theresa May hitched herself to Donald Trump’s recent air stike in Syria. It was another Groundhog Day moment, remember Iraq? Predictably, BAE share prices soared.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Saudis continue to bomb Yemeni wedding parties into dust with their BAE hardware.

Capital Group has been linked to the Paradise Papers scandal with Private Eye suggesting that the company uses the offshore law firm, Appleby, to arrange investments in tax havens.

Capital Group’s Cayman Island funds and Bermuda investments are channelled through a South American agriculture company. Both are offshore jurisdictions, known for zero rates of tax.

None of this presents a moral or ethical problem for the Mays. “Neither the Prime Minister nor Mr May have any direct offshore investments,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said recently. “Their investments have been declared to the Cabinet Office and are held in a blind trust.”

The salient words here are “direct” and “blind”. Their investments are carried out through third-party companies. “Blind” investments are truly unseen. Politicians often place their personal assets in blind trusts to avoid public scrutiny and accusations of conflict of interest. Perhaps Mrs May should have tutored Michael Cohen about this.

Talk about keeping it all in The Family. Theresa May pursues military policies that directly enrich her husband and herself, probably beyond their wildest dreams.

At least Ivanka Trump’s “lifestyle products” empire hasn’t killed anyone, although her father has blood on his tiny orange hands.

The dogs of war have been let loose and it is past time we, the people, drag them back and put them on the leash.

The death of the Liberal Democrats could create a more dangerous centrist party

The Observer recently revealed that, for the past year, business leaders and philanthropists have been developing a new centrist political party, in an effort to help “Break the mould of Westminster”. Led by LoveFilm CEO Simon Franks, the Project One movement – though it is safe to assume this is a working title whilst the party structure is formed – aims to break ground in the coming year, with significant financial backing and rumoured links to key centrist figures, potentially including Tony Blair.

Perhaps the least surprising aspect of the story, however, has been the response from the left and commentators from that political position. Quick to denounce the proposed party as irrelevant and simply the Liberal Democrats in a new format, it is a striking consensus amongst the left that the Project One movement is, from the very offset, doomed to fail before it starts. As Matthew Cole entitled his somewhat scathing dismissal of the proposed movement, “A new centrist party for Britain? Good luck with that.”

However, such willingness, and apparently joy, to leap to conclusions that the Project One Movement will have no impact are somewhat naïve. By no means do I suggest that, instead, the Project One movement will be in Downing Street in the blink of an eye – far from it. The direction of the movement is yet to be established, but it is widely reported that the party will focus primarily on local elections and activism before moving towards national elections.  It is almost certain that, at least for the remainder of the decade, the political landscape in Britain will remain largely unchanged; as we are begrudgingly dragged by the Conservatives towards the inevitable hard Brexit very few signed up for.  The current British political climate, however, seems poised for some form of revival and revitalisation as we approach the new decade – and, if the Left is not careful, such revitalisation may just come from the often-neglected centre ground.

Opinion polls serve as the perfect example of why Centrism has been overlooked for providing this revitalisation. As of March 18th, YouGov polling put the increasingly right-wing Conservatives at 44%, with Corbyn’s Labour second at 41%. The Liberal Democrats, apparently perceived as the indicator of Centrism in Britain, polled at merely 8%. From this data alone, it is an easy conclusion to assume that centrism is losing its footing in the increasingly polarised political landscape of Britain. There are, however, several reasons why this is wrong -and why the Left should be conscious of the attempted Centrist resurgence of Project One.

Primarily, the assumed failure of Centrism in Britain is down to the polarisation of British politics. With the Conservatives increasingly leaning further to the right, and Corbyn’s consolidation of Labour making the party move closer towards its socialist roots, the previous conditions of the mainstream parties as near carbon copies of each other are gone. By no means, however, does the polarisation of the traditional parties equate to the full polarisation of the electorate. Centrist tendencies do largely remain in Britain; many who voted Labour or Conservative in the last general election were, in fact, centrists, aligning themselves with the political party they deemed most appealing.

Therefore, the apparent continuation of this national programme of radicalisation, of both Labour and the Conservatives, has led to the increasing alienation of these ‘swing centrists’ of the 2017 election. The fortification of socialism in Labour rhetoric increasingly alienates the moderate aspects of the party, in the same way that conservative incompetence and hard-line policy choices have begun to alienate moderates on the right. Similarly, it was only in recent history that a Blairite Labour party won three consecutive general elections, on a platform of centrist political ideas and liberal capitalist governance. Unless the Mandelson propaganda machine was the most effective political influencer ever to exist, it is not an inconceivable concept that the British electorate is open to the ideas of centrism.

Indeed, large proportions of the British electorate are themselves sceptical of the increasing radicalism of the traditional parties. On the right, the incompetence of many senior ministers (notably a certain Mr Boris Johnson) have led to increasing questions about the ability of the May administration to break the mould of national stagnation in Britain, brought about as a product of severe austerity. Similarly, the whirlwind rise of ‘Corbyn fever’ has gradually begun to slow down. Though the true extent of the issue with Labour remains contested. With the combination of ineffectiveness and scandal miring the traditional parties, and in turn gradually increasing the public perception of current politics as ‘out of touch’, a new and fresh political approach from the centre may lead to widespread support, from both the disillusioned moderates and the often-forgotten swing centrists.

There is, however, one key question that attributes to the oversight of the traditional parties towards British centrism – if centrism is still popular in Britain, why have the Liberal Democrats not capitalised upon it? Put simply, it is because they are incapable of doing so. In a previous article for The Peoples News, I discussed the possible ways in which the Liberal Democrats could begin their potential resurgence; breaking the old and stagnant image of the party and its unwavering Europhilia, in order to appeal to swing voters and British moderates. The Liberal Democrats have done none of these things. The party clings to the old guard under the stewardship of Vince Cable; though an exceptionally capable politician, he is a leader out of touch with the current state of British politics, and one who continues the impossible fight against the inevitability of Brexit. Perhaps the only thing that the Liberal Democrats have done to ‘revitalise’ themselves is half-heartedly try and appeal to what they believe are the political interests of the youth vote; attempting to poach votes from the unwavering Labour youth support, with half-hearted promises of legalisation of Marijuana. It is, rather sadly, evidence of the continued slow death for the party.

The decline of the Liberal Democrats, however, is precisely the reason why the left should be worried by the Project One movement. With the fall of the previously incapable centrist party comes the possibility of a new, more effective centrist opposition. Indeed, if the rumoured affiliation with Blair and other senior figures are to believed, then the party should have potentially significant understanding of how to portray political competency, attractive policy and to appeal to the greater electorate. Neither should the movement be ignored simply due to its infancy. The AfD in Germany was formed as recently as 2013 – and in 2017 has gained 12.6% of the overall vote share. The Movimento 5-Stelle in Italy, formed in 2009, now holds the largest proportion of votes in the Italian parliament. If a political movement has a well-defined strategy, an understanding of how to appeal to the electorate, and what can be described as an increasingly Liberal Democrat-shaped hole in the political landscape to capitalise upon, it is not a wild assumption that they may find significant success when thrown into an increasingly polarised and restless political landscape.

Speculation surrounding Project One movement suggests they will not look to national elections until 2022 – meaning the party should not pose any significant political threat until roughly the time at which Britain formally withdraws from the European Union. If, however, the party can establish a foothold as a rising political alternative over the next couple of years, emerging at the most uncertain time in modern Britain, then it is not an outlandish idea that the Left, if wanting to maintain the success they have found under Corbyn, should be wary of Project One. If not, Corbyn and all those within the socialist Labour party may find themselves facing a revitalised brand of centrism and political opposition; one which may appeal more to the post-Brexit political landscape of Britain as it moves into the 2020’s.