The right to roam

by Grahame Morris

The right to roamTomorrow will mark the 82nd anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass. Over eighty years ago working class people defied the police and landowners with a mass trespass in the Peak District in order to assert their right to roam.

The protest led to five demonstrators being arrested and imprisoned. However, it also began the process that would see the creation of Britain’s national parks by the post-war Labour Government, and a later Labour Government would pass the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, implementing what is known as the right to roam, securing walkers’ rights over open country and common land.

However, even with these new rights the vast majority of the land in Britain is owned a small group of landowners. The Kevin Cahill book, Who Owns Britain, published shortly after the right to roam legislation, found that about 6000 landowners own 40 million of Britain’s 60 million acres of land, and that 70% of land is owned by 1% of the population. In comparison, 60 million people live in houses collectively occupying 4.4 million acres. Continue reading →

Three reasons why French Socialists are right to oppose PM Valls’ austerity plan

by Tom Gill

Manuel VallsFrance’s ruling socialist party is in revolt. A very vocal minority don’t like the austerity plan of new PM Manuel Valls. And they are threatening to vote it down. Here’s 3 reasons why they are right. (Translated by Tom Gill from the original by Christian Chavagneux )

France’s new prime minister – now three weeks into his job – last week unveiled a swinging austerity plan. Although the mix of measures is different than previous policy announcements, it is essentially the same thrust of economic policy aimed at limiting public deficits to win ‘business competitiveness’ and restore purchasing power to households that has been pursued for a number of years. And they are not working. Here’s why: Continue reading →

Blairites, Valls and Renzi, offer little hope for Eurozone

by Michael Meacher

reddish Euro flagValls and Renzi, the new prime ministers of France and Italy respectively, have made clear their respect for Blair and their intention to follow his example. That’s bad news for the Eurozone and for the EU in general. Blairism is not an economic ideology, but rather a style of leadership that is far more about presentation than substance. So far from representing any new economic ideas, it swallowed the existing free markets capitalist fundamentalism hook, line and sinker. That’s why following the Blairite line in France and Italy, both countries in deep economic difficulty, is likely to be so self-destructive. Continue reading →

Four oddities of Labour education policy

by David Pavett

11640840_sThe Labour Party’s declared aim is to build a “one-nation society” with a “one-nation economy” and a “one-nation education system”. What would a “one-nation education system” look like? Clearly, there can be many different solution to such a complex problem but some general principles would need to apply in all cases. With this in mind there are some decidedly odd features of Labour policy for England. Some are listed below  - private schools, faith schools, LEAs and Tristram Hunt. Continue reading →

Labour’s hiring of David Axelrod won’t work without solid, inspirational policies

by Michael Meacher

AxelrodYou really can’t expect to win an election by importing an election guru from abroad – even one as well-proved as David Axelrod who helped win two presidential elections for Obama as his political adviser – unless there is a foundation of strong and resonant policies to inspire voters with in the first place.

At present there isn’t. The 2015 election is clearly going to hinge around austerity. Osborne is going to say that the 2.7% expected growth rate in 2014 shows that he was right all along and that austerity has worked. In fact austerity hasn’t worked at all except to depress the economy. Continue reading →

UKIP’s turn to the workers

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

UKIP posterI don’t love UKIP. I don’t love to hate UKIP. I simply loathe them, despise them. UKIP is the Daily Mail in party form, a chamber pot spilling over with effluvia and poison. From climate change denialism to sexism, from ‘are-you-thinking-what-we’re-thinking’ wink-wink racism to stupid-minded selfishness, it is the new home for everything that is vile, everything that is anti-human about our politics. Continue reading →

A turning point in the National Union of Students?

by Michael Chessum and James McAsh

freeeducation copyThis could be a turning point for the National Union of Students (NUS) and the student left. Delegates at the recent NUS’s national conference ended over a decade of NUS opposition to free education. The result is a triumph for principled student activists, inside and outside of NUS, and it is a further defeat for Blairism. However, it is only meaningful if students and activists on the ground have a clear understanding of what has happened, and what it means.

For years, NUS has been plagued by inaction and spinelessness. It began in 1996 when NUS abandoned its commitment to free education, a cynical manoeuvre by Labour Students – the faction which has historically dominated NUS – to pave the way to New Labour tuition fees, and other than one brief period in 2002-3, NUS has openly opposed free education. They got away with it for years while the student left was occupied elsewhere: anti-globalisation, the Iraq war, climate change. Continue reading →

The real risk with climate change is feedback effects as key thresholds are passed

by Michael Meacher

What would it take to get the lead countries in the world to take climate change seriously? The 4th report of the UN International Panel on Climate Change produced by 1,250 of the world’s top scientists and approved by 194 governments, has just been published with the irrefutable argument that diverting funding from fossil fuels to renewable energy and cutting energy waste would reduce expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3% by a minuscule 0.06%.

Given the imminent risk of cataclysmic climate upheaval within the next 20 years, you might think such a deal couldn’t be resisted, but that of course is without reckoning with the political lobbying power of the oil, gas and coal industries. But there is another argument which ought to give governments pause enough even to override the selfish pleading of the vested interests putting profits before human survival. And that is the very real risk of dramatic feedbacks. Continue reading →

Italy: Renzi’s pre-election coup

by Tom Gill

Matteo RenziPut more money in ordinary people’s pockets to boost household spending while taxing banks and axing military and other wasteful spending: sounds like a political coup and it was one Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pulled off consummately  on Friday.

Renzi’s cabinet passed a decree to reduce taxes for those earning between 8,000 and 26,000 euros a year by about €80 per month, starting next month. The decree “for competitiveness and social justice”, which goes into effect immediately but must be confirmed by parliament within 60 days, means almost €7 billion in tax cuts this year and €10billion in the following years. Continue reading →

The fight against fracking continues

by Caroline Lucas

No frackingBalcombe, one of the first places in the UK to be earmarked as a potential fracking site, has been the new frontline in a major struggle over the search and exploitation of yet more fossil fuels – and with mounting evidence of the urgent need to tackle climate change, the stakes could hardly be higher.

That’s why I, and many others, took part in peaceful protests outside the Cuadrilla site in August of last year. My acquittal and that of my four other co-defendants on Friday is a huge relief, but it’s by no means a cause for celebration. That will only happen when David Cameron announces an end to fracking, and investment instead in cleaner, greener energy sources.

The latest evidence suggests that as much as 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we’re to have any hope of avoiding dangerous climate change. The widespread use of shale is quite simply incompatible with the UK’s international commitments to try to avoid its worst impacts. Continue reading →

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