End the slaughter in Gaza

by Gerry Adams

gaza_demo_260714_owen_jones_460The scenes of desolation and destruction in Gaza, of whole streets reduced to piles of broken rubble, and the images of torn bodies, especially of young children and babies, demand that the international community do all that we can to end this slaughter.

Just before noon on Tuesday morning I spoke to Saeb Erekat in Ramallah on the west Bank. The Palestinian Unity Government was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation.

Saeb is an Executive Committee Member of the PLO and is the Chief Negotiator for the Palestinian government. He took a few minutes to brief me on the current situation in Gaza and the behind the scenes efforts to achieve a humanitarian ceasefire. Continue reading →

An inquiry into the banks at last. Great – or is it?

by Michael Meacher

Banks at Canary WharfA new official inquiry into the banks is announced just when Osborne announces that the banking crisis is finally over. In fact it’s still coming to the boil – how does he manage to keep on coming up with these gags? Just 6 years late, you might think. But that’s the least problem. The real issue is that it’s an inquiry into the wrong things.

  • It’s not going to look into the way Libor trading was rigged.
  • Nor into PPI mis-selling that has led to penalties for the banks of up to £20bn.
  • Nor into grotesquely inflated bank bonuses.
  • Nor into how the colossally costly taxpayer bailouts of the banks can be avoided in future.
  • Nor into whether in future those found responsible for worldwide financial crashes should be given a hefty jail sentence.

No, this inquiry will be into current accounts held at banks and whether they and ATM cash machines should in future still be free or have to be paid for. In other words, this inquiry is not about holding the banks to account; it’s about making them more profitable. Continue reading →

Ann Black reports on Labour’s national policy forum

by Ann Black

NPF reportMilton Keynes, 18/20 July 2014

Like the last pre-election Forum in 2008 this was held on the hottest weekend of the year, but there the similarities ceased, and not just with the move from Warwick University to Milton Keynes.  For the most part constructive dialogue and willingness to compromise outweighed arm- twisting, and all sections of the movement could co-operate instead of being played off against each other.

The Chair Angela Eagle opened by invoking the spirit of 1945 and Labour’s manifesto “Let us Face the Future”, committed to decent housing, jobs for all, and an end to want and poverty.  Now, with a million people dependent on foodbanks, the most vulnerable hit hardest by the Tories and the NHS under threat, we had to translate our timeless values into today’s political situation.  Money would be short after the general election, but social justice could be achieved by big reforms rather than big spending. Continue reading →

Whatever happened to the parliamentary Labour party?

by Michael Meacher

MPs herded blindfolded through the lobbiesThe parliamentary Labour party (PLP) has changed dramatically over the long years of my political experience. It used to be the forum where policy differences were thrashed out, the front bench was held vigorously to account, and ideological debate provided the lifeblood for political activism. No more. It must be the most placid in modern times. Good of course in terms of maintaining unity, which is an important objective, but less good in terms of political inspiration and campaigning drive.

The PLP is not unique in this respect. The same process of dumbing down has smothered party conference which once was the heaving soul of the Labour Movement, but now has shrunken to become merely a showpiece for the Leader’s speech. Continue reading →

Time to ban ‘revenge porn’

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Secrets of an Essex GirlAnother Sunday, another case of celebrity revenge porn. This time Lauren Goodger from The Only Way is Essex is the victim and the piece itself is said to be a six second clip of her performing “a sex act”. You don’t need a particularly filthy imagination to work out what that might be. The alleged culprit is apparently an ex-partner, Goodger’s “co-star”.

As I’ve argued before, ‘revenge porn‘ is something of a misnomer. Porn, regardless of content, is performed by willing participants who also consent to its dissemination. Performers might be professional and do it for payment, or amateurs giving it a go for kinky kicks. Revenge porn on the other hand misses one or both elements of consent and therefore is a form of sexual assault. In Goodger’s case this is doubly so as she has not consented to the clip’s circulation, and wasn’t aware she was being filmed. Continue reading →

TTIP could privatise our education system, permanently

by James Elliott

378113Over the last year the student movement has seen something of a comeback from the low ebbs of 2012 and early 2013, with new waves of occupations, landmark campaigns such as Occupy Sussex, the inspirational militancy of the 3Cosas cleaners, and a renewed conflict between students and workers’ right to organise, and the management’s will to stifle dissent. What is encouraging about many of these new struggles is that they are organic, creating new campaigns centered on building student-worker solidarity, such as those of the SOAS cleaners and King’s College London’s union-run Living Wage Campaign.

Yet one issue could pass students by altogether, and represents arguably the greatest single threat to hopes of a free, democratic and public education system in the UK. That is of course the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a colossal EU-US trade deal, that has been slowly gathering union and civil society opposition over the last few months. Continue reading →

Making it another 1945

by Bryan Gould

Ed Miliband and a bacon sandwichSteve Richards (David Cameron will lose the battle of ideas if he keeps firing 1979’s bullets) is right to say in The Guardian (and Ed Miliband obviously agrees with him) that next year’s election will not, and should not, be decided by personality politics.  So what is it that will determine the voters’ preferences?

It would be nice to think, as Richards argues, that the election will be about ideas.  But policy ideas, until and unless they are successfully proved in practice, make little impact on voters increasingly cynical about promises. Continue reading →

Next DWP scam coming: lose your job, wait 5 weeks before any benefit paid

by Michael Meacher

jcp-signIt is being kept under close wraps by this Tory government that under Universal Credit people who lose their jobs will be made to wait 5 weeks before they get any benefit payment.    Very few people realise this – a poll found this latest ‘welfare reform’ deeply unpopular, with almost 4 to 1 opposed.   That may explain why the government is trying to keep their plans secret before the election, since only 1 in 8 says they’ve heard anything about it.   But the impact will be really devastating on families.   Anyone losing their job will get no help to cover rent, mortgage, food or fuel bills.   the 5-week wait will apply to anyone making a new claim, however long they have held their job or however much national insurance they have paid in during their working life.   The plans are hidden in the small print of the rules for the new Universal Credit system which Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) likes to parade as the government’s flagship benefit reform.   The programme has already been dogged by repeated delays and wasted at least £130m through disastrous IT contracts.   The 5-week wait will hit millions of people.   Since the economic crash in 2008-9, there have been 22 million new claimants for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA).   In future everyone in this situation will have to wait 5 weeks for their first payment. Continue reading →

Darcus Howe: setting the record straight

by Conrad Landin

Darcus HoweFour of us stood glued to the television for the best part of five minutes. We were all familiar with Darcus Howe. For my part, I’d seen his gripping TV series on English identity, White Tribe, several years before. This was 2011, and in the wake of riots that the political establishment were struggling to understand, and reported by a visibly shocked and baffled media, Howe was being interviewed live by the BBC’s Fiona Armstrong. Finally calling him by his correct name (as opposed to “Marcus Dowe”, which she used repeatedly in the interview) Armstrong asked: “Mr Howe, if I can just ask you, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you?”

Howe paused, and replied: “I have never taken part in a single riot. I have been on demonstrations that ended up in conflict. And have some respect for an old West Indian Negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter, because you won’t tickle me to get abusive. You just sound idiotic. Have some respect.” It was clear that though the news channels had been repeating the same clips of the riots, this interview would never be repeated by the BBC. Continue reading →

How long can the NHS go on like this?

by Michael Meacher

NHS Olympics imageThe number of NHS trusts referred to the Department of Health because of financial irregularities has increased almost 4-fold in 2013-4 compared to the previous year. The Audit Commission has just reported that 19 trusts, about 1 in 5,were flagged as financially failing. Similarly 24 clinical commissioning groups, about 1 in 9, were also referred to the Secretary of State mainly because of ‘issues with their financial position’. The same trend of deepening financial problems was reported by auditors over a quarter of trusts in the previous financial year, but by 2013-14 this group had risen to a third.

The trusts are caught in a vice between having to make unprecedented cuts of £20bn within the current 5-year parliamentary period, whilst having at the same time to meet enormous extra financial pressures from rising demand for healthcare services, the health needs of an ageing population, the above-inflation pressures from the ever-rising costs of the most advanced new technology, and the ever-stronger focus on the quality of care. Continue reading →

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