Sunday, 29 November 2015

Corbyn right on Syria

Andrew Rawnsley`s default mode is to criticise Corbyn at every opportunity, even to the extent of attempting humour at his expense, with the suggestion that the Labour leader "could maybe parachute in and make a citizen`s arrest" of any lurking "murderous jihadi" (David Cameron will most likely get agreement on taking the fight to Isis,22/11/15). No doubt, many, equally biased, neo-Blairites will have sniggered, but to ridicule Corbyn`s reluctance to accept a "shoot-to-kill" at all costs policy displays as much judgement as that displayed by the Labour MPs voting with the Tories merely to embarrass their own leader.   
     Total annihilation of Isis troops in the Middle East might well be a solution, but only a short-term one, likely to spawn more hatred of western values; an ideology, no matter how barbarous, cannot be bombed out of existence. But its bloodthirsty and psychopathic aspects need to be exposed as essentially non-Islamic for the ideology`s attraction to decline, and the best way history has shown to achieve this is by putting it on public trial, with worldwide publicity, Nuremburg style. For this to happen, Mr Rawnsley, some arrests have to be made!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Review letter on empire

How sad, and sadly typical of this country, that when advice is needed to frame the schools` history syllabus, the person chosen is Niall Ferguson, a "neocon court historian", rather than an expert analyst of primary evidence, like William Dalrymple, who wants the true version of the subject to be taught (Facing up to the past,21/11/15). Until the UK faces up to historical facts, like the "racially inspired genocides" committed in its name in the years of empire, how can it hope to remove bigotry and prejudice from society? The Tate`s exhibition "exploring its artistic legacy" is, at least, a start, but a less duplicitous government would ensure it toured the country!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Priorities of Labour MPs

George Eaton contends that Labour MPs acknowledge many of Corbyn`s "individual policies are popular" but fear the "collective offer is no longer credible", so why doesn`t he criticise them for their obvious cowardice (Politics,20 November)? Not only is their support for the "popular" proposals, like nationalisation of railways, at best half-hearted, and more often minimalist, their refusal to accept that the so-called less "credible" policies actually could become electorally acceptable, given a fair hearing and public debate, smacks of gutlessness and selfish careerism. How can they possibly think that getting rid of Corbyn, and replacing him with a neo-Blairite, will lead to anything but disaster in 2020?
      It`s no good excusing Labour MPs` behaviour by quoting Corbyn`s "record of rebellion", when their disloyalty threatens the very future of the party. Is Corbyn wrong in saying that our recent record of intervention in the Middle East, not to mention our historical one, has "increased the threat to the UK"? Isn`t his anti-austerity stance being proved correct by the obvious failure of the Tories` "long-term economic plan", and Britain now owing the equivalent of 80.5% of a year`s GDP, compared with 69% when Osborne first became chancellor? Isn`t the government`s claim to be representing the working people, when their action and legislation suggest the exact opposite, more worthy of Labour MPs` criticism amd concern?

     With the government gifting the opposition such wonderful propaganda-fodder, it`s obvious what Labour`s priorities should be.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Morning Star letters on HMRC, and Osborne`s excuses

Friday`s feature on the so-called "modernisation" of HMRC, and the creation of more "efficiency" by the decision to "close 137 tax offices and to concentrate their functions on 13 new regional centres", was right to stress how this can only be good news for the tax avoiders and evaders (Morning Star,13/11/15). What makes the news even more disappointing is that HMRC`s chief executive, Lin Homer, and her associates, were given such an easy ride by parliament`s public accounts committee when they were interrogated this week. Admittedly, there was a gentle ticking off for the lamentable customer service and phone calls not being answered, but what about, not only the committee`s report which had already criticised HMRC for its "woefully inadequate number of prosecutions for offshore tax evasion", but also the subsequent excuse, for the eleven prosecutions for offshore tax evasion in the last five years, that exorbitant court costs prohibited more cases?
The committee was fobbed off with dubious and unfounded claims that the amount of uncollected tax in Britain is "no worse than in many other countries", stating the tax gap to be £34bn. This, of course, does not take into account tax evasion, only avoidance. HMRC has done next to nothing about tax havens where trillions are squirrelled away, rather than paid to the Treasury; the British Overseas Territories, according to War on Want, together "rank as the most significant tax haven in the world", ahead of even Switzerland. The reality is that there is no income tax, corporation tax, sales tax, wealth tax or any other direct tax in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands account for 40% of the world`s offshore companies, and Bermuda remains Google`s favourite tax haven. Setting an example by taking some individuals to court, and letting them face the consequences, and long jail sentences, even if the costs amounted to hundreds of millions, would be more than worth it, as a deterrent to all evaders!
     Government policy, far from publicly condemning all non-payment of tax as "morally repugnant", now appears to have U-turned. Cameron`s worldwide endorsement of Greene King, whose battle to justify a tax avoidance scheme bought from Ernst and Young for 10% of all the tax saved, suffered two defeats in the lower tax courts, and widespread condemnation from MPs, including from the then chair of the public accounts committee Margaret Hodge, suggests the idea of any businesses "smelling the coffee" no longer suits this government. Well, we are over four years away from an election!

Matt Willgress was right to support Ken Livingstone`s view that the Tories` "chaos over tax credits did not happen by accident" (Morning Star,06/11/15).With over 1200 staff employed at the Treasury, including, according to the Independent, eight special advisers costing the taxpayer over £500,000 a year, it is hard to believe that someone didn`t carry out an "impact assessment". Next they`ll be telling us they didn`t know, not only about the steel industry being under threat because of unfair Chinese competition, but that quantitative easing works elsewhere in the world to stimulate economies, so long as banks are not the direct recipients. I don`t suppose the Tories will acknowledge, either, that the Northern Powerhouse is just a wheeze drummed up just before what was thought was an unwinnable election, and which can`t possibly work anyway, when councils are having their government grants decimated, or that tax avoidance measures are also suffering the consequences of sacking thousands of staff at HMRC! There is so much evidence proving that the chancellor knows exactly what he is doing, that any suggestion otherwise beggars belief. Attacking the poorest and most vulnerable appears to be his default mode; he clearly he has no Plan B. 
       Whilst it is not remotely surprising that our beleaguered chancellor took advantage of a meeting with Tory backbenchers on the 1922 committee, and appealed to them for ideas on how the tax credit proposals could be revised, it does come as a shock to see Osborne not making the most of it. Why didn`t he ask for their ideas on stopping the downward turn our economy is taking, with growth at 0.5% and set, according to the chief economist at the finacial data firm, Markit, Chris Williamson, to slow to 0.3% by the end of the year? Bullingdon boy`s only solution is to enrich his friends in the City! Shouldn`t Osborne also have sought advice on HS2, and how to prevent projected costs going over £50bn? 
       What needs to happen now is for Labour`s propaganda team to start shouting Osborne`s failures from the rooftops, starting with his lamentable industrial policy, which has led to steel`s collapse, economic growth stalling, and privatised railways having "clapped-out and overcrowded trains"(Morning Star,30/10/154). Cameron will be too concerned about his own reputation to allow his friendship with Osborne preventing him from sacking him; he is a Tory after all!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

"Real" Osborne stood up years ago

At least Tory MPs like Stephen McPartland have dropped the ridiculous idea they were propagating a few weeks ago that Osborne`s mishandling of the tax credits` issue happened because he was ignorant of the massive hardship the cuts would cause, due to a so-called "technical mistake" (I`m speaking up for low-income families:that`s why I`ve become a Tory rebel over tax credits,15/11/15). With over 1200 staff employed at the Treasury, including apparently eight special advisers costing the taxpayer over £500,000 a year, it is hard to believe that someone didn`t carry out an "impact assessment". Of course Osborne knew, so if, as your political editor, Toby Helm, suggests, the country still can`t decide whether the chancellor is a "master strategist" or "political blunderer", it must be almost entirely due to the way his cruel policies are depicted by the press (Master strategist of political blunderer? Friend of the strivers or enemy of the working people? Will the real George Osborne please stand up, 15/11/15).
    Even the reliable William Keegan, whilst listing the "Big Lies", perpetrated by the chancellor, about Labour`s spending causing the banking crisis, the UK`s economic problems having been "comparable to those of Greece", much of the welfare budget going to the "unemployed and feckless" rather than 1.5%, and budget deficit rather than cuts being "a threat to national security", omitted two of Osborne`s whoppers. He and Cameron may spout for all they`re worth about tax avoidance being "morally repugnant" and firms like Google needing to "smell the coffee", but the lack of effectual legislation and prosecutions, and continued job cuts at HMRC, tell a different story. Same applies to the pre-election wheeze that is the "northern powerhouse", which is destined to remain a non-starter as long as government grants to local councils in the north continue to be decimated. 
      The penny should have dropped by now, Mr Helm: the "real George Osborne" stood up years ago!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Lansley`s jobs

The report about former health minister, Andrew Lansley, taking on "three jobs in the private sector" not only speaks volumes about the limited role played by principles in decisions made by our current crop of Tory politicians, but also about the need for reform of rules governing such appointments ( Morning Star,17/11/15). The fact that Lansley is now being paid to advise the drug company, Roche, which maximises its profits from the cancer drugs fund which Lansley himself set up, beggars belief, as does the pharmaceuticals company`s attempts to justify charging £90,000 for a drug to treat one breast cancer patient for a year. Reducing the cost to £60,000 just to enable it to be bought by the fund really does suggest gross profiteering.
   The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments has approved all of his new posts, but insisted Lansley is not allowed to draw on privileged information available to him when in government".There can be very few who do not think that Roche appointed him simply because of what he knows from his time as health secretary, and because he has been key in increasing the "role of the private sector in the NHS"!
Clearly, an obvious need exists for a rule change, at least preventing ex-ministers from taking on related roles, until a minimum of  five years has elapsed since being in government.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

CBI`s scaremongering a disgrace

The scaremongering about the effects of the government`s "national living wage" by the CBI beggars belief (CBI: Osborne`s living wage is threat to jobs,03/11/15). The outgoing director-general, John Cridland, claims to "have sought to rebuild the reputation of business", but the reality is that the CBI has done nothing to curb either the excessive tax avoidance by its company members, or the greed of the businesses` CEOs. Even though its profits had risen 14% in a half-year, Whitbread recently claimed increasing wages would lead to price rises for its customers.(Whitbread living wage warning raises fear of price rises and job cuts,08/09/15)? As Nils Pratley informed us then, the pay increase "works out at just 0.95% of Whitbread group operating costs", though no similar percentage was offered for the CEO`s pay package, which "soared by 85% to almost £6.4m" last year (Whitbread chief`s pay package soars by 85% to almost £6.4m,09/05/14). The new CEO of Barclays may well claim to want to "transform" the banking culture like his predecessor did, but what sort of example is set to his employees when the boss pockets over £10m a year, including a "role-based allowance" to side-step the EU rules on bonuses(New boss at Barclays promises "trust and integrity" as overhaul continues,29/10/15)?
    Funny how the CBI prefers to describe Britain`s education sytem as "a drag-anchor on the economy", when our current pay structures fail to benefit the economy at all, because wealth is being stock-piled by the rich, whilst the low-paid`s spare spending capacity is almost zero.

Changing the banking culture

Paddy McGuffin`s column rightly praised Corbyn`s tactics at PMQs, which challenges the PM`s "routine of hiding behind empty words" (Morning star,31/10/15).But Cameron is far from being alone!
I notice that the new CEO at Barclays, Jes Staley, has done his homework, informing his employees that the bank must complete both the "cultural transformation of the group", and the "necessary transformation". He clearly knows that his predecessor, Antony Jenkins, on getting the job in February, 2013, in the wake of the Libor-fixing crisis, said in a press conference, "We get it, we are changing the way we do business". He then added that the bank would put ethics above earnings, and unveiled his grand plan, "Project Transform"; this was a management jargon acronym, standing for Turnaround, Return Acceptable Numbers and Sustain Forward Momentum, all designed to restore Barclays` reputation. Unsurprisingly, it failed to prevent the next scandal,  the manipulation of the currency markets with a colossal £3trillion a day of turnover.
   With the greed of the bankers clearly the root cause behind the need for "a cultural overhaul", does Staley really expect his message to get across when his employees read details of their boss`s £10m pay package? Is the obvious lack of ethics in the banking culture likely to change, when the example is set by the CEO? Staley`s obscenely high pay includes something called "a role-based allowance", a device to side-step EU rules on capping bonuses!
     If the CEOs of banks really wanted to reform their "culture", they could start by doing the following:
   Ensure all investment bankers do annual work-experience, shadowing for a week a nurse, carer, or state school teacher, to witness at first hand, how compassionate, considerate and patient "best people" really are, despite their long hours, working for rewards bankers and their ilk would describe as "chickenfeed". 

   Review their recruitment policy. It is obvious that the schools and universities from where the current batch of bankers come, are not producing the graduates with the "character" and attributes necessary to end both the fleecing of customers, and the production-line of banking scams.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

New Statesman letter on Osborne`s mistake

Disingenuous as ever, Tory MPs are now, according to George Eaton, making excuses for George Osborne`s mishandling of the tax credits` issue, by claiming he was ignorant of the massive hardship the cuts would cause for "relatively impoverished people", because of  "a technical mistake" (Politics: How the tax credit climbdown humbled a chancellor thought to be at the height of his powers,30 October). With over 1200 staff employed at the Treasury, including, according to the Independent at the weekend, eight special advisers costing the taxpayer over £500,000 a year, it is hard to believe that someone didn`t carry out an "impact assessment". Next they`ll be telling us they didn`t know, not only about the steel industry being under threat because of unfair Chinese competition, but that quantitative easing works elsewhere in the world to stimulate economies, so long as banks are not the direct recipients. I don`t suppose the Tories will acknowledge, either, that the Northern Powerhouse is just a wheeze drummed up just before what was thought was an unwinnable election, and which can`t possibly work anyway, when councils are having their government grants decimated, or that tax avoidance measures are also suffering the consequences of a "technical mistake", that of sacking thousands of staff at HMRC!
 Tories are very keen to repeat the party`s propaganda about having a "long term economic plan", but less enthusiastic about mentioning its results, with economic growth destined to be as low as 0.3% in the next quarter; they must know that such downward trends are inevitable, when the bases of government policy is for the already prosperous to accumulate even greater wealth,  and the spending capability of the working people to be reduced. They certainly have "got too far down the pipe", as Tory MP Stephen McPartland so eloquently put it; sadly, with their policies, the "pipe" in question has to be a sewer!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Historian Ferguson a disgrace

An authorised biography of the Machiavellian, Kissinger, by a historian who infamously sees British imperialism, despite its greed for wealth, land and labour, its use of weapons, massacres, concentration camps and torture, as a force for good, who supported the Republican candidates, McCain and Romney against Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, and whose advice on the history curriculum for schools to then Education Secretary Gove was criticised so much by British historians and teachers, should not attract favourable reviews, and Greg Grandin duly obliged (Kissinger 1923-1968:The Idealist by Niall Ferguson,17/10/15).
      A defence of Kissinger`s "war crimes", based on the premise that other policymakers "can just as easily be accused", smacks of disingenuity of the highest order, whilst the absurdity of claiming that responsibility for atrocities and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people should not influence "how we assess his legacy" beggars belief. Somehow, loss of life in so-called "strategically marginal countries" didn`t matter as long as the cold war was won, a point which is not only abhorrent in its substance, but the epitome of selective use of evidence, as it conveniently ignores the fact that the bombing of Laos and Cambodia did not prevent America`s defeat in Vietnam.
 The public have been badly served by historians like Ferguson, who misuse historical evidence, for too long, and hopefully, sales figures of this example of biased history will indicate that the penny has finally dropped.