Friday, 30 October 2015

Will Lords help out on blocking Trade Union Bill?

If the Tories want to cut tax credits but raise the wages of the low paid by implementing the living wage, why the hostility to trade unions?Stronger trade unions will see more money filtering down to the low paid. The Trade Union Bill threatens to neuter unions, maybe the Lords can help on this one as well.
published Evening Standard - 29/10/2015

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Government approach to tax credits and foodbanks ensures only a wider circle of poverty

Where is the logic to the government's approach to poverty? We learn that Iain Duncan Smith is putting jobs advisers into foodbanks, where 25% of those attending are already in low paid jobs. No doubt many of these people will become more dependent on the food banks when the government takes away their tax credits. Then there will be those at present surviving but now forced into foodbanks because their tax credits are to be taken away. Duncan Smith and George Osborne seem only interested in creating an ever larger vicious poverty circle involving low pay and tax credits requiring relief via foodbank charity.

- published in Independent - 31/10/2015/ Metro - 2/11/2015 /Guardian & Morning Star - 3/11/2015

Monday, 26 October 2015

Game of two dramas - one on pitch the other not - West Ham 2-1 Chelsea

This was a game of two dramas, one on the pitch, the other a sideshow in the stands involving Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

The drama on the pitch concerned a pulsating match that took many twists and turns, including the sending off of Nemanja Matic in the 44th minute and a disallowed offside goal two minutes earlier.

These decisions caused the bench to erupt, first assistant coach, Silvino Loro  was  sent to the stands, then Mourinho was also sent off after making comments to referee Jonathan Moss at half time.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic stressed that it was the sending off of Matic that had the biggest impact, he was afterall involved on the field of play. “I feel for Mourinho, a lot of the decisions have gone against his team this season,” said Bilic, who nonetheless was delighted with the performance of his own team. “It is brilliant to win against the Champions, unbelievable. There is nothing wrong with admitting we’re doing good, playing well and deserved to win,” said Bilic.

West Ham began the game brightly with Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lazini a constant threat. Payet signalled his intent in the 16th minute with a dipping free kick that Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic did well to tip over the bar. But it was only to be temporary respite, as a minute later Payet sent a corner over that fell to Mauro Zarate on the edge of the penalty area to drive home.

Chelsea came back with Willian seeing his free kick pushed aside by West Ham keeper Adrian. Another exsquisite piece of skill from Payet saw a back flick send Lanzini clear but he clipped his shot over the bar.

There then came the controversy with Matic first booked for a foul on Cheikhou Kouyate, then sent off when he scythed down Diafra Sakho.

The disallowed Cesc Fabregas goal and a ball scrambled off the line by West Ham when some thought it over helped fuel the off field drama.

In the second half, Chelsea came back strongly, controlling the game, despite being a man down. This dominance was rewarded 10 minutes into the half when a cross reached Gary Cahill who powered home.

West Ham though were not to be denied, getting back control that finally saw them regain the lead. This time it was a cross from full back Aaron Creswell that was met by substitute Andy Carroll rising at the near post to head home.

Bilic was full of praise for the big striker, explaining how the club are managing his fitness over the long term, so as hopefully to avoid injury. If he stays fit, Bilic believes Carroll with be a big benefit for West Ham and England.

Mourinho, meantime, disappeared without addressing the press.  

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Why the Tory government gets on so well with the Chinese

The burgeoning special relationship between the Conservative government and China makes a good deal of sense when viewed in the wider context. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already let slip that the Chinese economy - with its reliance on low paid labour - is the model he would like to see being adopted in Britain. The policies put in place by George Osborne under the aegis of anti-austerity mark out in embryonic form the creation of just such an economy here. 
The lack of concern over the human rights position can be also understood, given that Britain morphes ever closer to the China’s authoritarian model of society. So we see the attack on trade unions via the likes of the Trade Union Bill and the taking away of other basic human rights on the altar of the so called fight against terrorism.  
The lack of concern for the role of China in terms of dumping steel on world markets, thereby making the British steel industry redundant, can also be understood in terms of what drives this Conservative government. It represents a very narrow strand of finance capital, as far as it is concerned little else matters. 

None of which ofcourse explains why the government is prepared to allow China to operate a nuclear power station in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Breakthrough for investors seeking justice over Secured Energy Bonds scam

There have been some encouraging signs of progress, with the Government and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), for investors embroiled in the Secured Energy Bonds (SEB) scam that saw most the funds invested disappear before being used to put solar panels on schools.

Some 973 investors were left high and dry earlier in the year when SEB plc went into administration, after Australian parent CBD Energy siphoned off more than £5 million of the initial £7.5 million investment intended to put solar panels on 22 schools.

It is reported that six schools were fitted with panels but administrators Grant Thornton have been unable to provide more detail on these installations.

The latest break for investors came when Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell put down a Parliamentary question asking “the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the FCA acts to prevent companies from fraudulently using capital raised from selling ring-fenced bonds to bail out poorly performing parent companies.”

More than 69 Mps have now been contacted by investors, many have written to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has mainly referred people onto the FOS.

This line of approach begins with complaints lodged by investors in the first instance to Independent Portfolio Managers (IPM), for its failure to safeguard investors interests and ensure accurate information was provided at the outset, despite being mandated to fulfil such a role as “the security trustee.”
To date IPM are turning down investors claims, leaving them to move on to the FOS to adjudicate.

There have though been recent encouraging developments, with early indications that the FOS will be taking the complaints on. What is more the FOS have made clear that investors need not now go first to IPM but can take their complaint direct to them.

A number of investors have also reported the losses to the police via Action Fraud. They await a response from the police. 
Meanwhile, as more MPs become involved in the process, questions are increasingly being asked of government and the regulators as to just what they are going to do to ensure that investors are fully compensated for their losses.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Central line in meltdown - how much longer?

How much longer is the chaos on the Central Line going to continue? The reason for the situation became abundantly clear on Tuesday of this week when it was announced in the rush hour that there were "delays on central line due to lack of available trains." Too many people, too few trains.
The service even by the very low standards of the Central Line has over recent months been totally unacceptable. People have been crammed into trains that come along intermittently. The overcrowding causes people to get ill, pull the emergency handle and then more delays. The train schedulers might then add to the chaos a bit more by delaying trains allegedly "to regulate the service."Trains get backed up and more people get ill. The whole thing is in meltdown - if something is not done to improve the Central Line, someone will be taken seriously ill or worse- when this happens the responsibility make no mistake will lie with Transport for London and ultimately the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

- published - Ilford Recorder - 15/10/2015

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Film Suffragette offers fascinating glimpse of womens struggle for the vote

Suffragette offers a fascinating snapshot of the struggle of women to obtain the vote.
The film shows the oppression suffered in the workplace and at home due to the disempowerment of women in society.
The story of struggle follows the lines of many conflicts in the UK over the years. Patient appeals using the Parliamentary process falling on deaf ears, leaving those seeking justice only the streets and direct protest as their option. The suffragette line as depicted in the film was one of violent actions undertaken for a period.
The shorthand simplification of the story sees the goals achieved, following the death of Emily Wilding Davison under the King’s horse at the Derby in 1913.
The struggle for the vote in reality continued a lot longer through the First World War till 1928 before all women were enfranchised. The principle was conceded in 1918, when women over 30 with a property qualification were allowed the vote.
The film offers a snapshot of politicisation of a number of women from differing backgrounds and their struggle against injustice. Emmeline Pankhurst played by Meryl Streep makes a fleeting appearance to deliver an inspiring speech. There is no delving into the politics of the movement, with the divisions between Emmeline and Cristabel on the one side and Sylvia Pankhurst on the other.
Sylvia was much more of the labour movement, working with working class women on the ground. Emmeline and Cristabel supported the First World War and the Tories, whilst pushing for a far more elitist approach to the struggle for the vote. But this would be a very different type of film to make.
Suffragettes presents the injustice of the inequality women suffered in a straightforward way, easy to understand with resonance for the present day ongoing injustices.  

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Will of people ignored over closure of Wanstead Hospital Wards

The most amazing thing about the ongoing destruction of the Heronwood and Galleon wards at Wanstead Hospital is the blatant denial of the democratic will of the people. If members of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CGC) and Redbridge Council came out of their ivory towers for a moment and actually spoke to real people on the streets of Wanstead and the surrounding area they would find strong support for the retention of the services at Wanstead Hospital. As someone who has stood out on the high street over recent weeks collecting signatures to try to get Redbridge Council to do what they should have done months ago, namely refer the decision to close the wards to the Secretary of State, I have been struck by just how many stories there are from people who have been helped by the hospital. There is a fierce loyalty to the wards, born of the excellent treatment people have received down the generations. There was never a problem getting signatures to oppose the closure, people simply flocked to sign the forms. Not one person to my knowledge actually came up and said I favour shutting these facilities and moving the service miles away. But despite these clear expressions of concern the CCG and Redbridge Council have continued to ignore the popular will. It is not too late ofcourse to bow to public opinion and halt this ill thought out decision. The local people would respect councillors and CCG members if they reconsidered the move and restored services, failure to do so will simply breed further contempt.

* published in the Wanstead Guardian/ Ilford Recorder - 7/10/2015

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wit and wisdom of Denis Healey

It was sad to see the passing of Denis Healey at the age of 98. I remember seeing him at the Irish embassy Christmas and St Pats do s over recent years - hardly recognisable until that booming voice rang out and then the eyebrows slotted into place. Famed as a right wing member of the Labour Party, he would be far to the left of many in the Parliamentary Labour Party today.
Healey spent much of his retirement at his home in Alfriston, near Eastbourne in Sussex. He talked of the need for a hinterland beyond politics - he was fond of music, poetry and photography. No one should be one dimensional.
Remembered for his role on the political stage there were many examples of his brilliant wit in the House of Commons chamber. He had some great barbs directed at Margaret Thatcher, such as when he accused her of "adding the diplomacy of Alf Garnett to the economics of Arthur Daley." 
He also described her as "la pasionaria of middle class privelige" and comparing her to Florence Nightingale  declared "She stalks through the wards of our hospital as the lady with the lamp. Unfortunately it's a blow lamp."
On being attacked by Tory Chancellor Geoffrey Howe he likened it to "being savaged by a dead sheep."
A great wit, ranconteur and politician, the like of whom we are unlikely to see again.

If Theresa May wants to integrate migrants she should be seeking to strengthen trade unions and implement a living wage

Theresa May's speech flew totally in the face of the economic reality of immigration. Britain has a rapidly ageing population and needs all the migrants it can get. If May is concerned about low pay and migrants undercutting indigenous workers wages and conditions there are two measures that can be taken to remedy the situation. First, raise the minimum wage to living wage level and vigorously enforce it, second, strengthen trade unions and get the incoming workers to join up. Not only would this stop the undercutting of wages and promote community cohesion but it would also mean that May's Tories could really call themselves the party of working people. Win win surely?

* published in the I and Evening Standard - 8/10/2015

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Jeremy Corbyn’s way of doing politics is exposing just how banal and stale the approach of the political class and its supine media has become

What the whole Jeremy Corbyn approach has demonstrated most aptly is just how false and pretentious the “normal” way of doing politics has become. Corbyn says what he thinks and acts according to his principles. He treats party members and the public with respect, regarding them as fellow intelligent grown up people. He has been pretty much unspun.
The Labour Party Conference was a success because it was not prescripted like some Hollywood movie. Corbyn and John McDonnell spoke to people like adults. They received acclaim but neither felt the need to roll out their wife or partner in some fawning role.
Whilst the media tried to pour scorn on Corbyn’s speech, it was reported that another 2,000 people joined the party after delivery. There must be a real worry for the establishment parties that the Corbyn appeal that brought so many into the party and his eventual victory will reach out to the public beyond.
It may have resonance amongst the people who didn’t vote (all 33% of them) and those who think it a disgrace that a million plus go to foodbanks in a country that hosts 130 plus billionaires. Or that 100,000s of properties lie empty, whilst so many have nowhere to live.

The political establishment and its media have certainly done their best to discredit Corbyn. The childish abuse, the attempts to make not singing the National Anthem into some sort of capital offence. The digging up of quotes from years ago about Ireland to beat Corbyn and McDonnell over the head about. (Both men, together with Ken Livingstone, played significant roles in laying the ground for the peace process.) The constant resorting to the neo-liberal orthodoxies, that brought the crash of 2008, and have since played such a part in making the most poor and vulnerable pay for that crisis, as some sort of one true way.

What must be striking more and more people in the wider electorate is just how much those in the political establishment and media class have in common with each other rather that the mass of people they purport to represent. They reflect power and power relations. They are happy with things the way they are, so continue to defend the status quo.

Corbyn represents a breath of fresh air, a new way of doing politics with  policies based in social justice. If the commentariat and Westminster village ever get past banality when it comes to what Corbyn and co are talking about, they will realise it represents a new way forward. A way that values people over profit, respects neighbours whether in the next street or next country. A path based on peace and peace making. It is also about community, caring for one another. A way that recognises the need to address the threat of climate change and poverty. And whatever the future might hold, Jeremy Corbyn deserves credit for putting these values back on the political agenda.