Thursday, 31 August 2017

Is Labour’s New Brexit Plan an Attempt at Triangulation?

Sir Kier Starmer, the Labour party’s shadow Brexit Secretary, writing in The Observer on Sunday, laid out the party’s new plan for the UK’s leaving of the EU. Apparently, the new position was thrashed out over the summer by the shadow Cabinet.

Clearly, some clarification of Labour’s thinking on the matter was needed, particularly as the Tory government began to release position papers on its approach to Brexit. The government appears to have softened its aims, and there has been no mention in these papers of the Tory election slogan at the recent general election of, ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ nonsense.

To recap the government’s new position is, we will leave the EU in March 2019 as the terms of invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty require. But a transitional period of two years will follow, where the UK tries to replicate, as far as possible, setting up arrangements between the UK and the EU, that are as close to our current status as is possible. When this two year period expires, with hopefully a trading arrangement with the EU in place, we will leave the EU altogether.

The EU has given a cool reception to the government’s plans though, insisting that during any transition period the UK will have to abide by all EU rules, not cherry pick the ones it likes. In short, the four fundamental freedoms of the EU, free trade in goods, services and capital plus freedom of movement for labour, will continue to apply. This also requires the UK to remain in the customers union and accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

And so to Labour’s new position. I have written on this blog, many times, that Labour’s Brexit position has been difficult to decipher, with different shadow ministers saying different things, so it is to be welcomed that Labour has clarified where it stands on the issue, and the liberal media, has applauded it. But this latest plan does not clarify things that much.

The UK would stay in the EU, or an identical arrangement, accepting the four freedoms, for a period of up to four years (maybe even longer), or as Starmer puts it, ‘as short as possible, but as long as is necessary.’ At the end of the transitional period, Labour will seek to negotiate a bespoke arrangement whereby the UK will have some control over inward migration from the EU to the UK, whilst remaining in the single market and customers union.

This is still unrealistic, and is basically what David Cameron, when he was Prime Minister tried to negotiate with the EU before the referendum last year, and got nowhere. But Starmer also left the door open for either remaining in the EU or continuing the transitional arrangement on a permanent basis.

Both the transitional period and what follows could be that the UK will join the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), which Britain was a member of prior to joining what was then called the common market in 1973, or the European Economic Area (EEA). This would constitute leaving the EU, but is a half-way house, and crucially an off the peg arrangement from the EU, and perhaps permanently?

Ironically, Corbyn led Labour was meant to be a break from Tony Blair’s new Labour, and all the practices that went with it. Neoliberalism, spin and triangulation, copied from Clinton’s Democrats in the US. But this looks awfully like triangulation, pitching for the centre ground on issues, and making it difficult for your Tory opponents.

Certainly, that is what the Brexit left are saying, here and here and I saw in the Guardian letters page yesterday, Arthur Scargill of the Socialist Labour Party making a similar case. 

It certainly makes sense if you are a remainer, to drag this process out for a few years, as some older voters (who mainly voted leave) will pass on, and some younger voters (who mainly voted remain) will come onto the voting register. Then, the time might be right to re-run the referendum or to make the case for staying in the EU (or EFTA) in a general election. It could happen.     

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Lancashire UK - Preston New Road: The Anti-Fracking Frontline

Written by Allan Todd

This recent statement is an excellent summary of the current situation as regards the on-going protests against fracking at Preston New Road (PNR). This fracking site - operated by dirty-energy company Cuadrilla - has seen daily protests ever since work began in January. As a result, Cuadrilla’s fracking project is approximately 5 months behind schedule.

Yet there has been very little national coverage of these protests:  consequently, there are still many who have little understanding of the reasons for them. However, the protesters themselves are very clear about why they are there. Their main reasons can be summarised as follows:

•           Defending local democracy
•           Concerns about local environmental pollution
•           Limiting increased global warming


Currently, there are two main issues:

(a) Local democracy

In June 2015, Lancashire County Council rejected both of Cuadrilla’s fracking applications. Yet, in October 2016, this was overturned by the Tory government - despite ‘promises’, before the 2015 general election, to leave such matters to local councils.

There is, however, an even greater threat to local democracy: although shelved following the Tories’ poor performance in this year’s general election, the Tories wish to place fracking under ‘Permitted Development’. This would grant automatic approval without any scrutiny by democratically-elected local councils.

In May’s local elections, Lancashire County Council passed from Labour to Conservative control. Previously, the planning permissions and regulations imposed on Cuadrilla included a prohibition on moving heavy lorries, to or from the site, between 6.30pm and 7.00am. Yet, when Cuadrilla recently broke that prohibition, by bringing in 30 lorries at 4.15am, the new Conservative-controlled Council’s response was… to write a letter to Cuadrilla, noting their disappointment!

(b) Nature of policing

The response of the police - now drawn, under the Mutual Aid scheme, from several different forces - to these protests has been varied. When the number of protesters is high (80 - 100), policing is generally good-natured and proportionate. This was shown most recently (‘Green Monday’ 21 August) by their reaction to a 5-hour sit-down, by over 60 people, in front of the site entrance:

The central part of the peaceful sit-down on Monday 21 Aug. - Gina Dowding (Lancashire County Councillor) & Tina Rothery (Anti-Fracking Nana) are centre-frame.

The central part of the peaceful sit-down on Monday 21 Aug. - Gina Dowding (Lancashire County Councillor) & Tina Rothery (Anti-Fracking Nana) are centre-frame. 

Once two polite verbal requests to move had been turned down, the police made no effort to move people physically. As a result of this - and a 5-person lock-on in the morning - only one HGV lorry was able to enter the site all day! 

However, when numbers are low, the various protest actions are often met with what can be described as, at best, ‘robust’ policing. At times, this has included violently shoving protesters into hedges/fences, or throwing them to the ground - and even tipping people out of wheelchairs. As a result, there has been a considerable number of official complaints.


During July, Reclaim the Power organised an entire month of varied protests, known as Rolling Resistance. As well as tried-and tested methods like sit-downs and lay-downs.

There were also several inventive and successful lock-ons, and some spectacular ‘truck surfing’ - all of which prevented truck deliveries (in some cases, for several days!):


‘Green Mondays’

In order to maintain the momentum RTP has built up, local Green Parties, and Greenpeace and FoE groups, have combined together to organise regular ‘Green Mondays’ in an effort to get high numbers for one day a week, for the next couple of months at least. On 14 Aug., Natalie Bennett came up to PNR and, on 21 Aug., Jamie Peters (FoE’s Anti-fracking Organiser) was the main speaker - the latter day culminating in the successful sit-down. So far, numbers have slowly picked up on each of these successive ‘Green Mondays’.

At the same time, NW Labour Parties and Momentum branches have been approached to see if they can commit to a regular ‘Red Day’. On 15 Aug., as a first step, Yasmin Qureshi (MP for Bolton SE) came up:

and she and her Office Manager are currently doing what they can do to promote the idea of a weekly ‘Red Day’.

Currently, these are the main ‘Special Events’ organised for the next few weeks:

Tuesday 29 August: Sail Away Day! - because of Bank Holiday Monday, the ‘Green Mondays’  emphasis has been shifted to Tues. 29 Aug. The day has a ‘sailing theme’ - so if you’re coming, it would be great if you wore something vaguely nautical!

Friday 1 September: Mass Action/Funday!! - with family-friendly activities. 

Monday 4 September: Amelia Womack (Green Party Deputy Leader) will be the main speaker - and there is the possibility (not yet confirmed) that there will also be a national Greenpeace speaker.

Monday 18 September: Caroline Lucas will be the main speaker; one of the other speakers will be Stephen Hall - president of Greater Manchester Assoc. of TUs, & Chair of Unite the Union/GM Area Activists' Cttee - who will be speaking about the One Million Climate Jobs campaign.

Friday 29 September: Stephen Hall & Ian Hodson (President of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers' Union - the first union to come out against fracking) are organising what should be a 'big NW Trade Unions’ mobilisation'.


(a) Come & join us!

The main thing people can do to help is, quite simply, to come to PNR for these ‘Green Mondays’ - or other days, if Mondays are difficult - as often as they can! Ideally, we want to reach that ‘Magic Number of 100’ on as many days as we can. 
With numbers like that, the police often decide that no safe deliveries can be made to the site at that time!

(b) Share and publicise widely

Another way of helping is to share information about these protests, with family, friends and organisations, as widely as possible.  The more people know what’s happening at PNR, the more likely we are to get high numbers of protesters.

(c) What you do is up to you

Potential protesters need to know that there are many different roles they can play: from helping to prepare food for the protesters, to simply standing with placards on the pavement across from the site, to various forms of peaceful civil disobedience/ non-violent direct action (nvda) - (e.g. sit-down protests, lock-ons, and 'truck surfing').

It is ENTIRELY up to individuals to decide which type of activity they wish to take part in.

If nvda is not for you, that doesn’t matter at all - what DOES matter is getting as many people as possible attending each and every day. Simply being there gives real moral support to those who have been protesting since Cuadrilla’s activities on this site began in January. And passing drivers seeing large numbers standing on the pavement with placards is a great way of increasing public awareness of the campaign - sometimes, there are so many drivers ‘honking’ their support that it gets quite noisy!

Some practical information:

•           For those using public transport, the nearest station is Kirkham-and-Wesham: from there, cross over the road and catch the #61 bus, which takes about 15 minutes. There is a bus stop very close to the fracking site. Alternatively, you could take a bike and cycle from Kirkham-and-Wesham station, which also takes about 15 minutes.

•           For those coming by car, the best route is as follows:
Come off the M55 @ Jnc 4, onto the A583, signed Preston/Kirkham.
Free parking is available at: Maple Farm Nursery Garden, Moss House Lane (off Preston New Road), PR4 3PE -

Tel: 01772- 685166. The farm is less than a 20-minute walk from the fracking site. The World of Water Aquatic Centre has also kindly agreed to allow protesters to park at the very far side of their unmade (& often water-logged!) back car park. If you are parking there, PLEASE make sure you leave the car park BEFORE 6.00pm.

•           For those travelling by car who have health/mobility issues, it is possible to be dropped off at the fracking site itself.

•           Toilet facilities: there are portacabin toilet facilities at Maple Farm Nursery Garden - and 'proper' toilets at the World of Water Aquatic Centre. However, you should be willing to buy drinks and/or food at Ma Baker's cafĂ©/restaurant, which serves hot drinks and food (including 'an amazing selection of cakes'!), rather than just wandering in and out to use their facilities. They have been very good to us - despite our protests sometimes causing temporary road closures - so we wouldn't want protesters to take them for granted.

•           For those staying several days, the owner of Maple Farm has also made space available for camping. In addition, there are two other campsites. For those who (like me!) prefer more comfort, there is a Premier Inn on the roundabout as you come off the M55 - and it’s only a 30-minute walk to the fracking site.

•           Free vegan/vegetarian food and drink are provided for protesters (donations welcomed from those not unemployed or on benefits).

•           There is now a dedicated Facebook Event page for 'Green Mondays':

Please indicate on this when you'll be attending, so we get some idea of numbers for each Monday.
We - and your planet - need YOU!!

Allan Todd
Allerdale & Copeland Green Party
(Supporter of Green Left & the Ecosocialist Network)

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Poll – British Public hold Contradictory Views on Brexit

Now I know that opinion polls are unreliable, we have had ample examples of this recently, but I found the results of this Opinium poll perplexing. The sample is just over two thousand (2,006) people, which is double what the voting intentions polls are usually. It seems from this poll that the British public are just as confused and unrealistic, as our political representatives are.

The poll showed that if there was another referendum a majority of 47% to 44% would vote to remain in the EU. A clue to the reasons for this sentiment, seem to lie in the other finding that 26% of Brexit voters think that they were misled during the campaign. With only 19% of all respondents believing the campaign was truthful. The leave campaign pledge to spend £350 million on the NHS was believed by only 35% of leave voters and 16% of remain voters.

Despite this, when asked whether there should be another referendum on the outcome of our eventual Brexit settlement, only 37% agreed and 49% opposed the idea.

How can this be? A majority of all voters now do not want to leave the EU, a big majority think they were lied to in the campaign, but only a little over a third want the chance to vote again, and almost half oppose the idea completely.

It seems as though most voters have bought the idea put forward by the Tory government (and the main opposition party, Labour), that we can have our cake and eat it. That is, we can get a deal that allows access to the single market, the customs union and to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and put a limit on immigration from the EU.

The EU have made it clear that this not possible, but people apparently refuse to believe it to be the case. I have criticised the government and the Labour party many times on this blog for being deluded over what is achievable as a Brexit deal, but it looks as though they are behaving just as the public wants them to.

But, in yet another twist, nearly half of respondents to this poll, or 47 per cent, said they disapproved of the way Theresa May has handled the Brexit process, with only 28 per cent approving of her actions.

Perhaps with the dismal quality of last year’s referendum still fresh in the minds of the public, they just want the result overturned by MPs? The only other rational conclusion to draw from this poll is that the public are completely irrational.

The government has started to release papers outlining what it wants from the negotiations with the EU on our post Brexit status, with the latest one proposing a new arrangement to replace the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

The paper suggests more flexibility in the UK position on the ECJ. Almost a year ago, at the Tory party conference, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said that the UK would not be subject to:

 “supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts”.

But this is exactly what has been suggested in this week’s paper on the matter. It says that a new supranational arrangement should be made, which will follow the rulings of the ECJ, but not be called that. The government appears to be trying to replicate the arrangement we have now with the EU, but give the appearance of being some new, very different arrangement. We'll probably end up paying more to the EU as well, for the 'new' arrangement. 

Rather than pretending that we are not leaving the EU, but giving the arrangement a new name, surely the most sensible thing to do, is to remain as we are and save everyone a lot of time and money?

What looks to be being advocated is only a matter of appearance, and no real substance. Will the public be happy with this? That is anyone’s guess.   

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Tracking the corporate power in fossil fuel production and use

Shares of carbon emissions traced back to producing companies, for the period 1854-2010. Source:

By Simon Pirani

The Carbon Majors Report 2017, published last month, showed that 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 can be traced back to just 100 fossil fuel producing companies.

It’s a useful way of looking at the production half of the fossil fuels picture – and needs putting together with the other half: the companies that consume the fuels.

Last month’s report, by Paul Griffin of the Climate Disclosure Project, was based on years of research by the Climate Accountability Institute, which attributes greenhouse gas emissions not to the companies or people that burn coal, oil or gas, but to the companies that got the fuels out of the ground in the first place.

The report focused on the period since 1988, on the grounds that the global warming effect of fossil fuel consumption was “officially recognised” in that year, through the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Other headline results included:

More than half the fossil fuel industry’s emissions since 1988 are attributed to just 25 companies. Saudi Aramco, Gazprom of Russia, the National Iranian Oil company, ExxonMobil, Pemex of Mexico, Royal Dutch Shell, China National Petroleum Corp, BP and Chevron are high on the list. The Chinese and Russian coal industries, treated as single entities because of the difficulties of getting detailed company information, are in the top ten; so is Coal India.

The emissions that originated with fossil fuel production in 28 years since 1988 were greater than in the 237 years before that.

The 100 companies to which 71% of post-1988 emissions can be traced were the source of more than half of all greenhouse gases since 1751.

The Carbon Majors Database on which the report was based, was put together by a team of analysts, led by Richard Heede, who combed through company reports and oil and coal industry statistics and extrapolated production numbers going back to 1751. Then they used recent emissions research to marry up companies’ output with the greenhouse gases that go into the air once the fuels are burned, or used in cement manufacture and other industrial processes.

Heede’s original 2013 article, which covered much longer time periods, is well worth reading.

For both analysis and campaigning, this research on fossil fuels production gives us half of the pieces of the jigsaw. They need to be put together with the other pieces, about consumption. 

For analysis, no-one has tried to compile a database of the corporates that consume fossil fuels. It would be much more complicated than the list of producers, but the concentration of wealth and power would still be clear.

To get an idea, you could start with the International Energy Agency’s energy balances, which provide the best worldwide sector-by-sector breakdown. (Basically, electricity production, industry, transport, and household consumption each use about one fifth of primary energy, with the final fifth going to other users. About four-fifths of the primary energy comes from fossil fuels.)

The IEA data show that 20.8% of primary energy goes into producing electricity and heat. By far the largest consumer of that electricity is industry – in a deeply unequal world in which 1.2 billion people have no electricity access at all, and a larger number have only partial or irregular access to electricity.

Other large users include the iron and steel industry (5.3% of all primary energy) and other industries (15.7% of all primary energy). Much of the energy use in industry is concentrated in the largest corporations, just as industrial production is. The share of developing countries, especially China, has rocketed in recent years – but that doesn’t mean inequality has fallen. The stuff produced by the Chinese industrial boom is largely for rich-country consumers elsewhere.

The sectoral statistics don’t tell the whole story, of course. To give just one example, the IEA’s category “other energy industry own use and losses” – which doubtless represents corporate reluctance to tell government statisticians what is going on – accounts for a whopping 7.6% of the IEA’s total primary energy figure, about four times as much as the entire aviation industry. Another mystery is the level of the military’s fossil fuel use, which many countries don’t include in statistics. Historians’ guesstimates are around the 5% mark.

Global consumption of commercially-traded energy, 1965-2010. This does not include biofuels on which hundreds of millions of rural people in the developing world rely. Source: BP Statistical Review.

Global fossil fuel consumption has more than tripled since the mid 1960s. Since the international climate talks began in the late 1980s it rose by more than half.

International  agencies and would-be experts commonly claim that rising population is the main cause. But, firstly, the consumption increases are concentrated in rich countries and urban areas elsewhere. Secondly, while individuals are often the final consumers of fossil fuels, and of products made with the help of fossil fuels, consumption takes place through social, economic and technological systems. Studying these gives a better guide to where the fuel goes.

The most important processes that have raised global fossil fuel consumption since 1950, I have found in a recent research project, are: electrification, industrialisation, the transformation of the labour process, urbanisation, motorisation and the growth of material consumption and consumerism.

Take road transport, which accounts for 14% of primary energy supply, with the lion’s share going into private cars. In 1950, there were about 55 million cars, of which three quarters were in one country, the USA. Today it’s pushing 800 million, mostly in rich countries. The manufacture, as well as use, of cars gulps down huge amounts of fossil fuels.

This is about how capitalism works as a whole system – the mighty motor-producing corporations, the planned obsolescence central to their business model, the road-building projects they lobbied for and governments agreed to, the car-based city planning that has spread out from the rich countries – and not simply driver behaviour.  

These dynamics probably can not be captured in a database. But it doesn’t make them less important.

For campaigning, a broader view embracing both production and consumption is essential, if social movements and labour movements are to evolve coherent strategies to challenge the domination of energy systems by fossil fuels.

The Climate Disclosure Project, which co-published last month’s research, focuses on trying to persuade shareholders in oil, gas and coal companies to get those companies to “set ambitious emission reduction targets”.

Pedro Faria of CDP said after the report’s release that “critical shifts in policy, innovation and financial capital” are putting “the tipping point for a low carbon transition” in companies’ reach, and urged companies to get in line with the targets set by the Paris agreement on climate change. (The companies could “hold the key to tackling climate change”, the Guardian claimed. Really?!)

The central argument here is that government support for the move away from fossil fuels will make coal, oil and gas reserves into “stranded assets”. But this depends on governments taking action – which a quarter of a century of the talks process has shown they are determined to avoid.

That’s why the Paris targets are insufficient to limit global warming to 2deg C above pre-industrial temperatures, let alone the 1.5deg C that supporting governments say is preferable.  

Social and labour movements need to develop strategies for the future outside of the talks process, rather than tie themselves to the talks’ false narratives. While every initiative to move the energy sector away from fossil fuels is welcome, best of all are strategies that envisage economic, social and technological change as a whole, transforming both production and consumption.

Simon Pirani is author of a history of global fossil fuel consumption since 1950, to be published by Pluto Press in 2018. He will give a public seminar at the LSE in London on Tuesday 19 September (details here), to which all are welcome. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Naomi Klein and Jeremy Corbyn Discuss How to Get The World We Want

Transcript of the interview published at Socialist Project

July 14, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - Naomi Klein: I’m Naomi Klein, reporting for The Intercept, and I’m here in London at the Houses of Parliament with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, three weeks after the Labour Party in an historic election won many, many more seats than anybody predicted – except for some of the people in this room, who saw it coming. And it’s just an enormous pleasure to be here with Jeremy and to talk about the importance of a forward-looking, bold agenda to do battle with the right. Hi, Jeremy.

Jeremy Corbyn: Lovely to see you.

NK: So, Jeremy Corbyn, it’s been extraordinary being in the U.K. this week, and seeing the political space that you have opened up, and the fact that now we’re seeing the Tories try to poach some of your policies and scramble to try to appeal to young people by talking about maybe getting rid of tuition fees.

JC: Well, social justice isn’t copyrighted, but it’s a bigger picture than just the individual issues.

NK: I want to talk about this extraordinary moment in which the project that really began under Thatcher in this country, and Reagan in the U.S. — the whole so-called consensus that never really was a consensus, the war on the collective, on the idea that we can do good things when we get together — is crumbling. But it’s also kind of a dangerous moment, when you have a vacuum of ideology, because dangerous ideas are also surging. So what is the plan to make sure that it is progressive, hopeful ideas that enter into this vacuum that has opened up?

JC: It’s been a very interesting two years. We’ve had two leadership elections in the Labour Party, which mobilized very large numbers of people. It’s not about me. It’s about a cause, it’s about people. And then we’ve just come out of a general election campaign in which we started in a very difficult political position and ended up gaining three million more votes than 2015, and the highest Labour vote in England for many, many decades.

There was a big swing to Labour, but not quite enough, unfortunately, to give us a Parliamentary majority. And so, we’re now in a situation where there is a huge confidence amongst those that are campaigning for ending the wage cap in the public sector for investment in public services. And a huge degree of uncertainty by the right and by the Conservatives.

NK: I feel like what your campaign has done, and the boldness of the Labour Manifesto – and this election campaign has proved that when you put the ideas forward, when you put the bold vision of the world we actually want – not just the opposition to austerity, you know, not just the “no,” but also a picture of the world that could be so much better than we have, that’s when people get excited.

JC: The strongest message – indeed. I said this at many, many rallies and events we held: “Look around the crowd. Look at each other. You’re all different. You’re all unique. You’re all individuals. You have different backgrounds, languages. Different ethnic communities. But you’re all united. You’re united in what you actually want in the sense of a collective in society.”

And I think the election campaign was a turning point away from the supreme individualism of the right towards the idea that you’re a better society when you have a collective good about it.

NK: And what about that picture of the world after we win? How important is that?

JC: The picture of the world is a crucial one. It is about what we do to deal with issues of injustice and inequality and poverty, and above all, hope and opportunity for young people. Hope that they can get to college or university, opportunity they can get a decent job. And it’s also about the contribution we make to the rest of the world and the relationship we have with the rest of the world.

I want a foreign policy based on human rights, based on respect for international law, based for recognizing the causes of the refugee flows, the causes of the injustice around the world. And that is something we’re developing. And indeed, there were some awful events during the election campaign. Before the election started there was an attack on Westminster itself and on Parliament. There was then the dreadful bomb in Manchester. And then there was an attack in London on London Bridge.

NK: And you committed kind of political heresy because you talked about some of the root causes. Yet that resonated with people.

JC: I’m not in any way minimizing the horror of what happened or the awful things the individuals did, but I said you’ve got to look at the international context in which there’s been this growth. And I can hear myself like yesterday, on February 15, 2003, saying, “What could be the worst-case scenario if we went to war in Iraq?” I wasn’t defending Saddam Hussein. I was just saying, if you go to war in Iraq and you destabilize the whole country, there are consequences.

NK: I think it’s important for Americans in this moment to understand that you were able to say that, and that it resonated with people because they know it to be true. Because we don’t know what’s going to happen during the Trump administration. But we do know that Donald Trump fully intends to take advantage of any crisis to push forward this incredibly regressive, xenophobic agenda, because he tried to exploit the Manchester attacks to say this is about immigrants flowing across our borders. He tried to take advantage of the London Bridge attack to say this is why we need to Muslim ban.

JC: He also attacked the mayor of London, who’s the first Muslim elected to mayoral office anywhere in Western Europe. People were extremely angry at the language he used toward Sadiq Khan, who is, after all, elected mayor of the city.

NK: Well, what do you say to some of the world leaders who think that they can only go so far in standing up to Trump? You know, like maybe they’ll put out a sassy meme of some kind. But ultimately they’re going to welcome him with open arms. What do you think the stance of other world leaders who claim to stand for progressive values should be in this moment?

JC: Well, I think they’ve got to meet Trump and discuss with him, as one would with any leader. I was shocked by the language he used during his election campaign — about women, about Muslims, and about Mexicans, about other people in society. I was also appalled at the language he used surrounding the Paris Climate Change discussions. I mean, these are serious, serious global issues. What kind of world are we going to leave in the future? What are we doing to this planet? And he seemed to think this was an opportunity for promoting polluting industries.

NK: Well, he actually said he was going to negotiate a better deal.

JC: Well, I’m not sure what he means by a better deal and that would be an interesting discussion. But having worked, like you have, for a very long time on these issues, the fact that finally India and China, in a formal setting, came onboard with the idea there are limits to emissions, there are limits to pollution, there are limits to what you can do. For the USA having come onboard under Obama, then walking away under Trump, is beyond sad.

NK: But certainly because they’re going so rogue on climate, I think there is a responsibility for everybody else to do more in this moment, not to just sort of – okay, he’s lowered the bar so much that everybody looks good in comparison. And we are seeing examples of that. We’re seeing – including in the U.S., we’re seeing cities stepping up and saying, well, we’re going to speed up our transition to renewables. And internationally I think we can see the same thing as well.

JC: I think that the image of the USA is too often presented as the image of what Donald Trump has said day-to-day, whereas the reality, look at the number of jobs in renewables in California alone runs into the hundreds of thousands. Look at the growth of renewable energy systems across the USA, the number of states and cities that are serious about protecting their environment and controlling what they can of climate change.

NK: I want to talk a little bit about the way some of my friends in the United States are feeling right now, who were very inspired by this election campaign and by your leadership bid within the Labour Party.

I have to tell you that people are feeling a little discouraged right now in the United States. They are up against Trump, but they’re also up against a Democratic party that is fighting them on single-payer healthcare, on universal public healthcare, that seems to want to keep charting what they see as a safe, centrist path, but what we’re seeing again and again is it’s not safe because it’s a losing path. It’s not speaking to people’s urgent needs for good jobs, for a free public education and affordable healthcare. What do you say to the people who organized for Bernie and are just feeling really frustrated right now?

JC: Bernie called me the day after our election here. I was half asleep watching something on television. And Bernie comes on to say, well done on the campaign, and I was interested in your campaigning ideas. Where did you get them from? And I said, well, you, actually.

And what I would say to people is: Don’t be discouraged. At the end of the day, human beings want to do things together. They want to do things collectively. And that’s the kind of society all of us are trying to create. We went into an election campaign in a difficult political position, and we put forward a manifesto that was collective in its approach, was specific in what it would do, in the sense of ending university tuition fees, in the sense of raising minimum income, and we gained the biggest increase in vote for our party since the Second World War. And we gained the support and participation of a very large number of people. 

We didn’t win the election. I wish we had. But in that campaign, we changed the debate in exactly the same way Senator Bernie Sanders’s intervention into Democratic nomination did mobilize a very large number of people.

NK: But you did win the leadership of the Labour Party. That campaign wasn’t ultimately successful within the Democratic Party. Do you think people should keep fighting for the soul of that party?

JC: Well, it’s the soul of the people, isn’t it?

It’s not for me to tell people what specific organizations they should or shouldn’t have in the USA, because the party system in the USA is very different.

What we’ve done is change the terms of debate, but the other key point, and this is what works on both sides of the Atlantic, is a method of campaigning. You knock on doors and you identify voters. That’s key, crucial. But if you’re seen solely through the prism of media that is quite rightwing and quite conservative in its views, then all you’re doing when you knock on the door is hearing an echo of what people have heard on a rightwing television station or through the printed media.

Social media and the technology and techniques that are there through social media give an opportunity that’s never been there before to get that message across. Just think, those people that were campaigning for social justice in Chicago in the 1920s, the best they could do was print their own newspaper if they could afford it, or make a leaflet and take it round and hand it out on bread queues. I grew up in the era when you used to print your own leaflets and go and give them out. You can now send out something on social media, and you can reach potentially millions of people in five minutes. The opportunities are there. And it’s not regulated, it’s not censored, it’s not controlled.

William Randolph Hearst would have hated the Internet.

NK: It seems to me that you have received just about as bad media treatment, smears from elite media, as is possible to receive. And yet it didn’t work. In fact, it seems to have backlashed and contributed to this feeling of loss of faith in many of these elite institutions.

JC: I think there’s something in that. After a while, a high degree of media abuse makes you a figure of interest.

NK: You talk about changing the debate, and that’s clearly happened. One of the places we’ve seen this is in the Grenfell Tower catastrophe crime scene. And the way in which this horrific event has been interpreted, it seems, throughout British society, is as extreme evidence of a failed system that does not value human life, that puts kind of a hierarchy on life.

JC: What it exposed was something about modern urban living. This is the borough in London that is the richest in the whole country. Very, very rich borough. And its council gave a rebate to the top taxpayers last year. Gave them a little gift.

NK: Money back.

JC: That tower had several hundred people living in it, some of whom were tenants of the local council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Some flats had been bought independently, and they were sub-tenanted or sub-sub-tenanted. Nobody really knew who was in the block. The whole system collapsed. The reality was, it’s a product of insufficient regulation, of deregulation, and it was a towering inferno of the poor being burnt in the richest borough in the country.

And that’s a wakeup call about safety of buildings. It’s a wakeup call about the idea you go forward to this wonderful free market Valhalla of the future by tearing up every regulation like it’s a denial of the opportunities for the private sector. And so the debate has turned full circle on this. I went there the following day and spent quite a lot of time talking to those that escaped from the tower, and talking to traumatized firefighters and paramedics and ambulance workers and police officers who were getting ready to go into the building – to was then cooling from the fire – in order to bring out the bodies. They’re the real heroes in this. It’s a lesson for the whole country. But people are frightened.

NK: There’s a wall now – and I think you’ve probably seen it — where residents have put up questions that they have for the authorities. And you know, these questions are just completely heartbreaking. There’s kids asking, Is my school safe? There’s on question from a ten-year-old child who said, “Why does it take this to bring us together?”

JC: That’s a good question.

NK: I think we learn this lesson again and again during times of crisis, when we’re tested. We can either turn inward and against each other, and we saw a lot of that after 9/11 in the United States, where Muslims were scapegoated, and we lost a lot of liberties in this country and around the world with these draconian laws pushed through. Wars were started in the name of that attack.

And here we are in a time of overlapping crisis. Climate change is one of those crises, and inequality is another, and racial injustice is another. Do you think we can connect the dots and develop an agenda that solves multiple problems at once, multiple crises?

JC: Well, climate change and refugees are linked. Climate change and war is linked. Environmental disaster, not necessarily always associated with climate change, is also linked when you have deforestation and you end up destroying your local environment because of it.

And so, if you look at the war in Darfur, look at the refugee flows into Libya, partly from the war in Syria, also from human rights abuses across the whole region. Also from people who have been driven off their land in sub-Saharan Africa to make way for often very large corporations buying up land to grow various crops, often rice or fruit, to export somewhere else, leaving the local population unemployed and hungry. There is a connection about the need for supporting the living and development rights of everybody, not just yourself at their expense.

NK: I want to ask you if there’s been a moment that really sticks with you during the campaign or since that is the most hopeful moment you’ve seen, where you could see the country that you want to live in, a glimpse of it.

JC: There was a gentleman who came to our rally in Hastings, which is south coast seaside resort fishing town. He was aged 91. I joked with him, because I’d been told he was 92, and he said how dare I call him 92, he was only 91. He joined the Labour Party in 1945, been a party member ever since then. Very active all his life. And he said this was the most hopeful time of his life. And he told me his mother had been a suffragette who campaigned for the women’s right to vote at the time of the First World War. And his grandfather had been in the Chartists in the 1850s, which helped bring about some degree of democracy in Britain. And I just thought, this man has come out to a rally on a Saturday morning at that age because he’s full of hope for young people.

We were characterized as an election campaign that was full of young, idealistic people. Yeah, there were a lot of young people there, and many of them with brilliant ideals and brilliant imagination. There were also a lot of older people there who came there saying, “I want something better for my grandchildren. I want something better for society in the future.” It was a coming together of large numbers of people.

NK: Well, I really want to thank you for your leadership and for your boldness, because it isn’t only inspiring people in this country; I think it’s inspiring people around the world who really do need some inspiration right now, particularly in United States.

JC: Thank you very much. It’s not about you or I as individuals. When people’s minds are opened up, there is no end to the possibilities.

This article was first published by The Intercept -

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Is There a Nazi in the White House?

Written by Sonali Kolhatkar

Donald Trump is trying hard to put a pretty face on racism. But the racists, openly embracing the label, won’t let him.

Referring to the violent gathering of self-professed fascists in Charlottesville, Va., during his press conference Tuesday, Trump said, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” But those who showed up for the “Unite the Right” rally Saturday defined themselves so clearly that Trump can’t whitewash their hatred away.

The Nazi website The Daily Stormer even declared this season the “Summer of Hate.” (The website has recently been dropped by its hosting company, GoDaddy). On Saturday, protesters gathered, wearing swastikas and chanting the Nazi slogan “Blood and Soil,” and marched KKK-style with lit torches. One attendee literally emulated those who pledge allegiance to Islamic State by plowing down people in the street with his car, killing a young woman named Heather Heyer.

Anyone claiming to be non-Nazi who marched alongside the Nazis either agreed with their fascist ideology or condoned it. Either way, Trump appears even more deluded than usual in his attempt to defend the Nazis when the Nazis themselves are proudly proclaiming their fascistic credentials.

Rather than use the euphemistic term “alt-right” to describe the conglomeration of pro-Confederacy activists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members and Trump supporters who gathered in Charlottesville, we ought to use the familiar words: “Nazis,” or “fascists.” Not only are the terms interchangeable when judged by the aspirations of those they represent, they have an appropriate historical significance, reminding us of what is at stake.

A recent psychological study of people professing to be alt-right confirms that they actually look upon nonwhites as less human. So if you talk like a Nazi and walk like a Nazi, you are a Nazi unless you can prove otherwise. Another way to put it: You’re either with the fascists or against them.
Trump has repeatedly sent the message that he is with the Nazis. Which makes him a Nazi sympathizer at best, or simply a Nazi by default.

On Sunday, he attempted to spread the blame for the violence in Charlottesville on all sides, for which he was praised by the fascists. Then, on Monday he was reined in by his party and likely his own staff when he read scripted remarks that included the childish phrase, “Racism is evil,” and even deemed the KKK and neo-Nazis “repugnant,” (although he continued his silence over Heyer’s death).

But by Tuesday, his inner Nazi broke free, and the president practically frothed at the mouth at another press conference, ranting so overtly in favor of the fascists that even some conservative TV hosts were stunned.

When the world condemned the atrocities of Nazi Germany during World War II, there was an eventual reckoning that the inaction of “good Germans” was also partly responsible for the resulting Jewish holocaust. Republicans, including members of Congress who supported Trump during his campaign and after the election, cannot claim to be surprised by his fascistic tendencies surfacing in the wake of Charlottesville, given how often he courted Nazis and racists. Just as good Germans kept silent while disappearances and mass murder took place all around them, Republicans are continuing to stand behind Trump in relative silence, hoping the rest of us do not notice how they enable him.

While some GOP senators, such as Florida’s Marco Rubio, Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Arizona’s John McCain boldly and unequivocally denounced white supremacy, they did not publicly break with the president over it.

But the time is now. They are either with the Nazi in the White House or against him. They cannot denounce white supremacy but continue to support a white supremacist simply because he is president.

Nazism is not simply one end of a political spectrum. The world decided decades ago that it is an ideology that has no place on the spectrum at all. The adoption of Nazi symbols by this movement means it is deliberately aligning itself with one of the worst, most universally denounced mass crimes in modern human history.

We’ve fought this fight before, and despite the morally repugnant, unnecessary and horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S., there was little argument in the years following World War II that Nazism needed to end.

Despite the fact that black Americans continue to face repression and discrimination in myriad forms, there has been very little deliberation in recent years over the fact that slavery needed to end or that the adoption of civil rights laws in the U.S. was imperative.

There is no debate over such things because we have moved beyond allowing them to remain morally acceptable. There is no need to rehash the argument about whether one race of humans is superior to another. Biology, human rights, common sense and basic decency are aspects of society that we should be able to take for granted in modern America. But along came Trump, and now we are not just fighting for progress on racial justice, gender justice and economic justice, we are obliged to spell out that Nazis are reprehensible and watch Trump forced to express such basic truisms as “racism is evil.”

The fascist right and its leader Trump are experts in deflection. Trump used the term ‘alt-left’ on Tuesday to ascribe violence to the counterprotesters in Charlottesville, feeding the popular right-wing myth that leftists are the violent ones, rather than the hate-spewing, heavily armed Nazis. There is even a debate about whether it is okay to punch Nazis, rather than a discussion about why Nazis are allowed to spew their hate publicly and incite violence against whole communities of people. Using the rubric of “free speech,” Nazis have even been able to garner the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, a noble organization with a long history of standing up for people’s civil rights, mine included, but which in this case chose to throw its weight behind a movement promising violence against others.

By backing white supremacists and fascists, Trump has declared war on the rest of us. The most important discussion we should having today isn’t about who is responsible for the violence or whether Nazis are really violent. We should simply ask why are any of us tolerating the Nazi in the White House?

This article was originally published at Truthdig.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women's rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of "Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence."

A scary video interview with a of group of American Nazis.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Government Borrowing caps limited Grenfell Tower refurb budget, say council papers

Reported by Anthony Barej and first published at Public Finance Magazine

Council papers showed in 2014 the council estimated over the next five years it would require £110m to maintain its housing stock but was only able to earmark £64m, leaving a £46m shortfall.

This placed the council under pressure to find ways to fund necessary work, including the sale of assets and cost-cutting, according to the council’s HousingRevenue Account (HRA) business plan from 2015.

Planning documents show RBKC reduced its original budget for the work on the tower to £9.7m after it decided on using cheaper materials in the Grenfell Tower renovations.

This was partly due to government rules that do not allow authorities to borrow above a cap, the plan said. 

RBKC’s cap was £221m. “Given our current debt our headroom for borrowing is only £11.4m,” the plan stated.

This £11.4m represented a fraction of the £110m required by the council for maintenance across its housing stock including Grenfell, the papers showed.

“Given, the limited scope for additional borrowing, the intention is to not use it to fund maintenance work but to invest in future regeneration or development of affordable housing,” the document explained.  

A spokesperson for RBKC said: “Refurbishment works are likely to feature in the upcoming public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

“We want to be open and transparent, but we hope people understand that we also do not want to prejudice the fair conduct of the public inquiry in any way.”