Tag Archives: Financial Times

Financial Times gives Labour a huge boost with front page lead on life-changing policies

Plaudits to Skwawkbox for pointing out the fact that the Financial Times has shot itself in the foot with its lead story today (September 2).

The headline states that “Labour would cost companies £300bn” – implying that this is a scare story. But it continues “by shifting shares to staff”.

Brilliant news!

It’s saying that working people, who actually create the profits that the UK’s biggest firms make every day, will actually receive a dividend from those profits under a future Labour government.

That alone is a good reason to vote Labour at any future election.

No doubt the parasites will claim that the move will destabilise UK industry but this is clearly nonsense.

Working people have every right to profit – just as much as bosses and other shareholders – from the work they do.

The Financial Times (FT) has given the ‘above the fold’ half of its front page this morning to policies it presumably thinks will horrify its core readership – but which will be music to the ears of millions of voters hard-pressed under the Tories and their prioritisation, as Corbyn said in his Salford speech this morning, of ‘those who lend and speculate over those who actually make things‘.

The headline may blare about ‘costing UK companies £300bn’ – the FT’s estimate – but it goes on to say ‘by shifting shares to staff’. The article itself can’t help but elaborate a few of Labour’s groundbreaking policies and the way they would revolutionise the life of ‘the many’ in this country:

And it seems the FT digs itself further in by listing other great Labour policies:

The detail of the front-page coverage gives some key information on just a few of Labour’s game-changing policies:

  • Labour in government will give shares to workers in seven thousand of the UK’s biggest employers – entitling them to dividends of up to £500 per year as well as helping the national finances
  • Labour will introduce a right-to-buy for tenants of private landlords at affordable prices, helping to reduce the concentration of property in the hands of a few that has driven up rents and house prices under Conservative governments
  • Shifting power away from ‘bosses and landlords’ and to the people
  • Increasing productivity and long-term thinking by giving employees a meaningful stake

The timing is also hilariously inept for a newspaper trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

This week, Parliament is in crisis as Boris Johnson’s dictatorial excuse for a government tries to overrule Parliament’s sovereignty in order to push through a “no deal” Brexit that few people want.

MPs may push back, even to the point of demanding a general election.

And on the eve of such a move, the Financial Times has given us all an excellent reason to vote Labour into power.

Tony Blair may be urging Labour to vote against an election on the grounds that Jeremy Corbyn is unpopular – but he is preaching a perspective on the Labour leader that is largely created by the Tory media.

We saw similar claims evaporate during the 2017 election campaign and fearmongers and yesterday’s men like Mr Blair would be better-off keeping their mouths shut.

The message from this newspaper is clear – if not quite as intended: If a general election is possible, bring it on! Labour will walk it.

Source: FT inadvertently gives huge front-page ad to Labour as party of hope and change | The SKWAWKBOX

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Is ISDS the TTIP-ping point for Juncker?

Jean-Claude Juncker.

Jean-Claude Juncker.

This is shaping up to be a very bad week for David Cameron.

Not only is his ‘welfare reform’ plan a laughing-stock after the DWP was revealed to be posting fake tweets about Universal Credit; not only was he struck by a passing jogger when he was in Leeds to discuss the (don’t laugh) High Speed 3 project (less than a week after a man threw a bag of marbles at hime during Prime Minister’s Questions); but now…

His much-cherished plan to ‘lock in’ privatisation of National Health services in England is in jeopardy after incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced a review of the relevant part of a proposed trade agreement with the United States of America.

The decision must pile insult on top of injury for Cameron, who launched a famously lonely campaign to prevent Juncker’s appointment as president, attracting almost no support at all from his EU colleagues (only Hungary supported him) and confirming the catastrophic loss of influence the UK has suffered in the European Union under Cameron’s premiership.

Mr Juncker said the Investor-State Dispute Settlement scheme – a part of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that critics say would make it possible for corporations to sue national governments for damages if new legislation was likely to affect their profitability – would be reviewed.

In a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Juncker said: “I took note of the intense debates around investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

“My Commission will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context… There will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and States.”

He said he had taken control over the ISDS process away from Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and handed it to Frans Timmermans, the incoming, and first, Vice-President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. “There will be no investor-to-state dispute clause in TTIP if Frans does not agree with it too,” he said.

The Financial Times has reported that Juncker made his decision “largely at the behest of Germany, which has turned sour on ISDS”. This will rub salt into the recently-opened wound caused when the EU billed the UK an extra £1.7 billion for membership, based on calculations of our economic improvement (Germany is getting a rebate).

“Germany’s misgivings have in turn fed into a more generalised distemper with global trade across the EU, encompassing the French far right and fringe parties elsewhere. They claim ISDS has morphed into a tool of multinational companies that use the arbitration panels to circumvent, or even alter, national laws at their whim,” the paper reported.

This is exactly what has caused hundreds of thousands of people to complain to the European Commission after details of the TTIP proposals were leaked from secret meetings.

Even now, TTIP remains largely unreported by the mass media here in the UK, which is mainly run by right-wing, pro-privatisation moguls. Mr Juncker announced his decision in a speech on October 22 – a week ago – but the only British newspaper to report it was the FT.

For Cameron, the humiliation is just as bad, whether the media reports it or not.

This is not a victory for campaigners against ISDS or the TTIP – although Mr Juncker’s decision may discourage the United States from taking the project further. It remains as important as ever that anyone with an objection needs to make that objection known.

But it is a good sign.

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The Magical Land of Os(borne) – fantasy economics


George Osborne’s claim that his nonsense policies have magically turned the economy around, coupled with his equally-preposterous claim that the UK needs another seven years of austerity before he can balance the books – provides a fine example of the duality at the heart of Conservative economic policy.

He needs to convince you that his choices have made a difference and the nation’s fortunes are changing, but he also need to convince you that we’re in a terrible mess – or he won’t have an excuse to continue cutting more public services and selling them into the private sector so his rich friends can use them to fleece you.

The two claims are not only contradictory of each other – they are self-contradictory. The evidence shows that Osborne’s policies delayed the recovery, rather than encouraging it, and the ‘Starve The Beast’ plan he cribbed from George W Bush has long been recognised as harmful to any country’s economic health; by cutting services he is starving the economy of the liquidity that is its lifeblood.

(This is a point worth remembering: Whenever a TV news reporter says Osborne or the government want to make cuts in order to “save” money, they mean the government will be “taking money out of the economy” – which will consequently be worth less. As a result, some people will have to become poorer. Can you guess who?)

Before we congratulate Osborne in ways that are anything like as effusive as David Cameron’s endorsement earlier this week, let’s look at the facts: According to Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, in three and a half years, the UK’s economic performance has improved by just 2.2 per cent – against a prediction of 8.2 per cent by his pet Office of Budget (Ir)Responsibility. In the second quarter of 2013, Gross Domestic Product was 3.3 per cent below its pre-crisis peak and 18 per cent below its 1980-2007 trend, making this the slowest British recovery on record.

Osborne and the Conservatives point proudly to the strong increase in private-sector jobs but, as Mr Wolf states, “this is hardly something to boast about”. While employment – on paper – is at an all-time high, productivity has fallen back to the level it reached in 2005. What does this say about the quality of the jobs that are being filled? Are they high-quality, long-term, well-paid careers, or are they part-time, zero-hours, throwaway fillers? We all know the answer to that. Average wages have been cut by nine per cent, in real terms, since 2010 – and they are still falling.

Even by the standards of other crisis-hit, high-income economies, the UK’s performance has been dismal, says Mr Wolf, pointing to work by Spencer Dale and James Talbot of the Bank of England. This indicates that the Eurozone has performed just as badly – but the difference is that the Eurozone countries do not have control of every economic lever that is available to them; Britain does.

Osborne claims that high global inflation and the performance of the Eurozone have impacted on the UK; Mr Wolf’s assertion is that austerity is the reason for this disappointment – and Osborne was just as much a cheerleader for austerity in Europe as he has been for it in the UK. Furthermore, as the Labour Party pointed out in its report, “David Cameron’s out of touch, you’re out of pocket” (2013), inflation in other G7 countries has been lower than in the UK, indicating that high global prices have little to do with the problem.

“Yes, but,” says Osborne, “austerity has kept interest rates down.” Did it? Did it really? In that case, interest rates would have been kept low because of the promise (in 2010) that borrowing would be brought down by 2015. When the Coalition came to power, Osborne said he expected to borrow a total of £322 billion by 2015. In March this year, that figure had risen to £564 billion – an increase of 75 per cent! Meanwhile the deadline for the national debt to start falling has slipped from 2014-15 back to 2017-18 and the level at which the debt was expected to hit its peak has jumped from 70.3 per cent of GDP to 85.6 per cent. The deficit has been stuck at £120 billion a year for the last two financial years, despite the repeated claims that it has been cut by one-third. None of this has affected long-term interest rates and neither did the loss of the UK’s AAA credit rating in February this year.

Here’s why – as explained in an article on this site in June:

As Professor Malcolm Sawyer notes in Fiscal Austerity: The ‘cure’ which makes the patient worse (Centre for Labour and Social Studies, May 2012), “It is well-known that a government can always service debt provided that it is denominated in its own currency. At the limit the UK government can ‘print the money’ in order to service the debt: this would not take form of literally ‘printing money’ but rather the Central Bank being a willing purchaser of government debt in exchange for money.” This is what is happening at the moment. Our debt is in UK pounds, and we can always service it. Our creditors know that, so they remain happy to continue financing it.

“With interest rates at the zero bound, austerity weakened the economy relative to what might otherwise have happened,” wrote Mr Wolf.

Nobody thought recovery would never happen under austerity, merely that it would be damagingly delayed… This has been an unnecessarily protracted slump. It is good that recovery is here, though it is far too soon to tell its quality and durability. But this does not justify what remains a large unforced error.”

Looking to the future, Osborne has reacted to the new barrage of Labour policies, all of which have been carefully costed against savings in current budget areas, with a series of rushed measures that are entirely unfunded. Remember that, next time a Conservative accuses Labour of borrowing and spending!

The married couples’ allowance, worth less than £4 per week (and less than £2 if you’re on a low income) is unfunded. The promised fuel duty freeze is unfunded. These will cost more than £2 billion and no source has been identified.

And what about the £12 billion stage two of the housing ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, that Osborne rushed forward to this month?

He has pulled £14 billion out of nowhere, but still expects us to believe he will resume his stalled deficit cuts by £35 billion by 2015, £42 billion by 2017-18 and £43 billion by 2020, in order to create a budget surplus.

All the while, he is promising “improved living standards for this generation and the next”. For whom? These cuts must come from somewhere, and they mean removing a cumulative total of £120 billion from the economy each year by 2020. That has to come from somewhere.

Look at the amount by which bosses’ pay in FTSE100 companies has increased in the last three years – 32 per cent, while average worker pay has dropped by nine per cent.

Do you really think the “Have-yachts” will be paying for these cuts?

Further reading: George Osborne’s credibility gap (Alistair Darling, Guardian)

Have the Tories taken leave of their senses? (Michael Meacher, blog article)

From the DWP to the economy – the Coalition’s growing credibility chasm (Vox Political, June 2, 2013)

Treasury responds to Vox’s austerity challenge (Vox Political, May 13, 2013)