Tory crackdown on Freedom of Information sparks transparency fears

NOVANEWS

Conservative ministers are plotting a clampdown on Britain’s Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, a move that observers warn could signal the death knell for Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to cultivate a new wave of transparency in Westminster.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is attempting to make it considerably more difficult for citizens to seek information from state bodies, the Financial Times revealed Monday.

Sources told the newspaper that a number of proposals have been floated and Gove is currently considering how they might be implemented.

Giving ministers the power to veto the publication of certain documents has been tabled, as was attempted when Prince Charles’ notorious “black spider” letters were recently published.

Altering government officials’ method of calculating the cost of sourcing government data has also been proposed. Both measures could seriously impact on Britons’ right to know, bolstering state secrecy in the process, critics warn.

These legal changes will also serve to create “think time” and redaction costs that will considerably drive up the cost of FoI requests. Transparency advocates warn they will leave government data inaccessible for many.

The planned crackdown on citizens’ right to know contrasts starkly with Cameron’s transparency rhetoric four years ago. Writing in the Telegraph, the PM promised the electorate a far-reaching “revolution in [government] transparency.”

“Information is power,” he wrote in 2011.

“It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats.”

The state’s FoI Act was implemented in 2005, under Tony Blair’s Labour government. Current plans to reform the legislation will likely receive strong opposition from Labour Party and Scottish Nationalist Party MPs.

Critics maintain Westminster’s quiet assault on Britons’ right to access government data has already begun.

A number of Downing Street practices have recently surfaced, which reduce Whitehall’s ability to uphold the public interest.

On Tuesday, it emerged that emails sent from computers in 10 Downing Street are deleted within three months as a rule. The practice was leaked to the FT by a number of ex-Downing Street employees. It was reportedly put in place 10 years ago under Blair’s government.

One former Number 10 worker told the FT the system breeds dysfunctionality in Whitehall.

Speaking to the newspaper, director of Britain’s Campaign for Freedom of Information said citizens’ right to access information freely is under threat.

He warned many of the proposals being discussed by Tory ministers “could have had severe consequences for the right to know.”

The campaign called upon Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Dan Jarvis, and Stephen Twigg to challenge Gove’s transparency crackdown plans in parliament on Tuesday.

Posted in Human Rights, UK0 Comments

Was a London property dispute behind a Telegraph campaign against Qatar?

NOVANEWS

A two-month Telegraph campaign against Qatar coincided with the paper’s owners battling with Doha for ownership of three hotels

Sir David Barclay (L) and Sir Frederick posing after receiving their knighthoods from the Queen (AFP)

When the Telegraph newspapers ran a two-month long campaign last year accusing Qatar of funding terrorism in the Middle East, its owners were engaged in a fierce battle with the Gulf state for control of three five-star hotels in London, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The Telegraph’s “Stop the Funding of Terror” series targeted Doha for having allegedly provided material support for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, among others groups – allegations the Gulf State has regularly faced in recent years.

In the same period billionaire British identical twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who bought the Telegraph Media Group in 2004, were engaged in a jet-setting battle for control of luxury Mayfair hotels Claridge’s, The Berkeley and The Connaught. It was a battle fought in glamorous locations across the globe – including Los Angeles, London and Monte Carlo – and involved Irish rock star Bono, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and flamboyant Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal.

The Barclays’ opponent in the hotel struggle was senior Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who is popularly known as HBJ. It was a four-year long fight the Barclays ultimately lost, because at the end of April this year an arm of the Qatar Investment Authority finalised the purchase of the three landmark London hotels, in a deal thought to be worth more than £1bn.

Three non-Qatari sources involved in the dispute have alleged to Middle East Eye that the Telegraph campaign against Qatar and the hotel dispute did not coincide by chance. They said the Barclay family editorially influenced the newspapers to produce negative coverage of Qatar, allegations which have been denied by the paper.

Tug-of-war for the Maybourne Hotel Group

In 2004, Irish financier Derek Quinlan gathered together a group of his fellow countrymen – along with the billionaire Green family from the UK – to set up a company named Coroin, meaning Crown in Irish, and pay €950mn for the Savoy Hotel Group (SHG). Riverdance creators Moya Doherty and John McColgan, along with stockbroker Kyran McLaughlin, took small minority stakes, the Greens controlled a quarter of the company, while Quinlan and Belfast-born property developer Patrick McKillen each took a third of the shares.

In early 2005, SHG sold The Savoy Hotel to Prince al-Waleed bin Talal for an estimated $250mn, after Quinlan and McKillen – accompanied by U2 lead singer Bono for unknown reasons – held a meeting with the billionaire Saudi on his yacht in the south of France. With the Savoy out of the portfolio, the company was renamed to the Maybourne Hotel Group (MHG), with its assets reduced to Claridges, The Berkeley and The Connaught.

In 2008, the global financial crash plunged Quinlan and McKillen into a cash crisis, caused by sky high leverage finance packages. For the 2004 purchase of MHG, the two had borrowed some $1.2bn from Irish banks. In the post-crash era, Ireland set up the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to take control of property loans doled out by the collapsing Irish banks and the agency had its eyes on the large debts held by Quinlan and McKillen.

The two men scrambled, mostly in separate initiatives, to either sell off MHG or refinance their loans before NAMA could get their hands on the debts and, by consequence, take control of the valuable hotel assets.

NAMA seized Quinlan’s debts at the end of 2009 and the financier’s attempts to bargain his way out of bankruptcy fell on the Barclay twins, who had previously expressed an interest in the hotels to the Irishman. Sir Frederick and Sir David were blocked from simply purchasing Quinlan’s one third stake in MHG because of a pre-emption agreement in Coroin’s company documents that stipulated shareholders who wished to sell up must offer their holdings internally before approaching external buyers.

But by early 2011, the Barclays had found a way around the clause. They obtained the Green’s 25 percent stake in Coroin by purchasing the holding company that owned the family’s shares, which meant the stake did not have to be offered internally. They also bought Quinlan’s loans from NAMA, against which the Irishman had put up his MHG stake as collateral, leaving the Irishman in the hold of the brothers.

This gave the Barclay twins effective control over two thirds of the hotel group, with only McKillen standing between them and complete ownership. But the Belfast property developer had managed to keep his debts away from the clutches of NAMA and cultivated – through Tony Blair’s mediation – the support of a powerful financial backer that could rival the Barclays.

The entrance to five-star Mayfair hotel Claridge’s (Flickr/jaimelondonboy)

Qatar sees opportunity

In 2012, the brothers agreed to a loan refinancing package for MHG that required shareholders to inject around £150mn of equity into the company. McKillen didn’t have the funds to put in £50mn to meet his share of the equity demands, leading the Barclay family to conclude that they had finally found a way to take control of the company.

However, former Qatari Prime Minister HBJ, who had held a long-term interest in buying up MHG, backed McKillen financially. Overnight, the Qataris stumped up a loan for the £50mn – they did this, according to sources involved in the deal, as they viewed McKillen as being a route to ultimately taking control of MHG.

The non-Qatari sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Middle East Eye that when the Qataris bailed out McKillen, it appeared to enrage the Barclays.

“The loan upset the brothers, who seemed convinced that victory was near,” the source said.

The Qataris’ emergency loan to McKillen was a short-term fix: McKillen still had an €800mn loan with the Anglo-Irish bank which he had managed to keep away from NAMA, but was on the Barclays’ radar.

However, in March 2014, McKillen announced that US investment firm Colony Capital – who had sold the hotels to Quinlan back in 2004 – had agreed to buy his €800mn loans, which provided him with security in facing up to the Barclay brothers.

Colony Capital, Qatar and the Sark newsletter

Around six months after the Colony deal, a newsletter, linked to the Barclay family through its editor and based on the Channel Island of Sark, began to write stories that said McKillen was being financed by Qatar’s HBJ through the American investment.

Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani attends an emergency meeting of the Arab League committee (AFP)

Sark is tiny and has a population of around 600 people. It has jurisdiction over the neighbouring island of Brecqhou, which is owned by the Barclays and home to their huge mock Gothic castle. The brothers have been engaged in a battle lasting several years to try and influence Sark, so as to remove its jurisdiction over Brecqhou, among other issues.

The Sark Newsletter is an A4 publication edited and written by Kevin Delaney, who until recently was head of the Barclay brothers’ business interests on the island.

The newsletter is almost exclusively filled with content that attacks the Sark parliament; however, in September and October last year it began running stories on Qatar.

One edition of the newsletter made the claim that Qatar’s HBJ was financing McKillen.

“Patrick McKillen is […] financed by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani through his investment in Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital, the company that bought Patrick McKillen’s debts of €800mn from the Irish banks,” the newsletter reported.

Later in the same article, Delaney wrote that Qatar has “used their wealth not for the betterment of mankind but for evil”.

The Sark Newsletter edition of 24 October 2014 (sarknewspaper.com)

The Barclays have said that they have nothing to do with the newsletter. Editor Kevin Delaney did not respond to numerous attempts to contact him via email and phone.

Qatar was rumoured to be involved in the Colony Capital deal because of joint investments Doha has with the American company that include ownership of the Miramax film company and the Fairmont Raffles Hotels.

McKillen publicly rejected Qatari involvement in the deal, but sources close to the Irishman, to whom he is known as “Paddy”, confirmed that Doha has always been involved in supporting him in the hotel battle.

“The Qataris have been friends and supporters of Paddy for a number of years,” the non-Qatari source said, asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue. The connection between Colony and Qatar, if any beyond their joint investments, remains a mystery.

But it proved to be the Qatar intervention, through the £50mn loan together with the Colony backing, which decided the future ownership of MHG, because by buying McKillen’s debts from the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, an organisation set up to merge two state-owned banks in Ireland, the US company had insulated the Irishman from financial pressure by the Barclay family.

Patrick McKillen pictured leaving court in London (Irish Independent)

‘Stop the funding of terror’ campaign

At the same time as the anti-Qatar articles were published by the Sark Newsletter, a campaign was run by the Telegraph newspapers that targeted the Gulf state’s alleged involvement in supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East.

In the period between 20 September and 16 November, the Telegraph published 34 articles, including eight front-page headline stories and four newspaper editorials, all of which included broad allegations that Qatar has been intimately involved in the funding of terrorist groups including the Islamic State.

Articles described the Gulf State as a “Club Med for terrorists”, said that shoppers at the Qatar-owned Harrods department store in London were “buying into terror”, and included calls for the UK “to cut business ties with Doha over alleged links to the Islamic State group.

The campaign coincided with a state visit by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to the UK, and the Telegraph’s stated objective in writing the articles was to pressure British Prime Minister David Cameron into acting against those allegedly funding militancy in the Middle East.

Qatar has regularly been accused of funding groups viewed as terrorists in the West – allegations the Gulf state has rejected and claims over which have recently brought defamation proceedings in France.

While the Telegraph’s accusations against Qatar have been widely written about by many other newspapers, their “Stop the funding of terror” campaign attracted the attention of British satirical and current affairs magazine Private Eye.

The Eye claimed that the campaign was not a benign journalistic endeavour but was the result of direct editorial influence from senior management at the Telegraph Media Group (TMG).

A source involved in the battle for MHG, who has a predisposition against the Barclay family, said that through their own conversations with a Telegraph employee they have been informed that TMG chairperson Aidan Barclay, son of Sir David, was the person who drove the anti-Qatar campaign.

“The influence over TMG comes directly from Aiden,” said the non-Qatari source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue.

A former Telegraph employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told Middle East Eye that while it was “way above [their] pay grade” at the newspaper, they can believe “there might well have been guidance” on stories relating to Qatar.

Seperately, this February, the newspaper’s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, resigned over allegations that TMG advertisers were receiving preferential treatment in the newspapers’ coverage. Following Oborne’s resignation more than a dozen current and former Telegraph journalists told the BBC that they felt discouraged from writing negative stories about TMG advertisers and commercial partners.

Aidan Barclay and the conclusion of MHG battle

Middle East Eye could not independently substantiate the claims made against Aidan Barclay, who did not directly respond to requests for comment on the story.

A Telegraph spokesperson told Middle East Eye that all matters relating to Qatar and the hotel dispute were being handled by Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm that has a contract with the Telegraph newspapers (and, incidentally, also has a contract with the Qatari government).

Brown Lloyd James issued a statement to Middle East Eye, in response to questions of editorial influence from the ownership regarding the anti-Qatar campaign.

“All decisions about editorial content are made by the editors,” the statement said. “The editors’ decision is final.”

Aidan Barclay has previously explained that he operates “an arm’s length principle” when it comes to managing his newspapers.

“I believe that people should be entitled to do their job correctly as much as possible, and so I tend not micromanage on a day-to-day basis,” he told the 2011-12 Leveson Inquiry, which looked into ethics and practices of the British media.

Barclay said that he ends all conversations with his editors by saying: “Listen, this is a matter for you. You’re in charge, you’re the editor. You do as you see fit.”

Aidan Barclay (L), Telegraph Group Chairman, leaves the High Court after giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry (AFP)

Private Eye referenced Aidan Barclay’s Leveson appearance in their commentary on the Telegraph’s anti-Qatar campaign, saying that the newspaper proprietor had sworn on oath that he does not interfere in editorial matters. This led the magazine to conclude that the timing of the campaign taking place at the same time as the hotel dispute was “clearly nothing more than a happy coincidence”.

Aidan Barclay holds a wide-ranging brief in the family’s business interests. On top of being TMG chairperson he also heads up the Barclay-owned Ellerman Investments. He has also played a key role in other significant deals for the family, including in the battle for control of MHG.

According to a judgment by Justice David Richards, given in August 2012 at the conclusion of a case between McKillen and the Barclays, Aidan oversaw the purchase of the Green family’s 25 percent MHG stake in January 2011.

Also included in the judgment is record of a text message sent by Gerry Murphy, an associate of Derek Quinlan, which extolls what he believes to be the benefits of having a business relationship with the Barclay family.

The message was sent by Murphy to McKillen in early 2011, after Quinlan had decided to pursue an offer for MHG from the Barclay family, rather than the Qataris.

“Don’t blow a gasket on this news. Talk to me. It might offer a compromise. You would have the power of the Telegraph behind you.”

The Telegraph’s series on terrorism funding came to an end on 16 November last year, without an explanation as to whether the campaign was finished or if it would return in the future.

Since then the battle for the three five-star London hotels has reached conclusion. At the end of April this year an announcement was unexpectedly made that Constellation Hotels, part of the Qatar Holding investment subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, had purchased two thirds ownership in the hotel from the Barclays and Quinlan.

Shortly after that announcement reports emerged that McKillen had also sold his stake, leaving the Qataris with 100 percent ownership of MHG.

McKillen, as stipulated by a long-term agreement with the Qataris, retains a management role in the hotels.

He told MEE that he is delighted with the deal.

“It’s a bright new dawn and our total focus is on our guests, staff and carrying out the wonderful plans we have in place for the hotels,” he told MEE in an emailed statement.

“This [the Qatari buy-out] is part of a much bigger deal that offers me enormous new opportunities,” he added, without providing any further details.

MEE’s sources said that the Barclay decision to sell their stake in April had come after “finally realising they couldn’t win”.

However, a spokesperson for the Barclays said the hotel investment had been a prosperous one for the family.

“The business has performed strongly during the four years of our involvement and this has been a very successful investment for us,” Richard Faber said in a statement, at the time of the sale.

“We are pleased to have concluded this transaction.”

 

Posted in Middle East, UK0 Comments

Election circus over, the class struggle continues

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 66 (June 2015

 

Workers don’t need a Labour government to make ‘kinder’ cuts and wage ‘ethical’ wars; we need a strong communist organisation to help us take on the ruling class and win.
On 7 May this year, amid much hype and fanfare, ‘the country went to the polls’ (except, of course, for the forty percent of workers who stayed away). And, surprise, surprise, the result was a resounding victory for the ruling class.

We do not refer to the fact that the Conservative party surprised commentators (and dismayed Labour supporters) by managing to scrape a (barely) workable majority, thus obviating the need (for now) for the much-anticipated rounds of haggling over a coalition. A Labour win, or a LibDem win, a Ukip win or any combination of the above would have been greeted by us in exactly the same way. (See elsewhere in this issue for our evaluation of the SNP victory in Scotland.)

Nothing much has changed, and no amount of hand-wringing by the liberal intelligentsia and the various irredeemably Labour-tailing idiots (Trotskyists, revisionists, trade-union bigwigs, Uncle Tom Cobley and all) will convince us that the attacks on the working class that are to come will differ in any serious way from what would have taken place had any of the other main bourgeois parties been elected.

That being the case, there is really not that much more to be said than we have said before: the class struggle continues, and the only way to stop cuts, privatisation and war being perpetrated by any government that serves the capitalist ruling class and works to preserve the exploitative capitalist system is to organise ourselves en masse to harness our strength, to change the balance of class forces and to shake the power of the ruling class.

We must organise first so as to resist and sabotage the ruling class’s plans to make workers pay for the economic crisis of capitalism through cuts and war. And, finally, we must organise ourselves to overthrow the system of exploitation altogether and put a planned, socialist economy in its place.

Still, with the election still fresh in everybody’s minds, there are a few things workers can learn from all the post-election moaning and groaning.

Voter turnout

The first and most important thing to notice about the election was not that the Tories gained a slim majority of seats in parliament, but that, despite a massive propaganda campaign aimed at encouraging people to vote, and despite all the hype about possible coalitions etc that was meant to make people feel that choosing between Labour, Ukip, LibDem and Tory was a life-and-death, now-or-never moment for us all … four out of every ten British citizens of voting age stayed away from the polls.

To be precise, some 30,686,268 people cast their votes from a registered electorate of 46,424,006. This means that even of the registered electorate, some 15.7 million people decided not to vote. A further 4.5 million (around 9 percent) are unregistered, many of them young people – again, this is despite a massive campaign to try to convince young people to register and to participate in the election.

We have written at length in a previous issue about voter apathy vs activism, but let us be clear. While there is certainly plenty of apathy (‘why bother’/‘what’s the use’), there is also a significant level of active antipathy among workers regarding the specific choices (or lack of real choice) on offer. (See ‘“Least worst” vs “don’t bother’, Should workers vote?’, Proletarian, April 2015)

Many of those who refused to vote did so after consciously weighing up the options and correctly deciding that, as one young commentator (Gareth Shoulder from Merseyside) told Radio 4, “There’s nothing I agree with to vote for. Currently, none of the corporate-funded main parties, there’s nothing they can offer me that would encourage me to vote for their silly little policies.”

Asked if this was a phase of “youthful rebellion”, Gareth replied: “There’s nothing to grow out of. Just look at the state of the country at the moment. There are a million people using food banks, there are 700,000 people that are on exploitative zero-hours contracts, bankers’ bonuses are being protected. Is that the sort of country we want to live in?” (The Listeners’ Election, 30 April 2015)

Electoral system in Britain

Another significant fact that has been brought home to many people by the results charts is the huge disparity between votes received by the main parties and the number of seats that each party has actually won.

For example, although Labour lost 26 seats and Ed Miliband resigned in disgrace at what has been presented as a great failure, it is actually the case that Labour slightly increased its vote compared with 2010 – both numerically and in percentage terms. On the other hand, being one of the two biggest parties continues to act in its favour: with 30 percent of the votes, Labour won 36 percent of the seats.

Meanwhile, with just half a million more votes than last time around (an increase in vote share of less than 1 percent), the Tories gained 24 extra seats (an increase of 3 percent). As a result, with just 36.9 percent of the votes, the Tories ended up with 51 percent of the seats.

Even more starkly, the SNP’s extra million votes (up from 0.5m to 1.5m) took them from six to 56 seats, while Ukip’s extrathree million votes (from 0.9m to 3.9m) took them from no seats to one.

The table below shows the share of votes compared with the number of seats obtained by each party in this election, and compares the seats gained with the number each party would have been given if the numbers were allocated exactly in accordance with number of votes received.

Party      % of vote  No / % of seats  Strict PR 

Conservative    36.9    331  (51%)    240

Labour         30.4    232  (36%)    198

Ukip           12.6    1  (0.1%)      82

LibDem         7.9    8  (1%)      51

SNP           4.7    56  (9%)      30

Green           3.8    1  (0.1%)    25

DUP           0.6    8  (1%)    4

Plaid Cymru     0.6    2  (0.3%)    4

Sinn Fein       0.6    4  (0.6%)    4

UUP           0.4    2  (0.3%)    3

SDLP           0.3    3  (0.5%)    2

Alliance party     0.2    0  (0%)    1

Other           1    0  (0%)    6

(Numbers taken from ‘Election 2015 results’, BBC News)

Of course, strict proportional representation (a literal translation of vote share to seat allocations) is very rare in the bourgeois parliamentary world, but for discussion purposes the numbers are certainly illuminating.

And this stark contrast between how people vote and how the seats end up being allocated is making itself more obviously felt as the old two-party consensus breaks down and more ‘alternatives’ are emerging to catch those disillusioned with the traditional parties of government. In short, the ‘first-past-the-post’ system is losing what little credibility it had left, and the huge discrepancies in representation following this election are likely to add to the momentum for some kind of reform of Britain’s electoral system.

Table two shows the percentage of votes received by the main parties if the whole adult population (around 51 million people) is taken into account, as opposed to just those who voted:

Party       % of vote   % of all adults   % and no of seats

No vote       unknown       40%     0%   (0)

Conservative     36.9%       22%     51%   (331)

Labour         30.4%       18%     36%   (232)

Ukip           12.6%       7.5%     0.1%   (1)

LibDem         7.9%       4.5%     1%   (8)

SNP           4.7%       3%     9%   (56)

Green         3.8%       2.5%     0.1%   (1)

Once again, the ‘non votes’ are equal to the vote share of the two biggest parties combined – hardly a ringing endorsement of bourgeois politics.

Since the ruling class wishes us to retain our faith in the system of bourgeois democracy, there is a chance that reform will take place sooner rather than later. After all, plenty of European countries have what appear to be much ‘fairer’ systems of voting and parliamentary representation, where coalition governments are the rule rather than the exception, and the capitalists manage to maintain their rule perfectly well.

Still, any electoral reform will be welcome to communists for two reasons. First, because experience of a ‘fairer’ system would help workers to see that even the most ‘democratic’ bourgeois parliament will not be able to help them achieve their aims – the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the state machine will remain fully intact, no matter what method is used to count votes and elect parliamentarians.

The second reason is that, in a proportional representation situation, workers would feel far more comfortable about voting for small parties. Currently, many of those who do vote quite naturally see this as a wasted vote, since it so rarely results in even a single seat for any independent or small-party candidate. This would certainly bring closer the day when our own party would be able to contest elections in a meaningful way – although such an intervention would depend first and foremost on our building the party and deepening our connections with the working class. Still, there is no doubt that being able to stand in elections under the present conditions of struggle would help our party to spread its influence among wider sections of our class.

Some commentators have speculated that a desire to ‘keep the SNP in check’ will add to the impetus for electoral reform. It is certainly true that rivalries between the SNP and the main Britain-wide parties will work to that effect, but we are yet to be convinced that the ruling class as a whole (as opposed to various members of the group of career politicians who work for that class) is worried on this particular point. After all, the whole point of the SNP is to keep the anger of Scottish workers at the ills of capitalism diverted down a nationalist dead-end – the stronger the SNP, the greater the number of Scottish workers who can be kept away from revolutionary politics.

Immigrants and deficits

The patterns of voting during this election – with Ukip and Tory voters dominating in the English countryside and smaller towns and Labour in the big cities – would appear to show that the ruling class’s strategy of encouraging workers to ‘blame the immigrants’ for their problems has been most effective in those places where there aren’t that many immigrants to blame. The relative ghettoisation of immigrants in many towns and cities has also helped in the propagation of anti-immigrant sentiment.

In short, it would appear that people are more manipulable when their ignorance can be played upon. Workers will accept stories about ‘Somali gangs’ or ‘Romanians living in the lap of luxury’ more easily if they don’t actually mix with said Somalis and Romanians outside the school gates or at the local shops and cafes.

High unemployment was another factor pushing voters towards Ukip (since one of the carefully-inculcated popular beliefs is that ‘immigrants are taking our jobs’) – especially in areas that have been devastated by the loss of industrial jobs and left to rot. These areas have traditionally been Labour’s heartlands, but the absolute failure of the Blair/Brown governments to do anything to improve the lives of such communities has led to a mass turning away from the party by workers who live there.

In the last election, that disillusionment was manifested in a surge in votes for the apparently ‘progressive’ LibDems. This time, following the absolute exposure of Clegg and co, it led to the Ukip swing. Notably, Ed Balls lost his seat on the outskirts of Leeds to the Conservatives as a result of the surge in Ukip votes.

(In passing, we note that, while Labour have equally racist credentials as the Tories when in government, and certainly did their best to play the immigration card in this election, years of being told by all its left-wing hangers-on that Labour is a friend to workers has clearly led to a disconnect between many people’s perception and this reality.)

Similarly, the strategy of putting a ‘progressive’ gloss on reactionary nationalism has paid dividends for the ruling class in Scotland and Wales, with large numbers of workers clearly hoping that if only the pernicious ‘Westminster domination’ could be done away with, all would be well for workers in those areas.

Meanwhile, one of the reasons that the Conservatives have been able to hold up their vote share in England despite the unpopularity of the government and its austerity policies in the last five years has been the success of another of the ruling class’s propaganda pillars: the assertion that ‘austerity measures’ (cuts and privatisations) are needed to ‘balance the books’ and that there is no other way to return the British economy to a healthy state than to inflict these privations on the poor.

This line has clearly been swallowed by many workers. After all, no matter what stories Labour’s ‘left’-wing supporters like to tell us about the Tories being the party of the privileged and Labour being the party of the workers, the fact is that all the parties receive most of their votes from workers, just as they all objectively represent the interests of the capitalists.

This is perfectly illustrated by the reason given to one of our party’s members by his neighbour – a man who relies on benefits to make ends meet – for voting Tory. When asked why, he explained that “The country can’t afford all these benefits.” A perfect example of how our rulers’ propaganda persuades us to act against our own interests in order to prop up the very system that helps the rich to become ever more rich and powerful while keeping the rest of us poor and powerless.

The ‘If only Labour had won’ brigade

A groundswell of dismay greeted the election result from all those quarters where well-meaning better-off workers had been fooled into thinking that electing Labour would be Britain’s path out of austerity – that Labour would stop the wars, be kind to immigrants, save the NHS, build more social housing, reverse attacks on benefits and do anything and everything else that workers urgently need a government to do.

Despite Labour’s warmongering, profiteer-enabling record in office, and despite its continued support for war, privatisation and cuts while in opposition, the ‘progressive’, ‘left’-Labour machine has been in overdrive for the last year and more trying to convince workers that Labour holds the answer to all their problems and is just waiting for a chance to implement the policies on their growing wish-list.

According to the misleaders of our anti-war, anti-cuts and trade-union movements, the current cuts are driven by ‘ideology’ not necessity. In this narrative, the economic crisis of capitalism ceases to exist and the Tories become ‘the nasty party’ – beating up on the working class just because they can.

But this makes no sense. The fact is that, just like every other party, the Tories wish to get elected. They wish to have popular support and they wish to maintain social peace in order to preserve capitalist class rule. Like all the capitalist parties, they employ a variety of methods to trick workers into voting for them. Ultimately, though, they don’t cut public services and destroy public facilities just for the joy of doing so, but because these measures are demanded by their ruling-class bosses in order to try to create some avenues for profit-taking and thus prop up a system that is struggling to stay afloat.

It is capitalism in crisis that demands the policies that are pushing workers deeper into poverty and destitution. Neither the ‘nasty’ Tories nor the ‘workers’ friends’ in Labour have the will or the ability to resist these demands of a ruling class whose interests both parties were set up to serve. Ultimately, we have to understand that all the capitalist parties have the same one-point programme: Save British imperialism by any means necessary. Everything else is window dressing.

Still, this mood of anger and disappointment among those sections of our class who cherish illusions in Labour is very real, and, as usual, our ‘left-wing’ misleadership is jumping into action to make sure the anger is channelled down safe (for the ruling class) avenues. Which is why, at meetings up and down the country, concerned workers are turning out to be told what they already know (cuts are bad, people are suffering) and to be offered a ‘solution’ that in itself can be no solution (build for the demonstration on 20 June).

‘Action’ groups that follow up on these meetings are all aimed at this one event – mobilising for the demonstration in June, but one has to wonder whether those who attend them have been living in a goldfish bowl for the last 15 years.

Surely we do not need to have particularly long memories to have learned a lesson or two about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to protesting? Not only do we have the extremely pertinent example of the anti-war demonstration on 15 February 2003 to show us just how much difference a single weekend demonstration makes to government policy when not backed up by meaningful action or organisation, but we have now also had nearly seven years of an ‘anti-cuts movement’ that has produced nothing more than an annual Saturday stroll of dwindling proportions and an equally toothless talking-shop in the shape of the ‘People’s Assembly against Austerity’ (PAA).

What none of the PAA’s meetings or ‘action groups’ are doing is tackling the practical problem of how workers should organise themselves to defy anti-union laws, boycott the bedroom tax, overturn and beat benefit sanctions, abolish zero-hours contracts, save their local housing estates, schools, libraries and hospitals, etc, etc.

At its most militant, all this PAA-led ‘movement’ seems to be saying is ‘Wouldn’t it have been better if Labour had won?’ or perhaps even ‘Maybe if we make enough noise we can bring down this evil Tory government and get a Labour one instead’. No wonder the poorest and most marginalised workers – those that are suffering the most from the present austerity measures – continue to be conspicuously absent from PAA gatherings.

For communists, meanwhile, the task may not be easy, but it is necessary and clear: if we are ever to build a movement that is capable of taking on the ruling class and destroying its rotten, parasitic system, we must first expose the complicity of these charlatans who claim to lead our movement. Only when the cancer of social democracy (Labour and all its hangers-on, apologisers and prettifiers) has been cut out of the body of our movement will we be able to regain the strength and unity needed to fight the system and win.

A bit of light relief: the emperor’s new polls 

The dismay of commentators and politicians over the inaccuracy of the polls that claimed to predict the election result was a classic example of how systems reinforce themselves when everyone working within them has a vested interest in their maintenance.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that polls were seen as just a rough indicator of how some people might be feeling about a particular topic. Polls are, after all, famously manipulable – the same person being polled on the same issue may give diametrically opposing answers depending on how the question is phrased. Essentially, they were understood to be a bit of marketing nonsense (‘8 out of 10 owners said their cats preferred it’, and other questionable statistics).

So why the change in how polls have come to be used and viewed?

It should be borne in mind at this point that, while the odd tiny corner of the corporate news media might be aimed at informing those who really need to know, most of the output that is labelled as ‘news’ simply exists to confuse and divert the masses; it is entertainment and propaganda dressed up as information. Now that we have 24-hour rolling news channels and constantly-updated websites pumping out this ‘news’ on an ever-increasing scale, the presstitute fraternity are becoming ever-more desperate for material with which to fill column inches and air time.

That is why, in this age of modern communications media and saturation coverage, the news is becoming ever more bizarrely self-referential. Essentially, what we are treated to much of the time is not news, but news about news. Idle and meaningless speculation has been turned into a serious business – ‘experts’ on everything from Royal Baby Naming to the Prime Minister’s Wife’s Feet are rolled out to offer their deep insights to the nation with all-too-predictable frequency.

It is not surprising, then, that polls have become the basis for so much frenzied supposition. But, as the snowball starts to roll down the hill, gathering momentum and gaining in size, this little ball of conjecture takes on a life of its own.

Before you know it, a bit of guesswork about how people might vote in an election has been transformed into the creation of endless hypothetical scenarios about which party or parties might make up the next government. Talking heads, pundits and politicians are all dragged into the game. It’s all so exciting that nobody seems to notice that all these castles in the air are based on nothing very much at all. As entertainment goes it’s much more fun than pretending to find solutions to the problems of the people, or answering the irritating questions of even the most carefully selected groups of electors.

It seems now, though, that not only the politicians but even the civil servants have allowed themselves to get caught up in this circus. So convinced were the planners in Whitehall that the election would result in a hung parliament that they had arranged for the Queen to be in Windsor on the morning of 8 May (safely out of the way of any unseemly post-election bargaining) and for the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, to be on hand to ‘advise’ Downing Street throughout the expected negotiations. (‘“Not out of it, but above it”: how the Queen will engineer a royal retreat to keep out of a hung parliament’ by Nicholas Watt, guardian.co.uk, 6 March 2015)

The snowball effect was illustrated perfectly by the fact that the one last-minute poll that did predict the result fairly accurately was not published because the company that carried it out considered it to be an ‘outlier’ – that is, its authors were embarrassed to find that its results didn’t fit in with what everyone else was saying and didn’t want to be left looking silly if they had got it totally wrong. A classic example of how the herd mentality and self-censorship work together to keep people from questioning a given narrative. (‘This polling company claims it knew the general election result ahead of time but “chickened out” of publishing it’ by Tomas Hirst, Business Insider, 12 May 2015)

So outraged are various media and political pundits at having been sucked into this virtual reality themselves (what do you mean, the emperor was wearing no clothes?) – as opposed to merely presenting it to their readers, which they are of course happy to do every day – that the ‘British Polling Council’ (yes, really!) has announced an independent inquiry into the cause of the industry’s ‘failure’. (‘Independent inquiry announced into what went wrong with election polls’ by Ben Farmer, Telegraph, 8 May 2015)

Least worst vs do not bother. Should workers vote?Proletarian, April 2015

The Listeners Election, BBC Radio 4, 30 April 2015

Election results, BBC News, 8 May 2015

Not out of it but above it, Guardian, 6 March 2015

Unpublished poll for general election result 2015Business Insider, 12 May 2015

> Independent inquiry announced into what went wrong with election pollsTelegraph, 8 May 2015

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Labour, Tory same old story … Join the class struggle!

NOVANEWS

 

Issued by: CPGB-ML

Labour, Tory same old story ... Join the class struggle!In the aftermath of what was presented by many as a ‘Tory landslide’, a groundswell of dismay greeted the 2015 election result. From quarters where well-meaning, better-off workers have been fooled into thinking that electing Labour will be Britain’s path out of austerity, much hand-wringing and agonising is now the order of the day.

But while it may be discouraging to see workers voting for openly right-wing parties, we should note that only 22 percent of adults voted Tory (37 percent of voters) and another 7.5 percent (12.5 percent of voters) voted Ukip. Moreover, 40 percent of adults did not vote at all, despite a massive national voter registration drive.

Meanwhile, despite Labour’s anti-worker, warmongering, profiteer-enabling record in office – and its support for war and cuts in opposition – a significant minority still believe that a Labour government will stop wars, be kind to immigrants, save the NHS, build social housing, reverse attacks on benefits, support trade-union organisation and more. This follows a concerted ‘Labour will fix it’ campaign by ‘left’-Labour’s hangers-on, which was in overdrive assuring us that Miliband was just waiting for a chance to implement a raft of pro-worker policies.

Ruling-class propaganda

At present, right-wing votes are less an indication of fascistic inclinations than of the success of two main pillars of capitalist propaganda that have been heavily pushed during this crisis.

These are: 1. that austerity is the ‘only way out’ of the crisis, and that we must all ‘tighten our belts’ and accept public-service cuts and a drop in living standards so as to ‘balance the books’ and get the economy ‘back on track’; and 2. that immigration is a serious drain on the public purse and one of the main reasons why we are facing so many crises in the provision of housing, health care, education and so on.

In Scotland, the swing towards the SNP reflects the success of another propaganda pillar: that workers in Wales and Scotland are oppressed nationalities suffering under the imperial heel of ‘the English’, and that the removal of control by the Westminster government will be the cure for all the ills of workers in those parts of the country.

Here, too, the faith placed in the SNP by many is based more on wishes than on experience. Despite its own record of privatisation and cuts, and despite election rhetoric that was so vague as to be meaningless, the SNP has managed to present itself as being all things to all people. This cannot last, but while it does, the ruling class can only be rubbing its hands with glee at the success of its campaign to divert the anger of the British working class into futile dead ends.

The wishes and hopes of those who voted Plaid, SNP or Labour are baseless. They are all as loyal to the ruling class as the Tories, and share the same one-point programme: ‘Save British imperialism by any means necessary.

All other rhetoric, whether left or right, is just window dressing. Only this explains the huge gulf between the words and deeds of bourgeois career politicians.

Ravages of revisionism

So how is it possible that our rulers have fooled so many of us so effectively?

How is it that, despite the hideous consequences of austerity taking effect amongst Britain’s most vulnerable and poorest workers, and despite the unpopularity of the ConDem coalition, so many workers were convinced that voting Tory was the right thing to do?

The answer is to be found in the total lack of decent, principled leadership and organisation, and the consequent lack of scientifically-based class consciousness in our own movement.

It is now six decades since Britain’s original communist party (CPGB) abandoned its revolutionary principles and turned itself into an electoral machine for Labour, telling workers to put their faith in Labour governments to bring socialism.

The results of this betrayal of workers’ interests are everywhere clear to see: a disillusioned, rudderless working class, which has lost faith not only in the mis-leaders of the Labour party and in the revisionist distorters and falsifyers of Marxism, but also in itself. As a result, it is left without decent trade unions to defend its rights under capitalism and without a mass organisation to fight for socialism.

And so we have a ruling class that feels free to attack workers’ pay, conditions and services at home and to wage genocidal wars of conquest abroad.

The consequences for humanity of the British communist movement’s collapse into counter-revoutionary revisionism have been and continue to be catastrophic – not least because it has opened the door to every charlatan to peddle lies to the working class, from Ukip and EDL to the apparently ‘left’ nationalists and Trotskyites.

All these share a visceral hatred for the existing and past achievements of world socialism, and a total aversion to our own socialist future.

Our tasks

This is the reason our party, the CPGB-ML, was formed in 2004.

Eleven years on, it is no longer possible for the Labour-loving opportunists who control what is left of the workers’ movement in Britain to deny our existence. Our party may be small, but we are growing, and we are beginning to attract some of our class’s brightest and most class-conscious workers into our ranks.

We aim to recapture the ground lost by those who squandered the revolutionary organisation that Britain’s communists built up in the 20s, 30s and 40s, and to use it to help British workers fulfil their historic mission of smashing the imperialist state and building socialism.

Our tasks remain the same whoever gets elected: to build a strong party, to create deep links with the masses, to spread an awareness of the real cause of workers’ problems … and, above all, to expose and kick out the charlatans who tell people to hope for a Labour (or other ‘fairer’/’greener’) bourgeois government and who tie our movement to the ruling class’s coat tails in a million and one ways.

As Marx famously said: “theory becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses”. When we bring mass organisation together with a scientific knowledge of the world, there is nothing that can hold us back.

Marxism Leninism is the science of the working class – it is the weapon that will enable us to organise effectively, not only to stand up for our rights under capitalism but also to finally overthrow this rotten, bloodthirsty system and build a socialist society, where planning for people’s needs replaces profit as the motivator of all production.

Humanity faces many problems today, but they all have known solutions. We have the technology, and we have the resources and creativity to solve our problems and to build a truly fulfilling life for every human being on the planet.

The only thing that stands between us and a decent future is the capitalist system of production, in which private appropriation of humanity’s wealth makes it impossible for us to use our resources sanely and for the benefit of all.

Another world is possible. Join us and help to make it happen!

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Zio-Nazi Ex-foreign minister avoids Gaza war crimes arrest thanks to UK diplomatic immunity

NOVANEWS

 

Nazi Tzipi Livni

Former Nazi foreign minister Tzipi Livni was granted diplomatic immunity by the British government during a visit to the UK this week to avoid possible arrest over alleged war crimes.

The Zionist Union politician was attending the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London, where she spoke on the Nazi political climate and the future of ‘Israel’ and Palestine.

Livni was able to qualify for legal immunity by arranging meetings with British officials, exploiting a legal loophole that protects Nazi on official visits to the UK.

She has had to use the loophole since pro-Palestine activists successfully petitioned a British court to issue an arrest warrant in her name ahead of a visit in December 2009.

As Nazi Foreign Minister during the 2008-09 Gaza War, Livni was involved in the decision to take military action in response to rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip. The rocket fire itself was in response to a November 4, 2008 incident, when Nazi soldiers killed several Hamas fighters in a military incursion.

Nazi Livni told reporters at the time: “We have proven to Hamas that we have changed the equation. Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing.”

A UN investigation found Nazi regime had used excessive force which unfairly impacted on civilians, as well as using Palestinians as human shields by forcing them to enter houses which might be booby trapped.

Some 926 Palestinian civilians were killed in the conflict, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The report concluded Nazi regime had violated articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Palestine supporters hold Livni accountable for these war crimes.

Nazi Livni, a member of the Nazi parliament, the Knesset, abandoned her trip to the UK in 2009. Then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband subsequently issued Nazi Livni a personal apology.

The British government is theoretically able to prosecute Nazi Livni on suspicion of war crimes.

By using “universal jurisdiction,” UK law permits British courts to cover serious offenses such as war crimes, torture and hostage-taking, regardless of where they were committed.

However, the British government amended the law in September 2011 to avoid further diplomatic incidents.

Parliament changed the legislation so that the head of public prosecutions must give approval to a request for arrest warrants under universal jurisdiction.

The UK government has also granted automatic immunity to all Nazi on official visits to Britain, according to the Times of ‘Israel’.

As a result, British courts rejected a request for a new arrest warrant against Nazi Livni ahead of this week’s visit.

The Zionist Union member exploited the legal loophole to attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit, according to the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

During her London visit, she met with Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood MP to present a copy of Nazi 275-page report on Operation Protective Edge, last summer’s deadly assault by the Nazi Gestapo Holocaust against Gaza.

The report places blame for the war’s casualties on Hamas in Gaza and declares Nazi attack to be “lawful” and “legitimate.”

More than 2,000 Palestinians died in the conflict, the majority of them civilians. Some 73 Zionist were killed, all but six of whom were soldiers.

Livni told Ellwood: “It is important that the British government have an accurate picture of the factual, ethical, and legal reality, because the UN report is expected to be so twisted and anti-Israel.”

During her visit, a BBC Newsnight interviewer challenged Livni over her parents’ involvement in Irgun, a paramilitary organization that used violence against the British in its struggle for an independent ‘Israel’. Nazi Livni was asked if she would describe her parents as terrorists.

The former Nazi foreign minister denied there was any comparison between Hamas and Irgun.

She told BBC journalist Evan Davis: “There is a huge difference between those fighting an army, the British Army, and between all those terrorist organizations in our region that are looking for civilians to kill.”

Read more

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Labour ‘leftwinger’ Jeremy Corbyn wins place on ballot for leadership

NOVANEWS

Late surge sees Corbyn reach required number of Westminster backers to join Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall on list

Jeremy Corbyn
 A late surge for Jeremy Corbyn saw him reach the required number needed to ensure his position in the contest. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 and 

Labour leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn has secured a place on the party’s leadership ballot paper by a whisker, joining Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Corbyn made it on to the ballot with just minutes to spare, as several Labour MPs gave him their nominations to ensure members could vote on a wide field of candidates.

The candidates will now all take part in a series of hustings, before facing a vote among Labour members and supporters. The voting period will open in mid-August and close on 10 September, with the winner announced at the party’s autumn conference two days later.

Although Burnham is the favourite, closely followed by Kendall and Cooper, the uncertainty over whether Corbyn would make the ballot has dominated the last few days of the contest.

Amid calls for the left wing of the party to be represented, a smattering of MPs backed Corbyn on Monday morning, taking him to 30 by 11am – one hour short of the deadline.

These included two Labour MPs who hope to win the nomination for London mayor – Sadiq Khan and David Lammy – as well as former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, who is currently overseeing an inquiry into how Labour lost the election. He later won the support of Jon Cruddas. Fifteen minutes from the deadline he was three short, but he managed to get together enough last-minute names to make 36.

It was not possible for MPs to switch nominations, unless the candidate dropped out – as Mary Creagh did on Friday evening.

Corbyn seemed more phlegmatic about his chances than some of his supporters, who tried to bombard undecided MPs to press them into nominating him.

He said it would be great to secure a place but if he did not he was sure he had put the issues of austerity and nuclear weapons on the ballot paper.

Corbyn also expressed his regret that Harriet Harman had not stayed on as interim leader for a year or two to give the party time to have a policy debate and reflect on the election defeat, rather than enter a leadership contest built around personalities.

He said Labour needed to reflect on why the party lost votes to the Greens and Ukip, as well as why so many younger people did not vote.

After the result, Corbyn told the Daily Politics: “I think it was discussions that colleagues had with their constituency parties and party members over the weekend, and I fully acknowledge and recognise that those colleagues who nominated me – MPs who nominated me – may not necessarily agree with me on the pitch I’m taking or my views on many things.

“But they also felt there needs to be a full debate on policy in the party and I will obviously take part in all this debate over the next three months and hope at the end of it the Labour party emerges stronger and hope the Labour party is more resolute in opposing the principles behind austerity and impoverishment of the poorest in Britain.”

The final tally showed Burnham with 68 nominations and Cooper not far behind on 56, while Kendall got 41. Kendall’s camp on Monday had been fighting back against reports that those close to Burnham and Cooper thought she was out of the race.

A source from one of the rival camps told the Telegraph: “We are now seeing the end of Taliban New Labour. All of those Blairites who hoped they might get their candidate elected have failed.”

Cooper has previously accused other candidates of “swallowing” the Tory manifesto, but both her team and Burnham’s have now distanced themselves from this characterisation.

According to bookmakers Kendall is second favourite behind Burnham. Paddy Power shortened the odds on a Corbyn victory from 100/1 to 20/1 after he made the ticket, with Burnham on 5/6, Kendall 5/2, and Cooper 3/1.

All four will now appear in a televised hustings on the BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday, presented by chief correspondent Laura Kuenssberg.

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THIS IS THE REAL LABOUR LEFT BULLSHIT

NOVANEWS

Jeremy CorbynMP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign gives us all an opportunity to profile socialist ideas and rebuild popular left organisation on the ground argues Chris Nineham

Getting Jeremy Corbyn onto the Labour leadership ballot was a breakthrough which opens up a big opportunity for the left in Britain.

We now have the prospect of a summer of debate in which the case against austerity will be put eloquently and with a passion not seen in Labour politics for years. And all in front of a national audience. What’s more, Jeremy will bring to the debate the ideas and the approaches of the mass movements of which he is an integral part.

An ambitious, high profile campaign for Jeremy which draws on the movements against austerity, war and racism, can project radical ideas to a huge audience and build the forces of the left in every area. In this situation too, if Corbyn sustains the initial momentum, his campaign can create a crisis for the Labour machine and even the wider establishment.

Elite consensus

And how badly this voice is needed in the election. With various degrees of enthusiasm all the other candidates are signed up to the stifling pro-market consensus. They accept austerity as a given, buy into right wing immigration myths and wouldn’t dream of questioning the special relationship with the US when it comes to foreign policy. It was failing to break out of this paradigm that lost Ed Miliband any hope of winning the general election.

It is instructive how Jeremy got on the ticket. Some colleagues on the left fought hard for him but it wasn’t mainly a leftward shift in the Parliamentary Labour Party that swung it. A few centrist MPs came on board at the last moment but this was a result of grassroots pressure from within and without the party (look at the Facebook pages, Liz Kendall has 45 likes, Jeremy Corbyn has over 20,000!).

The Blairites around Liz Kendall are deeply hostile. Their plan was to use Kendall’s candidacy to force the whole debate to the right. They are now on the back foot, and in a foul mood. Dan Hodges’ Telegraph diatribe is only the beginning of the backlash.

Ironically, recent changes to the voting procedure designed to minimise union power also limit the influence of the Parliamentary Labour Party and open up the possibility of non-member Labour supporters joining the ballot.

Searching for something new

The recent general election and the massive enthusiasm for the Saturday’s demonstration shows that now there are hundreds of thousands of people who are alienated and angered by established politics and looking for something new and radical. Millions more hoped against hope that Ed Miliband would confront the Tories effectively enough to make Labour electable.

Jeremy’s leadership campaign is already starting to restore some hope and provide a focus for the widespread discontent.

But there is another background element to all this. If you ignore the boosterism and look at the facts you find Britain remains a dangerously skewed and debt-ridden economy. It is overseen by an elite deeply committed to a neoliberal project at home and military intervention abroad. Jeremy’s brand of principled left-wing politics is way beyond the pale for these people. They will resist it by any means possible. Corbyn’s challenge puts him on a collision course with the right in Labour and the ruling class more generally, and already the right-wing press and some Labour MPs are moving into action against him.

The limits of Labour

Everything we know about Labour’s past and particularly its recent trajectory tells us it cannot in it itself become a vehicle for fundamental change. The Labour bureaucracy is too closely tied to the establishment. Parliament anyway doesn’t control the real levers of power. Socialists have to do two things. We need to continue to build the biggest, strongest mass movements outside parliament and, second, within that, we need to pull together the most radical activists in independent organisation committed to change from below.

But Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign can create the conditions that make both these things easier. It gives us all an opportunity to profile socialist ideas and rebuild popular left organisation on the ground. A challenge to the right in the Labour Party which links with the wider movements will shift the balance of the argument in Britain and could help to alter the balance of forces. We need to seize the chance it offers.

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The Anglo-American Insanity

NOVANEWS
Image result for Philip Hammond PHOTO
By Finian Cunningham

In a sane world, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond should be forced to quit his post in disgrace as the country’s top diplomat, following reckless remarks that Britain may henceforth site American nuclear weapons to counter the “threat from Russia.” So here we have an alarming escalation of international tensions and militarism by both Washington and London – and all on the back of unproven, prejudicial words from the close Anglo-American allies, who are clearly working in tandem.

Hammond’s overt reversal to Cold War mentality comes as Washington is also reportedly considering the deployment of “first-strike” nuclear missiles in various European Union countries. The Americans are claiming that move is “in response” to Russia violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Moscow is accused of testing land-based cruise missiles banned under the INF. Russia has flatly denied this American claim, which – as is becoming the norm in other contentious matters – has not been supported with any evidence from Washington.

This slanderous attitude toward Russia is doubly contemptible, because not only is it calumnious, the deception also serves as a political and moral cover that allows the Anglo-American rulers to take outrageous steps toward jeopardising international peace, with the unprecedented deployment of nuclear weapons.

On the issue of Britain siting American nuclear weapons, Hammond told the rightwing Daily Telegraph :

I think it is right to be concerned about the way the Russians are developing what they call asymmetric warfare doctrine… We have got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines. We would look at the case [of installing American nuclear weapons on British soil]. We work extremely closely with the Americans. That would be a decision that we would make together if that proposition was on the table. We would look at all the pros and the cons and come to a conclusion.

For self-serving good measure, the British foreign minister linked the nuclear issue with alleged Russian aggression in east Ukraine, adding:

There have been some worrying signs of stepping up levels of activity both by Russian forces and by Russian-controlled separatist forces.

Hammond tried to sound ambivalent about the deployment of US nuclear weapons from British territory – in addition to Britain’s own nuclear arsenal – but the mere fact that his government is weighing the possibility is in itself a reckless, inflammatory move. If Britain were to do so, it reverses the prohibition on such American forces that followed the end of the Cold War more than 20 years ago.

Ironically, while Hammond was this week leading the Westminster parliament’s push for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it may be noted that the British public is not given a say on whether their country once again becomes part of the United States’ nuclear strike force.

But perhaps the real sacking offence for Hammond is that he is dangerously militarising foreign policy based on absolutely no reasonable evidence; indeed, based on outright disinformation. Just like his American allies in Washington, the Conservative Party minister is making all sorts of hysterical claims against Russia, ranging from posing a threat to Europe, to using “asymmetric war doctrine,” to invading east Ukraine and undermining the Minsk ceasefire. (A ceasefire that Moscow worked hard to broker with Germany and France back in February, in the significant absence of both Washington and London.)

Without any credible information, the American and British governments appear to be moving incrementally toward a pre-emptive nuclear strike capability against Russia. As the Associated Press reported last week, albeit using euphemistic language:

The options go so far as one implied – but not stated explicitly – that would improve the ability of US nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.

The Americans, Britain or NATO have not produced a shred of verifiable evidence that Russia has violated the INF treaty, or is subverting Ukraine, or is threatening any other European country.

On the east Ukraine conflict, it is in fact reliably reported by the Minsk ceasefire monitoring group of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well by local media sources and pro-separatist officials, that the latest surge in violence is coming from the Western-backed Kiev regime. That violence includes the shelling of residential centres in Donetsk City and surrounding towns and villages, which has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths over the past week.

How the British and American governments can make out that Russia is the aggressor and is subverting the Minsk ceasefire is simply a prejudicial assertion that is based on no facts. Moreover, such a view is a distortion of the facts to the point of telling barefaced lies.

That the British foreign secretary can make such misleading and apparently misinformed comments about the Ukraine conflict and Russia in general, and then seek to overhaul Britain’s military policy to install American nuclear weapons on British territory is worthy of a ministerial sacking due to gross incompetence.

Hammond’s embrace of nuclear militarism in the midst of a tense East-West political standoff has not gone unnoticed in Britain. His bellicose remarks have caused controversy, with several anti-war campaign groups reviling the reckless reversal to Cold War mentality. Nevertheless, it is a worrying sign of the mainstream malaise that Hammond’s incompetence has not incurred even greater public condemnation.

Underlying the American and British governments’ foreign policy is just this: a Cold War ideology, which views the entire world in terms of “external threats.” Russia and China are once again foremost as the perceived and portrayed enemies.

In an interview last week with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted:

As for some countries’ concerns about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO.

By deduction, this kind of reasoning categorises people like Britain’s Hammond as “insane.” The same goes for US President Barack Obama and his administration. Addressing the recent G7 summit in Germany, Obama exhorted: “We must face down Russian aggression.”

It might be asked: why do Washington and London in particular always interpret the world in terms of enemies, threats and aggression?

Part of the answer may be that these powers are themselves the biggest practitioners of illegal aggression to pursue foreign policy goals. Imperialism – the use of military force to underpin political and economic objectives – is part and parcel of how America and Britain operate in the world. Aggression and militarism are fundamental instruments of Anglo-American capitalism, as much as banking, trade and investment deals.

There is thus a very real sense of “devil’s conscience” at play in the international relations of Washington and London. They both fear retribution and revenge because of their own criminal conduct toward the rest of the world. In a word, the Anglo-American world view boils down to paranoia.

The militarisation of foreign relations is also an effective, vicarious way to exert control over nominal allies. If external threats can be sufficiently talked up, then that creates a contrived sense of “defence” among “allies” who then look to dominant leaders for “protection.” Such mind games are typical of the way Washington and London have promoted NATO as the protector of “European allies” from “Russian aggression.”

The same mind game is at play over Washington’s interference in Asia-Pacific, where the Americans are trying to cast China as the “evil aggressor” toward smaller nations, who then turn to Washington for “protection” – and large amounts of money to buy American weapons, courtesy of the Fed’s dollar-printing press.

On the matter of alleged Russian aggression, Putin, in the interview cited above, went on to aptly comment:

I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia… Let’s suppose that the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic [EU] community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But it was not our doing.

Speaking to the editor of Corriere della Sera, Putin added:

Let me tell you something – there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.

That is why politicians like British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond are compelled to vilify Russia and conjure up nightmares of invasions, large-scale military conflicts, and nuclear weapons. Without scaremongering, there cannot be warmongering; and without warmongering Anglo-American capitalism cannot exert the hegemonic relations that it requires in order to operate.

This Anglo-American world view remains regressively stuck in a bygone era of managing international relations through violence and aggression and even, if needs be, through instigating all-out war.

Such people as Britain’s Philip Hammond, his Prime Minister David Cameron and on the American side, Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, do not of course deserve to be in a position of government, if we lived in a sane world.

But that’s the kind of politician that the Anglo-American capitalist system selects, because they promote the essentials of the system through their draconian mentality of aggression and war. The diabolical shame is that these insane people are capable of bringing cataclysm upon millions of innocent human beings.

Kicking out such politicians would be a start to averting war. Better still would be kicking out the entire insane system that anyway only ever enriches a small minority at the painful expense of the majority. That “expense” includes enduring the perennial risk of war and, dare we say, annihilation.

Posted in Russia, UK0 Comments

Boycott Save the Children

NOVANEWS

Save the Fatcats

Justin Forsyth, the CEO, worked in Tony Blair’s neo-con policy unit.
By Craig Murray 

These are the top salaries at the Save the Children fund.

CEO Justin Forsyth £139,950
COO Anabel Hoult £139,950
COO / CFO & Strategic Initiatives Rachel Parr £131,970
Global Programmes Director Fergus Drake £113,300
Fundraising Director Tanya Steele £112,200
Marketing & Comms Director Sue Allchurch £111,920
Policy & Advocacy Director Brendan Cox £106,029
CFO Peter Banks £102,000
HR Director Paul Cutler £100,980

The UK average salary is 26,500.

StC has just given Tony Blair its “Global Legacy” award. What kind of people like Tony Blair? People who earn over 100,000. I am not sure that if you put money in a tin, or bought from their charity shop, you thought you were paying that many fat salaries. There are also gold plated pensions and other benefits. Justin Forsyth, the CEO, of course worked in Tony Blair’s neo-con policy unit.

As I have written before, very few charities are in any sense independent any more. Save the Children Fund gets 176 million pounds – over half its income – in grants from various governments, including over 80 million from the British government. That compares to 106 million in donations from the public. In 2012 over 70 million pounds was spent by Save the Children UK on its own staff costs. This was reduced on paper to 44 million in 2014 by the expedient of transferring some Headquarters staff from Save the Children UK to Save the Children International. I have an uneasy feeling about some of Save the Children’s accounting presentation. Justin Forsyth’s and Annabel Hoult’s salary of 139,950 sounds a lot better than 140,000 doesn’t it? Rachel Parr’s 131,970 sounds less than 132 grand.

Save the Children’s highly paid and very numerous HQ staff work in a swanky office for which they pay a staggering 6.5 million pounds a year lease. Do they really need their HQ in ultra expensive Central London? I suppose all those high earners have to get home to Islington. Their HQ costs more than all their other premises put together, including all their shops.

I wonder how much all of this is known to the 13,000 good-hearted volunteers who work many hours for nothing to support these people.

I give regularly to charity, by standing order. I am sure so do many who read this blog. If you are giving to Save the Children, I do urge you to re-target your charitable giving.

Posted in Campaigns, UK0 Comments

UK Muslim Public Affairs Committee founder accuses Zio-Nazi Gestapo of stealing his shoe

NOVANEWS

netanyahu-steals-shoes

Zio-Nazi Gestapo Mossad sneaked into his home and stole one of his shoes. The message, which was posted on Facebook alongside a black-and-white image of a boy wearing one shoe, is written under the head ‘are Zionists trying to intimidate me.’

In a public Facebook post, Asghar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK, said someone had tried to intimidate him by taking his footwear as he slept.

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Within hours, the rant had prompted dozens of mocking tweets, with the hashtags #MossadStoleMyShoe and #ShoeishConspiracy trending on Twitter, with one user telling him to ‘put a sock in it’.

In response, he issued a bizarre, 15-minute YouTube rant in which he said, ‘they’re stealing people’s homes in Palestine. You think a shoe is a big deal for them?’

tumblr_inline_npwn6p1B2P1qmcljw_500

A number of readers also created memes mocking Mr Bukhari’s assertions that a member of the Zio-Nazi Gestapo Secret Intelligence Service, better known as Mossad, had rearranged his footwear.

Posted in UK0 Comments

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