Monday, 30 April 2012
An intriguing and revealing article by Christopher Booker appeared in the Sunday Telegraph – it is a ‘must read’ for any of the majority who are against our membership of the EU and who cannot understand why we are members and why, in recent years, there has never been the referendum that the vast majority have wanted.
The article, which does not need further explanation, concerns a confidential memorandum from 1971 [FCO 30/1048] headed ‘Sovereignty and the Community’ and explains how our political masters planned our entry and continued membership of the EU in the full knowledge that this would be against the will of the people.
If you are interested in a more forensic investigation, Richard North’s coverage on his EUReferendum site is to be recommended.
Saturday, 28 April 2012
It is easy to see how George Galloway achieved success recently at Bradford West. His description of Murdoch as the Sun King, to which various prime ministers paid homage, was both clever and appropriate. With regard to Murdoch’s attempt to buy the remaing shares in BSkyB, his comment that capitalists cannot be blamed if they try to take every advantage when negotiating a deal, will also reinforce the concern that many have about the executives of global corporations influencing the actions of governments both here and elsewhere.
On the issue of Jeremy Hunt’s special advisor resigning because of the favourable treatment News International received during the negotiations and how this was just a distraction, Benedict Brogan’s, of the Telegraph, phrase that ‘If the PM is the organ grinder, then the SpAd [special advisor] is the monkey’s monkey’ hits the nail on the head.
Returning to Galloway’s condemnation of capitalism and the broader issue of powerful corporate executives influence on governments, Emily Allen provides an all inclusive summary of Murdoch’s stance, at the Leveson Enquiry, on these issues in the Mail.
Clearly newspapers with a large circulation, like the Sun, is going to have a significant influence on its readership with regard to their view of the opposing parties at a general election, but Murdoch’s influence is wider than this as he also owns the Times. However, these together may not have as much influence as Sky News, whose audience can reach more than nine million – three times the circulation of the Sun – on days when there are events of special interest.
That News International provides the news to such a large share of the UK electorate cannot be healthy for a democracy and the ruling principles need to be thoroughly reviewed, but the hacking of public officials telephones and bribery of the police, that led to the Leveson Enquiry has far more serious ramifications.
It is one thing for a newspaper proprietor to unduly influence the outcome of a general election, because they have too greater share of the total news output, but once private details of public servants activities, which is bound to include politicians, is also in its hands – an extremely dangerous situation arises.
Murdoch may rightly claim that these illegal operations do uncover information that reveal government wrong doing, however, how do we know to what extent he holds, career ruining, information on senior UK politicians – although Max Mosley is trying to open the door to these dark secrets? The fact that so many celebrities were not prepared to make their experiences of phone hacking known, but preferred, instead, a private settlement, gives some idea of the kind of material that was being collected – material that would just be embarrassing for a celebrity – but career ending for a politician, public official or senior police officer.
The extent of the influence this information might well provide Murdoch may have led to him dictating the actions of governments for many years – we simply are unlikely never to know. If it should be the case it makes our already diminishing democracy nothing less than a farce and provides yet another powerful reason for the people to be directly involved in many of the decisions made by governments – if any more reason is needed!
Monday, 23 April 2012
There is concern within the political class that the proposal to elect members to the House of Lords will create a conflict over primacy between the two Houses. This problem does not exist at present because MPs are elected by the people, whereas the Lords are appointed or achieve there membership through the hereditary principle.
The existing order implies that, as a democracy, it is the people who are of greatest import.
The Independent reports that a parliamentary committee has recommended that there should be a referendum on a change in the make up of the House of Lords. The proposal, to have 80% elected and 20% appointed, seems to be supported by Cameron, if not by Clegg.
Although the change might seem a step forward, is it sufficiently different to create a much needed ‘wind of change’ at Westminster? Although, no doubt, there would be some celebrities who will stand and be elected, it will be, in the main, the party’s election machines that will ensure the Lords is dominated by the existing political class.
Considering some of the unpopular and/or contorted policies implemented in recent times, surely some checks need to be applied to the acts of the party in power.
Perhaps the most outrageous was Blair’s agreement to support Bush’s plan to invade Iraq. The ‘Dodgy Dossier‘, that Alastair Campbell had produced, claimed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them – this convinced the majority that the war was necessary – although subsequent events have proved this not to be the case.
It was also Blair who chose to significantly increase the number of immigrants allowed into the country. Apart from the very clear problems this has caused through a clash of cultures, particularly Muslims whose faith is not simply a religion, but also a political system, it will also cause the population to increase more rapidly because the birth rate of, again the Muslims, will ensure poor housing, increased pressure on schools and the health serve.
The overwhelming disadvantage of this policy, however, is likely to be feeding so many extra people. Presently we can feed only 50% of the population, this will reduce as the population increases. Already we are seeing large global corporations controlling increasingly large proportions of the commodity market which is causing prices to rise. As these corporations gain larger shares, there is no doubt that prices will steadily increase – for that is the purpose of trying to gain a monopoly.
We may be concerned that the price of oil continues to rise, but does not seem to fall when there is a glut because we are now a net importer of oil. However, there are replacements for oil – there are none for food!
Perhaps the most undemocratic act by a government in recent times was Brown’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. At the time 80% wanted a referendum on the matter and polls showed that more than two thirds did not want the Treaty signed. This has led to additional major costs being incurred by the UK, apart from the steady stream of legislation from the EU that increasingly binds the UK governments from taking the actions they would choose.
Devolution has proved to be yet another policy that has had huge impact and has seriously disadvantaged the English in comparison to the Scots. Blair did offer regional government in England, but it was a second rate proposal that he only half-heartedly pursued. Cameron, rather than seeking to be even-handed has tried to rush to a settlement aimed at preventing the Scots from leaving the Union with no attempt to provide England with its own Parliament to provide equality. This imbalance has caused a rising tide of discontent within the English and is bound to lead to future conflict.
Although devolution was started by Blair and is being further corrupted by Cameron, he alone started the process of privatising the Health Service – against the will of the people. This along with the plan to lower the rate of tax for the highest paid along with many other, poorly thought through, policies within the context of austerity has shown that the Coalition government are equally prepared to introduce policies unwanted by the people.
What these policies demonstrate is that any changes made to the Lords must include a method by which the people are included in controversial plans. The most obvious way to do this, and to resolve the issue of primacy with elected Lords, is to provide for the calling of a referendum by the Lords where to two houses could not agree.
Now that more than 70% are connected to the internet, and it is considered sufficiently secure for internet banking, referendums need not be expensive or long drawn out affairs. Provided that public internet connections are provided to those who do not have this service. The internet could also be used to ensure that MPs vote in accordance with the wishes of the people who they purport to represent, rather than their party leader, on key issues as referendums could be easily run within each constituency. For surely the concept of representative democracy, as presently operated, is the greatest abuse of true democracy.
Presently the political class argue that any direct involvement of the people in the political process is pointless because of low turnout rates for other elections. However, whilst more than 60% believe that their elected representative persistently lie and that it make no difference what the people want – the politicians will do what benefits them, Murdoch or their main financial donors – is it any wonder that people do not feel bothered to vote?
As demonstrated by the French, who had a turnout of more than 80% in the first round of their Presidential elections, if the people do believe a candidate can and will make a difference to their lives – they will take great interest and turn out to vote in great numbers. Or was this intrinsically an outcome of their Revolution?
Monday, 9 April 2012
Two matters relating to the global free market have come to light in recent days. On Wednesday the Guardian reported that Amazon has generated sales of more than £7.6 billion in the UK without paying any UK corporation tax and yesterday the Telegraph reported that Apple paid only £10 million, in British tax, in 2010 despite accounting for an estimated £6 billion in sales.
If foreign based global corporations continue to expand their sales here, as seems almost certain under the current regulations, an ever increasing volume of business activity will be carried out with minimal tax paid and significant sums of sterling will pass into the hands of these foreign corporations. Since these corporations are not generally looking to buy UK produced products with this income, the most likely eventual use for this money will be purchase of UK property and businesses.
The Chinese, who accumulate huge sums of sterling, are always seeking to buy UK businesses with potential and, at present, we are heading for a situation where an ever increasing amount of UK assets will be in foreign hands and the people will be the employee ‘servants’ of these foreign owned businesses.
The continuing rise in unemployment must eventually lead to a reduction in the minimum wage and there is a danger that the dreadful employment practices of India and China will be brought to our shores in time.
It is our membership of the EU that allows these global corporations to trade in the UK. However, each corporation carefully selects the nation it will operate out of that will give the greatest advantage, including paying a minimum of tax. These benefits are given because the siting of the corporations usually brings benefits to the host nation through jobs and the local economy generally.
The only real solution is to leave the EU and install import controls on goods from other nations – unless a balanced trade agreement is reached.
It is likely that Francis Maude will see these untaxed profits of Amazon and Apple as an acceptable development since he wants to provide similar arrangements for as many of the global corporations as possible, here in the UK – hence the Tories desire to lower the top rate of tax.
It is not difficult to understand why Maude and the Tory backers are happy with these arrangements – but surely they are hugely to the detriment to the majority of British citizens.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
The Express reports on the outcome of a referendum held by the People’s Pledge organisation at Thurrock in Essex. Of the 48,000 voting papers issued by the Electoral Reform Services 14,600 voted by post or electronically – this represented a 30.4% turnout and topped the number voting in the constituency at the last local elections.
89.9% of those who voted wanted a referendum on our membership of the EU and demonstrates that the stance of those standing in a General Election, on this issue, is likely to impact on the result. The sitting MP is Tory Jackie Doyle-Price – who last year voted in the Commons against a referendum – won with 16,869 votes, snatching a wafer-thin majority of 92 over her Labour rival.
People’s Pledge plan more local referendums this year and 100 more next year with the aim of getting MPs to sign up to having a national referendum. 64 MPs have already backed the campaign along with more 100,000 members of the public.
It really is time to change our current, wholly inappropriately named, system of ‘Representative Democracy’ [based on the way it is operated] so that representatives are obliged to far more closely represent the views of their electorate. Such a change is especially important on key issues and on those where the people are particularly concerned. This would be in marked contrast to the existing practice where representatives invariably obey the ruling elite of the political party to which they belong.
Provided a system was in place for the electorate to express their preferences on forthcoming issues, should less than 60% take the opportunity to vote and there is not an overwhelming majority for any one course of action – then it is reasonable that the representative ignores this information and decides for themselves. However, if more than 60% have voted the representative should conform to their electorates will!
Such a system should be relatively simple to install on the internet with the numbers connected growing at such a rapid rate – provided public internet connection is provided at libraries and other public places. If the systems in place are considered secure enough for internet banking, they should be sufficiently secure for voting at elections and providing the preferences of the electorate.
Now that the disliked NHS bill has completed its passage through parliament it is worth considering what the Labour Party would do if it is returned to office at the next general election. On the reasonable assumption that the continuing deficit will not allow additional spending – just removing or reducing the use of private healthcare providers might be all that can be offered.
However, in reviewing the issue, a refreshing candour might be appreciated. The truth is that a nation, with huge debts and no real prospect of an improvement in the foreseeable future, cannot afford to provide the same level of health care, or other public services, as it could in more affluent times – in fact quite the reverse.
Any fear of such honesty misjudges the stoicism of the people generally – particularly those having the lowest incomes. They are used to having to face the harsh realities of life, unlike a cosseted political class who are far more sensitive to minor losses of comfort. Providing that the cuts to NHS services are approached with intelligence and fairness, a people, knowing that savings must be made, will accept reductions – but not if any one group is clearly being advantaged at the expense of another.
Even before the financial crisis, there were health services provided that were more questionably the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide, than others. Perhaps foremost in this class were those services that were required to treat acts of self abuse. Included here might be illnesses that arise from obesity caused by the simple refusal to take sufficient exercise, illnesses related to smoking and drug taking along with the abuse of alcohol.
Provided that an informative public campaign had been undertaken to warn of the dangers of such behaviour, it is more difficult to justify asking the taxpayers to pay for any expensive treatment required as a result of ignoring this advice at a time when the level of service has to be reduced. Clearly the provision of, relatively inexpensive, pain killers is acceptable, but expensive procedures, unless there is unused capacity, cannot be justified if they deny the treatment of patients who have become ill through no fault of their own.
Many issues that relate to healthcare impinge directly on our current view of death. In times of greater spirituality, when the general view was that some form of existence continued after death, this event was not kept so well hidden as it was not viewed with such dread – indeed for some – a blessed release. However, when so many of the population believe that nothing follows death – it is unsurprising that it is kept so far into the background. It is for this reason that our health service is used to extend the life of those who can and never will be able to have a meaningful life and are often condemned to continuing and empty existence more for the sake of their loved ones rather than for the benefit of those so stricken.
If the state has limited funds, and the current and continuing decline in the nation’s wealth means that we cannot provide such a high level of state funded healthcare, surely the practice of extending those lives that, for all intent are over, has to be examined carefully – better this than denying treatment to those whose lives can be returned to a meaningful existence.
Viewing these sensitive and disagreeable subjects does go to the very heart of Cameron’s justification for privatizing at least parts of the NHS. When this subject is broached he often portrays the extra money supplied by corporations as a resource used to develop new drugs and treatments that will continue to raise life expectancy – when the truth is likely to be, that human life, free of life threatening diseases, has a natural active span that no amount of scientific research will be able to extend materially.
History tells us that many people in the past lived long lives, this was due to the avoidance of life threatening diseases and work related activities that cut lives short. Now that many of these diseases can be cured and legislation has generally removed the threat to life in the workplace – there is little likelihood of average life spans increasing a great deal more.
It is Cameron’s pretence that the scientific community will be able to extend life markedly that justifies many of his reasons for wishing to use private companies in the provision of NHS healthcare – and of course his justification for extending retirement age and increasing pension contributions in the public sector.
At a time when the global population has passed seven billion, when precious resources are increasingly difficult to find and, as a Nation, we are finding it difficult to provide jobs, homes and support for our existing population – should we really be making any further attempts to extend the current life expectancy?