Wednesday, 28 September 2016

If rebel Labour MPs continue to defy leadership, constituency parties are bound to move to deselection

A simple question for the Guardian's  Polly Toynbee (27/9) is if not de-selection, what should happen to Labour MPs who repeatedly refuse to abide by the will of the membership regarding who leads the party?

The discontents behind the ill fated coup have been plotting to overthrow Corbyn ever since he was first elected last year. It has been this simmering civil war – mainly based at Westminster – that has partly delayed the rolling out of thought out and costed policies.

If the coup backers genuinely do unite and get behind the leader now well and good but many made it crystal clear during the leadership contest that if Corbyn won a second time they still would not accept his leadership.
What to do – put up with another 12 months of infighting culminating in another leadership challenge? No the coup backing MPs need to be put on notice, they either fall in line or they are out. And the decision let’s remember comes from the local constituency, where the members – the majority of whom backed Corbyn – could grow a little tired of tramping the streets come election time to get MPs elected who then ensure by their conduct that Labour will never become a government

Sunday, 25 September 2016

West Ham trounced 3-0 by Southampton

The West Ham defensive horror show continued with this comprehensive home defeat against Southampton.

The home side began in confident style but as with previous games, this quickly evaporated, allowing Southampton to slice through the rear guard, often at will.

The first major incision saw Dusan Tadic knock a ball inside makeshift right back Havard Nordtveit, which was picked up by the overlapping left back Ryan Bertrand, who pulled the ball back for Charlie Austen to sweep home his fifth goal in four games.

The ever dangerous Nathan Redmond then saw his effort saved with his feet by Adrian at point blank range.

Things got worse for the Hammers after the break, when Austin fed Tadic through the middle, who slid the ball under the advancing Adrian.

The nature of the game was reflected by the fact that Adrian was the home team’s man of the match, single handedly thwarting Southampton on a number of occasions.

A bit more urgency from West Ham in the last 20 minutes saw a clear penalty denied to Sofiane Feghouli, whose shot was handled.

A quiet Dimitri Payet then swept a shot wide whilst a shot from Simone Zaza was cleared off the line by Virgil van Dijk.

Southampton though were not finished. Two minutes into injury time, Redmond played Steven Davis in down the line, who crossed for substitute James Ward Prowse to finish with aplomb.

A downcast West Ham manager Slaven Bilic identified the team’s problem as a collective lack of confidence. “It is my team and my responsibility,” said Bilic, who underlined that this is pretty much the same team that did so well last season. “We can solve this, it is four games now – we have to change this now big time.”.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Pointing the finger - how media coverage of immigration led to Brexit vote and violence on the streets

“Lurid immigration front pages sell papers,” said a fellow journalist, who had just joined the Daily Express City desk. This was many years ago, when the journalist in question responded to my question as to how he could join such a newspaper at a time, when it seemed to be running as many front page asylum scare stories as it could get away with. The response was dispiriting, namely that every time an asylum front page was run, sales increased. The argument was difficult to refute in economic terms but when it comes to the other roles of the media such as to educate and inform, it represented a clear failure.
As a country that has just voted to leave the EU, perhaps primarily on the premise of the need to reduce immigration, it can be argued that Britain has reaped what it has sown. The consequences could be dire for a country that has skill shortages in vital areas and a rapidly ageing population, so needs a significant inflow of migrant labour every year to retain present standards of living. But this positive side of immigration has failed to register in the public consciousness as a result of the way in which the subject has been covered in the media.
Politicians should take some of the responsibility for failing to tell a positive story about the benefits. The government’s own figures show that net migration of 250,000 a year boosts annual GDP by 0.5%. This growth means more jobs, higher tax revenues, more funding for schools and hospitals and a lower deficit. Many of the jobs created over recent years have been done by migrants, with figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that three quarters of employment growth for the year to August 2015 being accounted for by non-UK citizens. So the economic boom, pre Brexit vote, was largely migrant driven.

Migrants tend to be younger, contributing more tax revenue than they consume in public services, and the majority leave before they get older when they would become more reliant.

According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, migrants contribute 64% more in taxes than they take out in benefits. A study by University College London found that EU migrants made a net contribution of £20 billion to UK finances between 2000 and 2011

A large part of the migrant population of recent years have been students coming to study. A study for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that since 2011, students had contributed more than £14 billion to the economy. 
Let’s not claim everything is positive. Successive governments allowed migrants from the EU accession countries to come into the UK in the early part of the century with little control. There were no minimum standards of pay, terms or conditions of work, so migrant labour could come in and undercut the indigenous workforce. The failure to set and enforce minimum standards meant that migration effectively became an incomes policy to keep wages down. This bred resentment in many areas of the country.  Revenues being generated from the migrant workforce should have been used for public services, including importantly housing provision.
Nevertheless, the overall effect has surely been positive, a view you won’t have much in our media, determined as it seems to be to present a totally negative view of migration.

So many tabloid papers will put the fact that a migrant has committed some crime up on the front page, sending a subliminal message that migrant equals criminal. There is little balancing good news about net tax revenues, diversity, contributions to our health, education and social services, As a result, many of the readers have a totally negative view of immigrants.

The disconnect was well illustrated during the EU referendum campaign, when BBC home affairs editor Mark Easton got together a group of old and young voters in Eastbourne.  The concern of many in the older group was migration, yet they live in a town where the care homes, hospitals and social services are propped up by migrant labour. 

We've also seen hostility to migrants in areas where few actually live. Clacton elected UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, on that parties anti-migrant ticket, yet levels of migrant workers in that town are low. Comparatively, in London, where many of the migrant workers who come to the UK to live and work, anti-migrant sentiment is lower.

The result of a public debate on immigration driven by a media trying to sell copies has been to poison the public well. The starting point for any public discussion has been the reduction of numbers. Success on migration is apparently to be judged on how many migrants can be stopped.

The Conservative government has not helped matters, setting unachievable targets of cutting migration to the 10,000s, then palpably failing to get anywhere near that target.

The only way migration will decline is if the economy plunges into recession because then there will not be the jobs available in the UK for migrants to come here to do. That is where another one of our media myths kicks in. The misrepresentation of the immigration question has led to a public perception that migrants come here to get benefits. The reality is that most come here to work.

If there is no work because the British economy has bombed then there will be fewer migrants –presumably to the satisfaction of the press .

Those of us who work in the media have to question our role in failing to represent a balanced and informative picture on migration. Newspapers, particularly at the tabloid end of the market, have helped build the anti-migrant atmosphere that exploded following the EU vote to leave. Broadcast media have also played their part, adopting the anti-migrant lexicon for its coverage also. The wobbling lid that has been kept on anti-migrant racism over recent years has blown off revealing a particularly ugly side of society.  Some responsibility for much of the violent racist incidents seen on our streets resides in the editor’s offices.
Now we must repel that anti-migrant racism. One way is to start telling a more positive story about migrants, not the simple lopsided hysterical view that may sell papers but also has pernicious consequences.. It is late to be making these moves, with the racist genie already out of the bottle, but a start has to be made, otherwise we will all be staring into a particularly unpleasant abyss.

*published in British Journalism Review - September 2016

Monday, 19 September 2016

How ironic if in order to take back control over our own sovereignty, by leaving the EU, the government denies Parliament a say on the triggering of Article 50

The government it seems is reluctant to concede that there has to be a Parliamentary debate and vote before Article 50, triggering UK exit from the EU, can take place.

The House of Lords constitutional committee has advised that there must be consultation and the approval of Parliament for such a move.

Otherwise the executive could start bypassing Parliament routinely via referenda – and that way lies dictatorship.

But how ironic that the government should even be contesting the view that Parliament must have the final say on exit from the EU – after all was it not the claim of the victorious leave campaign that we needed to take back control and that sovereignty of Parliament was one of the things being lost to the EU? How ironic if in order to exit the EU, the executive seeks to bypass the very body where sovereignty resides in this country.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Good to hear Corbyn plans inclusive Cabinet post election victory

It is good to learn from John McDonnell that upon Jeremy Corbyn's re-election as leader of the party some of those who have stood down will be prepared to return to the shadow Cabinet. This will certainly help clarify things for some of the media, who act as though certain former shadow cabinet members never did stand down.
Take Lucy Powell, formerly shadow education spokesperson, who stood down from the shadow Cabinet at the time of the failed coup. Who would think it seeing Lucy now appearing across the media commenting on the grammar schools story. Or Hilary Benn, former shadow foreign secretary, who popped up on Newsnight recently, to comment on an arms sales story.
Some might even suspect a mainstream media plot to further undermine Corbyn's front bench team..but surely not, they must know better .. afterall the same media outlets gave such huge coverage to the choreographed resignations of so many of these individuals post referendum vote. 
*published in Morning Star - 17/9/2016

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Providence bonds collapse, just 18 months after Secured Energy Bonds raises the question as to how many more investors must lose their money before the regulator will act on mini-bonds?

Providence bonds have become the latest mini-bond product to collapse, potentially leaving some 800 investors cumulatively £8 million out of pocket.

Sound familiar, well 18 months ago, some 900 investors in the Secured Energy Plc minibonds learned the news that that company had gone into administration, costing them a potential £7.5 million.

There are a number of parallels between these two financial disasters – i) many investors have holdings in both SEB and Providence Bonds, so have been hit twice over.

ii) Independent Portfolio Managers were playing the role of security trustee on both bonds, supposedly looking after investor interests.

There are a lot of angry investors out there wondering why regulators have just sat by, letting their money disappear into these faulty investment vehicles.

Some wonder where it is all going to end, with savers being forced toward ever riskier products to try to secure a return.

My own gripe with the Providence Bond was with IPM, which last year contacted me promoting the second Providence Bond paying 7.5% over four years. Thankfully I did not invest.

I complained to IPM about being contacted and later raised the issue in my complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

Surely, something has to happen to remedy this situation, there are now 100s of people out of pocket courtesy of these bogus mini-bonds. How can the regulator just sit there and let it happen. Will they adopt the same approach to the Providence bond holders, as SEB – many of whom are caught up in both mini-bonds? It must be time for those in government and the regulatory authorities to act, not just sit on their hands, letting unscrupulous people relieve growing numbers of people of their hard earned savings.

see -

Saturday, 10 September 2016

West Ham comprehensively beaten 2-4 after being in control

West Ham 2-4 Watford

A shell shocked Slavin Bilic was struggling to take in how his team had gone from two up and coasting to lose this game four two.

The West Ham manager said that it was hard to explain the defensive display. “We had a good 40 minutes, controlling the game and two up. But you can’t concede those type of goals –especially the second one,” said Bilic, who conceded that if his team defended like they did in this game they won’t win many this season.

Things had started so brightly for the home team, with talisman Dimitri Payet back in a team that looked much more like the side that was pressing for a top four place for so much of last season.

There was only five minutes on the clock when Payet knocked over a corner which Michail Antonio rose to direct his header into the right hand corner of the net.

The inform striker then made it four in four games in the 33rd minute when Payet again picked him out coming in at the far post to head home.

The warning signs though were already there, Odion Ighalo having squandered two gilt edge chances- the first going wide the second bringing a point blank save out of home stopper Adrian.

The tide began to turn in the 41st minute, when, Ighalo finished a slick move down the left involving Jose Holebas and and Etienne Capoue.

The equalising goal came courtesy of a mix up between Adrian and defender James Collins who nodded the ball past the keeper as he came out to collect. Troy Deeney picked up the bal and expertly chipped over the retreating keeper into the net.

Home fans expected a rally in the second half but it never came, instead  Capoue gave the Hornets the lead as he rifled home on the left of the area.

Holebas then finished off another move down the left involving Behrami and Ighalo.

Bilic rang the changes bringing on strikets Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher but to no effect.

The West Ham manager must be worried about the way his side capitulated and failed to find their way back into a game they had so dominated.

Watford boss Walter Massari became  latest manager to leave the new London stadium with a beaming smile on his face. “I’m very happy to have a win,” said Massari.

*published morning star - 12/9/2016

Monday, 5 September 2016

Irish government's reluctance to tax Apple exposes the power of the corporations and it is they that really govern the world

The fact that the Irish goverment does not want to take more tax from Apple for fear it might relocate underlines that it is the corporations that now run the world-not nation states. Worryingly, these corporation are accountable to virtually no one, other than share holders, whose main interest is the maximisaton of profit.
The other recent example of a rail company making rail profits, then one of its subsidiary parts being awarded £20 million for appalling service over recent months, provides further evidence of the power of the corporation.
The phrase going to hell in a handcart springs to mind.

*published in I on 6/9/2016