Another 30,000 nails in the coffin of the ‘greenest government ever’

by Michael Meacher

Hammer and nail

What public health risk killed nearly 30,000 persons in the UK last year? Second only to smoking. We assume this sort of thing occurs in developing countries with over-rapid growth like China or in car-choked Los Angeles in California, but not in the UK. Think again.

The pea-souper smog in London in December 1952 killed over 4,000 residents. It is now regarded as one of the worst public health disasters in the UK over the last century. Last year, 60 years later, a far bigger disaster has erupted – nearly 30,000 people died in the UK from filthy air – waves of sooty particles known as PM2.5s which are so minuscule that they can penetrate deep into the lungs and cross into the bloodstream. They then cause heart and lung disease and cancer, and aggravate asthma. When PM2.5 levels are raised, the air goes hazy and visibility is sharply reduced. They are emitted largely by diesel engines. So why is this whole issue being ignored? Why hasn’t a commitment been given to phase out diesel engines? Continue reading →

Books: spring into action

by Mark Perryman

Spring booksA Hot Summer beckons but perhaps not on the political front? Mark Perryman from finds some books sure to cheer up our inner pessimist.

UKIP riding high in the opinion polls, what could be a more dismal sign of the state of opposition outside the Westminster bubble. Whether or not Farage’s party of English poujadists manage to top the Euro Election poll in May and make a further dent in the 3-party domination of the local government elections on the same day too the dragging of political debate rightwards remains UKiP’s biggest achievement. There remains few signs of any similar success from the outside Left. Continue reading →

French socialist revolt continues

by Tom Gill

hollande-et-parti-socialisteThe revolt in France’s socialist party continued this week as details of a fresh austerity plan were unveiled by new Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Valls has announced a 50 billion euro austerity plan to be funded largely by cuts to pensions, a freeze in public servants’ salaries and cuts to public services.

The announcement was “received as a slap in the face by some Socialist MPs who expected at least a gesture to the left”, L’Humanité reported. However, the majority are expected to back the plan when it goes before parliament next April 30, despite the pounding the party received in local polls late last month amid a tightening of the austerity screw. Continue reading →

Up-front NHS charges are just around the corner

by Michael Meacher

Disaster looms for NHSThis week, it’s become clear we’re a step closer to a fee-charging, means-tested NHS. The privatisation agenda began with Blair’s  foundation trusts. Next we had Cameron’s offer to ‘any qualified provider’ to compete for any NHS contract. Then a cascade of privatisations and outsourcings throughout the NHS. It rose to a new level with the Blairite ex-minister flying a kite for a £10 tax on everyone to pay for their health services. Now it’s been taken on and applied from within the NHS itself: by GPs in one of the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

This has only come to light because of the investigatory efforts of the anti-cuts group, False Economy, which makes one wonder whether it is already more widespread. The NHS South Warwickshire CCG are proposing to charge for 15 different kinds of aids and devices for persons who are disabled or are recovering from an accident or operation. They include trusses for hernias, spinal supports, knee and hip braces, lumbar and abdominal supports, cervical support, toilet aids and equipment, walking aids and crutches, bed mobility aids, etc. Continue reading →

Behind the lure of Scottish independence lies the threat of “divide and rule”

by Richard Leonard

union flag melts away from scotlandThe Scottish Trades Union Congress met this week in Dundee, where the Chartists took strike action in August 1842 and marched from Magdalen Green to Forfar for the right of working people to vote. Meeting at such a highly charged time, with the referendum on the creation of a separate Scottish state just weeks away, we should never forget the capacity and power of ordinary people to shape events, and to make our own history.

As trade unionists all our experience tells us that we are stronger when we combine and stick together. Combination and solidarity should be first principles for any trade unionist and every trade union.

We know for example that the unrelenting push of employers for plant level rather than national bargaining and personal contracts over collective agreements is because they understand only too well the principle of divide and rule. Continue reading →

Asset-backed securities precipitated the crash: let’s do it again!

by Michael Meacher

It is almost unbelievable, but true, that at the highest levels of today’s capitalism it is being proposed that the asset-backed securities which provoked the banking crash in the first place should now be relaunched as the best avenue for recovery. Both Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and Carney, governor of the Bank of England as well as chair of the Financial Stability Board, have given their support in the last few days to a resumption of securitisation. The latter may have an arcane name, but the idea is clear enough. Continue reading →

So long, Austin Mitchell, it’s been good to know you (most of the time)

by Jon Lansman

In this really quite good short film, Austin Mitchell announces he’s leaving Parliament next year (he used to work in broadcasting and it shows). He’s a very decent man who’s done some stirling work in his time, not least in defence of council housing over the years when it was simply taboo in the Labour Party, and he deserves some of the credit for raising its priority so high in the party today. Continue reading →

The Mirror front page hit a nerve. Bring on the distraction

by Conrad Landin

BlSqhbvIUAAJJ0N.jpg-largeThe front page of yesterday’s Daily Mirror (left) made for graphic viewing. Its simple message about the injustice of Britain’s reliance on food banks – and the ease with which it could be shared on social media – made it an effective campaigning tool for “digital Bennites”. But within hours, the backlash had begun. Twitter was awash with right-wingers and plenty who should have known better expressing their own indignation. Apparently the use of a stock photo from Getty Images  – something plenty of papers use every day – is more of an outrage than the fact that one million food parcels have been handed out. Continue reading →

François Hollande moves to silence left dissenters in French Socialist Party

by Jon Lansman

hollande-et-parti-socialisteAfter their drubbing in the polls, François Hollande has acted swiftly to ensure his chosen candidate, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was installed as party leader.  Cambadélis’s task is to ensure that any opposition to the party’s rightwards shift is silenced, notably that of the Socialist Party (PS) left faction, Maintenant la gauche, which opposes deficit reduction, and argues for the replacement the EU ‘Merkozy’ treaty with an EU programme of growth and re-industrialisation, an EU minimum wage and fiscal harmonisation, wealth redistribution and the elimination of tax evasion. Who better to smash the left than a former Troskyist and 1968 student activist like Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. Continue reading →

Hungry Britain or benefit scroungers – your tabloid choice

by Newsdesk

TabloidsThe Mirror and the Express this morning illustrate the shameful divide in media attitudes to inequality in Britain. The Mirror asks why the sixth richest country in the world with more millionaires than ever has handed out a million food parcels this year.

Widespread hunger is not news for the Express. It expresses its outrage over the latest “get pregnant for benefits” allegation.

It’s going to be a very nasty year running up to the general election!

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