Monday, 22 May 2017

Guardian letter on biased media

Jonathan Freedland is probably right when he says that what matters in the UK`s general elections is "credibility", the party`s "ability to deliver" what it promises (Voters are rejecting Santa and embracing Scrooge, Why? 20/05/17). His attempt, however, to explain why this is so particularly relevant now is revealing.
     This election, he says, stands "in the shadow of the 2008-9 crash", but is nevertheless "billed as a Brexit election", with austerity and the deficit "mentioned rarely". This is an understatement, with austerity-amnesia having clearly broken out amongst the British media. Tory failures to balance the books, despite the job losses, continued cruel benefits` cuts, and wage freezes, are spoken about only by Labour politicians, whilst the slightest mistake by them becomes a "car-crash". Where are the headlines in any newspaper, including the Guardian, about Hammond`s failure to get the figures for HS2 correct, about Rudd`s ignorance of police salaries, about Gove`s cluelessness about immigration numbers? Is it any wonder the media`s attention on Abbott`s failure to nail police costings  has made it the "one event" that has "cut through"?
      Freedland`s conclusion is as ill-thought out as the Tories` care policy. The lack of trust in Labour is explained by comparing patients accepting their doctors` advice with voters believing what the Daily Mail et al tell them, whilst voting Labour is like taking advice from an alcoholic. Really, Jonathan? When was the last time you wrote about unnecessary Tory austerity policies, or Labour proposing to raise corporation tax to a level well below that tax`s level in the USA, France, Italy or Germany?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Letter Morning Star published plus 1 the i didn`t

Emily Thornberry`s succinct but accurate condemnation of the claim made by Michael Fallon about Labour`s policy towards the Falklands can be extended to a large majority of the pledges made by the Conservative party in recent months (Morning Star,15/05/17). Two budgets have proved the mistake of believing May`s promises to help the "just about managing", just as cuts to council grants exposed the myth that was George Osborne`s "northern powerhouse".
     Labour has rightly labelled May`s proposals to increase social housingas "spin with no substance" whilst the prime minister`s plan to introduce "the biggest extension of workers` rights by any Conservative government" again reveals how these arrogant Tories are treating the voters as mugs (Morning Star,16/05/17) . As practically all Conservative governments throughout history have reduced unions and workers` rights, one would have to go back to Disraeli`s administration of 1874-80, to see a Tory government extending them. His Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act restored the right of trade union members to picket peacefully, a blatant attempt by Disraeli to woo the working class voters. His duplicity was obvious, and he lost the 1880 election. We can only hope history does sometimes repeat itself.

Imagine the fuss there would have been if Labour had not explained in great detail how it was going to pay for its planned expenditure! Yet, when the Tories do exactly that, your paper acknowleges it with a brief article, taking up approximately one tenth of page 5 (Heavy on policy, but light on costings, 19/05/17). Half of page 8, however, is devoted to an anaysis of Labour`s costings relating to just one of its manifesto`s fiscal points, the increase of corporation tax to 26% (Fact Check: Could Labour raise £19,4bn by increasing corporation tax? 19/05/17). Even this failed to mention that the levels of corporation tax in France, Italy, the USA and Germany are all higher than the one proposed by Labour.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Real reason for election now

Both George Eaton and Jason Cowley stressed the "propitious" circumstances, with Labour "fatally divided", and the  polls "giving the Conservatives a 21-point lead", in being important factors in influencing Theresa May`s election decision, but both omitted something equally important (Politics: The greatest gamble, and Newsmaker: The Brexit PM seeks a mandate, 21st April, 2017). The situation, both economically and socially, is going to get much worse, and by 2020, the British public would have seen through the prime minister`s duplicity.
      The hard Brexit cannot prove beneficial; EU leaders are already pointing out that conditions for an ex-member of the European club are bound to be worse than for the loyal 27. Why else would May and her ministers spend so much time globe-trotting in search of alternative trade deals? Companies are already making plans to move headquarters out of London, whilst the government`s continued austerity policy intensifies the hardship felt by many, without lowering either the debt, or the need for increased borrowing.
  Eaton did mention the "squeeze on living standards" being on its way, but nothing about May failing to put the rhetoric about helping the "just about managing" into action, despite the opportunities afforded by two budgets. She can stress the need for unity as much as she likes, but an education policy which divides pupils at eleven into successes and failures is going to fool no-one.
     Let`s face it; May is going to the polls now, because the alternative, an election in 2020, is unthinkable.


"Tax grab" misleading

Considering the relevant article on Labour`s manifesto and fiscal proposals was reported accurately and reasonably, the front-page headline, "Labour`s tax grab on the rich", gave a misleading impression (Corbyn will vow to stand up to the "rich and elite" at manifesto launch, 16/05/17). Raising tax levels on those earning in excess of three times the national average, or taxing the very wealthy at levels 10% lower than the rate Thatcher imposed in her first budget, can hardly be seen a a "tax grab".
   Very few people in this country think that our tax system is fair, or that the rich do not contribute enough to fund essential services. Even the Institute of Directors, which demands the problem of "teacher shortage crisis" be solved, must realise that taxes have to be raised, and that those earning around the average or less simply cannot afford to pay more (Tackle teacher shortage, directors urge parties,16/05/17). Unless taxes on the rich are increased, inequality will continue to grow, and the economy will suffer. Labour needs to be supported in its attempts to transform our society into one based on fairness.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Voters deceived times 3!

John Harris's analysis of the current electoral situation exaggerated divisions amongst the voters (Brexit Britain has three kinds of voter: disconnected, deceived and dismayed, 06/05/17). Rather than the three categories he suggested, the second one would almost certainly suffice. Deceived by the Referendum campaign run by Brexiteers totally economic with the truth, by the media on the unacceptability of Labour's policies and leadership, and by a prime minister both unable to participate in the "absolute basics of what electioneering entails", and unwilling to tell the electorate about the continued austerity and state-shrinking which she plans.

Monday, 24 April 2017

May`s "stability" and "unity"

Theresa May claimed that the election is needed to provide for "stability and certainty" ( Morning Star, 19/04/17). With "stability" meaning "resistance to change", May clearly intends to govern in the same way. How difficult is it for Labour MPs to unite with one voice against continued austerity, more underfunding of schools and the NHS, and  tax benefits for the well-off and big business being the dominant economic policy?
   The "certainty" is that another Tory government will continue to have shrinking the state and taking government spending back to levels last seen in the 1930s at the heart of its policies. May added in her announcement that Britain needed the "strong leadership" she provides, but if Labour MPs cannot counter her nonsense with the true facts about her kowtowing to Trump, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the rest, revealing the country`s panic-stricken response to Brexit, and complete lack of effective leadership, they are not worthy of candidature.
May even had the nerve to say that divisions in Parliament "risked hampering the Brexit negotiations" and unity. "Divisions in parliament" are usually called the "opposition", so the election, she hopes, will give her the freedom and autocracy she craves to deliver a "hard" Brexit, with rights for workers forgotten.
        As for the "unity" in the country, it`s not often I agree with Alastair Campbell, but May clearly needs to get out more!

     It is not too late for Labour MPs to unite behind their leader; if they think May is a better alternative PM to Corbyn, they should say so, and stand down.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Observer letter on solving education`s problems

Grammar schools are not the answer to the problem of "huge geographical disparities"  existing in our unfair education system, as your editorial rightly said (Our schools are failing the poorest pupils. Politicians have no answers, only soundbites,16.04.17). It added that the top priority for education funding should be "attracting and developing the best quality teaching" in deprived areas, like Knowsley, but omitted to mention how this could be done. Certain areas, and some individual schools, could be designated  "Educational Priority Areas"(EPAs). Here, pupil-teacher ratios would be smaller, and pay augmented with significant annual retention bonuses, or deposit-free, low interest mortgages.
       A large majority of my forty-plus year teaching career was spent in Knowsley,and one huge problem I experienced, but which was not highlighted in the editorial, was the quality of leadership. Headteachers in "EPAs" would have to have experienced many years of teaching  in such areas. Too often heads are appointed on the basis of ticking the right boxes with the current jargon, and like many politicians, they provide "soundbites", but lack the necessary experience and ability to inspire and lead. A role for staff representation on the selection panel is a must.
       Ofsted criticism of schools in "EPAs" would be banned; it is pointless labelling schools in deprived areas as "failing", when teachers are working hard, but hindered by administration-overload, weak leadership and under-funding.
       "Meaningful answers" can only be provided by the experts. Lack of trust in teachers explains most of the wrong-headed nonsense spoken by politicians about education. This was epitomised, not  only by Gove`s tenure at the DfE, but by the shadow education secretary only a few years ago suggesting all teachers take an oath to demonstrate their commitment to the profession!