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If Brexit is about taking back control from the EU, why is Gatwick Airport now owned by the French?

Gatwick Airport: Britain had a chance to “take back control” of it this week, but a French firm has bought the controlling interest in it instead.

It’s bad enough that Gatwick wasn’t owned by the British when it was sold, but selling it to the French – at a time when all government propaganda is about retaking control from Europe – makes a worse mockery of Brexit than it already is.

Foreigners control our water supplies and railway services; they control our energy suppliers and are heavily involved in our technology industries (as concerns about Chinese firm Huawei have demonstrated).

And yet Theresa May keeps trying to tell us she is taking back control of our destiny for us.

Let’s remember it was Conservatives like Mrs May who originally sold off our state-owned assets. At the time, they tried to make it seem that we were taking back control, too.

(Remember? It was all about, “Now, you have a chance to own [BT/British Gas/British Water/British Rail/whatever else they were flogging that week]!” And who ended up owning those things? Firms from Europe. And to make matters worse, they’re mostly nationalised firms from Europe!)

Brexit is not about the British taking back control of anything. It is about the Tories tightening their grip around our throats after they sold off everything that was worth controlling – to Europe.

And don’t complain about the Opposition parties failing to call a second referendum. Simple Parliamentary arithmetic shows they can’t.

Anybody who whines about Jeremy Corbyn failing to stop Brexit needs to take a crash course in personal responsibility. The buck stopped with the people, back in June 2016.

And it’s the people who will suffer, if Brexit happens in any of the forms Mrs May is threatening.

France’s Vinci Airports is taking a controlling stake in Gatwick for £2.9bn, a week after the UK’s second-biggest airport was brought to a standstill by a series of drone sightings.

A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is selling a majority stake of 50.01% in the airport to Vinci Airports, one of the world’s top airport operators and part of the infrastructure group Vinci. Vinci and GIP will manage Gatwick together.

The deal, which was agreed on Thursday, was delayed by the chaos caused by three days of drone sightings in the run-up to Christmas. Gatwick, the eighth-busiest airport in Europe by passenger numbers, was forced to close its runway, disrupting flights for 140,000 passengers.

Source: Gatwick airport: majority stake sold to French group | Business | The Guardian

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Sell-off means ‘Green Investment Bank’ is now mis-named

Perhaps a better name, now that it has been taken over by Australian money-grubbers Macquarie, would be ‘Bank of Asset-Stripping, Turpitude* And Recondite** Debt’.

Unfortunately the acronym spells out ‘Bastard’. Some may think that’s about right.

There certainly seems to be a certain lack of moral rectitude about the sale.

The minority Tory government’s press release states that “new owner Macquarie has committed to the GIB’s target of leading £3 billion of investment in green energy projects over next 3 years”.

Only £3 billion? The GIB ploughed more than £5 billion worth of investment into green projects in its first two years of existence. Isn’t it supposed to be increasing investment, rather than cutting it?

The press release continues: “The Climate Change and Industry Minister, Claire Perry, confirmed [on 18 August 2017] that the sale of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to Macquarie Group Limited has now been completed”.

And how nice it is to see Macquarie confirmed as the buyer. Back in January, the Tories refused to admit that Macquarie was the preferred bidder, citing “commercial sensitivity”.

This was at a time when Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that “Macquarie not only has a dismal and terrible environmental record, it also has an appalling track record of asset-stripping… This selling off could lead to the bank being fatally undermined as an enduring institution”.

We were told at the time that the Green Investment Bank was set up with £3.8 billion of government (meaning our) money, but the Tory press release states: “The £2.3 billion deal ensures that all the taxpayer funding invested in GIBsince its creation, including set-up costs, has been returned with a gain of approximately £186 million.”

It continues: “The sale proceeds of £1.75 billion, which has [sic] now been received, sees all taxpayer funding invested in GIG returned with a gain of around £186 million. This, together with over £500 million of current outstanding commitments which will now be met by Macquarie and its partners rather than taxpayers, means that the transaction value is around £2.3 billion.”

Something can’t be right because the total is £1.5 billion short of the original investment.

The Tories seem to want us to believe that only £1.565 billion of our money was put into the Green Investment Bank. What about the rest of it?

And, even if the claim of £186 million profit is to be believed, that would account for less than half of the £447 million debt the UK racks up every day under Conservative economic mismanagement. That money has already gone.

It seems likely that the bank will be stripped of at least some of its assets by Macquarie – and the Tories knew about this. In January, former Energy minister Nick Hurd (son of Douglas; it must be nice to have your entry into Parliament ensured by your parentage) said he was unopposed to the sale of assets: “Let’s not get into a position where we say holding on to assets is good in itself.”

But selling them for the sake of selling them is just as bad, isn’t it?

These are probably just some of the reasons the Tories were keen to distract us all from the sale – by crying about the fact that Big Ben, the famous bell in the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, has been taken out of action for four years, while restoration work takes place.

So what? It won’t be gone forever – which is more than can be said for the Conservative Party’s commitment to the environment.

*It means ‘corruption’.

**It means ‘concealed’.


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Why SHOULD the government suck money OUT of the economy?

George Osborne: Mouth open, mind shut.

George Osborne: Mouth open, mind shut.

Economists are probably lining up right now to demonstrate that George Osborne is a fool.

The Chancellor is trying to persuade us that aiming for an immediate budget surplus is good policy. Experts disagree.

Very quick off the mark is Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his Mainly Macro blog. He has already pointed out that fiscal tightening is a terrible idea when interest rates are at their zero lower bound (ZLB), as they are at the moment – if economic growth falters, then monetary policy cannot come to the rescue because interest rates are already as low as they can be.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reckons that there’s no reason for the government to reduce debt from its current level of 80 per cent of GDP, as long as the market is happy to keep buying it up. This Writer has issues with that, because it is not advisable for the UK or any other country to become a debt-servicing economy. However, the principle that there is no need for drastic action is sound.

Professor Wren-Lewis also examined a few of the current arguments in support of Osborne and rubbished them in his usual amiable way:

Osborne’s plan may provide scope for dealing with further ‘Great Recessions’ without running out of what the IMF calls “fiscal space” (the amount of extra debt into which the UK could fall before there was any need for serious concern) – but this would demand that ‘Great Recessions’ take place much more often in the future than the past.

The claim that we should reduce the debt burden for future generations is dismissed as perverse, as it means “the costs of reducing debt would largely fall on the same generation that suffered as a result of the Great Recession”.

Leading on from this, he points out that any claim that an individual would want to pay their debts down quickly is not accurate, for the very good reason that nations are not like individuals; they are more like corporations. Firms live with permanent debt because that debt has paid for the capital purchases they have made: “The state has plenty of productive capital…. If we paid back most government debt within a generation, we would be giving that capital to later generations without them making any contribution towards it.”

From here it is fairly easy to see that selling off national assets (like the Royal Mail or Eurostar – or any of the profit-making utility firms, back in the 1980s) is a bad idea, because the national corporation (the UK) then fails to benefit from the proceeds of all its investment. The railways are an even worse case, because the country is subsidising them with more money than when they were a nationalised industry, but receives none of the profits.

Narrow down your definition of what is happening even further and we see that George Osborne is making the poor pay – with squeezes on benefits – in order to allow the rich to benefit; they will own the assets that the government is selling off while paying nothing towards the capital costs discussed above.

So – unless you are one of the very few people rich enough to profit from Osborne’s policy, do you really want to support him now?

This blog would be particularly interested in hearing from working people who voted Conservative last month:

Did you realise that Osborne would be penalising you and your descendants?

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NATO and the Economic Exploitation of Eastern Europe – Beastrabban\’s Weblog (and Russell Brand)

NATO expands: On the left, the situation in 1990; on the right, the scene in 2009 - NATO expanded right up to Russia's borders.

NATO expands: On the left, the situation in 1990; on the right, the scene in 2009 – NATO expanded right up to Russia’s borders.

Isn’t it interesting, how concepts coincide?

Only last night I read, in Russell Brand’s Revolution: “When Mikhail Gorbachev, who it turns out was a lovely fella who bent over backwards to prevent nuclear war and deserved to be remembered for more than that birthmark on his head, allowed a unified Germany to enter NATO, a hostile military alliance, on the condition that ‘NATO would not expand one inch to the east,’ the US agreed. Then they expanded right into East Germany, likely giggling as they went. This dunderheaded truculence persisted under every US regime change… Clinton in his tenure expanded NATO right up to Russia’s borders. Chomsky says all this aggro we’re having today in the Crimea and Ukraine is because of these unreported acts of military expansionism by the West.”

Now here’s the Beast: “I … found this little piece in ‘The View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 45, reproducing statements from elsewhere that NATO was being used to exploit the former eastern bloc countries that have joined it after the fall of Communism. Although over a decade old [bolding mine], it’s relevant now as we are in period of diplomatic tension with Russia over the civil war in Ukraine. This has been presented as a case of pro-Western Ukrainian patriots attempting to free themselves from Russian domination. The reality is somewhat murkier, as the pro-Western side themselves were guilty of considerable corruption. It also includes open Neo-Nazis.”

The stories quoted are about NATO bullying eastern European countries into selling off their national economic assets to foreigners and spending huge amounts of money on US-manufactured military hardware, under threat of losing a place in NATO military committees and command structures.

The Beast writes: “This makes you really wonder what the reality behind the ousting of President Yanukovych in Ukraine really was, and who was supposed to benefit: the Ukrainian people, or Western multinationals.”

And now Greece is rolling back the privatisation programme imposed by the West, against hugely unreasonable – yet mounting – opposition from the Troika and Western right-wingers.

The UK, it seems, is on the side of NATO, and – as long as we have a right-wing government – the privateers. This leads to a very worrying question:

When did we become the bad guys?

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Ministry’s mistiming will keep Miller in the spotlight

140408miller

“Oh, f…”: Now Maria Miller’s Cabinet colleagues are stabbing her in the back. By accident?

The Ministry of Justice has just announced that £14 million, taken from criminals’ ill-gotten gains, will be used to help their victims.

How much of this will come from the fraudster Maria Miller?

None.

What an awkward, mistimed moment – another in a series for which this Conservative-led administration should be justly famous.

Here we all are, stridently discussing the future of a Cabinet minister (Miller) who clearly defrauded the taxpayer out of tens of thousands of pounds to pay for mortgage interest on a house she then sold for more than £1 million profit – and her Cabinet colleague Chris Grayling decides now is the time to announce what the government is doing with other criminals’ ill-gotten gains.

This will merely intensify calls for Miller to face trial and conviction, and for her financial assets to be seized.

The MoJ press release states: “Under this government more money than ever before is being raised from offenders specifically to help victims of crime.” This is except for when the offender is a member of the government, apparently.

“An increase in the penalties judges can impose on criminals from 2012 is ensuring criminals are forced to pay the price for their wrongdoing.” Except when they are investigated by Parliament, rather than the police.

Miller remains a member of the Cabinet, her criminally-won gains sitting in her bank account. She is unrepentant, as her “obstructive” attitude to the Parliamentary investigation and her 30-second apology to Parliament – for that obstruction, and not for any criminality – clearly demonstrates.

David Cameron, the weakest Prime Minister in living memory – if not all time – does not have the backbone to sack her.

Maybe there is another reason for this.

We were all reminded by the Scriptonite blog yesterday that there is another crook in the Cabinet who likes doing dodgy property deals.

George Osborne “‘flipped’ his first and second homes to claim over £100k of taxpayer money for interest payments on a mortgage for his £455k Cheshire pad. He later sold the home for over £1m having made improvements partly funded by taxes. He also claimed taxpayer money to cover payments on a horse paddock for the property,” Scriptonite reminds us.

In fact, he claimed taxpayer money for several pieces of land in addition to the house, and sold the lot for a profit that was estimated to be £1 million, because he never paid a penny of his own towards the purchase – it all came from the taxpayer.

Vox Political called for Osborne to face criminal proceedings more than a year ago but the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) closed ranks around him and the Commissioner said that, as this had already been investigated under the lax pre-2009 rules, Osborne was going to get away with it.

So the message today is that you don’t have to be a master criminal to get away with illegal activities – you just have to be a member of the government.

Is that really what the Conservatives want to say – before an election?

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Has the Coalition set Labour an impossible task – to rescue politics from corruption?

Not a good egg: Ed Miliband was hit by an egg on his first campaign visit after returning from holiday abroad. The thrower, Dean Porter, said: "They do nothing. The government do nothing. The shadow government do nothing. I don't believe him at all. If you are poor, you are considered a burden."

Not a good egg: Ed Miliband was hit by an egg on his first campaign visit after returning from holiday abroad. The thrower, Dean Porter, said: “They do nothing. The government do nothing. The shadow government do nothing. I don’t believe him at all. If you are poor, you are considered a burden.”

Yesterday’s article, DWP denials: They would kill you and call it ‘help’ received an unprecedented reaction – considering it was only intended to prepare the way for a larger discussion.

In less than 12 hours the article went viral and galvanised many of you into vocal support, sharing your stories of government (and particularly DWP) ill-treatment and urging others to follow this blog – for which much gratitude is in order. Thanks to all concerned.

The aim was to show how low politics and politicians have fallen in public estimation. The general consensus is that our politicians aren’t interested in us. They make promise after promise before elections – and the party (or parties) in office often set up tax breaks for sections of society their focus groups have told them are needed to secure a win. After they’ve got what they want, they don’t give a damn.

Look at the Coalition. The consensus is that this is a failed government. That it has broken one promise after another. That its ministers are liars and its Prime Minister is the worst charlatan of the lot.

That its rallying-call, “We’re all in it together”, refers only to Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament and their close friends in the most lucrative (and therefore richest) industries, along with the bankers (of course), and that they have all dug their noses deep into the trough and are (to mix metaphors) sucking us dry. Look at the way Mark Hoban employed his former employers to rubber-stamp the DWP’s new plans for the Work Capability Assessment.

In short: That the Coalition government is the most incompetent and corrupt administration to blight the United Kingdom in living memory, and possibly the worst that this land has ever endured.

We fear that these tin-pot tyrants are carrying out a eugenics programme to kill off people who have become sick or disabled; we fear that their economic policies are designed to put anyone less than upper-middle-class into the kind of debt that current wages will never permit them to pay off – a debt that can then be sold between fat-cat corporations who will hold the masses in actual – if not admitted – slavery; that they will dismantle this country’s institutions, handing over everything that is worth anything to their buddies in business, who will make us pay through the nose for services that our taxes ought to cover.

And yet a recent poll suggests that we would prefer this corrupt gang of asset-stripping bandits to run the economy of the country (into the ground) rather than give Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Labour Party, an opportunity to restore the country’s fortunes.

Are we all going schizoid? Are we really saying that, while we don’t believe the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats could organise a binge in a brewery without stealing the booze from us while we’re drinking it, we do believe them when they say the current economic nightmare was because Labour mismanaged the economy?

(In case anyone hasn’t really thought it through, the current lie is that the international credit crunch that has cost the world trillions of pounds was caused, not by bankers (who have never been punished for it) but by the UK Labour Party giving too much money away to scrounging benefit cheats. In fact, only 0.7 per cent of benefit claims are fraudulent and, while they cost the taxpayer £1.2 billion a year, that does not justify the £19 billion the Coalition has given to its private, for-profit friends to make a pretence of dealing with it.)

Are we really saying that even though we all now know that George Osborne’s economic policy is nonsense, based on a theory that has been comprehensively rubbished, we’re all happy to give him and his miserable boss David Cameron the credit for the slight improvement in the UK’s economic fortunes that we have seen in recent months? It was always going to improve at some point, and the current upturn is more likely to be part of that kind of cycle than anything Osborne has done.

If we really are saying that, then we all need to put in claims for Employment and Support Allowance, on grounds of mental instability!

That’s not what’s going on, though.

It seems far more likely that the general public is having a crisis of confidence. As a nation, we know what we’ve got is bad; we just don’t have confidence that we’ll get better if we put our support behind the Opposition.

This is the Coalition’s one great success: It has damaged the reputation of politics and politicians so badly that nobody involved in that occupation can escape being labelled as corrupt, or liars, or worse.

And Labour is doing far too little to fight that.

A BBC article on the problems facing Labour states that the Coalition has sharpened up its messages on, among other things, welfare and immigration. The message is still the usual hogwash; the problem is that Labour has made no meaningful response. Her Majesty’s Opposition appears to have given up Opposing.

Is this because the main political parties are now so similar that Labour is now supporting Coalition policies? That would make sense in the context of statements made before the summer recess by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, in which Labour appeared to capitulate over welfare and the economy, even though the Coalition had lost all the major arguments.

When they did that damned stupid thing in that damned stupid way, Vox Political was the first to say “watch their poll lead disappear” – and it has more than halved from 11 percentage points to five, according to The Guardian.

This lackadaisical attitude from the Labour leadership has not gone unnoticed among the backbenchers and the grass roots, and the last few weeks has been notable for the rising chorus of dissent against Ed Miliband’s leadership. Some have described the Labour front bench as “Plastic Tories”.

Even Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham took a pop, saying Labour needed to “shout louder” and produce attention-grabbing policies by next spring – or lose any chance of winning the 2015 election.

Miliband’s response to that was to claim that Burnham was really saying the Labour Party was “setting out how we would change the country”. This is nonsense. He was saying that was what Labour needed to do, and Miliband rendered himself untrustworthy by suggesting otherwise.

It is very hard to put your support – and your vote – behind somebody you don’t trust, who seems completely unable (or unwilling) to fight your oppressor on your behalf; in short, someone who seems just as corrupt as the government in power. At the moment, Ed Miliband doesn’t stand for anything – so there’s no reason you should stand up for him.

What, then, should Labour do?

Easy. The party needs a clear, simple message that everybody can understand and get behind; one that members can support because it reflects Labour beliefs rather than whatever Coalition policy currently seems popular, and above all, one that comes from verifiable truth.

He could take a leaf from Paul O’Grady’s book. In a clip on YouTube, the entertainer says: “We should be vocal in our fight against oppression. We should let them know that we are not taking these draconian cuts lightly!

“We should fight for the rights of the elderly! Of the poor! Of the sick! And of the children!”

Rapturous applause.

Labour needs more than that – but a commitment to protect those who have been most harmed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat doomsday spree would at least be a start.