A fairer society means breaking the big business stranglehold on politics

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Labour’s challenge to fight inequalities and rebuild democracy rests on addressing Britain’s ‘finance curse’

If the next Labour leader wants a fairer society, they must break the big business stranglehold on politics.

by Nick Dearden Re-posted from openDemocracy 10.09.15

In just a few weeks, the Labour leadership contest has substantially shifted the political debate in Britain, challenging the policy of austerity, raising inequality as the defining issue of our times, highlighting the erosion of democracy.

Fighting inequality and rebuilding democracy depend on breaking the stranglehold of big business and finance on politics in this country.  And this means reassessing Britain’s role in the world, because the prestige of this country is based upon London as a financial hub and a corporate HQ.

We live in an offshore centre for corporate interests, and this has not only fuelled poverty and inequality around the world, it has done so at home too.  Britain’s prestige has not translated into benefits for ordinary citizens here.  Despite this, political leaders have for decades failed to tackle the vested interests that have captured this country.

If they want to really change Britain, top of the list for the next Labour leader is the dependence of our economy on finance.  We have a ‘finance curse’, in the same way oil-rich nations can develop a ‘resource curse’.  Far from harnessing resources to build a fairer society, finance’s dominance has undercut other sectors of our economy.  Today, governments of every shade jump to the tune of finance, as we experiment in ever greater forms of deregulation, allowing the banks to transform everything we value into a derivative to be gambled on.

Britain has been captured by financial interests, which use this island to avoid taxes globally, to unsustainably inflate debt bubbles, and to speculate on the air we breathe.  There is no path to rebuilding democracy which doesn’t involve an almighty battle to ‘tame the City’ – with robust mechanisms to make companies pay their taxes internationally, levy taxes on speculation, restrict stock market listings, cancel unjust debts and reform the Corporation of London.

But finance is only the most obvious case of corporate capture in Britain.  In fact big business has a stranglehold on our politics.  On the one hand our government is aggressively pushing forward a ‘new generation’ of trade agreements like the EU-US investment deal known as TTIP.  TTIP threatens to water down social and environmental standards across the board, seeing such regulations as little more than ‘trade obstacles’.  TTIP will even give multinational corporations a special ‘right’ to sue our government for passing laws which threaten their profits.

On the other hand the British government is obstructing attempts by Latin American countries to hold multinational companies accountable for abusing real human rights, meaning that people have no access to effective legal redress for harm done to them by British-based corporations.  So far is the British state in the pocket of corporate interests that even our aid budget is used to privatise and deregulate economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Aid money is thrown at free market think tanks to privatise energy supplies; agribusiness conglomerates get a helping hand to control seed markets; education multinationals find new markets in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

The rule of multinational corporations, which places a higher value on profit than human rights, is a key factor driving inequality. Combatting inequality means the next Labour leader needs to be prepared to use the British veto in Europe to halt TTIP and its sister deals, limit the influence of multinational corporations over the UK political process, establish a commission to tackle corporate abuse of workers’ rights and environmental sustainability, and overhaul the aid budget as a form of redistributive taxation which can help countries across the world develop decent public services.

These proposals form part of a manifesto of policies which we launch today, the first step in beginning to rebuild our democracy and properly fight inequality.  It also includes reducing carbon emissions and giving substantial reparations to help developing countries build democratically-controlled energy systems in low carbon economies.  And supporting small scale, organic agriculture, rather than industrial farming.

If we really want a fairer society, there is no alternative to taking on vested interests.  We can’t just decide to exercise a ‘nicer’ form of global power, because our power is built on a base that necessarily erodes democracy.  A powerful financial sector, unfair trade practices, ideologically-driven privatisation, and many other policies, which we inflict on the world, also serve to make our own country more unequal.  So these policies must be changed not just for the millions of people around the world affected, but for the British people too.

True, it may make our country less ‘important’ at the top table, but that is a price well worth paying for a fairer world, and a happier society

This article is cross posted from Global Justice Now and appears here.

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Sickening hypocrisy exposed by the death of a child..

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“We’ll Drop Bombs On You To Help You, But We Won’t Give You An Escape Route”

by Martin Odoni   First posted 3rd September 2015

There are numerous aspects of the varied British reactions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis deserving of castigation, from the latest example of UK Independence Party foaming-mouth stupidity and intolerance, blaming the death-by-drowning of a child on the parents (how easily people of a right-leaning disposition find a case for saying that when people are in terrible trouble, it must be their own fault), to Philip Davies crassly labelling compassion for the victims of the war as being ‘trendy‘, to George Osborne rather redundantly pointing out that, in a sense, the forces of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant are what caused the death of Aylan Kurdi (great point, Gideon!  So obviously we should insist ISIL take in the refugees while we launch rockets at al-Qaryatayn.  Right?  Is that what Gideon is saying?  Actually, I really have no idea what he is saying).

The truth is, though, that plenty of others up and down the country have offered their thoughts on this ignorant mixture of excuses for sitting-on-hands, and there is little I can say that will not already have been said.

Instead, I want to focus more narrowly on the words of our ‘wannabe-Tony-Blair-clone‘ Prime Minister, David Cameron, and put them into a wider context of his conduct in office.  Yesterday, Cameron said that he did not want Britain to take in any more Syrian refugees.  Now his stance has softened somewhat since then, in a way that suggests rather maddeningly that he is simply following the crowd, and one that has been worded somewhat ambiguously; the declaration “we will fulfil our moral responsibilities” is hardly specific.

My concern here is that Cameron’s stance on Syria seems disturbingly volatile at times, and what is most disturbing is perhaps which proposed action in Syria most piques his enthusiasm; it always seems to be violence, rather than rescue, that he finds appealing.  I hope he does not imagine the people of this country are so stupid that they might forget that almost exactly two years ago, he took a motion to Parliament requesting military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  His enthusiasm for war as he spoke in that debate seemed almost fervent.  By contrast, this week he has argued that taking in refugees is not a solution to the crisis, and that only stabilising and bringing peace to Syria and the wider region can offer that.

This is both a strawman argument – no one is suggesting that taking in refugees is a solution to the crisis as a whole, it is just a way of keeping Syrian people alive until such a solution can be found – and the diametric opposite of his stance two years ago; unless you genuinely believe that you can bomb a country into peace and stability, that is.  His enthusiasm for a military ‘solution’ was such that, despite being voted down in the House of Commons, he ended up secretly authorising it anyway (a corrupt move that has seriously jeopardised Parliament’s credibility and should have made his position untenable).  But this week, his reluctance to get involved in the actual ‘rescuing-the-Syrian-people’ part of rescuing Syrian people smacks of the mindset of a casual thrill-seeker i.e. he only wants action that causes lots of exciting bright flashes of light and loud banging noises.

Admittedly, the target two years ago was the Assad regime, whereas this time the ‘enemy’, to use a simplistic shorthand, would be ISIL.  But does that really make a difference?  Either way, Cameron needed to see a picture of a dead child in order to grasp the true horror of what is happening to the fleeing Syrians, and so to find the same enthusiasm for mercy as he had previously shown for malevolence.

Rather than saving some people, he would like to kill others. It does not look like he has the right priorities.

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On a related note: –

Last night, I decided to put several photos of the tragic Aylan Kurdi up on social media.  This was not a decision I made lightly, because I knew the proliferation of the picture, which had already gone viral across Twitter and Facebook, was bound to have an intrusive, even voyeuristic, overtone at a time of grief. 

But in the end, despite having little taste for doing so, I went ahead, because I felt that there was a point that simply had to be driven home to a lot of very selfish people in Britain, and only by having the pictures as widely available as possible can that point get across; –

Quite simply, the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean has become a humanitarian disaster in its own right, rather than just an offshoot of the Syrian Civil War, and yet wide numbers of people around the UK are still buying into the preposterous ‘they’re-lazy-foreigners-here-to-live-off-our-Welfare-State’ narrative (as though people would ship their families hundreds of miles in cramped, top-heavy fishing boats just to get about a hundred pounds per fortnight).  The greedy, self-satisfied people who cling to this ridiculous view – arrived at largely by projecting their own sociopathic tendencies onto the rest of the human race – need to understand precisely the terrible risks the refugees are having to take, and the scale of the horror they are trying to escape from in doing so.  The photos of little Aylan, one of twelve victims to drown off the coast of Turkey when their boat sank, are perhaps the only evidence strong enough to break through this stubborn thick-headedness.  While I – and I am sure most others who have shared the pictures – would not wish to exploit the death of a young child, the widened awareness of the crisis could equally be seen as a way of sifting some good from what happened to him.  Given the photos appear to have swayed Cameron’s attitude somewhat, their proliferation does appear to have had a positive effect.

I, I, Me, Me, Mine . Is there Another Way?

I, I, Me, Me, Mine? Is there Another Way?

THE BEATLES LYRICS
“I Me Mine”

All through the day, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
All through the night, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Everyone’s weaving it
Coming on strong all the time
All through the day I me mine

I-I-me-me-mine, I-I-me-me-mine
I-I-me-me-mine, I-I-me-me-mine

All I can hear, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
Even those tears, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Everyone’s saying it
Flowing more freely than wine
All through the day I me mine

I-I-me-me mine, I-I-me-me mine
I-I-me-me mine, I-I-me-me mine

All I can hear, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
Even those tears, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
No-one’s frightened of playing it
Everyone’s saying it
Flowing more freely than wine
All through your life I me mine

Hand in Hand

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Hand in Hand

hand in hand

When I was growing up my Mom often spoke of the memories of her mother’s face and tears following the announcement of WW2. Nan remembered WW1 and all it meant. My unhappiness, and tearful face in 1992 having returned from the count was so evident, that my daughter, then aged 10, can remember it clearly even now. Now my daughters weep for their children. Why is the world doing this to the mothers? Or the fathers, the brothers and the sisters? Time people started supporting each other is now. No more listening to the lies about money, deficits, and banks. People matter.

Stand together, hand in hand.

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