Tuesday, October 31, 2017
We won't win Leave voters over by calling them fools for believing the 350million-a-week for the NHS pledge.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Notwithstanding Theresa May’s hand in had walk with Trump and her hostility towards immigration she is clearly not a Trump. But Trump did come out of the blue. Packing of the supreme court has ensured that the normal election expenses rules that is essential to the functioning of normal democracies have been outlawed. This has ensured that elected representatives are so beholden to their donors that they have little legitimacy. The gutting of the voting rights act, the great achievement of the civil rights movement of the sixties, has opened the way to a myriad of voting suppression tactics. All it needs is to look at maps of many states with grotesque voting districts to see that crude gerrymandering of the kind that in a real democracy would result in prison terms to realize that American democracy was flawed well before Trump.
The election fraud revealed by channel four is not on the scale that is normal in the USA. But the threat to democracies today is not from crude military coups but a gradual process of democratic backsliding in which the path to authoritarian rule is taken in baby steps.
Wednesday, May 03, 2017
The truth is the reverse. The remaining EU leaders see no reason to give Britain the economic benefits of membership if she is no longer wants to be part of the political project. They would like to keep good relations with Britain. They are aware that many voters still wish to be part of the EU and even after exit there is the hope that a future government may again seek membership. But the truth is that they aren’t that bothered. If Theresa thinks that being a bloody difficult woman is a good negotiating strategy she will discover that the EU leaders will decide they have better things to do than trying to get an agreement with a British government lacking any wish to compromise. The result will be Britain crashing out to the EU with no deal. But perhaps the extreme Brexiters with their ultra free-market dogma want just such an outcome with the possibility of a zero regulation bargain basement Britain?
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
It is breathtaking how many untruths May packed into her statement calling a snap election. To take one example:
At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.
This is only a few weeks after 100,000 marched for Europe in London on the 25th of March along with many others in other parts of Britain. This is the largest show of support for the EU that there has ever been in Britain. The opposition to Brexit, on the other hand in parliament has been spineless.
Yet listening to Theresa May saying such things with such conviction it is very hard to credit that what she says is not the absolute truth. All politicians spin, they bend the truth to be more favorable to themselves and, let's be honest, so do we all. However to say things that are so divorced from reality so shamelessly is a feature of populist authoritarianism. It works because the human mid is simply overwhelmed by the size of the whopper being told. It takes a supreme effort to realize that it isn't true.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Among the many things that shows Theresa May's promise that Brexit will be fairer to be a lie is the government's to re-establish grammar schools across England. The evidence is that selective education largely benefits the better-off. Justine Greening, however, thinks that will change by moving the focus of education policy away from targeting the most disadvantaged households. Seriously? To move the focus away from the most disadvantaged who also have the least chance now is going to transform grammar schools into conveyor belts of social mobility?
But lets for a moment imagine that grammar schools could become engines of social mobility enabling the brightest and best from working class communities to reach university - what would be the result? It would mean that those communities would be deprived of of their most able members so leaving those communities less able to organize for their rights. In short greater social mobility would be at the cost of greater inequality for those who would be left behind.
But of course, grammar schools are not some Tory party to undermine working class communities by siphoning of those with the most enterprise so co-opting potential trouble makers. Instead it is a way of ensure government spending on education preferentially goes to the children of the Tory base - those already privileged.
Nonetheless it is worth keeping in mind that more grammar schools would make Britain more unfair even were they to work in the way the government claims.
Welcome to brave new Brexit-Britain.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
That such an extreme pro-corporation stance should be a selling point for Trump puts into sharp relief the extent that Trump will push the interests of those of his class rather than the downtrodden he claims to represent. It also shows the Republic Party as a whole who voted for Gorsuch unanimously to be the party not of conservatism but reaction.
But the fairer Brexit of Theresa May is just as much a lie. That Brexit will mean an assault on the rights of employees can be seen by the determination with which the government is defending the hike in fees for Employment tribunals. It is a pretty clear signal that a government which undermines the enforcement of employment rights will trash them once the Brexit Henry the 8th clause gives them carte blanche to trash those rights.
Friday, April 07, 2017
CND faced a similar problem 35 years ago and came with a number of inventive ways to their issue on the agenda. One of these was getting local authorities to declare themselves as nuclear free zones. That idea is easily adaptable to the struggle for Europe. Getting local authorities to declare themselves as EU-friendly districts (or whatever) provides a local focus for local activist groups and success would send a clear message to both the media and the local MPs. As important it would encourage fellow remainers that it is still worth fighting Brexit. Most valuable of all would be for us to win over local authorities in areas that at the time of the referendum voted leave.
Monday, April 03, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Learning the things that a EU activist needs to know about employment rights (Institute of Employment Rights meeting)
It is a pity that they don’t record their meetings as so many good points were made many of which I no longer recall.
Martin Smith began outlining the casualization of many peoples jobs. He drew attention to how the problem is far greater than normally recognized. I of course had heard of zero hours contracts but not of how many have contracts that guarantee so few hours that they might as well be on a zero hours contract. This was a key problem for us during the referendum. Not because Europe itself is to blame - as someone said later in zero-hours contracts are very much a British problem. The trouble is that telling people that Brexit risks Trades Union Rights doesn’t cut much ice with people whose jobs are so precarious that any kind of employment rights is a dead letter.
Sandy Fredman then outlined how unions uniting across borders at the Europe level had been key in gaining many rights. From on I find it difficult to recall who said what. A whole host of examples of employment rights under threat were given. This is the list of the rights (wholly or partially sent to me after the meeting proof of employment terms, protection for fixed term workers, protection for part time workers, protection for agency workers, maternity rights,parental leave, discrimination law, equal pay, health and safety, tupe (that’s basically the transfer of the rights of workers when they are transferred to a new employer), information and consultation, collective redundancy consultation, european works councils, protection of wages in event of employer insolvency. Even if they don’t all lapse immediately on Brexit many will survive only as statutory instruments (which can be removed on the whim of the government) and many rest on rulings of the European Court of Justice which Theresa May has made it her priority to remove us from.
The next speaker did bring up some things that were less comfortable for a Europhile like myself such as the Viking and Laval cases. No, I hadn’t heard of those two either before yesterday. He did concede that Trades Unions in Britain were not the most seriously harmed by them (if I remember correctly because things were already so bad that the cases didn’t make things much worse). However, my quick reading on the Laval case does make me think that the kind of solutions we need to protect both local workers and the right of free movement of people (eg insisting that wages given to migrants match locally negotiated rates) might be harder.
Then there were questions. I had a question but most of the questions were speeches so I time was quickly running out. I can’t complain - normally my questions are really speeches - this is the part of the meeting when those who are not on the platform get their say. Of course, we had a Socialist Party guy tell us what wonderful thing Brexit was and how it was a great defeat for the establishment - frankly delusional.
More typical was the guy who said he didn’t love the EU but had voted remain because of all the threats to workers rights that had been outlined by the speakers. The two who did put a for-Europe point of view (rather than simply seeing Brexit as a bad thing) were Nicola Countouris and Sandy Fredman. Nicola Countouris emphasized the positive aspects original aim of building a Federal and that this had been pressure from British governments that undermined that and the social rights that went with that. Sandy Fredman was eloquent in denouncing how “the people have decided” was both authoritarian and undemocratic.
But the meeting was then over and I never got chosen to pose my question - so I went up to the platform and asked anyway. “What do the pro-Europe groups need to take on board in relation to workers rights”. The person I asked came back with “Your group is trying to stop Brexit or just a soft Brexit?” “Stop Brexit altogether if we can - soft Brexit is plan B.”
“You should go for soft Brexit.” Having just marched with 100,000 people in largest pro-EU march there has ever been in Britain I wasn’t going to be convinced to give up on staying in Europe just yet. I knew his point of view. During the meeting he had explained that while he had voted remain he saw now prospect of the Labour party winning a general election on the basis of staying in. I don’t see any prospect of Labour winning on a pro Brexit platform which will see them losing shed loads of votes to the Lib-Dems. But what will change his mind is if he sees the pro-Europe groups showing staying power and us winning over more people to remain - not anything I might have said so I moved things back on what I knew better than I workers rights. And I get the list of key workers rights dependent on the EU that I quoted above.
But the most useful think I took away from the meeting was what someone had said earlier. The key to undercutting hostility towards migrants is sector wide negotiation of wages and conditions binding on all firms in that sector. Or to frame in our terms in which Brexit is not a done deal. It’s the key to winning people over to the value of the EUs free movement of people .