Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Myth of Tory Economic Competence


Quite why Labour let them get away with it, I do not know, but the Tories, since the recession of 2008, have managed to paint Labour as reckless in economic matters, and themselves as the only party to be trusted with running the UK’s finances. Ably aided and abetted I might add, by the Lib Dems when in coalition government with the Tories.

But let us take a look at the reality of the situation. The 2008 recession was not caused by the Labour government, although they were happy to deregulate the banking industry, which certainly contributed to it, but they were not alone there, with governments around the world doing likewise. It beggars belief that the Tories would have done anything different on that score, and were indeed constantly calling for less regulation.

The central theme of the coalition and then fully Tory government has been to cut the budget deficit, by slashing spending on public services, causing much pain to those who rely on these services along the way. The budget deficit is the amount of money that the government spends, less the amount of taxation they receive. Put another way, it’s how much government debt is increasing each year, excluding interest payments. In 2010 with the economy showing signs of a fragile recovery, this deficit was £103 billion.  

The original Tory plan was to balance the books by 2015, but this failed to materialise, and instead the deficit was almost halved. Today the deficit stands at £15 billion, but the Tory government has set no target date for it to be eliminated. The deficit has fallen from 9.9% of GDP to 3.8% between 2009/10 and 2015/16. GDP of course tanked in 2008, and had recovered a little by 2010. You could, and the Tories do, sell this as steady progress, if not all that was originally promised.

But this is not the whole story, and seldom gets mentioned by the main stream media, but in the same period the UK’s debt has mushroomed from 40% of GDP to 88% of GDP and now stands at over £1.7 trillion and is rising. Does this look like any kind of success to you?


What happen was that the Tories took a slowly recovering economy and drove it into a ditch, by the simple-minded tactic of slashing public spending, and raising VAT, which reduced growth in the economy and in so doing, made it harder to pay off the nation’s debt. After two years of this, the Tories reduced the amount of public spending cuts to roughly the level that Labour had planned in their 2010 election manifesto.


You can see from the above graph that the budget deficit started to reduce more quickly after adopting Labour’s plan, and in effect they wasted three years, whilst causing all kinds of misery to the least wealthy people in the country, and giving tax breaks to the wealthy. An economy that is performing well below historical standards, public services on the brink of collapse, with wages stagnating, whilst prices are rising, is nothing to be proud of.

But the government’s narrative all along is of ‘strong and stable,’ 'Labour’s black hole in their budget,’ ‘spending plan simply doesn’t add up,’ to take a few examples. As opposed to the Tories courageously cutting the deficit inherited from wasteful Labour. No mention of the more than doubling of the national debt in their period in office though.

They were so confident of their public image for economic competence that they didn’t even bother to cost their manifesto this election, unlike Labour. Where we found the back of a fag packet policy of paying for adult social care, which suggested a floor of £100,000 on a person’s assets including their home. Four days later there was also a cap to limit the amount that can be charged to people. The amount of the cap has not been specified, so how do the Tories know how much it will raise?

So much for the Tories economic and financial competence, then. When the campaign resumes again after the suspension following the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, we will hear a lot about how you can’t trust Labour with the nation’s finances from the Tories. But the truth is, that their record is an extremely poor one.     

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Nature, Labour, and the Rise of Capitalism



Written by  and first published at Monthly Review

Capitalism has, to put it mildly, a peculiar relationship with the natural world.1 Karl Marx perhaps summarized it best in the Grundrisse, where he wrote that with the rise of the capitalist mode of production, “for the first time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production.”2 In the same section, Marx notes that “capital creates the bourgeois society, and the universal appropriation of nature as well as of the social bond itself by the members of society.”

This instrumentalized relation to the natural world contrasts sharply with the ways that nature was seen and used by earlier human societies. This novel interaction with nature arose from the violent social transformations that accompanied the development of capitalism in Western Europe, and expanded with the spread of that system to the rest of the world. Marx catalogued the many forms of plunder and destruction perpetuated by early capitalism as it remade the world in its image: “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.”3 Capital, he famously concluded, enters the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt,” as nature itself is subordinated to the needs of the system.4

In all historical societies, humans have had some form of metabolic interaction with nature. Through our labor, we have always transformed nature to satisfy our needs—indeed, as Marx puts it, the essence of labor is the “appropriation of nature for the satisfaction of human needs”:
Labor is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, thorough his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature.5
Capitalism was a radical break with the past: for the first time, production of basic goods was driven by the accumulation of wealth for its own sake, and not primarily to satisfy human needs. This system of generalized commodity production has also changed us. We are alienated from the natural world, as the products of our own labor are no longer under our own control. Our very perception of nature is shaped by an economic system that treats “the environment” as a collection of commodities to be exploited for profit.

This historical emphasis on our changing relationship with the natural world is not unique to Marxism, or even to the left. The great Whig historian G. M. Trevelyan believed that among other things, social history must be concerned with “the attitude of man to nature.”6 Colonial encounters between Europeans and indigenous populations of the Americas offer a vivid—and bloody—illustration of these changing attitudes. These interactions were, on the whole, enormously destructive for the people and ecology of the Americas. Millions died from disease or military conquest, communities and civilizations were destroyed, and many thousands were enslaved.

Despite some European migrants’ vision of a land free from hierarchy and exploitation, the so-called New World rapidly came under the rule of capitalist social relations.7 A corresponding change occurred in the ways people understood the land and used its resources.

In her classic book Myths of Male Dominance, the anthropologist Eleanor Burke Leacock studied the changing social structures of the Montagnais-Naskapi people of Canada after the arrival of the French fur trade in the seventeenth century. The Montagnais were an egalitarian, matrilocal society of hunter-gatherers, and their social relations were governed by “generosity, cooperation, and patience…those who did not contribute their share were not respected, and it was a real insult to call a person stingy.” Despite the upheavals the Montagnais had endured, Leacock still found vestiges of a quite different social organization during her twentieth-century fieldwork:
As far as I could see, decision-making on such important issues was a most subtle process—indeed an enigma to the fieldworker schooled in competitive hierarchies—whereby one found out how everybody concerned felt without committing oneself until one was fairly sure in advance that there would be common agreement. I was constantly struck by the…continual effort…to operate together unanimously…in the direction of the greatest individual satisfaction without direct conflict of interest.8
The Jesuit missionaries who accompanied the fur traders to Canada were horrified by Montagnais life, and set about trying to “civilize” the tribe. Within a decade, the old order began breaking down, as the economic base of Montagnais society was transformed. The European market for fur was enormous, and to meet this insatiable demand, traders offered the Montagnais and other indigenous peoples European goods in exchange for tens of thousands of pelts. The communities around the trading stations consequently grew dependent on French tools, weapons, clothing, and food. Filling French orders for fur meant that the Montagnais ceased to be hunters who spent large parts of the year travelling long distances; they instead became sedentary trappers. The collective, collaborative experience of hunting gave way to a more individualistic one, with single people managing traps and reaping the rewards. Before the Europeans’ arrival, the Montagnais had no notion of private property; now the land was divided into individually owned lots. Social relations changed too: under pressure from the Jesuits, the patriarchal European model of family life came to dominate, as women were forced out of their role as producers and men took on the primary task of trapping.

Similar changes occurred everywhere European traders went, as John F. Richards notes in his study of the commodification of animals. For instance, “although the Creeks adapted quickly and successfully to the new incentives of the deerskin trade, they…faced a basic contradiction. Economic and political forces made it imperative that they deliver a maximal number of deer skins every year. They became market hunters linked into the world market who used muskets to avidly pursue as many deer and bear as possible.”9

It is important not to romanticize the life of indigenous peoples before European arrival, lest we slip into old tropes of “noble savages” living in perfect harmony with nature. As Richards notes, evidence exists that in pre-contact times, Native Americans faced with an abundance of prey would kill more animals than they needed, to ensure they got the choicest food.

But this hardly compares with the scale of the slaughter of animals driven by European demand for fur and skins. As Richards puts it: “Once Indians were touched by the stimulus of market demand, any restraints they had previously maintained eroded rapidly. Pursuit of the material rewards offered by the fur traders forced Indians to hunt preferred species steadily, despite declining numbers…. What they became were commercial hunters caught up in the all-consuming market.”10

Even Europeans’ wide-eyed descriptions of the New World often read like catalogues of natural commodities. Thus the explorer Martin Pring, in his 1603 report on the island later named Martha’s Vineyard, seemed to be compiling a kind of shopping list of trees. Centuries of deforestation had made wood expensive in Europe, and Pring recognized the island’s potential riches:
As for Trees the Country yeeldeth Sassafras a plant of sovereigne vertue for the French Pox, and as some of late have learnedly written good against the Plague and many other Maladies; Vines, Cedars, Okes, Ashes, Beeches, birch trees, Cherie trees bearing fruit whereof we did eat; Hasels, Witchhasels, the best wood of all other to make Sope-ashes withall; walnut trees, Maples, holy to make Bird lime with and a kinde of tree bearing a fruit like a small red Peare-plum.11
Letters home from other visitors to the Americas include similar inventories of natural resources. Explorer James Rosier described coastal vegetation in Maine as “the profits and fruits which are naturally on these Ilands.”12

The transformation in attitudes toward nature that followed European arrival in the Americas mirrors that which accompanied the rise of capitalism in Europe. Keith Thomas has pointed out that in Tudor and Stuart times, “the long established view was that the world had been created for man’s sake and that other species were meant to be subordinate to his wishes and needs.”13 By way of illustration, Thomas cites a fanciful early seventeenth-century poem depicting animals as willingly heading off to their slaughter for human consumption:
The pheasant, partridge and the lark
Flew to thy house, as to the Ark.
The willing ox of himself came
Home to the slaughter, with the lamb;
And every beast did thither bring
Himself to be an offering
The separation of the people from the soil, one of the “original sources of wealth,” was a protracted and brutal one. Rural producers were turned into wage laborers. Many were pushed off the land into the growing towns and cities; others were forced to emigrate, often to the frontiers of capitalism in the New World. The remainder lost their traditional rural role, becoming wage laborers, as Marx recognized:
The immediate producer, the worker, could dispose of his own person only after he had ceased to be bound to the soil and ceased to be the slave or serf of another person…the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-laborers appears on the one hand as their emancipation from serfdom…. But on the other, these newly freed men became sellers of themselves only after they have been robbed of all their own means of production, and all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements.14
This new primacy of private property had to be enforced, and in England, Parliament enacted hundreds of new laws to encourage further enclosure and limit shared use of land. Such legislation was needed, as E. P. Thompson noted, because “property was not, in 1700, trenched around on every side by capital statutes.”15 Thompson referred specifically to the notorious 1723 Black Act, which criminalized unauthorized “hunting, wounding or stealing of red or fallow deer [in a forest, common lands, or Royal Park], and the poaching of hares, conies or fish.” The law imposed capital punishment on those found guilty of poaching.16

As the great agricultural trade unionist Joseph Arch noted, the act and other anti-poaching laws went beyond protecting private property to alter the ways that people used the country’s natural resources:
We laborers do not believe hares and rabbits belong to any individual, not anymore than thrushes or blackbirds do…. To see hares and rabbits running across his path is a very great temptation to many a man who has a family to feed…so he may kill a hare or a rabbit when it passes his way, because his wages are inadequate to meet the demands on them, or from dire necessity, or just because he likes jugged hare as well as anybody else.17
The Black Act was part of “making the world safe for English merchants and landlords to increase in wealth and so to contribute to the new power of the English state.”18

As in the Americas—though with far less bloodshed—such changes transformed social attitudes toward nature. Henry Best was an English yeoman farmer who saw his land triple in value through a process of enclosure in the mid-1600s. The author of several works on improved agricultural methods, Best had developed his own system for selling animals at optimal prices. All of this made him “intolerant” of the remaining communal traditions among his fellow villagers, and he refused to contribute to the shared hay stock for winter because “our hay would have been spent in feeding other men’s animals.” Best worked vigorously to ensure that other farmers’ animals did not stray onto his land, even keeping watch in the middle of the night. Deliberately isolating himself from his neighbors, Best represented an early case of the classic capitalist small landholder, driven by the desire to maximize his own profits at the expense of the wider community.19

The parceling up of the land in effect created private property where there was none before, and new restrictions on the use of nature by rural populations formed a foundational part of the new capitalist order, managed and protected by the state. As historian George Yerby writes, “the land was being pinned down, set at a conceptual distance, captured on the page and assessed in theory, rather than simply worked as a continuous, unbroken physical exercise.”20

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, an anonymous pamphlet circulated by the Diggers in 1648, complained bitterly of the rapid spread of enclosure:
All the Land, Trees, Beasts; Fish, Fowle, &c. are inclosed into a few mercinary hands; and all the rest deprived and made their slaves, so that if they cut a Tree for fire they are to be punished, or hunt a fowle it is imprisonment, because it is gentlemens game, as they say; neither must they keep Cattle, or set up a House, all ground being inclosed, without hyring leave for the one, or buying room for the other, of the chiefe incloser, called the Lord of the Mannor, or some other wretch as cruell as he.
These changes provoked spirited resistance. Anti-enclosure movements threw down fences and hedges, and riots broke out in protest of new land laws. Massed bands of poachers confronted armed gamekeepers in set-piece battles, and communities fought in the courts, in the streets, and in the fields to protect their shared interests. Later the rise of agricultural unions moved the battle away from violent clashes toward the struggle over wages and working hours, but riots and protests were for decades the principal form of mass outrage at what was being done to common people and their land.

The “classical case against the open-field and common,” Thompson writes, “was its inefficiency and wastefulness of time.” He cites a 1795 report complaining that the rural laborer, “in sauntering after his cattle…acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half and occasionally whole days are imperceptibly lost. Day labor becomes disgusting.”21 In Thompson’s view, enclosure and agricultural improvement were “concerned with the efficient husbandry of the time of the labor force.” In towns and cities, urban industry had “time discipline” at its heart, and education served as “training in the ‘habit of industry.’”22 Workers in the new factories and workshops had to be broken from their old habits into new ways of working.

This primary accumulation of wealth, as Marx called it, laid the basis for the development of the capitalist system, and severed traditional ties between the people and the soil, concentrating workers in towns and cities. This process of urbanization and proletarianization also brought with it a new form of time discipline, and the use of “reserve armies of the unemployed” to inhibit workers’ struggles against their employers.

All of this led ultimately to the rise of fossil fuels, which came to dominate British industry in the nineteenth century. This process was neither automatic nor speedy. As late as 1800, only eighty-four steam engines powered cotton mills in England, compared to around a thousand mills run by water.23 John Robison, a professor of philosophy and lifelong friend of James Watt, inventor of the steam engine, complained: “Water is the most common power and indeed the best, as being the most constant and equable; while wind comes sometimes with greater violence and at others is totally gone. Mills may also be moved by the force of steam…but the expense of fuel most undoubtedly prevent this mode of constructing mills from ever becoming general.”24

Nonetheless, steam engines were adopted eventually, despite the high capital costs of plant and fuel and the novel engineering needed. One reason was that they freed mill owners from the natural limits of hydropower; only so many water wheels can be installed over a particular river, and only in so many suitable locations are available. Fossil fuels, cheap and abundant, had no such constraints.

But the main reason that fossil fuels came to dominate capitalist production, as Andreas Malm argues in his recent book Fossil Capital, is that steam power offered “a ticket to the town.” Steam meant that industry could now be located in urban areas where workers disciplined in factory work could be easily hired (and fired). No longer would factory owners be compelled to build homes, churches, and schools in remote valleys. Instead, the slums of Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow became the major sites for mills. In 1833, J. R. McCulloch explained these developments in the Edinburgh Review: “The work that is done by the aid of a stream of water is generally as cheap as that which is done by steam, and sometimes much cheaper. But the invention of the steam-engine has relieved us from the necessity of building factories in inconvenient situation merely for the sake of a waterfall. It has allowed them to be placed in the center of a population trained to industrious habits.”25 Marx wrote that the process of primitive accumulation “conquered the field for capitalist agriculture, incorporated the soil into capital and created for the urban industries the necessary supplies of free and right-less proletarians.”26

That the capitalist mode of production transformed human social relations is universally known, but it served equally to alter the relationship between humanity and nature. The separation between town and country grew, and the concentration of people in new and growing urban areas drove the adoption of new technologies and labor methods. Fossil fuels became the dominant form of energy, further enabling capital to exploit the workforce. Twenty-first century ecological crisis was never inevitable, but it became steadily more likely with capitalism’s global expansion. Understanding the historical processes that gave rise to the Anthropocene will be a vital weapon in the struggle for a sustainable and just world.

Martin Empson is the author of Land and Labour (Bookmarks, 2014).

Notes


  1. This article is based on two talks, the first given in May 2014 at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the second in November 2016 at the Marx Memorial Library in London, as part of the Raphael Samuel History Center’s History and Environment seminar series.
  2. Karl Marx,Grundrisse (London: Penguin, 1977), 410.
  3. Karl Marx,Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1990), 915.
  4. Marx,Capital, vol. 1, 926.
  5. Quoted in John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 157; Marx,Capital, vol. 1, 283.
  6. G. M. Trevelyan,English Social History (London: Pelican, 1982), 10.
  7. For an excellent description of this process in one relatively small area of North America, see John Tully, Crooked Deals and Broken Treaties (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016).
  8. Eleanor Burke Leacock, Myths of Male Dominance (Chicago: Haymarket, 2008), 71–72.
  9. Richards,The World Hunt (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), 35–36.
  10. Richards,The World Hunt, 45–46.
  11. William Cronon,Changes in the Land (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), 21.
  12. Cronon,Changes in the Land, 20-21.
  13. Keith Thomas,Man and the Natural World (New York: Pantheon, 1983), 17.
  14. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 875.
  15. E. P. Thompson,Whigs and Hunters (London: Penguin, 1977), 21.
  16. Thompson,Whigs and Hunters, 22.
  17. Quoted in Horn,The Rural World 1780–1850 (London: Hutchinson, 1980), 181.
  18. Christopher Hill,Liberty against the Law (London: Penguin, 1997), 9.
  19. George Yerby,The English Revolution and the Roots of Environmental Change (New York: Routledge, 2016), 250.
  20. Yerby,The English Revolution, 89.
  21. E. P. Thompson, “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,”Past and Present 38 (1967): 77.
  22. Thompson, “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” 78, 84.
  23. Andreas Malm,Fossil Capital (London: Verso, 2016), 56.
  24. Malm,Fossil Capital, 56.
  25. Quoted in Malm,Fossil Capital, 123-124.
  26. Marx,Capital, vol. 1, 895.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Tory Manifesto Reveals Plan to Control Internet and Disenfranchise Voters



Written by Nadia Prupis and first published at Common Dreams

In contrast to the U.K. Labour Party's progressive blueprint, Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled the Conservative Party's election manifesto on Thursday, sparking a wave of backlash over a pledge to create a new internet that would let the government control what gets posted online.

"Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and internet," the manifesto states. "We disagree."

It continues that it wants the U.K. to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet."

Senior Tories confirmed to Buzzfeed News that means the party wants to impose strict rules on what people can write or share on the internet and social media, and require internet companies to go along with the government's so-called counter-terrorism programs or face repercussions.

In particular, the Tories said, Conservatives would seek to rein in the growing power of Facebook and Google, which have historically resisted calls to share information with the government—something May's party found out when it attempted to get WhatsApp to decrypt data after an attack on the U.K. Parliament in March, Buzzfeed noted.

Indeed, the pledge comes just months after May approved the Investigatory Powers Bill, introducing what transparency advocates called the most extreme surveillance law ever passed by a democracy. The legislation requires internet companies to keep diligent records of customers' browsing histories and forces apps to give the government a backdoor to their encrypted messaging services.

The new rules would also give the government unprecedented power in deciding what kind of content can be accessed online and would require internet companies to pay fees—like those currently imposed on gambling firms—that would fund advertisements warning users about the dangers of the internet. The pledge also states that May would "take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy" and crack down on companies to make sure that news outlets get enough advertising money.

If the companies resist, the manifesto promises to punish them.

"We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches U.K. law," it reads.

Jim Killock, who runs the U.K.-based privacy advocacy organization Open Rights Group, told Buzzfeed that the rules would impose strict penalties on social media platforms for little benefit, considering that companies like Facebook are already more restrictive than the law.

"It's hard to see what really is going to be added by this except enormous costs for little benefit," Killock said.

Facebook "won't get it right—they'll behave in a risk-averse fashion," he said. "They'll censor more than they need to. I do not want Mark Zuckerberg to think of himself as judge and jury of what people can say in Britain."

The rest of the manifesto did not bode much better, with vows to reduce immigration numbers, introduce a "meritocracy" into British society, deliver a swift Brexit, and force voters to present identification in order to cast a ballot—a controversial provision that has been slapped down throughout the U.S. as unconstitutional and racist. The ID rule could prevent an estimated 3.5 million people from voting, the Electoral Commission said.

Elsewhere, the manifesto proposes taxing home care for the elderly by counting it as part of their assets. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—whose party's manifesto was well-received last week—slammed the proposal as a "tax on dementia."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Friday, 19 May 2017

Why is May Taking a Risk with Core Tory Voters?



The Conservative Party general election manifesto was finally launched on Thursday, in Halifax in Yorkshire, a Labour held marginal constituency, and included some quite un-Tory like policies. At face value the manifesto is a departure from something like 40 years of Tory ideological dogma.

Take this passage from the manifesto: “We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogmas not just as needless but dangerous.”  

This runs counter to everything the Tories have stood for since Margaret Thatcher became their leader in 1975. The ideology was fuelled by the thinking of neo-liberal economists like Milton Freedman and Friedrich Hayek and became known as the Chicago School of Economics (emanating in the main from the University of Chicago).

The essence of the ideology was that the nation state was bureaucratic and inefficient in supplying public services and in the process held back private businesses from being efficient (making big profits) with regulations on employment and much else. It was also said to discourage entrepreneurial activity by individuals, by taxing higher incomes and profitable businesses.

The solution offered was to reduce the size the state by privatising public services, closing down nationalised industries that were not profitable and to deregulate the economy to free up businesses to get on with money making. Along the way, trade unions would need to be weakened, if not crushed completely, as they were seen as holding back this process.

The first experiment of the theory in a real economy began in 1973 when Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government in Chile, was violently overthrown by army General Pinochet’s coup, with help from America’s CIA. Many socialists and trade union activists were murdered in the process, and the economy was set on a neo-liberal pathway.

Thatcher became Tory Prime Minister in 1979, and set about transforming the British political and economic orthodoxy which had stood since the end of World War 2. By the 1990s the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats had also adopted this neo-liberal ideology, but sought to smooth off some of the rough edges.

May is not advocating renationalising public services, or raising taxes on wealthy individuals and big businesses and there will be further curbs on trade unions taking industrial action. But if her rhetoric is to be believed, and there must be some doubt as to whether actual actions will amount to much of a change in practice, it will be news to many Tory supporters that they do not believe in ‘untrammelled free markets.’

May’s policies on immigration are not popular with the business community either, with the aim of reducing net immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ which I take to mean less than 100,000 net immigrants per year. Even her own ministers have said that this is unlikely to be met, and immigration may need to increase once we leave the European Union and freedom of movement ends. The economy would likely collapse for lack of workers.

This is compounded by the policy of charging businesses £2,000 per immigrant worker that they employ, which has received at best a lukewarm reception from business organisations. Normally, most business leaders are rock solid Tory supporters, so she is taking a risk here too.  

Then there is May’s apparent change of demographic electoral tactics that are her policies towards older, retired voters. The means testing of pensioners winter allowance, and therefore the taking of this money off the vast majority of pensioners, for example. 

The reduction of the so-called "triple lock" on pensions to a "double lock" with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation - but to no longer go up by 2.5% if they are both lower than that, will also make pensioners poorer.

But perhaps the riskiest policy of all is the proposal for how adult social care should be paid for. This is a huge problem in the UK, and certainly needs addressing, but forcing people to use the value of their properties to pay for care, is very un-Tory like.

Ever since Thatcher sold off the best of the public housing stock at knock down prices, house price rises and ownership has been central to economic strategy. Rising prices, achieved by restricting supply, particularly of affordable public housing, and so forcing up the price of housing, for sale or rent, has been the major driver of economic growth in the UK.

Property ownership is now expected to provide a pension for many people, and with these latest proposals it is to be expected to pay for health care as well, if necessary.

One of the few ways for younger people to have a chance of purchasing a property these days, is to get a parental loan, often raised against the value of the family home, or of inheriting the family home when their parents die. If this money is to be used (all but £100,000 of it) to pay for care, then this closes off an opportunity for young people too, or at least those lucky enough to have property owning parents.

This policy on its own, has the potential to be very unpopular with older voters, a demographic that tends to vote Tory in large numbers and are reliable at turning out to vote. It could cost the Tories the election.

A big risk, which May doesn’t need to take really, but she seems to be high on hubris, which for most Prime Ministers takes a few years, and more than one election victory. May has been Prime Minister for less than a year, won no elections and she already has delusions of grandeur.

This could well backfire on May, this election may not be the foregone conclusion that most commentators assume.  
   

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Labour’s 31% UK General Election Strategy seems to be Paying Off



At the 2015 general election, the Labour Party leadership were said to be pursuing a 35% strategy. This referred to Labour trying to appeal to its own supporters and those of the Lib Dems who were appalled by the party going into coalition with the Tories in 2010. If Labour had achieved a 35% vote share they would probably have had a small overall majority in Parliament.

The opinion polls put them not far off scoring 35%, but in the end Labour only polled 30.4% of the share of the vote in the 2015 general election, and the Tories ended up with a small majority of their own. It is important to note what the 2015 opinion polling was predicting, because they got the result badly wrong, and what I say below is based on this year’s opinion polls, and may well be wrong again.

In the last few days opinion polls have started predicting Labour getting into the low 30 per cents of the national vote share. ORB’s weekly poll in the Sunday Telegraph has topline figures of CON 46%(nc), LAB 32%(+1), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 7%(-1). Whilst Opinium in the Observer has topline figures of CON 47%(+1), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 5%(-2), GRN 2%(nc). A third poll by YouGov/Sunday Times has topline voting intention figures of CON 49%, LAB 31%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 3%.

A fourth poll released on Tuesday by Panelbase has topline figures of CON 47%(-1), LAB 33%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 5%(nc), which is the highest figure of the campaign for Labour. What is different now though to the 2015 general election is the Tories are polling much better than they did in 2015, where they got only 36.9% of the vote share. You can see from the above polling that the Tories are polling in the high 40s per cent, so a 31% strategy for Labour, or indeed a 35%, will not be enough for Labour to even remove the Tories small majority from 2015, and the Tories look to be on course for a substantial majority this year.

But that is not the point of the 31% strategy at all. It is not about Labour getting a majority, or even limiting the Tory majority much, it is all about the internal, ongoing struggle for control of the Labour Party. The Unite union leader Len McCluskey, gave the game away really by saying that Labour winning around 200 seats in the general election would be a good result, although that would be the worse general election result for Labour since 1935. McCluskey later backtracked on the coment.

What the 31% strategy would achieve, and this seems to be the objective of it, is that it would beat the 2015 share of the vote which ex Labour leader, Ed Miliband, got. Then it can be argued after the election, that Labour are heading in the right direction, and secure Jeremy Corbyn’s future as Labour leader. In terms of ambition, this is pretty piss poor, but Labour are only interested in internal party conflicts here rather than winning this election.

Of course, changing the Labour Party is a big job, and may well take more than one general election to cement, but it does leave the country at the mercy of an ultra-right wing Tory Party, with a huge majority in Parliament. For this not to happen, Labour needs to take potential voters off the Tories, and the Lib Dems need to as well, with the SNP holding off the Tory revival in Scotland, and retaining their gains from 2015.

There are still three weeks to go until the election, so maybe the Tory vote can be eaten into, but we need to see the Tory polling figure falling below 40%, which to be fair was the case in the recent local elections where the Tories got only 38% of the vote share. So maybe this is possible. 

I’m clutching at straws perhaps, but the alternative of a rampant, emboldened Tory government, is a very scary prospect indeed. As John Cleese says in the film ‘Clockwise,’ “It's the HOPE - that's what's killing me.”  
       

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Lib Dems Weed Policy is Muddled but Essentially Right



The Lib Dems general election policy to legalise marijuana in the UK, is in many ways a sensible approach to dealing with the issue of possession and small scale cultivation of the drug. As the Lib Dems point out, prohibition has failed to reduce usage of cannabis and the fact that it is illegal means that it causes wider problems for society.

What is the point of criminalising people, who otherwise are perfectly law abiding citizens, just because they want to get high? Furthermore, the illegality of cannabis in the UK makes it an attractive money spinner for criminal gangs, and being on the black market, we are missing a stream of taxation which could be used to fund educational programmes about cannabis use and feed other spending areas such as health.

Many other countries around the world are moving towards legalisation. The US are implementing cannabis legalisation on a state basis, and by all accounts this has been a big success in reducing cannabis related crime and providing a handy income stream for state governments. More and more US states are moving to a legalised, licenced approach to weed.

So far, so good. But the Lib Dems also want to grade and limit the THC (which is said to be responsible for psychiatric problems in some people) content in cannabis, which I think is misguided. Grading is fine, people should know how strong any particular strain of weed is, but I can’t see the point of limiting the strength. This is what was reported about the policy on Buzzfeed:

‘The Liberal Democrats would appoint an independent regulator for the cannabis market and reduce the harm of the drug by requiring it to include lower levels of the active component THC and more of the harm-reducing CBD element.’

This is in response to the sometimes hysterical reporting in the right wing media, I dare say, about a variety of cannabis known as ‘skunk.’ The THC levels in skunk is generally higher than more traditional varieties, but not always, and higher in CBD.’

As far as I can tell, skunk was developed in the Netherlands by cross breeding different types cannabis plants to obtain high THC levels. The practice is now widespread around the world.

In my experience the skunk on sale in the UK, is nowhere near as potent as that which can be bought in the Netherlands, although it is generally a bit stronger than more traditional cannabis varieties, but some of the traditional types can be equally as potent. In the Netherlands this much stronger skunk is legal just like other types of cannabis, but was not graded in strength the last time I was there.

Surely, this is a more sensible approach to what the Lib Dems are advocating for the UK? Whilst grading the potency of different types of cannabis for users is sensible, banning the higher strength varieties would immediately create an illegal market in them. Thus negating one of the benefits of legalisation, in the ending criminal involvement in supply. The market may well be smaller than what it is now, but it would still exist and may well be more daringly attractive, particularly to younger people.

The Green Party’s general policy is to have a similar model to the Netherlands in terms of licensed outlets, but I don’t think the grading of the strength of cannabis is stipulated, but maybe it should be.

With more evidence of the health benefits of cannabis emerging all of the time, like this research from Australia, which found THC improves the memory and learning in older mice and could help reduce dementia in humans, it makes no sense to prohibit it. Trails on humans will begin later this year.

Cannabis has a psychoactive affect but even the strongest varieties are nowhere near as strong as drugs like LSD, or certain types of mushrooms, but it is clear that small minority of people can have psychiatric problems with these type of drugs. But this is a health and education issue, not a criminal one, and cannabis is fairly easy to come by in the UK, even though it is illegal, so people will use it anyway. Better to have the situation regulated. 

The Lib Dems are on the right lines here, but they shouldn’t water down the idea to placate the Daily Mail. If it is right, then let’s do it properly. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Toward an Ecological Revolution


Written by David Johnson and first published at CounterPunch

Climate change, as it has emerged as a defining political issue of our time, has a peculiar exceptionalism attached to it. While we know it is in some sense a political problem, or at least demands a political solution, we nevertheless tend to think of it as a problem in nature – one that transcends social issues and threatens social life itself. Every year, waves of liberal students enter environmental science programs at universities across the West, determined to study the changes human beings are causing in the earth’s ecosystems. We know that human activity in general, and the burning of fossil fuels in particular, is the primary agent of climate change, with very serious implications for the natural environment upon which humans depend, and for human life itself

The need to drastically reduce carbon emissions, then, is as clear as it is urgent. Technologically speaking, there is a path forward: innovations in energy production abound, including in renewable sources like sun and wind. It would seem we have a problem and a solution. Why then do we see little meaningful reform, when the stakes are so high and the answers so clear?

Here the conversation often crumbles into a series of dead-ends. A significant portion of the public has resorted to denying the scientific consensus on climate change, and there is no shortage of funding for such a campaign. Others who accept the science nevertheless become cynical from the scale of the problem; the obstacle, many conclude, is “human nature” itself. Still others, determined to fight, seek to appease large corporations with innovations that are both environmentally friendly and profitable – so-called Green capitalism. Can the profit motive save us?

A new book edited by Vijay Prashad bursts through this rigid state of affairs. Focused around Naomi Klein’s Edward Said lecture, delivered in London on 4 May 2016, Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt is a short collection of narrative essays and analysis that responds to the global climate crisis in a refreshingly expansive way.

Prashad, in his introduction to the collection, wastes no time:
Denying climate science is only the symptom of a much deeper problem that confronts the planet. It is the endemic crisis-ridden capitalism that lashes out like an injured dragon, breathing fire here and whipping its tail over there. Fatally wounded, capitalism seeks regeneration through any means – whether by seizure of precious natural recourses or the cannibalization of human labor. 
According to this bold diagnosis, the problem of climate change cannot be covered up by pseudo-science, dispersed through a resort to human nature, nor resolved through the alchemy of the free market: the problem is that our economic system regards both humans and nature as mere resource-inputs for the accumulation of capital. This blind and limitless consumption of natural and human resources, Prashad argues further, is not incidental to capitalism, but essential.
Without this permanent ravaging of natural and social resources, capital cannot function. When human misery or social inequality and when climate change become limits, they have to be set aside. The attack on basic liberal concern for the poor (demonstrated through welfare payments and humanitarian aid) and the attack on climate science are of a piece—they are essentially attempts to conduct ideological warfare on the cultural barriers to untrammeled capitalism as preparation for the destruction of the natural and human habitat. 
This drive for destruction is not a function of the human heart, but a compulsion inherent in the logic of capitalism. In other words, the burning of fossil fuels does not take place in a state of nature; it takes place as an integral part of capital accumulation. Driving the point home, Prashad draws the only conclusion: “There is a powerful contradiction between the needs of a parasitic capitalism and its natural and human host”. Most analysis is said to be radical if it concludes with this point; this book begins with it. If climate change is the direct effect of fossil fuel production, and if “capitalism as a social system will be unable to transform itself from the needs of profit to the needs of society,” then climate activists have to turn their attention to our economic system itself.

It is a strange relief to realize that our climate problem is much deeper than we thought. Reform will not save us. Perhaps this is not surprising, since, as Ghassan Hage remarks, “an ecological crisis is by definition something all-encompassing”. Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt frames our current conjuncture in this way. By showing that our environmental problems emerge not from some misty idea of human nature or individual greed but from a very historically specific mode of production, Prashad’s lead essay brings the issue of climate change, strangely enough, back down to earth. Accordingly, the essays that follow, beginning with a lecture by Naomi Klein, are rich meditations on the political economy of climate change.


Climate Change and Class Consciousness


Contextualizing our climate crisis in the global capitalist economy allows us to see the politics of climate change unfolding in real time. The first victims of climate change, Klein reminds us, are those whose sources of food and shelter are most precarious – the world’s poor. This reality is too often overlooked in liberal discussions of climate change in favor of apocalyptic hysteria. Correcting this blindness allows us to inquire into the relationship between man-made natural disaster and other social ills – like racism and militarism, poverty and sexual violence. Klein demonstrates this by developing her concept of the “fossil fuel sacrifice zone.” Fossil fuels, she writes, “are so inherently dirty and toxic that they require sacrificial people and places: people whose lungs and bodies can be sacrificed in the coal mines, people whose land and water can be sacrificed to open-pit mining and oil spills”. It is not surprising which communities are sacrificed at the altar of fossil fuel production: always impoverished ones, overwhelmingly black and brown ones.

Cutting through the liberal imagination of a looming but still distant environmental catastrophe, Klein’s essay, aptly titled “Let Them Drown,” shows how the road to disaster – the very road we are traveling – is necessarily paved with a growing viciousness in the politics of ‘othering’. We simply could not allow the motors of climate change to continue apace without a highly-developed system of othering – a division of humanity into the civilized and the backward, the accomplished and the undeserving. Racist, sexist theories which generations ago were mobilized to colonize, dispossess, and even exterminate non-Western peoples in order to settle upon and extract the wealth of the land, are now used in their refined, colorblind form to reproduce global inequalities in the ownership and consumption of the earth’s resources. Bursting the compartmentalization of different social issues, these writers push us to see imperialism and colonialism – the theft of land and its incorporation into the global market economy – as forms of ecological violence.

Today we face a global climate crisis that threatens us all, but not equally, not yet. As we continue to live in a carbon economy, we do so at the expense of the world’s poor – those least responsible for the warming of the planet – as millions of workers in the United States continue to lack basic healthcare, millions in the Global South suffer from famine and drought (while, in the North, surplus produce rots), and entire island nations vanish into the rising sea.[1]

The election of Donald Trump on a platform of explicit racism, shocking to many, must be seen in this political context. Trump, from the conspicuous consumption beside abject poverty to the brazen dismissal of any scientific fact that interferes with the demands of profit-making, is the true face of global capitalism. One of his more obscene policy initiatives has been to close US borders down to millions of people fleeing war zones while intensifying airstrikes in those very same places. This is the pathology of our present global order: the precondition for our ongoing refusal to examine the roots of our problems is the sacrifice of millions, higher walls and fiercer wars. Trump is not an aberration in an otherwise just world order; he represents a seamless continuity in the growing tensions of the global economy.

How can one hope in such a world? It is helpful to remember that any proposal that seeks to mitigate this crisis by incremental reforms – Green capitalism and the like – is hopeless. In an interesting reversal that characterizes our times, the pragmatic centrists (symbolized by the likes of Hillary Clinton) are now the blind utopians. Fundamental change in the structure of our economic life – away from private profits and toward addressing social needs – is the only pragmatic solution worthy of the name. This book is addressed to those that are willing to think critically about capitalist orthodoxy and creatively about social transformation.


Revolutionary Ecology, Revolutionary Aesthetics


The main theoretical achievement of Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt is that it reveals how global climate change is organically connected to the global capitalist economy and thus to the manifold social tensions and inequalities of our world. As Klein argues, “there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatization, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all.” In other words, climate change must be seen as one aspect of capitalism’s social and ecological totality. We cannot address it without addressing institutional racism, militarism, and an economic logic that reduces human communities and natural materials to fodder for the profits of a wealthy elite.

Further, these essays reveal interconnections not only between different social issues, but also between distant locales. From Standing Rock to Palestine to South Asia and the islands of the Pacific, local populations struggle for creative control over their own land and resources. These essays provide the tools to begin to view these myriad local struggles as a global struggle. If we identify the roots of our climate crisis not in excessive carbon emissions but in an economic system that makes such emissions necessary, we can liberate ourselves to envision the end of capitalism – rather than the end of the world, รก la the mass-production of films depicting the coming apocalypse.

What we need is to construct an alternative mode of production for the future, to be fought for on the local and global levels, which these authors show are not so different after all. A new mode of production would entail a new way of organizing society’s relationship to nature and how we transform our environment to suit our own human purposes. Perhaps a new mode of production would not mean abolishing the process of wealth creation. A socialist mode of production might seek to democratize the process of wealth creation itself, perhaps by shifting the aim of the process from private accumulation to universal livelihood. Such an economy could still foster innovation and develop dynamically. But it could also develop democratically and in accordance with social needs and ecological principles – a circular dynamism rather than a death spiral.

Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt offers more than an uncommon theoretical clarity, however. Equally crucial is how the book shows that an alternative politics requires that we combat the vampire aesthetics of capitalism with an alternative aesthetics of our own. The writers in this book understand that ideas and numbers alone cannot combat the torrent of culture and ideology that capitalism unloads on the world. Scientific studies, charts and graphs, though essential, will not save us. Our alternative mode of production begins with a critical revolutionary aesthetics that highlights rather than hides the ecological threads binding diverse local struggles, breaking through the limits and dead-ends of contemporary ideology by recourse to personal narratives and poetic expressions that depart from the dominant structures of capitalism and cultivate flowers to slip through the asphalt.

To their credit these essays never turn away from the shattering realities of climate change and the enormity of the forces that propel it – capitalism, imperialism, and the state-sponsored violence needed for the maintenance of both. Wars are powered by oil and fought for oil; whole villages are flattened to make way for global commodity chains. This is our global asphalt. But these authors show, through a robust blend of theoretical reflection and visionary yearning, how the all-encompassing nature of our global crisis, while overwhelming, is also an opportunity to build broad coalitions. It can energize us to resist the structures of global inequality in our everyday lives and make the connections to build an international movement. This book is itself a part of that burgeoning global movement, an attempt to fight the cultural death of an ailing capitalism with the generative youth of humanity’s creative powers. The essays are floral weapons for the future.


Notes.


[1] UN famine report; food rots; islands go under,

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Direct Action - Shutting Down The UK’s Largest Coal Mine For a Day



Written by Andrea Brock, Chris Field, Rick Felgate, Kim Turner and The Canary / Earth First! UK

In the early hours of 21st April 2017, under the banner of Earth First! and Reclaim the Power, our group of five blockaded the UK’s largest opencast coal mine to disrupt the ecologically and socially disastrous mining operations of Miller Argent (South Wales) Ltd.

At 5am, two of us blocked all vehicle access to the mine by using D-locks and an armtube to lock onto the cattle grids at the entrance gate. Before long, on-site security became aware of our presence and called the police. Meanwhile, three of us hiked over the surrounding common land and the edge of the mine – sneaking past cows and security personnel. We climbed down towards the bottom of the vast hole that Miller Argent’s operations have ripped into the earth to find their 300 tonne hydraulic excavators.

These are used to extract coal from the mine – five million tonnes of coal have already been extracted from Ffos-y-fran, with another six million to go – fifteen to sixteen hours a day. Following a little exploration of the excavator, we used D-locks to attach ourselves to the machine, got books, earphones, sleeping bags and sandwiches out and prepared for a long day in the pit. We were locked on for a total of 10 and a half hours, shutting down all coal mining and transport of coal off the site. After having been cut out, we were arrested for aggravated trespass, disruption of lawful activity and intimidation of mining personnel.

Read more

And here is a video of the action:





Miller Argent are suing them for £10,000. Please consider supporting them, and keep the fight against coal alive! http://til.tt/tgT9?s=wb&u=caction

Friday, 12 May 2017

Take a look at the Sheer Breath-taking Arrogance of this Labour Blogger



I should say at the outset, that I quite like The Skwarkbox blog. It is pro-Labour Party, pro-Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the blog has some interesting, informative and entertaining posts on it. It is one of the blogs that I find myself reading from time to time.

But, a post appeared today on The Skwarkbox entitled, ‘Greens have stepped aside in several seats. Why hand Wirral West to Tories?’ The final paragraph of the post implores readers to ‘Please share this post and let’s build a groundswell calling on the Greens to step aside…’ So here I am, sharing the post, but not in an attempt to persuade the local Greens in Wirral to stand aside, far from it. Instead, I’m taking this golden opportunity to highlight the arrogance and sense of entitlement which is sadly commonplace in the ‘people’s party.’

As the Skwarkbox headline informs us, the Green Party have stepped down from standing in ‘several’ seats, particularly where these seats are marginals, mainly in favour of the Labour Party, Ealing central and Acton, Derby North and Brighton Kemptown, amongst them. The Greens have also stood aside for the Lib Dems in seats like Richmond Park and Twickenham in south west London.

Even the Lib Dems threw the Greens a penny, by pulling out of standing against Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. I say a penny because the Lib Dems only got 1500 votes in 2015 in this constituency and Caroline’s majority was nearly 7,000, so the Lib Dems didn’t give us much.

Labour has failed to even stand down in hopeless seats for them, in favour of the Greens (or anyone else), that would constitute a symbolic act of electoral fraternity. Take the Isle of Wight, which the Green Party is targeting in next month’s general election for example. The sitting Tory MP, Andrew Turner is standing down, after making homophobic remarks when addressing students at a college on the island.

This was the result of the 2015 general election on the Isle of Wight:

CON 40.7%
UKIP 21.2%
GRN 13.4%
LAB 12.8%
LD 7.4%
IND 4.5%

You will notice that even the combined totals of Green, Lib Dem, Labour and the independent, is less than the Tories total, and that is without the UKIP vote, most of which is likely to go to the Tories this time. In short, this looks like a very safe seat for the Tories. 

In some ways I can understand the Lib Dems standing as they were second in the 2010 general election to the Tories, but Labour has not a cat in hell’s chance of winning this seat. As I say, probably the Greens haven’t either, but what would it have cost Labour to stand down here? Nothing at all, really. But this is just what the Labour Party is like, fiercely tribal, and incredibly arrogant.

The Skwarkbox post also demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of how the Green Party goes about its business. Take this example:

‘The SKWAWKBOX calls on the Green party leadership to get hold of their representatives in Wirral West. The Greens have no realistic prospect of victory…Merseyside would not forgive or forget the Greens persisting in such a short-sighted course of action.’

Note the arrogance, of course, but also this is not the Labour Party where central party diktats are handed down, like in Surrey where three Labour Party activists have been expelled from the party for supporting a National Health Action Party candidate against the Tory Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. In the Green Party, any decision to stand or not in elections, is left to local parties.

I’m an in principle supporter of a progressive alliance to kick the Tories out, but I’ve always suspected the idea wouldn’t come to much, mainly because of the Labour Party’s attitude, and you can see this amply demonstrated by The Skwarkbox post.

Why doesn’t The Skwarkbox piece recommend that local Labour offer the Greens something in the Wirral area in return for standing down, instead of attempting to bully them via social media? One word, arrogance!

Oh, and the Greens will be taking the seat of Bristol West off Labour this time, and no doubt more seats in the future. Happy electioneering comrades!  

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

There is Something Rather Menacing about Theresa May



Just what is it that the Prime Minister’s handlers are afraid of? In the opening couple of weeks of the UK general election campaign we have witnessed the Prime Minister being whisked around the country, to speak to closed audiences of Tory party loyalists, while real people, and the media, have been largely excluded from these events.

We do know that, in a similar way to the then Prime Minister, David Cameron’s, general election campaign in 2015, the plan is to be risk averse. With whopping leads in the opinion polls for the Tories, and their leader personally, then the rational tactic is to avoid anything that might dent this advantage in the few weeks of the campaign proper.

Cameron also managed to get the televised party leader’s debate watered down so that his appearances were only fleeting and avoided a direct debate with the then Labour party leader Ed Miliband. May has gone even further in dodging the debates and will not appear at all apart from being interviewed separately on the same programme, as Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party leader.

It is clear that May is not very good at thinking on her feet, and looks awkward when being interviewed on TV, and she falls back on a robotic chanting of slogans like ‘strong and stable leadership’ and the alternative of a ‘coalition of chaos’ if Labour wins. She isn’t really a natural for today’s media requirements from politicians.

Corbyn, on the other hand looks to be thoroughly enjoying the campaign, and speaking at rallies is definitely more his type of thing than the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament. Although, May isn’t too good at this either. The Labour leader certainly has more of a common touch than the Prime Minister, and whatever you think of his policies, you would need to be blind not see the warmth of his personality, especially compared to May.

The Labour campaign team know this, and are trying to play to this Corbyn strength, but the value of it is limited by the refusal of May to debate directly with Corbyn, or to risk exposing herself to awkward questions from the public.

I think there is more to this than just presentational style though. I must admit that after the referendum, when Cameron quit, looking at the contenders to take over as Prime Minister, I was quite relieved that May won, especially when the run off looked to be between May and right wing loon, Andrea Leadsome. May has turned out to be just about as bad as I thought Leadsome would be.

May of course, as Home Secretary, was the one that sent ‘immigrants go home’ poster vans around multi-ethnic areas, and forced through the ‘snooper’s charter,’ electronic surveillance of UK citizens, but I thought she was at least reasonably sensible - but I was wrong.

Watching May since she became Prime Minister, has left me with the impression of her being a ruthless individual. She sacked the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, with some relish it seemed to me, like someone settling old scores, not someone to bring her party, let alone the country, together.

Then there was her speech to the Autumn Tory party conference last year. In particular two key phrases contained within the rhetoric stood out. Ominously, she set about attacking anyone she suspected of not agreeing with her 100% on Brexit, and much else. “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere,” she said, and “Those who still believe Britain has made a mistake in leaving the EU are just patronising members of a liberal metropolitan elite.” A direct assault on ‘cosmopolitan’ attitudes.

It was uncomfortably close to German anti-Semitic discourse, adopted by the Nazis in the 1930s, of the ‘rootless Jew.’ It also bears a striking similarity to the term “rootless cosmopolitans”, deployed by Stalin to justify his late 1940s purge of Jewish intellectuals.

May fought tooth and nail through the courts to stop Parliament having a meaningful say on Brexit, and when the courts disagreed with the her, May stayed silent on the right wing media’s accusations of treason, with the infamous ‘enemies of the people’ headline about the appeal court judges, who correctly interpreted the British constitution.

May now rails against the European Union (EU), for ‘interfering’ in the UK general election, when leaks revealed that Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU commission president, after dining with the Prime Minister, described her attitude on Brexit as being ‘from another galaxy.’ May’s response was to vow not to be bullied by the EU. All questioning of the wisdom of the great leader, must be quashed.

By calling the general election, after months of saying there would be no election, the reason May gave was to strengthen her position in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, but it is a dubious assumption to think it will alter the EU’s stance one jot, whatever the size of May’s majority in the election will be. Cast your mind back to the negotiations between the EU and the Greek government over the country’s debt, armed with a supportive referendum mandate.

The other reason, apart from political opportunism while Labour is in disarray, and I think the main reason May had a change of heart on the election, was to strengthen her position in the UK Parliament, where she wants to crush any dissent completely. Kind of along the lines of the US military in Vietnam’s ‘we had to bomb the village to save it,’ May wants to destroy Parliamentary democracy, and impose her will on the nation.

It is a common tactic for dictators, using nationalism, racism and xenophobia to consolidate their power. If May wins big on 8 June, be afraid, very afraid for the future of this country.