Removing means of collecting union subs is ‘blinkered political attack’ by the Tories

by Jon Lansman

Francis_MaudeThe Tory plan to end the collection of trade union subscriptions through salaries is a “blinkered political attack“, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) says. In his speech at the Conservative party conference today, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the system known as check-off is being stopped at short notice in the Home Office and other departments are actively considering banning it.

But Lib Dem Treasury secretary Danny Alexander has written to secretaries of state and permanent secretaries to confirm there is “no fiscal case” for removing check-off and that unions have offered to meet the costs “which are in any case minimal… there is no public policy case to do this in any department across Whitehall.” Continue reading →

Tory sleaze…. don’t ya jes’ love it?

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Brooks Newmark sleazyI love Tory sleaze, and no one does sex scandal quite like the Conservatives. Can you remember the ’90s, the decade where John Major urged his party to get “back to basics“? Alan Clark, Steven Norris, Jeffrey Archer, David Mellor, Stephen Milligan. A roll call of Carry On farce and sexual tragedy if there ever was one, rounded off nicely by the revelation that its architect had hypocritically enjoyed an affair himself.

Fast forward to 2014 and things are out of sorts. Sleazy relations between the Tory party and its cabal of shadowy donors abound but barely raise an eyebrow. Likewise, as real scandal shakes its thang in plain sight with nary a complaint, politicians’ good old-fashioned extra-marital leg overs have receded into the distance. Curious.

There are some exceptions. Such as the low-level fun with Grant Shapps’ Twitter account. When you’re as promiscuous as he is … in following people, we shouldn’t be shocked when it turns out he’s following a dominatrix and a self-described “porn slut” among 27,000 others. Continue reading →

The causes of the next crash are clearly visible

by Michael Meacher

In hindsight it is extraordinary that the warning signs of the 2008-9 crash were almost universally missed, largely because the hoped-for fantasy of bull markets continuing uninterrupted blinds investors to the nature of the capitalism they’re riding on. But lessons are rarely learnt, and the signals of over-exuberance and over-reach are apparent again today, with the same blind eye failing to register them.

Most obviously of all, excessively leveraged loans to private equity have now reached dangerous levels. More than a third of leveraged loans this year have lent more than 6 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, which is only slightly below the proportion at the peak of the 2007 credit bubble. Bank exuberance is shown by loans with less lender protection than usual. The proportion of these ‘covenant light’ loans is now above 60%, the highest ever. Continue reading →

Tony Benn: Will and Testament, at a cinema near you next week

by Newsdesk

benn_film portrait adTony Benn, the longest serving Labour MP in history, is also, arguably, the most popular UK politician of all time. Across the globe and in particular over the last five years his brand of socialism has struck a cord with people of all ages and social backgrounds. For the first time ever through intimate, quasi confessional interviews and his personal, photographic and film archive ‘Will And Testament’ reveals a very human face behind the political mask.

In this feature length film, Tony Benn also criss-crosses the UK bearing witness to major social and political upheavals and events. This documentary is an exclusive and deeply personal look at the life of a national treasure, a frank, candid and sometimes painful exploration of the great themes of life that affected him and affect us all, love, loss, hopes, dreams, fears and death. Never before has a person of his calibre and reputation spoken to camera in such a direct way.

The film is in local cinemas from 3 October. See here for a list of which cinemas and links for timings and further details. There is also a special screening on 5 October, at 4:30pm with a panel discussion afterwards with guests including Labour MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition Lindsey German, former BBC Political Editor John Sergeant and Director Of Photography on Will and Testament Michael Miles. This is live from the Genesis Cinema, Whitechapel in East London but linked to cinemas throughout Britain live by satellite – further details here.

 

Mick Cash, new RMT leader, promises “no deviation” from Bob Crow’s approach

by Jon Lansman

Mick CashMick Cash, deputy to Bob Crow for 12 years until his tragic death in March, was this week elected to succeed him as general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). He first joined its predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen, 35 years ago as a track worker. Mick won by an overwhelming majority over four other contestants, winning 52% of the vote against 23% for his nearest rival on a 20% poll. In a statement on the RMT website, Mick Cash said:

Let me make this clear. There will be no deviation from the industrial, political and organising strategy mapped out by RMT under Bob’s leadership. Our fight on pay, jobs, working conditions, pensions and safety continues on every front and in every industry where we organise members.”

Continue reading →

Parliament debates bombing Iraq

by Mike Phipps

commons bench by UK Parliament, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/2700549765/sizes/s/in/photostream/Reading the Hansard record of Friday September 26th’s debate on going to war, one is struck by the paucity of voices raised against this folly. Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP and George Galloway, the Respect MP, both made telling points, but of the 24 Labour MPs who voted against, very few got to do more than interject with some challenging questions. One exception was Jeremy Corbyn who spoke powerfully against the motion: Continue reading →

Public borrowing under Osborne now going UP

by Michael Meacher

'Gideon' OsborneThe whole point of the austerity programme imposed by Osborne was supposed to be to reduce the budget deficit. The latest data on the deficit however shows a dramatic and disturbing turnabout. Instead of going down, it is now rising, and there are good reasons for expecting this trend to continue. Official data shows that Osborne was forced to borrow £11.6bn to fill the gap between revenues and spending, £700m more than a year ago. He had been forecast to borrow about 12% less this year than last, but in the event has had to borrow 6% more. This is a really sensational reversal of the government’s claim that it is on track with its (fantasied) ‘long-term economic plan’ and blows a big hole in the idea that austerity is the best way to reduce the deficit, let along able to do so at all. Continue reading →

Iraq vote: rebels and abstainers

by Jon Lansman

commons bench by UK Parliament, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/2700549765/sizes/s/in/photostream/This afternoon a vote was taken in the House of Commons to approve the use of air strikes (but not ground troops) in Iraq (but not Syria).  This was approved by 524 votes to 43, with the bulk of the Labour Party supporting the Coalition government. Only 23 Labour MPs joined 6 Tories, 1 Lib Dem, plus the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green and Respect parties. There were, however, thirty-nine Labour MPs who were either absent or abstained. This does not include the one front bench spokesperson, Rushanara Ali, who resigned after going through both the yes and no lobbies. The full list of rebels and abstainers is below. Continue reading →

Convince me, Ed, by convincing Josephine and Xiomara

by David Osland

Miliband Hope imageLabour could elect a leader equipped with movie star sex appeal, a double first in applied astrophysics, Churchillian oratory, the ability to juggle three flaming torches simultaneously and serious talent as a hard bop tenor saxophonist. And still the first thing the Tory media would say about her is that she was ‘unconvincing’.

Such is the designation that the Quentin Letts of this world have made stick to everyone who has held the top job throughout my adult lifetime. Variously they have been lambasted as donkey jacketed coffin-dodgers, Welsh windbags, staid Scottish bank managers, satanically-possessed crypto-communists or closet autistics who only bother to get up each morning to advance their own prime ministerial ambitions.

Whatever today’s variation, the charge has been that “Labour is out of touch”, and that those who head it understand average voters about as well as they understand colloquial Swahili. The latest victim is Ed Miliband, routinely portrayed as the Sheldon Cooper of British politics, a geeky loser with all the stage charisma of those I-speak-your-weight machines once found at tacky 1960s seaside resorts. Chin up, mate. It kind of goes with the territory. Continue reading →

“Mr Cameron, keep your mitts off my NHS”

by Jon Lansman


Unfortunately, I missed Harry Leslie Smith speaking at the Labour Party conference but the truth and the electricity survive in this recording. The words which perhaps have almost more importance as a warning for Labour Party members than for the Tories are these:

As I stand here today, my heart is with all of those people from my generation who didn’t make it past childhood, didn’t get an education, grow as individuals, marry, raise a family and enjoy the fruits of retirement because they died needlessly and too early in another era of austerity, But my heart is also with the people of the present, who, because of welfare cuts and austerity measures, are struggling once more to make ends meet, and whose futures I fear for.

Continue reading →

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