Tag Archives: ransom

Crazy: Theresa May thinks she can hold us to ransom over Brexit

Cognitive dissonance: Theresa May is acting as though her historic defeat last week never happened.

The latest stage of the slow-motion Brexit train crash has unfolded in Parliament, with Theresa May promising the Earth if only MPs will support her abysmal “deal”.

If her plan passes Parliament, she tells us, she will involve MPs, business groups and unions in the next phase of negotiations. Not only that, but she has guaranteed to strengthen workers’ rights and environmental protections post-Brexit.

Oh, and she’ll do something about the Northern Irish backstop – but it seems clear that she has no idea what that will be. She hasn’t said anything about amending the Good Friday Agreement or doing a bilateral deal with the Irish government, so it seems clear that the stories about them in the press over the weekend were fake news.

But then, it’s all a pack of lies, isn’t it?

Once she gets what she wants, she’ll do what she likes.

That is the lesson of the damp-squib attempt at a Tory rebellion in June last year, when Mrs May promised the Earth to 14 Conservatives who were threatening to vote against her Brexit plan at that time.

As soon as she had secured their support and won the vote, the government issued a statement saying, “We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the Government’s hands in the negotiations.”

Mrs May lied then and you can bet she’s lying now.

And that’s at least one reason you can’t trust what she’s saying about calls for a second referendum.

Labour has submitted an amendment to Mrs May’s Brexit update, calling for a vote on its alternative plan – or on a new referendum on a Brexit deal or proposal that manages to gain majority support in the House of Commons.

If you’re still living under a false impression that Labour doesn’t have a Brexit proposal, you’ve probably been misinformed by the Tory press, or by a Tory stooge on the radio or TV. For clarity: Labour proposes that the UK remain in a post-Brexit customs union with the EU and maintains a strong relationship with the single market. Citizens’ rights and consumer standards would be harmonised with the EU’s.

The question of the Northern Irish border would not arise as the border would remain open.

One aspect on which I’m not sure is whether Labour wants MPs to vote on a Brexit plan and carry it through, or to vote on a Brexit plan and then take it to the public in a new referendum with the other option being remaining in the EU.

It seems clear that neither option is supported by Mrs May.

She’s still saying the choice will be between her mess of a deal and “no deal”, and won’t accept any other proposals.

As for a second referendum, she seems to support the contradictory view that denying people a chance to vote is somehow upholding democracy.

Yes, we had a vote in 2016. The result was heavily influenced by extravagant claims that turned out to be lies, and by investment in the various campaign groups by foreign powers that had no right to be involved.

And now a significant number of people who were too young to vote at the time have joined the electoral register, replacing people who did vote but have since died. Don’t they get a say in a matter that will affect the course of their entire lives?

Not according to Mrs May. She said: “A second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”

You might consider that to be another lie.

A spokesperson later stated: “There is a covenant of trust between the electorate and the government of the day and the PM’s firm belief is that it is the government’s duty to act on clearly expressed wishes of the electorate and, obviously, were that not to happen, that wouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be, without consequence.”

The government of the day was, of course, David Cameron’s government of 2015-16 – not Theresa May’s government of 2017 onwards (or even her government of 2016-17); the change at the top meant a change of direction. No government can be bound by the actions of its predecessor, nor can we be expected to assume that Mrs May has done exactly as Mr Cameron would have, had he stayed in his position rather than trotting off to the continent like a squealing pig.

She’s pushing her personal Brexit at the rest of us because that is what she, personally, wants to do. It has nothing to do with democracy.

But Parliament has a chance to change all that – and, given the evidence of recent events, it seems Parliament may embrace such a change. Mrs May must be shown she cannot hold us to ransom.

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A fact-check for silly Cameron apologists

Media manipulation: The Sun, and the Scottish Sun, supported both the Conservatives and the SNP on the same day. Did it affect the results in Scotland and the rest of the UK?

Media manipulation: The Sun, and the Scottish Sun, supported both the Conservatives and the SNP on the same day. Did it affect the results in Scotland and the rest of the UK?

Here’s a piece in the New Statesman that is worth debunking straight away. Entitled 10 delusions about the Labour defeat to watch out for, it makes assertions that suggest to This Writer that it is author Ian Leslie who’s been having dodgy visions.

Let’s focus on three:

“1. THE MEDIA DID IT

“No left-wing account of this defeat will be complete without a reference to the Tory press (bonus drink for “Murdoch-controlled”) and its supposed inexorable hold over the political psyche of the nation. Funny: the day before the election everyone decided The Sun was a joke and nobody reads newspapers anyway.

“3. CLEVER TORIES

“It will be said that the Tories, in their ruthlessly efficient way, pinned the blame for austerity on Labour and Labour allowed it to stick. Clever Tories. Few will mention that the Tories were, for the most part, a hubristic and directionless shambles, divided amongst themselves, the authors of several howlingly stupid own goals that would certainly have sunk them had they not got so lucky with their opponent.

“5. THE SNP STOLE OUR VICTORY

“It is true that nobody, but nobody, foresaw the SNP tidal wave. But it’s not true that Labour would have won or even done OK without it. Labour saw a net gain of one seat from the Tories in England. One. Seat. One seat, in an election where everything favoured them. One seat, after five years of a shabby and meretricious government making unpopular decisions and a third party that virtually donated its voters to them. An epic failure.”

Firstly, nobody is blaming the media entirely for voters’ insistence on self-destructively supporting the Tories. The media helped hammer the Tory messages home, by amplifying Cameron’s statements and ignoring or vilifying Miliband’s. After a while – and in accordance with Goebbels’ (Cameron is a big fan of Goebbels) claims about The Big Lie – people start believing the claims they see most often.

This is why Conservative claims must be challenged at every opportunity from now on. Whenever a Tory puts forward a policy in the papers, on the Internet and social media or wherever, let’s try to put the questions in front of them that deflate their claims. It has been said that a lie can go around the world before the truth gets out of bed; let’s kill The Big Lie before it can get its shoes on.

Secondly, nobody This Writer knows is saying anything at all about “ruthlessly efficient” Tories. This lot are about as stupid as they come. It’s just a shame – and this was a constant problem for bloggers like Yr Obdt Srvt – that nobody in the Labour leadership saw fit to counter the silly Tory claims with a few ounces of fact. Therefore we must conclude that, not only are the Tories monumental imbeciles; most of Labour were, as well.

This is why the Conservative Party as a whole should be undermined at every opportunity. Whenever they make bold claims about their record – especially against that of the last Labour government – let’s put up a few embarrassing facts to pull the wool out from under them.

Finally, nobody but the SNP and its supporters is making any claim that the SNP’s “tidal wave” – alone – stopped Labour. As This Writer has already mentioned (and the election result was only known yesterday), the Conservative Party used the threat of an SNP surge to put fear into Middle England that “loonie-left” Labour would ally with these crazed Caledonians, to the detriment of the nation. Amazingly, people were gullible enough to believe it.

But you don’t have to take This Writer’s word for it. Here’s Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, from his latest Mainly Macro article [italics mine]:

“Why do I say Cameron is lucky? First, largely by chance (but also because other countries had been undertaking fiscal austerity), UK growth in 2014 was the highest among major economies. This statistic was played for all it was worth. Second, although (in reality) modest growth was not enough to raise real incomes, just in the nick of time oil prices fell, so real wages have now begun to rise. Third, playing the game of shutting down part of the economy so that you can boast when it starts up again is a dangerous game, and you need a bit of fortune to get it right. (Of course if there really was no plan, and the recovery was delayed through incompetence, then he is luckier still.)

“The Scottish independence referendum in September last year was close. 45% of Scots voted in September to leave the UK. One of the major push factors was the Conservative-led government. If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014, it would have been a disaster for Cameron: after all, the full title of his party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. That was his first piece of Scottish fortune. The second was that the referendum dealt a huge blow to Labour in Scotland. Labour are far from blameless here, and their support had been gradually declining, but there can be no doubt that the aftermath of the referendum lost them many Scottish seats, and therefore reduced their seat total in the UK.

“Yet that led to a third piece of luck. The SNP tidal wave in Scotland gave him one additional card he could play to his advantage: English nationalism. The wall of sound coming from the right wing press about how the SNP would hold Miliband to ransom was enough to get potential UKIP supporters to vote Conservative in sufficient numbers for him to win the election.”

While I’m not convinced about the UKIP claim (UKIP’s vote share enjoyed the largest increase of any of the parties in Thursday’s election) the rest rings true.

You have already heard an awful lot of hogwash about the reasons for the Conservative Party’s slim win. Don’t believe everything you hear.

It’s long past time that facts and evidence were reintroduced to politics.

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Searching for silver linings in the Euro election’s purple cloud

No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.

No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.

Could the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be sunk off the coast of a new, anti-federalist Europe?

It seems like a natural consequence of the election victories enjoyed by Eurosceptic and far-right parties across the continent – and one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the result.

We don’t have all the information yet, so it is impossible to be sure, but it does seem likely that people who won popular support by emphasising national sovereignty against that of the EU will be against a trade agreement that suppresses nations’ rights to make their own laws, and puts multinational corporations above countries.

Unfortunately UKIP, the British Eurosceptic party that has won 23 seats (so far), seems more likely to support the agreement that would force British workers into lowest-common-denominator working conditions and pay deals, in a betrayal of the populist promises it made to get elected.

Nigel Farage’s campaign took a leaf out of the Conservative Party’s book by hiding some of UKIP’s most unpalatable plans from the electorate; now that he has what he wants, will we see UKIP working to ensure, for example, that National Health Service privatisation is locked into British law? That would require support for TTIP.

If Farage’s party doesn’t support the controversial plan, they’ll probably stay away from the vote (as they do in most matters; UKIP has one of the worst attendance records in the European Parliament).

Of course the European Parliament doesn’t work the same way as the UK Parliament; UKIP may have won the most seats but this does not automatically hand it power – 23 UK seats is only one-third of those available, not a majority, and it will have to join a larger grouping in order to make its voice heard.

UKIP’s choices over the next few days and weeks will be crucial, as they will allow us to form opinions about how the party’s victory will affect life here in the UK.

The Eurosceptic party’s victory – the first time in more than 100 years that an election has been won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives – means the other British political parties have more soul-searching to do.

Labour came second, defying right-wing pundits on the BBC and elsewhere who were hoping to see “weird” Ed Miliband suffer. But his lead over the Tories is just 1.5 per cent – hardly a ringing endorsement.

Clearly the British people were not convinced by his offer and Labour must revise its position on Europe or prepare to lose the next general election.

A good starting-place for the Party of the Workers would be a promise to halt the flow of migrant workers from EU countries with weaker economies by pushing for a change to the rule allowing free movement between countries – ensuring that this only happens between states that have comparable economies.

This would put an end to the economic opportunism that has caused the perceived flood of migrants from the poorer countries of eastern Europe, and make it possible for British people to get better jobs, offering more working hours – and negotiate for higher pay.

It isn’t rocket science, but Labour has failed to grasp this concept. One has to wonder why. Maybe Labour is still a bit too fond of Conservative-style neoliberalism. Is that it, Ed?

Labour’s problems are nothing compared with those of the Conservative Party. David Cameron wagered that his promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, to take place in 2017, would win him the next UK general election – but this result has shown that the British people don’t believe a word of it.

Rather than be held to ransom by an over-privileged nob, they have turned to an untried party of even more hard-line right-wingers who would probably create worse problems for working Britons than even the Tories, if they were ever elected into office in Westminster.

That is the message David Cameron has to swallow today: We don’t believe him. We don’t trust him. We don’t want him.

Yet his party seems unrepentant. Prominent members have already rejected calls to strengthen the referendum offer, for example.

The loss will make Cameron more likely to seek a deal with UKIP – and one is already in the offing, if we are to believe the denials coming from other leading Tories. This would be to UKIP’s disadvantage as Farage only needs to look at Nick Clegg to see what will happen.

Clegg should be a broken man. Not only have the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged local councillors, but now he also has to face up to the fact that he has lost all but one of his party’s MEPs.

The BBC said the survival of Catherine Bearder in the South East region prevented a “humiliating wipe-out” – but isn’t the loss of no less than nine MEPs humiliating enough?

Clegg is already facing calls for his resignation amid claims that nobody wants to listen to him any more. This means the turnabout from “I agree with Nick” in 2010 is now complete. Anyone considering going into coalition with the Conservatives (Farage) should pay close attention. The British voter hates traitors.

There is one more matter arising from this result; a fact that you are not likely to hear on the mainstream media, but one that seems increasingly important, considering the demise of the Liberal Democrats.

The Green Party was fourth-placed in this election. Its 1,244,475 (so far) voters mean it had two-sevenths of UKIP’s support, while the Conservative Party – the party in power here in the UK – had only three times as many supporters.

Expect Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas to capitalise on this for all they’re worth.

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Profiteering energy firms would be stupid to believe they can hold Labour to ransom

Miliband's cost-of-living crusade starts here. [Picture: Metro - from an article in August headlined 'Energy company profits rise 74 per cent in 48 months']

Miliband’s cost-of-living crusade starts here. [Picture: Metro – from an article in August headlined ‘Energy company profits rise 74 per cent in 48 months’]

The UK’s private energy companies will be playing a very dangerous game if they think they can call Ed Miliband’s bluff on price-freezing.

According to The Guardian, Mr Miliband’s announcement that energy prices will be frozen for 20 months under a Labour government has sparked a chorus of protest from the affected firms.

In the first skirmish in the new political battle over the cost of living in the UK, Mr Miliband wants to “reset” what he sees as a “failing” energy market in which customers had paid £3.9 billion more than necessary since 2010. The measure would save families an average of £120 and businesses £1,800.

Energy firms say it would lead to blackouts similar to those seen in California. They say it will stall investment in new power stations.

Energy UK, which represents the largely foreign-owned energy firms, said: “It will… freeze the money to build new power stations, freeze the jobs of 600,000 people dependent on energy industry and [make] the prospect of energy shortages a reality.”

Here’s Centrica: “If prices were to be controlled against a backdrop of rising costs, it would simply not be economically viable for Centrica or indeed any other energy supplier to continue to operate and far less to meet their sizeable investment challenges the industry is facing.”

And Ian Peters, head of residential energy at British Gas, said: “If we have no ability to control what what we do in retail prices and wholesale prices suddenly go up within a single year that will threaten energy security.”

Labour has said the claims were “patently absurd” and “nonsense” put about by the large energy companies.

Mr Miliband said: “There’s a crisis of confidence in the system. It’s time we fixed it and they can either choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. I hope they choose to be part of the solution.”

Suppliers say prices have gone up to cover their rising environmental and social obligations and in response to commodity price rises – sums paid on wholesale markets. So let’s examine the profits made by the “big six” – British Gas, EDF, E.On, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – over the last few years (figures courtesy of the BBC): In 2009, £2.15 billion. In 2010, £2.22 billion. 2011 – £3.87 billion (a massive hike of £1,870,000,000 in a single year). And in 2012 – £3.74 billion. That’s £11.98 billion in profits over four years – a huge and unwarranted amount in these times of supposed austerity.

And let’s not forget – this is pure profit. None of that money will have been reinvested into the companies. It goes to the shareholders.

It is while sitting on such huge amounts that these companies are trying to tell us they won’t be able to afford theinvestments to which they have signed up; that they won’t be able to increase employee pay. And it is while sitting on this massive pile of cash that they are threatening us with blackouts if they aren’t allowed to continue demanding huge price rises.

Well, it won’t wash.

Doesn’t it seem more likely that, faced with threatened blackouts, Mr Miliband will choose to re-nationalise the energy firms, rather than back down?

After all, they would be reneging on their contract to provide energy to the United Kingdom. This could be just what Mr Miliband needs to bring them back under State control, where energy generation and distribution belongs. And it would show he is serious about having the strength to “stand up to powerful vested interests”.

Naysayers may point out that this would only put him back in a position of being at the unions’ mercy, instead of under the thumb of big business, but this isn’t true either – the Tories restricted the unions’ power massively back in the 1980s.

Besides, new structures have come into being since then. What if the energy companies were re-constituted as Nationalised Workers’ Co-operatives? This would entail every employee receiving a percentage of any profits – possibly along the lines of the successful John Lewis model – with the remainder ploughed back into the Treasury to reduce income tax bills.

Such an arrangement should silence any dissent among workers as they would receive two slices of the pie – a profit-driven bonus and a tax cut – while everyone else has lower energy bills, together with the tax cut.

If it were proven to be successful, then employees of the other privatised utilities could soon be queueing up to have their companies re-nationalised as well.

Membership figures prove Tories really are a minority party and neo-liberalism has failed

Land of disillusion: Another former Conservative burns his membership card. [Picture: Daily Mail!]

Land of disillusion: Another former Conservative burns his membership card. [Picture: Daily Mail!]

The Conservative Party has released details of its membership, after it was claimed that people were leaving the party in droves.

It had been suggested that membership had dropped below 100,000 and, while the figure quoted is in fact 134,000, it is still pathetically low for a party that claims to speak for a nation of 60 million.

Worse than that, it seems membership has halved under the leadership of David Cameron; in 2005, 253,600 members voted in the leadership contest between him and David Davis.

The party itself claims 174,000 members – but this includes ‘friends, non-member donors and others’ in the numbers. In other words, people who are not members of the Conservative Party – and that figure is another dumb Tory lie.

Let’s hope this puts to rest once and for all any argument against Vox Political‘s long-held position that the Conservative Party is an ever-more rightward-leaning minority interest organisation, upholding the interests of the very wealthy and working to undermine anybody from other sections of society.

Unless you are very wealthy, they cannot represent you. They do not even understand you or your concerns. They just want you to think they do.

This revelation further demonstrates the failure of the neo-liberal philosophy that has been spouted by conservatives (in all the major political parties) ever since Margaret Thatcher held up a copy of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty and said “This is what we believe now”.

Neo-liberalism has divested the Conservative Party of its popular membership. How could it have done otherwise? Its other achievements were to change this country from one that was being held to ransom by the trade unions into one that was held to ransom by the bankers and financiers, and later the collapse of the British economy.

Strangely enough, at the time of Thatcher, neo-liberalism’s only foothold was in Chile – where the economy also crashed.

Neo-liberalism is over. As Michael Meacher put it in a recent blog article “That world is now broken beyond repair. Yet that hasn’t stopped the political and economic establishments of all parties from striving mightily to restore it. But that is not only impossible, it’s also irrational.

“The world economy was growing at about 3% a year per capita in the ‘bad old days’ of widespread regulation and ‘punitive’ taxation for the rich in the 1960-70s, but in the last 30 years when unfettered markets dominated it has grown at only half that rate. In Britain the average annual per capita income growth in the 1960-70s was 2.4% when the country was allegedly suffering from the ‘British disease’, but since 1990 after Thatcher had supposedly cured the country of the disease and fought heroic struggles in the 1980s, income growth even before the crash has fallen to just 1.7% a year. The decade and a half of uninterrupted growth, low and stable inflation, and falling unemployment after 1992 was not, we now know, a sign of the magic of neoliberal doctrines, but rather of their deeply flawed dependence on consumption-driven boom and bust. On every other key criterion too – competitiveness, inequalities of wealth, economic imbalances, and social and environmental standards – Britain fared much worse in the 30 years following the Thatcherite counter-insurgency after 1980 than in the 30 years of managed capitalism that preceded it.”

Now, you won’t see any of the mainstream media agreeing with this viewpoint – they’ll adhere to the outdated 1980s Gordon Gecko “Greed is good” mentality just as long as they can – but the longer any of us holds onto this mentality, the worse it will be for us all.

Let’s bear that in mind while the news is full of the major party conferences.