Porn, fags and Big Macs: Labour and the ethics of business donations

Corbyn and the Big MacBack in 2002, New Labour accepted a £100,000 donation from Daily Express proprietor Richard Desmond, a man who made his original fortune from printing pornographic publications under such lurid titles as The Very Best of Mega Boobs and – hey, let’s not be squeamish, because Blair certainly wasn’t – Spunk Loving SlutsQuestioned on the issue, cabinet minister John Reid retorted:

If you asking if we are going to sit in moral judgment and have a political judgment on those who contribute to the Labour Party, the answer is no.”

And there you have it. Business bungs to Labour were at that time officially a morality-free zone, in which even political calculations played no part. One wonders what the current crop of feminist Labour MPs – the ones that routinely indict Corbyn for alleged low-level non-violent misogyny, even as they threaten to knife him in the front – would have made of that one? Continue reading

Hungry for fast food rights

fast-food-rights-logoAn upsurge of protests and strikes by fast food workers burst through at the end of 2013 in cities across the US, where more than half of the industry’s 3.65 million workers rely on benefits to top up their income, and 68 percent are the main breadwinner in their household. Fast food workers in New York City barely make enough to get by, many of them making minimum wage — just $7.25 (£4.37) an hour. Meanwhile, the Goliath corporations they work for, like McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, are part of a $200 billion industry, reaping huge profits and showering CEOs with exorbitant compensation while most of their employees qualify for food stamps.

In the UK, we’ve seen the extent of the scandal of zero hours contracts exposed, while the UK take away and fast foods industry raked in a total revenue of £5 billion. In 2012, fast food chains in the UK saw sales rise to a staggering £6.9 billion. Yet for example, McDonald’s, the leading player in the UK industry, boosts its mega profits through forcing 90 percent of its workforce to live on zero hours contracts. And despite the huge profits made by these corporations, the average fast food worker in the UK earns just £5 an hour according to PayScale figures in January 2014. Continue reading

Help save the Gay Hussar and give co-ops a bost

Gay HussarIs it madness to want to save a 60-year-old restaurant, the Gay Hussar in London’s Soho, because of fond memories of goulash, fierce argument and good humour – and to want others to have similar experiences? The late Tom Driberg tried famously to persuade Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour candidate there; Victor Sassie, longtime maître d’, whose claims to Hungarian parentage were diluted by his less trumpted familial links to Barrow-in-Furness, witnessed libidinous former foreign secretary, George Brown, fall outside in the gutter. Even in my time, Tribune dinners were attended by among others, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Kenneth Clarke and the late Lord Rothermere, who, having been kissed by journalist Nick Cohen, took himself and Foot off for a nightcap at the Ritz.

A group of us, call us devotees, have formed a co-operative to buy the restaurant, having invested time and money in the place – the latter often courtesy of our employers – over many years.

We think we are in good company. Continue reading

Lentils and lager: why we forgive tax evaders but not benefit claimants

Please note that there is now a supplement to this article including reaction to the response by Jack Monroe. Comments are now closed here but may be made on the new article.
NO MORE BENEFITS BASEBALL CAPYou don’t need me to tell you that everyone on benefits is a money-grasping sponger. Or that every asylum seeker is parachuted directly into the warm atrium of a North London mansion, and not into the hell of hells that is our disgusting excuse for an asylum system. Benefit claimants steal all our money, and we, the good ordinary people, are sick of it. We’re sick of scrounging, sick of stealing and sick of the arrogance of  buying trainers and takeaways with our hard-earned tax. We know to be sick of them because the Daily Mail tells us to be. David Cameron tells us to be. And David Cameron, with his beautiful home, ‘staycation’ and Oxbridge education is just like us – or just like the “us” that we want to be.

There is something more insidious than simply bad journalism or party politics at work here. This is nowhere clearer than in the rise to fame of Jack Monroe, whose cause célèbre is catering for herself and her young son on £10 a week. Yet Jack Monroe is only an acceptable benefits claimant because she reminds the middle classes of themselves.

Continue reading